8/1/17

Dunkirk: A Departure from Standard WWII Film Fare


       You sit down in the theater. The film begins. Scene one: A young man in a British Infantry uniform stares across the room of a busy health clinic at a pretty young nurse with auburn hair, bright red lipstick and perfectly styled hair, giving inoculations to other young soldiers. When the young man finally arrives at the nurse’s station, he starts flirting with her in an innocent and adorable fashion. She is annoyed at first, but her defenses slowly start to fall until she gradually gives into his charms. The film then spends about 20 minutes telling how the two young people fall in love, making allusions through flashbacks to the young man’s difficult childhood. After a brief training montage where we learn the quarks and characters of five or six other young soldiers in the young man’s division (plus a salty old sergeant who treats the men roughly in their presence but talks fondly of them to superior officers), the two lovers get married in a rush, as the division is shipping out to fight Germany in the morning. Once the enemy has been properly demonized through a brief scene depicting a particular war crime (executing prisoners, civilians, etc.), we engage in the second half of the film, a series of gratuitously violent sequences where one after another, the main characters of the division meeting grizzly ends, one-by-one until an expected “last stand” sequence where the young man proves his bravery.
    There are a plethora of war films of various settings and periods that fit the above archetypal format – Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is not one of them. Instead we get a film where there is minimal character development, little melodramatic, inspirational speech and no comprehensive explanation of the historical event being portrayed. Dunkirk is a stark departure from the typical Hollywood formula for World War II movies. Instead of we get a riveting picture of several perspectives from inside the event, one from the beachhead where the British soldiers await rescue, one from the air above the battle where two pilots battle enemy bombers and fighters, and one from the English channel where a father, son and another young man seek to rescue the stranded soldiers from Dunkirk.
     Before getting into some of the meat of the film, it’s important to review some of the historical details, especially since the film doesn’t really do this. The Battle of Dunkirk (26 May- 4 June, 1940) was fought well into the second year of World War Two. Dunkirk marked a dramatic end to what is now called the “phony war” – referring to the first year or so of officially declared conflict between Germany, France and England where there was a state of war but little open warfare, each side waiting for the other make a move. Eventually in early May of 1940, Germany invaded France, quickly moving past France’s Maginot Line through the “Impenetrable” Ardennes Forest, quickly defeating most of the French Military and cornering the British Army and Navy at Dunkirk. It was there that a perimeter was established and the conjoined forces of the English and French held on for nearly 10 days, awaiting a miracle to evacuate.
     In many ways, the Battle of Dunkirk wasn’t much of a win. Thousands of British soldiers lost their lives on the beaches and in the English Channel. As Winston Churchill famously declared afterward, “wars are not won by evacuations.” What made Dunkirk a miracle was that so many – in fact, the majority of British troops were saved – and then could be utilized for the long years ahead in fighting the battle that would ultimately topple Hitler’s war machine. The drama of the situation of Dunkirk is one thing on the IMAX screen (absolutely, positively the best way to see this film), but it’s even more remarkable when one considers that Britain was more or less alone – the US had not entered the war, France was virtually defeated and Russia would be at peace with Germany for the next two years. It’s probable that Hitler wanted to sign a deal with England, but the British weren’t so ready to give in. Their tenacity and stalwartness at hanging on through the storm that was to come is nothing short of epic, and it started with Dunkirk.
    The film starts with several British soldiers making their way through the deserted streets of Dunkirk. Shots suddenly ring out, striking the men down one by one. However, unlike most contemporary war films, there is little to no gore – the stress is actually put on the sound of the shots rather than the damage of impact. If you’re watching the film in an IMAX theater then you just about jump out of your chair. This sets much of the tone for the rest of the film – falling bombs, torpedoes, and bullets with nary a warning. This creates a tension that you can feel quite profoundly – as if you were aboard a vessel, sitting on a beach, trying to get home along with the soldiers. The sound mixing is vital to the story – added to it by the resolute, foreboding, almost terrifying Hans Zimmer score. These combined qualities make Dunkirk one of the most suspenseful war films ever made. You can feel the terror of a torpedo into the side of your ship, knowing that unless you have a quick exit, you will be sucked under with the ship. As we follow several individuals from shore to ship to sea, the tension grows ever more severe.
    With minimal character development, Dunkirk relies mostly on visual storytelling to attach us to the main characters. We learn a little bit about some characters at the end of the film, but by and large we don’t who any of these people are beyond the fact that they are all either evacuees, evacuators or defenders of both. But somehow our heartstrings are pulled for them – we can appreciate the desperation of the situation, though most approach it with a typically British emotional dryness.  We are scared for each person because they are individually valuable – the pictures of individuals give faces not only to themselves, but to the countless men who are meeting eternity over the course of the battle. An important message is to be taken away – each man is individually valuable, not a mere cog in a machine. Though it’s tempting to think in numbers (as nearly half a million men need evacuation) we’re reminded that the battle is fought by individuals, and each live is significant and valuable because each bears the image of God.
   Another departure from the expected is the lack of Nazi demonization. As if Nazi Germany needed any more vilification than naturally due, often World War II films will go out of their way (even if completely irreverent to the storyline) to dehumanize Nazi antagonists (think Inglorious Bastards, even Saving Private Ryan to a degree). Dunkirk takes a wholly different approach. Instead, we never really hear who the enemy is – they are referred to as “jerries” once, but never called “Germans” or “Nazis”, instead being referred to consistently as “the enemy”. We actually never really get a good look at any of the “enemy” either. This is an important aspect of the film. Without relying on the demonization/dehumanization of the “enemy”, the film relies on the drama of the situation at Dunkirk. The German Military is the enemy, but they almost become merely an agent of the truly terrifying antagonist: the water. As torpedoes slam into ships and bullets fly into the beach, they become a prod, pushing the soldiers into the water – a cold, faceless, merciless and indifferent enemy, far more terrifying than Germans in trench coats.

    The message of Dunkirk is mainly what you see – ordinary men placed in extraordinary circumstances – in many ways, horrific situations where their strength, endurance and for many, their faith was put to the test. But it’s also what you don’t see. With almost no contextual historical information given in the film beyond the year and the location of the events, someone who has no familiarity with the events of Dunkirk and the following “Battle of Britain” is hopefully inspired upon its viewing to educate themselves on them. Exiting the theater, I heard a number of people saying things like, “Wow, I can’t believe I never knew about this” and “what war was this again?” This highlights the importance of a film like Dunkirk - not only generating renewed interest in a crucial time in history, but preserving and memorializing in our collective memory the sacrifice of the English (and French) soldiers that eventually made possible the eventual liberation of Europe – all due to a “miracle” of Divine Providence in the salvation of the British Army at Dunkirk.

7/25/17

Racial Reconciliation, Salvation of a Different Color


By: Jonathan Harris
The Current Situation and Why It’s Important

It’s trending in our social networks. We hear it on our podasts. We see it during chapel at our Christian colleges. Racial reconciliation. Two words heavy enough to hang the head of any white male seminary student. Being myself of the targeted demographic, the two words used to create confusion for me. “Don’t I want to see reconciliation between the races?” More questions would follow—“But is there even such a thing as ‘race?’ Isn’t that an evolutionary idea? Ok, fine. Don’t I want to at least see ‘ethnic’ reconciliation? But what responsibility do I have for the wrongs of the past? Am I somehow at odds with people of other ethnic backgrounds because of the background I was born into? What about ethnic groups that have wronged my ancestors?

The seminary I was attending and denomination I was part of at the time put a lot of emphasis on what the administration termed to be “racial reconciliation.” The initiative was expressed in various ways, from over representing minority speakers during chapel (whether they could speak or not), to the formation of an affirmative action initiative in the admissions department. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated with a lecture series on African-American experience, while prominent historical figures who were actually significant to the denomination itself were passed over without even honorable mentions at any point during the academic year. The Black Lives Matter movement even made, and I’m sure is still making, inroads into the seminary. Panel discussions on police shootings (whether they were justified or not—that point was irrelevant) and the importance of taking down the Confederate flag were deemed as worthy of chapel time, even while other issues of greater significance to the ministries of the graduating student body were barely covered.

I remember my room mate telling me that he would barely pay attention sometimes in chapel during escapades into the social justice of racial reconciliation. He wanted to know the Bible and how it applied to his ministry. Most of these discussions didn’t qualify for the reason he was paying to study at seminary in the first place. I can only surmise that there were more who felt the same way, but who didn’t know what to do except ignore it? Was it really worth our time to complain about something that would only incorrectly portray us as “racists” to the administration if we did? It was difficult to even articulate why we were either disinterested or disagreeable to the efforts to win us to racial reconciliation through the endless barrage of “white guilt” for the hate crimes our cultural and theological ancestors apparently carried out. Now that it’s been a few years, and as recent events in the denomination have transpired, it’s become apparent to me that the emphasis upon “social justice” and “racial reconciliation” have only become more prevalent.

I believe now more than ever, it is imperative upon me to stop ignoring, and start speaking out. This is a gospel issue. I strongly believe that this new obsession in certain circles with “racial reconciliation,” is in direct contradiction to biblical reconciliation. The two cannot coexist. One will dominate the other. And for a denomination that has escaped the entangling clutches of rationalistic liberalism, to only have been shipwrecked by the postmodern concepts of “racial reconciliation” and “social justice,” is a travesty worthy of someone sounding the alarm about! It is my belief that most of those who are now buying into this false gospel still believe in a true gospel and just have not quite seen where the two contradict. Hopefully this analysis lays out the problems so people can wake up and free themselves from this modern-day heresy.


Biblical Gospel vs. Gospel of Racial Reconciliation

The biblical gospel focuses on eradicating internal heart sins. The gospel of racial reconciliation focuses on eradicating external behavior sins.

In Matt 15:11, 19 Jesus said, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man. . . For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” In other words, the source of evil is inside of every individual, waiting to be expressed in external actions. The gospel changes a man internally so that he or she will possess new affections and desire different things. God orders our desires in such a way that external actions change as a result. (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 2:20, 2 Tim 2:21). Not so according to the GRR (Gospel of Racial Reconciliation). Evil is something quite external. Now I’m sure at this point some would object. They may say, “But it is the evil within man’s heart that causes the outward action of discrimination. We recognize this!” I have no doubt that some do recognize this. The problem is practically speaking, this is not what’s usually communicated.

The academic and media push toward “white guilt” and “reparations” completely externalizes evil behavior onto civic institutions (i.e. the police), political groups (i.e. the “Alt-right”), cultures (i.e. the “South”), ethnic groups (i.e. “white” people), socio-economic conditions (i.e. poverty vs. wealth), and even inanimate objects (i.e. various flags or cultural icons). The Christian version of this—racial reconciliation—simply parrots the media’s presuppositions. Dealing with the sin of pride, the root of all true racism, on an individual level is rarely ever discussed. Finding our identity primarily in Christ instead of in ethnicity is not highlighted. What is talked about is removing flags, understanding the “black experience,” and creating more opportunities for minorities. These can potentially be good things in theory (I don’t believe they are in the modern way they are being applied), but they do nothing to bring about racial reconciliation if the heart of the matter is left out.

To give an example. If I go on with my life the same way I always have, spending time with diverse  friends regardless of their ethnicity, supporting a Haitian child financially, and giving my time to various ministries including inner city evangelism, I have not racially reconciled because I have a little Confederate flag on the back of my pick up in honor of my non-slave holding ancestors who fought nobly to defend themselves. Let’s say I take it off. Now I still have not racially reconciled perhaps because I have not done enough to truly “understand” the plight of cultural minorities. The main thing I’m getting at here is, the fact that I’m white will always leave me lacking in this department. I am part of an external group—“white people”—that inhibits my efforts to reconcile, regardless of the status of my heart. Thank God that the true gospel tells me that once my heart is cleansed I am clean. John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” The GRR leaves me dead in my sin of racism.

The biblical gospel sees men as individuals needing personal salvation. The gospel of racial reconciliation sees men as associations that need to undergo group conversions.

It should go without saying that the New Testament plainly focuses on man (singular) as a sinner before God in need of Jesus Christ to atone for his or her sins on an individual level. Salvation is contingent upon a man or woman’s repentance and faith. This is not the case with GRR. Within the heresy of GRR is the idea that groups of people must repent as a group in order for there to be any real cleansing. The name itself “racial reconciliation,” suggests this. How can a “race” be reconciled to another race? This assumes that every member of one particular ethnic group is responsible for the harm committed against another ethnic group. This is problematic on so many levels. First, not every member of an ethnic group has committed harm on another ethnic group. Secondly, when referring to sins of the past mainly, there are no members of any current ethnic group that have committed harm against another ethnic group. Thirdly, what about “reversed racism?” Are there those of a persecuted minority that have also committed harm against the dominant majority? You better believe it! So are these criminals then let off the hook because there was more wrong done in the past against their great great grandparents than there was being committed against the great great grandparents of their  persecutors? If some of you think this is sounding slightly inane or confusing, you’re getting the point. Thank God that the true Gospel allows us to be forgiven regardless of what the group we were born into thinks, feels, or has done in the past. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

The Biblical gospel focuses on sins committed by those capable of repentance. The gospel of racial reconciliation focuses on sins committed by previous generations.

Almost every time an act or supposed act of racism occurs against a minority or group of minorities the media loves to drum on about our country’s racist past as being one of the primary reasons such a crime occurred. Unfortunately, the GRR accepts the same premise. Oftentimes it is the past sins of slavery or opposition to civil rights that are targeted as problems that must be atoned for in this day and age. Granted, there is a certain logic to this. Stolen property doesn’t become “un-stolen” just because one generation has died off. I suppose if I wanted to I could claim that General Sherman and the United State’s government owes my family a great deal of compensation for destroying farms, burning churches, and stealing property. Native Americans have gained many advantages by utilizing this logic. For the record, I don’t believe it is in my best interest or the best interest of this country to look for this kind of compensation, but that’s for a separate discussion. Where this concept pertains to this discussion is in this way—Do past wrongs incur a fundamental guilt upon those whose ancestors committed them? In other words, are General Sherman’s descendants responsible for his sin against my ancestors? The Bible gives us a very simple answer. No. Ezekial 18:20 states plainly, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” Legal compensation and federal headship as theological issues are good discussions to have, but the fact remains that each man is personally responsible for only his or her sin, and not the sins of anyone else. The gospel of Jesus Christ washes me clean of my sin, not my father’s. The GRR says I must be washed clean of my father’s sin as well. This is why it is a heresy.

The biblical gospel is by grace through faith and not of works. The gospel of racial reconciliation is only through works.

Eph 2:8 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” A repentant sinner comes to Christ with empty pockets knowing that he or she has no good works that they are capable of giving Christ. As they cast themselves upon the mercies of Christ an alien righteousness not their own is afforded them (2 Cor 5:21). In GRR this is not the case. In order to receive grace, the penitent must take down their allegedly offensive symbols, throw their political support behind certain causes of the left, and apologize in some way. A certain prominent denomination has started making a habit of all three, especially the last requirement. The resolutions and subsequent declarations at most denominational meetings seem endless. The interesting thing is that they’re never enough for some. Christians must keep doing “more.” It is an endless process of works righteousness to obtain racial reconciliation. Some may object and counter, “But doesn’t the gospel change the life of the sinner? Should the sinner give up symbols of his sin and start giving to the church, etc. etc.” The answer to this question is, “Yes, of course.” The difference however is this. In the case of the biblical gospel, the sinner is saved BEFORE he or she has given up all their symbols of evil and started giving to their church. In GRR the blessing of being enlightened and ethnically aware only come AFTER making such changes. Of course these changes must constantly be redone to prove continually that one has truly repented of their inner racism. Thank God that His requirement for the sinner is faith and not works that would be impossible for any of us to do.

The biblical gospel presents reconciliation as one moment that covers the rest of life. The gospel of racial reconciliation advocates an everlasting process.

Heb 10:11 could have been written about GRR. “Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” The author of Hebrews was of course referring here to the Jewish ritualism that denied the sacrifice of the Messiah as being sufficient. In verse 14 a contrast is made with the biblical gospel, “For by one offering [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” The constant barrage of denouncing political groups, vilifying symbols, admitting guilt over and over looks more and more like a creepy pagan ritual than it does a Christian organization trying to live out the true gospel. Reconciliation between God and man takes place when God receives the sacrifice of Christ as payment for the sins of repentant man. In GRR all we have is constant payment without any reconciliation. I would challenge any seminary student to ask their president, dean, professor, etc. who advocates for GRR when the process actually end. When is reconciliation between the races achieved? There is no stated goal. There is time frame in which reconciliation is hoped to be achieved. Furthermore, in a biblical reconciliation, both parties are required to make the relationship right. Who is the valid spokesperson for the ethnic minorities who will finally proclaim us white folks free from the curse of racism. There is no such person. All there is is endless sacrifice. Well tell ourselves that we did a good thing. We made a big “step” in amending race relations, but the stairs never seem to reach the second story. All we are left with is guilt that we could not have done more. We failed. Again. And we always will so long as we pursue racial instead of biblical reconciliation.

A Better Way

Hopefully you can see the issues inherit within the heresy of GRR. We play right into the hands of a godless culture that would love to point out the hypocrisies of Christians and hold us accountable for them until the end of time. My suggestion to Christian denominations and organizations is to confess and move on. The IFCA International had denied the entry of a black seminary and several black churches in the 1930s. You know what they did today? They let them in. They said that the organization was wrong to do what it did in the 30s, and now they are going to do the right thing. That was it. No endless campaign about how evil they were for their racism (a sentiment none of the new members were even around for), just a simple, “We were wrong, come on in!” This is my prayer for other modern denominations and seminaries. Focusing on sin, especially sin that isn’t yours, only hurts those who focus on it. Instead focus on Christ. Focus on a God who breaks down the barriers of Jew and Greek, slave and free. Focus on having an identity in Christ that comes primary to an identity in any ethnic group. Focus on showing love today. Here and now. Stop rolling around in the regret of things you wish your grandparents would have done. They’re gone now. Do better than them in this area, and try to honor them for the areas in which they shined. Every generation has their sins and blind spots. And most of all, preach and live in the true, personal, once-for-all, gospel of grace.

5/10/17

The "Civil War" Was NOT About Slavery

By: Jonathan Harris

Perhaps the most oft-repeated inaccurate historical assumption about American history to have been foisted upon the public by so great a class of educators ranging from ignorant to prejudiced is the idea that the “‘Civil War’ was about slavery.” Packed into this conveniently vague statement are all the stereotypical assumptions concerning racism and slavery as “moral questions” painted upon a political canvas. To the victor goes the spoils, including historical interpretation—or in this case—down-right falsification. But a noble reason must be given to justify the taking of 750,000 lives.

The war itself was over one question—Does an American state have the right to leave the union (as the thirteen original colonies left Great Britain). This is why Southerners commonly say the war was over “State’s Rights.” Secession itself was over a number of conflicts that separated two very different worldviews—that of the orthodox Christian and traditionally conservative South, and the increasingly humanistic and progressively utopian North.

Spiritually, secession was over Biblical Authority. Christian denominations split over Northern insistence that a moral law outside of Scripture declared the relationship between master and slave to be sinful in and of itself. Southern Christians supported scriptural restrictions on the institution, but it was a bridge too far for them to accept the spiritual authority of a section of the country hypocritically benefitting from the profits of the transatlantic slave trade, while simultaneously beginning the adoption of Darwinism and higher criticism. Southerners could look for political ways to end the slave trade, something the Confederate constitution directly restricted, but they could not call sin what God had not called sin.

Socially, secession was over Northern aggression. In the years leading up to the war, Southerners became increasingly worried that radical elements in the North were hell-bent on vilifying and subsequently destroying the South. The Postal Crisis, the effect of anti-southern publications, the tolerance for and even championing of “slave insurrections” all served to fan the flames of sectional division. Southerners found themselves portrayed as the source of the national sins of backwardness, ignorance, and slavery. Why could the North not focus on its own flaws? The conditions for children and immigrants in Northern factories, the kind of prejudice that existed against free blacks, and the dehumanization that came with commercialism were out of step with the agrarian South. Yet the South did not seek to re-make New England in its image. The favor however was not returned and the South did not want to be New England.

Politically, secession was over the implications of Northern dominance in the general government. The South had long been in a political struggle with New Englanders dating back to the 3/5 compromise. The South favored Agrarianism, free trade, and Constitutional originalism. The North championed industrialism, social programs, and a generous reading of the constitution. Perhaps both sections could have lived in peace if it were not for one thing—The North wanted the South to pay for its “American System,” even if it meant subverting the Constitution. The North had threatened to secede many times before the war based on the fear that the West would alliance with the South and dominate the general government. Now it was the South’s turn to fear. In 1828 South Carolina narrowly dodged an invasion of federal troops over the states nullification of the “Tariff of Abominations,” which as one contemporary said, gave the North in effect 40 out of every 100 bales of Southern cotton. Between this event and the war, the North and South were in a death struggle to see if New England commercial interests would be allowed to dominate the country. It is at this point that the question of slavery enters the discussion—not as a moral question, but as an economic one. The question was not over the “expansion of slavery.” Outlawing slaves from entering the territories did nothing to effect the total number of slaves. What it did do however was keep influential Southerners from moving into the territory, thus ensuring that when it became a state, it would have been under Northern influence. What it also did was keep blacks from competing with white labor and becoming an undesirable presence in the community. The North cared about subjecting the South, not the plight of blacks. With the dreaded “Morrill Tariff” on the horizon and the election of a president who was more than happy to enforce it while restricting Southern influence in the West—The South knew it was doomed. The war and subsequent Northern victory only confirmed that its suspicions were correct. The “Civil War” was NOT about slavery.

For more info on slavery as a political question, check out Brion Mcclanahan’s podcast this week!

5/8/17

Movie Review- Chariots of Fire

By: Jonathan Harris

When it comes to entertainment, my primary conviction is to engage in stories that are not a waste of my time. Stories, especially those paired with visually stimulating scenes and musical hooks, are quite capable of dominating the human mind for days after they are experienced. Sometimes I wonder what beneficial thought could be taking the place of the irrelevant film I viewed the night before, if only I had not viewed it! Chariots of Fire is not a story I have to ask this question of. In fact, it is quite the opposite. A film that stimulates the mind to ask beneficial questions—questions such as, “Am I wasting my life pursing the desires before me?” or “Where does true joy come from?”—is a film worth watching. A film that teaches you about yourself and the world around you as it really is a story deserving your time.

Eric Liddell was born in 1902 in the village of Tienstin, China. Though of Scottish stock, his parents were missionaries, and that desire to be a missionary was very much on Liddell’s heart as he grew older. At the age of six, Liddell was enrolled in a boarding school in London, and there he discovered a skill that would set him apart as one of the world’s greatest athletes. He was fast. Very fast. An ability that served him well as a Rugby player, but also a skill that would catapult him into the light of international stardom. The film picks up Liddell’s story right at the point of decision—will he go to China and take over the mission, or will he continue to pursue Athletics. It is not a plot spoiler to inform the reader that Liddell did in fact go back to China, dying in 1945 in a Japanese prison camp, but not before he did something else for the Lord. That “something” is what the film is about. Liddell is faced with more than one crossroad in both the film and real life. What we see in Liddell is a desire to honor God in all things, even above king and country. Was it more pleasing to God to pursue missions over athletics? He is seen quipping, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” But what about running on the Sabbath?

Harold Abrahams was born in 1899 to two Jewish parents, his father being an immigrant from the Russian empire, and his mother being of Welsh-Jewish stock. Abrahams has his mind set on one thing—winning. It consumed him. It controlled him. Abrahams wanted to win the Gold Medal for 100 meters sprint, but more than that, he wanted to be the fastest man in the world. One scene in the film portrays Abrahams as being more afraid of winning than of losing, though he feared them both. What will he do with his life once he “made it?” Abrahams is portrayed as trying to prove himself to the world by rising above his Jewish lineage, a conditions he sees as a disadvantage. He’s after acceptance, but it’s not the kind of acceptance a gold medal can bring him. Nor is it the kind of condition a romance can kiss away. Abrahams has internal conflict, just like Liddell, but his goals and therefore the questions he asks of himself are completely different. He doesn’t shake the hands of his fellow competitors before a heat like Liddell does. He doesn’t feel the joy of winning, losing, or even living like Liddell. The question “Why?” needs to be asked.

Both Liddell and Abrahams believe in version of immortality. Abraham’s pursues it by trying to win a medal and break a record. Liddell already knows immortality is his in Christ. He does not have to do anything. Abrahams sees his cultural differences as a weakness to be overcome. Liddell sees his as an opportunity to be used by God. Abrahams is willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of winning. Liddell has some non-negotiables. How they ultimately respond to their circumstances is something for the film to show you. Who really wins the race of life in the long run? So grab some popcorn and let a story run through your mind with eternal implications. (Side note to those especially with children. There is one scene in a locker room in which the backside of a man can be seen in the distance. I don’t think most people would notice it, but it is worth noting in case you plan to watch it as a family.)

4/13/17

What to Learn From Trump's "Flip Flops"

By: Jonathan Harris

Today is the day. The day conservatives had known was coming. The day that never seemed to quite come for Barack Obama- but Donald Trump is not Barack Obama. Trump's populist base thought they were marrying Rachel, but as they wake up from their drowsy inauguration festivities they realize too late that behind the vale is Leah, and she looks an awful lot like George W. Bush.

To some, Trump was the anti-establishment, to others the "common sense conservative," and to millions the "America-first president." However, today is the day he is really beginning to be "the disappointment" to those who believed in him most. Steve Bannon looses influence within the president's inner circle, Trump decides China really isn't cheating all that much on trade, and NATO is all of a sudden a force for good. . . this just after launching 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria without congressional approval. The libertarians, alt-right crusaders, constitutionalists, and conservatives who weren't already upset at the way Trump allied himself with the establishment during the healthcare debacle (which continued to fund Planned Parenthood- let's just add the Christians in there as well), certainly have their reasons now. Even die hard supporters such as Ann Coulter are loosing faith. I guess that's what happens when you substitute "Trump" for "God" in our country's motto.

Here's the take away: During the primary many hard-working middle class voters put their faith in the one guy they thought they could trust simply because he had never had the misfortune of being elected. We were all tired of being lied to by career politicians, so some of us ran as far away as we could from anything that smacked of Washington. Trump didn't smack of Washington. Instead, he smacked Washington, and we grabbed the popcorn. But it doesn't make someone your friend just because they dislike someone you dislike. Moses' appointed "men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain" (Ex. 18:21). They were "wise and experienced men." (Deuteronomy 1:15). Unfortunately, the first person some hopeful voters ran to prided himself on being the exact opposite. Ignorance and inexperience were wisdom. Personal arrogance and cheating to gain wealth were seen as positives. Trump's history was not hidden. His political flip-flops and marital life were a matter of public information. But that didn't seem to matter. As the Apostle Paul queries in 1 Tim. 3:5, "but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?" . . . much less a whole entire country! Anyone who's been watching Trump over the long haul isn't surprised to see him break campaign promises and move the GOP into positions previously held by moderate democrats. The purpose here though isn't to bash Trump primary voters. The point is- Let's learn from this. Principles must have a greater priority in our minds than personalities. Using the democrats as our standard of decency will erase any moral difference that ever existed between the two parties. Make our principles great again, and THEN, and ONLY then can we hope that God will make America great again.

John C. Calhoun: An American Portrait- A Review

Up From Slavery By Booker T. Washington- A Review

Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World- Review

3/27/17

"The Searchers" - A Review

By: Jonathan Harris

Danielle and I watched one of my all-time favorite movies last night, "The Searchers," and now I commend it to you! It is the type of film I believe that inspires manly character in the old Cavalier sense of the word. The main protagonists, Ethan Edwards and Martin Poly, are men propelled by familial loyalty, honor, and bravery. Their sacrificial determination and respect for the women around them are the kinds of things missing from modern cinematic male protagonists. Ethan is a complex character. Hints about his past- his time as a Confederate soldier, his suggested participation in the Mexican revolution, his possible former affection (held down by stoic self-control) in his now brother's wife, and his seeming hatred for Indians all leaves the viewer trying to figure out the first part to a story we feel we only have the sequel to. The ending keeps our curiosity in place, which you will find I'm sure is actually a very good thing for a film!

Ethan is a man who has grown cold to the world through harsh experience. It's a cruel and hurtful world that Ethan accepts, and conquers, though he can't seem to satisfy himself. Director John Ford does an absolutely magnificent job relaying to us the cruelties of the world in such a way that they are appalling to our imaginations- but only our imaginations. The viewer is only left to speculate and surmise, not to overtly observe. This is part of the appeal Hollywood's golden age of film making has to me personally. It's the reason classic epics are more powerful and have a more lasting impact on my mind I believe, because by the time the credits are once again rolling I haven't really "seen a movie." I've thought a lot about the world in which I live. I can't help but wondering, does harsh reality make me more like Ethan? Do I keep my sense of humor while everything I love has been taken from me? Do the experiences I've undergone cause me to lash out in small ways at things that remind me of them?

Martin is not like Ethan. Sure he's cut from the same Cavalier cloth, but Martin is younger. The bigotries that Ethan's developed don't seem to exist in Martin. There is no revenge in his heart. This is no silent bigotry at those things that have hurt him. One wonders whether or not he's too young to have developed such prejudices. Martin fights for those he loves, quite literally. His back-country lack of refinement often causes him to fumble, but make no mistake, Martin is a gentleman. And while Ethan seems to take pride in his honest word and his blood-line, Martin, who has no blood family to take pride in, demonstrates the character of a man who sacrifices all for a friend.


The story is told from Martin's perspective, though the focus of most of the story is on Ethan. The characters in the story are anything but bland. They are real people, and the complexities of big and small personalities are quite convincing! Not to mention, the cinematography and landscapes are breathtaking and fit the story beautifully. There is man against man, man against nature, and the greatest conflict of the whole film, man against himself as seen in Ethan. We see possibly at least a partial redemption in Ethan toward the end of the film, but we are still left wondering as the musical theme of the movie states, "What makes a wonder?" Is Ethan really searching for his niece, or is he searching for something else? So get some popcorn and watch an old movie this weekend, a movie that's inspired scenes in everything from Lawrence of Arabia to Star Wars. You won't be disappointed.

3/22/17

Why I'm NOT A Libertarian

By: Jonathan Harris

During the 2016 Presidential general election much discussion was made concerning how awful the top two major party candidates were. As a general rule, when they spoke about themselves it was all lies, and when they talked about each other it was almost always the truth, and the general public knew it! The lamentations and revelations of "just how awful the two choices were" prompted many to take a closer look at the viability of third parties. Could this be the election that breaks the two party monopoly trend? Gary Johnson, the next most popular candidate in the race was said to be stealing votes from Hillary . . . and Trump. In fact, many young people from both sides of the aisle tried an unsuccessful rally around his campaign. His hope was to tap into the excitement that surrounded Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, and to a lesser extent his son Rand Paul in 2016, while expanding this group of young patriots into a winnable ticket by appealing to establishment types through his running mate Bill Weld. As everyone knows now, the strategy failed. But I am willing to wager the movement did not. The movement I refer to is known as libertarianism, and if you don't know what that is, I suspect you will in short order regardless of what I'm about to tell you.

Libertarians are a rather diverse group of people. To use two of the names just mentioned as an example of this--- Ron Paul appealed to primarily more conservative citizens with aggressive anti-big government speeches, and now even a home-school curriculum guiding young minds away from the "truth" churned out in public schools. Gary Johnson spent much of his political capital on appeals to young progressives who might not be fans of the Democrats. However, a phrase that could perhaps unite both candidates comes from young libertarian hopeful Austin Peterson who believes in "a world where gay married couples can defend their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns." Though the statement may sound strange, the philosophy is picking up steam especially among millennials in the Republican party. A young person can keep their socially progressive leanings while at the same time embracing free-market economics and the Constitution. Everyone wins right?

In some ways I was that young millennial 9 years ago- not that I was concerned about liberal social causes, on the contrary I was very conservative on issues such as abortion, same-sex mirage, and border security. However, I was a bit open to the possibility that the drug war wasn't such a good idea, and perhaps our foreign policy was just a little too aggressive when we had military personnel in over 150 countries. That suspicion coupled with the fact that libertarians seemed to quote the Constitution better than their conservative counterparts did it for me. I voted for the Libertarian candidate Bob Barr in 2008 over John McCain. Now however, I see a fundamental flaw in what I was in the process of buying into. Libertarianism promises what it cannot deliver. "A world where gay married couples can defend their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns," is not a world where self-government can also exist. Let me explain.

At its core libertarianism rests on two basis principles:

A) The Non-Aggression Principle
B) The Right to Private Property

As a political movement these two principles are applied to every political issue imaginable, though some libertarians would also apply these principles to their personal lives. The Non-Aggression Principle is essentially the idea that no one has a right to harm anyone else unless in in a self-defensive action. The right to private property is the basic building block of a free-market system in the libertarian world. You own yourself, you own what you've obtained through the sweat of your brow, and you own what you were given. No one has the right to take it from you. Government's only job is to secure this right. Sounds pretty reasonable right? Most conservatives would probably be in hearty agreement with both principles. In fact, in many ways liberals may even be persuaded into the system. As a general rule, conservatives are more likely to buy into libertarianism through the private property door, while liberals enter through the non-aggression door, but either way they both find themselves in the same building.

On economic issues, constitutional conservatives and libertarians could not be in more lock step in one sense. Free-market capitalism is supported by both. However, when it comes to social issues things start breaking down. How does one balance the Non-Aggression Principle with the right to private property when it comes to an issue such as abortion? It's interesting to note that libertarians themselves do not have an official "view" on this topic because of the warring principles. Ron Paul takes the more conservative approach- A woman cannot kill her child, it would violate the Non-Aggression Principle. Murray Rothbard however would counter that a child is actually the property of her mother since the child came from the mother, therefore the principle of private property would mandate that the mother can do anything she wants with her property. Walter Block tries to unify both principles by stating that a mother does not have the right to kill her offspring because that would be aggression, but she CAN take the child out of her womb because the womb is her property. Obviously taking a child out of the womb will most likely kill the child depending on the development stage, but that doesn't seem to matter so long as the principles of non-aggression and private property are properly applied.

As you can see such non-sense winds libertarians in unusual spots on social issues when these two "sacred" principles compete; and because of the fierce stands libertarians take on keeping religion out of politics, there is no transcendent standard outside of the two guiding principles to appeal to in order to solve the problem. This is where constitutional conservatism has the upper hand. There DOES exist a blue-print to follow when coming up with public policy on even social issues. Both natural and special revelation from a Creator can be invoked so that every issue can be navigated. Abortion is an easy one: From creation God instituted the family and biological and psychological features attest to the fact that the mother is made for nurturing and protecting the child in the earliest stages of development. In other words, there is a standard, a plan, something by which to compare public policy to in order to know if it is right. Governments are responsible to take into account the Creator's intentions and in so doing form laws that seek to protect and secure them.

Libertarians can easily confuse stewardship with ownership. A mother and father do not own their child from a constitutional conservative point of view. But neither does a child own him or herself. God owns man. Parents are responsible for nurturing their children, which obviously includes not killing them! If this is true it would be wrong to say that the government or a woman herself "owns" her womb, or the child contained therein. God owns both, and gives them the dignity that both deserve. In fact, God owns all property. Human institutions simply manage this property in different ways. Government is a ministry of justice, family is a ministry of education, and the church is a ministry of grace. Libertarianism in contrast recognizes the autonomous individual as the only institution worth recognizing in relation to the State. But there is more than just the state and the individual, there is also the religious institution and the family. There is more than just the non-aggression principle and the principle of private property. There are also a whole host of other principles that must be applied to government. A libertarian could easily find himself on either side of the border security issue for instance unless he adopted the conservative idea that governments also protect cultures, not just individuals pursing self interest. To give another example, traditionally conservatives have been opposed to any profaning of marriage since in order for the government to behave as a minister of justice it must operate within a boundary that recognizes the proper role of the family. (In a similar way, to keep the state from running a muck the family ought to recognize the proper role of government and vote accordingly). The government cannot maintain its limited function in a culture that does not believe in traditional marriage for very long. It will by default start picking up the slack left in the wake of the pursuance of sexual pleasure without the accompanying responsibility attached to it. Government will become the parents and usurp the family. It's only a matter of time. Libertarianism, which sees sexual actions as no one's business but the consenting individuals involved in the act, will lead to totalitarianism in this case, UNLESS another principle other than the two previously mentioned is invoked. Conservatives see sexuality for what it is- a private expression of a public act. As you can see libertarianism does not add one single thing to that old dusty philosophy we used to call "conservatism"---it actually gives conservatism a fatal liposuction and then calls itself "healthier."

The Achilles Heel of libertarianism is actually a surprisingly simple error if thought through. The two guiding principles are claimed to be universal, but they by definition cannot be if libertarianism were actually true. To claim that the guiding principles are true at the same time would be to put them in conflict with one another. Let me explain: If the principle of private ownership were true, I would have the full rights to my own mind, and therefore my thoughts. No one else would own my thoughts or have a right over them, only I would. This becomes self defeating however because if I only have rights to my own mind, and not a universal mind (say one that can give me revelation and therefore universals), then I cannot impose my thoughts on anyone else. This would violate the non-aggression principle. But this is just what libertarianism seeks to do! To impose the non-aggression principle and the principle of private ownership on everyone. If other people own their own mind, they should not be forced to be non-aggressive. This would be an aggressive action to take! As you can see the whole philosophy explodes at this point. There is no way to know truth if everyone is left to their own minds and their own ownership of a personal truth that resides in them. This is why constitutional conservatism makes more sense and is a better weapon against an organized socialist-materialist worldview. Conservatism recognizes there does exist a universal mind- His name is God, and He has a lot more to give us than just the non-aggression and private property principles. He is the basis for our inalienable rights, and if we are to keep them we had better be careful of falling into the trap set before us. Libertarianism will not save us from liberalism because trading one form of humanism for another simply lands us in the same place in the long run- a world devoid of any moral scruples. That my friends is a world in which freedom I'm afraid cannot exist. 
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