Ladling calculation upon comedy

Andrew O’Hehir of Salon asks “Why are Christian movies so awful?

I think the answer, as I suggested a while back, is because American evangelicalism distrusts metaphor:

American evangelical Christians do not like metaphor. That’s not strong enough. They fear metaphor. It terrifies them, and so they despise it, reject it and forbid it wherever possible. …

Evangelicals prefer their truth in simple, unambiguous propositions. … It is no accident that the Left Behind novels are remarkably free of metaphor, of multi-leveled themes, or even of the kinds of visual details that might be taken to stand for something at a non-literal level. Artless art — explicit, monovalent, prosaic prose — is the only permissible form of storytelling. …

Related news: “‘Left Behind’ Books Get Next-Gen Makeover

Sixteen years ago, an apocalyptic thriller titled Left Behind quietly released to Christian bookstores nationwide. Little did its authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, or its publisher Tyndale House know that it would become a phenomenon, resulting in seven number one bestselling titles and a product line with sales topping more than 63 million copies. This month, a decade and a half later, Tyndale is releasing the 12 primary titles with new covers and updated content to inspire a new generation of readers.

You know, when the premise of your books is that the world is going to end within “one generation” of 1948 (the year of the founding of modern Israel — Tim LaHaye’s most favoritest year ever), it’s already awkward enough to still be publishing 63 years later. But rolling out an updated version aimed at “a new generation of readers” is really pushing it.

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Speaking of metaphors, I once suggested that Doug Coe, the founder and driving force of The Family — the cult of power detailed in Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Poweris actually a vampire.

The latest support for that claim came Tuesday, when Coe’s minion, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to praise renegade strongman Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast.

Both men — Inhofe and Gbagbo — are disciples of Coe’s religion of world-domination through Bible study, prayer and backroom deals. They believe Jesus wants them in power, using power for the powerful. And if that’s true, who are the people of Ivory Coast to say different?

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Recent scholarly publications in the field of Whedonology:

Elsewhere:

How to Launch an Executive Email Carpet Bomb

Father Zalba, do you really believe God has carried out all your orders?”

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.: “You can’t change anybody you don’t love. If you don’t love them, you can’t change them.”

How Ayn Rand ruined my childhood: My dad saw objectivism as a logical philosophy to live by, but it tore my family apart”

Looking for heroes? Here’s Tawakkol Karman.

P.S.: The Federal Budget Theater productions of recent weeks have produced a slew of commentary over whether “the ball is in the president’s court” or perhaps “the ball is in Congress’ court.” Every time this has been said I’ve heard Hugh Jackman’s voice: “You’re ladling calculation upon comedy. The point is to keep the ball in your court.”

  • Anonymous

    Ebert’s review is worth reading in full. It’s so hilariously disdainful, that he can’t even work up the full energy to give the film a proper beating it’s so worthless. But from what I can tell they made the fatal decision to try to “update” it to the present day. So we a movie whose plot spins around…Trains. Yes trains, as in trains are the way of the future and fortunes of countries are built and fall on passenger trains and frieght trains. From the looks of the trailer the look of the film is a luxury car commerical that got out of hand. Lots of sleek offices and hotel lounges but very, very borning visually. And of course having no recognizable stars doesn’t help either.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    One anime I always found very “Christian” in both its imagery and values is the film Tokyo Godfathers, which was directed by the late and wonderful Satoshi Kon (director of Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Paranoia Agent, Paprika, etc.) For those who are unfamiliar, the premise of the film is that three homeless people in Tokyo discover a baby girl abandoned in a dumpster on Christmas Eve. After some argument, they decided to bring the baby back to her parents, and begin a journey across Tokyo to try and find out who the child belonged to any where they can find them. Across the course of this journey, they are forced by circumstances to each confront and deal with their own pasts that led them to live the way they do. It is a wonderful story of grace and redemption, with the three homeless serving as modern day equivalents of the three magi.

    I reiterate that it is a wonderfully Christian-value film (the opening scene has two of the characters listening to a sermon about home and belonging and love while waiting to be fed at the mission’s Christmas soup kitchen) but sadly its dependance on metaphor means that a lot of the Christian people who would be able to take a lot from it will probably have little interest in seeing it. After all, the main characters are literally homeless bums living on scavenged scraps and handouts, and no Real True Christian would ever be so unblessed as to need anything like that. *Eyeroll*

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    There are some elements of Objectivism that appeal to me, but the problem that I always have with it is the idea that altruism is incompatible with one’s persuit of happiness. This becomes something of a logic bomb to me, because if I feel like I am being selfish and not contributing to the greater good of society beyond myself, then I cannot feel happy. To me, happiness is seing society succeed and thrive as a collective, and my own needs are completely secondary to that. Hell, my own life is completely secondary to that, if it comes to it. If there is any unhappiness in my life, it is because I feel frustrated by not being in a position to contribute to society.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Objectivists try to work around this by redefining terms to suit their purposes. Because the greater good and success of society is something that you value, then working for greater good and success of society is selfish according to their definition of the term. The fact that this bears absolutely no resemblance to what most people consider ‘selfish’ is not recognized. Of course, they also use the term in its common definition as well when it’s convenient.

    So they use the following definitions.

    Selfish(1) = working for the promotion of the things one personally values.

    Selfish(2) = working for your own benefit and disregarding others.

    Selfish(1) is their own definition that is not used commonly. They define it this way, explain in detail as to why it is a good thing, and then begin using the word selfish to mean Selfish(2) and assume their previous proof that Selfish(1) is good applies equally to Selfish(2) because they’re using the same word for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Andrew, I’ve seen that sort of thing a lot when someone tries to argue against something.

    First, you establish that by X(1), you actually mean a specific subset of X(2), which is what you really have a problem with.

    Establishing the problems with X(1), you then expand your claims to all of X(2) and hope that nobody notices. When they do notice, claim that your were really talking about X(1), even though you clearly were talking about X(2).

    Notable users of this method include Gail Dines and Richard Dawkins.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.s.daniel James Daniel

    I’ve always wondered why ‘christian’ music was so often so bad. Now I know.
    I also now understand why there was such a uproar in a local congregation when ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ was used one Sunday.

  • eyelessgame

    Patrick – yep, that’s called the Fallacy of Equivocation, and Andrew, you’re right: Objectivism boils down to a fallacy of equivocation (also a fallacy of composition, and basic ignorance of market externalities and prisoners’ dilemmas).

  • nanananana

    Mr.Clark I’ve been reading your blog for a little over a year now,and while I originally only came here for your Left Behind reviews I have to say I’ve started becoming interested in your discussions on politics and religion.It’s helped me understand that “evangelical” does not necessarily mean “bat sh!t crazy.” I’ve even recomended your blog to my mom who still has the same issue.

    That being said,as a 16 year old agnostic in the “new” generation I’d be more than willing to force myself through that new version of that series and fill you in on the edits.Granted it’d be part way because of my own curiosity and part way because of the bile fasination I get out of it,but also because it’d be fun to share with people :p

  • Barney

    “You know, when the premise of your books is that the world is going to end within “one generation” of 1948 (the year of the founding of modern Israel — Tim LaHaye’s most favoritest year ever), it’s already awkward enough to still be publishing 63 years later.”

    Noah was 500 years old before Shem, Ham or Japheth was born. Biblical literalists get a big generation if they want.

  • Anonymous

    Type in “Joe Ortiz’s End Times Passover (April 9)” on Google etc. Media personality Ortiz has managed to find a way to expose historian Dave MacPherson! After what you may have heard about him, you may discover that MacPherson is a horse of a different color. It’s true, as Rapture Ready revealed in an article entitled “Who’s Who of Prophecy”, that MacPherson bought the first ticket ever sold at Disneyland on July 18, 1955. Whether this means that MacPherson has “Goofy” theology or lives in historical “Fantasyland” is for you to decide. Be careful when you are checking out the “End Times Passover” blog because there is important material to evaluate (handle with care!) such as a facsimile of part of Margaret MacDonald’s handwritten “pretrib rapture” revelation of 1830 that MacPherson says he found in the British Library in England – Google “Joe Ortiz’s End Times Passover (March 9, 2010).” This information is for mature Christians only.

    [Discovered the above web snippet just now]

  • Rowen

    So, basically, they’re doing the same thing they did to the Sweet Valley High books.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Evangelicals prefer their truth in simple, unambiguous propositions.
    – From “American Evangelicalism Distrusts Metaphor”

    That explains why so many of them make Ayn Rand the Fourth Person of the Trinity. “A = A” is as simple and unambiguous as you can get.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Dude, we know Jenkins has a Telephone Fetish.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Turn, Turn, Turn” — the one with lyrics word-for-word from Ecclesiastices?

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And Lucas has been doing to Star Wars.

    Though in Lucas’ case, I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s a compulsive tinkerer. I’ve known enough of them to recognize the symptoms.

    I’m pretty sure LH&J have another reason. Like All The End Time Fulfillments of the 1990s didn’t pan out and they need a new set of 2011 headlines to claim It’s Tomorrow At The Latest.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    And Lucas has been doing to Star Wars.

    Though in Lucas’ case, I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s a compulsive tinkerer. I’ve known enough of them to recognize the symptoms.

    I’m pretty sure LH&J have another reason. Like All The End Time Fulfillments of the 1990s didn’t pan out and they need a new set of 2011 headlines to claim It’s Tomorrow At The Latest.

  • Josh

    And music by a Communist!

  • J Michael

    Wow, you ain’t kiddin, bud, Christian Art sucks, too.
    http://www.mcnaughtonart.com/artwork/view_zoom/?artpiece_id=353


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