BP_blog

A Response to TIME Magazine

thumbs_549936_10150705352574866_136686074865_9299155_2137447199_n(For today's BreakPoint Radio commentary with John Stonestreet, click here.)

A recent TIME article by Elizabeth Dias, "How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Mind on Gay Marriage," claims that widespread evangelical acceptance of same-sex marriage is inevitable. I've asked a number of Christian thinkers and leaders to respond. Specifically, I posed two questions: Does embracing same-sex marriage and homosexual conduct mean one ought no longer be considered evangelical? Does the shift within the evangelical community on these issues point to larger problems within the historic movement known as evangelicalism?

You can read their thoughts on those questions, and on the issue in general, below.
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'American Sniper' Challenges Our Easy Answers about War and Warriors

AS-TRL-86797(Note: This article contains major spoilers.)

Everyone is describing the same scene: The theater is completely silent. No applause, no talking. Moviegoers file out quietly and respectfully as the credits roll and images from the 2013 funeral of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle flash across the screen.

I shared this experience last weekend after seeing Clint Eastwood's “American Sniper.” At the time I had little idea it would break so many records for a January release, racking up over $90 million in the space of three days and garnering six Academy Award nominations. What was clear to me as I exited the theater, surrounded by a quietly shuffling crowd, was that this film does more than tell the story of the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history. It prompts questions about the nature of war and its cost for those on the front lines and on the home front. And perhaps more importantly, it prompts conservatives, especially those who claim the name of Jesus, to come to grips with some of our fantasies about the military, America, and the God in whom we trust.
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Why Same-Sex Marriage Can and Does Affect You

download_3“How does it hurt you for two men or two women to marry one another?”

It's the ever-present challenge Christians face from proponents of redefining marriage. And in our live-and-let-live culture, it has a ring of moral uprightness to it. After all, what harm does it do Christians for the government to award marriage licenses to any two people who fall in love, no matter their sexes? Why do Christians feel they have the right to “impose their morality” on everyone else?

It's a potent question, as long as you ignore how divorced it is from reality.
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'Selma' Brings Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Inspiring Life

Selma-MovieSelma, the first theatrically released biopic of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is based on the events surrounding the civil rights movement in 1965, specifically the voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The primary focus of “Selma” is on the political atmosphere and the contrasting dynamics of the civil rights movement that led to the march down Route 80 to the state capital in Montgomery. While originally scripted as a White House-focused political drama, after several changes in directors it became a look at the grassroots efforts that occurred within Selma, Alabama, as a result of Martin Luther King Jr.’s and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) activism.

“Selma” begins in 1964 when Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and his wife, Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo), are in Oslo, Norway, where Dr. King is to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The atmosphere of the movie immediately changes from one of celebration to frustration about the situation with voting rights in the South. Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) attempts to register to vote but is harassed by the registrar and forced to answer questions most white voters would be unable to answer. As a result of the building tensions, King meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) in an attempt to get his public support for the Voting Rights movement and push the civil rights agenda to a new height.
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The Mechanistic Worldview of 'The Imitation Game'

Morton-Tyldum-The-Imitation-GameThe Imitation Game” tells the story of Alan Turing, inventor of the Turing Machine, which (as I learned from one of my Isaac Asimov books many moons ago) was vital technology in the development of the modern computer. He is remembered today mainly for two things: inventing the machine to crack Enigma, a Nazi encryption machine that could make messages nearly impossible to decrypt; and for being convicted of gross indecency in 1952 for homosexual acts. He took cyanide and died just two years later. He was brought back into the public eye in 2013 when the Queen of England posthumously pardoned him.

This new biopic tells Turing’s story through three episodes in his life: his breaking of the Enigma Code, his first friendship, and his arrest and the fallout from it. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Alan Turing, and he uses his greatest strength—his protean voice—to become a completely different character in every film. As Turing he is once again typecast as the genius, but Turing is no Sherlock or Khan Noonien Singh. Rather, he is posh, stuttering, and insecure. Kiera Knightley brings complexity to Joan Clarke, a brilliant codebreaker with struggles of her own: She doesn’t want to accept society’s limitations for women, but doesn’t feel ready to be a rebel. The rest of the cast, including Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance, have much smaller roles, but play them equally convincingly.

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How the Superhero Culture Conquered Hollywood

1371809295_Captain-America-The-First-AvengerA giant hole has appeared in the bright skies over Hollywood, opening a passage from the world of the comic book superhero into the film and TV studios. Though the wormhole was rather small when it first appeared years ago, it has expanded to encompass much of the American film industry and will shape much of what film and television audiences will see for at least the next six years. Superheroes are not just part of the program for at least two major studios, they are THE plan for most of the foreseeable future.

How did the capes and cowls so successfully conquer the executive suites of Tinseltown? And why do audiences so happily flock to these films?
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The Nice, the Good, and the Empty in 'Into the Woods'

_1406754501In 1634, a musical of sorts—a masque by John Milton—was presented before the First Earl of Bridgewater to celebrate his new posting as Lord President of Wales. In this “Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle,” more commonly known as “Comus,” a Lady and her two brothers go into the woods. She is separated from her brothers, and is captured by the debauched Comus, a spirit who tempts her to drink from his cup. She refuses his symbolic temptation to lust, and is saved. And thus, her potential virtue is tried and found true in the woods.

Last week a Disney film adaptation of Steven Sondheim’s 1986 musical “Into the Woods” came to theaters near you. In this film, characters from several fairy tales—most notably Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and an original story about a childless Baker and his wife—also go into the woods, ostensibly to fulfill their wishes, but on a deeper level, to have their virtue tested. But what is portrayed by Disney and Sondheim is not quite what Milton portrayed nearly 400 years earlier.
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With 'Unbroken,' It's Vital to Know the Rest of the Story

1405106378_unbroken-movie-zoomBefore buying a ticket to “Unbroken,” buy Laura Hillenbrand's book of the same name. Seriously. Reading the book first makes all the difference. Masterfully, Hillenbrand paints a picture of Louie Zamperini’s life, complete with details about the important people who influenced him and the defining moments that shaped him.

Unfortunately, not all of these details survived the final cut. Undertaking the herculean task of translating this story to film, director Angelina Jolie, along with her army of screenwriters (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard La Gravenese, and William Nicholson), produced an adaptation that remained faithful to the essence of Zamperini’s story, but ultimately presented an unbalanced portrayal of him.
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In the End, 'Wild' Doesn't Quite Deliver

postfull-wild-awards-and-nominations-reese_14Wandering from the straight and narrow path is a prominent literary theme. Dante’s journey through the Inferno begins after “the straightforward way had been lost.” The movie “Wild,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club) and written by Nick Hornby (“An Education”), follows this tradition. But in this case, the theme is more than a literary device: It’s a true story. As much as I love epic poems, this film, based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name, drew me in a new way, invited me to experience another person’s life. And I felt the weight of her reality.

As the movie opens, it’s unclear why an inexperienced hiker incapable of lifting her own backpack is endeavoring to hike the Pacific Coast Trail. A literary soul, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) passes the time during her solitary quest by reading and drawing strength from her favorite authors, including Flannery O’Connor, whom she quotes on the trail (“Even a child with normal feet was in love with the world after he had got a new pair of shoes”).
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Gadgets and Gizmos Can't Make Up for What's Missing from the New Version

url20I went to “Annie a few days before Christmas, in a theater packed with children. While I felt a little out of place as a single adult surrounded by little girls, at the same time I felt fortunate to be able to gauge the reaction of the film’s target audience. Many of these children, perhaps unfamiliar with the 1982 version I grew up with, were experiencing the well-known story for the first time.

Here’s what they experienced:

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Learning to Combine Grace and Truth

9780802412140Can the Christian church and the LGBT community co-exist in civility and peace? Moreover, can they do so while not demanding the other conform to their distinct beliefs and convictions?

This seems to increasingly be a pressing and challenging question, especially as we see developments like we saw this fall with the subpoenaing of sermons in Houston, and the pressuring of various Christian-owned businesses.

As Christians are clearly called to love our neighbors—gay, straight, or otherwise—how do we do so under such unreasonable to pressure to “get with the program”? Read More >
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Tolkien’s Beloved Hobbit and His Story are Here, Just Buried

MV5BODAzMDgxMDc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTI0OTAzMjE._V1_SX214_AL_“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit,” wrote J. R. R. Tolkien idly one day while grading papers, sparking the concept that would spill from his imagination and become the expansive high fantasy we know as “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” But Bilbo Baggins’ unassuming birth on paper was far from the first stirring of his maker’s myth. It’s said that Eärendil, the great half-elven mariner who slew the foulest of all dragons and helped vanquish the Father of Discord, was the first person Tolkien imagined—the archetype of Arda (the name of his imaginary world, of which Middle-Earth is but a continent).

But most people would know little of this hero’s starring role until after the professor’s death, when his legendary history “The Silmarillion” was finally published. Before then, Tolkien, at his publisher’s advising, had chosen to focus his fiction, and his readers’ attention, on a race so insignificant they were overlooked in the old lists and songs: hobbits.

That’s why it’s so appropriate that even after Tolkien’s posthumous corpus opened the breadth of his legend to the world, “halflings” remain the most enduring icon of his life’s work. And it’s also why it makes sense for one particular hobbit’s adventure “there and back again” to close the record-breaking motion picture adaptations of these books—even if their 21st-century director didn’t quite grasp the professor’s point.
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The Films of 1939, Part 13

gone-with-the-wind-updated-2Having grown up in the South, I remember network TV stations airing “Gone with the Wind during the holidays. Watching it with my family was as much of a Christmas tradition as decorating the tree. As with most traditions introduced in childhood, I never questioned its existence, never wondered what subtle messages it might whisper. Rather, I wholeheartedly embraced the film, going so far as to embark on a pilgrimage to the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta.

The movie that so captivated me begins in the Antebellum South and centers on Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), the daughter of a plantation owner (Thomas Mitchell). Scarlett initally is unconvinced of her father's belief that his plantation, Tara, is worth more than anything else in life. She pays more attention to her string of suitors, particularly the man to whom her heart belongs, Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard)—even after Ashley has married his cousin Melanie (Olivia de Havilland), and even as Scarlett herself is steadily pursued by the roguish Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).
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A Q&A with Jim Tonkowich

9781618906410_1Jim Tonkowich, former editor of BreakPoint Radio, has written a new book called “The Liberty Threat: The Attack on Religious Freedom in America Today.” I interviewed Jim about this very timely subject.

1. Religious freedom battles in America have been going on for some time. What particular case or event inspired you to write “The Liberty Threat” now?

As I say in the book, there has never been a golden age of American religious liberty. From before the founding of the United States, we have instead struggled to understand the extent and limits of religious liberty.
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'Exodus' Goes Heavy on the Action, Light on the Supernatural

exodusEven before this weekend’s release of “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” the film was receiving criticism for its whitewashed casting of the leads and director Ridley Scott’s arguably tone-deaf defense of his filmmaking process. While these are all significant discussions, what interested me most going into the film was seeing its treatment of the biblical text. It’s my understanding that Scott does not identify himself as a believer, but nonetheless, I’ve found his treatment of faith in past films (particularly “Kingdom of Heaven”) worthy of note.

As it turns out, this is a film that seeks to tell one of the most faith-saturated stories in Scripture—the story of God’s deliverance of His chosen people from four centuries of slavery—by nearly stripping the story of faith, and relegating what is left to a minor supporting role. Rather, it approaches the story of Moses as simply another iteration of the heroic journey.
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