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CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT is Now Available for Purchase

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It’s not every day you get to announce the official release of a book you contributed to.

As many of you know, I’ve had the privilege of working with Drs. Joshua Chatraw and Karen Swallow Prior on an anthology about Christian engagement with cultural beliefs. Dr. Prior asked me to contribute an essay a year and a half ago, and it has been a tremendous pleasure and privilege to be involved in this project.

The book, Cultural Engagement: A Crash Course in Contemporary Issues, releases today. It explores nine controversial topics—sexuality, gender roles, human life & reproductive technology, immigration & race, creation & creature care, politics, work, the arts, and warfare & capital punishment—from a variety of angles. Contributors to the book include Makoto Fujimura, Rod Dreher, Rosaria Butterfield, Andy Crouch, Joe Carter, and Katelyn Beaty.
There is a wide range of beliefs represented in this book, not because all positions are equally valid, but because there needs to …

When to Question Your Entertainment Choices

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Entertainment isn’t inherently shallow, but we can be shallow in our response to it sometimes. One such way is viewing and treating entertainment as nothing more than a simple tool for proselytizing. This belief has led to a plethora of shallow faith-based movies that are just thinly-veiled sermons.

Another shallow way to respond to entertainment, as Trevin Wax once pointed out, is to subscribe to the idea that “all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.” Wax then rightly asks, “What’s the point in decrying the exploitation of women in strip clubs and mourning the enslavement of men to pornography when we unashamedly watch films that exploit and enslave?”
These are excellent questions, and after mulling them over for quite a while (the above-linked article was published over five years ago), I have attempted at least a partial answer in my newest article for Reformed Perspective: There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, somewhere between the qu…

What REALLY Went Wrong with Desiring God’s Critique of CAPTAIN MARVEL

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The proverbial hornet’s nest got a solid whack with a stick when Desiring God published an article by Greg Morse entitled Behold Your Queen: The Real Conflict in Captain Marvel. When the piece was initially published, I was concerned. After further reflection, I became more concerned. And after seeing the angry, hurt, and incredulous responses from many women I know, I became deeply concerned.

That concern turned into a lengthy written response, divided into two separate blog posts (here and here). I laid out what I believed were four problematic components of the article.
Because of the great respect I have for those at Desiring God, I personally reached out to Mr. Morse and shared my concerns. He thanked me for contacting him directly, and even offered to schedule a video chat for further discussion.
We were finally able to participate in that video chat just over a week ago. During our conversation (which he opened and closed with earnest prayer), Morse displayed a depth of humility t…

Seth Rogen on Hollywood’s Backdoor Connection to the Red-Light District

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As someone who’s not a fan of chick flicks and romantic comedies (like, at all), I was surprised to find myself genuinely intrigued by the first trailer I saw for Long Shot (starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron), which played up the sentimental aspects of the story. Subsequent trailers, however, more clearly hinted at the raunchier side of things.

In the end, I decided not to see the movie.
What I did recently see, however, was a video clip from an interview Rogen and Theron gave during their press tour for Long Shot. In a segment on The Graham Norton Show, where they were discussing porn star Stormy Daniels’ dalliances with Donald Trump, Norton brought up the fact that Seth Rogen has actually worked with Daniels before.
After Theron incredulously asked, “What?!” several times, Rogen clarified what his working relationship with the porn star entailed. Below is a (slightly cleaned up) transcript of what he said:
Stormy Daniels is in Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin. . . . Very earl…

No, HBO Isn’t Porn—and That’s Part of the Problem

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Ramin Djawadi has done a superb job of composing the music for HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones. As one who hasn’t watched the show, I only recently binge-listened to the music from all seven seasons. I don’t think I’ve ever done that with any other TV series. From the iconic main titles sequence for each season, to the elegant “Light of the Seven,” to the epic “The Army of the Dead,” Djawadi has created an impressive musical tapestry.

The music from this series is just one example how Game of Thrones is no run-of-the-mill television series. The production values, quality of acting, and narrative complexities of GOT (not to mention its plethora of Emmy nominations) all point to the impressive artistry exemplified by the show’s participants.
Look, I get it. Game of Thrones, in addition to other HBO shows, isn’t just all hype. It is a genuinely intriguing drama, and it understandably has captured the interest of millions of viewers. If not for its graphic sexual and violent content, I wo…

Is UNPLANNED Just Pro-Life Propaganda?

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Filmmaker and human rights activist Jason Jones recently wrote the following:

When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, could she have guessed its impact? That slavery would die less than fifteen years later? . . . Unplanned can be the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of the abortion issue. And today’s pro-life movement can be the movement that drives its success.
That’s a bold statement, especially when considering the artistically-checkered past of Unplanned’s filmmakers. Conventional wisdom would lead even a pro-lifer such as myself to receive such a claim with at least a grain of skepticism.
At the same time, comparing Uncle Tom’s Cabin with Unplanned isn’t entirely without merit. While far from identical, these two stories have some striking parallels. I want to specifically address the similarities between the criticisms they have received from their contemporaries.
Consider Uncle Tom’s Cabin. No one can accuse author Harriet Beecher Stowe of subtlety. Restraint and nuance were…

SHAZAM! (2019) – Film Review

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Based on its marketing materials, this newest cinematic treatment of a DC superhero displayed a scope of humor thus far not seen in the DCEU. Could Shazam! actually be giving the MCU a run for its money? The answer is…complicated.

As a reminder, I rate movies based on three criteria: objectionable content (C), artistic merit (A), and my personal opinions (P). (C-A-P. Get it?)

CONTENT (C): 7 out of 10
As one might expect, Shazam! is one of the goofiest superhero movies to hit modern-day cineplexes. As one might not expect, Shazam! mixes a heavy dose of content that many might consider troubling—especially for younger theatergoers. This is, in fact, not a movie for children.
In the world of Shazam!, the seven deadly sins provide a formidable presence, personified by seven expertly-and-grotesquely rendered demonic beings. The threat they pose provides for some tense moments—including one scene in particular that flirts with the horror genre.
Even though Lust is one of the seven deadly sins, t…