>tracki ng spi r i tual tr ends i n the 21st centur y

VOL UME 19: 16 ( 1,199) / MAY 21, 2014
In this issue:
CULTURE - Hollywood’s revision of
death and resurrection
+ A “host” of recent movies and television
shows are now fnding there’s more to
love than romance
feminists suspiciously quiet over the
censorship of Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi
WRIGHT, N.T. - a profle that balances
accolades and criticism
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“How Hollywood Killed Death” by Alexan-
der Huls — reports that “death at the movies
has died. Te movie industry has corrupted
one of cinema’s — if not all of fction’s —
most emotionally taxing moments into hol-
low formula....
“Filmmakers don’t seem to realize that
plot mechanics are no shortcut to pathos. ...
“Death has become a mere transition
device. ...
“Formula may have atrophied death at
the movies, but resurrection has killed it.
And an unholy coalition between comic-
book publishers and an economically weak-
ened Hollywood is to blame.
“Perhaps you’ve noticed that your local
multiplex might as well be Comic Con.
Amid rapid shifs in the media-buying pub-
lic’s preferences, comic-book adaptations
have proved incredibly lucrative for movie
studios, practically becoming Hollywood’s
main business model. ...
“Te timing of the rise of resurrection
in blockbusters is no accident — it’s an
inheritance. Along with the rise of super-
hero movies came comic books’ notorious
revolving-door attitude toward death. Given
the medium’s sprawling, practically intermi-
nable story lines, publishers like Marvel and
DC Comics ofen need ways to bring major
upheaval to their worlds. So they kill of
major characters. ... But Marvel and DC are
fnancially dependent on characters that are
too popular to leave dead. As a result, death
to comic readers has become something of
a joke: a tolerated pretense that means noth-
ing more than a cash grab....
“Death is no longer just a transparent
formula; it has been hybridized with some-
thing worse: Business strategy.” Huls adds
that “killing death threatens to undermine
the movie business’s reason for being. ...
“No matter how much movies or com-
ics depart into realities with superpowered
beings, technologically advanced futures or
fantastical worlds full of impossible crea-
tures, they still need to do what all good sto-
ries should: Tell us something about being
human. But most of today’s movies are tell-
ing us death doesn’t matter. And it’s hard to
imagine a more inhuman observation than
that.” New York Times Magazine, Apr 20 ‘14,
pp44-45. <www.ow.ly/wW7CV>
And in another media role reversal — in
contrast with the secular press criticizing
Hollywood for the change described above
— Christianity Today praises the American
flm industry in “Long Live True Love” (Apr
‘14, pp72-73) by Alissa Wilkinson, assistant
professor of English and humanities at Te
King’s College, editor of QIdeas.org, and
chief flm critic for CT. Wilkinson reports
that “A host of recent movies and televi-
sion shows — from About Time to Frozen
to Parks and Recreation — tell a new story:
Romance is not the only kind of love that
makes life worth living. ...
“Against all odds, Hollywood seems to
be discovering that when we make romance
the highest form of love, we’re missing what
love is all about.” Wilkinson adds that “Real
love occupies our whole lives.
“Tis is something we learn in friend-
ship, a relationship that, unlike romance,
has no natural peak. Tere’s no fnal goal for
friendship. Rather, friendship is an ongoing
process of pursuing intimacy.” <www.ow.ly/
“Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Silencing a critic of Islam”
(no byline) — Is there a woman alive who
has more courage than Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
“Born into a Muslim family in Somalia,
she was subjected to genital mutilation as
a child, fed to the Netherlands to avoid a
forced marriage, and became an outspoken
critic of Islam and its treatment of women.
Death threats followed, and she had to go
into hiding afer a Muslim fanatic murdered
a flmmaker with whom she had worked
and warned her that she was next. Now liv-
ing in the U.S. under 24-hour police protec-
tion, Hirsi Ali remains a ‘heroic example
to women around the world’ — but not
to Brandeis University. Last week, under
pressure from Muslim groups, Brandeis
canceled plans to award Hirsi Ali an hon-
orary doctorate, claiming that her attacks
on Islam went against the university’s ‘core
values.’ It was another depressing example
(continued on next page)
who taught my family members. Soon stu-
dents in Bible courses may sneer less and
worship more.”
Byassee asks: “So what does Wright actu-
ally teach about Paul? ...
“Teology does the work for Paul that
circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath did
for the old Paul, the zealous Jew Saul of Tar-
sus. It marked out a community as distinct
from the world. ...
“Paul was not worried about where
believers’ souls would go afer death. ...
“Paul is centrally teaching about God’s
faithfulness to Israel. He is showing that
Yahweh is a God who keeps his promises,
and so can be trusted to fulfll his promises
in history. ...
“Wright argues that Christians believed
Jesus was Lord very early in church history
— not centuries later, afer councils had
‘decided’ that he was so. ...
“Righteousness in Scripture does not
refer to the righteous Judge passing his righ-
teousness to the defendant. According to
Wright, passages like [Romans 4, Galatians
2, and 2 Corinthians 5:21] are about God
fulflling his promises to Israel in Christ to
remake the world through one Jew-plus-
Gentile family.” For Wright, the doctrine
of justifcation “is not everything in Paul. It
appears in only a few places in his letters. It
is the wheel of the car, Wright says — not
the whole vehicle.
“So if Paul’s courtroom metaphors are
not about imputed righteousness, what are
they about?
“Tey have a much narrower frame of
reference, says Wright. ... So Paul’s court-
room references mean only that the judge
rules the defendant is in the right, vin-
dicated over against any accusation, and
assured of resurrection on the last day.
“Tis is where fellow Christians have
objected most strenuously.” Here Byassee
gives examples from Albert Mohler, D.A.
Carson, and John Piper. Byassee adds that
of the ‘thought police’ on college campuses
squelching free speech. ...
“But Brandeis has honored controversial
fgures before, said William Kristol in Te
Weekly Standard. Previous recipients include
playwright Tony Kushner, who once labeled
the creation of Israel ‘a mistake,’ and Arch-
bishop Desmond Tutu, who has compared
Israel to Hitler. Is there one rule for critics of
Judaism, and another for critics of Islam?
“One group has remained shamefully
quiet over the muzzling of Hirsi Ali, said
Jef Jacoby in Te Boston Globe: liberal
feminists. Tey call opposition to employer-
provided contraceptives ‘a war on women.’
But ‘the savagery of honor killings or child
marriages’? It does not stir their outrage. ...
Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times
[said it best]: Te best response to ofensive
speech isn’t censorship — it’s ‘more speech.’”
A photo-caption under Hirsi Ali’s image
indicates that she refers to Islam as “a cult of
death.” Te Week, Apr 25 ‘14, p17.
“Surprised by NT Wright” (“Te Bible
scholar’s goal is to massively revise the way
we talk about the Christian faith. By many
accounts, he’s already succeeded.”), by Jason
Byassee — the best, most concise Wright
profle we’ve seen. “Some say he is the most
important apologist for the Christian faith
since C. S. Lewis.”
In a nutshell, Wright’s revision says:
“Te church has misread Paul so severely, it
seems, that no one fully understood the gos-
pel from the time of the apostle to the time a
certain British scholar started reading Paul
in Greek in graduate school.” And that’s why
Wright is earning a lot of criticism — and it’s
not just coming from conservatives. In ref-
erence to Wright, “Bart Ehrman, Barnes &
Noble’s favorite Bible disdainer, told [Byas-
see], ‘He’s a very bright and learned scholar
— deeply read, widely knowledgeable, and
rigorous. And I disagree with about every-
thing he says.’ ...
“Wright’s newest accolade is that he has
written the most extensive work on Paul in
the history of Christianity,” one portion of
which is the recent two-volume Paul and
the Faithfulness of God (PFG).
Hays, the New Testament scholar to whom
PFG is dedicated and dean of Duke Divinity
School, “believes his friend has surpassed
Bultmann. Wright has published more, in
more areas, with more infuence, than the
one who had so impressed the professors
“critics are right in one way: Many portions
of Scripture sound much closer to the tra-
ditional understanding of Paul than Wright
ever lets on. ... If we deem Wright correct,
we as Western Christians will indeed have
to redo much of our accepted thinking on
atonement, justifcation, salvation, and
However, Wright is unique in another
important way. “Most scholars talk about
other scholars. Only a blessed few talk about
the Bible. Fewer still talk about God.” Byas-
see shows how Wright is defnitely a mem-
ber of the last group.
Te passage which reads “If you con-
fess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and
believe in your heart that God raised him
from the dead, you will be saved,” (Romans
10:9, ESV) “is central to Wright’s reading of
Paul and of his gospel. Law court and sub-
stitution, yes. And especially lordship and
obedience, with resurrection showing that
God is faithful to his promises to Israel, and
so to the whole world. ...
“Our being saved is bound up with our
pointing to, and embodying in advance, the
forthcoming kingdom,” says Wright, who,
notes Byassee, holds ten honorary doctor-
ates in addition to those he has earned the
conventional way. Cover story. Christianity
Today, Apr ‘14, pp36-43. <www.ow.ly/wRl96>
For a detailed critique of Wright and his
stance on the controversial “New Perspec-
tive on Paul,” see <www.ow.ly/x4Ys3>.
SOURCES: Monographs
1 - Paul and the Faithfulness of God, by N.T.
Wright (Fortress, 2013, paperback, 1700
pages) <www.ow.ly/wXKBU>
SOURCES: Periodicals
2 - Te Week, <www.theweek.com>
VOL UME 19: 16 ( 1,199) / MAY 21, 2014
Multiculturalism. Diversity. Pluralism.
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