Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: Taking advantage of the weak-willed

Posted: November 6, 2012 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Comedy
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This is the big day in American politics.  Election Day 2012!  Are you nervous?  More importantly, have you voted yet?  Well, if you have done your duty as a good American citizen and would rather not sweat through all the election returns, I suggest sitting down and enjoying the 1988 classic, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.  Steve Martin (Freddy) and Michael Caine (Lawrence) are simply brilliant in their comedic portrayal of two con-artists who end up in direct competition in beautiful Beuamont sur Mer.  They meet under unlikely circumstances, actually work together for a time (Martin is brilliant playing Ruprecht, a very special child!), and finally make a wager to see who will be the first to swindle a young lady out of $50,000.  I won’t give the ending away if you haven’t seen it yet, since it has a great surprise twist.

So why watch this movie on Election Night 2012?  Shouldn’t I offer a review of my favorite political movie instead?  There are certainly some good election films out there; but to me, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels fits well enough into that category.  I mean, just look at the movie poster!  Doesn’t it remind you of two politicians trying to sell you a bill of goods?  Freddy and Lawrence could certainly run for office at some point in their con-man careers.  Seriously, much of modern politics (and maybe it has always been this way) has degenerated into a competition between various scoundrels for our money.  Since the mother’s milk of politics is filthy lucre, the philosophy held by many is: “How can I take more of your wealth from you today?”  And, the easiest way to get our money (my last political statement of this post) is just to promise us that the goverment will take care of our needs, fix the economy, and ensure jobs for everyone.  Even Freddy and Lawrence couldn’t match this long-term con!

Now on to something more important for us as Christians:  Scoundrels and con-artists like Freddy and Lawrence also prey regularly on people sitting in the pews.  Much like politicians, they take advantage of those who are weak-minded and weak-willed.  Again, this is nothing new.  Listen to the Apostle Paul and his words to his young son in the Lord, Timothy:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with themthey are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.  (I Timothy 3:1-7)

Just like in the movie, these scoundrels “worm their way into homes” and seek to “gain control over weak-willed women.”  Today, they do it by way of the television or internet, with a form of godliness that isn’t true Christianity.  According to Paul, these dirty rotten scoundrels are ultimately lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, and proud.  They are much more dangerous than even the worst politicians.  Rather than just going after people’s money, they end up impacting people’s souls.

The Word-Faith movement is one example of this phenomenon.  Christians are taught that if they just have more faith, physical healing is always guaranteed.  If they confess positive words, they will have whatever they desire.  Mixed into this unbiblical teaching is the lure of a higher spirituality where one can regularly hear words from the LORD.  Those who take in these teachings are often weak-willed and weak-minded.

A variation of this brand of theology is the so-called Health Wealth gospel.  Again, Christians are promised good health and plenty of worldly wealth as long as their faith is strong.  With inane interpretations of particular Scripture texts, these scoundrels propound that health and wealth are guaranteed with our salvation.  Of course, they also connect these “promises” to giving plenty of money to their ministry.

Finally, there are those who teach weak-willed Christians that keeping the law is the only way to truly please God.  This typically includes a separatism from pagans as well as most other Christians!  These teachers don’t promise health or wealth or happiness, but they certainly communicate a form of godliness without its power.  It is devoid of grace.

So as you enjoy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, always remember that men like Freddy and Lawrence are really out there.  And, as Christians, we have a responsibility to blow the whistle on scoundrels, pointing people to the truth in Jesus Christ!

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