American Gods: Secular Man Still Worships & the Gods are Crazy

The Starz network series, American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s horror novel is a supernatural story of the “old gods” who immigrated to America with various people groups rising up in war against the new gods of technology and culture that now rule our society.

It’s a great creative idea that in some ways reflects what I have been doing in my own universe of fictional writing. So I was naturally fascinated by the premise.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be a great idea gone bad. A mixed bag of profound spiritual wisdom and depraved humanist blasphemy.

Disenchantment

American Gods focuses on a convict, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), just released from prison only to discover his wife, Laura (Emily Browning), and his best friend died in a car accident while in an adulterous affair. On his way to the funeral, Shadow meets a peculiar old man, named Wednesday (Ian McShane), who hires him as a bodyguard of sorts. Shadow soon discovers that Wednesday claims to be a chief of the old gods who once laid claim to America through those who found their way here in the past, willingly or not. And we see vignettes in each episode of these gods arriving on America’s virgin shores—or really, raped shores. Odin with the Vikings, Bilquis and Anubis with some of the slaves, a Leprechaun with the Irish, Jinn with Muslims and others. In the story, these are real beings with real, though limited supernatural powers.

It’s a common fantasy theme about the “disenchantment” of the natural world that science and technology creates in modernity. The “old gods” represent the sense of wonder that the ancients had of the life in a world interpreted as containing a goddess of spring, a god of storm, a goddess of sex, and so on. In modernity, and in this story, these gods have become like neglected elderly homeless who scrounge around in lives of squalor as the new gods of technology, like “Media,” “Technical Boy,” and others occupy us with obsessive entertainment and electronic diversion that amounts to sacred devotion to the profane. We’ve lost the “magic” and “wonder” of life. We think we’ve become enlightened and put behind us the ignorance of religion, but we remain decidedly religious creatures who worship new gods under the guise of secularism. The goddess Media sometimes appears as Lucille Ball, sometimes as Marilyn Monroe, icons of worship no less religious than Bilquis the old god of sexuality who calls upon her sexual partners to verbalize worship to her as they engage in sex with her.

Spiritual Profundity

And that is the brilliance of the story, as in the original book by the same title (Although in this case, the show is better than the book). It brings alive a profound truth that modern secular man seeks to deny, namely that secular modernity is just as much a culture of religious worship as the old world. We humans are homo religicus, worshipping beings. And the world of media that traffics in narrative imagination is just as much an artificial creation of the human craving for the transcendent as are the religions of old. We have replaced one mythology with another mythology and mistaken the latter as progress.

Ah, but therein lies the rub… Continue reading

Antiviral, the Movie: The Horror of Celebrity Worship.

Antiviral

On Netflix Streaming. Sci-fi horror about the near future, when drug companies create a new way for fans to get even more intimate with their celebrities: injections of viruses directly from sick celebrities into their obsessive fans.

The story follows Syd March, who works for the Lucas Clinic, that creates cultures of pathogens directly from the blood cells of sick celebrities, and sells them to fans who seek to have the very cells of celebrities fuse and mutate with their own in a twisted form of identification. Lucas Clinic custom designs the molecular structures of the sicknesses so they are not contagious and therefore not transferable. They want to maintain their patent and profits after all. It’s positively diabolical and absurd in its notion, yet, not far from the truth of the spiritual sickness of our culture of celebrity worship. Indeed, watching this film, I actually think it is quite prescient of where we are going as a culture.

One more gruesome corollary of this dystopian future is that celebrities also sell their normal body cells to be clone-cultured and grown into slabs of meat, that are also sold and eaten by the adoring public. It’s quite literally a science-justified form of cannibalism, since the cultures are not persons, but just meat made from their cells. Of course, its all done in a very clean and white environment, so the hideousness is hidden behind the veneer of “safe science.”

Syd engages in some blackmarket moonlighting by injecting himself with pathogens that enable him to remove the copy protection on the virus, that he then sells to his shady contact. But when Syd injects himself with a deadly pathogen of famous celebrity Hannah Geist, he now must try to save his own life before he follows the young woman to the grave.

Coming from the son of David Cronenberg, one must be aware there will be some influence of dad on this filmmaker. Thus, it is all a bit bloody and physically repulsive at times, artsy and opaque at others. But the directing and acting is excellent, and the beautiful cinematography lent a powerful irony to the eerie darkness beneath the surface. I found it a quite truthful picture of the nature of celebrity worship and how it is a form of idolatry that leads to bizarre self-inflicted degradation on the part of the populace, as well as the willingness on the part of celebrities who are virtual and willing house slaves to those who “cannibalize” them.

This movie was weird, but it really had a profound spiritual truthfulness to it that remains an echo in my memory, long after I’ve forgotten whatever big stupid movie I’ve seen in the theaters this week has dissolved.

Deliver Us From Evil: Muscular Spirituality Vs. Foolish Materialism

 

Maybe Deliver Us From Evil is just another demon possession movie that’s combined with a cop crime story.

But I doubt it.

Written and Directed by Scott Derrickson, this movie is inspired by the true story of Ralph Sarchie, a New York cop who encountered murders involving demon possession. He joins up with a Roman Catholic exorcist to solve the crimes, and in the process, he rediscovers his lost faith.

Okay, horror is not for everyone. But in this modern world that denies the supernatural, along with God, sometimes the best way to break through the rabid materialistic worldview of our culture is through horror. It’s a kind of apologetic that proves God by proving supernatural evil. If people believe there is a devil, it’s a pretty self-evident corollary that there is a God.

Ad300x250-HorrorWhat I like most about Derrickson’s cinematic portrayal of demon possession (This and The Exorcism of Emily Rose), is his understated realistic approach. He doesn’t rely on special effects gimmicks or make up that are impossible in the real world. The things that happen are mostly the kind of things that really do happen in demon possession cases. So no heads turning around or impossible levitations. Don’t get me wrong, there are contortions, dilated pupils, cuts appearing on bodies, and even preternatural strength and multiple voices. But these are all documented around the world to have occurred in such cases. He doesn’t “Hollywoodize” that stuff to an unbelievable extreme, which is what makes a lot of other demon movies just goofy. I’m not against adding fantasy or beefing it up if you are playing to certain genre demands. I’ve done so myself. But when you are dealing with true stories like Derrickson does, it makes it more scarier to be more realistic.

Now, while I didn’t find this one as scary as say Emily Rose or other demon possession movies like Paranormal Activity or The Last Exorcism, it is still compelling with its share of frights and a couple of eerie shots that make your skin crawl. His demonic “floor scratching” sounds (a common element of the genre) are the scariest I’ve ever heard. Scariness can be a very subjective thing, and the more you’ve seen, the less seems scary. So if you don’t normally watch horror, this will probably be plenty scary.

What I really found fascinating was the priest who teamed up with the cop. The priest, Mendoza, breaks all the stereotypes of priests in movies. He’s young, not old; cool, not archaic, flawed, not holy, forgiven, not judgmental, and best of all, the wise mentor, not the fool. As Sarchie uncovers the spiritual reality behind the murders, he struggles with his own lost faith. But the essence of the spiritual battle is brought out with Christian clarity like I’ve never seen before in a horror movie. In one moment, the priest tells him something like, “You have seen a lot of evil in your job, no doubt. But that is secondary evil. But until you’ve seen primary evil, you do not know true evil.” And of course, demonic evil is primary evil.

Ad300x250-SexAndViolenceBut the priest is not a false holy monk, either. He’s a real sinner, who sinned grievously AS A PRIEST. But what makes this portrayal so different from all the other movies that try to make priests out to be all secret adulterers and child molesters and hypocrites, is that this one shows a priest who confesses that sin and repents and turns back to God. That is grace. That is what the secular world cannot understand. Because Derrickson is a Christian, he can bring that kind of nuance and complexity to a spiritual character as flawed but heroic. This is the director that should be directing the next movie on King David, not another Hollywood secularist trying to subvert a sacred narrative.

SPOILER ALERT: The priest explains that the cop must confess his sins because our unrepented sins are the dark secrets that supernatural evil can use against us. Wow. Only when Sarchie confesses his sins, is he “covered” by God’s power. This is all done in the context of Roman Catholicism, where Sarchie confesses to Mendoza, who then says, “I absolve you.” So anti-Catholics will not like this. Those less bothered by theological distortions, will argue that it WAS his experience that is the story, and the principle behind it is true, that confession of sins to God and forgiveness is our redemption and power to fight such primary evil (distortions notwithstanding).

Another problem as I see it with the genre is that demon possession movies all must end with the third act as the Exorcism sequence. This makes it so hard to come up with something new. Cause it’s usually a priest and others in a room repeating the exorcism ritual as the person manifests supernatural reactions. What have we not seen before? Many times movies try to outdo each other with more spectacular effects, but again, Derrickson does not bow to that cheap way out, though he certainly has a few goodies to offer.

Again, they use the Roman Catholic ritual of exorcism. Look, I realize that they do use that in real life, AND I realize it is more cinematic to engage in a ritual that has progression to it. But I’ve always hoped that people don’t think that recounting words like some kind of magic formula is how to fight a demon. In the Bible, it is the faith of the believer and his calling upon JESUS CHRIST to cast the demon out that does it (And this surely does occur at the end of the exorcism in the movie). But I’ve always been amazed at how in the New Testament, casting out demons was a relatively quick procedure, certainly not as dramatic for a movie. They would cast out in the authority of Jesus Christ, and BAM, they left. Now, Jesus does say that there are some tough cases that require prayer and even fasting. So there are more difficult cases to be sure, but it was not the norm in the first century.

I am studying a lot about Jesus’ ministry as an exorcist for my next novel, Jesus Triumphant, so it is going to be quite a challenge. The real question that many believers never explore is: Exactly what are demons? Everyone assumes “fallen angels.” But the Bible does not say that they are fallen angels, it just calls them evil spirits. Where do they come from? There is an interesting option not normally discussed among polite company. I will be dealing with that in a way I have not yet seen done. Unfortunately, you won’t know until next year, cause I have not written the book yet. But you can find out the theology of it all in my book When Giants Were Upon the Earth: The Watchers, The Nephilim, and the Biblical Cosmic War of the Seed, here on Amazon.

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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 Walking Dead: Zombies, God, and What Makes us Human

I recently finished the third season of the Walking Dead. I have always been a big movie guy, not much of a television watcher. I like the punch of a two hour story that has it all, including rich characters, human drama, with climax and resolution. It has a very satisfying sense to it, like eating a good steak dinner. However, I have grown to appreciate television series as the best writing that is out there these days in storytelling. The advantages of this medium is more about the characters. Its purpose is to get you to love the characters so much that you want to see them go through their extended journeys. So the focus on movies is more on the story and the focus of television is more on characters. Of course there is much story going on in a series but it is more drawn out and takes much longer to achieve its character arcs and resolution. A series is more like engaging in a new diet. It takes more patience but you see the effects down the road and they can be more lasting. But this is why I think it has a more powerful influence on our cultural values. Because the longer you saturate within the worldview of a narrative, the more affected you are by its values. This is why television is also more dangerous in its ability to saturate viewers in the worldviews of its storytellers for a longer period and change their values and worldview so widespread through the emotional immersion.

So I try to be careful what I immerse myself in regarding these television narratives. I have found though that The Walking Dead has been quite a positive extension of the positive values of zombie movies, along with a few cautionary dangers to be aware of.

First off, many people already have a hard time with zombie stories. They think they are just a glorification of blood and gore and should be rejected as dehumanizing. Not true. Some are. But not all. In fact, the very essence of the zombie story is as a cultural critique of social values that dehumanize us. They explore the moral question of what makes us human? What gives us dignity? How are we any different from animals? What keeps civilization from falling apart into anarchy? These are all VERY relevant and important issues in our morally relative culture of naturalism and atheistic evolution. I have written about this elsewhere in an article on the value of the horror genre as morality tales that address the reality of evil, our sinful nature, and social injustices, and in a blog post of World War Z.

The Walking Dead is very simply the story of a band of refugees in a post-apocalyptic scenario of America overrun by zombies. The lead character, Rick Grimes, is a cop who leads the multicultural group that contains a proper diversity of men, women, black, Asian and sometimes “other” people on a quest to find a safe habitation, first in the American South and then in the Midwest.

They are in fact looking for a home, a place of safety and order in a world of chaos. A primal urge in all of us. As they scavenge for survival, they encounter various groups of other survivors whose values come into conflict with their own, as they themselves struggle to maintain order and authority within their ranks. Otherwise they will end up killing each other, just like the zombies around them.

The power of a zombie story is that it strips down our outward mask of values that we wear in society. When we are faced with survival our true natures come out and for too many of us, that is an ugly nature indeed. This is not imagination. This is reality. Many people’s true selfishness comes out when they are forced to choose between saving themselves and helping others. The Walking Dead (TWD) shows that when we no longer have law and order keeping society in line, some of us will struggle to create a new structure and others will lay aside their moral veneer and seek to exploit and use others for their own survival. This is an incarnation of the moral challenge that who we are is determined by how we behave when no one is watching us, or when we think we won’t have consequences for our behavior.

But it is more than that. It also is about the question, “What makes us human or civilized?” In season two, Rick’s group finds their way to a farmhouse that has been happily untouched by zombie attacks. But it’s owned by an old geezer. Now, in the outer world, its pretty much a free for all scavenge fest. Nothing is owned by anyone anymore, except those who can protect it with violence. Now at this safe haven, do they respect the old man’s authority because it is his own property, or do they just take him over? Is there such a thing as private property in such a lawless state? TWD proves that you must respect private property as a foundation of civilization, and you must respect authority, or you end in chaos. In season three, they commandeer a prison that provides the first real rest and security in a long time (with all its fences and locked bars). The irony being that it was a place that was used to keep monsters in, now it is used to keep them out.

Early on, Rick says, “This is not a democracy,” as in we must have a leader who has strong authority over the group or they will fall apart. And for most of the show, this proves true. Until Rick himself starts to break from the strain, and is challenged by his best friend, another cop, Shane. Rick is a mental leader, and a man of strong ethical emphasis. He even continues to wear his uniform and hat for quite a while. But Shane is more the “muscle” and earthy pragmatic man who seeks to lead by doing the dirty work that no one else wants to do, but must be done. He is not a survivalist, but he is more of a survivor mentality. He is willing to give up on those who are weak in order to survive. Rick however, tries to balance the needs of the individual with the needs of the community. To be a man of justice, but also compassion. He tries to keep a high value on the dignity of others. But survival bears heavily on his ethics and he becomes a harder man as the series goes on. He also almost breaks down mentally at the death of some significant characters in his life. He eventually softens and includes the group more in the decisions when he learns his lesson that he needs his followers as much as they need a leader.

Through many episodes the people are faced with difficult life situations that place the two ethics of survival and sacrifice in conflict. Should they go back to save one person if it jeopardizes everyone else? Should they keep searching for a little lost girl when doing so also endangers the rest of them? Can they kill their beloved if they “turned” into a zombie? By and large, those who would stress survival over sacrificial helping of others tend to be the least humanized and we see that we must maintain an elevation of human life if we are to maintain our own dignity, society and sanity. Those who maintain the ethic of sacrifice for others are sometimes killed, but always the ones upon whom “civilization” continues to grow. This is of course assuming that the zombies are truly no longer “human” so the killing of them is NOT the same thing as killing a human. They are undead. They are more like rabid animals to be put down because they destroy living humans. This is more self-defense than anything. But we will talk about that in a minute.

Suffice it to say that this elevation of civilization being founded on us maintaining the Christian ethic of self sacrifice for others rather than the evolutionary ethic of survival of the fittest is something that makes this show so important. Because humanity is still so thoroughly evil we still have a strong contingent who believe that there is no absolute morality, we only “socially construct” morality to control others. Might makes right. Sure, these relativists may not all be Kim Jong Ils or serial killers, but they are university professors and “scientists” and sociologists teaching kids these values in a world of constant evolutionary change. Our modern universities are breeding zombie nihilist kids, because teachers and professors deny all moral absolutes (with the exception of their Leftism of course) and with it all religion as patriarchal fascist control, but they themselves are behaving as if there are moral values of civility and such. But the next generation becomes more consistent and starts to live consistently with those relativist values. They start to behave as if there are no moral absolutes. It’s that simple really. And thus we have the growing zombie apocalypse thanks to public education and the universities.

In season three, they run into another walled community, Woodbury, that is led by a benevolent dictator, affectionately called The Governor. On the outside, he is a nice Southern gentleman who also rules as a benevolent dictator, but in reality, he is a dark violent soul. Their “Bedford Falls” of happy suburban life contained within a walled perimeter turns out to be a police state underneath of human experimentation and gladiatorial games with zombies for cathartic violence. But the Governor also seeks to kill Rick and his band.

But here is where I would like to encourage all Christians to support this series by watching it. This setup of the Governor and his little town is the classic Hollywood scenario of an outwardly happy traditional suburban world with a dark underbelly that almost always includes a Christian religious element to it. The usual revelations would be that they pray as they kill people, or the Governor uses “right wing” religious rhetoric because he wants to set up a theocracy.

BUT THIS NEVER HAPPENS IN THE SERIES!

There is not an ounce of religious rhetoric from the survivalists or the Governor! I could not believe it. I applaud the writers of the show for not exercising the typical bigotry and hatred of Christians that network and cable writers so often display.

It is pathetic to me that the bigotry and discrimination against Christians and their faith has become so ubiquitous in Hollywood storytelling that I get excited about a series just because it doesn’t attack Christians!

But there is more to it than that.

In fact, God has an increasingly positive role in this series. In the first season, there was only one sequence where they stumble upon a church with a few zombies sitting in the pews looking at the cross of Christ up front. Okay, that’s a funny irony. But it pretty much just became a scene where Rick prays to the Christ statue for some help, while having a hard time believing he is there. Okay, That’s fair. Of course, we all question God with serious tragedies. Some cool possibilities. But unfortunately nothing ever really came of it. In fact, I remember thinking that it was not a very honest portrayal to have people in this life and death lifestyle and none of them really be dealing with the whole God and suffering and evil thing. You don’t have to be a believer to acknowledge that when you face death, you at least wrestle with God. Also, the fact that there was a crucifix in a Baptist church showed the ignorance of the writers about Evangelical faith. But that is forgivable.

Anyway, in season two, they meet Herschel, the old man with the farm, who read his Bible and kept his family members who had turned to zombies penned in his barn. He was unwilling to kill them because he thought they were still human. Okay, you could say that this is a kind of critique of Christian’s elevation of the sanctity of life to the point where they give something dignity that does not deserve it according to these story tellers. Plus he was a pacifist, an unlivable worldview in a world of pure survival. So I was thinking, uh oh, here it is, the stupid Christian stereotype coming.

BUT IT DIDN’T HAPPEN! I am very glad to admit I was wrong twice on this account.

Herschel had a traumatic experience that got him to overcome his pacifist silliness and false views of zombies and he ends up in season three as the moral conscience that keeps Rick in line when he starts to sway. Herschel even describes himself as “losing his way” by being out of line with the Bible. I was blown away. In fact, the whole series is an incarnate argument against pacifism and left wing theories about the “goodness” of human nature and the need to “understand” evil instead of condemn it and strike it down. The zombies are not the only ones who will keep coming to eat you until you destroy them. The villains like The Governor will not stop in their lawless pursuit of killing the good and controlling everyone else until you put them down — as in permanently — as in with a gun.

Take that you immoral gun control advocates who seek to arm the evil and disarm the good.

Not only that, but Herschel’s faith becomes a little more positive element when he quotes the Bible to unruly Meryl, a man who is sure to become a Judas in Rick’s group. Both Meryl and Herschel had a limb cut off, Meryl cut his own to save his life in the first season, and Meryl had his leg chopped off because a zombie bite in the leg would have turned him if Rick had not cut it off in time. Meryl quotes Matthew 25 to Meryl: “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” This is a powerful metaphor for the seriousness of sin, but also for the power of repentance for Meryl, and he sees this. It would be nice if season four brings some kind of redemption for a rather brutal and bad man. We shall see.

Well, there’s a ton more of course, but I will end with my one caveat of caution. While TWD does not have a whole lot of zombie violence, there is some in every show, and it is not a pretty sight for those of weak stomach, since the only way for zombies to be fully stopped is by cutting off their heads or smashing their brains in. TWD is quite responsible in not becoming gratuitous. But we should be careful of the amount of such violence in our entertainment diet, even if it is morally appropriate violence. Because too much of a good thing can be bad. It may even have the very effect the storytellers intend to avoid: A tendency to dehumanize real people in our world.

But that is a small caveat to an otherwise powerful and morally rich tale of survival and sacrifice that lands decidedly in the camp of Christian values for civilization.

So far. We shall see about season four. After all, we all know what happened to 24.

The Mortal Instruments: A Dualistic Story of the Supernatural Without God

Action horror. Hot girl realizes she’s both Harry Potter and Luke Skywalker in a Twilight World of battling werewolves and vampires. (In this movie, zombies “don’t exist,” so right off the bat you know it is an inferior horror film)

The movie starts out rather well with a very cool sequence of Clary, a young artist high schooler I think, learning that she has a secret identity she is not aware of. Her mom is hiding her true identity to her, she can see demonic and angelic things others cannot, and demons in the form of earthly creatures are after her.

As soon as the mythical background starts to be explained, everything becomes very jumbled and hard to follow. She eventually learns she is a “child of the Nephilim.” Though this is never really explained except I think it occurs when someone drank from a chalice cup that an angel Raziel offered at the Crusades. Didn’t make much sense to me.

So this is why she can see the spirit world, because she is half-human, half-angel. It’s a Nephilim story! And all the demons, vampires and other monsters want to find that magic cup that Clary’s mother has hidden, while Clary has the location embedded in her memory somewhere. Although I couldn’t remember why drinking from the cup was so wanted by the villains. I think it was because that would make them half-angel? Oh, I don’t remember, it was just kinda dumb.

So, normal humans are called “Mundanes” because they can’t see the spirit world (The American word for “Muggles” – Give her a break, you gotta call them something and it’s gotta reflect the fact that they are blind to one half of reality). Vampires and werewolves are called “downworlders” because they inhabit the world down here. And the good guys are “Shadow Hunters,” which are Nephilim who kill demons. If you know anything about the Biblical Nephilim, none of this makes any sense. But if you want to follow a cool Biblical fantasy tale about the Nephilim, check out this cool series. Meanwhile, Clary realizes she has the ability to tattoo runes on herself that bring powerful enchantments to stop demons and other stuff.

So the worldview in this story seems to downplay angels to almost non-existent. Sure, the evil arch-villain Raziel was an angel, but the heroine’s helper ally, the shadow hunter Jace, a scrawny effeminate kid who is somehow able to topple big bad bulky muscular guys, explains that “he’s never seen an angel.” So, I’m sure they are there in the series, but not in this movie. But when they retrieve weapons from a church, Clary asks about the religious reality behind their battle. Jace explains that they “know no religion,” and they could just as well hide their weapons in a mosque or a buddhist temple or Hindu temple. He then says he doesn’t believe in religion, he “believes in himself.” Then when Clary learns about the history of the evil angel Raziel, she is told by a master shadow hunter that they are engaged in a battle of good and evil, “a war that can never be won.” In other words, the world is a Dualistic eternal battle between opposing good and evil that are pretty much equal and always in conflict – hey, just like Star Wars! Just like Eastern Dualism! And then she realizes whose daughter she is and you go, “Hey, just like Star Wars!” Okay, sorry I spoiled it for you. You won’t miss anything cause it’s all rather vapid.

No reference whatsoever to God occurs in this story of supernatural demons and AWOL angels. It’s another riduculous attempt to hijack the mythos of Judeo-Christianity and to exorcise the most essential element, God, while keeping the corpse of the imagery and trying to resurrect it with occultic spells and magic. BTW, I have no problem with having occultic elements in the story per se, but the context determines their meaning and in this world, there is some abstract impersonal force that is actually quite boring because it has no personality and no metaphysical sense to it.

Okay, there is one tiny waaaaay ambiguous cool reference to God when we discover that the musical genius Bach was a shadow hunter and playing his music uncovers demons because it makes them go mad and they reveal themselves. Bach was a Christian who wrote music to God’s glory, so that could have been meaningful in its proper context.

One cool statement at the ending sums up the reality of spiritual awareness. Clary is sad and scared that “I don’t see the world the same. I see demons and angels.” To which Jace responds, “The world is the same. You’re just different.” That does sum up the reality of spiritual enlightenment, even if it comes in the context of a contradictory dualistic worldview.

The Host: Socialism Kills the Individual Spirit

A flaccid futuristic dystopian morality tale about Collectivism vs. Individualism. Another kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If it were not for the phenomenally talented acting of Saorise Ronan, this movie would be terribly boring and tepid. As it is, it is only boring and tepid. How the heck do you say that name? “Seer-sha Ronin.”

Okay, the wonderful Saorise plays Melanie, one of the last people left on earth who have not been taken over by a parasitic alien population that gives you shining blue irises. Evidently, these aliens are called “souls” and they are ethereal but physical glowing tentacle little things that you insert into a human by making a cut in the back of their neck. The alien then embeds itself in the human host and takes over the consciousness. The human soul is still there, but it becomes dormant as the new being takes over.

But these are not the evil malicious soulless beings of the traditional Body Snatchers fame. These are actually nicer than humans. In fact, the narrator at the beginning of the film states that “the earth is at peace, no hunger, no violence, the environment is healed, and everyone is courteous to all. Our world has never been more perfect.” There’s just one problem it isn’t our world anymore. So no matter how nice they are, they are still invaders who are stealing our home. AND they are without emotion and physical passion. In other words, this is the worldview that believes that we can only find harmony by using reason and denying the passions of humanity. Maybe a metaphor for the Enlightenment.

Melanie gets caught and has a “soul” implanted in her. But she is a rascally independent spirited individual, who is not easily suppressed, and she fights in her mind with the being that has taken her over, named the Wanderer, or Wanda. The government or collective or whatever it is, has agents who seek to hunt down all the last remnant of humans in order to finalize their colonization of the planet. So they want to use Melanie to track them down by exploring her memories, not accessible to the Wanderer Wanda. Melanie fights back and is able to touch something in the heart of this “soul” being, and Wanda decides to escape the compound and find the humans to help them. Or something like that.

A small group of humans are hiding out in a secret cave in the desert led by a strong leader, Jeb, (William Hurt), who says, “This isn’t a democracy, it’s a dictatorship. A benign dictatorship.” So the obvious comparison is that human society is the opposite of the aliens, it is individualistic but led by strong leaders and has passion and emotion. It’s messier and more dangerous, but it is our humanity and we cannot deny it. Messy freedom is more desirable than safe control. Which is the same theme as the director’s other films The Truman Show and Simone. This is an important theme to him obviously.

But this is a deliberate parable about the danger of collectivist thinking (like socialism, leftism, communism). At one point, an alien says to a human, “You think the loss of your will is too great a sacrifice, but we have to think of the common good.” To which Melanie responds, “Call it what you want, this is murder!” Murder, that is of the individual soul, the freedom of the individual as it sinks into the collective.

Melanie finds the secret human group and they divide over wanting to kill her or keep her alive. Since she might be a spy or she might betray them. So the whole thing is set up to be a moral dilemma that wrestles with our identity as humans. And this is the problem with the movie: Because so much of the struggle is an interior dialogue between Wanda and her host Melanie, you have long lingering shots of Melanie’s face contorting through the inner debate as we hear it in voiceover. This kind of inner monologue does not work well with movies in such an extensive fashion, because it becomes less dramatic and more mental. HOWEVER, as I said, Saorise is such a talented actor, that she made it tolerable.

Wanda begins to prove herself by helping the group, saving someone who tried to kill her, and falling in love with one of the human guys. So the whole thing is about learning to love and accept the “Other.” From fearing them as hostile to seeing they are just like us capable of the same loves and fears and goodness as well as badness. But the moral problem comes when they realize that to release the aliens from humans, they can’t seem to keep either alive in the process. So how do they free Melanie? Are they any different from Wanda’s colonial race by slaughtering her people? It’s a good moral dilemma that carries interest despite the otherwise lame drama.

The whole thing looked pretty low budget with cheesy TV action. I’ve seen better TV action actually. And there were a lot of goofy holes that made me cringe. Like the humans putting on sunglasses at night to hide their pupils after they have been pulled over – like they’re not going to be told to take them immediately off. And then there’s the fact the Melanie does not want to tell the humans that she is inside with the alien still. You see, they believe that the old person is totally gone and taken over. But they aren’t. Then why the HECK would she not want to tell them that she is inside still? Especially if they might kill her because they believe she is not there anymore!!! Argh. Obviously to keep the plot going or there would be no moral or dramatic tension. And then there is the kissing. Obviously written by a woman because it is through the kiss that the inner Melanie is brought out. When she kisses her old boyfriend, she gets angry for him kissing the body that is in control of by someone else. Oh, it’s all a bit too silly. But kinda cute. Chicks will like it.

The silliest of all is the liberal mindset at the end when we discover that you cannot remove the alien from the human “by force. It can only be captured by kindness and love.” In other words, if they just coax the little things out, they’ll come out and everyone lives! Oh puhleeze. And then when the evil alien Seeker who has been trying to find the humans becomes violent herself, but is captured, rather than killing her, the good alien says, “There has been too much death. Not death, exile.” So they send her to another planet deep in space – WHERE SHE CAN “VIOLENTLY” TAKE OVER ANOTHER SPECIES OF CREATURE. And it is violence, even if you do it nicely and softly. Because the point is that it is violence against the individual. This is the stupidity of liberal thinking about judicial punishment. Liberals think that if we just treat evil and violent offenders with understanding and “put them away,” in exile of jail, we will fix the problem. But the reality is recidivism, repeat offenders who are simply released to commit their violent crimes on someone else. And that is exactly what this movie was unwittingly affirming is to release evil upon someone else other than “us.” THAT is barbaric cruelty. The barbarism of unintended consequences of liberal thought.

The cure in this story unfortunately is worse than the disease. It perpetuates the very violence it seeks to decry by not fighting evil with force.

The Conjuring: Got Demons? A Little of Jesus Goes a Long Way

Demon horror. Supposedly true story based on an incident in the 1970s about the most horrifying experience of two paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Perron family with five girls enter their new farmhouse out in the rural area (of course) only to discover it is haunted by evil entities. They hire the famous Warrens to figure it out and so the confrontation occurs. That’s pretty much it. Pretty much the usual haunted house story with creaking boards, slamming doors, birds flying into windows, dogs seeing spirits, cold areas, rotten smells, and the usual exorcism scene. But I’m not being negative. These things must all be there and the filmmakers do very well in telling this rich “true” story. It’s a good solid horror film with good creepy moments and good character development, with solid performances by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, as well as Lili Taylor.

It’s a kind of origin story for all those Ghosthunters we have nowadays with their fancy electronic equipment and pseudo-scientific means of detecting ghosts and whatnot. But in the 70s, they were just starting out, so we see them setting up an analog reel to reel recorders and flash still cameras with thermostats to catch any change in temperature. And of course, a super 8mm camera. It was a clever homage to today’s more developed scene.

I went to this film with high hopes because I had read it was written by Christians who seemed to express in an interview how much Jesus was the answer to addressing demonic entities, unlike 90% of these supernatural horror movies that only have religion to show how powerless it is against supernatural evil. Okay, maybe 80%.

Well, I can’t say I was entirely satisfied, but kind of pleased. I’m conflicted. This is a mixture of good and bad elements.

The Warrens are depicted not so much as Christian believers as pragmatic users of religion. They believe demons are real, and they have connections with Roman Catholic church for exorcisms and blessings, but they appear to fight evil entities, they do not seem to call upon God in faith. They don’t pray or exhibit anything that illustrates they are true believers. This is a fine distinction, but stay with me.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert in fighting demonic spirits and don’t want to be. But it seems to me that as I read in the Bible, demons are mostly cast out in the name/power of Jesus Christ by his faithful followers (Acts 16:16-18), but sometimes even unbelievers can do so by appealing to Jesus (Matt 7:21-23). It’s usually pretty simple, and usually a verbal casting out, as opposed to exorcism, except for more difficult cases that may require prayer and fasting (Mark 9:14-29). But those who are not followers of Messiah can be possessed or even beat up when they try to exorcise demons (Acts 19:13-20).

In the movies, I realize religious relics like crosses and religious rites like exorcisms are much more filmic and visual, but I have always had a problem with the Roman Catholic rite as presented in these films. And it’s used in The Conjuring as well.

Here’s my beef: It seems to create a picture of sympathetic magic, whereby a demon’s power is subdued by proper ritual engagement. You’ve all seen it, and its in The Conjuring as well: They read off a bunch of Latin ritual texts as if saying magic words are where the power lies, rather than the actual appeal to the living God over that spiritual being. It makes it appear that the victory is in some ritual action than in the faith of the believer. That would be magic.

In this movie, the mother is possessed by a demon that wants to get her to kill her daughter. When they start reading off the magical words in Latin, and sprinkle holy water on the mother, it brings out the demonic presence and we see all the typical (not bad, and not stupid, but definitely typical) demonic special effects that take you out of the story and make it only a movie. You know, the special demonic pupils, the face that looks like Linda Blair possessed, and the ability to do levitation and move everything in the house. Unfortunately, the moment that happens, I no longer believe the story and just know I am watching a movie with special effects.

But in this story, they overcome the demon ultimately by saying something like “I command you to go back to hell” and then speaking to the mom underneath by saying, “Don’t let it take you over, remember your love for your children.” In other words, no appeal to Jesus Christ.

So the picture it paints is more one of self-salvation than faith.

Nowhere is anyone depicted as being in relation to God. Religion is a weapon, but not a relational reality. God seems to be more of a tool. We can fight demons and win if we use the right magical weapons. It is good that they show the religious means of battling this demon and they do make reference in the movie to suggesting the girls be baptized in order to protect them, and these are all technically allusions to faith, but without any content. The problem I had was that these were all in context, rituals of sympathetic magic, rather than pictures of faith in context. God is a tool more than a person.

But then again, since it is coming from Hollywood, it’s better than the usual, which is to ignore God altogether.

I should probably be more positive about this positive portrayal of the Christian religion here, but I think the reason I am not all gaga about it is because not once in the entire story did I ever hear the name Jesus Christ appealed to. If you know me, you know I don’t like most Christian movies, so I am not calling for that kind of artificial tripe. What I mean is that in truth, the only way to battle demonic entities is going to be by faith and the power of Jesus Christ, specifically, not in “God” generically. In real life spiritual warfare like this, from what I understand, it is the blood of Jesus Christ that is appealed to that overcomes demons (Heck, even Arnold got it right in The End of Days when he won through faith over human strength).

In this movie, they do say, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” at the beginning of the exorcism, and that weakens my argument somewhat, but I would argue back that it is spoken like magical words. I don’t know what is being said in Latin, (so that is meaningless to us if we do not understand what is being said.) The Warrens use crucifixes around the house, but only because it pisses the demons off to have religious icons. Again, magical tools, not spiritual faith.

At the end of the film they have a super that says, “The devil exists. God exists. Our destiny hinges on which one we follow.” Not bad. Kudos.

But I still got the sense from this film that it was more about magic than faith.

Okay, here’s another strike against my negativity: The story depicts one of the original evils as being rooted in a witch from the Salem trial! Of course, in the Hollywood delusionary universe, witches don’t exist except as lies created by Christians in order to persecute. Well, here, we see that is a lie itself. Witchery is real and it is evil. Sorry, all you pagans. I know you’ll be the next in line to sue me for discrimination — And call me evil.

So, in many ways, the Christian religion is portrayed positively and I applaud them for that. But it is certainly ironic that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in Hollywood is not Voldemort, but Jesus Christ (except as a cuss word). You just can’t use those two little words positively. Even when you make a movie that takes demonic spirits as real, God forbid you ever mention the one most relevant name to that reality. It’s the one name that actually has the power to crush evil spirits and therefore is the one name that must not be uttered by Hollywood, Government, Education, Science, Leftism, the Democratic Party (unless they are likening their candidate to him) and demons.

Hmmm, those ladies doth protest too much methinks.

Here I go, violating the Separation of Church and Hollywood: Evil spirits, I cast you out in the name and power of JESUS CHRIST and his blood shed on the cross for the atonement of sins.