Sunday, December 27, 2009


Ideal Christian Moviegoing

The Sensuous Curmudgeon has already justly rained scorn on this "review" of Creation, the British film about Charles Darwin now just coming to American shores, that appeared at the supposedly secular Detroit News website.

The "review" is actually a commentary that appears on the Editorial page. It should have appeared, if at all, on the Religion page. The Curmudgeon has already pointed out the "review's" theological, sermon-like content, such as this gem:

Despite its title, "Creation" is not about God creating the Earth. Instead, it's the story of evolution's founding father, Charles Darwin, and his struggle to write the book that would "kill God."

He left out my favorite part though. After noting that the movie has Emma reading the Origin and telling Charles that she agrees with it and it should be published, the "review" goes on to offer this criticism of the film's dramaturgy:

Another failure is the movie's neglect to tell viewers that Darwin's wife was a Unitarian. Unitarian beliefs are unbiblical and heretical, but they were widespread in England and parts of America at the time Darwin lived.

Opps. One of the icons of the "America is a Christian nation" crowd is John Adams, due to some pious platitudes he served up. But he was one of those unbiblical and heretical Unitarians too. One wonders if the reviewers will warn their audience about David Barton's use of that ungodly man's words.

Curious about the reviewers, Ted Baehr, Jeff Holder and Tom Snyder, respectively founder/publisher, managing editor and editor of Movieguide, I looked up their website. The "review" originally appeared at Movieguide but was edited, for reasons that will become obvious, before it appeared in the Detroit News. In the unedited "review," immediately before the paragraph that begins "'Creation' uses fallacious 'straw men' arguments by crudely depicting the Christians in its story as closed minded, cruel people," appears this:

There is a constant discussion of science vs. religion in "Creation" and evolution as the only rational truth. This is a one-sided bit of propaganda, however, because there is much that is not said. For instance, evolutionists have yet to produce any tangible evidence of intermediary species, that is, evidence that an ape turned into a human. Scientists should have found thousands upon thousands of transitional species in the fossil record, if Darwinism were true, but such fossils have never really been found. In fact, the evidence against the gradual evolution of Darwin is so startling that many alleged scientists have either had to fake the evidence or change the theory completely, as in the "punctuated equilibrium" theory of the late Stephen Gould. Either way you look at it, Darwinism has been proven false.

Also, the movie does not mention that in his book, "The Origin of Species," Darwin wrote about the human eye, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." Evolution scientists have never produced an adequate explanation for the creation of the human eye, much less for the complexity of a single gene or of the human brain, the seat of rational human thought and the physical connection to our individual souls or spirits. Neither can they explain the origin of such abstract concepts as the laws of logic, love, morality, or ethics.

Let's see, outright lies (no evidence that human beings are apes descended from earlier apes; transitional fossils "have never really been found" -- meaning none that creationists will accept and, since they refuse to accept any such transitionals, it hardly surprising that none that they will accept have been found -- changing a theory disproves it; no explanation for our remarkably chimp-like brain, etc.) and a quote mine that is perhaps the hoariest and most transparent in the creationist arsenal.

It seems likely that the editors of the Detroit News could not stand the exquisite irony of people spouting such ignorant drivel in order to deny science immediately before kvetching about being called closed minded. Another gem left out by the newspaper is this:

The Charles Darwin depicted in the movie uses "teaching moments" with his children, telling them stories about Christian missionaries attempting to convert "savages" who only went back to being savages. This part of the movie seems slightly racist.

The only problem is that the story is true in that it is doubtless based on the hostages Captain Fitzroy captured at Tierra del Fuego on an earlier voyage, Fuegia Basket, Jemmy Button and York Minster, who he took back to England to be "civilized." When returned to their native land they soon returned to their original ways. A version sympathetic to the captives, though suffering some fractured English, can be found here.

There's more disingenuous dreck in the "review" but let's close out with a quote from the site's "review" of Avatar, which they also did not like for theological reasons, entitled "Capitalism, Christianity and AVATAR":

When you watch a movie like AVATAR know that the filmmaker is playing with your mind and emotions. Every frame is carefully planned to lure you to come to the conclusion the filmmaker wants you to accept. By the time the final scene comes, you don't just want the bad guy killed; you want him to die some spectacular death. The filmmaker picks the bad guy. James Cameron could have made you hate the Na'vi and love the Colonel. Michael Moore could interview people that make Capitalism look glorious. Al Gore could go shoot a movie about global cooling.

If you want the truth, read the Bible.

Kinda misses the whole point of going to the movies, doesn't it?


Interesting confusions abound here. Whether or not what Moore or Gore say is true, they are concerned about presenting what they take to be truths in a rhetorically appealing way, in order to compensate for our inclination to avoid truths that might make us uncomfortable. But that's obviously not what Cameron or Spielberg or any of the others are doing. I wonder why the Movieguide folks aren't able to see this fairly simple point.
Probably because they have the notion that everything has to serve their evangelical cause.
I was also struck by the thought that they not only take little interest in the aesthetic criteria of a film (quality of acting, writing, directing, use of color, light, and sound) but also little interest in the genuinely ethical criteria -- how well the characters confront moral dilemmas, how they take seriously (or fail to take seriously) the suffering of others, the difficulties of human life. They don't seem to care about either aesthetic or ethical dimensions of human experience -- all they seem to take seriously is how well a given film adheres to their dogma.

Being an evangelical Christian seems to require that one expend a great deal of passion on very boring things.
I've often wondered if there isn't some people who find boredom somehow comforting ... nothing new to disrupt the routine, no new thoughts to have to sort through, a kind of numbness. I confess it sometimes has a certain attraction. Maybe evangelical Christianity is the ultimate couch-potato-ism.
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