Posts Tagged ‘grace’

grey26f-1-webThe trailer to this movie was released last week, so I figured some thoughts would be appropriate. I thought about coming up with ‘fifty thoughts’ for Fifty Shades of Grey in order to have a catchy title, but I couldn’t think of a greater waste of time pondering fifty thoughts about a filthy piece of trash like this film (can you tell where this post is going?).

From the outset, let me go ahead and tell you that I have not read the book and I will not see the movie.  I know many would use this to discredit me, but I think this argument is no longer valid because of a little thing called The Internet.  You can read and research a whole lot about something without having to read the book or watch the movie.  Without a doubt, one gets a greater understanding of something by actually experiencing it, but when depth and substance are lacking from a story there’s not much to experience anyway.  So, here are five thoughts:

  1. Scripture Alone:  Scripture begins with, “In the beginning God” [Gen. 1:1] and many have said these are the four most significant words in history.  They tell us many things, but one thing they tell us is the fact that God is in charge.  He’s always been in existence, he was before all things, he created all things out of nothing, and he dictates what his creation will do.  When  it comes to sex, we don’t get to do what we want.  Therefore, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele are spitting in the face of God and perverting his invention.  What does that say for those of you who’ve read the book?
  2. Faith Alone:  Because of the fall of mankind, we place our faith in everything but God.  We place our faith in money.  We place our faith in food.  We place our faith in friends.  We place our faith in sex.  Now, nothing is wrong with enjoying any one of these in a proper perspective, but a misplaced faith ends up in misplaced worship – God alone deserves that.  Fifty Shades of Grey, however, makes sex the ultimate thing and worships it.  I will say that the story seems to accurately portray what happens when anyone or anything receives the worship that is due to God – perversion.  Grey is so obsessed with sex it becomes something demented.  Sadly, many who have read the book have gone down this demented path and have adopted these practices.  Even more sadly, husbands and wives will go see this movie together and will worship this ideal and become more discontent with one another.
  3. Grace Alone:  God doesn’t owe us a thing.  The fact that you’re breathing right now is solely because God allows it.  When all of life is grace, it’s difficult to draw attention to one aspect to appreciate.  However, sex communicates a great deal about God’s grace.  The simple fact that God gives us any pleasure is remarkable.  We sinned against him.  He would be perfectly just to make all of our food bland, remove any beauty from all creation, take away emotions, the list goes on-and-on.  One clear thing Scripture communicates about sex is that God commands husbands and wives to make it a common practice – God is so harsh. [1 Cor. 7:5]  Again, God would have been just to make sex the most boring, laborious chore – but he decided to make it pleasurable.  Christian and Anastasia (as well as the readers) see sex as something deserved for their own self-centered motives.
  4. Christ Alone:  As strange as this may sound to some, sex communicates a lot about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Once again, God designed sex as properly practiced between one man and one woman in the context of marriage [Gen. 2:15-25].  This marital union points us to our union with Christ.  Therefore, whenever there is sexual distortion, there is a distortion of the gospel.  Fifty Shades of Grey distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ for your own sinful fantasies.  Why in the world would any Christian seek to see a movie that deliberately distorts the gospel for their own entertainment?
  5. Glory to God Alone:  God is Creator and his fingerprints are all over creation.  The creation – because of God’s fingerprints – displays glory because God is glorious.  Therefore, each of us are glorious in various ways, but we turn into glory thieves because of our sin.  We attempt to highjack the glory that is due to God.  E.L. James (who wrote the novel), as well as, the actors and filmmakers are attempting to steal glory from God’s creation.  Whether it’s in the act of sex, the naked bodies of actors, or the selfish fame they are all longing for, Fifty Shades of Grey illustrates selfish people pursuing their own glory.

There are some books and movies that should simply be avoided and Fifty Shades of Grey is easily one of those.  Unfortunately, I’ve heard many Christians are reading, or read, the books and I know many more will see the movie.  While I know there is a character named ‘Christian’ in the movie, those displaying true Christian character will abstain.

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star-wars-one-sheet-style-aWhat could possibly be said about this movie?  It’s a classic?  It changed my life?  It’s the greatest movie ever?  All of those things are nonetheless true about George Lucas’s ground-breaking, trail-blazingin, sci-fi classic, but there was something truly special about watching it again this past weekend.  Let me back up a bit…

I grew up on Star Wars and Indiana Jones.  I had these movies memorized and, as far as I knew, these were the only series of movies that existed.  When I was younger I would dress up like Indiana Jones and I would quote these films to my fellow classmates on the playground…which explains why I didn’t have any friends (not true).  However, I remember (on more than one occasion) waking up my parents at night because I was traumatized by the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark – what kid witnessing Nazis melting wouldn’t?  All of this to say, I was a big fan of these series of films.

Therefore, showing any of these films to my children was going to be a momentous occasion.  My oldest children are 7 and 4, and they have asked a good bit about Star Wars.  We’ve checked out some SW books at the library and they have some cousins that are pretty obsessed (in a healthy way) with the SW franchise.  While I felt that they were too young for the Indiana Jones franchise (remember the melting Nazis), I felt that they could handle the adventures of Luke and Han with my edits (earmuffs) along the way.  And, since there were so many classic films on TV for the Fourth of July, I thought we would have our own classic celebration in the Perritt household.

So, the iconic title and John Williams’ score exploded on the small screen in our living room and my children will never be the same.  We cheered, we clapped, we were excited to see Darth Vader, as well as, the good guys appear in a story that continues to prove itself as a classic.  All of that to say, it was special.

I enjoyed Sarah holding on to my arm with concern for the rebel alliance.  I loved seeing Samuel smile to see storm troopers and Darth for the first time (not sure if I should be concerned that he likes the bad guys…I like them too).  What was really unique about this experience of Lucas’ classic was that I sort of experienced it for the first time again.

At every moment of concern for the good guys, or each victory of Luke and Han over the villains, I would watch my children witness it without prior knowledge.  I loved waiting in eager anticipation with Sarah, I applauded with Samuel as the Millennium Falcon dominated starships twice its speed.  To put it simply, I shared in a timeless piece of art with my children.

Why is that such a joy?  Why has SW hung on for so long?  Why do countless adults and children still turn to this story for pleasure?  Well, there are many elements we could point to.  Good vs. Evil.  Darth vs. Obi-Wan.  Luke vs. Han.  Whatever it is, this film will continue to live on from generation to generation.  And, I guess the only reason I’m turning this into a post is simply to highlight God’s grace.  I know I could make some parallels, but I just want to be thankful.  God doesn’t owe us anything.  Yes, the gift of his Son is paramount to all gifts.  But, a dimly-lit living room playing a classic sci-fi film with my kids is pretty good too.

Eli Roth is Pretty Sick

Posted: June 30, 2014 by jperritt in Horror
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green-inferno-poster-900My first exposure to Eli Roth came through one of my friends comments about Roth’s film, Cabin Fever.  This friend of mine could handle movie violence a bit better than I could, so he thought he would be just fine.  After watching the film, he summed up his thoughts in one word – Sick!  After pulling a bit more out of him, he stated the film was simply over-the-top gross and he could hardly handle it.

Without either of us knowing who Eli Roth was (the director of CF), we were introduced to a common component in his films – graphic violence.  Well, this film seemed to put Roth on the map, so he has continued to write/direct/star in many other films.  Not only do his films contain graphic violence, they typically contain graphic nudity, as well as, disturbing acts of torture.

Another series of films that seemed to bring his name back into the lime-light were the “torture-porn” films, Hostel Hostel 2.  These films (which I have not seen but heard/read much about) contain sick acts of torture occurring to unsuspecting tourists.  Basically, any horrible thing you could think of (and some you couldn’t think of) are depicted in these movies.

And now, the reason I am bringing him up today, is because of two forthcoming films he’s associated with – The Green Inferno The Sacrament.  Roth is directing TGI (he also co-wrote the screenplay), and only producing TS.  Although both films have differing plots, they are similar in their sickening depravity.  And they both prove how utterly disgusting Eli Roth’s heart and mind are.

sacramentNow, some of you may think that I’m being a little harsh on Eli, but I’m simply using his words.  In the trailer for TGI it states, “From the twisted mind of horror master Eli Roth”.  In other words, all this talk is only assisting him in his PR tactics for his films (you’re welcome, Eli).  Roth loves his twisted mind.  He loves that he’s known for being sick.  He loves it so much, he ensures it’s going to be used in the marketing of his films.  To say it another way, being twisted has become his identity.

While I do want to discuss the term “horror master” associated with Eli Roth, I’ll only say a couple of things because I want to focus on his twisted heart.  The term horror master needs to be associated with directors that put thought and care into their craft.  Anyone, I repeat, anyone can use graphic violence and disturbing torture scenes to get a reaction out of an audience.  Roth could more accurately be labeled “gross-out master”, but horror master is a bit of a stretch.  Back to twisted ol’ Eli.

Proverbs 17:20a states, “One with a twisted mind will not succeed,”.  Again, Roth has become known as the twisted, violent, sex-crazed, horror director.  He’s built his identity around this content.  Basically, if you hear his name associated with the screenplay, directing, or producing, you can expect to see twisted sex and violence.  But, as the above Scripture states, he will not succeed.

You see, one thing Christians can agree with Roth on is that mankind’s heart is twisted.  Roth’s heart is twisted, my heart is twisted, and your heart is twisted.  And, what Roth has done, is tapped into that twisted nature.  There’s something intriguing about sex and violence to all of us (for starters, God created sex).  Yes, by God’s grace, some of us aren’t as drawn to these distortions as others, but there is still a sinful tug – a moment of curiosity – some of us feel.  He has realized this and exploited it for gain, but God’s Word says otherwise.  God’s Word ensures emptiness, destruction, and failure to those indulging in twisted wickedness.

While many in this world seek to exploit that darkness, God exploits grace.  He grants it to people who are undeserving.  He lavishes love on those who hate.  He grants compassion to those deemed as lesser by the world.  And he’s all about redeeming the twisted hearts of mankind.  Roth’s exploitation will only result in further emptiness, God’s, however, grants life and freedom to a twisted bunch of sinners like you and me.

Tangled up in Law and Grace

Posted: November 28, 2013 by jperritt in Action, Adventure, Animation, Family, Uncategorized
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tangledposterTangled has become a Perritt household favorite. There is no telling how many movies nights have featured this soon-to-be Disney classic.

There are many themes to explore in this film, but one scene that resonates with me is when Rapunzel (whom we got to meet at Disney world…not to rub it in) first leaves the tower. If you remember, her “mother-knows-best” Mother Gothel had confined poor Rapunzel to a tower, because of the evil that lurks outside. Of course we understand that Gothel has kidnapped Rapunzel to use her for her anti-aging powers and tells tales of evil to horde this secret. However, Rapunzel’s persistent questioning of “when will her life begin” were too much for the tower’s walls – and Gothel’s wishes – so she uses Flynn Rider, a.k.a. Eugene, to escape.

Once she escapes, she exudes jubilation. She runs. She dances. She sings…until she feels guilt. She feels guilt from disobeying her “mother”. Confinement to the tower was all she ever knew to be right, so while there is joy, it is fleeting because of the confused sense of right and wrong. This got me to thinking about the Christian’s misconceptions about the gospel.

In a sense we are just like Rapunzel, confused over our confinement and freedom. The gospel frees us from our legalistic ways of law-reliance. Prior to our understanding of the gospel, we think we need to observe a bunch of rules, do a lot of good, and abstain from this world to earn our salvation, however, all this does is enslave us further. Yet, this was the “gospel” Mother Gothel was preaching.

It isn’t until Rapunzel breaks free from the walls of legalism, that she sees the freedom she’s been blind to. But, just like all Christians, we go back to our legalistic lifestyle. We doubt our freedom. We feel guilt over the life Christ purchased for us. At times we desire to go back to our tower and just work out our own freedom by adhering to man-made laws.

What we need to be reminded of is the fact that all the law has been fulfilled in Christ’s righteous life. He lived the life we could not life and died the death that we deserved. This, of course, does not purchase a life of license to sin, rather it gives us freedom to obey. We do not strive to obey the law to get us right with God, we obey because we are right with God based on faith in Jesus’ perfect obedience.

The-Lone-Ranger-Movie-Poster-2013-WallpaperI wanted to like this movie; I really did.  I felt like I went in with the proper mindset.  You know, the one that isn’t expecting a whole lot.  The mindset that understands this movie isn’t going to be an Oscar-contender.  The one that says, “I’m going to suspend some of my normal critiques for the sake of the summer blockbuster.”  However, I just ended up not really caring for this film.

Now, this does not mean I didn’t like the movie at all.  I saw this with some students on our night out at the annual youth conference, RYM.  Several of the students were asking me what I thought as we exited the theater.  For many reasons, this is a hard question to answer.  First off, I don’t like shattering the enjoyment the other students experienced.  When I hear them say they enjoyed it, I don’t want to rob them of that joy by saying it stunk.  Secondly, an argument typically ensues whenever you state you didn’t like a movie and others did.  When I stated that the movie was okay, I was immediately accused of being hyper-critical.  People often make such a connection with a film that they take it as a personal assault if you didn’t like it.  Lastly, this is a hard question to answer, because there are typically some aspects of any film that I enjoy.  Therefore, I cannot simply say that The Lone Ranger was a terrible movie.  So, here are some things I liked, as well as, things I disliked.

The Music

I’ve written before about how vital the musical score is to the film and I felt that Hans Zimmer did a great job on this film – especially the song entitled ‘Home’.

The Drama

The movie actually started out building up some nice drama and depth to the story that really resonated with me.

The Icon

I forgot just how iconic the Lone Ranger was until they started playing the familiar tune.  Hearing the theme brought back some nostalgia to an iconic hero that was long before my time.

The Law

Although John Reid [Lone Ranger] was portrayed as somewhat close-minded, I appreciated his desire to uphold the law in the face of persecution.

The Cheese

I did not like how incredibly cheesy some of the scenes were.  This can work on some films, but you have to make that decision early on.  When the film started off somewhat dramatic, and even dark at times, you cannot expect the audience to switch back and laugh at a young boy shooting a grape into Tonto’s mouth during a high-speed train chase – CHEESY!

The Widow

I did not like how quickly the widow gets over her husband’s death as she kissed the Lone Ranger, even though they previously loved each other.

The Lone Ranger

I also didn’t like how quickly John Reid transformed into the Lone Ranger.  He went from hating guns and barely being able to fight, to jumping off rooftops on a horse and chasing down the bad guy.  Maybe it was just the fact that he heard the Lone Ranger theme being played?

The Johnny Depp

One can easily see that this entire film was being carried on the shoulders of Johnny Deep.  Gore Verbinski was hopping to recreate a Westernized version of The Pirates of the Caribbean, but it just didn’t work.  The humor wasn’t all that humorous and it makes you wonder if Depp’s charm is wearing off just a bit.

All of this to say, I can understand while people have enjoyed this film, but I can also understand why the majority of critics haven’t.  Even though I appreciated some aspects, one of those being John Reid’s desire to uphold the law, I felt that the overall message of the film opposed that viewpoint.  Reid even exclaims, “If this is the law, than I’d rather be an outlaw.”  And this is what happens.  He changes his name to the Lone Ranger and exacts justice how he sees fit.  As Christians, we love grace, but we must also love the law.  The law is a gracious thing.  The law reveals the character of God and it is the law that is established to restrain evil.  While the law cannot save us, there was One Man who came and upheld every aspect of it to attain salvation for His children – those who love the law and, by His Spirit, strive after obedience to it.

 

What do miserable men do about sin?

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Musical, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I am simply building upon Josh’s excellent article about this excellent movie. Seriously. Read it first and then come back here. And yes, spoilers abound.

If you did as I said and read Josh’s post you know what the story is about. By now you know that pretty much everyone loved the movie; except folks who paid to see a musical and then were angry that there was too much… brace yourselves…music.

Let’s expand on the topic of sin and grace.

We all have the experience of mourning over our sins, of crying over our errors. The eternal difference will have to do with how we deal with such sorrow; if we treat it under the cross of Christ (repentance unto life) or if we dwell in the hopelessness of our condition (remorse that does not lead to life).

Jean Valjean received grace. He did not deserve it at all. He had been imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread and his penalty seems to us too much. Yet he is released and steals again. But the grace demonstrated to him changes him, slowly, but surely. That simple action of grace is enough to begin a chain of gracious actions and behaviors that set the pattern of the life of many. This same man at the end of his life is crying-praying-singing: “Forgive me all my trespasses and take me to your glory”

Contrast this with Javert.

He also receives back his life – he has grace shown to him. Yet, for him grace is a prison; he wants law, he thinks he can live by law alone. He sings :

“How can I now allow this man
To hold dominion over me?
This desperate man whom I have hunted
He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right.
It was my right to die as well
Instead I live… but live in hell.”

And my thoughts fly apart
Can this man be believed?
Shall his sins be forgiven?
Shall his crimes be reprieved?

And must I now begin to doubt,
Who never doubted all these years?
My heart is stone and still it trembles
The world I have known is lost in shadow.
Is he from heaven or from hell?
And does he know
That granting me my life today
This man has killed me even so?”

These two guys remind me of Peter and Judas around the time of Christ’s prison.

Peter had promised, had sworn, had guaranteed that no way in hell he would betray Jesus. Jesus warned him, and still Peter denied knowing Jesus, and he cussed and sworn that he did not know the Nazarene when times got tough. In that moment he heard the rooster crow and Jesus met him with his eyes. The Bible tells us that Peter wept bitterly. Yet, Peter was restored; by Jesus’ loving look, but Jesus’ loving deeds and words of restoring his brother Peter and making him a rock of grace. And this transforming grace in Peter to this day blesses us in the reading and preaching of the New Testament.

Judas also betrayed Christ. He had been with him for a long time; he had seen the miracles, heard the sermons, perceived how Jesus lived and loved. And yet, he was dissatisfied with grace. He was angry with the wasteful grace of Mary Magdalene using the expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ feet. Later he regretted his betrayal, went back to the leaders of the Jews and proclaimed that he had done wrong in betraying an innocent man. Yet, his tears before the grace of Christ do not lead to redemption like Peter, it leads to sadness, but then to suicide. Like Javert.

How will we react to grace? Will we choose to forsake our lives and hide in Christ? Or will we seek to save ourselves and ignore his call? Unless you see yourself as a sinner with no righteousness of your own, grace will always seem like a prison, and death will sound like an option.

But if you understand that there is hope, not in yourself, but in grace, then there is life, and life in abundance.

At the very end of the movie the triumphant characters sing:

“Do you hear the people sing?
Lost in the valley of the night
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light
For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord
They will walk behind the ploughshed, the will put away the sword.”

There is a way of salvation for wretched, miseable men

Les-Miserables-2012-Wallpapers-les-miserables-2012-movie-32697313-1280-800

The newest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s historical novel, Les Misérables, has had its share of critical acclaim and just plain criticism.  Maybe I’m not smart or cultured enough to be a hater, but I loved this film!

Sure I found it awkward to watch Wolverine and Maximus sing to each other, but all in all, this film is fantastic!

What makes Les Mis so great is not the acting – although I was blown away by the tremendous talent of each of the actors. The performances of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Sacha Baron Cohen (Yep – Borat) were particularly noteworthy.

Les Mis has incredible music.  You will hum songs like “Look Down” and “Master of the House” for weeks after seeing the film (at least I did).  If you don’t cry during Anne Hathaway’s singing of “I Dreamed a Dream,” you most likely have no soul.  It will take your breath away!  Although it is amazing, the music is not what makes this movie great.

While it is true that the film includes excellent scenery, choreography, lighting, and special effects, what really makes Les Misérables a great film is one thing – the story.  Les Mis is a great film because Les Mis tells a great story – the story of grace.

Spoiler Alert!

Set in 19th-century France, Les Misérables introduces us to Jean Valjean, a man who spent 19 years in prison for stealing bread. After being released on parole, Valjean attempts to rob the Bishop of Digne.  He is caught by the police and brought before the Bishop to confirm the burglary.  Instead of pressing charges, the Bishop extends grace to Valjean by giving him not only his silver tableware, but his valuable candlesticks as well.  This amazing act of grace impacts Valjean in a significant way.  He decides to break parole and pursue a new life.  His resolve is to be a generous man – showing mercy and grace to everyone he can.

This story includes a stark contrast to grace.  Enter the ruthless policeman Javert – a man of justice – who pursues the parole-breaking Jean Valjean for decades.  Despite Valjean’s changed heart and desire to peacefully live his new life as a generous benefactor, Javert is relentless in his pursuit of justice. 

russell-crowe-as-inspector-javert-in-les

At its core, Les Misérables is a story of grace.  We witness the power of grace – something powerful enough to change a man from poor criminal to rich benefactor.  This story is not about health and wealth, however.  The newly acquired riches are not the point.  Jean Valjean’s new status and affluence are merely the means by which he can continue to show others the grace and mercy he had received from the Bishop of Digne.

Jean Valjean’s transformation is remarkable!  He is a truly a changed man!  He even shows mercy to Javert when he has the opportunity to kill him.  Although Javert’t death would mean his ultimate freedom, Valjean offers grace.  This is too much for Javert.  Unable to cope with this alien power, Javert takes his own life .  The great law-keeper is destroyed by grace!

Les-Misérables-Hugh-Jackman-Jean-Valjean

What make Les Misérables so compelling is that Jean Valjean’s story is everyman’s story.  Sure, some will protest and say, “I am not a thief! I am not like that man!  I am a good person!”  The truth is that no one is good (Romans 3:10-18).  Like Valjean, each of us is a thief.  We attempt to steal from our Creator.  Instead of following his way, we selfishly pursue our own glory.  Like Valjean, we are caught red-handed.  Our evil deeds are exposed.

Although the Bishop of Digne is on screen for but a few moments, the impact of his gracious actions to Jean Valjean reverberate throughout the rest of the film.  In the true story of redemption, God the Father likewise offers grace to sinners.  In Jesus Christ we receive not only acquittal from our crimes against God, but we are given the gift of adoption – all the riches of the Father are now ours in Christ Jesus.

This is the story of grace.  Grace that changes everything!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

(Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)

The Road by: Jared Norton

Posted: August 28, 2012 by jperritt in Drama
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Jared “The White Shadow” Norton here. I’m doing a guest review of theThe Road. It is an incredibly disturbing movie that I do not recommend without discretion. That said it is rife with biblical parallels. The rest of the review will involve spoilers. 

At one point in the plot the man and his boy come upon an abandoned house in the woods. The house is marked by piles of shoes that the man doesn’t notice. It’s not really abandoned (they never are) but instead belongs to a group of cannibals. These cannibals are keeping fellow survivors underneath the floor boards in order to keep their meat fresh. The man and his boy descend to the basement and find the withered bodies of the half alive. The man and his boy rush out in terror and sudden realization. In their haste they do a shotty job of locking the basement door. The group returns just as the man and his boy make it upstairs. Cannibal One remarks to the others about the open window (the opening through which the man and his boy entered). Cannibal Two says that it’s probably for the smell. Cannibal One replies that he doesn’t notice the smell any more. The group moves through the house and come upon the newly freed captives. The man and his boy escape amidst the chaos.

The house and the people living there are a haunting portrayal of sin. Inward sin that we seek to hide within ourselves (people in the basement) always has outward symptoms (the piles of shoes). A man’s hateful heart will be seen in road rage. A man’s lustful heart will be seen in pornography and fantasy.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”(James 1:14-15 ESV)

Sin is disgusting. It’s easy to become placated with sin and allow it to fester inside of us, but we must remember that sin is as horrible to God as a basement full of death is to us. The longer we ignore and justify sin, the easier it is to ignore and justify. This is illustrated by the remarks of Cannibal One that he cannot even smell the squalor that lives beneath him. Sin is destructive. The group of cannibals that believed their sin could be used to keep them alive saw their sin rise up and destroy them.

I’m writing this with my own sin in mind. I know you, the reader, must look at my name and say “boy I bet that guy has great hair”. As true as that may be, I struggle daily and sin is at its very core crippling. My mouth is an open grave, lust dominates my heart, I spend my free time building idols instead of reading the Bible, I don’t remember the last time I held a thought captive, and not to gloat or anything but I’m pretty prideful. It’s not something that I have to deal with alone. God has given me a loving family and church as well as a call to prayer. Ultimately it is Jesus who took the fall for my sins, who invites me to His table on the basis of His own righteousness.
We are weak and helpless to escape the death of this world and the eternal death which is the wages of the sin that we all struggle with. The Good News of the Gospel is that we christians do not get this, we do not get the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, we get the cool spring of Heaven. It’s not because of what we do but because of what He has done. It is not because of what I am but because of THE I am.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

True Grit – Grace in flights and pursuits

Posted: January 17, 2012 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Uncategorized
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The greatest movie of 2010 (in this blogger’s humble and correct opinion) begins with a Bible verse. True Grit starts with Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when none pursueth.”

Here is a good video for you to listen to while reading the post. Yes, we are multimedia; providing soundtrack for your enjoyment. As I write this I am listening to the marvelous soundtrack by Carter Burwell. I am moved as I think about the story, about the hymns used in the soundtrack, as I remember the astonishing cinematography of Roger Deakins. I liked this so much that I went after the original book by Charles Portis; what a great reading. The movie is beautiful and yet hard as the frozen soil of the Choctaw nation in which they search for the wicked man who is fleeing. Besides being hilarious at times.

The wicked one in question is Tom Chaney, who fled the town of Fort Collins, Arkansas, even though nobody bothered to pursue him after shooting an innocent man. A wicked and guilty heart knows he needs to flee. The movie tells the story of 14 year old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfield), daughter of the murdered man. As she puts it: “People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father’s blood. But it did happen.” Well, little sister, it is a rather amazing story.

Seeking to bring to justice the coward Tom Chaney, she hires a federal marshal to do the job he was supposed to do anyway and track the bad guy. All actors are excellent, Jeff Bridges is Marshal Rooster Cogburn, the meanest one there is; Matt Damon is the proud and cocky Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (pronounced Labeef) who helps in the search, Josh Brolin is Tom Chaney. The second part of the initial Proverb says that “the righteous are bold as a lion.” Mattie believes herself to be righteous in her pursuit and her boldness and grit are apparent in river crossings, cold nights and sad tears.

As in any of the Coen Brother‘s movies, there is a plethora of fabulous and colorful secondary roles that will have you giggling and wide eyed (the bear man!!!). They are among the most skilled and remarkable filmmakers in the planet (one of these days I will write about A Serious Man and No Country for Old Men) . It is worth noticing this is not a remake of the John Wayne movie; rather, it is a new adaptation of the same book. It is better than Wayne’s movie in every aspect (acting, cinematography, editing, soundtrack…). Jeff Bridges has the role of Cogburn, a man who “don’t believe in fairy tales, sermons or any stories about money.” Mattie Ross is a remarkable character, and as she says in the books, she has always been more a Martha than Mary and she is restless concerning the murder. She is a sharp businesswoman and fierce in her pursuit of justice. Tom Chaney must come to justice and learn that “you must pay for everything in this world one way or another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.” Yes little sister, and yet, as we will see even grace has a price.

The book is full of Biblical references, the movie uses some and adds others (the Ezekiel reference and Psalm 23, for example). The climate of the film is very religious. Mattie is a Presbyterian girl. In the time of the story she was one of the Cumberland Presbyterians, but later in life changed to the Southern Presbyterian Church (as she claims, the Cumberland was rather weak on the doctrine of election; she goes on to provide several biblical verses to prove the doctrine!). In the book she complains about the man who preached at her father’s funeral: “I do not know to this day why they let a wool-hatted crank like Owen Hardy preach the service. Knowing the Gospel and preaching it are two different things.” Yes they are little sister.

Mattie seeks to interpret the world based on her knowledge of the Bible, and many times she is spot on. She explains that her father took under his wing the scoundrel Tom Chaney, and was shot while seeking to help him. Why did he interfere in Chaney’s business? Because he was his brother’s keeper. Mattie has a good grasp of God’s sovereignty along with human responsibility: In a certain moment she says regarding her quest: “The author of all things watches over me and I have a fine horse.” In their ride they find much hardship, they discuss life, they experience fear, roughness and much more. Rooster Cogburn is a man of true grit, but soon we learn that grit knows not age nor gender.

From now on serious spoilers.

Mattie’s quest for justice is quite biblical; she wants to see sin punished and cannot understand why others are not as bothered as she is by it. For Rooster and Laboeuf justice is more of a job. Mattie is similar to God in that he will always pursue justice; no sin will ever go unpunished. In this world every one of the wicked ones (that is, everyone) knows that they should flee; and all do flee from God (Rm 3:9-20). Finally Mattie takes revenge and shoots Chaney. While it was somewhat in self-defense, her goal was more of revenge than that of justice. Curiously, after having the satisfaction of taking the matter in her own hand she literally falls into a pit. In there, while scrambling to survive her wounds, she comprehends with horror that there are snakes living in the ribcage of a dead man. Bitten by a rattlesnake, her life is under serious threat.  The symbolism may or may not be intentional, but it is striking nevertheless – after taking revenge she falls and finds out that the snake lives in the human heart. Little sister, we are not all fully righteous are we?

The desperate run for her life after the snake bite is immensely heartbreaking in that we see that the sacrifice of an innocent and valuable animal will be necessary to preserve her life from what the snake did to her. Biblical shades, of course. Her valuable and brave horse Little Blackie has a horrifying death and his demise under the stars is one of the saddest film moments ever. Mattie leans on Rooster’s gritty arms incapable of saving herself and it all has to be done on her behalf. As Mattie said, there is nothing free except the grace of God. But free grace, we must add, has cost, not for us, but for the only one who never had reason to flee and who was taken by evil marshalls and judges to be punished in the place of Chaneyses like all of us. That is why life and the movie can end while leaning on the everlasting arms.

At the end Mattie visits Cogburn’s grave, a quarter century after their adventure. She reminisces and tells us that time gets away from us. Yes it does little sister, but soon it won’t no more. Can you see why they call it good news?

Amoral, moralistic, and biblical film reviewing | Marvin Olasky

I watched Saving Private Ryan recently, and was impressed with it all over again. This DVD viewing, though, reminded me of a firefight sparked by WORLD’s review of the film (Aug. 8, 1998) when it was playing in theaters.

Many letters that we printed took WORLD to task for praising a film that contained graphic violence. They forced me to think about what Christian film reviewers should do, if they share with me the fundamental assumption that Christians should not live in a cultural ghetto, and should develop points of contact with the non-Christians who surround us.

I respect Christians who want to isolate themselves from the world, but my models are Daniel and Paul, both of whom displayed knowledge of the pagan poetry and theology that surrounded them. Within that context, I’d suggest that reviews have three functions. They should help readers decide whether to see something that sounds appealing. They should give readers some sense of the pictures that are dancing through the heads of our fellow citizens. They should summarize and biblically critique the worldviews of our key cultural teachers.

The triple task makes the reviewer’s job hard. He has to be both a regent (standing in for readers as their eyes and ears) and a teacher. He needs the discernment to bring out theological implications and the lightheartedness to enjoy movies that aren’t theological treatises. He needs the ability to look at what other people see but then see it more deeply through adept use of a biblical lens.

Along with the triple task, a Christian reviewer should understand a triple distinction: amoral, moralistic, and biblical. Many reviewers today are amoral, worshipping sensation for sensation’s sake, reveling in slow-motion murder and fast-talking obscenity, not even paying attention to whether films and programs glorify evil. That’s sub-Christian reviewing.

A second group of reviewers are moralistic: They appropriately attack the amoral but then push smiley-faced films that preach faith in man’s natural goodness. These reviewers criticize amoral destruction but don’t note how the subtle sapping of moralism can be even more effective in keeping us from seeing our need for God’s grace. They roll over for smarmy products designated as “uplifting”-but uplift apart from Christ is idolatry.

Christian reviewers should be neither amoral nor moralistic. They should be Bible-centered in their search for films that help us to comprehend evil and the need to fight it. Christians disagree on the extent to which films need to depict man’s depravity and sin’s consequences, but truthful films often are not nice, just as Christianity is not a nice religion: Priests used hyssop to spray the blood of sacrifices on the people in Moses’ time, and Christ had to shed his blood, not just preach, to pay for our sin.

The hard reality of biblical faith distinguishes it from the spongecake of theological liberalism. And that brings me back to Saving Private Ryan, a powerful film that starts with a bloody D-Day. Some of the violence is so intense that lots of people will want to skip it. And yet, the showing of violence in a world filled with evil is not evil itself, as long as it does not make killing people look like fun – and this film makes it look appropriately horrible.

Further: the theology suggested at the end of the film can open up good discussion. One dying soldier’s last words to the man whose life he and others saved, at great cost, are “Earn this. Earn it.” Then we fast-forward half a century: The man who was saved, now old, is in a cemetery, hobbling to a cross that commemorates his savior. The old man fights back tears to say, “I lived my life the best I could. I hope that was enough.”

That’s the question: Has the old man “earned it”? He turns to his wife and pleads, “Tell me I’m a good man.” His wife says, “You are”-and we see his children and grandchildren behind him. The gospel according to director Stephen Spielberg is evident: We can pay for the life that’s been given us by our good works-although we’re never sure if we’ve done enough.

That’s provocative in itself, and even more important is the shadow lurking at the end of Saving Private Ryan: the mystery of grace offered by a man dying for us. Maybe some of us can discuss with non-Christian moviegoers how Christianity alone brings into harmonious tension the earning and the gift.