Saturday, November 25, 2006

"The Nativity Story" -- L.A., India, San Fran, MovieGuide

By Rick Pearcey

The topic is film, and they're talking about The Nativity Story over at the LATimes, where Pop Culture Talking Points notes that Catherine Hardwicke's new effort "premieres at the Vatican [Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006] and will be released in theaters at the end of the week. New Line is pushing some major The Passion-style Christian outreach, but Hardwicke (whose previous gigs include kids-gone-wild films Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown) is sorely lacking Mel Gibson's religious clout."

IndiaeNews worries the pope will be a no-show. "Pope Benedict XVI is not likely to attend the premiere of the film The Nativity Story though it is to be screened in the Vatican itself."

The problem? "The movie stars Keisha Castle-Hughes, who plays Mary," and a "reason cited for the Pope skipping the screening is that Hughes is pregnant but unmarried and the Catholic Church has not taken well to that, said"

The Vatican offers a different explanation: The pope is visiting Turkey. "The surprise would have been if he had [attended]," says the Vatican.

SanFranGate is undaunted. "Industry Buzz" says, "Roll Out the Red Carpet. "Today [Sunday, Nov. 26] marks a blessed event in the annals of movie marketing, as The Nativity Story . . . becomes the first feature film to premiere at the Vatican. The movie will be shown at Pope Paul VI Hall with filmmakers on hand along with 7,000 guests. Proceeds from the benefit screening go toward construction of a school in Mughar, Israel. Populated by Christians, Muslims and Druze, the village is located 24 miles from Nazareth."

Ted Baehr at MovieGuide says The Nativity Story "shatters expectations." He seems to like the script -- "one of the best . . . ever for a biblical story."

A thumbs-up as well for the "dialogue, the plot development," and for "turning points" that are "refreshingly dramatic."

Director Catherine Hardwicke is "superb. Joseph and Mary are very human and very Jewish and very much in love."

All in all: The Nativity Story is "nearly perfect."

Comment: Even closer to perfection might be this: New title -- The Nativity. Drop "Story," which unnecessarily feeds into the secular line that we're not dealing with historical events, etc.

The information in the primary New Testament documents reports the events of the birth of Jesus as rooted in space and time. It is well known that naturalistic scholars have a problem with this, but this is a philosophical defect on their part not reflected in the historical data.

Here's the website.

Rick Pearcey is editor and publisher of The Pearcey Report.

British Airways: Secularism Takes Hit in England

By Rick Pearcey

Secularists tell us that God and religion relate to private matters that have no place in public life or polite society. This is not a convincing view, but it is a commonly held view, so much so that many bright people may affirm it without really having thought it through.

It's not at all difficult to imagine the head-shaking that might be going on in some circles upon hearing that British Airways is backing down on its policy of banning employees, such as Nadia Eweida, from wearing a Christian necklace or other symbol at work, in full view of staff and customers.

But no one should be shocked. Not really. If you understand the concept of "worldview," you shouldn't be shocked. And if you understand Christianity, you shouldn't be shocked.

This suggests two sets of comments.

1. Everyone has a worldview (some have elements of many). A "worldview" is your "view" of the "world," that is, your basic philosophy of life, the set of principles and assumptions about reality that you rely on to navigate existence in all its wonder and all its challenge.

In this sense, Nadia Eweida has a worldview and so does the CEO of British Airways. As does every customer and baggage-handler. Even the scientist in the lab has a worldview and so does the village pragmatist. Having a worldview is part of what it means to be a human being.

Worldviews will not be denied. This is because people seek to externalize these their most deeply held convictions (even if they are not aware of them). People regard these convictions as reliable guides to life, as truths and principles to live by. Over time they become "common sense."

People try to live consistently with their worldview. This is understandably an attempt to avoid a schizophrenic way of life. You don't have to a saint to prefer unity and integrity in behavior instead of a kind of hypocrisy (or harm) that results when one's worldview is denied an honest expression.

2. Some religious worldviews are private, but Christianity is not one of them. It's personal, yes, but not private.

It's personal because it involves the whole person. It treats human beings holistically and does not burden individuals with one set of ideals for public life and then a different set of ideals for private life.

The God of the Bible is a public figure. The truth-claims regarding his character and existence can be rationally discussed and empirically investigated. This is the emphasis in the history of Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and then of Jesus engaging his disciples in discussion, and so on.

Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem are points on the globe. Enemies or honest doubters could examine the empty tomb to corroborate (or try to destroy) eye-witness claims about a resurrection. Miracles can be observed by the same kinds of eyes that behold a Manhattan sunset.

Faith in this setting is primarily a matter of trust. It is the trust of the whole person on the basis of what Francis Schaeffer would call "good and sufficient reasons."

"Faith" can disclose new horizons of knowledge, "the evidence of things not see" (Heb. 11). But that faith is first grounded in knowledge. "Faith" is not an epistemological magic wand that turns something false into something true. "Faith" does not transmogrify an idol into God no matter how passionate the "believer" or how deep the "spirituality."

Given the modern defition of "faith" as belief in something for which one lacks evidence, Christianity may not even qualify as a religion.

The Christian worldview is reality-oriented. This means if the Christian truth-claims are false, they should not be believed. Thus, if Jesus of Nazareth did not really rise from the dead, says Paul in 1 Cor.15, "your faith is in vain."

But if the Christian propositions are true, they can be relied upon, and acted upon, as a solid foundation for life and culture, not only in the old days of ancient paganism but also in the flashy twilight of modern secularism.

So, you see, the surprize, the shock even, should go in the other direction. Because of the nature of Christianity as a humane worldview, our expection should be that healthy-functioning human beings will behave as though its information and principles apply beyond the closet door into the entirety of their lives.

The truncated "believer" singing hymns while sitting in a closet nailed shut should be the surprize. A secularist may be in the way. Someone needs to open that door.