Archive for November, 2012

killing-them-softly-poster1I guess Brad Pitt likes working with director Andrew Dominik.  This is only their second collaboration (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford being their first), but Dominik has only directed three films.  Plus, Dominik apparently just texted Pitt about the film and he simply replied yes.  Instead of going through agents and his people calling Pitt’s people, he simply went to the source.  I wonder what the intrigue of this film was?  What was it about this story and this director that moved one of Hollywood’s most popular stars to say yes?

Killing Them Softly follows Jackie Cogan, an enforcer who has been sought after to restore normalcy to the Mob.  After two “dumb guys” rob a Mob protected poker game, the criminals turn to the corrupt Cogan to ensure the furthering of corruption.  Using corruption to further corruption makes sense.  Truth is the only thing which causes corruption to cease, therefore, we would agree with the premise of this film.  Corruption breeds corruption.

Artistic Agony

KTS is said to be a film that’s not for the squeamish.  One critic has labeled the film as beautifully brutal.  There’s no doubt that movies dealing with rough content can be beautiful – Saving Private Ryan is just one example.  We know it is important to have faithful portrayals of sin and we must appreciate that to some degree, however, KTS is said to be beautiful because of the artistic style of violence.

Supposedly, Dominik, employs the use of slow-motion to some scenes of violence in the film.  I haven’t seen the film but I’ve read about a slow-motion scene of a bullet passing through the hand and head of an unfortunate criminal.  Beautiful, right?  While I know KTS is a film some Christians have liberty to view, artistic violence is something to be cautious of.  While I understand that slow-motion is beautiful, and there’s no doubt it can be considered art, reveling in the offing of a fellow image-bearer isn’t something we should label as beautiful.

Comedic Corruption

Another aspect of KTS, which should be reflected upon, is the humor which is said to be in the film.  Again, the film follows the Mob, criminals, and enforcers killing and torturing one another.  While I have laughed at my share of dark comedies, this is a gray area Christians must be cautious of.

I understand that humorous instances can happen in everyday life, but let’s be cautious of what we call funny.  Christians must set up parameters of what we laugh at.  I understand that there will still be gray areas for us as Christians, but this film is filled with corruption so let’s give pause to its portrayals of funny.

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Personally, I really like Brad Pitt’s acting and I know Andrew Dominik is a talented director.  We must appreciate good stories, quality acting, and excellent cinematography, like that of KTS.  Even though Christians have liberty to watch such films, we still must be cautious of certain aspects and, at least, reflect on these aspects that possibly contradict our Christianity.  Christian liberty does not give us the right to disengage our minds and refuse to wrestle with the gray areas this film most assuredly presents.

Just some thoughts as you possibly head to the theater this weekend.

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Twisted – unpleasantly or unhealthily abnormal.

It seems that the new torture-porn film, The Collection, relishes the idea of being sick. They plaster it on the poster for crying out loud – From the twisted writers of Saw IV, V, VI & VII.

I must admit upfront, I don’t know too much about The Collection. I know it is a sequel to The Collector (oooohhh…see what they did there). The plot is secondary to the gore. The story is just a means to get the characters into gore-iffic booby-traps that make the twisted audience cringe.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it) these movies make money. The Saw franchise has made multiple installments (see above) and this very film is a sequel. What’s the draw? Why do people line up to watch other people get tortured?

We’re Twisted

Every human being is twisted (Romans 3:23). Christians are just as twisted as the twisted writers and twisted movie-goers lining up for The Collection. We are sinful. Our hearts are dark. They naturally crave darkness and have to fight, by the Spirit, for light. Our brains are warped and the fact that writers/directors are making these movies, as well as, the fact that people are going to see these movies, are proof of that.

Movies like this remind me of the laundry-list of sins listed by Paul when speaking of people who deny the existence of God. As he’s going through the list of sins, he mentions “inventors of evil” (Romans 1:29-30). Hmmm, inventors of evil. That’s a phrase that’s always stuck out to me. People who think of new ways to be evil, reproduce evil, and display evil. Performing evil in a way that makes others say, “Wow, I never thought of that one.”

That’s what these movies are – inventions of the depraved mind.

I say this not to heap guilt on those who view these types of films, but to give caution. At least ask yourself, why? Why go see people tortured for entertainment? Without a doubt, I think every Christian can understand there is some intrigue with films like these.

For example, whenever we drive by an accident or see police lights on the side of a highway, we typically crane our necks to see what’s going on. I’m not saying we’re hoping for violence, but we are curious.

All of that to say, I’m sure there are those people who go to films like The Collection with curiosity. Some people think, how bad could it be? What new and creative ways are they killing people off?

I can understand curiosity, I can understand the sinful heart and mind are often drawn to films like these, but be very cautious. Ask some of these questions before you buy your ticket:

  • Why do you want to see the movie?
  • What do you hope to gain from it?
  • If the content doesn’t bother you, shouldn’t it?
  • Will these depictions of evil effect you? Why or why not?

While Christians rejoice over the birth of their Savior, the movie theaters rejoice because Christmas has become a time for box-office success.  That being said, which films are you most excited about this Christmas season?

I recently went to see Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln. As we have come to expect, Spielberg delivers another solid film. From the superb acting to the stunning cinematography, Lincoln is a great movie.

I wish I had paid more attention in history class. Although I am ill equipped to comment, I have learned that there is some debate on the precise historicity of Spielberg’s version of Abraham Lincoln’s life (You can Google it if you are interested in the debate.). Whatever the historical truth, the film presents Lincoln as a struggling man. I think few will debate that being president during the Civil War would be difficult.

In the film, Lincoln wrestles to accomplish two things…1) end the long and bloody Civil War and 2) abolish slavery in the United States. Lincoln has argued that passing the 13th Amendment (freeing all slaves in the US) will help to end the war. Despite the growing chance of being able to finish the war without ending slavery, Lincoln presses to the amend to the US Constitution in the House of Representatives (it had already passed the Senate). He refuses to allow the slave trade to survive on his watch – even if it means that the horrors of war must continue for a time. He is not flippant in this resolve, however. His consternation reeks havoc on his heath and his relationships.

It is interesting to see how Spielberg depicts the strategies and tactics of “Honest Abe.” Locked in a political battle over the 13th Amendment, Lincoln employs some shady characters to secure the needed votes from the “lame-duck democrats.” In classic political form, Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Seward, offer positions in the administration in exchange for their vote for the new amendment. In the final hours before the vote in the House, Lincoln shows his emotion when he declares to his Cabinet, “I am the President of the United States, clothed with immense power, and I expect you to procure those votes!”

I am glad that Spielberg shows the reality of the moral turmoil that President Lincoln endured. History books often present raw data and miss the human struggle involved. As a result, historical figures are flattened out and caricatured. The film Lincoln will make you think…and feel…the ethical dilemma of the Civil War. Maybe “Honest Abe” was not so honest after all?

So what are we to think about this? Is the cessation of the slave trade the “greater good” in this situation? Does the end (the 13th Amendment) justify the means (shady deals and “back room bargaining”)? How would have you dealt with this moral dilemma? Is there a Christian response for this?

The Christian life is far too often presented as “follow Christ, and life will get easier.” Anyone who has followed Christ for some time will tell you that this is simply not true. The Christian life is full of joy, but it is not easy. Jesus said that those who follow him will be persecuted as he was (John 15:20). This warning of persecution comes right after Jesus says that those who “abide” in him keep his commandments (John 15:1-10). In other words, Christians will be persecuted because they follow Christ – obeying him in all things – including moral and ethical decisions.

Following Christ is hard – especially when the situation includes no clear way forward. Consider Lincoln again. It may safe to say that slavery is ethically wrong. But isn’t lying and manipulation wrong as well? What about when lying can free an entire race of people? Now add the fact that the longer you wait to act, the more people will die in warfare. What do you do??

Let me offer a “Reel Thinking” challenge: Watch Lincoln with family and friends. After the film, take some time to discuss the ethical dilemmas in the film as well as any others of interest. Here are some questions to get you thinking:

  1. Should there be a distinctively “Christian” way of doing politics? What does it look like?
  2. How should Christians respond when faced with difficult decisions? How do you prioritize what is most important?
  3. What are some ethical dilemmas you face at school or work?
  4. Are you wresting to follow Christ’s commands or are you simply ruled by pragmatism?
  5. Where have you faced or are you facing persecution for doing what is right? Your response to persecution?

Although the Christian life is hard, we need not fear. God has not left us alone. Our sovereign Father in Heaven has given us prayer, his Word, his Spirit, and his people. We are well equipped to wrestle through life and face the difficult decisions that come our way – even when the way is not clear.

Snapshots

Posted: November 26, 2012 by jperritt in Snapshots
Tags: , ,

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.

Killing Them Softly – A professional enforcer investigates some actions from a mob. Genre – drama, crime, thriller; content – strong violence, language, and drug use.

The Collection – A man is blackmailed by a serial killer who desires for him to enter his booby-trapped warehouse. Genre – horror, action, thriller; content – strong bloody violence, brief nudity, grisly images, and language.

Silent Night – Police in a small town go searching for a killer Santa Claus who is killing their citizens – right in time for the holidays!. Genre – thriller, action, horror; content – bloody violence, nudity, language and drug use.

At least the remake attempts to be a little more realistic than the original!  The 2012 version of Red Dawn takes place in Spokane, Washington instead of Colorado (much easier to attack), and the enemies are the North Koreans rather than Soviets and Nicaraguans (a more recent enemy).  Add to those changes that Jed, the lead character, is an actual war hero, making it more feasible that he could turn a group of teenagers into a formidable resistance movement.  Yet my guess is that many of you will still see the premise of this movie as incredibly unbelievable, since we all tend to think America could never be occupied by a foreign nation.

Red Dawn opens up in a pretty familiar modern American context–a high school football game.  This dictates the prevailing theme that our young people should only be stressed out because of losing a football game, not due to surviving a full-scale invasion.  In other words, adolescence should be a time for playing sports, watching movies, listening to music, dating, shopping…you get the idea.  It’s been a very long time since this nation has had to think about it’s youth fighting for things that really matter.  And because of it, generations of young people have not been really battle-tested physically, mentally, and even spiritually.

There are probably a whole lot of the World War II generation that are fearful that this generation of young people would not be able to stand up to a full-scale invasion of the USA.  (If you a veteran and actually read our blog, you are welcome to weigh in!)  It certainly seems as though our youth are much t0o soft and lethargic to respond like the Wolverines of Red Dawn.  On the other hand, you may rightly argue that a national crisis would bring out the best of our young people.  They just haven’t been tested.

Whatever the case, the bigger question is: Are our youth ready for a spiritual fight?  As I said in yesterday’s post, Red Dawn reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle against the forces of darkness.  But do most of the teenagers in our evangelical church youth groups realize this fact?  Or are they too caught up in their activities, sports, entertainment, social media, and ultimately, themselves?  I know, it’s unfair to lump the individuals of a group together, yet is seems that so many of our teenagers are even unaware that war rages all around them.  They are far too preoccuppied with trivial things that have no eternal value.

Even if our young people recognize that they are in a spiritual battle, are they properly equipped?  Are the going to school and their other activities dressed out in the armor of God each day?  Unfortunately, there are too many Christian parents who are not preparing their children for battle.  They seem content for their children to be focused only on academics or extra-curriculars.  They do little teaching in the home nor have the vital heart-to-heart conversations that are necessary all through the challenging years of adolescence.  Even Christian parents can be altogether too passive in their instruction and discipline.  And, training in the weapons of our warfare is often not high on their list.

But what about the church?  Is it any better?  Unfortunately, many a youth group is far too focused on entertainment than in equipping our teens for battle.  Study curricula is generally weak, not helping our youth to build their Christian worldviews or to defend themselves against the attacks of the devil and this world.  Even when our churches are working hard to teach the Word, our youth can find lots of reasons for haphazard attendance.

Do I paint to0 dismal of a picture?  I would certainly like to believe that our young people are much more ready for the spiritual fight.  The truth is, whether they are ready or not, awake or asleep, they ARE in the war.  Satan is coming for their minds and hearts.  He loves nothing more than young people with spirits of lethargy.  He hopes to keep them unaware of the forces lined up against them.

So on this Thanksgiving weekend, let movies like Red Dawn remind us of what can happen when our Christian young people do engage the enemy.  They can be a very effective fighting force for Jesus!  And if you are one of our teen readers, regularly ask yourself the question: Are you ready for and active in the spiritual fight of your lives?

Ahh, 1984.  That was an awesome year!  President Ronald Reagan won re-election in a landslide.  Apple introduced the Macintosh computer.  The Cosby Show and Miami Vice first aired on TV.  Stonewashed jeans were introduced (had a pair myself).  The Soviets boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics (Mary Lou Retton thanks you).  I graduated from high school and headed off to college.  And, Red Dawn was a hit at the box office, thanks to the Cold War and Patrick Swayze.

Yes, I was one of those teens who saw the original movie in the theater.  But never in a million years did I  think they would attempt a remake (we could say that about a lot of movies, couldn’t we?).  I mean, the whole premise is just too outrageous: Soviet and Nicaraguan forces taking over a small town in Colorado?  How in the world did they get that far inland?  I can understand the Ruskies taking over Alaska or Florida, but Colorado?  This was pure dystopic fantasy.

But let’s remember the context of Red Dawn.  The United States was still fighting the Cold War against the Soviet Union.  Most Americans (especially teenagers) believed that the Russinas could and would launch a nuclear attack on us at some point.  So the idea of a Communist invasion was not outlandish at all to us at all.  And, why wouldn’t they take over small town, USA?  What an easy, unsuspecting target!  Of course, it helped that Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen were budding young stars at the time.

So, what are we to make of the original Red Dawn?  Movies like this–even if fairly unbelievable–should make us appreciate our freedom, that’s for sure.  It would be a mind-blowing nightmare if a hostile nation would actually occupy American soil.  We should continue to thank our soveriegn God that we have enjoyed so many centuries of freedom here in the USA.

But more importantly, Red Dawn presents us with a vivid picture of the spiritual war that has been fought since the beginning.  The devil and his demons infiltrated God’s world, attempting to occupy as much “land” as possible.  Just like the Soviets and the Nicaraguans in the movie, the forces of darkness have destroyed the lives of many people over the years.  Many have also allowed Satan and his minions to take up residence in their homes, schools, and communities.  Day by day, year by year, the prince of darkness does battle against the Kingdom of Light.  The world of Red Dawn is just a glimpse of what is really going on in this world.  There are enemy forces all around us, whether we acknowledge them our not.  We just have to open our spiritual eyes!

In Red Dawn, the resistance made up of just a bunch of teenagers call themselves The Wolverines (after their school mascot).  This rag-tag group spends the entire movie either struggling to survive or striking back against the bad guys.  In reality, Christians are the true resistance force for the ages.  Throughout history, it has been rag-tag remnants of Christians who have gone to war against Satanic forces, people, and ideas.  Often times, it has looked bleak, just like in Red Dawn.  But at other times, Christians (by the power of the Spirit) have beaten back the armies of darkness.  We must remember that ALL who take the name of Christ have enlisted in His army and are in the midst of this ongoing, epic battle.

While Jed and the other Wolverines are quite courageous and gain many victories, they lack the one thing that we have: A Conquering King.  It is only because King Jesus died, rose again, and reigns for all time are we able to defeat the Kingdom of darkness.  Christians are not acting alone in this spiritual battle–we have the King of kings and Lord of lords as our Commander-in-Chief.  So we know how this war ends, don’t we?

We’ll look at one more important theme in Red Dawn tomorrow.

Wednesday’s Weekend Poll

Posted: November 21, 2012 by jperritt in Wednesday's Weekend Poll
Tags:

The remake of Red Dawn is now hitting theaters around the world.  Some people laugh that this cheesy 80’s film is being remade.  However, there are those that loved this movie and can’t wait to see the new spin on this ‘classic’.  Were you a fan of the 1984 film?

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.

[Releasing on Wednesday]

Red Dawn – A bunch of high schoolers kill highly trained soldiers (based on the 80’s cult classic). Genre – action, drama, thriller; content – violence, language.

Silver Linings Playbook Two people with problems fall in love (this will be up for some Oscars). Genre – drama, comedy; content – language and some nudity.

Life of Pi – A young man befriends a Bengal tiger after surviving a disaster at sea. Genre – adventure, drama; content – some intense scenes.

Rise of the Guardians – The Immortal Guardians team up to protect the innocence of children from an evil spirit. Genre – animation, adventure; content – mild scary scenes.

 

I am fairly confident that Twilight would not make the top 10 list of “manly movies.” Most men don’t even like to admit they have seem them. They will swear that they only went to the theater or rented these romantic films because their girlfriend or wife made them. Whatever the case, women and men will see this final theatric installment of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire novels.

Whether you are a die-hard fan or a “hater,” Twilight reminds us that fantasy is dangerous.

After reading the first book (yes, I read it) I had mixed emotions. The story is an interesting one. Meyer’s spin on vampire lore is creative to say the least – even biblical. Often the most dangerous things appear the most appealing. In the book of Proverbs we read about the seductive woman. She is depicted as enticing, but ultimately deadly to the man who visits her. The vampires of the Twilight saga are like this – alluring, but hazardous to one’s life.

Like the Meyer vampires, Twilight itself is dangerous. I have and will continue to refer to this story (and all romance novels) as women’s pornography. Twilight is dangerous because, like a pornographic magazine, it presents a false reality – a fantasy world.

[Fellas bear with me, I am risking my “man card” here, I know.]

Many of the women that love this story, love it because of Edward (sorry all you in “Team Jacob”). Men – we can learn something from Edward. Women love Edward because he is eternally faithful. His love for Bella (although definitely undeserved) is unmatched. He is a selfless servant – relentless in his care for her. We should take at least a couple notes from the Edward playbook. We can all use a bit more compassion, selflessness, and fearlessness in our relationships. Superpowers wouldn’t hurt either, of course.

Herein lies the problem. Edward doesn’t exist!! Yes, men could stand to be more sensitive and intentional in their care of their spouses or girlfriends, but come on! How high are you going to set the bar? A powerful, sensitive, vampire-man? He even glows for goodness sake!

Fantasy is dangerous because, if it becomes our reality, it will set us up for failure and disappointment. Ladies, the best men in the world, do not stand a chance against the “Edward” (or Jacob) of you mind. I am not saying that you should stop praying for a man who will treat you right. Pray for that man. But pray for a man who will also repent when he sins against you (which he will). Pray that you will be able to forgive (Colossians 3:13) and overlook the offenses (Proverbs 19:11) of the imperfect man in your life.

Fellas, this goes both ways. Porn is dangerous and destructive for many reasons – not in the least being that it presents you with a false sense of reality. The airbrushed women seduce you to a world that will kill you. They look at you as though you can have what you want, with no responsibility and no consequences. Porn objectifies women and minimizes the image of God to a mere body. Porn deadens you to the beauty and wonder of marriage to one woman. Porn makes you lazy, selfish, and demanding. No wonder why women choose fantasy over the real thing!

We live in a world where the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. May God give us discernment to recognize the danger of living in a world that doesn’t exist.