Hollywood vs. America

Here are the top grossing movies of 2005, the movies America saw most often:

  • Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • War of the Worlds
  • Wedding Crashers
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Batman Begins
  • Madagascar
  • King Kong
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Mostly non-controversial. Dominated by PG-13 and PG ratings. Only Wedding Crashers was rated “R” and dealt with sex.

Here are the movies being discussed for Oscar nominations this year:

  • Brokeback Mountain (Rated R for sex, nudity, language, violence, gay cowboys)
  • Munich (Rated R for violence, sex, nudity, politically controversial about Israel)
  • Syriana (Rated R for violence and language, politically controversial about oil industry)
  • Good Night and Good Luck (Rated PG, politically controversial about McCarthy era)
  • Capote (Rated R for violent images and strong language, deals with murder)
  • Transamerica (Rated R for sex, nudity, language and drug use, deals with transsexuality, out of wedlock births, and street crime.)

Is it apparent that Hollywood is pushing an out-of-touch left-wing philosophy that is out of touch with mainstream America?

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Intelligent Design in Public Schools

Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute has a question – why are we fighting over Intelligent Deisgn vs Evolution? Does it matter to one parent if another parent teaches their child about God?

Supporters of the theory of human origins known as “intelligent design” want it taught alongside the theory of evolution. Opponents will do anything to keep it out of science classrooms. The disagreement is clear.

But why does everyone assume that we must settle it through an ideological death-match in the town square?

Intelligent design contends that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved naturally, and so must be the product of an unspecified intelligent designer. Most adherents of this idea would undoubtedly be happy just to have it taught to their own children, and most of my fellow evolutionists presumably believe they should have that right. So why are we fighting?

We’re fighting because the institution of public schooling forces us to, by permitting only one government-sanctioned explanation of human origins. The only way for one side to have its views reflected in the official curriculum is at the expense of the other side.

This manufactured conflict serves no public good. After all, does it really matter if some Americans believe intelligent design is a valid scientific theory while others see it as a Lamb of God in sheep’s clothing? Surely not. While there are certainly issues on which consensus is key — respect for the rule of law and the rights of fellow citizens, tolerance of differing viewpoints, etc. — the origin of species is not one of them.

The sad truth is that state-run schooling has created a multitude of similarly pointless battles. Nothing is gained, for instance, by compelling conformity on school prayer, random drug testing, the set of religious holidays that are worth observing, or the most appropriate forms of sex education.

Not only are these conflicts unnecessary, they are socially corrosive. Every time we fight over the official government curriculum, it breeds more resentment and animosity within our communities. These public-schooling-induced battles have done much to inflame tensions between Red and Blue America.

But while Americans bicker incessantly over pedagogical teachings, we seldom fight over theological ones. The difference, of course, is that the Bill of Rights precludes the establishment of an official religion. Our founding fathers were prescient in calling for the separation of church and state, but failed to foresee the dire social consequences of entangling education and state. Those consequences are now all too apparent.

Fortunately, there is a way to end the cycle of educational violence: parental choice. Why not reorganize our schools so that parents can easily get the sort of education they value for their own children without having to force it on their neighbors?

Doing so would not be difficult. A combination of tax relief for middle income families and financial assistance for low-income families would give everyone access to the independent education marketplace. A few strokes of the legislative pen could thus bring peace along the entire “education front” of America’s culture war.

But let’s be honest. At least a few Americans see our recurrent battles over the government curriculum as a price worth paying. Even in the “land of the free,” there is a temptation to seize the apparatus of state schooling and use it to proselytize our neighbors with our own ideas or beliefs.

In addition to being socially divisive and utterly incompatible with American ideals, such propagandizing is also ineffectual. After generations in which evolution has been public schooling’s sole explanation of human origins, only a third of Americans consider it a theory well-supported by scientific evidence. By contrast, 51 percent of Americans believe “God created human beings in their present form.”

These findings should give pause not only to evolutionists but to supporters of intelligent design as well. After all, if public schooling has made such a hash of teaching evolution, why expect it to do any better with I.D.?

Admittedly, the promotion of social harmony is an unusual justification for replacing public schools with parent-driven education markets. Most arguments for parental choice rest on the private sector’s superior academic performance or cost-effectiveness. But when you stop and think about it, doesn’t the combination of these advantages suggest that free markets would be a far more intelligent design for American education?

Incidentally, the reason those that we’ll continue to fight over this issue was mentioned yesterday – the Left hates Inequality. All children should be taught equally, and that means your child taught whatever the state decides.

Ann Rice Now Writes for the Lord

Another high-profile person (well, high profile in a secular way) has given their life to Christ. Ann Rice, writer of vampire stories such as “Interview with the Vampire.” has announced “that from now on I would write only for the Lord.” Her next book, “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” will tell the story of 7 year old Jesus of Nazareth’s return from Egypt, a young boy who’s only vaguely aware he is the Christ.

Rice knows “Out of Egypt” and its projected sequels—three, she thinks—could alienate her following; as she writes in the afterword, “I was ready to do violence to my career.” But she sees a continuity with her old books, whose compulsive, conscience-stricken evildoers reflect her long spiritual unease. “I mean, I was in despair.” In that afterword she calls Christ “the ultimate supernatural hero … the ultimate immortal of them all.”

I read some of Ann Rice’s earlier stuff, including the well-written “Interview with the Vampire.” Assuming her conversion to Christ is real, I’m eagerly anticipating this book to see how alive she makes Jesus’ boyhood feel. I think she’s taking a lot of liberties in her research – she’s including a lot the Apocrypha writings in her research which most Christian scholars have written off as inaccurate and non-biblical. But if she’s reaching out to people that normally immerse themselves in the world of the occult, then bringing Jesus to life for them will be a good thing.

Yet in the novel’s best scene, a dream in which Jesus meets a bewitchingly handsome Satan—smiling, then weeping, then raging—Rice shows she still has her great gift: to imbue Gothic chills with moral complexity and heartfelt sorrow.

Rice already has much of the next volume written. (“Of course I’ve been advised not to talk about it.”) But what’s she going to do with herself once her hero ascends to Heaven? “If I really complete the life of Christ the way I want to do it,” she says, “then I might go on and write a new type of fiction. It won’t be like the other. It’ll be in a world that includes redemption.” Still, you can bet the Devil’s going to get the best lines.

Terrorists Still Hate Us

Even though the title of this article says, “Muslim world rejecting violence, says poll,” that’s not the conclusion I get from reading the results.

The survey found that in Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia 15% or fewer said that suicide bombings and other acts of violence against civilian targets in defence of Islam could be justified; the figure in Morocco last year was 40%.

In Pakistan, only one in four – 25% – took the view that suicide bombings could be justified, a sharp drop from 41% last year. In Lebanon, which has been the victim of several recent bombing attacks, 39% now regard acts of terrorism as often or sometimes justified compared to 73% in 2002.

The one notable exception to the trend was Jordan, where a majority – 57% – said suicide bombings and violence were justifiable in defence of Islam.

Muslims in the surveyed countries were divided on suicide bombings in Iraq. Nearly half in Lebanon and Jordan, and 56% in Morocco, said suicide bombings against westerners in Iraq were justifiable, but substantial majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia took the opposite view.

Those figures concern me. A lot. While the mainstream media spins this as “Muslim World rejecting violence,” I’m reading that anywhere from 15% to 55% of Muslims, depending on the part of the world, feel that Al Qaeda is justified in bombing civilians. That’s a lot of Muslims that want to kill westerners. When I see a new, huge mosque being built on a plot of land on my way to work, am I supposed to feel comforted that only 15% of them think I should be dead?

Mohamed el-Amir, the father of 9/11 suicide pilot Mohammed Atta, thinks 9/11 was a good thing and would like to see more attacks like the 7/7 London bombings. Then he offered to let CNN videotape an interview with him for $5000. He planned on using that money to finance another terror attack.

This time, CNN declined, probably thinking they’ve financed enough terrorism. Back in 2002, CNN paid $30,000 for Al Qaeda videos of poison gas experiments.

Al Qaeda Attacks

A flash presentation of all the attacks by Al Qaeda on westerners since they declared war.

The facts presented speak for themselves.

There have been 30 major mass casualty attacks directed against the United States, Britain, France, Spain, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and North Osetia. 14 of the 30 attacks were conducted prior to the invasion of Iraq, making claims of the occupation of Iraq as a casus belli for al Qaeda’s terrorism to be disingenuous at best. 4,895 people have been killed in these attacks, and 12,345 plus have been wounded. The majority of the countries attacked are Muslim countries. And although not stated, the vast majority of the victims of al Qaeda’s violence are Muslims.

The ideologues, leaders and foot soldiers of al Qaeda have no reservations about slaughtering the innocent. The majority of their attacks have been directed against civilian infrastructure such as embassies, consulates, shipping, transportation, hotels, resorts, nightclubs, bars, synagogues, churches, temples, mosques, markets, housing complexes, office buildings and schools. Each of al Qaeda’s targets were purposefully selected and carefully timed to inflict mass casualties as well as to provide the maximum media exposure. The radical Islamists embrace Muslim casualties, as many are considered infidel for embracing Western culture and rejecting the “pure” Islam espoused by al Qaeda. This is an enemy that deserves no quarter.

Sobering.

Christianity Today Book Awards 2005

Looking for Christian reading material? There are so many titles out there, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Christianity Today has listed the top Christian books for 2005, divided into several catagories:

Apologetics / Evangelism:
The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God

Christian Living:
The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others

Biblical Studies:
Africa and the Bible

History / Biography:
The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys

Christianity and Culture:
The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design

Missions and Global Affairs:
Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach

The Church / Pastoral Leadership (Tie):
Christ, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper: Recovering the Sacraments for Evangelical Worship Reviewing Leadership: A Christian Evaluation of Current Approaches

Fiction:
Gilead: A Novel

Spirituality:
Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence

Theology / Ethics:
Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition

There are more titles that have won an “Award of Merit” so visit Christianity Today for the full list.