Movie Review: Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter almost didn’t make it into theaters. It was too high budget, well made, and powerful in its message for many Hollywood types. You may ask, “Why wouldn’t Hollywood want to release a movie of such high quality?” It all had to do with the theme: it has a strong pro-life message. The director, Ron Krauss, who has a solid reputation in Tinseltown, was stunned at the resistance to the film. In his words,

It’s a miracle that this film is even being released. I can’t tell you what I went through to get this film out. I spent literally almost a year pushing and pushing people to get this movie out. A lot of people in Hollywood actually went out of their way to make sure this movie would not come out. People tried to pay me off—and I just kept saying, No, no, no, no, no. And then I came across someone who was willing to help me.

The pushback is due entirely to the pro-abortion mentality that dominates the industry. It’s a story in itself. Maybe someone should make a movie about it.

Gimme Shelter-HudgensI went to see Gimme Shelter over the weekend and was deeply impressed by the portrayal of a young woman passed from one foster home to another, then caught in a hellish situation in her drug-addicted mother’s home, if you can stretch the word “home” to cover the disgusting environment into which she was dumped. The lead actress, Vanessa Hudgens, who, I discovered, is pretty well known [so much for my ability to stay abreast of pop culture] is a marvel in the role of “Apple,” the young girl who breaks away from her mother’s destructive influence. She flees to an affluent father she never knew, but neither he nor his wife can figure out what to do with her.

Upon finding out she’s pregnant, the absentee father and wife decide she should have an abortion. As she sits in the clinic, awaiting the “doctor,” she pulls out the sonogram of her unborn child and, struck by the idea of new life growing within her, races out of the clinic, away from everyone, and takes up life on the streets.

Gimme Shelter-JonesScared and threatened by everything and everyone around her on the streets, she hijacks a car, which leads to a terrible accident that puts her in the hospital. Here is where a gritty, heartbreaking film morphs into a slowly unfolding saga of redemption. James Earl Jones, playing a Catholic priest, comes to see her, eventually making a connection, and gently leads her to a Catholic shelter for pregnant, unwed mothers.

The shelter is run by a caring, yet no-nonsense, woman who has given her life to helping those in Apple’s situation. I liked the depiction of the founder of the shelter. Christian faith is everywhere to be seen in the environment, yet she is not some starry-eyed do-gooder. She knows the type of girls she deals with and is forthright with them, making sure they follow the rules, while simultaneously exhibiting love that they’ve never known before. This shelter, and others run by this woman, Kathy DiFiore, are real, not fabricated for the movie. Some of the young women at the shelter are in the movie, essentially playing themselves.

Gimmer Shelter-FraserApple doesn’t immediately take to the new environment. The film realistically shows that it may take quite a while for damaged people to warm up to those who are sincerely seeking their good. The father she never knew, played by Brendan Fraser, becomes a sympathetic figure in the end, earnestly wanting to make Apple part of his new family. Her response to that was somewhat surprising to me, but again, probably realistic.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes fact: both Fraser and Jones donated their salaries to the shelters run by Kathy DiFiore because they believe so strongly in her ministry.

I won’t try to divulge the entire story. That’s for you to find out when you go see it. And see it, you should.

God’s Remnant in a Time of Spiritual Darkness

I’m in a more reflective mood today; perhaps pondering is the right word since it fits with my blog’s title. I’ve been thinking about how the society has changed in my 60+ years. Most of those changes, in the moral realm, have not been beneficial.

I grew up in a small town in northern Indiana, probably not more than 3500-4000 people. I knew everyone in my high school graduating class, to one degree or another, because there were only 99 of us, the majority of whom were in the same school for all 12 or 13 years of their educational lives.

I’m trying to recall how many of them grew up in broken families. I can think of 2, at least, although there must have been a few more. That was the exception; we all pretty much expected a mom and dad were in the home in nearly every family. I’m not at all sure any of the girls in my class had to leave school due to pregnancy; I don’t remember anyone in that situation, although, again, there may have been one I have forgotten. Once more, that was the extreme exception. Marriage was to come first.

No one in the 1960s talked much about homosexuality, let alone same-sex marriage. Out of sight, out of mind. Not on our radar. We had our share of sullen bully-types and those who reeked of rebellion and cigarette smoke, but if anyone ever was high on drugs, it wasn’t evident. That was for classes that graduated after mine.

Abortion was a word with which I had no acquaintance at all. I never knew anyone who had an abortion. Of course, it was illegal then; the floodgates had not yet been opened.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an alien culture today, a sort of virtual world that is an anomaly—this is not the way things are supposed to be. Families are not supposed to be disintegrating at the alarming rate we now see; marriage is in the process of being destroyed completely by the radical homosexual agenda; the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade—a staggering 56 million—defies all rational expectations. It’s absolutely horrifying, yet we are practically numbed by the immensity of the figure. In many people’s minds, the aborted babies are more statistics than real persons who have had their lives snuffed out. They are the most innocent victims of all; they never did anything to deserve such treatment.

As I pointed out in a post two days ago, we’ve even come to the place where the governor of New York says pro-life people, those who believe in the self-defense of carrying arms, and those who refuse to accept the movement away from traditional marriage are to be considered extremists who have no place in his state. I can’t imagine, as a high school student back in the 1960s, even with all the drama of Vietnam and the beginnings of cultural shifts at the time, that any governor would ever feel comfortable making a statement like that.

Statue of Bigotry

It’s easy to sense a deepening spiritual darkness, yet we cannot allow that to lead us to despair. We are the rays of His light in this dark world. Although I am sometimes stunned when I consider the plunge our society has made into new avenues of depravity, I have hope when I view hundreds of thousands congregating on the Washington Mall to show support for the sanctity of human life. It tells me there are many others out there who share my worldview. All is not lost. If we can encourage each other enough and work toward unity of purpose, we will give God something to work with.

God has never required a majority on His side to move a mountain. He will always honor the dedicated remnant. We must determine to be that remnant.

Discovering Nelson Mandela

I want to make a few statements right up front today before delving into my topic. First, my intent in this post is not to be arbitrarily contrary or mean-spirited; I always want to write with grace toward a subject whenever possible. Second, as a Christian, I absolutely oppose any policy that divides people by race or that promotes racial superiority. Third, I rejoice whenever a regime built on racial inequality is dismantled.

Why did I think it necessary to make those statements at the start? Well, it’s because I’m not going to be jumping on the world’s bandwagon today in undiluted praise for the life of Nelson Mandela.

Nelson MandelaI understand the horrible circumstances into which Mandela was born in South Africa. Further, I “get it” that someone in those circumstances would find it easy to attach himself to a movement that sought to wreck the system that created apartheid. I also know, especially after my in-depth study of people like Whittaker Chambers, how communism would seem to be the salvation of people trapped in that system. However, I also know the false hope it offers and how it leads its followers into unspeakable atrocities no better than the oppression it wants to overthrow.

Nelson Mandela, in his youth, committed himself to the communist philosophy, but it wasn’t just an intellectual exercise. He actively carried out and/or approved brutal murders in the name of liberation. The African National Congress (ANC) was an effective tool of the Soviet Union to spread the communist vision into South Africa. Keep in mind that, in the name of communism, untold millions have been slaughtered. It has been a pure evil in this world.

Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-seven years for those activities, and no matter how wrong the apartheid policies were, what he sought to replace them with was no better. As I understand it, he was offered release from prison many times if he would only renounce his terrorist actions; he refused.

I’ve tried to read as much about him in the past few days as I could, seeking to find some glimmer of light that would make me feel comfortable with his later life and accomplishments. I’ve particularly been drawn to Christian writers who have tried to provide a Biblical perspective on the man. Yet even those whom I respect seem to fall into line with the near-hero-worship attitude. One even tried to equate Mandela’s actions with George Washington, saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

It’s become fashionable to use Washington and the other Founders of America as examples of terrorists from the British point of view. As an American historian, I can say unconditionally that comparison is askew. There were no mass murders in the American Revolution; the colonists had been self-governing for decades, only to see that taken away; the fighting broke out as a matter of self-defense; there were rules of warfare acknowledged on both sides that kept atrocities to a minimum; the goal was simply the reestablishment of self-government; the inspiration for the majority was Christian faith.

In all my reading about Mandela, I sought to discover if he really changed and became a Christian. The writers all pointed to his lack of retribution toward others when he eventually was elected to lead the government. I certainly applaud that. They talk about his sweet temperament and lack of resentment after being released from prison. Those are usually good indicators of a heart change. I hope Mandela found peace with God through Christ, since that is the only way for peace with God to be achieved.

Yet none of those writers, some of whom strove mightily to claim he was a Christian, could point to any definitive salvation experience or any statement directly from him that revealed his Christian faith. It was all rather vague: if he could lay aside revenge, he must have become a Christian. That’s not enough for me.

Mandela never renounced his admiration for people like Fidel Castro. He never changed his mind about the United States being the most oppressive nation in the world. And as president of South Africa, I learned he signed into law the most permissive abortion policy the world has ever seen. Would a genuine Christian do that?

Mandela Abortions

My reading also uncovered the current state of South Africa post-Mandela: poverty still abounds; murder and rape are at an all-time high, statistics showing that country leading the world in those crimes. And then there’s the abortion policy already mentioned. Is this the utopia we’re supposed to be grateful for? Is this some kind of great improvement on the past?

So please forgive me if I’m not particularly thrilled to commemorate the life and accomplishments of Nelson Mandela. I want to be open to further information about him that would put him in a better light, but what I’ve learned thus far has not convinced me that he is—as one commentator declared—the greatest man in history.

Snyderian Truism #9

How about some controversy today, since I’m normally so non-controversial? I’ve periodically presented what I call “Snyderian Truisms.” If you’ve missed the first eight, there’s a category on the right sidebar you can click to see them. It’s time for #9.

When I teach about the 1960s, a decade of radical change culturally in many ways, one of my topics is the self-titled Women’s Liberation Movement. So that students will know where I’m coming from as we discuss this topic, I give them this truism:

Femininity and feminism are not the same: God created the first; those who didn’t like God’s creation devised the second.

Feminine MystiqueWhile I readily understand that some will not consider this a truism, I stand by it. The presumed liberation movement that women needed was kickstarted by author Betty Friedan in her book The Feminine Mystique. It was the opening salvo in the attempt to remake the image of women.

Anytime women are mistreated, you will find me on the front lines defending them. God created both male and female, both are in His image, and both are to be treated with respect. Sometimes, though, rage is manufactured.

Rage became a salient feature of this liberation movement, as it does with all movements so named. Women, we were told, are an oppressed minority. Ignore the fact, for the moment, that women are not a minority at all; according to the movement, they can claim that status due to the way in which they have been treated.

What has been the source of this maltreatment? Why, society’s rigid stereotyping of the roles of men and women, of course. And the bedrock institution that furthers this injustice is marriage, a convenient setup that allows men to dominate all other areas of society while women are forced to stay home and take care of the children.

NOWThe remedy for all this oppression is threefold: abolish traditional marriage; accept lesbianism as an equally valid lifestyle; allow unfettered abortion. Only by sanctioning these three via law can true equality of the sexes be achieved. A new organization devoted to these goals appeared in 1966, dubbed the National Organization for Women (NOW). Even the acronym stressed the “urgent” nature of the movement. The first goal was accomplished with Roe v. Wade. Ever since, the “right” to an abortion has been the cornerstone for this radicalism. Touch that presumed right and you are the enemy.

Today, the other two goals are rapidly coming to pass: homosexuality has been given protected status and traditional marriage is constantly under attack. You could say this has been one of the most successful revolutionary movements in history.

Yet it means the death of a Christian culture. Once the roots of marriage and family are ripped out of a society, moral chaos and national decline will follow. Children will be considered a burden; genuine male/female love in marriage will be laughed at as old-fashioned at best, subversive at worst; all boundaries based on Biblical morality will be erased. We will have entered the brave new world so many rebels against God’s laws have always sought.

Yet there remains this gentle reminder for those of us who are Christians, a reminder that needs to be transmitted to this new generation:

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. . . . He who loves his own wife loves himself. . . . For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. . . . Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Some will object to the word “subject” in the first sentence. That’s because they misunderstand the nature of Biblical subjection. For the real definition, go to the last sentence, where respect is the key. The entire passage focuses on mutual love and respect. God’s prescription for marriage, if followed, never leads to oppression.

The Obamacare Poison

To get the pulse of our mainstream media, all you have to do is compare the coverage of Ted Cruz’s all-night speech to the Senate objecting to the funding of Obamacare with that of Texas state senator Wendy Davis’s stalling speech in favor of unlimited abortion. Davis was treated as some kind of hero, and the favorable coverage has catapulted her into the race for Texas governor. Cruz, on the other hand, was largely depicted as a looney extremist. Never mind that Cruz’s position on Obamacare is in line with all the polls and that Davis’s views on abortion are in the minority—the Leftward, progressive media has its own agenda.

Readers of this daily commentary know I was not completely on board with Cruz’s tactic, but I am glad he highlighted throughout his long speech the dangers and absurdities of the Obamacare law. If nothing else, he raised a banner, a standard, if you will, for people to rally around. Now, will his Republican colleagues follow suit, or will they do what they often do, which is to raise their own flag of a different character?

You Lose

John McCain already has done so. He says we have to respect the results of the election. Well, I respect it in the sense that I have to live with the reality that Barack Obama is still in the White House and the Senate remains in Democrat hands. But that doesn’t mean principles should be surrendered. One must continue to fight for what is right. Unfortunately, senators like McCain have become little more than tools of the opposing party. Some have commented he ought to go ahead and change his political affiliation and make it official.

Of course, the big fear of Republicans is that there will be a government shutdown and they will be blamed. First, essential services never shut down. They need to make sure the public grasps that fact. Second, yes, they will be blamed if they communicate as ineffectively as they are wont to do; but if they can for once devise an excellent strategy for getting out the truth, they should be able to convince enough of the public that it’s Democrats who refuse to go forward with full funding of the government, minus Obamacare. Republicans in the House already have passed a bill that provides funding for everything else. The sticking point is Obamacare. Let’s be honest: what would a government shutdown really look like?

If Govt Shuts Down

Yes, but Obamacare is the law, its proponents argue. True. But if that’s really the case, how can Obama autonomously delay implementation of certain aspects, as he has done on more than one occasion? How can he legitimately provide exemptions to the law that don’t exist in the law? You can’t have it both ways. At least, if Congress is the one defunding or delaying the implementation, it has the right to do so, since it’s the lawmaking body. The president has no authority to do what he has done with what is supposedly the law of the land. I’m not impressed by arguments that ignore that double standard.

The closer we get to Obamacare’s full implementation, the ills of the law become more evident:

Obamacare Kicks In

And if it’s really all that beneficial, why are the ones who made it a law so reluctant to be part of it?

Totally Safe

Republicans need to do all they can to delay the spread of this poison into the general population. If they are smart, they can take steps now that may ultimately dismantle it. It’s so bad it might fall of its own weight, but we cannot depend on that. Action is imperative.

Christian Higher Education at a Crossroads

Christian EducationThe last couple days I’ve extolled Christian higher education. I believe in it with a whole heart. Yet that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. In fact, a battle royal is currently waging for the soul of the Christian college and university. Let me comment on that today.

Where does one receive a doctoral degree? Overwhelmingly, if you attain a doctorate, you’ve gotten it from a non-Christian university. Relatively few doctoral programs exist within evangelical Christian universities. I, for instance, have my doctorate from American University in Washington, DC. There was nothing very Christian about the program. I had to examine what I was being taught and filter it all through Biblical principles. Consequently, most professors teaching in evangelical higher education have a thoroughly secular education at the doctoral level. How many have gone to the effort to rethink the premises or assumptions behind the knowledge they imbibed? Have they come to a Biblical understanding of that basic information?

Doubt-FaithAll too often, that rethinking has been abortive. I’m afraid many teach primarily what they have been taught, sprinkling a prayer or a short devotional on top of it. That leads to a confused, inconsistent worldview being passed on to their students. Back in the 1980s, I remember reading about one study that concluded that a higher percentage of churched young people lose their faith in Christian colleges than in the worldly ones. Why? They were dismayed by the false advertising; they were told they would receive an education based on Biblical principles, but, in fact, they weren’t getting anything all that different from what a state university would have given them. Disillusioned, they abandoned the faith.

 Here’s what’s transpiring in most of the Christian colleges with which I’m familiar:

  • A significant minority—and in some cases a majority—of the professors have jumped on the bandwagon of social justice teaching. Social justice, simply as a term, is not pernicious. Surely Christians want to see justice in society, at all levels. The problem is the definition making the rounds today: it always equates with the liberal/progressive worldview that sees government programs as the solution to poverty and all other social ills. All too often, it exonerates the crimes of communism/Marxism/socialism and tries to convince students these are movements based on Biblical teaching.
  • This quest for social justice manifests itself through nearly all the disciplines. Sociology and social work professors, sincerely concerned for those living in terrible circumstances, believe that Christian compassion demands more government help, making almost no distinction between legitimate Biblical compassion and government programs. They are not the same.
  • English departments will concentrate on “cutting edge” literature espousing radical ideology at the expense of classics that have stood the test of time and that teach some valuable spiritual and moral precepts.
  • History and political science professors will make heroes of some of the worst dregs of humanity: Lenin, Mao, Castro, and Che Guevara, to name just a few. Liberal political ideology is promoted as the natural outgrowth of Christianity. I recall one history professor’s door at a well-known and respected evangelical university littered with peace signs and all other standard liberal propaganda. And if you see a Christian professor walking around campus with a Che shirt, you shouldn’t be surprised.
  • This battle even invades the religion and theology departments. Sometimes, those professors can be the greatest promoters of the progressive, semi-Marxist philosophy. Again, this will be done in the name of Christian compassion for the poor and downtrodden. Yet I’ve also noticed that, among such professors, concern about abortion is minimal. Somehow, the most innocent of all, who are losing their lives in the most awful holocaust in history, are marginalized; they take a back seat to those who supposedly need a higher minimum wage or some other liberal nostrum.
  • I’ve also perceived that Christian professors of this stripe aren’t all that concerned about homosexuality. They seem to have bought into the trendy idea of diversity, believing that since God loves sinners, He will probably accept their sexual orientation. Even using the language of “sexual orientation” is to dismiss the Biblical truth of personal responsibility for one’s actions, otherwise known as “sin.”

Many of these professors who espouse liberal views are sincere Christians in their personal lives. I won’t say that of all of them; God is the ultimate judge. However, for those who know they’ve been rescued from their own sinfulness, the problem lies with their grasp of how Biblical principles are to be applied to society. Bottom line: they have little understanding of the Bible’s teaching on government in general, and on civil government in particular; they have spotty comprehension of economics based on Biblical principles; and they are quite muddled in their definitions of compassion and social justice.

The very soul of the Christian college and university is on the line. Christian higher education may be at a crucial crossroads. Will we reaffirm basic Biblical teachings or allow ourselves to drift into modern thought tinged with a vague type of Christian compassion? The stakes are high. The next generation of Christian leaders is at risk.

The Supreme Court vs. God’s Court

BuildingAll day Tuesday, I was seeing tweets via my Twitter account that expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would uphold the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] because it wouldn’t want to repeat the mistake of Roe v. Wade. I was not nearly as optimistic. Technically, the optimists were correct; the Court stopped short of declaring that same-sex marriage should be legal throughout the nation. But the effect of its decision in Windsor—and its punt on the Prop 8 case—is not much different. Homosexual activists clearly saw the decisions as a win for their unholy goals.

There are a couple of layers here to analyze. Legally, the decision was narrow in one sense; it didn’t strike down DOMA altogether. While the Court ruled that these fictional same-sex marriages qualified the couples for federal benefits in the same way as real marriages, it left untouched, at least nominally, the part of the bill that protects states who have defined marriage as between a man and a woman from recognizing same-sex marriages that have occurred in another state. However, that protection is now paper-thin. By giving same-sex mock marriages the same status as genuine marriages, the push will now be on to overturn the rest of the law. After all, on what grounds can a state now deny these fake marriages if the federal government has sanctioned them? At least, that will be the argument.

An equally disturbing feature of the DOMA decision was enunciated by Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent, which was strong indeed. He objected to the majority’s decision on a couple of fronts. One was the “tone” of the majority and the aspersions it cast on the motives of those who support traditional marriage. A second concern, intertwined with the first, was the high-handedness of the Court in saying it is the ultimate authority on these issues. Both assertions bothered Scalia and led him to write the following:

Antonin ScaliaWe have no power to decide this case. And even if we did, we have no power under the Constitution to invalidate this democratically adopted legislation. . . . The court’s errors on both points spring forth from the same diseased root: an exalted conception of the role of this institution in America.

But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been
unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race. . . .

It takes real cheek for today’s majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority’s moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress’s hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will “confine” the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.

A deeper and more basic concern is one that the political world doesn’t want to touch: the rebellion against God and His law that has led us to this point. Few in politics ever come out and clearly state that homosexual behavior is sinful [to use such a word would be to tie oneself to an outmoded way of thinking] and destructive of society. Few will take the chance of being branded as bigoted and hateful for holding such a view. Well, I’m one of the few who will say it: homosexuality is a sin; it is an abomination before God [as is all sin]; it is leading this nation into a spiritual and moral black hole; we ultimately will be judged for following this path.

If anyone thinks yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions will bring us peace, think again. Now that the highest court in the land has given approval to this behavior, the proponents will stop at nothing to overturn all morality based on Biblical teachings. Further, there will be an ever-increasing crusade to marginalize those who continue to hold to Biblical morality. They won’t be satisfied until all who believe as I do are ostracized from “respectable” society.

Christians need to respond appropriately. First, no matter how we may feel about what is transpiring, we must keep holding out God’s message of salvation to those who have trapped themselves in the chains of sin. That message must begin with a clear statement of what sin is, the necessity of repentance—turning away from rebellion against God and His loving laws—and the offer of forgiveness and sanctification through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Even as we spread the Good News that people can be free from sin and living for God, we must redouble our efforts on the political front to reverse what has occurred. It can be done. Even now, there is a movement away from the abortion-on-demand mentality that has infected our society for too long. We have been making the case for life, and we are seeing victories, both in court and in public opinion. The same can happen with respect to marriage.

PersecutionBut what if, despite all our efforts, the society continues to plunge headlong into the abyss? What if we are persecuted for our beliefs? The message remains the same: be faithful. Besides, being persecuted merely connects us with those who have suffered for the faith throughout history. We should be glad to share the fate of those who have gone before us. Our reward awaits us once we leave what many have called “this vale of tears.”

Reading in the book of John yesterday, I was reminded of these words of Jesus:

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. . . . If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

We’re not in a popularity contest. We’re called to be disciples of the One who is above all human courts. Let’s be faithful to that calling.