Friday, June 9, 2006

Be Careful What Your Kids Watch

The Motion Picture Association of America uses its rating system to warn parents that some of the content in a given movie may be sleazy, violent, vulgar, pornographic, or worse ....Christian:

The Christian moviemakers behind a low-budget film called "Facing the Giants" were stunned when the MPAA pinned a PG rating on their gentle movie about a burned-out, depressed football coach whose life, on and off the field, takes a miraculous turn for the better. "What the MPAA said is that the movie contained strong 'thematic elements' that might disturb some parents," said Kris Fuhr, vice president for marketing at Provident Films... Provident plans to open the film next fall in 380 theaters nationwide...

Which "thematic elements" earned this squeaky-clean movie its PG?

"Facing the Giants" is too evangelistic.

The MPAA, noted Fuhr, tends to offer cryptic explanations for its ratings. In this case, she was told that it "decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions.

"It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about."

Overt Christian messages are woven throughout "Facing the Giants," which isn't surprising since the film was co-written and co-produced by brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, who are the "associate pastors of media" at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

"Facing the Giants" cost $100,000 and resembles a fusion of the Book of Job and a homemade "Hoosiers," or perhaps a small- school "Friday Night Lights" blended with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association movies that used to appear in some mainstream theaters. Sherwood Pictures used local volunteers as actors and extras, backed by a small crew of tech professionals.

The movie includes waves of answered prayers, a medical miracle, a mysterious silver-haired mystic who delivers a message from God and a bench-warmer who kicks a 51-yard field goal to win the big game when his handicapped father pulls himself out of a wheelchair and stands under the goal post to inspire his son's faith. There's a prayer-driven gust of wind in there, too.

But the scene that caught the MPAA's attention may have been the chat between football coach Grant Taylor _ played by Alex Kendrick _ and a rich brat named Matt Prader. The coach says that he needs to stop bad-mouthing his bossy father and get right with God.

The boy replies: "You really believe in all that honoring God and following Jesus stuff? Well, I ain't trying to be disrespectful, but not everybody believes in that."

The coach replies: "Matt, nobody's forcing anything on you. Following Jesus Christ is the decision that you're going to have to make for yourself. You may not want to accept it, because it'll change your life. You'll never be the same."

That kind of talk may be too blunt for some moviegoers, said Kendrick, but that's the way real people actually talk in Christian high schools in Georgia. Sherwood Baptist isn't going to apologize for making the kinds of movies that it wants to make.

"Look, I have those kinds of conversations about faith all the time and I've seen young people make decisions that change their lives," he said. "The reason we're making movies in the first place is that we hope they inspire people to think twice about their relationships with God.

"So we're going to tell the stories that we believe God wants us to tell. We have nothing to hide."

We don't think the MPAA has gone far enough, actually. We've always thought that movies have become too explicit for kids, and now something like this comes along to confirm our fears. What if impressionable young people watch this and actually get the idea that God can change their lives? What if a movie like this motivates some kid to join a church or throw away his Marilyn Manson albums? Look, sex and violence are inappropriate for little children, maybe, but at least they're not religion. We say it's time the film industry cleaned up its act. We think that if this movie encourages wholesome living and following Christ then it should be given an R-rating so that parents will know how dangerous it really is.

Guilty Unless Proven Innocent

Michael Rubin at NRO paints a very unflattering picture of Duke president Richard Brodhead. It seems he's prone to rushing to judgment and abetting the destruction of people's reputations, having done both while serving as dean of Yale College. Here's the salient part of Rubin's indictment:

On December 4, 1998, senior Suzanne Jovin was found stabbed to death and left at an intersection in a neighborhood adjacent to the Yale campus which housed many Yale professors and graduate students.

When Jovin was murdered, justice took a backseat to damage control. Within days New Haven police and Yale officials publicly fingered political scientist James Van de Velde, Jovin's senior essay adviser. He was a star lecturer and had been a residential college dean. He was also a former White House appointee under George H. W. Bush and a member of the U.S. Naval Intelligence Reserves. Most Yale professors lean to the left of the student body; few in the political - science and international-relations departments have real - world experience. Van de Velde was the subject of personal jealousy and political animosity. Many faculty members - including Brodhead - looked askance at his desire to emphasize practical policymaking over theory. Some questioned, for example, his willingness to help Jovin write - in 1998 - about the threat posed by Osama bin Laden to the U.S. to be unscholarly. From an academic point-of-view, Van de Velde was a black sheep.

Yale administrators did not care that there was neither evidence nor motive linking Van de Velde to Jovin. Her body had been found a half-mile from his house. Just as at Duke, Brodhead spoke eloquently about the principles of due process, but moved to subvert it. Citing the New Haven Police Department's naming of Van de Velde among "a pool of suspects," Brodhead cancelled Van de Velde's spring-term lecture, explaining that "the cancellation of the course doesn't follow from a judgment or a prejudgment of his hypothetical involvement in the Jovin case." As at Duke, Brodhead insisted that due process would prevail. Despite Van de Velde's stellar student reviews and distinguished record, Brodhead then let his contract lapse. Van de Velde left New Haven, his career in shambles.

Brodhead's willingness to offer up a sacrificial lamb undercut justice in other ways. Three days after the murder, New Haven police spoke to Van de Velde, but declined his offers to let them search his home, take a DNA sample, or take a polygraph exam (they did dust his car for fingerprints; their findings provided no link).

They did find Jovin's fingerprints on a plastic soda bottle found at the crime scene. The soda bottle also had someone else's fingerprints-not Van de Velde's. But, having a suspect, why process evidence? The Fresca bottle was crucial. She did not have the bottle when last seen alive on the main campus by a fellow student. That was a half hour before she was found dying almost two miles away. That particular brand of soda was sold in only one store on campus. By the time the police visited it-months later-that store's surveillance tape had been erased. Nevertheless, her likely presence there turned the half-hour timeline upside-down, and raised the probability that her attacker(s) had forced her into a vehicle, attacked her, and then dumped her - not the type of news Yale parents want to hear. Jovin may also have fought off her attacker.

Subsequent tests of material taken from beneath her fingernails revealed DNA that did not match Van de Velde's, that of her boyfriend, any other friend or acquaintance, or any emergency worker who tried to save her. Neither Yale nor the New Haven police have explained why it took two years to test the scrapings. Nor have they explained why they ignored eyewitness accounts of a tan or brown van seen parked at the crime scene at the time of the crime. Van de Velde drove a red Jeep Wrangler.

Brodhead has never apologized. In March 2000, a Yale spokesman dismissed press inquiries saying that more attention to the case "can only hurt Yale" (he would later deny he said it). Public relations trumps justice. Today, Jovin's murder remains unsolved.

Perhaps part of the qualification for being a university administrator is that you have to lack a conscience. At least one might infer that from the actions of Richard Brodhead, both at Yale and now at Duke.

Her Abortion is Bush's Fault

The existentialists would call this Bad Faith. The writer, one Dana L., blames George Bush because she just had to abort an unwanted pregnancy, don't you see, and the reason she had to abort was that, because of George Bush, there is no morning after pill available to her, or something like that:

The conservative politics of the Bush administration forced me to have an abortion I didn't want. Well, not literally, but let me explain. I am a 42-year-old happily married mother of two elementary-schoolers. My husband and I both work, and like many couples, we're starved for time together. One Thursday evening this past March, we managed to snag some rare couple time and, in a sudden rush of passion, I failed to insert my diaphragm.

Concerned that she might conceive, which she did, she tried to get hold of Plan B:

...the emergency contraceptive pill that can prevent a pregnancy -- but only if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. As we're both in our forties, my husband and I had considered our family complete, and we weren't planning to have another child, which is why, as a rule, we use contraception. I wanted to make sure that our momentary lapse didn't result in a pregnancy.

But she couldn't get it because the FDA, for unspecified but no doubt insidious religious reasons, had not yet approved it for over-the-counter sales.

Meanwhile, I hadn't even been able to get Plan B with a prescription that Friday, because in Virginia, health-care practitioners apparently are allowed to refuse to prescribe any drug that goes against their beliefs. Although I had heard of pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control on religious grounds, I was dumbfounded to find that doctors could do the same thing.

Moreover, they aren't even required to tell the patient why they won't provide the drug. Nor do they have to provide a list of alternative sources. I had asked the ob-gyn's receptionist if politics was the reason the doctor wouldn't prescribe Plan B for me. She refused to answer or offer any reason, no matter how much I pressed her. By the time I got on the phone with my internist's office and found that he would not fill a Plan B prescription either, I figured it was a waste of time to fight with the office staff. To this day, I don't know why my doctors wouldn't prescribe Plan B -- whether it was because of moral opposition to contraception or out of fear of political protesters or just because they preferred not to go there.

In any event, they were also partly responsible for why I was stuck that Friday, and why I was ultimately forced to confront the decision to terminate my third pregnancy.

Imagine the injustice of it all. A doctor is allowed to follow his conscience and not prescribe certain drugs which he/she feels to be immoral. This religious freedom business is just going too far. Now this woman, who consented to unprotected sex, is forced, forced to have an abortion, and it's not her fault. It brings us to the brink of tears to read this. But her tale grows even more tragic:

After making the decision with my husband, I was plunged into an even murkier world -- that of finding an abortion provider. If information on Plan B was hard to come by, and practitioners were evasive on emergency contraception, trying to get information on how to abort a pregnancy in 2006 is an even more Byzantine experience.

On the Internet, most of what I found was political in nature or otherwise unhelpful: pictures of what your baby looks like in the womb from week one, and so on.

Calling doctors, I felt like a pariah when I asked whether they provided termination services. Finally, I decided to check the Planned Parenthood Web site to see whether its clinics performed abortions. They did, but I learned that if I had the abortion in Virginia, the procedure would take two days because of a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which requires that you go in first for a day of counseling and then wait a day to think things over before returning to have the abortion. Because of work and the children, I couldn't afford two days off, so I opted to have the procedure done on a Saturday in downtown D.C. while my husband took the kids to the Smithsonian.

The hidden world of abortion services soon became even more subterranean. I called Planned Parenthood two days in advance to confirm the appointment. The receptionist politely informed me that the organization never confirms appointments, for "security reasons," and that I would have to just show up.

I arrived shortly before 10 a.m. in a bleak downpour, trusting that someone had recorded my appointment. I shuffled to the front door through a phalanx of umbrellaed protesters, who chanted loudly about Jesus and chided me not to go into that house of abortion.

All the while, I was thinking that if religion hadn't been allowed to seep into American politics the way it has, I wouldn't even be there. This all could have been stopped way before this baby was conceived if they had just let me have that damn pill.

Or if you had used your damned diaphragm, Dana. It's worth noting the tacit assumption that is being made here: The only people who care about innocent life, evidently, are religious people. All that the non-religious care about, we may suppose, is their own convenience.

After passing through the metal detector inside the building, I entered the Planned Parenthood waiting room; it was like the waiting room for a budget airline -- crammed full of people, of all races, and getting busier by the moment. I was by far the oldest person there (other than one girl's mom). The wait seemed endless. No one looked happy. We were told that the lone doctor was stuck in Cherry Blossom Parade traffic.

He finally arrived, an hour and a half late. The procedure itself took about five minutes. I finally walked out of the building at 4:30, 6 1/2 hours after I had arrived.

It was a decision I am sorry I had to make. It was awful, painful, sickening. But I feel that this administration gave me practically no choice but to have an unwanted abortion because the way it has politicized religion made it well-nigh impossible for me to get emergency contraception that would have prevented the pregnancy in the first place.

Or, let's see, maybe she could have had the child, but that option probably never occured to Ms L. She prefers to blame her plight on everyone except the one who is really responsible for it.

This is not about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. It's about how this self-centered woman demands not only a right to abortion, but demands that everyone else do all they can to facilitate it, to make it as easy as possible for her, and throw their principles out the window in order to accommodate her and compensate for her own recklessness.

Her essay is a monumental piece of self-indulgent narcissism.