newsworthy

60 Minutes ran an informative piece last night on the patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul.  The gist of the segment explained how Muslim Turkey is attempting to eliminate the 1700 year old church there.  It includes some stunning footage of early churches cut into the Tolkienesque mountains of Cappadocia, and is worth a look just for that.  You can see the entire segment here.

Also, Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times describes how James Cameron uses his new movie Avatar to promote pantheism.

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  1. I thought Douthat did an excellent job in his piece. Perhaps some one can delve deeper into the fact that the American public is affirming these productions. As much as some of us like to moan about the West Coast elite and Hollywood values not matching up with the rest of America, it is the Average Joe who shells out the $15 IMAX ticket over and over again to see a film like Avatar. We all take our pot-shots at pantheism but have no issue with a theological train-wreck of a film like Star Wars (probably because there’s no naughty language). Now, I should say that I’ll go 12 rounds of discourse with someone who does not believe that Empire Strikes Back is not the best film of either trilogy, but I like to think that at least I’m aware of and can interact with the poor worldview being espoused.

    I think that this is the same issue that comes up whenever a Christian friend of mine might knock on a show like Arrested Development for its loose sexual morality (of which the show does a great job displaying the depravity of such things), yet can’t see the situationally ethical, “ends justifying the means” mindset in a show like 24.

    Thoughts anyone? Mike?

  2. Thanks for linking to Douthat’s piece, Dr. Wittmer. I was especially intrigued by his argument for the appeal of pantheism, and it got me thinking about :

    “We’re … mortal creatures who yearn for immortality … This is an agonized position, and if there’s no escape upward — or no God to take on flesh and come among us, as the Christmas story has it — a deeply tragic one.

    “Pantheism offers a different sort of solution: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness…”

    Now, Douthat refers to theism as providing an “escape upward.” I see how this is a rhetorical device, but it got me thinking about ethics or values that we attach to an altitude. Moses ascends the mountain to receive the Commandments, and the Shadow of Death is in a valley.

    Am I right that Christianity is often seen as a search for upward mobility? I’m even thinking of The Purpose Driven Life. I don’t know where I’m going with this.

  3. I had a chance to see Avatar the evening it came out. I agree that the movie was a pantheistic infomercial. At one of the darkest points of the movie, when the Na’ vi were just about to go into the final battle, the main character of the movie, Jake Sully, goes to the prayer tree. He asked great “Mother” that they would help them in their battle. The main Na’vi character corrects Jake by telling him: the great Mother will not take sides, she is only there to maintain the balance of life.
    It is at this point, that I see the huge weakness and hole in the pantheistic religion, at least as it was taught by this movie. It seems pantheism wants to have it both ways. There is no personal father God, but in the movie when these human-like characters are in great need, they can go to this “Prayer tree” and talk with the great Mother or plead to their dead ancestors. But, when you pray to it/her, you are then told what you just asked won’t really be answered because the one hearing won’t be your advocate. I thought of what a contrast this is to Jesus, our high priest and advocate who calls us to come to him, bring prayer to him and he is our advocate. The movie revealed how empty and useless the pantheistic belief.
    If the test for the validity of our beliefs rested on how that belief provides for us at our point of greatest need, pantheism would fail. It’s empty words and very impersonal.

    (on a humorous note, the mother did end up answering the prayer by sending all the wildlife of pandora to attack the evil humans. This is when it kind of became a disney movie. I guess the great mother found the balance of things being threatened or it could be the film creator found that the audience would not want a movie to end with the native population being wiped out by a superior technological fighting force.)

    Other than the praying to trees pantheism, the movie was a visual and technological marvel. It was very amazing to see on the big screen and in 3D. The movie did what it promised, which was to take you on a journey to another world. My friends and I left the theater and walked outside and had forgotten it was winter. We were discouraged to be in the cold after spending a couple hours on the imagined planet of Pandora.

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