Wonder Woman: Women Can Be Warriors, as Long as They are Sexy

Wonder Woman is like most first-in-a-series comic book fantasy movies, pretty cool action, great ironic humor, with some depth of character and a big silly battle of gods at the end. The sequel will of course be crap. But at least we’ll have WW1.

In the run up to its release, this movie became a lightning rod of feminist hope for transforming the superhero genre, and a weapon of feminist hatred against men. It proves to be neither.

It’s just another good fantasy comic book movie. With the emphasis on fantasy.

It works precisely because the notion of women warriors is an odd rarity and a biological anomaly. It’s a fantasy that does not fit reality, and that is why it is entertaining. Yes, I know Ronda Rousey could kick my butt. That is why I wrote “anomaly.” Butt the biological fact of the matter is that military reality proves that most women cannot meet the standards of warriors. It is basically not in their nature or their biology.

Third wave feminists and their leftist useful idiots believe that if they can change the narrative and promote their ideology agenda of univocal male and female identity in culture, that it will magically change reality. But it won’t. It will turn some men into emasculated geldings that they will then use and discard from dissatisfaction, but it won’t change scientific reality. And that is why they are using law to force this diabolical social engineering in our own military as well as society. They know the military is the ultimate expression of masculinity in a culture, so that is why they want to fundamentally transform it.

Wonder Woman carries a sense of originality that makes it stand out from other comic book movies precisely because of its irony… Continue reading

Doctor Strange: Strangely Boring Magic

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The latest Marvel offering about a doctor of medicine who, because of a horrible accident, seeks to replace his lost fame and power as a successful surgeon, but discovers the power of eastern occultism to transcend himself and fight the dark forces of evil seeking to take over the world.

Special Effects as Boring

This is the least of all Marvel movies, or TV shows for that matter. I have grown so weary of these superheroes as substitute gods, and special effects obsession with big vast environments of CGI with tiny little people in them running around avoiding mass destruction. It’s all quite boring and lacks humanity. It’s shallow spectacle over dramatic depth.

Don’t get me wrong, in general I like some of the Marvel universe. Captain America deals with some pretty transcendent values. The TV shows, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are intensely human and personal with powerful themes that resonate. So it can be done right sometimes.

But Dr. Strange is unfortunately not one of those times.

I know that movies are visual and so they are the place for some real visual feasting to occur. But if that visual exploration is not accompanied by deep human meaning, it is like junk food or entertainment masturbation; empty thrills without satisfaction. Christopher Nolan sometimes does it right. Dr. Strange tries to mimic some of Inception’s mind-bending visuals, but without much interest beyond derivative homage. Chases and fight scenes occur in an endless litany of ever-changing Escher-like environmental metamorphosis with little purpose.

To be fair, writer-director Scott Derrickson does try to make this story about something bigger, about the recognition of spiritual reality and the purpose of life found in something bigger than ones’ self. Dr. Strange begins a narcissistic individual but ends up giving himself to a cause greater than himself. He begins a selfish glory hound, and ends up a guard dog for the world.

The problem is that the story’s well-intended meaning becomes a shallow generic self-righteousness that ends up drowning in an irrational and unbiblical occultic worldview.

Here’s how… Continue reading

Captain America: Civil War: American Exceptionalism in a Corrupt World

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There is a passage in the New Testament, Acts 17, that tells the story of the apostle Paul preaching his message of good news to the Greek pagans on Mars Hill. I wrote in an article and in a book about how Paul actually subverts the Greco-Roman culture by retelling the ancient pagan Stoic narrative redefined through a Christian worldview. He was so familiar with pagan beliefs that he could quote them and even retell their narratives. That means he studied his culture in order to connect with it so that he could share with that culture the risen Jesus, whom he had encountered. He read their philosophy and knew their myths and cultural narratives. The passage begins with him telling the Athenians that he perceived they were a religious people, based on their altar for an unknown god amidst the many of the pantheon.

I feel like that when I watch Marvel movies such as Captain America: Civil War.

I perceive that America is a religious people. I don’t mean in the old sense of the “Christian America” origins or even the high percentage of American believers in that God. What I mean is that as Western society has become more secular and more Christophobic, it has correspondingly become, not less religious, but more pagan in its religiosity.

Case in point: Superheroes.*

Pagan religiosity is illustrated in the polytheistic embrace of this new pantheon of gods. It is not news that superheroes are modernized updated versions of ancient gods 2.0. Humanity craves transcendence and deity, and if we refuse the living god, we replace him with new gods, and a new religion. So even the secular reductionism of the modern superhero only serves to perpetuate religious myth in a “secular” pseudoscientific garb. Most superheroes have some kind of scientific origin for their powers. Even Thor is not supernatural, but merely an ancient alien.

Romans 1:21–23
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The modern world rejects the living God and so it creates substitute gods and religions in order to tell stories that embody its values.

But in spite of this idolatry, and like Paul with the Stoics on Mars Hill, I am often amazed to find some powerful truths in the Marvel universe with which I would certainly want to agree.

One of those values is the American Exceptionalism of Captain America.

Movies are not made in a vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist or “spirit of the age” that permeates our culture. We are a polytheistic society that has become increasingly polarized in our political and cultural wars. Thus it is no surprise that our gods now express that internal hostility in such movies as Captain America: Civil War (CA:CW) and Batman Vs. Superman. As one of the characters says in CA:CW, “An empire that crumbles from its enemies can rise again, but if it crumbles from within, it is dead forever.” The villain in CA:CW seeks to get his enemies, the Avengers to kill each other.

But in contrast with the usual multicultural zeitgeist of Hollywood is Marvel’s apparent rejection of the socialist utopian madness that is gripping the minds of our society like the talons of a possessing demon. We have become cynical and nihilistic, thus, the perennially perfect good guy, Superman (Of the DC universe) has renounced his American citizenship in the comics, and turned dark along with the Dark Knight by Frank Miller (UPDATE: Correction on the Batman Vs. Superman movie).

But into this cynical world, comes the superhero from the past, Captain America. Quite literally, he is transported into our modern world from the old days of WWII. So he still has those quaint American values that Superman rejected in a previous movie (“Truth, Justice” but certainly no “American Way”). And that is what makes our modern cynical society willing to watch him, because they see it as outdated anachronistic and ironic in juxtaposition with our modern day. Oh, how cynics and nihilists love “irony.”

But it is just here that Cap becomes the lesson from the “greatest generation.” It is precisely those values of “outdated” left behind American Exceptionalism from a bygone era, an era usually damned as “Ozzie and Harriet” values, that becomes the goodness, integrity and righteousness that could save us from ourselves. The values of chivalry that seems arrogant and presumptuous to modern left wing collectivism and the so-called anti-colonialism of Obama’s America.

I won’t pretend to understand all the mythic trails of the Marvel universe, nor remember all the tedious details of their mythology and characters. But the big picture story of Captain America: Civil War is that the world is blaming the Avengers for all the destruction that has occurred because of the terror activities of Hydra’s bad guys who want to control the world. Hmmmm, does that sound like America being blamed while protecting the world from a certain extreme wing of a certain religion we all know is performing jihad in the name of their god? And while we are at it, let’s throw in the atheist religion of communism that still threatens the globe. So these bad guys are so evil, they cause great swathes of destruction as the Avengers fight to stop them. Entire cities wiped out, innocent lives lost, the usual collateral damage that totalitarian regimes cause when stood up to.

And yet, the world blames the Avengers for it! WTF? The Avengers are accused of “routinely ignoring sovereign borders” as if they are global bullies engaging in macroagressions rather than saving everyone’s asses. (Quick, where is the safe space with playdoh and crayons?!)

As the Vision, who is supposed to be very intelligent AI, very stupidly says, “Our very strength invites challenge, and challenge breeds hostility.” This blaming of the victim is the very heart and soul of the left wing Anti-Americanism that is destroying our country from within. It is a collectivism that doesn’t understand the nature of evil. It is not strength that breeds or invites hostility, it is weakness that does. Bullies don’t pick on the strong, they pick on the weak. Communist countries, and Islamic terrorists “vote for the strong horse.” They will only stop when forced to stop — by strength.

Captain America understands the nature of evil, and the nature of American Exceptionalism. He says, “When you can do the things we can, but you don’t, then bad things happen because of what you didn’t do.” When America pulls out, evil grows to fill that void.

But the world blames the good guys, and seeks to have them sign a treaty of “accords” that would place the Avengers under the authority of the United Nations, to be more collectively accountable. Think of it as redistribution of power. Funny how the greed of envy works, isn’t it? Legalizing theft and crybullying.

It is here that the movie seeks to have a dialectic between collectivism and individualism. Some of the Avengers turn wimps (led by the chief cynic, Iron Man. Hmmmm, any surprise, the most cynical becomes the first fooled?), and they split between two camps of Avengers, those who seek to sign the accords and appease the envy and greed of morally inferior debtor nations, and those led by Cap, who has “faith in individuals,” and a strong moral compass to be leaders in righteous strength.

The appeaser Avengers “do what has to be done to stave off something worse,” and in so doing, actually make matters worse, precisely because that collective authority (the UN) under whom they place themselves is morally inferior.

It is here that the movie becomes fallacious in depicting the UN as a neutral body of nations who just want to have peace and order, when in reality, it is a corrupt body of greedy and immoral criminals (See the documentary U.N. Me). But I get it, they want to show both sides at their best in order to have a “balanced” dialectic.

But the true moral superiority of Captain America and his Americanism shines when he says he won’t sign the accords because it keeps them from fighting evil, which makes evil win. As he says, “When I see a situation going south, I can’t ignore it,” and “Even if the whole world tells you something is wrong when it is right, you say, No.” This is how a righteous man thinks, a moral man, a strong protector of the weak.

But this is not a naïve self image that ignores America’s faults or imperfections. No nation is perfect, and certainly not America, but it’s the best we’ve got. As Cap says, “We may not be perfect, but the safest heads are our own.” American Exceptionalism is not “my country, right or wrong,” but it’s also not the moral relativism of multiculturalism that concludes that our morality is no better than any other country’s morality. Moral fools propound moral equivalence.

The collectivism of the United Nations does not create peace, it creates war, by tearing down the strength of the righteous just like it did to the Avengers. The selfish greedy thievery of socialist redistribution does not create wealth, it destroys it. The oppression of human rights and genocidal impulse of Islamic states is not the equivalent of the Judeo-Christian chivalry and self-sacrifice of the West. There is right and wrong, and some cultures are wrong. Cap believes we must lead by strength and righteousness, which will be the model and example for morally inferior nations to aspire to.

That is what made America great.

And that is what makes Captain America the coolest of all the Avengers and the victor in the inevitable civil war of Avengers at the end.

Nevertheless, like Paul on Mars Hill, I have to say that despite some of these positive truths portrayed in CA:CW, I find myself unsatisfied by the substitute pantheon for the living God. For only with the Judeo-Christian God can there be any intelligibility to the chivalric values of righteous strength. Without God, even American Exceptionalism is hollow idolatry. Without a transcendent God, all values are morally equivalent as the godless and nihilist argue. One man’s superhero is another man’s supervillain. Without God, there is no righteous nation, just nations and their gods vying for power — and the will to power rules.

Without the one God of the Bible, there is no justice, there is only war.

 

* Another example of the spreading influence of paganism is Environmentalism and the Climate Change Cult that is sweeping over nations like a global Crusade. It is a return to pagan earth worship with a fascist religious regime akin to the Inquisition, complete with high priests, punishment for heretics and End of the World threats.

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I, Frankenstein: The Monster Accepts Jesus as His Personal Lord and Savior

Sci-Fi Fantasy sequel to the original Frankenstein by Shelley. Okay, do not put a high expectation upon this one. It’s sci-fi fantasy for God’s sake. Have some fun. I did. It’s the story of Frankenstein’s monster 200 years after the novel takes place. He is still alive in the present day because he is a creature in between the worlds of the living and the dead. He is alive but he has no soul. The unique and surprising and delightful twist is that it is ensconced within a Christian worldview of spiritual warfare between demons and angels for the future of mankind.

The story’s set up is an expansive alteration of the War in Heaven motif of the Bible. There is an order of angels between the archangels and earth who fight against the 666 legions of demon hordes who want to start a war to destroy all of mankind. Okay, pretty standard boring sameness. But the storytellers add an original twist that the angels are the Order of the Gargoyles. So they look frightening even though they are the good guys. This is actually based on the medieval notion that gargoyles were put on cathedrals not as demons but to scare away the demons. Not bad. To add to that, their symbol that makes their weapons “sacramental” and able to send demons to hell is what looks like a triple cross, a symbol, no doubt of the Trinity.

Now it is an incorrect tradition that we call the monster created by the doctor, “Frankenstein.” Frankenstein was the doctor’s name, not the monster’s. But a clever angle brought in is that, as the demon villain says, “We are all sons of our fathers. So denying who we are means we are lost.” Thus at the end of the film, we understand the meaning of the title, “I, Frankenstein.”

Frankenstein considers himself rejected by God and man because of his lack of a soul and that he was created by man instead of God. This is a thematic idea that returns in the story. Frankenstein wanders the earth with existential angst. This is a journey of identity, as the monster seeks to find out who he is while killing demons who are after him. And why are they after him? Because he holds the key to the ability of the villain to create an army of Frankenstein monsters to rule the world.

In the mean time, the Gargoyle order discovers him and also rejects him because they too consider him without a soul and rejected by his maker. But the awesome Queen of the order suspects not. She thinks that God has kept him alive for a higher purpose, and that “it is not for you or I to deny God’s purpose.” She also says that “all life is sacred,” so it would be wrong for the angels to kill him. Wow. A return to the Victorian theme that wrestles with the Christian God and the value of human life. (Whoops, they just slipped in a pagan twist by saying “all life” is sacred, not the Biblical version that “human life” is sacred. Of course, this is the premise of the idolatrous animal rights fascists and enviro-fascist crowd who deny human exceptionalism. Since “all life is sacred,” then we must allow human life to suffer by prohibiting economic activity in areas that contain “endangered” rodents, insects, and other examples of “all life.” Which means, when people say “all life is sacred” what they REALLY mean is that human life is dispensable because they will let humans die to save rodents and insects. The true haters. But I digress.)

Because the monster was never named by Frankenstein, the Queen gives him a new name: Adam, an obvious nod to the Biblical first man created by God. But again, they believe that he is not a human, angel, or demon, and therefore an uneasy tenuous relationship between Adam and the Angels.

Okay, I want to applaud this movie for using a Christian mythology as its worldview. That has become so rare in Hollywood these days that I am shocked whenever I see it attempted in a positive way. I believe the writer is a Christian, and I also know how much pressure there is on Christians to keep Jesus out of their Hollywood blockbusters. After all, we wouldn’t want to offend the small 20% of people who don’t like Jesus just for the 80% majority who basically do. Better to offend 80% by keeping him out of it (Hollywood logic).

About the best you can get is the Cross symbol and the fact that you are fighting on the side of the angels of heaven (Notably connected to the Biblical angels Michael and Gabriel). Unfortunately, as in I, Frankenstein, this all too often distorts the meaning of redemption into “being a good person.” As the love interest in the movie says, “You’re only a monster if you behave like one.”

In reality, we are all monster children of our father, the first and fallen Adam, and only by becoming children of the second Adam through faith, can we be redeemed of our badness. One of the few sci-fi fantasy movies that actually did a good job of embodying faith as the essence of redemption was “End of Days” with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But on the other hand, I can certainly see that this story could be seen as a Christ story using Frankenstein as the “Second Adam,” who was a unique being between two worlds (like Christ’s dual nature of God and man), resurrected, and in whom is the redemption of mankind. In that sense I embrace this mythos. It ain’t perfect but neither am I and neither are my stories. I like that.

On the down side, the entire premise of the movie falls apart because of some of the choices made in the logic of the story. Or should I say, “illogic.”

SPOILER TERRITORY: So, the whole scheme of the villain demon, Naberius is to use the scientific technology that Frankenstein discovered to create an army of undead to take over the world. The premise is that 1) Reanimated corpses like Frankenstein have no soul, 2) the demons sent to hell need bodies to be able to come back to inhabit so they can take over the world, 3) Demons cannot inhabit a body with a soul, so 4) they can inhabit the reanimated corpses because they have no soul.

Oh boy, what a mess. The problem is that Frankenstein ends up surprising the villain by having a soul, so he cannot be possessed! Frankenstein has discovered that God has given him a purpose of fighting these demons. Okay, fair enough. But then that means that the entire scene of demons entering the army of corpses at the end could not possibly work, even though it is shown as happening. Whoops. Unless I missed something about Frankenstein being special. I might very well have.

Secondly, the entire premise of a reanimated human life not having a soul is completely poor theology and dangerous. In the Bible, a “soul” is actually the Hebrew word for “breath.” The idea is that human life is spiritual or soulish. It was a gnostic Greek notion that the soul was the real essence of our identity that inhabits the body like a ghost in a machine. To the ancient Hebrew the body was as much our identity as our life or soulishness. They were inseparable. It is after all the body that God says he will resurrect! Secondly, the Bible is clear that demons possessed humans who clearly had souls. Not good.

But the most dangerous is this notion that created human life is without a soul is the very abominable justification for the social engineering of human life without rights. It was the basis of slavery and it is the basis of current debates about cloning. To own human life because man is in some way its “creator” (not actually true, if man starts with living organisms or DNA as he does in all genetics research). This is of course the justification for atrocities of all kinds, from slavery to holocaust. And it is the very issue undergirding modern genetic experimentation on human life.

But I have to say, I don’t damn this story for its silly illogical and unscientific premise about human souls. After all, sci-fi fantasy is not about reality, it is a metaphor for spiritual meaning. This movie tries to affirm Christian spiritual meaning by subverting the Frankenstein tradition with a spiritual warfare motif taken from the Bible and unfortunately diluted of the real essence of the Christian worldview: Faith and that other unique hybrid being considered the most vile monster of all in our secular world: Jesus Christ.

The Wolverine: Eternity is a Curse if You Have No Meaning

After seeing the previous abysmal Wolverine movie, I almost didn’t go to this one. I am just so tired of these superhero sequels that are boring trash. The first ones are often very good, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Spiderman, and the sequels tend to be typical Hollywood stupidity: Bigger more ludicrous action sequences and many many more villains, too many villains. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Well, not The Wolverine. This one is far better than the first, not just in terms of interesting action but in terms of character and personal drama. The premise is that the Wolverine is hiding out in the forest, grumbling about how he doesn’t want to be the Wolverine, I think because it only ended with him killing his beloved. Okay, makes for a reluctant hero, I guess, which is more interesting. But anyway a Japanese chick in a sexy Japanese school girl’s outfit and a samurai sword tracks him down to bring him to a billionaire Japanese businessman, Yashida, who is dying. Turns out, Wolverine, whose real name is Logan, saved Yashida when Logan was a WWII POW in a Japanese camp near Nagasaki, and Yashida was a guard. It was the fateful bombing of Nagasaki with “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb.

So Yashida has spent his company’s millions developing a way to free Logan from his immortality, make him able to die as he would like. To be able to love, marry, have kids, grow old and die with his loved ones by his side. This is what makes the theme interesting. Because Yashida knows that somehow Logan feels that his immortality is miserable, that “eternity can be a curse.” Logan is described as a Ronin, a samurai without a master, and he’s “destined to live forever with no reason to live.” Yashida says, “You seek what all soldiers do, an honorable death, and an end to your pain.” His pain being evidently his loneliness because as another says, everyone he knows dies, not just through murder, but naturally, as he lives on well past them.

So the Wolverine’s journey is one of discovering meaning and purpose after facing the despair of loneliness and meaninglessness of immortality. This is a quite rich theme to explore and is what makes the movie rise above with transcendence. Logan is a man with gifts to help others but who is a selfish man wanting to be left alone. He has lost the only thing that gave him hope, his beloved Jean from a past movie.

So he is like the Existentialist Superhero who has faced the angst of looking into the Abyss and realizing that life has no meaning because everything dies and is gone and forgotten. So the very thing that all of us would consider the most desire blessing, to live forever, is actually a curse if it is not shared in community, if it is not used to save others.

Here is what I find fascinating about the movie…

SPOILER ALERT: The ultimate villain of the movie is not the mutant Viper, a sexy poisonous mutant who seeks to kill Wolverine, but the very man whom Logan saved, Yashida. Yashida is old and dying and wants take what Wolverine does not want, his immortality so he can live forever to pursue his selfish goal of power. This is akin to the Garden of Eden, where God banishes the primeval couple because if they were to eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in their evil state, there is no end to the amount of destruction that would result.

Two selfish loner men, one who is good and one who is bad fighting over eternal life. When they are locked in a battle at the end of the movie, Yashida tells Logan that Logan has decided that “life without end can have no meaning,” but Yashida has concluded that “It’s the only life that can have meaning.”

Here’s the tricky part. Usually, you put the philosophy that is destructive into the mouth of the villain and we see where that belief ends in terms of consequences. In this case, it might be that those show seek to find eternal life are destructive. But sometimes, the villain is partly right and the hero has to learn from the villain what has been twisted. So in this case, Logan actually learns that he is wrong, and that his eternal life does have meaning if it finds purpose and redemption in serving others instead of solitary selfishness, like the villain would prefer.

This reminds me of a very powerful argument for the meaning of life being found in there being an afterlife. If there is no eternal life, if we all are food for worms, if all we have is what happens in this life, then this life truly has no meaning or purpose, and we are all fools wasting our time. No matter what we think or do, no matter what meaning we try to create or find, there is none transcendent of living itself, and all our “meaning” or “purpose” is a self delusion, created by us to make us feel better.

But only if there is a transcendent eternal life can this life have objective true meaning. Things in this life can only have real meaning if they are rooted in something transcendent to this life. If there is no afterlife, then even eating, drinking and being merry is a waste of time because in the end you are nothing, less than zero, and not even a blip of existence on the timeline of eternity. This life has no real objective meaning whatsoever if there is no eternal life.

A side note I find interesting is that Yashida is a reflection of a very real mentality in some of the older Japanese generation that was saved from total destruction by the West, which they continued to hate even after they lost the War. These few Imperialists still believe in their racist superiority and if in power, would do all over again what they attempted in 1941. It shows you that saving evil people doesn’t necessarily change them into good people. Another insightful moral truth.

R.I.P.D.: Evil Must be Punished or There is No Justice

Men in Black with evil souls instead of aliens. Or Ghostbusters 2013. Ryan Reynolds plays Nick, a cop who finds himself killed in the line of duty and winds up on R.I.P.D. the Rest in Peace Department of “heaven” or whatever it is. They need his skills to help catch renegade evil souls called, Deados, who have escaped the big sucking wind tunnel to the afterworld, in order to hide out on earth in disguise among the living. What Nick, and his veteran partner, Roy, played by Jeff Bridges as a rascally western style sheriff, soon discover is that the evil souls have their own planned apocalypse, and can I say, it ain’t bringing heaven to earth.

Nick discovers he has about a hundred years to help the RIPD, or “take his chances with judgment,” of which he is not too sure he will do well. So he jumps at the chance. The partners have to hunt down the dark souls, whose presence is revealed by their decaying effect on their living quarters. Electricity flutters, and homes fall apart or are covered with grossness and slime. Their own spiritual decay is manifested in them looking ugly and monstrous, but they are able to disguise themselves as normal humans. Their true natures come out when offered Asian or Indian spicy food (I don’t get that one, but you gotta have some rules for the world you create).

Unfortunately, Nick, himself is not a clean soul, as he was involved in taking a little from the coffers of captured criminal gold when he was alive. But he does it only to be able to bless his wonderful loving wife, who means the world to him. Living on a cop’s salary is a temptation to skim.

So, if they can capture the souls and bring them back into a purgatory like holding cell in the sky, then they will eventually be brought to judgment.

Nick’s journey is one of being able to let go of his wife, and redeeming himself since he was taken at too young an age and would be unable to clear his name to her because he wants to right his wrong. But as his partner reminds him, no one dies at a good time, it’s always an inconvenience for our plans.

The bad guys’ plan is based in something called the “Staff of Jericho,” which has ancient roots in the Old Testament times, but it is not really explained so it becomes a mere plot device similar to Ghostbusters. But the point is that it is an ancient pagan religious device that does evil through the spiritual world. In this sense, the picture painted by this movie is a kind of Christian worldview against paganism.

But it’s really more of a Christian worldview subverted by cosmic humanism.

This movie was a mixture of good laughs, warm romance, humanist redemption and SFX. I love the premise. It’s very clever. Because it is an unavoidably spiritual premise, there is unyielding talk of hell and eternal punishment for “bad people.” This is one of those narrative and ethical “proofs for the existence of God.” You cannot tell satisfying stories and you cannot have a moral or ethical universe that does not include real punishment and reward. C.S. Lewis argued that the notion of punishment, far from being the “unfair behavior of a cruel god,” who “casts people into hell,” the notion of punishment is what actually gives meaning and dignity to the human on both a societal level and by extension a spiritual one. If you do not punish a being, then you are denying them the essential dignity to choose good or evil. You are saying that they cannot but do what they do, whether through psychological or internal chemical manipulation or whatever. To punish is not to be cruel at all (if done justly of course), but to affirm that the being could have done otherwise and had the inherent dignity and capability to do so. To freely choose to do good or evil is the thing that dignifies humanity. If we are but victims of our social groups or scientific natural causes, then we are mere puppets to be socially engineered by the elites. And guess who those elites would be? You got it. The privileged ones who believe in those views: The scientific materialists, naturalists, socialists and other totalitarian utopian left wing radicals (to whom the only “evil” is a God who judges – and his followers).

But if there is a God who punishes or judges, then that means he made us with the inherent dignity and power to do right. Our choice not to do right does not make us diseased or sick, but evil. A God who does not punish or judge evil is the most cruel and unjust being possible because billions of innocent victims are denied justice and recompense in favor of the criminal evildoers getting away with it.

Thus the saying, “Compassion to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.” In justice, if you do not punish evildoers, you are punishing the victims (which includes the family and loved ones of those victims). No, worse, you are torturing them by allowing the evildoer to escape justice which intensifies and magnifies the loss of the loved ones for the rest of their lives. It’s like torturing the victims.

Ah, if there was only a way in which our spiritual crimes could be paid for AND we are forgiven, only then can justice and peace embrace. Now, who could be that perfect mediator to fulfill both justice and grace? Who can save us from this body of death? Thanks be to…

Do I digress?

And that is where this movie falls apart. Since the only taboo in some studio movies is GOD, the filmmakers ditch the only logical and reasonable reality of a personal God who judges and replace him with a “universe that judges in its ultimate wisdom.” The universe in this movie is a godless one. It is a pantheistic view that makes the entire universe as if it is the supreme being. Which is ultimately unsatisfying from a story perspective, because now you have a personal story of personal beings who are interacting not with an ultimate person, but with an impersonal abstract force or accumulation of natural laws. BORING. They could have easily used the generic term “God” which would still mean whatever most people wanted it to mean anyway, but it would have been a more satisfying story with a personal connection. Depersonalizing the deity is suicide for storytelling and theology. Impersonal forces do not “judge,” only personal beings do, because “judgment” is an ethical notion between personal beings.

Another half and half movie. Half good stuff about judgment for our deeds on earth, half terrible stuff about a godless pantheistic universe.

And another thing in this movie: What happens when a bad soul doesn’t want to go back in supernatural handcuffs to the “holding cell” to await his judgment? Well, then the RIPD has guns with special bullets that annihilate the soul, destroy them forever. Do not go to Hell, do not collect one hundred dollars, just straight into oblivion of non-existence.

So I got to thinking. The souls who have escaped are all obviously evil, as evidenced by their manifestation. So, if they are going to go to judgment anyway, what would you rather want (as an evil soul), eternal torment or non-existence? And it seemed to me that I would rather cease to exist than suffer forever under punishment. So from the perspective of a spiritual criminal, getting blown away by the RIPD might actually be preferable to judgment.

But from “the universe in its ultimate wisdom” perspective (Ahem, God’s perspective), it seems to me that annihilation would be the ultimate devaluation of human worth because the lack of existence makes the human worth nothing, while continuity of existence, even in judgment, maintains that the human is in the image of God and therefore has eternal value. Kind of an extension of what I was saying about punishment above.

OR would the devaluation of the human into nothing be the ultimate judgment? I can see why some might see it that way. But then again, would God devalue his own image in a human being? I kinda doubt it.

But whatever the case, we do have the promise from God that “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:6–8).

And if you want to see if anyone can actually attain this “righteousness,” go here.

Man of Steel: Jesus Was an Ancient Alien?

The previous Superman movie, what was it called? What was it about again? Eh, forgettable. Except that Bryan Singer clearly played up the religious connections of Superman with Jesus. He did miracles, resurrected from the dead, heard prayers, yada yada. In this one, Superman is age 33 at the time of the current story, and the director places him in front of a stain glass image of Christ in a scene in a church where he struggles with his identity and purpose. We all now know that Superman is a metaphor for Christ, and Man of Steel has a couple of religious elements in it, but with a twist. And that twist is the ancient aliens myth.

Thanks to Christopher Nolan, no doubt, this Superman finally has a richer character development and deeper moral struggle at the heart of his story. Superman is taught by his father to suppress his instinct to retaliate in order to mature in his character so he is capable of handling such great power (Shades of Spiderman! That’s okay. It’s an appropriate theme). Superman’s father doesn’t believe the world was ready for a man of such greatness who would change the world. But young Clark just wants to do good and protect people. He must hide himself in his secret identity because such great power out in the open will only be exploited by others for selfish ends.

The General Zod character is also much richer and a more genuine character in this film than the one we know of from years ago. He is not a mere “villain” who wants to pillage and destroy, he actually wants to save his people of Krypton, which makes him much more real of a character. The only problem is, he wants to do it by displacing us in-the-way earthlings through genocide. The moral dilemma of do you kill others to save your own? Great moral dilemma, which Nolan is always good at.

And a particular moment in the film was quite satisfying. As Superman is fighting with a female bad guy – I mean bad girl – from Krypton, she basically says that his weakness is that he has morality, which they do not have, and that is why he will lose, because evolution always wins. I believe that this is probably the single most widespread idea in the hearts and minds of criminal behavior in our era. Namely, that they justify their immorality by an appeal to what they were taught in their public schools and colleges: We are mere animals and evolution means there is no moral truth that transcends power and survival of the fittest. So if that is true, then there is no justification for moral restraint. Superman is the pinnacle argument against this evolutionary religious philosophy. Nice.

At one moment in Clark’s moral struggle, he has to decide if he should come out of hiding, and give himself over to Zod, or Zod will destroy the world. Then Clark says he doesn’t trust Zod, or for that matter, humans on earth. Clark confesses who he is to a priest who then tells him he has to take a leap of faith before he can find the trust. Didn’t make much sense to me. Too weak of a spiritual understanding to have much meaning. But Superman’s overwhelming motive comes from a love for people to protect them. And the moral of the film is spoken by Jor-el that he believes everyone has the potential to do good with their choices. Pretty bland generic theme without much grist. And if you ask me, it really doesn’t address the fallenness of mankind.

However, this film hosts THE BEST mano a mano superhero fights YET. It makes The Avengers look like, well, a mere comic book. The power and destruction of their battling carries a formidable and fascinating weight to them. One cannot help but draw a connection between Superman’s fighting and the need to fight terrorism in our era, Islamists who would overthrow everyone and kill them indiscriminately for the advancement of their own religious Sharia culture.

Another element that is appropriated in Man of Steel is Transhumanism. On the planet of Krypton, they have overcome natural birth and now create babies in artificial wombs to be genetically programmed to be workers or leaders or what have you (Shades of Brave New World!). The cool thing is that Jor-el, Superman’s father, has Kal-el (Superman’s name on Krypton) born naturally because he values freedom of the human will to decide for itself rather than being engineered by those in power. Quite the indictment of our Socialist mindset of social engineering and egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is the belief that every person should have equal outcomes, not merely freedom to pursue whatever one is best at, but the redistribution of power and wealth and ultimately personal identity through things like multiculturalism, feminism, victimization and other “ism” atrocities taught in modern universities. But egalitarianism is an immoral fraud perpetuated by the hegemony because those in power are the ones who are “more equal than others.” (Another Orwellian reference, Animal Farm). Excellence is dragged down to mediocrity, the health and wealth of ALL is ruined in the name of helping the poor, male and female differences are denied and males denigrated, and the only thing that grows is Big Government, NOT freedom, and all in the name of equality.

Jor-el uploads his consciousness into a computer, which creates another cool way to keep Russell Crowe in the story and communicating with Superman, which I’m all for keeping Russell Crowe in as long as possible. Unfortunately, this transhumanist notion of the reduction of human consciousness to physical digital properties of ‘I’s and ‘O’s is ultimately a materialist belief that humanity does not have a transcendant or spiritual component to us. Oh well, you can’t have it all.

Now for my complaint.

My number one mantra: Movies are not made in a cultural vacuum. And in particular, franchise movies that keep getting remade, often reflect the zeitgeist of the time in their fresh approach to the retold story. And one of the dominant memes of this era is the ancient alien mythology. I’m not talking about alien movies in general, we’ve always had those. I am talking about the belief that was first made popular by Von Daniken in the 1970s with Chariots of Gods, which then became more popular lately with Zechariah Sitchin, and the Ancient Aliens TV series on The Fairy Tale Channel – I mean the History Channel.

Ancient Alien mythology is the belief that religions originated because ancient man was visited by aliens from another planet, and because he was too ignorant and unscientific, he interpreted aliens as gods, and that’s where we got our notions of deity!  These “gods” exploited us to mine our planet for energy, and may come back. Lots of movies are built on this mythos, from Stargate, to Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull to Cowboys and Aliens. It’s all quite – a religious belief – these days – even by an increasing number of scientists. And they say Christians believe in made up stories! Sometimes I really think our “educated” sophisticated “scientific” culture is the most religiously superstitious ever.

I’m not gonna say that this movie is a propaganda piece for ancient alien mythology but merely that it reflects that zeitgeist in it’s new depiction. The entire atmosphere of the movie was that of Close Encounters with ships that looked like they were taken out of Prometheus (another ancient aliens story that literally claimed Jesus was an extraterrestrial alien!). So it’s feel is more about aliens and the destruction of natural resources (another zeitgeist theme of our era) than it is a traditional superhero story. But of course superhero stories are reflections of our cultural mythos. Jor-El, Superman’s Krypton father says that when his son gets to earth and experiences his extraordinary powers, the people will “think him a god.” But of course, we know better. He’s just an alien.

When Zod first makes contact with earth to try to get Superman, we see UFO shots and then Zod broadcasts onto all electronic media: “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” This of course is the meme made famous by Carl Sagan in Contact, which caught on with alien mythology. This meme represents the attempt of secular materialists to replace spiritual hunger with an alien mythology in order to satisfy the inner longing in man to be more than mere particles in the universe. If only we knew that there are aliens, then we would know we are not alone, and somehow feel better. Of course, any honest person would admit that this does not solve our loneliness one bit, because our longing is a spiritual longing. Two lonely beings does not solve loneliness, it merely doubles it. We know that if we are mere animals without moral transcendence in an evolving universe, then our entire existence has no meaning and is empty. THAT is the loneliness we feel. And finding other lonely aliens in need of redemption would never satisfy that inner emptiness. And that is why the Ancient Alien mythology is ultimately a dishonest “god” replacement that does not satisfy the inner need for spiritual redemption.

While it wouldn’t surprise me to see Christopher Nolan, the producer and story originator, to be challenging such secular notions, it would surprise me to see Zach Snyder doing so, since he completely derided religious belief in 300. So maybe this partnership reflects that tension in Man of Steel as well.

Priest

Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi horror. “Vampires have always been with us.” In the future, after the vampire threat has been nullified by the Church’s vampire warrior priests, life is back to normal, and those warrior priests are put back into normal life by the Church. Their vampire hunting is made illegal so that people will feel safe again in their walled in dystopic grungy city. Meanwhile, the vampires have been growing far away in huge hives. And they have been planning a takeover feast of the city. So, when vampire hunter Priest, played with stoic coolness by Paul Bettany, discovers his niece has been captured by vampires in order to turn her, he goes to rescue her against the commands of the Church, which is trying to lull everyone into an institutional sense of safety. So Priest becomes an outlaw.

This movie is what used to be called “anti-clericalism,” that is an attack on the institutional church in favor of individualistic spirituality. The phrase that is repeated multiple times throughout the film in order to make the point is, “To go against the church is to go against God.” Another phrase spoken by the high priests: “To question the authority of the clergy is absolutely forbidden.” This is an obvious reflection of the Roman Catholic Medieval Church’s phrase, “There is no salvation outside the Church.” But this is not quite so simple as an anticlerical call to Protestant Reformation of the priesthood of all believers, because the Priest at first decides that if he is going against God to save his niece, then he will give up on God. So he saves the day and destroys the vampires who reflect original sin because “they are what nature made them to be.”

The Priest concludes, “Out power does not come from the Church, it comes from God. With or without clergy, we’re still priests.” So, the theme is a confusing mixture of individualistic spirituality and anticlericalism with the residue of Protestant Reformed notions. Quite a bit different from say Martin Luther, who affirmed obedience to the authority of the Church as long as he possibly could until he was forced to deny his conscience, at which point he then asserted that God is the ultimate authority over even the Church. The Reformation may have resulted in creating an individualist piety that we suffer from today, but it did not necessarily start out that way. Still the resonances are there for a rather positive Protestant worldview.

Thor

Comic book hero origin story. This movie was much better than I had expected. Probably because the director, Kenneth Branagh brought to it a nuanced Shakespearean quality that was appropriate for this story about the Norse god of thunder. Well, actually, it is a demythology of the Norse mythology. That is, it is one of those stories that explains religion as an ignorant misinterpretation of alien science. In this case, Thor is a warrior from the distant realm of Asgard, who is banished to earth without his power because of his impetuous and arrogance aspiring to the throne of his father, Odin. But in this film we learn that the Norse mythology was wrong. Thor and his breed are not gods, but are simply aliens from another part of the galaxy misunderstood as gods by primitive Vikings. This is a common theme in movies today and I intend to write more in depth on it for BioLogos.org soon.

Anyway, it was an interesting contrast of modern egalitarian culture with a more patriarchal culture in Thor. As he falls in love with the female scientist played by Natalie Portman, we see him treating her with the chivalry of the past and boy, she likes it! This is no feminist fantasy, but a return to a chivalry that feminists would call chauvinism. The big brawny earthy man protecting the female and treating her with gentility and noble language as the weaker vessel. It was quite a clever culture clash.

And the theme of the story is rather traditional as well. Thor’s mighty hammer is on earth, but because of Odin’s whispered spell over it, only a “worthy” man can pick it up and use it. And Thor cannot do so because of his own pride and arrogance and fighting temper. It is not until he chooses to sacrifice himself to be killed by a big marauding monster robot in order to protect the innocent that he is able to regain his powers and vanquish the enemy. And this, after his “resurrection” from the dead. All very religious in it’s theme.

Which brings me to another point. I am further confirmed that the hunger for comic book superheroes and the like is definitely a “God-substitute.” Even though our secular society has rejected the idea of supernatural deity (as evidenced in the demythology of this very story), it craves deity nonetheless and these superhero stories serve as a modernized religious impulse that replaces that “god-shaped vacuum” in all of us. Their ubiquity in our culture matches the prevalence of the polytheism of ancient culture, whether the Greek or Roman pantheon or those of Sumer and Babylon. But their presence shows us that humankind needs deity and will create its own if it has to.

V For Vendetta

Sci-Fi espionage. Anti-Christ bigoted hate-speech. A futuristic dystopic England that is ruled over by maniacal Christian fanatics is undone by an anarchic terrorist. (The Public Relations mouthpiece uses God talk in his speeches, the symbol of the state is a double cross, and the government posters all say, “Unity through faith,” an obvious reference to “One nation under God” Some government agents quote Proverbs, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” to justify beating the hero with a police baton). It is entirely beyond rational explanation how people like these storytellers, the Wachowskis, can be so blind as to see the world the exact opposite of the way it is. It is on the level of insanity. Or rather, shall we say, they are themselves trapped in the Matrix.

Do these Wachowskis have any clue that it is Muslim countries that would chop off the Wachowski brothers’ heads for their alternate sexual lifestyles? They are worrying about some non-existant Christian government in a fever-brained hallucination of the future oppressing gays when actual existing MUSLIM governments are actually oppressing and killing gays and Christians right now! My God, these kids must have gone to public school.

Actual Muslim totalitarian regimes of genocidal maniacs right now all through the earth killing Christians and outlawing the Bible, and the Ws are “sending the alarm” to watch out for Christian regimes THAT DO NOT EXIST as if they would make Islam and the Koran illegal? This cannot be mere stupidity that causes this kind of upside down view. It can only be pure hatred and bigotry. It boggles the mind, But then, when you are Nietzschean, as these blokes are, you give up your mind for a Dionysian blood bath of hatred and the will to power – all in the name of freedom. Interesting, that their hero Nietzsche’s views actually led to the very totalitarian Nazism that they warn about in Christianity.

Interesting that the V hero says “words are more powerful than truncheons” and that in words lie the power of truth, but according the THEIR Nietzsche, there is no truth to words but mere will to power, the very thing they accuse others of. To Nietzsche, there is no absolute truth behind words, only perspective mastering words to enslave others. V says that enough people blowing up buildings can change the world. So the Ws are actually supporters of terrorism and murder.

There were a few moments of truth, such as the comments that “people should not fear their governments, governments should fear their people,” and “ideas are bullet proof.” And guess who said comments like that in real life history, W bros? Those lunatic Bible believing religious fanatics who founded our country on Christian ideas that provided your freedom to spout hate speech.