Thursday, July 2, 2009

Prager on Soraya M

Dennis Prager offers a powerful endorsement of the recently-released The Stoning of Soraya M. Here's the heart of his column:

If you want to understand the type of people who run Iran, see this film. If you want to understand why men and women risk their lives to demonstrate against the fascist theocracy that rules Iran, see this film. The film is about the type of people who become "supreme leader" (Ali Khamanei) or president of Iran (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). It is about their mendacity, their use of religion to commit barbarity, and, of course, their despicable treatment of women.

And don't see it solely in order to understand what the dissidents in Iran are fighting -- though that would be an entirely valid reason. See it also because it is a powerful theatrical and emotional experience. Washington Post reviewer Dan Zak wrote that he wept while watching the movie. The Wall Street Journal described "The Stoning of Soraya M." in these words: "This is classic tragedy in semi-modern dress that means to horrify, and does so more successfully than any film in recent memory." Los Angeles Times film reviewer Kevin Thomas wrote that the film, achieves "the impact of a Greek tragedy through its masterful grasp of suspense and group psychology, and some superb acting." And Claudia Puig of USAToday called the film "emotionally explosive," a "shattering and powerful drama."

On the other hand, Amnesty International loathed the film. Which is another good reason to see it. This organization is morally confused. It has become a leftist organization in the guise of a human rights organization. It calls the film "sensationalist" because "the audience response is likely to be disgust and revulsion at Iranians themselves, who are portrayed as primitive and blood-thirsty savages." I wonder if there are 10 people who see this film who will then conclude that Iranians in general -- as opposed to many religious fundamentalists among them -- are "primitive and bloodthirsty savages."

Furthermore, Amnesty International argues, Iranians and foreign human rights organizations are already fighting for women and against such atrocities as stoning. Therefore, the film is unnecessary. If you don't follow that argument, you are not alone.

Finally, the most important reason to see the film could be this:

Many of us lament Hollywood's lack of courage, its lack of moral seriousness, and its political correctness. Here, then, is a courageous, morally deep, and politically incorrect film that mainstream reviewers -- as cited above -- have lavished praise on. It should be the ideal film for serious Americans who properly complain about Hollywood's offerings. But if a riveting drama with a courageous theme, Oscar-level acting, which is as relevant as today's headlines, fails at the box office, Hollywood will have been vindicated.

As of now the film is restricted to major markets, but it should make its way to a theater near you sometime this summer. You can view the trailer here.

By the way, did anybody follow Amnesty International's reason for not seeing the movie? Why on earth would they not want people to see it? If this were a movie about the horrors of apartheid or some Jewish murder of a Palestinian I doubt that AI would have any problems with it at all, even if it were fictional. The only people who would seem to have a motive for discouraging viewers from seeing this film would be Muslim extremists and those who fear upsetting them.

Okay. Maybe I've answered my question.


N.T. Wright on Deism and Darwin

Bill Dembski at Uncommon Descent posts this video of renowned theologian N.T. Wright discussing deism and Darwin. It's pretty good:


What Is a Christian?

Matthew Mullins at Prosblogion, a blog given to questions and issues in the philosophy of religion, contemplates the necessary and sufficient conditions for being a Christian. He concludes that among the necessary conditions is this:

It shouldn't be the case that one have eternal salvation and not be a Christian.

To translate this from philosopherese into English what Mullins is saying is that only Christians have eternal life, but surely this is false.

Unless one is prepared to argue that infants and mentally retarded individuals do not have eternal life then there must be lots of people who have salvation who are not Christians (assuming that being a Christian requires a willful assent to Christ). Nor is it hard to imagine the universe of eternally saved individuals being expanded further to include people like the heroes of the Old Testament. If one is a theological inclusivist one might also expand the universe still further, as C.S. Lewis does in The Great Divorce, to include all whose hearts are open to God even if they've never heard of Christ or, for reasons psychological and/or sociological, have never made a commitment to Him.

At any rate, whether one's theology goes that far or not, it still seems highly unlikely that the proposition quoted above is true since it excludes innocents who die in infancy or who never possess the mental capacity to understand what being a Christian entails.

There are some who would argue that whoever is saved is ipso facto a Christian. Lewis, for example, talks about people who are "anonymous" Christians, but this seems to me to empty the concept of Christian of most of its unique content. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that universalism were true - i.e. the view that everyone is ultimately saved is true. If that were the case then everyone would be a Christian, which seems, to me at least, exceedingly odd and would certainly seem odd to Muslims, Jews and atheists.

I think it makes more sense to simply think that eternal life might be available to others besides Christians.