Sunday, February 14, 2010

How Christian Were The Founders?

In today's New York Times Magazine they have a long essay about the effort of some Texas conservatives to have textbooks changed so that they reflect what they, the conservatives, believe to be America's "Christian" lineage. Anybody who knows me for more than five minutes knows how I feel about that idea. But I'm curious as to what others think about this? Should America be thought of as having been founded as a Christian nation? Is it a Christian nation now? And digging a little bit deeper, does any geopolitical entity qualify as a Christian nation? Obviously this all depends on what meaning you attach to all of the key terms. What is meant by the term nation? What is it to be Christian, both individually and corporately as the church?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Templeton Foundation Big Questions series: Evolution and human nature?

The Templeton Foundation has a Big Question series, and the latest one deals with whether evolution can explain human nature. What nice about the way they address this issue is that they offer up a large variety of responses instead of the usual Manichean dichotomy that's so prevalent. I have had a chance yet to read through all of the essays, but I thought I'd throw this out there anyway as a good way to show the range of views regarding this very important issue.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Book of Eli review

I just saw the Denzel movie Book of Eli. It's definitely as violent as promised. As a big fan of the whole post-apocalyptic genre I really looked forward to this movie, especially in light of what I've read about the spiritual content that is so obvious throughout the movie. It's not much of a spoiler to say that the "book" in question is the King James Bible that Eli is traveling west to deliver to some mysterious destination where it will be safe. In the movie, Eli is clearly the good guy. Though he's a good guy who can do some serious bad to those in his way. Like I said, if you're at all squeamish about bloody violence, this movie may not be your cup of tea. On a side note, I appreciated a few neat cultural references to the same post-apocalyptic genre. I won't say here what they are, but look closely to the scenery and you'll get a chuckle or two in the course of the movie.

Gary Oldman is, well, Gary Oldman. And he's about as good an actor to play the evil character as you could ask for. After all, he's so good at being bad. My personal favorite portrayal of his was in the Fifth Element.  In this movie however, he's not nearly so refined and well dressed in haute couture. But he is just as depraved. The interesting dynamic between these two characters is that they both see the bible as being incredibly powerful, but in diametrically opposed ways. Eli is driven by a voice telling him to go west so that the book can be protected, whereas Carnegie (a fantastically ironic name for the villain) sees the "good book" as a means to gain tyrannical power over the populace.

The complexity in the movie is that both the villain and the hero use violence to achieve their ends. Eli, however, does seem to know that his violence is contrary to what the book that he's carrying says. Yet, since this is the bible we're talking about, despots the world over have gladly used the useful passages to justify their own violence, conveniently ignoring the passages that would constrain any action on their part. But the bible does offer up the requisite material for both the pacifist and militarist. I guess it's all in how you read it. The movie is complicated. It seems appropriate, since it's dealing with a complicated book.