We had the honor of attending our son’s graduation from Hillsdale College last week on a picture-perfect May day with chairs lined up in tight rows on the east lawn of the beautiful campus. In addition to the joy of watching our eldest son walk across the stage to receive his diploma, we were blessed to hear the insightful commencement address from author Eric Metaxas. In addition to sharing stories from his youth and his faith journey, Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, discussed at length the connection between faith, virtue, and freedom. You’ll find the video of the speech at the end of this post.
Here are ten incisive quotes from Metaxas’ address, “The Role of Faith in the Story of Liberty”:
1. Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state.
Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state. It’s something that either be encouraged and smiled upon or discouraged and frowned-upon. Or, simply crushed, as it has been in every Communist country…Religious freedom, which was at the very heart of the Founders’ vision for America, cannot be compromised without all our liberties being compromised and America as we know her being redefined into non-existence.
The Introduction to Pacepa’s Seeds of Knowledge: Starting Down the Yellow Brick Road…
Part 1: The Mask of Marxism
Part 3: Who Needs a Brain?
Part 4: Are Conservatives Cowards?
“The August 1991 coup in Moscow collapsed three days after it had started, providing the ultimate, ironic proof that nothing, not even a coup, could succeed any more in a society whose vital arteries had been calcified by 70 years of disinformation and dismal feudalism. The main loser was the Communist Party.”
– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
Both the Democrat and Republican parties have been disinformed by Marxism. The Liberal wing of the Democrat Party has been duped into putting their faith in Marxism’s many forms (socialism, economic determinism, progressivism), while the Republican Party has legitimized Marxism as a form of party politics instead of a murderous, atheistic religion that empowers despots. The Conservative movement, by and large, is slow to recognize Marxism’s true nature, because we are a nation that has been drugged by Disinformation. Pacepa continues:
At the end of the 2001 summit meeting held in Slovenia, President George W. Bush said: “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Unfortunately, even President Bush was deceived by disinformation. Putin consolidated Russia into an intelligence dictatorship, not a democracy. During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Under Putin, the KGB, rechristened the FSB, is the state. Three years after Putin enthroned himself in the Kremlin, some 6,000 former officers of the KGB—that organization responsible for having slaughtered at least 20 million people in the Soviet Union alone—were running Russia’s federal and local governments.
…Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this new Russia calls up the hypothetical image of a postwar Germany being run by former Gestapo officers, who reinstate Hitler’s “Deutschland Über Alles” as national anthem, call the demise of Nazi Germany a “national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and invade a neighboring country, perhaps Poland, the way Hitler set off World War II?
That is the secret power of disinformation.
Pacepa share these thoughts with me mere weeks before the Ukranian revolution and secession of the Crimea to Putin’s Russia. Disinformation is wielding its power on the American homefront as well. In his critique of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, David Brooks embraces Piketty’s idea of a tax on the wealthy’s investment capital in order to create intellectual equality among the classes:
Think of how much more affordable fine art would be. Think of how much more equal the upper class would be.
His musings aren’t that far off from those of Russian intellectuals, who are “making do” with their government’s clampdown on free media and the right to protest. In exchange for their rights, these Russians whose intellectual arteries have been “calcified by disinformation” are being doted upon by their increasingly despotic government:
All sorts of entertainment is being lavished on Russia’s hipsters. Their favorite public parks have splashy, beautifully designed restaurants and clubs, comfortable biking areas and luxurious places to chill. Sanctions or not, Fedoseyev’s friends can still dine out at restaurants full of expats, take shopping trips to Milan, or buy their electronic gadgets online. Fashion Week this weekend was another party blooming with charming models and celebrities; the usual hipsters clubs, Solianka, Simachev, Oldich Dress and Drink or Strelka, felt as cuddly and crowded as ever.
To paraphrase Brooks, it would seem that the fine art is quite affordable in Russia these days. Like junkies seeking a quick fix, Russian intellectuals pursue disinformation at the expense of their freedom. Is Brooks suggesting we do the same, or have we already succumbed to the addiction? In either case, what we need to know now is: What is the antidote to disinformation?
In an entry titled, “Christian women: feminism is not your friend” published on his popular Matt Walsh Blog in April, the conservative Christian commentator concluded that Christian “women (and men)” needed to stop identifying with feminism because the movement is essentially all about abortion.
Embracing the stereotypical liberal definition of feminism as a movement dedicated to starting and waging the War on Women, Walsh discussed the feminist fight for equality:
This is a pretty convincing indication that feminism has, at the very least, outlived its good. There is nothing surprising about that, because feminism, unlike Christianity, is a human construct. It’s an ideology. It’s a political theory. It’s a label. It is not eternal, it is not perfect (there’s the understatement of the decade), and it is not indispensable.
Feminism, like ‘liberalism,’ like ‘conservativism,’ like the Republican Party, like the Democrat Party, is a finite thing that exists and serves a certain purpose in a certain set of circumstances. When the times change, and the circumstances change, it will either die or its purpose will change.
Walsh then dug into medieval history, noting that women were given “equal standing” in certain English trade guilds in the Middle Ages, contrary to the following:
“The fact that guilds seldom permitted women to become masters did in the end relegate them to the least-skilled and certainly least-remunerative aspects of the trade”. This statement shows that the fact that women were not openly admitted to the professional guilds led to the downfall of the woman’s status as a worker during this time period. Since “[m]ale masters displayed no eagerness to train young women, and with few or no women recognized as masters, the guilds did contribute to the narrowing opportunity for women”.
Along with neglecting these facts, Walsh also did not note that neither the Christian Church, nor political leaders who identified with Christianity, demanded that equal professional or political rights be given to women (let alone non-Christians) on either side of the Atlantic.
Most East European governments concealed their road to Communism by posting innocuous nameplates at the door, such as People’s Republic or Popular Republic.
Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
“People’s Republic” is such a chummy term. In fact, Marxism in general, with all it’s “redistribution of wealth” sounds so compassionate, at least to a Western, Judeo-Christianized mind. A Chinese mind familiar with Mao’s Great Leap Forward, for instance, may have a different take on the benevolent-sounding idea of a “People’s Republic” given the facts:
“State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.”
Mao couldn’t lie his way past a free press in the West. Nor could Khruschev, as Pacepa explains,
The 1963 missile crisis generated by socialist Cuba gave the socialist mask of Marxism a dirty name in the West, and few Marxists wanted to be openly associated with socialism anymore.
But, socialism is still hot. China is still The People’s Republic and “we’re all socialists now,” right? The last installment ended with the question: How have intellectual Wizards manipulated Marxism to acculturate the American mind leftward? Pacepa answers:
[Marxists] therefore began hiding their Marxism under a new cover called “economic determinism,” …a theory of survival rooted in Marx’s Manifesto (another theory of survival), but it pretends that the economic organization of a society, not the socialist class war and the socialist redistribution of wealth, determines the nature of all other aspects of its life.
When economic determinism lost credibility because of the devastating economic crisis in Greece, our Democratic Party began replacing it with “progressivism,” which has become the latest cover name for Marxism. …Today’s Progressive Movement was born in New York’s Zuccotti Park. It was first known as the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which advocated the abolition of “capitalist America.”
Marxists in the West successfully propagate progressivism under the guise of “social justice“ that demands the redistribution of wealth to the less fortunate. Ironically, most people of the Judeo-Christian West accept this Marxist notion out of the goodness of their hearts. However, putting faith in the Marxist lie that human beings don’t have a heart (and therefore are incapable of compassionate decision making) requires handing over all financial power to the Marxist Wizards who proceed to dole out your funds as they see fit.
This speaks to the heart of the question, but how have the Marxist Wizards rendered us so seemingly brainless?
David, in your last response in our ongoing dialogue about Lisa De Pasquale’s new book Finding Mr. Righteous, you cited another disturbing passage from the book (shown above) and paired it with some of your own relationship experiences:
Some of the women I dated would shift the foreplay into one disturbing realm or another, either incorporating pain and degradation into how they treated me or requesting I act that way toward them. Never was it just “for fun” or “to be kinky” or to “spice things up”– always behind these outward expressions some inner emotional wounds ached, unhealed by a spiritual practice.
Or rather, as it turns out, the sex and the pain was their substitute for a religion. …The main takeaway that I’ve gotten from Paglia, supplemented by additional reading from books like A History of Sexual Customs and James C. Bennett and Michael Lotus’s America 3.0, is that throughout human history the Judeo-Christian conception of monogamous marriage is actually the “deviant,” unnatural way to live. History shows that the more “normal” way for both men and women to treat each other is the same way animals do in the wild — as disposable meat. Humans’ default setting is not to love just one person forever. When we do we are rising above our nature; do I go too far that Love itself is not natural?
David, I must congratulate you on your epiphany. You have discovered a truth that many in the mainstream Bible-believing sphere have tried to avoid for years: Those who put their faith in the Bible are the cultural deviants. How hilarious is it that a self-proclaimed atheist can state this so clearly? Then again, one of the reasons Paglia has been blacklisted by liberals is that she is so willing to discuss the difference between pagan and Godly behaviors. Liberals, especially the Marxists in the bunch, long ago learned that it’s much easier to behave badly when you do it under the guise of being Godly. In this case, Paglia’s too honest for her own good.
Pilot Episode, Scarecrow & Mrs. King (1983)
I dig spy movies. TV shows, too. Most kids growing up in the last decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall have fond memories of their first TV heroine being Jem or She-Ra. Mine was Amanda King. At 8 years old I wanted to partner up with an ultra-cool spy like Scarecrow (code named as a member of the Oz Network - as in Wizard of) and take down the Evil Empire in our midst. So, of course, when my editor Dave Swindle approached me with the opportunity to partner up with KGB defector Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa for a little intelligence gathering, how could I refuse?
Pacepa’s latest book, Disinformation reads like a Russian epic. The chronicle of facts detailing the Soviet disinformation campaign that disarmed American intellectual, political and academic circles over the course of the 20th century should be a must-read in any conservative’s common core. Having relied on it heavily for my PJ Lifestyle series on the Intellectual Love Affair with Marxism, I finished the book wanting to understand exactly where America is at on the road to socialism, and if the facts fit, why so many conservative outlets hesitated to give Pacepa’s book the time of day. So, I began my interview with 15 questions; a few weeks later Pacepa sent me a 12 page reply to the first question on the list. Tolstoy would’ve been proud. ”I’m out of touch with this generation… you speak their language,” he commented rather poetically. He also gave me an assignment: to decode his knowledge into what the Dude would call “the parlance of our times.”
Like Jay Carney, I have an affinity for the Soviet spectrum. Unlike Jay Carney, the goal of my interest is to avoid becoming a citizen of the next socialist empire to tear apart the globe. So, in the interest of achieving that goal, I seek out primary sources who can give me real information on the warning signs that appear within a culture whose political and popular leadership are driving them dangerously close to the brink of socialism with the goal of autocracy in mind.
The prophet said, “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” God has designed a path; we choose to walk down it and eventually realize what we’ve been preparing for all along. My path began in front of a TV and wound up here, in front of a screen that connects millions today with seemingly ancient truths. I invite you now to walk this yellow brick road with me as we study Pacepa’s seeds of truth and, perhaps, get a chance to plant a few of our own so that we can all find the rest we so desperately need.
Editor’s Note: “Part 1: The Mask of Marxism” is scheduled for Monday at 8:00 PST.
The much-anticipated movie ‘Heaven is for Real’ is set to open in movie theaters on Wednesday. The book tells the story of Colton Burpo, a little boy who claimed he visited heaven during a near-death experience.
“Heaven tourism” books have proliferated Christian best-seller lists in recent years, but are the accounts authentic, fictional, based on hallucinations, or something else? Moreover, do they comport with the Bible’s descriptions of heaven and the afterlife?
Pastor and author David Platt says no.
He describes ’Heaven is for Real’ as “A fanciful account of a four-year-old boy who talks about how he went to heaven and got a halo and wings, but he didn’t like them because they were too small. He claims that he sat on Jesus’ lap while angels sang to him,” Platt said. “He even met the Holy Spirit, whom he describes as ‘kind of blue.’
Platt said that “There is money to be made in peddling fiction about the afterlife as non-fiction in the Christian publishing world today” and “The whole premise behind every single one of these books is contrary to everything God’s word says about heaven,” including their “relentless self-focus.”
According to Platt, “Scripture definitely says that people do not go to heaven and come back. ‘Who has ascended to heaven and come down?’ (Proverbs 30:4). Answer: ‘No one has ascended into heaven except he who has descended from heaven — the Son of Man’” (John 3:13).
“Four biblical authors had visions about heaven and wrote about what they saw: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul and John,” Platt said. “All of them were prophetic visions, not near-death experiences. Not one person raised from dead in the Old Testament or the New Testament ever wrote down what he or she experienced in heaven, including Lazarus, who had a lot of time in a grave — four days.”
But all of the biblical authors agree perfectly: “Their visions are all fixated on the glory of God which defines heaven and illuminates everything there. They are overwhelmed, chagrined, petrified, and put to silence by the sheer majesty of God’s holiness.” Platt said that notably missing from all the biblical accounts are “the frivolous features and juvenile attractions that seem to dominate every account of heaven currently on the bestseller list.”
He said we need to “minimize the thoughts of man and magnify, trust — let’s bank our lives and our understanding of the future on — the truth of God.” He said that rather than relying on traditions, we should depend on the word of God. “There’s too much at stake in our lives and others’ lives for that.”
Megachurch pastor, televangelist and author John Hagee has warned of a “world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015.” He believes that the series of lunar eclipses that will occur between now and then are predictive of major catastrophic historical events. The first “blood moon” will make its appearance on April 15. “There’s a sense in the world that things are changing and God is trying to communicate with us in a supernatural way,” Hagee told CBN earlier this year. “I believe that in these next two years we’re going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world,” he predicted.
That’s a rather unsettling prediction, one that is causing a lot of buzz among Christians and non-Christians alike.
What is a blood moon and should you be worried? Here are some facts:
David Swindle has entered the ongoing discussion on altruism, religion and politics here at PJLifestyle. In doing so, he’s issued a number of great questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past few weeks. Jumping back in, I’d like to address them one by one, beginning with:
Walter, Susan, Lisa, and anyone else who’d like to join the discussion: am I going too far when I say that for a good number of people “Conservatism” is a form of idolatry?
No. I’ve had a hard, sad reminder of that through some of the commentary I’ve received on a number of articles in the past few weeks. There are some wonderful, insightful people out there who I’d love to have dinner with some day. And then there’s the passionate base who has time to issue verbose rants: Contradict popular line and you can “F-off”. You know this segment of the population; they are the reason stereotypes exist. But, they also prove the point that there are people out there who worship Conservatism above all else. Ironically, they’re as abusively passionate as those “liberals” they are taught to hate.
Sunday, I offered the provocative theological claim that Altruism Has No Place in Christianity. I referenced the biblical teaching of pastor and theologian John Piper, who advances a notion of Christian hedonism summed up in the declaration that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”
My colleague Susan L.M. Goldberg approached my claim with reservations. She concluded:
The question of whether or not altruism holds a place in religious life is dependent upon how one defines the structure of their faith: as a business arrangement or a personal relationship. The argument Walter poses is a good one in terms of the welfare state in America. I agree with him that socialist policies should not be promoted as altruistic acts of a benevolent big government. As far as altruism goes in relation to faith, I also agree that God prepares an individual for His purpose in their life and rewards them for their faith. I do, however, question Walter’s contextualizing our personal relationship with God into a business transaction. Before we hasten to view our personal faith in that light, we should bear in mind that the failure of the welfare state was preceded by the transformation of our houses of worship into social halls dedicated to fulfilling our own very non-altruistic needs.
Susan makes a distinction which I reject. Whether business or personal in nature, all relationships prove transactional. Certainly it is possible for people to act altruistically in their relationships. But altruism proves the exception to the transactional rule, and undermines the relational bond.
In my previous piece, I cited the example of a husband buying a bouquet of his wife’s favorite flower with money he would rather spend on something else. That’s altruism, doing something for someone else at the expense of your values. Not only would the husband harbor bitterness from his sacrifice. If his wife learned how he felt about the purchase, she would despise him for it. Why?
We have heard it said that “it’s the thought that counts” when gifts are given. What thought are we referring to? In the case of a bouquet bought for a wife, the thought might be, “I love you and want you to have this symbol of my affection far more than I want the money and time it took to acquire it.” In other words, the wife wants the husband to feel satisfied by her enjoyment of the flowers he bought. It’s transactional. Everyone is better off.
The same applies in our personal relationship to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If God wanted altruistic worshipers, He would not care whether they were reluctant or not.
Christian giving promotes life and health. Altruism promotes starvation and death. Altruism redistributes. Christian giving transacts. Christ’s own words assure us of greater blessing in giving than receiving. Christian giving leaves us better off, not worse. Altruism therefore proves atheistic, as Piper declares. We will never give more to others than God will give to us.
Walter’s basic conclusion is capitalist in nature: A Christian should be rewarded in kind (or over and above) for giving of their money, their time, or their talent. On the face of it, his argument makes sense, especially in light of congregational membership. My Christian friends often complain about the concept of “tithing,” a Torah teaching that is grossly abused by the religious establishment. Far too often, “tithing” translates into religious leadership putting pressure on church members to “donate” up to 10% of their annual income to their church. Synagogue membership, on the other hand, is rather simple: The same flat fee is charged to everyone on a yearly basis. No weekly passing of plates, no feeling ashamed; most synagogues have provision to assist members who may not be able to meet the annual sum. Programming fees are charged for additional events, like holiday services and Hebrew school. This model best fits Walter’s description of being rewarded in kind for monies given.
In the era where religious establishments have become places to fulfill business networking and social needs, it makes sense that you’d pay a fee for the religious service as you would any other mode through which these things would be accomplished. You pay for drinks at bars, JDate and Christian Mingle memberships, and head hunters; someone’s got to pay the electric bill so the lights are on when you’re shaking hands. The only question is, where is God in all of this? If the Bible is right, and we were put on earth to walk with Him in a personal relationship, what is He getting for His services rendered? That is, besides a corrupt priesthood on both sides of the aisle, pressuring congregants for cash and willing to let God take the back seat to a business deal?
“It is better to give than to receive.” How often have we heard that? The motto of the altruist, this would-be-proverb exhorts us to act for others at our expense. Among the vast culture of Christendom, altruism has been adopted as a tenant of the faith by many if not most believers. Churchgoers are encouraged to give sacrificially, which generally gets interpreted as giving until it hurts.
Yet careful examination of scripture suggests that altruism has no place in the Christian life. Consider this from pastor and theologian John Piper:
After my message to the Liberty University student body [in September of 2013], a perceptive student asked this clarifying question: So you don’t believe that altruistic acts are possible or desirable?
I asked for his definition of altruism so that I could answer what he was really asking. He said, “Doing a good deed for others with no view to any reward.” I answered: that’s right, whether or not it’s possible, I don’t think it’s desirable, because it’s not what the Bible teaches us to do; and it’s not what people experience as genuine love. Because it isn’t genuine love.
What does Piper mean by that? Consider that the phrase “it is better to give than to receive” does not actually appear in scripture. Instead, Acts 20:35 reads:
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
More blessed for who? The Contemporary English Version translates it this way. “More blessings come from giving than from receiving.” The New Life Version among others translates it another way. “We are more happy when we give than when we receive.” Christ, according to Paul, tells us we are better off helping the weak than being among the weak who require help.
That presents a far more precise application than the vague notion that “it’s better to give than to receive.” From an earthly perspective, giving requires abundance above and beyond our requirements for survival. We must have before we can give, and we must get before we can have. From a heavenly perspective, helping the weak in the name of Christ proves an act of obedient worship which draws us deeper into joyful relationship with Him. There’s nothing altruistic about that. You cannot lose upon securing an infinite value.
Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has a thoughtful analysis of the state of Christianity in the United States as we plunge forward into our brave, new cultural revolution. He explains that historically, the Christian views of sex and marriage were good for the culture and improved the lives of slaves and women:
It is nearly impossible for contemporary Americans to grasp why sex was a central concern of early Christianity. Sarah Ruden, the Yale-trained classics translator, explains the culture into which Christianity appeared in her 2010 book Paul Among The People. Ruden contends that it’s profoundly ignorant to think of the Apostle Paul as a dour proto-Puritan descending upon happy-go-lucky pagan hippies, ordering them to stop having fun.
In fact, Paul’s teachings on sexual purity and marriage were adopted as liberating in the pornographic, sexually exploitive Greco-Roman culture of the time—exploitive especially of slaves and women, whose value to pagan males lay chiefly in their ability to produce children and provide sexual pleasure. Christianity, as articulated by Paul, worked a cultural revolution, restraining and channeling male eros, elevating the status of both women and of the human body, and infusing marriage—and marital sexuality—with love.
Dreher discusses the theories of 1960s sociologist Philip Rieff who said that cultures are defined by what they forbid. They impose moral demands in order to serve communal purposes. Rieff — an unbeliever — wrote that the sexual revolution signaled the imminent demise of Christianity as a “culturally determinative force” in the West.
Rieff, Dreher says, explained that “renouncing the sexual autonomy and sensuality of pagan culture was at the core of Christian culture—a culture that, crucially, did not merely renounce but redirected the erotic instinct.” He said that the West’s rapid “re-paganizing around sensuality and sexual liberation” was a sign of the end of Christianity. According to Dreher,
In the 20th century, casting off restrictive Christian ideals about sexuality became increasingly identified with health. By the 1960s, the conviction that sexual expression was healthy and good—the more of it, the better—and that sexual desire was intrinsic to one’s personal identity culminated in the sexual revolution, the animating spirit of which held that freedom and authenticity were to be found not in sexual withholding (the Christian view) but in sexual expression and assertion. That is how the modern American claims his freedom.
In contrast, Denny Burk argues in his book, What is the Meaning of Sex?, the purposes of sex according to the Bible are consummation of marriage, procreation, the expression of love, and pleasure. But even those ends are subordinate to the “ultimate end of glorifying God.” Burk says that,
“The four subordinate ends are not discreet goods but are inseparably related to one another in the covenant of marriage, which itself exists for the glory of God. The morality of any given action, therefore, must be measured by its conformity to these ends.”
Dreher says that gay marriage is the final triumph of the 1960s Sexual Revolution and the “dethroning of Christianity.” He rightly points out that gay marriage stands in opposition to a core concept of Christian anthropology. “In classical Christian teaching,” says Dreher, ”the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation.” He says that Christians lost the debate about gay marriage long before most people imagined that we could go down that road, in part, because Americans had devalued the cosmological meaning of sex and marriage in the post-’60s Sexual Revolution.
Clearly, our culture has floated quite a distance downstream from the goal of “glorifying God” in all areas of life, including sex and marriage. Today’s accepted cultural norms elevate the glory of man over the glory of God.
“The question Western Christians face now is whether or not they are going to lose Christianity altogether in this new dispensation,” says Dreher. He adds that “If the faith does not recover, the historical autopsy will conclude that gay marriage was not a cause but a symptom, the sign that revealed the patient’s terminal condition.”
Darren Aronofsky’s take on the classic tale of Noah is the Jewish guy’s Bible movie. The narrative, which does remain true to the textual account of Genesis, is crafted in the style akin to a scholarly drash. In another lifetime you might imagine this story to have been generated by a minyan of Talmud scholars poring over the story in their classes. Perhaps that is why the Christian audience has reacted so poorly to the film; it is not, in the words of Walter Hudson, told “from a Christian theological standpoint.” The audience is treated to a wrestling, not recounting, of the text for two very good reasons: A four-chapter story would make for a very short film and Aronofsky, for however religious he may or may not be at the moment, is most definitely 100% a Jew.
Aronofsky’s Noah remains, first and foremost, a story of redemption as it was interpreted thousands of years ago when paired with Haftarah portions in Isaiah (42-43 and 54-55) for the weekly Torah reading. Like the patriarch Jacob, Noah wrestles with God: the battle is a question of original sin and free will. Redemption, Aronofsky illustrates, is a choice entered into by covenant with God. It is not simply a no-strings-attached gift granted to perfectly bad people by a perfectly good looking guy who tests well with focus groups.
Contrary to most Bible epics, a faceless, voiceless God communicates His redemptive plan to Noah through the Biblically prophetic device of a metaphoric dream. “You must trust that He speaks to you in a way you understand,” Noah’s grandfather Methuselah advises. Reminiscent of the Tanakh prophecy “your old men will see visions, your young men will dream dreams,” Aronofsky engages Noah with his aged, wise grandfather, who advises him of Enoch’s prophecy that God would, one day, annihilate the world by fire.
I had no intention of seeing Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, a film releasing wider this weekend “inspired by the [biblical] story of Noah.” Though initial glimpses excited me, revelations regarding Aronofsky’s stark deviations from the biblical narrative blunted my interest. Word on the street was that Aronofsky sought to recast Noah in an environmentalist mold and completely abandon key biblical themes.
Thursday night, I found myself out and about with a couple of hours to kill and decided to catch an early screening. As it turns out, everything you’ve heard about the heresy in Noah proves true. Here are 7 ways Aronofsky’s Noah upends the Bible (major spoilers):
7. Return of the Ents
Yeah, you read that right. Ents, the giant walking trees from The Lord of the Rings. What, you don’t remember those in the Bible?
Okay, these aren’t ents precisely. They are “Watchers,” fallen angels who rebelled against “the creator” (God makes no appearance in the film) by descending to Earth to help mankind. They lumber about in clumsy stone bodies as punishment for their disobedience.
Warning: graphic descriptions below.
Most of us shared a collective gasp last week when news broke that aborted babies in the UK were incinerated and, in some cases, used to heat hospitals. Mike McNally wrote,
It’s emerged that several National Health Service (NHS) trusts in the UK have been routinely burning the bodies of aborted babies as “clinical waste,” and that in at least two cases the remains were used to heat hospitals – an example of ruthless efficiency if ever there was one. This is what happens when the progressive left’s culture of death meets the heartless bureaucracy of socialized healthcare.
This, of course, has led many to wonder what happens to American babies after they’re aborted. Is the way they are treated upon their demise in the United States any less gruesome than the way they are disposed of across the pond?
Sadly, in our country, aborted babies are treated like trash—medical waste—and they are commonly incinerated. In some cases, the remains are dumped in landfills with other “solid waste” or ground up and dumped into sanitary sewers.
Laws vary by state. California requires that “pathology waste,” which includes recognizable anatomical parts or human tissue specimens, “must be treated by incineration.” New Mexico requires either incineration or interment. In Ohio the law simply says that “products of conception…shall be disposed of in a humane manner,” whatever that means, since “humane” is not defined in the statute.
Texas offers several options for disposal of “tissues or fetuses” (not for the squeamish):
1 Incineration followed by deposition of the residue in a sanitary landfill;
2. Grinding and discharging to a sanitary sewer system;
4. Steam disinfection followed by interment;
5. Moist heat disinfection followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill;
6. Chlorine disinfection/maceration followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill; or
7. An approved alternate treatment process, provided that the process renders the item as unrecognizable, followed by deposition in a sanitary landfill.
Dear God, what kind of country have we become? Surely we have lost our national soul when our laws can speak in such sanitary and pragmatic terms about the bodies of tiny human beings using words like “grinding,” “maceration” and rendering them “unrecognizable” so they can be deposited into a “sanitary landfill.”
Last week, alternative media mogul Glenn Beck announced that he was going to focus on “taking back” American culture through the power of nostalgia:
In the future, Glenn Beck’s focus is going to be more on influencing culture and less on politics and news. After all, news is only “what the culture allows,” he said in a recent interview with National Review’s Eliana Johnson.
…“Beck is nostalgic for an America of decades past, and his cultural projects will aim to resurrect and revive it,” Johnson writes. “It’s an America where duty trumped desire and Americans were bound together by a sort of civic religion created by that sense of duty. ‘I want to impact the culture in the way that people see good again,’ [Glenn] says.”
Beck’s goal is admirable, to a fault. The period he seeks to resurrect was one in which concepts like “good” and “duty” were defined by a Biblical religion, not a civic one. Any history student will tell you that Marx had his own take on the American Revolution; you can show someone Frank Capra movies until you’re blue in the face and they’re still going to see Mr. Smith as the ultimate community organizer if that’s their moral outlook.
As Amy Kenyon notes, there are pitfalls to what passes for nostalgia these days:
…the historical meanings and usages associated with nostalgia were finally mangled beyond recognition until its chief purpose became the performance of sentimentalism, the parceling out of discount memory via television, advertising, heritage theme parks, and souvenir markets, all aspects of what we might call the “nostalgia industry.” As such, nostalgia became kitsch, trivial and reactionary: hardly the stuff of a meaningful engagement with the past or the workings of memory.
Simply put: Glenn Beck needs to do more than embrace the facade of America, circa 1940. Beck needs to dig deeper, to America’s Biblical heritage, to understand what re-taking the culture truly means.
Vince Vitale, a philosopher and professor at Oxford University makes the surprising and bold claim in a new video that God is alive and well at the highest levels of academia.
Vitale excoriates the so-called “new atheists” who are “not engaged in current philosophical scholarship,” attributing their brand of atheism to the “old scholarship” at the academic level. Vitale said, “More recently, in the last fifty years or so, what we’ve had is a remarkable resurgence of professional philosophers who have thought long and hard about the evidence and have come to the conclusion that God exists. God is not dead. He is very much alive.”
He cites Quentin Smith, a contemporary philosopher who has published twelve books and over a hundred articles. Smith, an atheist, discussed in a paper in Philo in 2000 an assertion by non-theist philosopher Richard Gale:
If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith…”
Quentin Smith goes even further than Gale, saying that the non-theists would lose: “I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.”
In the paper Smith goes on the blast his fellow atheist philosophers for losing so much ground to the theists:
This philosophical failure (ignoring theism and thereby allowing themselves to become unjustified naturalists) has led to a cultural failure since theists, witnessing this failure, have increasingly become motivated to assume or argue for supernaturalism in their academic work, to an extent that academia has now lost its mainstream secularization.
Smith concludes that, “God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”
There’s this great story in the Torah that goes a little something like this. The leaders of Israel went up on a mountain for a private conference with God, per His request. With the bosses away, the Israelites decided to throw a party. Grateful to their God for freeing them from slavery, they shaped a golden calf to symbolize Him, worshipped the calf as God, and partied on. When the leaders came back down from the mountain, they were less than pleased. Tablets were smashed, God rained justice, there were a lot of irreversible layoffs. The common understanding of the tale says that God destroyed the Israelites because they worshipped the calf as a god. In reality, their sin was creating an image of God that suited their own liking, then worshipping Him as they wished.
Hollywood, and American culture in general, suffers from Golden Calf Syndrome. Whether you blame it on the instant gratification of social media or simple human impatience, God doesn’t communicate every 5 seconds in 140 characters or less. That’s not enough for us as a culture, so we’ve made a nasty habit out of satiating our need for the Almighty by forcing Him into a box of our own liking. Habit has become trend to the point that we don’t even realize when we’re trying to force God into our mold.
Take, for instance, the conservative Christian idol-worship of Matthew McConaughey for “daring” to use the name “God” in a sentence at the Oscars. Upon remarking on the huge stretch of the imagination performed by Christians (and some Jews, I’m sure) in thinking that McConaughey’s use of the G-word somehow referenced the God of scripture, the common, rather lackluster response I received was best phrased as, “Take it where you can get it.”
One comment, however, caught my eye.
In the next few weeks leading up to Easter Sunday you can expect to hear more news about the Shroud of Turin — a mysterious piece of linen that millions of Catholics and other Christians believe is the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ.
It was during Holy Week last year when the Shroud of Turin generated headlines around the globe. That was a result of Italian scientist and renowned Shroud researcher Giulio Fanti releasing his book, The Mystery of the Shroud.
Fanti is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Padua in Italy. His 2013 research book scientifically debunked the infamous and controversial 1988 carbon-14 dating that supposedly “proved” the cloth only dated back to the Middle Ages — more specifically between the years 1260 and 1390.
Headlines such as: “Shroud of Turin is not a medieval forgery” were typical of what appeared across all media platforms especially on Good Friday, 2013.
Now in 2014, Professor Fanti has a new book (only in Italian at this moment) and the title translates into English as, Turin Shroud: First Century A.D.
According to the book’s press release, “The new dating methods are published in prestigious international journals and no one has yet pointed out methodological errors.”
This Shroud dating research project costing $75,000 (54,000 Euro) was funded by Padua University. The funding made it possible to “develop alternative methods of dating the Shroud based on mechanical and opto-chemical analyses after obvious calibration.”
Here is a more simple explanation of the dating methods if you are not a scientist.
If there’s one thing the rise of gay marriage has taught us, it’s how dramatically public opinion can shift in a short period of time. A poll of Minnesotans taken shortly after that state became the twelfth to legalize gay unions found a radical 18-point shift in opinion among respondents aged 50 to 64 in just a few months. Sixty-eight percent opposed gay marriage in February of 2013. By June, that dropped to 50%.
Recall that President Obama, radical leftist that he is, only “evolved” on the marriage issue less than two years ago. Such observations suggest that radical social ideas can rapidly become mainstream given the right circumstances.
So when actor Chris O’Dowd predicts that religion will one day be widely considered as offensive and unacceptable as racism, I don’t immediately write him off. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Irish star of films such as The Sapphires and Bridesmaids says he grew up respecting people of faith despite his atheist views, but has become “less liberal” as he ages.
Now he says religious doctrine is halting human progress and brands it “a weird cult”…
O’Dowd has told Britain’s GQ magazine: “For most of my life, I’ve been, ‘Hey, I’m not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want’. But as time goes on, weirdly, I’m growing less liberal. I’m more like, ‘No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!’.
“There’s going to be a turning point where it’s going to be like racism. You know, ‘You’re not allowed to say that weird s**t! It’s mad! And you’re making everybody crazy!’
While we may be a long way off from such a world, with the vast majority of Americans still claiming a religious affiliation. However, it’s not hard to imagine a radical shift toward the dystopia O’Dowd predicts.
There are a lot of great lines in the megillah of Esther. The one most often quoted comes from Mordecai: “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position for such a time as this.” It smacks of drama and makes for an excellent movie poster catchphrase. But, it wouldn’t hold half its meaning without the point-blank observation of evil Haman’s wife, Zeresh.
Upon listening to his frustration over Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him, Zeresh tells her husband to hang Mordecai. But, when she finds out Mordecai is a Jew, she does a complete 180 and admits:
If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is a Jew, you will not get the better of him; on the contrary, your downfall before him is certain.
And this is before Esther convinced the King not to massacre the Jews. It’s refreshing to know our reputation precedes us. But it isn’t a reputation we Jews are always glad to have; we aren’t exactly in it for the fame. In fact, like Esther, our first instinct is to keep our heads down and fit in with the rest of the crowd.
Speaking of “the crowd”, modern feminists have managed to twist the humble Jewess into the villain of the tale, instead opting to celebrate the Persian Queen Vashti for her refusal to appear before the King at his whim. Think: Her body, her self, Persian style. Docile, compliant Esther, meanwhile, is a mere pawn whose beauty comes in handy to persuade the patriarchy to let her live another day. This simplistic interpretation, totally ignorant of the promise and perspective of God, relies on the feminist myth that a woman’s worth is in her ability to manipulate her body to her advantage. Esther could never be considered a hero to these women, because she was inspired by a sense of purpose that outweighed the importance of her own skin.
“Don’t suppose that merely because you happen to be in the royal palace you will escape any more than the other Jews. For if you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from a different direction; but you and your father’s family will perish,” Mordecai warns before adding, “Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this.”
Vashti Feminists like to think the story is about Esther using her body to pursue the King’s favor. In reality, Esther pursues God’s purpose for her life and the life of her nation, Israel. She didn’t choose to sacrifice her body to the Persian King’s whims. On the contrary, Esther chose to devote herself, body, mind and spirit, to the living promises of God. The King, the death decree, even evil Haman, all of them were nothing more than plot devices in the ongoing love story between God and Israel. Esther, Queen of the Shadchans (Matchmakers) arrived on the scene as a reminder that “relief and deliverance will come”.
Esther was just a regular Jewish girl, redirecting her focus away from herself and onto the bigger picture of God’s plan for humanity. Crowned with the desire and humility to walk in faith, she is remembered as a Queen among her people. Vashti-feminists are oblivious to this plan and the honor it bestows, because their focus remains on the image in the mirror, not the person within, let alone the others who may be around.
Thank God, Esther decided that fitting in with the crowd was a bad idea. Had Esther followed feminist mantra, she would have dismissed Mordecai’s warning and followed the example of Queen Vashti, only to wind up exiled or dead. Instead, she trusted that God’s plan involved every part of her, including her beauty, and used all of her gifts to that end. Typical feminists favor Vashti because they worship tragic beauty; Biblical feminists admire Esther because she plays to win.
As a Christian and a fan of Hollywood’s past biblical epics, I got excited upon viewing the first trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The story of Noah and his ark has resonated through every culture of man, yet has never been the subject of a major Hollywood motion picture.
Alongside my enthusiasm, skepticism lurked. Modern Hollywood producing a biblical epic adhering to the written narrative and theological themes seemed unlikely given a culture increasingly opposed to the source material. That doubt grew with last month’s report that a disclaimer would be attached to the film’s marketing explaining that “artistic license has been taken.”
Any adaptation requires artistic license. Certainly, narratives were added to Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments which fleshed out the characters and layered the world in which Moses lived. Adding Anne Baxter’s Nefretiri to spice things up between Moses and Rameses is one thing. But you don’t add or subtract commandments from the ten. In the case of Noah, the disclaimer added by Paramount addressed criticism from Christian groups who claim that the film deviates substantively from the biblical narrative.
A clue to Aronofsky’s approach emerged alongside reports that actress Emma Watson had become sick during production after the director banned bottled water from their location. Watson told Wonderland magazine that the ban comported with the “pro-environmental message” of the film. The Telegraph recalled that Aronofsky called Noah “the first environmentalist” in a 2011 interview.
Now we have begun to see clips from the film. The one above revealed Aronofsky’s revised reason for Noah to build an ark. “Our family has been chosen for a great task, to save the innocent… the animals,” Noah tells his family.
When one of his sons asks what makes the animals innocent, Noah’s daughter beats him to the punch: “Because they still live as they did in the Garden [of Eden].”
From this we may infer that God regards animals as morally superior to human beings. In the clip, Noah adds, “I guess we get to start over too,” as if the involvement of his family were an afterthought secondary to God’s purpose.
The Bible tells a different story. All creation shares the curse of sin, including animals. The flood surged as judgment against that sin, and Noah’s family was preserved in fulfillment of God’s covenant to provide salvation for mankind.
By turning the story of Noah into an environmental tale, Aronofsky has missed the point. Beyond artistic license, he seems to have defiled the story’s essence. Imagine a film about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 which portrayed the hijackers as Hindu, and you understand the difference between artistic license and fraud. If Aronofsky’s Noah ends up as divergent as the above clip, it will trivialize something sacred, the treasured relationship between God and mankind.