Saturday, February 7, 2009

Response for Nate

Thanks to Nate for his comment, here's a prolonged response. He asked how we as Christians should think of earthly revenge.

The obvious answer is that we should avoid it, but I think it's slightly more complex.

In the Mosaic Covenant, the law prevented escalating conflicts by capping it at "eye for eye," etc, and that was extended by Christ with the blanket "turn the other cheek," which we all know. But the context of turning the other cheek assumes that the cheek is yours, and when it isn't, things do get a lot more messy really quickly: look at the Amish school shootings, or the "Deny Christ or I'll kill your son" scenario.

My personal standard on evil is that not all evil is an evil: there are many hard providences given to us by God, and we are to be stewards of them as much as of the blessings. (Which is why I hate Thomas Kinkade paintings with a passion. There is no conflict, no dragon to fight, and as such they are lies of a utopian world, and are a symptom of a generation of weak and cowardly Christians that fear pain rather than God and pine for the nursery while God calls for men to run with horses and love not their lives even unto death: look at His response to Job: "I make the young eagles lap up blood; I clothe the horse's neck with thunder...")

I would hold with Augustine's Just War theory so far as it goes--we don't fight the unarmed and the non-combatants, and we only fight to defend that which is ours and is being attacked--but when the attack has taken place and is out of our reach, I think that we are fully justified in exacting a punishment that meets the crime when the crime is against someone that is in our charge, though I don't think that we generally should.

The ideal situation is that we would have a just magistrate that wields the sword, and as a general rule, we should submit to the magistrate even when he is not just (such as our entire system), but I think that specific exceptions could arguably be made. The ones that come to my mind--the exceptions that I would be willing to make--are for rape and child abuse: were those committed against someone in my charge--against my wife or child--I think that I would be willing to kill the perpetrator, and I would consider it an execution. But for that I have no Scriptural leg to stand on, beyond the chasm between the actual law and our pathetic imitation of it.

This of course breezes by all of the possible factors: how much time has elapsed, who it was that committed the crime, was it an ongoing pattern, what was the nature of the crime, and on and on.

I guess that the bottom line for me could be summed up as follows: I would be willing to enforce God's law when it comes under my authority and when it is a hill that I'm willing to die on, so to speak.

Friday, February 6, 2009


I just went and actually spent money to go see a moving picture in the place with the really big TV and all the strangers loudly eating popcorn. The movie was Taken, and it was simply magnificent.

First, the disclaimers: the movie deals with girls being sold into the sex trade, and there are a few scenes that pushed the envelope in that arena (two scenes of girls being displayed in skimpy clothing come to mind), but it was done in a way that was the opposite of titillating: it was, to be honest, more reminiscent of Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons than anything else. It was designed and effectively used to build up a very real hatred of the villains.

Also, there is an off-color joke in the beginning of the film, but one that would go over the heads of most younger viewers, kinda like when Holly watched Lady and the Highwayman and thought that "Carnival of pleasures" included a merry-go-round and cotton candy. There is a smattering of language, noticeable at the same time as the joke. This was the most awkward part of the movie, as it develops the lead character in a great rush: ex CIA, trying to reconnect with his daughter, to whom he has been a real jerk of a non-father. This section lacks continuity, but rapidly smooths itself out, and is not that bad anyway: it isn't to the point of distraction, it just doesn't have the same finesse as the rest of the movie.

Finally (on the objection front), is the most serious of the objections, and the only one that I could see actually posing a real problem: the ethical question of some of the violence used. The vast majority of it was necessary, and was done tastefully, not graphically. But there were a few parts where Neeson fudges the line between combat and simple brute violence to get done what needs to be done. The gray areas are absorbed into the white, and it is something that should be taken into consideration.

With that out of the way, let me say that I loved this movie, far more than I thought I would. The characters are developed so that we actually care about them, instead of the usual mild warm and fuzzies that we have toward the victims, we have a real sympathy and connection with the somewhat gangly, emotional and almost awkward daughter wearing lo-top converse with shorts on under her summer dress as she ecstatically tackles her dad in a very sweet scene. We respect and like Neeson, as he rapidly adapts to any situation, and uses his connections to try to give his daughter whatever he can, and we understand his ex-wife (which I had not expected).

Then, the movie takes off. Neeson is shown to be a very calculating beast of a man willing to do anything, to break any rule to recover his daughter. The phone conversation will become infamous, though to be honest, it could have been improved. The action picks up, the crooked cops, the hunting, the fighting, the interrogations, and the all-out war: "You don't remember me. We spoke on the phone two days ago. I told you I'd find you..."

It is brilliantly done, and is a very sweet movie in a very odd way. Neeson's magnificent voice and commanding presence make the movie what it is, as does the daughter's naive sweetness. It was a great, fun movie. It wasn't pretentious, and, incredible for it's genre, managed to (mostly) suspend disbelief through the one-man holocaust that is visited upon the evil sex-traders.

And, topping it off for me, it had some very satisfying scenes: the spotter that "got away," the rather expensive electric bill, the personal touch in an elevator, and the negotiation on a boat were all times when I felt like applauding, and the random guy sitting next to me felt like moving a few seats down.

Very fun, very good, and a very needed break. I highly recommend this movie.

Monday, February 2, 2009


"I'm not gonna lie to you. If you want to make an omelette, you gotta kill some people."

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Taken from:

Unless They Don't Need It
Topic: Parable

Once there was woman who would get overwhelmed with her housework from time to time. She was industrious, and not lazy at all, but there were times when it just got away from her. Her husband was considerate and thoughtful, and so he surprised her one day with the news that he had hired someone to come in every Tuesday to clean for her, to help her keep on top of things.

She was very grateful, at least in terms of what she said, but he did not notice the look of reserved and quiet panic in her eyes.

The following Monday when he came home from work, he noticed that the house was sparkling and his wife exhausted. "What happened?" he asked. "Did she come a day early?"

"No," she said. "She will be here at 8 tomorrow morning."

"Why?" he said. "This place is spotless."

His wife looked indignant. "You don’t expect that I would let someone else see the house in the condition it was in, do you?"

"Umm," her husband said.

And so it is with everyone who won’t get help unless they don’t need it.


I confess: not only did I watch the Super Bowl, but I actually enjoyed myself. But don't worry: I'll wear my hair-shirt for a month as well as increasing the self-flagellation from one hour to two.

Wodehousian Fun