Archive for September, 2011

(WARNING: Due to the graphic nature of this film, and the raw honesty of Godawa’s writing, the following post has been rated PG-13)

Yesterday, Brian Godawa discussed the moral honesty in the film, Machine Gun Preacher.  Today is the continuation of that post.

Spiritual Honesty

And that brings me to the spiritual honesty. While Sam becomes a hero, the movie does not white wash him nor whitewash his faith.  His faith and sensitive conscious create a complex moral tension in his life that is not completely solved by the end of the story. Sam becomes so focused on his cause of rescuing people on the other side of the earth that he neglects his own family given by God. Sure, he sells what he owns to save the children, but that means what he owns is taken from providing for his family. This is a common problem with “full time” charity and ministry workers. Christian salvation does not always result in a balanced life. Christians often continue on as a mixed bag of good and bad qualities that God uses in spite of our flaws. Kinda like the Bible. But all too often unlike the Christian movie genre.

When Sam cannot get donations from the selfish rich people around him and he sees that the kids are not being helped, he has a crisis of faith and gets angry with God to the point of cussing him out along with his family. Oh my goodness! A Christian who cusses when he gets angry? Heresy! The film portrays Sam repenting from his suicidal hatred and coming back to a justice orientation, but it does not show a spiritual resolution. Maybe this is just part of that uneasy ambiguity of the tensions in our own lives. The reality is that while Sam remains married, he remains a scarred and imperfect man with a bad attitude, who still screws up. It is a messy situation and no one gets away clean or undamaged. There is redemption, but it is no fairy tale happy talk prosperity salvation.

At the end of the film, we see a video of the real Sam Childers telling us he is not capable of clearly delineating the right and wrong of what he does. But he asks us the question, “If it was your child who was kidnapped, and I could bring them back to you, would it matter how I got them back?” Making it personal challenges the self-righteous who would sacrifice the lives of other’s children on the altar of convenient arm-chair philosophizing. These are real people’s children being kidnapped, raped, enslaved and murdered, not abstractions for an argument. Talk is not enough. Action is required. Evil can only be stopped with violent force. And violent force, even in service to righteousness, is not without its negative effects on us. But the evil will not listen to talk. So your only choices are: Allow innocent children to be kidnapped, raped and murdered or kill the evil perpetrators? Which will you choose?

Portrayal of Evil and Redemption

Straight up, this is a hard R-rated film. Unlike “Christian movies,” It is full of the F-word, has a crude sex scene and is very violent. In other words, many Christians will be offended by it. In my book, Hollywood Worldviews (Read the Preface free along with unused chapters of the book at the URL link) I have a chapter on sex and violence in the movies and the Bible where I explain that in a story, the power of the redemption is only equal to the power of the sin depicted. If you do not portray evil Biblically as the seductive yet destructive reality that it is, your message of redemption will not be truthful or believable.

While I do not condone all portrayals of sin in movies (some of it can be exploitative. Read my book :-), in this case, the depth of the depravity is essential to the potency of the redemption. The problem with some Christian movies is that when they portray real world evil with a filtered “protective” sugar coating like some 1970’s television bad guys, they degrade their redemption story to an unrealistic anachronism that doesn’t ring true to human nature. If the real world they portray is not real, how can the redemption be real? The reason why Sam’s Old time Religion salvation in a corny quirky Evangelical church is not off putting to unbelievers is because it is depicted as a polar opposite of Sam’s equally extreme pre-Christian lifestyle. We understand and accept that it takes extreme measures to save an extreme sinner.

Christians often have a hard time with the F-word in movies. They will sometimes accept violent shootings, stabbings, or riddling bullets (as long as they don’t show too much blood), but for some contradictory reason, they just think that the F-word is too harsh for their holy ears. Look, I’ll agree that sometimes it can become excessive, but I’m sorry, if I see a biker dude in a Christian movie saying “friggin” or “dang” or whatever other substitute cuss word for how they really talk, I do not believe the reality of the character and subsequently do not believe the storytellers understand human nature because they are afraid to face it like the Bible does. Their fear of accuracy is a reflection of a lack of faith, reminiscent of hagiographic biographies of saints. Just too good to be true. The book of Judges depicts far worse than Machine Gun Preacher ever does.

When Sam has quicky car sex with his wife in the car by the side of the road, we are saddened by the dehumanized crudity, and that is Biblical (Don’t worry, wives and girlfriends, they don’t show any skin). That is Biblical because it portrays exactly the kind of dehumanization that has destroyed Sam and destroyed his ability to find intimacy with his own loving wife. Every aspect of this man – love, sexuality, relationships, human concern — is spiritually damaged almost beyond repair. Why, that is almost as bad as the Bible’s detailed description of dehumanizing sexuality in Ezekiel 16 and 23  (Read my book for a whole lot more).

And of course, when we see a person whose lips have been cut off because they talked back to the terrorists, or when we see a child whose legs have been blown off by a mine, or a child forced to murder his own mother, we are repulsed because we cannot imagine such evil. But rather than being “sensitive” to family audiences or avoiding “excessive violence”, this movie does what is morally right: It shows the evil so our consciences will be convicted and we will act (I betya parents don’t let their children read Ezekiel 16 or 23 either). If we never saw the grotesque images of the skeletal myriads of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, we would not have the moral growth necessary to “never again” let it happen. If we do not see what is happening to the innocents in Sudan and around the world, we will remain ignorant and spiritually and morally immature, preferring political arguments in our safely removed lives to actual moral actions.

I will conclude this analysis with a translation of a famous Tony Campolo charge that struck my heart and never left me years ago:

Rebel terrorists have murdered over 400,000 Sudanese, and enslaved over 40,000 children and many Christians just don’t give a shit. And the most tragic fact of all is that many Christians who just read that statement were more offended by my use of the word “shit” than by the fact that 400,000 Sudanese have been killed and 40,000 enslaved by terrorists.

God, forgive us of this sin.

Jesus, thank you for Machine Gun Preacher.

Brian Godawa is the screenwriter for the award-winning feature film, To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland and the newly released, Alleged, starring Brian Dennehy as Clarence Darrow and Fred Thompson and William Jennings Bryan. He previously adapted to film the best-selling supernatural thriller novel The Visitation by author Frank Peretti for Ralph Winter (X-Men, Wolverine). He has traveled around the United States teaching on movies, worldviews, and culture to colleges, churches and community groups. His book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment has been released in a revised edition from InterVarsity Press. Go to his website to get free articles and watch videos of his work.

We’ve enjoyed rolling out the red carpet at Reel Thinking and welcoming some notable guest bloggers for our visitors (and contributors) to enjoy.  We thought we’d let you know that we will be doing it again this Tuesday.  Author, screenwriter, professional indoor football player, two-time Christianity Today ‘Book of the Year’ winner and missionary, Ted Kluck, will be posting on the 2010 Roman Polanksi film, The Ghost Writer.

We also have author & screenwriter, Bob Bevington lined up to do a post on The Elephant Man in mid-October.  Some other guest bloggers in the queue are Denis Haack and Walt Mueller, so be sure to check them out, as well as, our other (less notable 🙂 ) regular bloggers, as we hope to illuminate film through the lens of Scripture.

Machine Gun Preacher: A Pissed Off Christian Freedom Fighter

Review by Brian Godawa

Relativity Media

Directed by Marc Forster

Written by Jason Keller

(WARNING: Due to the graphic nature of this film, and the raw honesty of Godawa’s writing, the following post has been rated PG-13)

From the opening scene of a Sudanese village pillaged by LRA terrorists who force children to kill their parents to the closing credit monologue of the real life Sam Childers’ plea to rescue the kidnapped Sudanese orphans by any means necessary, Machine Gun Preacher packs a punch to the gut of our moral conscience. And it does so with a nuanced spiritual and moral reasoning that challenges our American couch potato activism that prides itself in political debates over moral action. Oh, and did I say it involves Jesus?

Machine Gun Preacher is based on the true story of Sam Childers, a drug addicted motorcycle riding criminal who gets saved by Jesus and goes to help rescue the orphans of Sudan from kidnapping, enslavement, torture and murder by rebel terrorists.

The story begins with an unrepentant Sam being released from prison, telling the Guards to go “F” themselves. What “poor” Sam learns is that his faithful wife has found Jesus and quit her stripping job to lead a respectable god fearing life raising their daughter. And now she wants him to come to church. Needless to say, that pisses Sam off big time and launches him on a self-destructive raging crime spree of drugs, robbery, and violence. But he is brought to the end of himself and believe it or not, gives his life to Jesus, being baptized and getting a respectable job in construction. This ain’t your low key Tender Mercies.

One day, Sam hears about the church mission project of building churches in Uganda and he takes off to go see how he can help. What he discovers on his trip is an evil world more wicked than he even realized. Joseph Kony’s terrorist group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), crosses from Uganda into Sudan and burns down villages, kills adults, tortures those who speak out, and forces children to become soldiers in their terrorist group. The result is myriads of orphans without much help from anyone to protect them.

Well, as you can guess, this pisses off Sam, and he gets a vision from God one day to build a church on his property for street people rejected by “proper” churchgoers, as well as an orphanage in the Sudan to help the children. Once, his new orphanage is burnt to the ground, he starts over, but this time with a new spirit – or rather, an old spirit redeemed with a new purpose. He joins the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a counterinsurgent militia that protects the oppressed children with lethal force. Thus the title Machine Gun Preacher. Sam clings to his God and his guns. And thus the tremendous moral tale that asks the questions worthy of the Good Book itself: “How far will you go to save helpless innocent human life?”; “How does God’s redemption apply in a violent world of evil run amok?”; “Is self defense morally justifiable in rescuing women and orphans?”

A Christian Movie?

I have to be honest, this movie contains in it what I usually criticize in a typical “Christian movie.” Big bad biker dude’s wife finds God, brings him to a corny red-bricked church and he accepts Jesus into his heart, “gets saved” and baptized, turns his life around, starts his own church, and helps the poor children, yada yada. Christian clichés and memes we are all too familiar with in the Christian world.

However, this movie is not a cliché Christian movie. It is a deeply moving honest portrayal of “muscular” Christian faith alive in the complex real world we live in that draws respect even from unbelievers. So why do I say that? What makes it different if it carries some of the very same elements of Christian movies?

Well, first off, let’s be honest that the most obvious major differences are good production values, good writing, good directing, and good acting, that is so absent from “Christian movies.” Now, I am not going to go on a Christian movie bashing binge. And I am not going to make digs at specifically named Christian movies (and you know who you are :-). As a matter of fact, I think in general, they are getting better in all these categories as the years press on. I have been a part of some mediocre movies as well, so I know how hard it is to make a good movie, period. But there are several things in the storytelling itself that I think make this film work where Christian movies approaching similar themes often do not. First, in its moral and spiritual honesty and second, in its portrayal of evil and redemption.

Moral Honesty

While the movie wrestles with the moral issue of how to rescue widows and orphans oppressed by murderers, it does not promote hero worship or give pat answers and it deals honestly with the moral ambiguity of violence as a means to an end that exists in the real world.

First off, the villains in the film are fairly represented. Though the bulk of the murdering done in Southern Sudan has been by Muslims against Christians, Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, claims to be a Christian. Now, this would be a perfect opportunity for the typical Hollywood politically correct spin to ignore the Muslim violence and paint it as a picture of “Christian” terrorism. But the movie does not do this. It tells us about the Muslim violence and then communicates that Kony claims to be a Christian, but is clearly not a Christian, but a wolf in wolf’s clothing, using the Christian God’s name in vain. The issues are just more complicated than knee jerk moral equivalency will allow.

The movie also struggles honestly with the issue of using violence to defend the innocent against violence. Rather than creating another left/right divide of the issue or pacifism versus warmongering, this story promotes action, yet questions itself with an ambiguous thoughtfulness. When Sam sees the evil of the LRA cutting off the lips of protestors or the mine field death of a little boy, he realizes that this kind of evil cannot be stopped except by force and draws upon his past violence to overcome it. But his past nature is redeemed by channeling it to do good. Other than unborn babies, can there be any more helpless victims in need of protection than these? Can a pacifist in good conscience actually choose to allow orphan children to be murdered instead of stopping their murder with lethal force? As the Bible says, killing in self-defense is morally justifiable (Exodus 22:2-3) and rescuing widows and orphans from the wicked is commanded (Jeremiah 22:3; Psalm 82:4; Proverbs 24:11).

But neither does the movie degenerate into a bloodfest of vicarious catharsis of violent joy. It raises the issue, through a U.N. peace worker, that the use of violence even in service of a good cause can turn heroes into villains. She claims Kony too started out as Sam did, trying to do good with his violence but ended evil. But rather than capitulate to this simplistic moral reductionism, the movie goes deeper. Sam gets to the point where he becomes so filled with hate for his enemies that he gives up on God in the face of all the evil and is driven to suicidal thoughts. But he finds a way out back to God and draws a line of distinction between righteous and unrighteous violence based on the motive of hatred. One can achieve justice rather than vengeance by not allowing the hatred of the enemy to grip our own hearts. According to this movie, there is righteous violence in service of the good. In fact, Sam ends up rescuing that U.N. worker with his guns, providing delicious irony that reminds one of how American soldiers provide the freedom and protection to protestors to hate and accuse America of denying freedom.

(Post 2)

Brian Godawa is the screenwriter for the award-winning feature film, To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland and the newly released, Alleged, starring Brian Dennehy as Clarence Darrow and Fred Thompson and William Jennings Bryan. He previously adapted to film the best-selling supernatural thriller novel The Visitation by author Frank Peretti for Ralph Winter (X-Men, Wolverine). He has traveled around the United States teaching on movies, worldviews, and culture to colleges, churches and community groups. His book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment has been released in a revised edition from InterVarsity Press. Go to his website to get free articles and watch videos of his work.

The Source Code Eschatology (part 2)

Posted: September 28, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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By Matheus Santos

Yesterday we began to discuss this remarkable movie.

If we dig further down deep, even using a little of our imagination, we will see that the movie borrows biblical imagery to present some important components in the plot. Various parallels can be drawn between the Trinity and the three main characters (Stevens, Goodwin, and Dr. Rutledge) who are involved in the decision-making process of interfering in an appointed moment of the physical chronos in order to save  the lives of some people. The “Trinitarian” decision and how they exercise their “sovereign plan” in the movie is not the exact analogy I’m looking for here (especially because they don’t follow the same criteria of what the Bible presents regarding the doctrine of Trinity, though we should recognize there are some suggestions that their jobs permit them to control, with some limitation, some events in the major chronological timeline in a way that only an almighty God could do). Besides, this theme is too big of a discussion for this space, and certainly not our main focus here.

However, my guess (and I think it is plausible) is that the movie depicts, even though in a smaller and somewhat imperfect scale, the role of the Father, Son, and Spirit in accomplishing redemption. Despite the fact that each on the characters is doing something different, all three have a common aim, which is executed through the sending of the “Son,” played by Stevens, who has to go to a realm which is not the reality where he lives primarily, who follows the order of his “Father,” played by the commanding figure of Dr. Rutledge. (I don’t have an immediate connection for Goodwin as a representation of the Holy Spirit in this dynamic, but I’m open to further investigation). In many other senses, the film employs a Trinitarian cadence as it describes the work of the trio throughout the different source codes; despite each person’s distinct function, they are of equal mind toward a common goal: saving lives. Rutledge plans, direct, and sends; Colter is sent by Rutledge and is subject to his authority and obedient to his will (or, at least, attempts to be in the plot), and Goodwin carries out the will of Rutledge by orienting Colter in his role. Coincidence or not, this dynamic greatly resembles the uniform pattern of Scriptures concerning the differences in roles between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father planned redemption and sent the Son into the world. The Son obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption for us. The Father didn’t come to die for our sins, nor did the Holy Spirit, but that was the role of the Son. This pattern can be seen in many biblical testimonies (John 3:16; 4:34, 5:19, 6:38, 14:26, Rom. 8:29, Gal. 4:4, Eph. 1:3-5, Heb. 1:3, 10:5-7). The biblical doctrine of Trinity affirms that the Trinity makes the atonement possible. Redemption of man is accomplished through the distinct and unified activity of each person of the Godhead (cf., Heb. 9:14). We should point out, however, that in the Trinitarian work there is no disagreement of intentions, as there is in the film; and of course, God the Father does not have disregard for the Son’s life as in the film, nor sees him as merely a means to an end.

I also think it is crucial to acknowledge an eschatological aspect of redemption and consummation very evident in the movie. At this point, Captain Stevens’ typological representation of Christ as a Savior fits a little bit better in the spot, at least in part. Although Captain Stevens is not sent to the train to bear the penalty for the passengers’ sins and die in their place in the likeness of Jesus, a saving purpose is denoted to his character and defines the mission of his transition between the two worlds.  For Dr. Rutledge, the death of the people in the train was an inevitable fact (in this matter, the mad scientist doesn’t resemble at all the God who knows everything), but Colter’s actions revert a picture in which the  people’s death was certain (not necessarily deserved). More important to the understanding of the movie’s complex quantum reality scheme is that his saving acts can bring ultimate reality change to the final destination of the lives in the train, against all the theories and mathematical calculations defended by Dr. Rutledge. The restoration of life and concrete hope of life after unquestionable, certain death definitely are themes that are thought through the storyline. In a biblical perspective, Christ’s full work perfectly accomplishes God’s will, but differently from Captain Colter Stevens, Jesus’ experience on the cross is beyond our comprehension. His victorious resurrection and exaltation represents a pattern that will someday be reproduced (and partially reproduced already) in those who believe in him. Because of the resurrection, the Christian has great hope that generates confidence in all circumstances. Because of his ascension we know about the permanence of resurrection, leading the way for the assurance of everlasting resurrection to a place specially prepared by Jesus himself, a place for all the elect and redeemed people of God (John 14:2-3).

Honestly, I do believe that Source Code has a very unique voice and style in a genre that can be quite cold sometimes because it is plot-driven and technical. Furthermore, as Vera Farmiga says in an interview in the movie making-of: “What is so great about this movie’s storytelling type is the depth to which the characters’ psyches are explored.” The audience has the chance to live with Colter Stevens, discovering the movie from the very opening scene when nobody has a clue of what’s going on. It’s pretty intense! Thematically and visually, Source Code speaks to a new generation of directors and producers who have developed a new language that departs from the traditional Sci-fi method to a more elaborated style that embraces flavors of romance, mind-bending action, and philosophical/existential investigation. A great deal of investment in special effects will also be found in this motion picture, making the whole fun much more entertaining and drawing us along with the action scenes.

I hope you enjoy Source Code as much as I did. May you watch, read, discern, and analyze whatever appears to you with a Christ-centered mind, and biblical-oriented eyes.

The Source Code Eschatology (part 1)

Posted: September 27, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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By Matheus Santos

Is it all right if I use command-phrases like “watch-it-immediately,” or “go-grab-it-now,” right in the first paragraph of this article? Well, since there is no better way to describe my euphoria towards Source Code, let’s say, “why not?” So if you mind not having me spoiling your whole fun, go rent it now and watch it immediately! (If you really don’t care, please, just keep reading; let me be one who will ruin your surprise). Maybe next time I should call the Reel Thinking editor in advance and ask him for more space, because when I put my eyes on the first minutes of this movie, I was certain that finding obvious allusions to Christianity would be just a matter of time and patience. And I wasn’t wrong.

Here is the trailer

Perhaps the best short description of Source Code is the combination of Groundhog Day, and Speed, and Deja Vu, in a bundle! In this movie, Jake Gyllenhaal plays the Captain Colter Stevens, who finds himself waking up on a train one morning, not knowing where he is. He is sitting across from a woman named Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who is acting and talking to him as if she knows him, but he doesn’t know who she is. His disorientation is evident; he doesn’t know how and when he got there. At the time when he’s trying to explain it to this unknown woman, he looks at the reflection of his face on the window and has the impression that it’s not his face, so he goes into the bathroom to confirm it, and he realizes that he is somebody else. From that point, a mysterious journey of self-identification and discovery starts for Captain Stevens, but a few minutes later a bomb explodes in the train where they are in, and the scene jumps to a dark room where he wakes up attached to his seat. There a woman (Vera Farmiga, who plays Colleen Goodwin) is talking to him on a small screen while he dizzily comes back to reality.

“Who am I talking to?” he says, “I don’t understand.”

“Captain, report what you saw,” the woman’s voice replies, “Where were you before you were talking to me?

“There was an explosion.”

“Coming from where?”

He sighs, exhausted. “I don’t know,” he thinks.

“Some confusion is perfectly normal at this stage, Captain.” – This is true of him and of the movie viewer!

To make it short (kinda), Captain Stevens (who is not alive, but had part of his brain preserved in a way that allows other people to communicate with him through a video portal) finds himself to be a pawn in a government program where an ambitious scientist named Dr. Rutledge (played by Jeffrey Wright) has figured out “how to repeat a certain section of time in a time continuum and to put somebody’s energy into that period of time,” as the director Duncan Jones explains it. The central idea of the plot is well summarized by one of Dr. Rutledge’s explaining statements when he says, “Source code is not time travel. Rather, it is time reassignment.” In this experimental program, Captain Stevens is sent “ back” several times into a period of 8 minutes recovered from the last minutes of the life of another person, whose personhood Stevens “borrows” temporarily, a school teacher called Sean Fentress, who also was killed in the train with the rest of the passengers. His mission consists of finding enough information about the explosion in order to prevent an imminent second attack, but it also became Steven’s personal search for the truth of who he is and the truth of what’s happened. Meanwhile, every time he comes back from the source code, Dr. Rutledge insists that Captain Stevens cannot deviate from the mission while inside the source code, even to investigate what happened to his own past. “There’s only one continuum on this end and it can’t be unsettled,” Dr. Rutledge points out, and although the scientist and Goodwin are telling him not to worry about what happens there; because that reality which was created in a quantum way will continue to go on even when Colter leaves it, not as a parallel reality, but as a temporal and “real” reality, in the real world. Over and over again, in a period of 8 minutes, Stevens has to put together the pieces of the puzzle, trying to figure out who set the bomb up.

The end of the film is really an interesting idea (spoiler warning!), because Captains Stevens gets sent back to his final source reality on the train and stays there. The paradox consists of a final reality where, against all the odds, the future can actually be changed by Stevens’ heroic act of stopping the bomber, out of which a new, parallel reality is created, where there must exist another Rutledge and Goodwin who he has contacted by sending them an e-mail. Now, Captains Stevens lives as the schoolteacher Sean Fentress, who was able to save the people in the train and his new girlfriend Christina, but there is also a half-living, breathing Colter, which has not yet been sent on a source code mission. For me the central point of discussion is that Captain Stevens is the only character (and I guess that Goodwin has her reasonable doubts in face of the circumstances) that truly believes he has a one-time chance to stop the bomber and  actually change the present time where they are in, but which is the future of the 8-minute train travel. I know, it is confusing.

For any Christian, the connection between Captain Stevens’s and Jesus Christ’s salvific actions could not be more obvious. Undoubtedly, Captain Colter Stevens is a type of savior just as Jesus Christ is (typological representation), but this is a conclusion of comparison and contrast fairly too-shallow-to-swallow to be accepted in a movie where the debate about the coexistence of metaphysical and quantum realities permeates the whole plot. I think, rather, that this movie offers a fine feast of elements for discussing the eschatological realities of the redemptive work of Jesus that should be explored vigorously, especially when it comes down to exploring if it is possible for a powerful and special event (in our case death and resurrection of Christ), set chronologically in a certain space of time, to radically change the course of past and future History for some people, as the movie affirms it is somehow possible. Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion, things are about to go in a loop!

[part 2]


Posted: September 26, 2011 by jperritt in Uncategorized
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snap·shot – a brief appraisal, summary, or profile.

Every Monday we hope to provide our readers with snapshots of films being released for the upcoming weekend. This will be a brief summary of films that will assist our readers in the area of discernment.  Instead of searching other sites and reading lengthy articles, it’s our hope to provide a concise list of all the films of the weekend in one consolidated post. If you wonder why we don’t list the MPAA ratings, please click here.

  • 50/50 – A comedic account of a 27-year-old guy’s battle with cancer. Genre – Dramedy; content – bad language throughout, sexuality, and drug use.
  • Dream House – After moving into a new home, a family discovers that a  brutal crime was committed against the former residents.  Genre – horror, thriller, mystery; content – violence, terror, some language and sexuality.
  • What’s Your Number? – A woman looks back at the past 20 men she’s ‘been’ with and wonders if one of them was the ‘one’.  It’s basically a movie that doubts God’s sovereignty and buys into the myth of the ‘one’. Genre – comedy; content – sexual content and language. (For more on the myth of the ‘one’, read Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something– see chapter 9)

Spending good money to kick/throw/hit balls

Posted: September 23, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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We continue to look at the movie Moneyball. Yesterday we talked about the movie in general and some interesting themes for discussion. Today we will deal with Biblical reasons why we love movies, we love sports and, of course, sports movies. The bible is structured in a frame of Creation-Fall-Redemption. This organization is useful for us to investigate all sorts of things under the Sun. Today we will turn that towards fun and entertainment.


God made us in his image. As such, we reflect Him in many ways. One of those ways is by being receptively creative; we imitate God in that we make our own sub-creations. Those can range from simple things as a second grader love poem to highly sophisticated fictional worlds (Pandora, etc) and large sporting events such as the Olympics. When we create movies, games, in fact, any form of play or entertainment, we are acting as sub-creators and imitating God; in them we always include our fingerprints. A reason why we love our sports and our movies is because they are reflections of who we are, what we love, how we think, what we value and what we hate. Our sub-creations always mimic patterns of God’s creation, whether intentionally or not.


Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, the world is no longer what it used to be and we as fallen creatures do not reflect God perfectly anymore. In this way, our sub-creations always have perversions, distortions of how the world should be that we twist for our own pleasure. In this way we are able in our sports and games to exercise our sinfulness and evil desires. Let’s consider some examples of this. Recently John Perritt dealt with the issue of racism. Sadly, the sporting stadiums have been a brewing ground for racist manifestations. From chants at Southern football stadiums to the soccer fields of Europe, people take the sporting world as a venue in which they can erect ethnic barriers of hatred. Thus we get something good (God-created ethnic diversity) and we use our sub-creation (sports) to sinfully resent it. There are several other examples: Good-spirited competition and desire to win can quickly turn into hatred filled rivalry. Or our legitimate investment of money in our entertainment can become a devouring idol that consumes all the family money in sports bets, prohibitively expensive football weekends and so on. We recognize that every family has different limits, but we all can easily go beyond this in our search for fulfillment and contentment through fun and play. We have not even mentioned the sexualization of our entertainment – and we are not only talking about porn, but also about how far we can go with mini-skirted cheerleaders (warning to the female readers of the blog: the guys are only pretending to be impressed by the choreography…); and many other areas in which we can turn good things into evil.

Why do we love sports? Because we can exercise some of our evil desires in a sphere that is supposedly safe, “not for real.” So the same guy who avoids pornography thinks that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition is safe; the father who does not let his kids watch violence in movies allows them to see real violence in football. In such ways we use what should be good to deceive ourselves into sinning.

Enough about the Fall; this is becoming a dissertation.


The third main category of the Bible is that of redemption. God’s eternal plan involves saving a people for himself out of the fallen humanity. Man, even after the Fall, is aware of his need for redemption and has eternity in his heart (Ecc 3:11). Man’s sub-creations usually exhibits themes of redemption; they are common in movies, we love to see them in sports. Good triumphing over evil, the weak overcoming the odds. Because we still live in God’s world, using God-given minds and creating under him (in rebellion or not), our sub-creation always contain themes of redemption. So in a movie like Moneyball, they appear in the unlikely triumph of the weak, in people who seemed to be doomed but who find a way out. Our favorite sports narratives include stories of redemption, players who seemed finished and come back for one last victory, the team that is trailing by many points but has an unlikely comeback, underdog stories and so on.

We could go on and on; but the goal in this post has been to simply begin a discussion on how sports, in fact, play in general, are loved by mankind because they reflect aspects of Creation-Fall-Redemption.

A lot of money and many balls

Posted: September 22, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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This Friday will see the release of a rather interesting movie, Moneyball. Sporting the leading role is international man of mystery Brad Pitt. He plays Billy Beane, a baseball manager in Oakland that has to compete without the advantage of deep pockets. He has to figure out ways of challenging the established order. Billy decides to use unorthodox methods, ideas that seem foolish and rather out there for the rest of the sports world, but that are impressively efficient. He tinkers with players who have good but not great qualities, gathering “an island of misfit toys” as Jonah Hill says in the trailer. Another great actor in the movie is the chameleon Philip Seymour Hoffman. Here is the trailer:

So, what about such movie prompted this blogger to write here? Basically because it is one more of the dozens of sports movies that are out there. As such, it combines two of mankind’s favorite things: sports and movies. Those two things exist under the heading of play or entertainment, an intercultural phenomenon that is observed in every culture of the Earth throughout time and space. In tomorrow’s post we will briefly consider how the Biblical categories of Creation-Fall-Redemption help us understand our love for sports.

Today we will discuss a little about the whole idea of misfits coming together to achieve greatness.It is interesting how often weak teams will simply accommodate and not look for alternative ways of facing the giants (inside joke). There is a very interesting article by Malcolm Gladwell dealing precisely with this, underdogs “breaking the rules”; go, knock yourself out.

Curiously, the church is also a gathering of misfits; people who are indebted with sin, embittered by life, distressed by the weight of a fallen world. The church is by no means a collection of superstars who soar through life without much difficulty. There is an episode in the book of 1 Samuel 22 that illustrates this well. When David was fleeing for his life, he ended up hiding in a cave for a while. There he was, God’s anointed, but having to hide. And suddenly a band of misfits, an army of losers begins to join him, a band of people who were distressed, in debt and bitter in soul, and David became captain over them. By being united with God’s anointed one, that bunch of losers became something rather special; many of them later would be called David’s “mighty men. ” Similarly, the church is made up of broken people who can become a different bunch by being united with God’s anointed (Jesus Christ, of whom David was only a shadow). See what Paul has to say about the church: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1: 26-31).

Like in the movie, the church is also gathered through a means that the world would consider foolishness and a message men consider to be silly: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe”(1 Cor. 1:21). Preaching is not the method the giants would use to win; the gospel is not the message they would proclaim to hope for victory in the diamond or the gridiron.

I will not reveal whether in the movie they win or lose or at what point – I think you will enjoy the film regardless. But in the cast of misfits that God’s anointed one is gathering of all nations, we can be sure that we will ultimately triumph with Him, even though we are not much more than a bunch of losers without him.

Treatment of Moneyball coming up tomorrow!

Posted: September 21, 2011 by jperritt in Uncategorized

As you may have heard, Pat Robertson (founder and chairman of The Christian Broadcasting Network) recently encouraged a man to divorce his wife suffering with Alzheimer’s disease and “start all over again.”  His advice was based upon his perspective that Alzheimer’s disease is like “a walking death.”

While most will ignore this as another crazy statement from a TV preacher, the significance of such a view cannot be overlooked.  When I heard these cruel words, (crazy as it sounds) I thought about the 2004 film, The Notebook – based upon a novel by Nicholas Sparks.  I know, “Why is a grown man thinking about The Notebook?”  Good question.  If you have seen the film, you know the answer.

(Spoiler alert)

Even the most harsh critic of love stories (often called “chick flicks”) cannot watch The Notebook without being moved – even to tears.  The film depicts the relationship between Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams).  While early on the film may be written off as a typical “forbidden romance” tale of a country boy and high class girl, the real story breaks through in the end.  By the film’s conclusion, you understand that the aging Noah is reading “the notebook”  to elderly Allie, who is now suffering with memory loss (possibly Alzheimer’s).  During the early stages of her illness, Allie recorded the story of their life together and left the notebook with the instructions for Noah to, “Read this to me, and I’ll come back to you.”  The film concludes with the couple peacefully dying together – holding hands.

See, I told you there would be tears.

This story moves anyone with a pulse because it is a beautiful picture of true love and commitment.  The patient love of a man for his suffering wife – watching her memory daily slip away – enduring constant emotional pain in order to serve her with his life should move us!  While this picture of human love is powerful, it is but a shadow of the reality it is meant to display.  In Ephesians 5, we learn that marriage is meant to be a picture of the relationship between Jesus Christ and his bride – the Church.  Marriage is a favorite image throughout the Bible.  Genesis begins with the wedding of Adam and Eve and according to Revelation, human history will conclude with a big wedding reception called “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19).

Marriage is a big deal, because what it depicts is a big deal.  Jesus Christ loves his bride.  He is faithful –  even when the Church is unresponsive.  His people regularly forget him – turn away from him – and ignore him.  But does Christ treat his bride as if she is basically dead?  No, he patiently pursues her – caring for her with a love that no human love story can match.

This is the good news of the gospel:  Jesus Christ gave his life for those who were “walking dead” to him!!  Praise God that he did not leave and “start all over again!”  The gospel is the story of a patient, committed husband who lays his life down for his wife.

Even The Notebook clearly points us to Jesus.

I think I may send Pat a copy.

(Russell Moore wrote a great response to Pat Robertson’s comments in a recent blog post.  Check it out here.)