Dealing With The Devil
“300”: Almost laughable in its deadly earnestness, wooden portrayals, and testosterone-driven slow-motion blood-splattering, this juvenile attempt at drama wastes a good opportunity to tell a thrilling tale. In 480 B.C., Greek soldiers in the Battle of Thermopylae, led by 300 courageous Spartan warriors, held off the entire Persian army under Xerxes until tragically betrayed by a local resident, who showed the invading enemy the hidden goat path around the narrow pass. Reminiscent of the dumbbell “Hercules," also completely lacking in subtlety, this profusion of shirtless, shouting muscle men with broadswords and six-pack abs might impress a convention of personal trainers, but otherwise seems hopelessly puerile (including gratuitous female nudity). There is one dramatic moment, however, which almost verbatim copies from the devil’s taunting of Jesus during his temptation (Luke 4: 1-13). Xerxes offers Leonidas, the Spartan king, all the kingdoms of Greece if he will bow down and worship him. Of course if Leonidas agrees, he will be a mere vassal of The Adversary. Jesus wisely made the same decision to resist the easy way out, and both gave up their lives for a greater cause. The difference is that Leonidas drew the sword and perished by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Jesus died his death for all to show a still more excellent Way (I Corinthians 12:31).
“Zodiac”: The Zodiac killer terrorized California in the 1970’s, seemed to take an unexplained four-year hiatus, then began killing again, apparently at random. Several police detectives, from several different Counties, and a couple of newspaper reporters (one of whom wrote the book) spent a great deal of time and emotional energy trying to run down leads, all of which led to blind alleys. Perhaps today, with the usage of DNA evidence, a serial killer leaving behind so many tantalizing clues wouldn’t have escaped justice, taunting the law and flaunting his cleverness as he did. As viewers, we grow weary and frustrated right along with the haggard and harried characters, which lends this epic opus a very realistic feel, because few crimes are solved as quickly and tidily as in CSI and all its spin-offs. A Christian would hope for a time of judgment when all will answer for what they have done, as in Matthew 25: 31-46. The trouble there is that those who are saved are not the ones who believe they are righteous and others deserve punishment. Nevertheless, it’s difficult not to hope that the diabolical will get their due (2 Corinthians 5:10).
“Pride”: The twist for the Christian here is that in this “true story” movie we’re supposed to root for the prideful. A young (black) swimming coach, Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard), experiences considerable racial discrimination as a college swimmer in the 1960’s. A decade later, he begins working at a decrepit rec center in inner-city Philadelphia. There, he begins to instill pride in his charges (as well as discipline), and manages to develop not only a winning team, but also achieving kids, who go on to make something of themselves despite their deprived backgrounds. This is the kind of movie where audiences applaud, but the devil is in the demonizing of hateful whites showing unrelenting prejudice toward all blacks.
Questions For Discussion:
1) Have you experienced discrimination in any form: racial, regional, ageist, sexist?
What was your response?
2) How is glorifying the heroism of ancient soldiers from distant lands different from, say, “Saving Private Ryan”?
3) What is the serial killer’s motivation?
4) Do you think we will be judged in the next life for all that we do in this one?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas