justice

This tag is associated with 11 posts

Yes, Christians (and I’m looking at you, apologists) should affirm that Black Lives Matter, and here’s why

Image Credit: By George Willis, Navy Agent Pensacola Navy Yard placed July 18 1840. – Pensacola Gazette, runaway slave reward for “SMART” dated July 22 1840,p.3 National Archives and Records Administration Washington DC, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68445221

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous,
    but dismay to evildoers. 

I have an MA in Christian Apologetics. Because of the circles I run in due to my interest in apologetics, I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds of posts bemoaning Christians supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. These posts often center around the notion that the organization Black Lives Matter is inextricably tied to critical race theory, which itself is alleged to be completely anathema to Christianity. 

I’m going to suggest the opposite. I’m going to say Christians absolutely must support Black Lives Matter as a movement because black lives do matter. Full stop. And this argument doesn’t need to be over whether critical race theory may be used by Christians or not. I don’t need to wade into those waters for my point. 

If you’re asking the question “Should Christians support ‘Black Lives Matter’?” the first thing you should ask immediately following that question is a simple one. Do black lives matter? If they do, then you’ve answered the question. And the reason I’m saying this is because the answer needs to be simplified. People have been, intentionally or not, conflating the entire movement with one organization with which they disagree. I’ve directed this post somewhat at apologists because I’m an insider there, and I’m quite frustrated. We need to do better, fellow apologists, at leading the way as people who want to be thought leaders in Christianity. We need to do better. We need to express more care with our thinking, while also expressing more care for following what the Bible actually tells us to do

You see, no Christian apologist worthy of the name would agree that if an organization arose that went around saying #JesusisLord, every Christian ever has to agree with everything that person or organization says or does. yet it is a fact that Jesus is Lord. Right? Right? But it would be absolutely absurd to insist that every single person who ever has said anything like “Jesus is Lord” or #JesusisLord must therefore be intrinsically tied up in whatever the organization or person who made the phrase popular said or did. Indeed, looking at the history of Christianity, we better be very, very careful to make the point that support of a statement–even one made by members of an organization with the same name as a movement–does not entail support of everything in that movement or organization. If that were true, then all Lutherans must agree with Luther’s antisemitic statements; all Southern Baptists need to agree with the many, many antebellum Baptists who preached pro-slavery sermons; all Christians have to be indicted by the raping that occurred during the Crusades; and the sad, awful, and sordid history of every aspect of Christianity anywhere done by anyone who has ever said “Jesus is Lord” would be applied to every single one of us. 

But that’s wrong, because that’s not how reality works. I can affirm Jesus is Lord without also affirming everything even every other modern Christian says. In fact, I’m sure you do the same thing. That’s because we realize that Jesus is Lord is true, but not everything said or done by Christians is true or good. Guess what: the statement “black lives matter” is true. It is. 

None of this is to say that the specific Black Lives Matter organization is right or wrong about any- or everything. But I’ll tell you one thing: they are 100% totally correct in saying that black lives matter. And if you disagree with that, the problem is with you, not with the organization, not with people who you see as rioting, and not with anything else. It’s with you. 

If we’re Christians, we believe the Bible speaks to us today. It teaches us to this day. The quote with which I started this post was from Proverbs 21:15. It is just one of a great many Bible passages that urge us to seek justice. And believe it or not, the way God’s justice comes is sometimes surprising. Sometimes, even the chosen people of God get things wrong. That’s why, for example, Jonah’s anger over God’s justice speaks so clearly to some of us today. We are too often like Jonah, fleeing rather than trying to bring God’s loving forgiveness to people with whom we disagree. But God is a God who works in ways we don’t always understand. God used even the ungodly to bring justice. Be careful, lest we stand in the way of God’s justice in a moment in which we as Christians should be standing up and also declaring that yes, black lives matter and yes, we should seek justice for them. 

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:17 

It’s a powerful thing when we can sit and listen to our neighbors who say they are oppressed without rushing to explain it away as an aspect of critical race theory or some other straw man we’ve set up so that we don’t have to do what the Bible tells us to do. Yes, those are strong words, and they are so needed right now, however unfortunate that is. Think about it. If you’re a Christian apologist- which have you spent more time doing of late: critiquing critical race theory and trying to correct people about the Black Lives Matter movement or actually seeking to learn from those who are crying out for help? Which do you think is more valuable for the building of God’s Kingdom? 

What about lawbreakers? I chose the picture for this post for a reason. It’s from an 1840 advertisement for capturing a fugitive slave. This ad was before the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, but it is still a fact that trying to escape from slavery was unlawful. These fugitive slaves were lawbreakers. But who was in the right–the “fugitive” or the enslaver? Let’s practice some extreme, tremendous care that we do not align our Christian morality to that of the law of the state. Laws change, but God’s will and justice never change. Justice came for those evildoers who enslaved others in the United States. We should pray that justice continues to roll from God to our nation to this day. 

Finally, we as apologists need to practice better care for our thoughts. When confronted by a new idea, our tendency is to analyze it, break it apart, and see how it fits together. Too often, this also becomes a practice in self-affirmation. Is it any wonder that so many apologists who were unconcerned about racism in the United States before the recent protests are suddenly up in arms about Critical Race Theory and calling on other Christians to disavow any kind of “social justice movement.” We need to think long and hard about that. Why was that our instinct–including my own? How do we break out of it? For me, it was going and actually reading books about racial injustice and disparities in the United States. Yep, we have to do that thing that apologists love doing: read books. But there’s a big caveat here: not just books that support our own views. We need to humble ourselves and acknowledge we might just be wrong on this topic, and do the work to learn about it. Because we absolutely cannot and must not make new stumbling blocks for Christianity. In my apologetics classes, I remember hearing time and again how “Christianity is offensive enough.” How do you think people feel when they see people like us–trained apologists–lining up to explain how Christians cannot support the Black Lives Matter movement, conflating it entirely with the organization? Is that actually a good witness? Is it even a good use of our time? No. It’s not. Why not? I’ll tell you:

Black. Lives. Matter.

It’s time to be humble; to act justly; and to love mercy. It’s time for apologists to do what the Bible says.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

Links

Book Review: “Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores” by Dominique DuBois Gilliard– Learn about our criminal justice system and how it needs to be reformed. 

“Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” by David W. Blight– A prophet for then and now- Learn about Frederick Douglass, a powerful Christian voice who helped speak for justice in ways that continue to resonate into our own time.

“How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi– I review and summarize major aspects of this book on antiracism on my other site. 

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Once and Future King” by T.H. White – Honor, King David, and Justice

ofk-whiteT.H White’s classic Arthurian tale, The Once and Future King is an absolute delight to read. I had never read it before, and I was surprised to see the sheer amount of humor found therein. The depth of the work’s story is immense. Here, I will look at some of the worldview level themes found in the book. There will be SPOILERS in this post.

Honor

Young Arthur, known as “The Wart,” shows his character in one discussion with Merlyn-

If I were to be a Knight… I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it. (174)

Arthur is an honorable man–and was even an honorable boy. That doesn’t mean he never makes poor choices, but he is ultimately motivated by faith and a desire to take on evil directly.

King David… Arthur

In many ways, the story of Arthur parallels the biblical story of David. Like David, Arthur desires to follow justice and walk in the way of God. Like David, it is illicit affairs which lead to his undoing. Like David, Arthur’s downfall ultimately comes from within his own family. Each has a kind of guide in the early stages of their rule (Merlyn or Samuel), but neither takes on such guidance later in life. Each is guided by faith, and it each attempts to capture a kind of ideal in their monarchy. Their ideals are never quite reached, and it is evident in the story of each that their own choices limit their capacity to reach that ideal. In the end, each turns to God for the final answers.

Justice

One of the best portrayals of justice in the book can be found in the way White portrayed injustice. The knights are operating under a principle of “Might makes Right.” They expect the lower class soldiers to be slaughtered, while they themselves are so heavily armored they can barely be harmed (as hilariously depicted in an early scene that young Arthur gets to witness). Arthur seeks to go against this principle–to wage war on Might. Yet, even that battle ends in failure as it becomes corrupted. A question the book seems to point us towards is whether violence to overcome violence is a realistic means.

The conclusion to the book catches Arthur at his most reflective. White’s own view begins to peek through the words of Arthur’s thoughts. What is it that failed Arthur? How did his quest for good become so embroiled in deceit and betrayal? Yet Arthur finds that there was a crucial flaw in his plan: “[T]he whole structure depended on the first premise: that man was decent” (637). He had forgotten about the sinfulness of humanity:

For if there was such a thing as original sin, if man was on the whole a villain, if the Bible was right in saying that the heart of men was deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, then the purpose of his life had been a vain one. (638)

The purpose was vain, because it was not pursued alongside God’s will but rather as Arthur’s will imposed upon humanity–the very thing that Merlyn had come back through time (or was it forward?) to discover. Yet that which Arthur wished to bring about–the defeat of Might–was not itself an evil end. Indeed, it is the King’s page who reveals the ultimate judgment on Arthur’s plan: “I think it was a good idea, my lord”–thus said the page; and Arthur’s response: “It was, and it was not. God knows” (644).

Ultimately, it seems, justice is defined on God’s terms and humans are incapable of seeing the whole picture. White was an agnostic, but was apparently scornful of the evil he saw in the world. A kind of pessimism about human capacities is found throughout the book. The fact that, in the end, “God knows” is the answer that can be given towards whether humans can accomplish an ideal is telling. Without God, endeavors of that sort are impossible.

Other Topics

There are some pretty interesting parables included within the text, particularly in the “Sword in the Stone” section. One of them is from the Talmud–a story in which Elijah travels with a Rabbi and perplexes the Rabbi with his apparent lack of concern for the poor while he aids the rich. Yet this parable shows that God is indeed working towards justice, and a God’s-eye perspective of justice is impossible. Another parable tells a story about humanity as a kind of capstone of creation, while limiting humanity to being an “embryo” for all time- a creature in development. This capacity-laden view of humanity points to White’s worldview once more. Human choices matter, but we so often choose poorly.

The Dark Ages, White notes, may have been a bit of a misnomer:

Do you think that they [those times sometimes called “The Dark Ages”], with their Battles, Famine, Black Death and Serfdom, were less enlightened than we are, with our Wars, Blockade, Influenza and Conscription? (544)

Here again we see White’s own world creeping back into the novel. The novel was published in 1939, the year World War II officially began, though there was plenty going on before that. It was difficult to see the War coming and think that another age was to be singled out as the “Dark” age. There is a kind of intellectual hubris in dismissing the ideas of the past and seeing one’s own time as somehow enlightened. White did not think that was a route to take.

Merlyn (yes, Merlyn, not Merlin) is a character whose interactions with Arthur bring up all kinds of questions. He seems to be guiding a young Arthur towards the attempt to bring about justice in the world, but he also allows himself–seemingly willingly–to be cast aside when Arthur is at his most vulnerable. He only reappears at the very end of the book as a kind of wind. I am left feeling rather ambivalent about Merlyn, who had so much power but who did not ultimately use it very effectively.

Conclusion

The Once and Future King is a simply phenomenal book layered with many levels of meaning. There are so many avenues to explore from a worldview level that I’m sure repeated readings will be rewarding. The central theme, however, is incredibly powerful: humans cannot complete their own ideals. We are imperfect. God knows.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Popular Books– Read through my other posts on popular books–science fiction, fantasy, and more! (Scroll down for more.)

Source

T.H. White The Once and Future King (New York: Ace, 2004 edition).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”- A Christian Perspective

mockingjay-p1“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1” is yet another blockbuster hit in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Here, I will reflect on a number of themes found in the movie, drawing out places the film resonates with the Christian worldview. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Social Contract?

The concept of a “social contract” theory of government is put forward by President Snow. At one point, he is speaking out for peace (ironically, while executing several prisoners), and his argument is that the Districts are in a contract with the Capitol, which is to provide “order” and justice.

The scene is deeply ironic–and meant to be. It shows what is inherently wrong in a system which relies upon a contract (in this case, one that a side is forced into) as the basis for morality. Simply having such a contract does not, in and of itself bring about a moral system. Ultimately, people are able to distort meanings of terms and ask things like “what does ‘order’ mean?” and change it to suit their needs. The only sound basis for morality is something which cannot be changed on a semantic issue or on the whims of the masses.

If We Burn, You Burn With Us!

There is such a strong sense of injustice that pervades the film that I think little time has been spent thinking on this phrase that has become somewhat a tagline for the movie: “If we burn, you burn with us!” It’s a kind of “eye for an eye” statement which seems at first to have some sense of retributive justice but perhaps ultimately falls into a kind of self-administered vengeance. However, when one probes more deeply one wonders whether it is a species of a “just war” argument.

Such an argument opens up all kinds of avenues for debate, but I think it ultimately does come down to the question of which is greater injustice: allowing a clearly evil system to continue interminably, or stopping it with the only means that can bring about change. It’s a thorny issue, but one I think Christians should consider thoughtfully.

Slaves Among Us

Finnick Odair, one of the Victors, was sold by President Snow into sex slavery. It’s an extremely uncomfortable issue, but one I am glad the film raised. Snow used the threat of violence against loved ones to force Finnick into this system–a disgusting evil. Unfortunately, the reality of sex slavery, including for children, is an extremely real and pervasive vileness that continues in our present age. The United States has many hot spots for sex slavery, and it continues abroad as well. We must work to end this horrific injustice and bring down the systems of evil that help prop it up.

Conclusion

“Mockingjay Part 1,” like the Hunger Games titles before it, brings up many issues for Christians to consider. I encourage you to see it and discuss it with others. Let me know what you think in the comments! Check out the links below for a number of my previous discussions of other films and books in the series.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Christian Reflection on The Hunger Games Trilogy– I discuss the entire Hunger Games Trilogy, with a number of comments upon the themes and events found therein.

The Hunger Games Movie: A Christian Perspective– I wrote about the movie, “The Hunger Games” and provided some insight into what Christians may take away as talking points from the film.

“Catching Fire”- A Christian Reflection on the Film

The image is from an official movie poster and I claim no rights to it. I use it under fair use.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Downton Saturday: Season IV, Episode 7- A Christian worldview perspective

downton abbey wallpaperI will be analyzing each episode of the fourth season of Downton Abbey from a worldview perspective. There will, of course be SPOILERS for each episode, and I will assume readers know about each previous season and episode’s content as well. It will be assumed that readers are familiar with the characters and circumstances. I will not be summarizing the plot of the episode; I will merely interact with the content from a perspective of worldview. BE COURTEOUS AND DO NOT BRING UP LATER EPISODES THAN THE ONE DISCUSSED HERE IN YOUR COMMENTS.

The Suitors 

I can’t help but think of the opening line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Here, however, we have “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of good fortune must be in want of a husband.” Lady Mary is highly eligible widow, and the men are lining up. It will be interesting to see on what criteria she ultimately chooses, if she chooses any of them. Matthew was a genuinely good man, and it took him quite a while to be convinced/convince Mary.

The Disappearing Bates

Bates disappeared to York for a day. Then, the man who raped Anna turned up dead in an accident. Shocking. It looks like my prediction may come true. From a Christian worldview perspective, one has to ask whether Bates would be justified in killing the man. I would think the answer is fairly obviously no. I recall reading many comments from friends who said they’d kill the man and they really wanted Bates to do so. Although I understand the rage behind such comments, I have to wonder what justification one could get from a Christian worldview for doing so.

On the Christian worldview, such punishment should never be done in a vigilante fashion. Rather, the government has been given the sword (Romans 13:4) in order to carry out justice and punishment as a representative of God on Earth. Interestingly, this is the view of civil government I think we are taught in the Bible: we are to submit to the authorities because they are given as God’s agents on Earth. Does that mean governments always do right or do what God would desire? No, governments are run by sinful people and often for sinful purposes. However, God did not issue “the sword” to the individual; even in the times of ancient Israel, punishment was most often a communal thing: the whole community would present witnesses (at least two in order to convict), and punish through stoning. There is, of course, the notion of the avenger of blood, but even in those cases cities of sanctuary were provided and witnesses were needed.

So, to return to Bates, I do understand his extreme rage, but if he killed the man–as I suspect he did–then his action is not justified. Now, the question may arise as to whether the government would have done right had Bates gone to it. That is a separate issue as well. This episode brought up many things to contemplate regarding justice.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

The Baby

It seems Lady Edith has chosen to keep her baby. Again, as I noted last time, I hardly see a ringing endorsement of a pro-life message here, but it is, nonetheless, a good thing to not have to face that in this series (yet). This episode highlighted another aspect of injustice, however: namely, that in order to not face public ridicule and shame, Lady Edith has to be whisked away to privately have the baby and then give him or her away. Such a society is inherently not a society which fully would support the pro-life message. Women should not be faced with shaming if they choose to have children.

A culture in which the primary reaction to pregnancy is essentially to shutter women away (whether married or not) as if it were an illness, and in the case of unmarried women, to socially scorn them, is not a culture in which a strong pro-life message can succeed.

Prediction

Lady Edith’s pregnancy will be outed.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

The image is copyright BBC and I do not claim any rights to it. To my knowledge it is freely available for purposes of promotion/critique and I use it under fair use.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”- A Christian Reflection on the Film

desolation-smaugThe second part of “The Hobbit” trilogy has arrived in theaters. What themes does it present? What might we talk about in relation to the latest film? Here, we’ll explore a few themes found through the film and view the movie through worldview glasses. There will be SPOILERS below.

Justice

Perhaps the strongest theme throughout the movie is that of justice. The most obvious aspect of this may be found in the quest at the heart of the story itself: the dwarves seeking to reclaim their homeland.

Yet justice also plays its part in reflection upon each ruler the film shows. Thorin, for example, seems to be consumed in part by greed. He is comfortable leaving members of his group behind so that they do not slow the quest. In fairness, when he does leave Kili, Oin, Fili, and Bofur behind, it is in a place in which they were welcomed (eventually) and so perhaps Thorin is not so cold here as he may seem.

Thranduil, on the other hand, is a clearly unjust ruler. First, he treats his subjects unjustly. When he discusses the potential feelings Legolas has for Tauriel, an elven captain, she (seemingly with some hope) mentions that she thinks he would never allow Legolas to become betrothed to a non-royal. Thranduil responds saying she is right, which is why he charges her with telling Legolas there is no hope. The injustice of the scene is both seen and felt. One cannot help but sympathize with Tauriel against Thranduil’s audacity.

Yet Thranduil’s unjust rule also extends to his entire kingdom. His concern seems to be purely with his own borders, as he prefers to keep evil out rather than confronting it at its source. His isolationism is based upon the notion that only his kingdom has “the light” and so that light must be preserved from the darkness of the surrounding world. The discussion made me think of the fact that some Christian evangelical groups withdraw from the world, because they do not wish to be part of the world or its darkness any longer. Yet as Christians, we are called to go into the world and confront the darkness rather than isolate ourselves from it. Thranduil’s comments speak to our own feelings, and his unjust ways are a call to us for action.

The Master of Laketown is also unjust in his dealings with his people. His highest aim is to preserve his own power. The thought of anyone sharing power with him–or the thought of the people having some say–is horrifying to him. Yet rather than ruling for the sake of his people, it seems his life is consumed by alcoholism and gluttony.

Light in the Darkness

The theme of light opposed to darkness is found throughout the film. Thranduil speaks of the battle between light and darkness in his own confused fashion, Beorn notices the “stench” of evil and a darkness over the woods, and Gandalf directly confronts darkness with light.

The latter instance is perhaps the most powerful, for it features Gandalf facing off against Sauron as Gandalf uses light from his staff to combat the blackness with which Sauron assaults him. Sauron’s words call out, telling Gandalf that there is not enough light in the world to combat his darkness.

For those who know how the Lord of the Rings ends, the scene is ironic. But in the moment, it rings true. It seems that darkness will indeed prevail.

Greed

Thorin, as noted, seems to be consumed by greed. Not only does he leave his fellow dwarves who would slow him behind, but he eventually confronts Bilbo regarding the Arkenstone. He uses his sword to bar Bilbo’s way and demands he hand over the Arkenstone, if he found it. The tension of the scene is only broken when Smaug attempts to destroy them both. However, the greed within Thorin seems to be growing. It will be interesting to see how it plays out in the conclusion to the trilogy.

The Master of Laketown also makes his decision through greed. Although the prophecy regarding the return of the king under the mountain makes clear the notion that his own town will burn, Thorin’s appeal to the Master based upon shared wealth does not fall upon deaf ears. The Master of Laketown succumbs both to his own greed and to the mob which has formed around the debate.

Evil

One of the more interesting things for me to reflect upon in the film was the way evil was portrayed. Clearly, the unjust rulers discussed above are each, in their own way, a kind of evil. However, the orcs were the clearest portrayal of evil. Yet their evil, to me, seemed to be inherently unreasonable. There was little reason for them to act as they did apart from pure hatred. Sauron was calling out to his evil minions as well, and his motivation seems to be simply the destruction of any who are not subject to him.

Reflection upon this depiction of evil leads to an insight: evil is, at its core, irrational. There is no reason to it. It goes against what genuinely makes sense in the world. This applies not only to the fanatical lust for murder which the orcs had, but also to the injustice of the rulers mentioned above. A viewer cannot help but think that Thorin, Thranduil, and the Master are each acting in an illogical fashion. Their greed corrupted them. For the orcs, their lust for suffering has consumed them. Evil is illogical; those who practice it are chasing fantasy.

Conclusion

I admit I did not enjoy “The Desolation of Smaug” as much as I enjoyed “An Unexpected Journey,” though I did still like the movie. I think the themes found here are worth reflecting upon, and the way they are presented forces viewers to really sit back and think as the movie continues. In particular, the feeling of injustice throughout the movie was unexpected, but it touched upon a number of areas related to our own lives and how we live them.

There is, of course, much more which could be discussed regarding the “Desolation of Smaug,” and I turn to you, readers, to start that discussion in the comments.

Links

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- A Christian Perspective– check out my look at the first of “The Hobbit” trilogy.

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

The picture featured in this discussion is an official movie poster and the property of MGM/New Line/WingNut films. I do not claim any rights to it.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 4/12/13

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneI have once again gone to all corners of the internet to present you, dear reader, with a list of links so diverse, so wonderful, so amazing, that you will not be able to stop until you have read them all. Do not worry, dear reader, there are more Really Recommended Posts available to you [scroll down for more!]. This week, we read about Mark Twain and GK Chesterton, fine-tuning, science fiction, natural law, preparing Christian youth, and watch a video on justice!

Something of the Same Magic: Mark Twain and G.K. Chesterton– two phenomenal writers are compared in this excellent post on the developed thought behind each of their insights. As an avid reader and longtime Twain fan, I enjoyed this post immensely.

New Study: formation of life-permitting elements carbon and oxygen is fine-tuned– More evidence for the fine-tuning required for life  is made clear through nature. This is a very insightful post which deserves your attention. For more on the fine-tuning argument, check out my post: Our Spooky Universe: Fine-Tuning and God.

When Youth Aren’t Prepared– What happens when we do not prepare Christian youths for the challenges they will face? Deeper Waters, an incredibly thoughtful blog, discusses the implications.

Barsoom or Bust! (Movie Review: “John Carter”)– One of my favorite websites (and podcasts!) features this excellent review of “John Carter.” Be sure to also check out my own review, in which I discuss a number of worldview issues which are raised by the movie: A Christian look at “John Carter”

A Christian Hart [intentional misspelling], a Humean Head– Are you interested in natural law? Of course you are. Edward Feser, one of the more lucid thinkers I know, writes about David Bentley Hart’s critique of natural law, while also expounding the theory. This is well worth the read.

Nicholas Wolterstorff at the Justice Conference– [Video] Nicholas Wolterstorff is a huge name when it comes to justice, having written extensively on the topic. Check out this lecture he gave on justice and Christianity.

A Christian look at “John Carter”


Disney’s “John Carter” is based off a series of science fiction novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs which originated in 1912 and helped shape the genre. I admit I have not read the books–though I now plan to–so I can’t comment on how closely the movie adheres to the storyline of the novels. As always, there will be spoilers for the movie. I have left the outline of the plot out of this post, but as usual a succinct summary can be found on wikipedia.

Heroism and Just War

John Carter is a hero with a haunted past. The movie, unfortunately, never really explores his history much. From what I could tell, he went to war and came back to find his family had all been killed and his house burned as part of the conflict. He thus swore off fighting for a cause and instead decided to seek his fortune.

Once Carter reaches Mars (Barsoom), however, he is thrown into a conflict in which he realizes that the fate of an entire planet rests upon the victory of the city of Helium. Once he realizes the implications of this battle (and conveniently, finds the princess of Helium particularly attractive) Carter aligns himself with the Tharks, a race of aliens largely viewed as savages by the humanoid aliens on the planet. He is able to seal victory for Helium by making the Tharks realize that they, too, have a place on Barsoom which is influenced heavily by the conflict between Helium and Zodanga.

The movie touches, then, on the notion of a just war. Helium is trying to save the planet, while Zodanga does little but consume and subjugate. The Tharks view both sides as neutral and prefer them to continue fighting, as long as the war stays away from them. Yet it becomes clear that due to the influence of the Thern–an extremely advanced (technologically speaking) race which seeks to orchestrate the destruction of planets–that the conflict has implications for everyone on Barsoom, and indeed, on Earth.

Sin

The Tharks have a tradition in which they brand their people as punishment for their sins. The brands are placed so that they continue to cover one’s skin throughout their lives. If one has committed enough offenses that there is no longer any place for a branding, then one is either killed or thrown into the arena to fight against impossible odds. One’s sins literally cover their flesh. One cannot escape from one’s offenses. There is no redemption.

Christianity affirms that sin is something for which one can make no redemption for themselves. One’s sins are, in a sense, branded onto one’s past. Only by repentance and grace through faith can one be saved. There is no escape from one’s offenses except through the full and free forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord. There imagery in the movie of one’s sins being displayed on one’s flesh is powerful, and it resonates with the Christian view that our sins condemn us forever. Only by grace can we be saved. There is no removing the sins–branded onto us–by our own power.

Religion

The Therns are supposedly oracles of the goddess. However, it turns out that they are actually dedicated to manipulating civilizations across the galaxy. It is never discussed whether the goddess and the Therns were ever actually genuine, but it seems fairly clear that those calling themselves Therns are just using the title in order to gain power.

Religion is therefore seen as a kind of way to manipulate and enthrall the masses. All of the sides of the conflict are shown to be dedicated to the goddess, but none seems to have the full truth. However, it does seem that the dedication of the Tharks, in particular, shows a resonance with truth and a genuineness that reaches beyond the mere use of religion as subjugation. The movie, I would say, gives an overall neutral view of religion. In some ways it can be used for ill, but it nonetheless is not inherently evil.

Yet another aspect of religion in the movie, however, is that one can observe the difference between genuine faith and exploitative faith. It is clear that many of the Therns genuinely believed in the goddess and there are scenes which convey a sense of awe over the faith on Barsoom. Religious practice is seen as taking place on a genuine level and being an important part of the lives of the practitioners. These religious persons are seen as genuine and largely trustworthy. On the other hand, those who seek to exploit the faith are seen as inherently evil. Such a view should resonate with Christians, who are instructed to be aware of those within the church who would seek to lead us astray (antichrists).

Alien Life and social (in)justice

Social justice is an underlying theme in the movie. By portraying the alien Tharks as the outsiders, the movie is able to focus on the notion that the downtrodden and overlooked can rise above the limitations of their position. Although viewed as unequals, they are equals.

One poignant scene early in the film showed a hatchery for the Tharks. They came to collect the hatchlings and it turned out that some eggs hadn’t yet hatched. The Tharks then fired on all the eggs with their gun and destroyed the “weak” young. I couldn’t help but think that this is largely what is happening in the real world with abortion [a topic I have written on extensively].

Here again, worldviews rear their ugly heads. The faith of Barsoom is a bit enigmatic. The goddess seems largely uninterested in the goings-on of everyday life. Furthermore, those who follow her are fully willing to kill their own young in order to ensure the survival of the strongest. One can’t help but think of the prioritization of desires over objective morality in our own world.

Conclusions

The film was a lot of fun. One can easily see how the source material influenced science fiction in a number of ways. As a huge fan of science fiction, I can’t help but love the movie. It is so awesome to see the origins of sci-fi play out on screen. Christians watching the film will find areas to discuss social justice, just war, and heroism. Furthermore, there are some poignant scenes which can bring up issues related to abortion and racism. A final talking point would be to discuss religion as a transcultural entity and see how it has been used in both good and bad ways. I go into this issue in my own post on the “Myth of ‘Religion.'”

John Carter” is another film with a number of worldview discussions happening in the background and it’s worth a watch both in order to start discussions about religion, justice, and the like but also to explore the origins of science fiction, a genre steeped in religious dialogue.

Links

Check out another review of the movie over at Sci-Fi Christian, which looks into the background of the movie more, as well as exploring some Bible texts in relation to the movie: Barsoom or Bust!

Engaging Culture: A brief guide for movies– I discuss how Christians can view movies with an eye towards worldview.

Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber– I look at how science fiction is frequently used to discuss worldviews and analyze two major authors in the field along with their view of religious dialogue.

Alien  Life: Theological reflections on life on other planets– What would it mean for Christianity if we discovered life on other planets?

Check out my other looks at movies, including the Hunger Games and the Dark Knight Rises here (scroll down for more).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Hunger Games” movie reviewed and discussed by a Christian

I have already written about the Hunger Games trilogy and offered some uniquely Christian insights into the Hunger Games movie, but here I wanted to give a brief review of The Hunger Games itself from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS in the following discussion.

Rather than giving an overview of the plot (any interested reader can get such an overview here), I’m going to dive right into a review.

Review

The movie is definitely not for children. There is a great deal of violence in the film as well as a number of scary images. Anyone who looks at my previous posts on the Hunger Games and sees the comments will realize there is a great deal of controversy over whether it is appropriate viewing for the Christian. I will comment on that shortly.

I enjoyed the movie a great deal. The moral conflict is pervasive throughout the film is so dense and immediate that it almost presses on one as a viewer. On the other hand, the conflict is not blatantly obvious, nor does the film clearly portray who is in the right or wrong. Everyone has dirty hands. It’s a movie that seems to reflect life in its parallels with the real world. Obviously, these parallels are blown out of proportion in some ways (for example, we do not sacrifice children in a battle to the death for our pleasure), but on reflection one can easily find disturbing ties into our own society (child trafficking, child pornography, and the like–these can easily be seen as parallels to the Hunger Games).

The action in the film is great but I have to admit the occasional use of camera waggle to try to make the action intense is unneeded and distracting. I think this is a modern convention among filmmakers that has far outlived its welcome. For a few movies it seems to work, but now it seems every film uses camera waggle for every explosion, every punch, every fall to the ground. It can be really, really distracting.

Back to the controversy: a number of Christians have spoken out against viewing this film. For example, some who commented on my previous posts argue that we should not view it because it shows violence (or even glorifies it) and that such things are not good for the Christian to view. But the Bible itself depicts all kinds of horrifically violent scenes. Surely these same Christians would not object to reading the Bible! The question to ask ourselves is this: what is the point of the violence? Is there a purpose in the portrayal of the horrors on screen? It seems to me, as far as the Hunger Games is concerned, there is indeed a purpose. I’ve written in extended detail on this in my post on the trilogy, but I’d like to point it out here one more time: the impact of this film and its story is not so much that it is an action flick that gets your blood going; the impact is rather that we are so close to being the Capitol in so many ways. The film practically screams that we must stop this unnecessary violence. We must work against injustice in our world. And those who are affected most by the conflicts, greed, and malevolence in our world are children. Having that portrayed on screen is a powerful call to Christians to fight for justice.

Talking Points for Christians

Why is what’s happening in the Hunger Games wrong?

Think about this question for a moment. If you think that there is something inherently wrong about what the Capitol is doing to the people of the Districts in the movie, then there must be some kind of basis for your moral reasoning. But, as I’ve argued extensively (for example, in my post on secular humanism), on an atheistic worldview there really is no ultimate moral code. How then, do we consistently condemn violence like this, even if it is someone else’s belief that such things are good or necessary?

Is there anything wrong with the lives of those in the Capitol?

As Christians, we can use this as a talking point. The people of the Capitol seem to be doing pretty well for themselves. They have others to do their every bidding and they can effectively enjoy life to its fullest. Yet it is interesting to note that there are a few characters who seem to be unfulfilled. President Snow is an obvious example–he is a despot who must maintain his power. Why is it that these people are unsatisfied? Do we need more than limitless pleasure and leisure to have a satisfactory life?

What is unjust in our world and how are we working to stop it?

Let us be frank. There are things in our own “backyard” that are reflected in the hunger games. Any time a child is abused, we can see that injustice portrayed and subtly condemned in this movie. What are we going to do to stop injustices like these? Is the Capitol really so different from our everyday lives?

Conclusion

Overall I think The Hunger Games is a movie that Christians can watch in good conscience. In fact, I think there are any number of talking points that Christians can bring to the movie and discuss with those who are talking about it. Some of these talking points were illustrated above. The movie is a call to fight injustice, and yes, it is a good action flick while it makes this point. I recommend it.

SDG.

Links

Deeper Hungers and Darker Games– The Hunger Games reflects a world without God. What does it mean?

The Hunger Games: The Atheist’s Utopia– No God: Utopia?

Christian Reflection on the Hunger Games Trilogy– My thoughts on the entire book trilogy.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Dark Knight Rises”- A Christian Reflection

The epic tale begun with Batman Begins and continued with The Dark Knight comes to a fruition in The Dark Knight RisesBatman has always been my favorite hero (I say hero and not superhero because he has no superpowers), and I couldn’t wait to see the  finale to the trilogy I had been awaiting for some time. It didn’t disappoint. Herein, I reflect from my Christian background on the many themes in the movie.

Here’s the last warning: THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE. BIG ONES.

I’m going to eschew giving a plot summary because what I want to contribute to the conversation is a discussion on the themes. If you don’t feel like bothering with the movie, it would be good to at least know about the plot before reading this post. Check here for a brief summary.

Faith

Throughout the movie I kept noticing faith as a major theme. There were those who had maintained faith in a lie: Harvey Dent. Batman had taken the fall for him in The Dark Knight in order to provide Gotham with a needed hero. This faith was misplaced, and Jim Gordon, the police commissioner of Gotham City, almost destroyed himself keeping it inside himself. He said, at one point, “I knew Harvey Dent. I was his friend. And it will be a very long time before someone… Inspires us the way he did. I believed in Harvey Dent.” Yet the whole time Gordon knew he was speaking a lie. He believed in Dent, but he no longer believes in him.

Batman placed his faith in  Catwoman/Selina Kyle. He firmly believed that there was more to her than the anger she continually expressed. This interplay was made more interesting by the interaction between Batman’s and Catwoman’s alter egos, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. Selina Kyle, who seemed generally upset with all the rich and famous in Gotham and the decadence found therein–told the rich billionaire Bruce Wayne, “You think this can last? There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.” More on the interaction between the two later.

Alfred put his trust in Bruce Wayne. He strongly wanted Wayne to have a satisfying, fulfilling life, and throughout the film he worried that Batman would destroy Wayne. When push came to shove, Alfred was willing to leave Wayne in order to try to save him. Again, more on this later.

Finally, there were those who had faith in Batman. Batman, to them, was more than just a hero, he was a symbol of hope and justice.

One thing viewers should note is that the use of “faith” in The Dark Knight Rises is not some kind of hack definition. It doesn’t mean “belief in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary” or “belief in something you know ain’t true.” Instead, faith in the movie is faith in–a trusting faith based on evidence. Those who believed in Harvey Dent were mistaken, but that wasn’t due to evidence, it was active deception. Batman’s faith in Selina Kyle was firmly based on his ability to read her character. Others’ faith in Batman was based upon either a personal knowledge of the secret (Gordon) or knowledge of his actions as Batman (John Blake, others). It is very similar to the faith of the Christian, which is based upon knowledge.

Rise

The most obvious theme in the movie was that of “arising.” Bruce Wayne had to overcome his doubts, fears, and become something greater. Yet he had to rely on others to build this journey. The knowledge of his fellow prisoners in ‘the pit’–a prison into which people were thrown, but could climb out. Only one had ever managed it, however, and that was Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, who had subsequently saved Bane. Ironically, then, the rise of his enemies forced the Dark Knight to meet their challenge. He had to transcend his limits and become that which Gotham needed in order to save it.

Yet Batman/Wayne wasn’t the only one who rose in the movie. Selina Kyle also experienced a major transition. As a character, she was initially powerfully motivated by anger and a desire to escape. She was portrayed as being very frustrated and angry with the social imbalance of the world and determined to not only try to balance it–in her favor, of course–but also to punish those who made it so imbalanced. When Batman returns to Gotham after his exile by Bane, he confronts Selina. He points out that the storm she predicted earlier has hit, and it doesn’t seem like it was what she wanted. Still, however, she seems determined to be in it all for herself. Yet ultimately she comes back to fight with the Dark Knight against the evil powers that are trying to destroy Gotham. In the end, she does manage to rise, with the guidance and help of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

John Blake–the incorruptible cop–also rose. It is revealed shortly before the film’s end that he is Robin–and that he is about to take up the cowl of Batman, to become the symbol for Gotham. Here, I sensed a feeling of fulfillment. We encourage others to walk in our shoes and left them up when they are down. Without Batman, Blake would not have survived. Yet he goes on to [presumably] become the next Batman, to save others.

Corruption

The world is not all sunshine and daisies. The world is full of corruption and sin. Interestingly, The Dark Knight Rises has much less corruption on the part of the police force than the previous movies. The turn was a noticeable, perceptible shift. As far as the plot goes, I wonder if any of that was due to the “Dent Act” which effectively ended organized crime in Gotham. Despite the relative “cleanness” of the police force, however, there was plenty of corruption to go around. Once Bane overthrows the city, there are “people’s courts” where “justice” is dole out on those already deemed guilty. The prisons are ripped open due to the lie [Harvey Dent] that many were imprisoned by. One wonders, how much of this is justice? Is any of what Bane says true?

Furthermore, it is a powerful reminder of the human condition. Given the chance to rule themselves, Gotham erupted into violence and brutality. It is little wonder that this should happen, given a Christian worldview, because all are sinful and need grace. All deserve justice.

Justice and Freedom

Is there justice? Was Batman just in continuing his adventures as the Caped Crusader? Is violence ever a justifiable means to an end?

Within Christianity there is a long history–traceable to Augustine, at least–of the concept of a “Just War.”  There will be much debate over whether the actions of someone like Batman could be justified. Is it ever permissible to take justice into one’s own hands? I leave the question open.

Yet more important questions loom. What is justice? Who is to determine it?

One wonders what worldview could plug these holes that continue to open as human nature is probed by director Christopher Nolan throughout the Batman Trilogy. From the irrational desire to cause fear and anarchy of Scarecrow to the anarchist nihilism of the Joker to the over-reactive retribution of Bane, Nolan has exposed viewers to the depths of human freedom. What price, freedom? Bane tells Gotham he has set them free, yet he has truly imprisoned them by their own nature. What occurs is a vivid portrayal of human nature and destruction.

Christian Threads- Redemption and Cleansing

I can’t help but think of Bruce Wayne’s ascension from the pit to the chants of “rise” without thinking of the Christian faith. We sinners are in our own pits of sin. Yet just as Wayne we have a very real lifeline. Yes, Bruce Wayne shunned the physical lifeline, but he clung to an idea: he clung to faith. Similarly, the Christian shuns the physical realm and is saved by faith. Rise.

There is the notion of a “clean slate.” Selina Kyle is primarily motivated by her desire to have such a clean slate. She wants to start over. Batman offers it as a tantalizing price to pay for her help in the final battle. Yet in the end, Selina comes back and redeems herself more than was required by the Bat. At the end of the movie, however, it is revealed that both Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle have managed to use the “clean slate.” They have started afresh. Again, a Christian allegory or overlay could be applied here. We are all sinners in search of a clean slate, yet we cannot provide it for ourselves. While have no nearly-magical technology to give us a clean slate, we do have salvation by grace through faith. And that, my friends, is something worth considering.

Finally, Wayne’s “rise” coincides with the need I described earlier. The fact that enemies had arisen meant that Batman had to also rise to the challenge. Christians know that once sin came into the world, the only way to cure it would be for God to come into the flesh to save us. Such is poignantly portrayed when Jim Gordon talked to John Blake. Gordon talks about the evils of Gotham and describes how Batman transcends the filth, but he “puts his hands into the filth [with us]” [I believe he says filth, but I have a suspicion it may have been muck–correct me if I’m wrong here]. Wayne, though having no obligation to these people, still loves Gotham, and he is willing to condescend to get his hands dirty–to put his hands into the filthy muck and dirty them in order to save it. Is it an allegory? It certainly works as one. Jesus is God incarnate. A God who loved His creatures so much that He was willing to become one of them–to put his hands into the filth and reach down to save us. Just as Batman did what was necessary to save while also dealing justice, Christ did what was necessary in order to save humanity from its own sin. The Son Rises.

Links

Check out more of my reflections on movies. If you liked The Dark Knight Rises, check out my look at The Avengers.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Engaging Culture: A brief guide for movies

There has been much furor recently over the release of the Hunger Games movie. My own discussion of that movie has drawn a number of comments from Christian visitors, both good and bad (and I appreciate the candor!). One theme that has reverberated throughout the discussion is the appropriateness of Christians watching violent movies or even considering using them to try to engage with the culture at large. There are no easy answers to these questions, but in this post I seek to provide a brief guide for Christians who hope to use movies to engage with the culture at large.

Appropriate?

Perhaps the most contentious issue that was brought up in my own discussions of the Hunger Games was the appropriateness of viewing violent movies and even using them to engage with others. Jonathan Morrow, in his important book Think Christianly, provides an excellent discussion of the topic at hand. He prefaces his remarks with the comment that “the Bible would probably get… an NC-17 rating in [some areas like the end of Judges]…” Yet it is important to note that “The Bible does not use evil for exploitation” but rather “always records evil and sinful behavior and the consequences that come with them” (193). Violence in a work does not necessarily exclude it from the Christians’ sphere of engagement.

Morrow provides a number of useful questions for Christians to consider when looking at a movie. Here are a few samples (see p. 194):

  • Does it endorse evil…?
  • Does it incite us to evil acts?
  • Is the evil gratuitous?

These are the types of questions Christians must ask as they consider a movie. Now, it is clear that Christians won’t always agree on the answers to these questions. What some consider gratuitous might be something someone else considers necessary for a plot. But violence of itself does not mean a Christian cannot engage with a movie. In particular, some movies use violence in order to point out the horrors which follow from it. This is, in fact, Biblical. Throughout the Bible, violence is depicted along with its consequences, yet it is clear that in all God is in control (see, for example, the Joseph narrative). As Christians interact with movies that have violence, they can focus the discussion on the consequences of humanity’s sinfulness and the need for a savior.

Engaging With the Movies

Morrow suggests a three-layered approach to movies: examine the form of the film (this involves engaging with the artistic elements such as music, cinematography, and the like); observe the content of the film (what is the message the director is putting forward? who is the hero/villain [these characters generally convey that which the director wants to show as good or bad]); note the function of the film (what is the film’s purpose? does it portray sinful behavior in a positive light?) [191].

These questions allow one to proceed to the level of engagement with the culture. If a film is inappropriate, it is not enough to simply dismiss it as a horrible, immoral movie. Rather, one can engage thoughtfully with those who want to discuss the movie. “Why did you enjoy the movie?”; “What kind of message do you think the movie tried to put forward?”; “Do you agree with the central theme of the film?”–these are the types of questions Christians can ask in order to engage with the culture. Note that none of these questions comes across as antagonistic or angry. Rather, they come across as interested and thoughtful. Whether one has seen a movie or not, one can easily engage in a dialog which can lead to some interesting discussions.

The brief overview I’ve given here is merely a guide. Interested readers should check out Morrow’s book (linked below).

A Case Study: The Hunger Games

I’ve already discussed The Hunger Games at length in both the film and book versions, so I won’t repeat that discussion. Here, let me just apply what we see above. There are a few minor spoilers below.

What is the form of the film? -Generally, it seems to be a blockbuster movie with grandiose special effects and stirring musical scores. The visuals often dazzle with bright colors in the capitol but they are very subdued in some parts, particularly in the districts which are under the oppressive rule of the capitol.

What is the film’s content? -In my post on the movie, I argued that the content largely serves to direct the audience’s attention inward: we are, in a sense, the capitol. We are the ones who actively participate in activities to give ourselves comfort while there is great suffering around us. The violence in the movie is there, but it is portrayed in a way which does not glorify it. It is the people of the capitol who glorify the violence, and it is the people of the capitol who are the confused villains.

What is the function of the film? -Again, it seems to be a social commentary on the evils we bring about here. The decadence of the capitol is our own indulgence; the violence going on in the Games are the evils of the world. I see the film as a stirring commentary on social injustice.

But what if you think the violence is too much? What if you think I’m just wrong about this particular film? Should you jettison it altogether? I think not. Instead, I suggest you turn to the questions above. Ask: “Why did you like the Hunger Games?”; “Do you think the film glorifies violence, why or why not?”; “What current problems do you think relate to the film?”

Conclusion

Christians are called to engage the culture around them in a transforming fashion (1 Cor 9:19-23). Engaging with popular films is just one way to engage with the culture. As popular movies come out, it is important for Christians to know the relevant issues they raise and be ready to comment on them as they come up. If we can more effectively open discussions with people about these highly relevant topics, we can help show Christianity is an extremely powerful worldview that touches upon every aspect of our lives in a positive way.

Source

Jonathan Morrow, Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture (Zondervan, 2011).

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