What’s with today’s Christians and movies?

The Washington Post had a big story about a new venture in “doing church” in which a network of cutting edged congregations is meeting in movie theaters:  From a movie theater church, pastor Mark Batterson blends orthodoxy and innovation – The Washington Post.

I’ve noticed that evangelicals today are often fixated on movies.  They seem to think that movies drive the culture and that making movies is a way to change the culture.

I’m not against that, by any means.  I teach a course in film.  But I don’t know that I like movies more than, say, novels or epic poems.  Yes, films have vast artistic potential–though few are interested in even trying to reach that potential, the commercial motives dominating so much of the film world. And, yes, films can explore spiritual truths, though that poses particular challenges for a visual medium. Why are Christians today more interested in movies, than, say, in literature or even the other visual arts?

I think it’s good that Christians are getting so interested in film.  But I’m curious about why.  When I was growing up, I had a friend from a really strict church that wouldn’t let him go to movies.  This at a time when most movies were pretty much innocent.  Now that stance seems quite rare, if it exists at all, and we seem to be at the other extreme, even though movies have become much less innocent.

I’m curious about your thoughts.  And go ahead and discuss the Oscars if you want to.  I’ve seen more of the nominated films than I have for some time, though I was not all that impressed with them (though I have Tree of Life on DVD but haven’t watched it yet) and made no effort to watch the Academy Awards.   That two of the leading pictures up for awards are about silent movies–The Artist and Hugo–is good in a way.  Hollywood is discovering its traditions, which is healthy, and silent movies are very much worth seeing, being pure examples of visual story telling and some of the classic silent films do that in a stunning way.  On the other hand, all of this looking back–when you add in all of the rummaging through old comic book collections, sequels, prequels, and remakes of  movies made not all that long ago–may be a sign of creative paralysis.  Which indeed would mean an opening for Christians, if we could only recover the Christian imagination.

Rights as pretexts for state power

In the course of an essay worth reading as a whole, Mark Steyn identifies a profound shift in the understanding of a human right, from a limitation on government power to a mandate for even more government power:

When it comes to human rights, I go back to 1215 and Magna Carta — or, to give it its full name, Magna Carta Libertatum. My italics: I don’t think they had them back in 1215. But they understood that “libertatum” is the word that matters. Back then, “human rights” were rights of humans, of individuals — and restraints upon the king: They’re the rights that matter: limitations upon kingly power. Eight centuries later, we have entirely inverted the principle: “Rights” are now gifts that a benign king graciously showers upon his subjects — the right to “free” health care, to affordable housing, the “right of access to a free placement service” (to quote the European Constitution’s “rights” for workers). The Democratic National Committee understands the new school of rights very well: In its recent video, Obama’s bureaucratic edict is upgraded into the “right to contraception coverage at no additional cost.” And, up against a “human right” as basic as that, how can such peripheral rights as freedom of conscience possibly compete?

The transformation of “human rights” from restraints upon state power into a pretext for state power is nicely encapsulated in the language of Article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states that everyone has the right “to receive free compulsory education.” Got that? You have the human right to be forced to do something by the government.

via The Perversion of Rights – Mark Steyn – National Review Online.

On the Koran burning riots

More details on the Koran burnings in Afghanistan from Andrew C. McCarthy, in the context of President Obama’s apology:

The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages. The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.

Of course, these facts may not become widely known, because no one is supposed to mention the main significance of what has happened here. First, as usual, Muslims — not al-Qaeda terrorists, but ordinary, mainstream Muslims — are rioting and murdering over the burning (indeed, the inadvertent burning) of a book. Yes, it’s the Koran, but it’s a book all the same — and one that, moderate Muslims never tire of telling us, doesn’t really mean everything it says anyhow.

Muslim leaders and their leftist apologists are also forever lecturing the United States about “proportionality” in our war-fighting. Yet when it comes to Muslim proportionality, Americans are supposed to shrug meekly and accept the “you burn books, we kill people” law of the jungle. Disgustingly, the Times would inure us to this moral equivalence by rationalizing that “Afghans are fiercely protective of their Islamic faith.” Well then, I guess that makes it all right, huh?

Then there’s the second not-to-be-uttered truth: Defiling the Koran becomes an issue for Muslims only when it has been done by non-Muslims. Observe that the unintentional burning would not have occurred if these “fiercely protective of their Islamic faith” Afghans had not defiled the Korans in the first place. They were Muslim prisoners who annotated the “holy” pages with what a U.S. military official described as “extremist inscriptions” in covert messages sent back and forth, just as the jihadists held at Gitmo have been known to do (notwithstanding that Muslim prisoners get their Korans courtesy of the American taxpayers they construe the book to justify killing).

via Why Apologize to Afghanistan? – Andrew C. McCarthy – National Review Online.

Law forcing sales of abortion pill struck down

Yes, Christians have often criticized the courts.  But as anti-religion laws proliferate, the courts may be a wall of defense.  The same judge that struck down the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about gays has made a ruling that protects religious conscience:

A federal court in Tacoma, Washington, struck down a Washington law that requires pharmacists to dispense the morning-after pill even when doing so would violate their religious beliefs. The court held that the law violates the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

“Today’s decision sends a very clear message: No individual can be forced out of her profession solely because of her religious beliefs,” said Luke Goodrich, Deputy National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Becket Fund, together with the Seattle-based law firm of Ellis, Li & McKinstry, represents the plaintiffs in the case. “If the state allows pharmacies to refer patients elsewhere for economic, business, and convenience reasons, it has to allow them to refer for reasons of conscience,” added Mr. Goodrich.

The plaintiffs in the case are a family-owned pharmacy (Ralph’s Thriftway) and two individual pharmacists (Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler) who cannot in good conscience dispense Plan B (“the morning-after pill”) or ella (“the week-after pill”). These individuals believe that human life begins at the moment of fertilization, and that these drugs destroy human life because they can operate by destroying a fertilized egg, or embryo. Rather than dispensing those drugs, they refer patients to one of dozens of nearby pharmacies that stock and dispense them.

In 2007, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy passed new regulations making it illegal to refer patients to neighboring pharmacies for reasons of conscience, despite allowing them to refer patients elsewhere for a wide variety of business, economic, or convenience reasons. Because of the regulations, Margo Thelen lost her job; Rhonda Mesler was told she would have to transfer to another state; and Kevin Stormans, the owner of Ralph’s Thriftway, faced repeated investigations and threats of punishment from the State Board of Pharmacy.

“The Board of Pharmacy’s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable,” the Court explained. “They were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted.”

via Court Strikes Down Law Requiring Pharmacies to Dispense the Morning-After Pill | Becket Fund.

Maybe this will become a legal precedent when the Obamacare insurance mandate ends up in court.

Democratic party says to hijack GOP primary

Dirty tricks:

The Michigan Democratic Party sent an e-mail to supporters Wednesday encouraging them to take part in the state’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday.

The e-mail points to a YouTube video of two Republican state senators encouraging Democrats to vote and notes that voters can still return to voting in the Democratic caucuses two months from now.

“Any Democrat who takes Senators Jones and Meekhof up on their offer will still be able to participate in the Michigan Democratic Party’s presidential caucuses on May 5, 2012,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said in the brief missive. “If Democratic crossover votes affect the results of the GOP presidential primary next Tuesday, the Republicans will only have themselves to blame.”

There has been some discussion that Democrats might cross over and vote for Rick Santorum over Mitt Romney in an effort either to prolong the Republican nominating contest or to nominate the supposedly less-electable Santorum. . . .

This year’s effort, which is being pushed by liberal blogs like Daily Kos, has been dubbed “Operation Hilarity.”

via Michigan Democratic Party encourages crossover voting in GOP presidential primary – The Washington Post.

I understand the Daily Kos crowd thinking it would be “hilarious” to throw off the Republicans and even funnier to have someone as religious as Santorum drag the Republicans down to ridicule and certain defeat.  So they think.  But to have the official party call for thwarting the political process like this is surely highly unethical.  Isn’t it?

But why don’t they love us?

Afghanistan has exploded after a number of Korans were burned by U.S. officials at a military detention center.  It seems anti-American messages were scrawled on the covers, so they were “disposed of.”  Ever since word of this came out, Afghans have been rioting, killing NATO personnel, and demanding that  the Americans who did this to be tried in an Islamic court.  Meanwhile, the generals and the President himself are falling all over themselves apologizing, as our progress in pacifying the country melts away.

How could anyone in Afghanistan not know what the reaction is going to be from burning a Koran?  When that Florida preacher was considering doing it, Afghan mobs killed 12 people.

I’m not justifying the reaction, but the point is, the cultures just don’t understand each other.  We had better just leave.

Afghan protests over Koran burning spread on second day – The Washington Post.