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Doce me faces voluntarem tuam quia Deus meus es tu

Monday, February 28, 2005
I just saw Million Dollar Baby, one night after it won an Academy Award. I thought that perhaps I should digest the movie and talk about it later, but I do not believe that is possible. Too much has already been about the film, but I shall add my piece nonetheless. To begin, let me say that this is a masterfully crafted movie, well-made in every aspect. I was unable to see any of the other films nominated for Best Picture, but this was a fine film.

Yet art does not let us go so easily; we are forced to ponder questions and perhaps develop a few of our own. This is a troubling movie on many levels. It is existentionalist at its best; purely nihilistic at its worst. God is indeed dead in this film. I do not know whether Nietzsche would be proud of the film, but surely he would concede its implications. It is no coincidence that Clint Eastwood's character reads Yeats throughout the film. Yeats admired Nietzsche and again, I cannot say that Yeats would agree with every decision made in the film. Surely, however, Yeats would admire the sheer will of Frankie and Maggie. They both exemplify Der Ubermensch as Nietzsche saw him. Hemingway would be proud, and perhaps D.H. Lawrence, as his notion of the will to power ran rampant thoughout the film.

As a Christian it was most difficult to view this movie. Of course it is well made in all areas, but it is a film about a world where God is silent, if He even exists at all. The characters in this film are hopeless, striving only to achieve satisfaction in self. One watches the film and wants desperately at times to tell Frankie and Maggie and Scrap that there is hope.

I shall write more on this later. This is a deep, deep film and no amount of knee-jerk reaction should distract us from the philosophical implications that lie within. Thus far, Mike Potemra and Thomas Hibbs, both writing at National Review, have the best analysis. They do not fall into the trap of arguing politics or excusing sin and despair. They do a fine job of examining the film; its merits and its flaws. I have yet to read much else from conservatives or Christians that offered such a critical analysis. Potemra is right; this not a movie about what sin has done to humanity. See Kill Bill for a gruesome lesson on that topic. No, this movie comes to the tragic conclusion that our fleeting moments of glory are all we have. Once they are gone, so are we.

How sad and terrible! I'll talk more about this film later. Despite its controversy, there is much here to discuss. We should not abandon the public square, least of all not in these times. Even when it makes us uncomfortable and challenges us, as this movie does, to passionately defend Truth in all spheres.
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Friday, February 25, 2005
I'm going to try to see Million Dollar Baby sometime this week, possibly tonight. The movie looks to win a few Oscars and it's certainly seen it's share of controversy, so I think I need to know the score. I've read bad reviews from people I trust - Mike Potemra, Al Mohler - and good reviews from trustworthy folks as well - Jeffrey Overstreet. Of course, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved had a fit about the whole thing, but I don't care what they have to say about film.

So look for a review of the movie in this space soon enough.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2005
A few weeks ago I pointed to this piece in the New Atlantis. The crux of the article was that technology has left us more isolated than in the past. I tend to agree. I can walk around campus and see otherwise normal people zoned out, thin white wires connecting their ears to the iPod in their pocket. Lord knows I've got nothing against an iPod, but surely we can make it from the car to class without slowly fading into our own world of music.

Apparently I'm not alone in my criticism. Andrew Sullivan had a similar argument last week's piece for the Sunday Times. He's not always right, but when he's on - he's on.
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Matt :: permalink


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Tuesday, February 22, 2005
I tuned in Sunday night to check out the much-anticipated gay marriage episode of The Simpsons. I turned off the television with mixed feelings. I'm not in favor of gay marriage, but if Springfield wants to go for it, I'll watch. The Simpsons won't change the nature of the debate in this country, so I'm curious to see how the whole thing affects the show. For example, I thought giving an unmarried Ross and Rachel a baby was bad. Not simply for moral reasons, but because it was bad television.

So what did I think of the gay Simpson? I'm not sure. Was anyone really shocked that Aunt Patty is a lesbian? On one hand, I'm thankful they didn't ruin the show by outting a major character. This would throw a hot-button issue at the forefront of the show, and I know most folks don't want to deal with that on a weekly basis. On the other hand, if the show's creators are so bent on demonstrating their solidarity with gay rights activists, they should pull the trigger and do something more significant. As it is, it's hard for me to take them seriously on the matter.

Meanwhile, there were a couple of posts on the show yesterday over at the Corner. First, Kathryn Jean Lopez takes a pretty reasonable view of the show's content. See the Brent Bozell quote she cites. I'm not sure that his view is quite so reasonable. "Millions" of kids watch the Simpsons? I might buy into that, but this show isn't new. What parent isn't aware of the show's content? The Simpsons has been on the air for fifteen years.

Tim Graham also appears shocked to learn that ratings might have served as a catalyst for the outing. Well, no kidding. He quotes his boss Bozell:

"At a time when the public mood is overwhelmingly against gay marriage, any show that promotes gay marriage is deliberately bucking the public mood."


Um...so? Whatever my position on the matter, the show is under no responsibility to cater to my sensibilities. If I was really and truly offended by the whole ordeal, I 'd just change the channel. Sorry, Brent, but I wasn't that bothered. Did I agree with it? Nope, but I know good and well that Patty's lesbianism will hardly factor into the show in the long run. And whatever the public's mood about gay marriage, the simple truth of the matter is that Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, to say nothing of all the gay dudes on these home makeover shows, are doing gangbusters in the ratings. Has Bozell not noticed? Surely he has. For better or worse, the public's mood concerning homosexuality - though not necessarily gay marriage - is a very ambiguous matter. Bozell would do well to keep this in mind.
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Matt :: permalink


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Saturday, February 19, 2005
Michael Spencer has become something of a controversialist among evangelical bloggers. One minute he's citing Al Mohler, the next minute he's praising Donald Miller. I don't know if anyone could say they always agree with Spencer, but I've no doubt that there are countless bloggers who hold his work in very high esteem. If the iMonk says something, it's at least considered, though it may not be accepted.

With that in mind, Spencer posted a piece this past week noting many of the lines that have been drawn among Christians today. As longtime readers of this site, I come down pretty squarely on one side of most of these issues. Still I think Spencer's central premise is worth considering:

Christians in America are increasingly falling into the stereotypical categories being created by the engines of the culture war, making it difficult for thoughtful people who resist categorization and do not fully identify with the polarizations of the culture war to be tolerated within evangelicalism or identified as "real Christians." In fact, the very categories themselves fail to accommodate the rich diversities and depths of the Biblical/Christian worldview.


If you've been reading some of my posts over at Stones Cry Out, you know I take a pretty strict view of Christian politics; I fail to see how Scripture condones or endorses the welfare state, though we are offered plenty of precautions about how we are to care for orphans and widows. It's Spencer's notion of cultural stereotypes that I find compelling, perhaps because I can personally relate.

While sites like LookingCloser and Crux Magazine have taken seriously the call to engage arts and culture, the rest of the evangelical culture is pretty aloof on such matters. I know there are lots of reasons for this - middle class families don't always have time to explore the intricacies of existensial Swedish film. The rest of us might find ourselves in an odd place; evangelical faith, conservative politics and West Village tastes in art, music, literature and film. It's an interesting predicament for those of us evangelicals who aren't satisfied with pop culture. I've never read Left Behind, but I have read Wise Blood. I don't listen to to Mercy Me, but I love the Innocence Mission and Sufjan Stevens.

Making an effort to dig beneath the surface in our culture is always a dangerous thing. In evangelical culture it's a mixed bag; you can always find kindred spirits, but they're few and far between. And frankly, until we get over the paranoid assessment that Hollywood is out to get us, I don't imagine things will change. I remain conservative in my politics and theology, but I don't think we can draw such clear lines with the arts and culture. Of course there are exceptions; namely, pornography and the more vulgar segments of the hip-hop and metal scenes. I guess what I'm trying to say here - sort of like the crunchy cons in the conservative movement - is that there is a stereotype out there. In many ways it's a real stereotype that exists; good conservative Christians listen to Christian music, don't watch much tv (Friends is alright if you're a girl), you read Christian popular fiction and R-rated movies are off limits.

Like I said, this is something of an exaggeration. Still, stereotypes (however unfair) don't materialize out of thin air. Am I wrong here? Comments and e-mails, particularly from readers my age - thirty and under - would be most helpful.
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Matt :: permalink


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Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Last week over at Stones Cry Out, I discussed the lack of attention received by evangelical colleges and universities. There's a lot of reasons for this; some defensible, others not so much. Here's one possible reason: the quality of the graduates. By this I mean that evangelical schools are not turning out graduates that go on to meaningful careers in journalism, academia or the arts. The coursework at most evangelical schools is indistinguishable from that of their state-sponsored counterparts, and it seems as though many of these schools win over recruits because they promise a sex/drug/booze-free atmosphere with a handful of chapel services.

I don't mean to be overly critical...just thinking out loud.
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Matt :: permalink


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Sunday, February 06, 2005
Whew.

All apologies for the silence around here. I just got nailed with a twenty-four hour stomach bug, and staring at a computer screen has been the last thing on my mind.

The big news is that I am now a contributor at the giant Stones Cry Out blog. Rick Brady has brought several talented bloggers together, and they've been gracious enough to me join them. The list of contributors, in addition to Rick and myself, includes Jim Jewell of the Rooftop Blog, Mark Sides of SidesSpot and Drew from Darn Floor.

I'll still be posting here at this site, though there will be a considerable deal of cross-posting between the two sites. Please join both endeavors. We promise we'll make it worth your while.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Logan Young has been found guilty conspiracy, crossing state lines to commit racketeering and arranging bank withdrawals to cover up a crime.

Unbelievable.

I'll have more to say about this later this weekend. In the meantime, stay tuned to the Tuscaloosa News and Paul Finebaum. Later tonight or early tomorrow, Finebaum's site should have interview with many people close to the situation.
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Matt :: permalink


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