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Showing posts from 2021

Oh, the (Abolition of) Humanity: An Interview with Michael Ward

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He has forever changed the way we read  The Chronicles of Narnia . He has been hailed by N.T Wright as “the foremost living Lewis scholar.” And now he’s giving modern-day readers fresh insights into Lewis’s writing in his newest scholarly work, published by Word on Fire Academic . Dr. Michael Ward is a professor, writer, author, speaker, and thespian. And that’s only what he does on the weekends. But seriously, and more personally, Michael Ward was instrumental in revitalizing my interest in the Narnia series, which I had mislabeled as a hodgepodge of narrative and thematic elements. (To my credit, J.R.R. Tolkien made the same mistake himself.) Due in large part to Ward’s influence, I have grown in my enjoyment and appreciation of Lewis’s work. Ward’s newest book, After Humanity , follows in the footsteps of Planet Narnia by introducing readers to a deeper understanding of one of Lewis’s works —in this case,  The Abolition of Man . In preparation for the book release, I, along

The Professor and the Prostitute

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During one of his travels, a seminary professor visited a famous cathedral. Upon entering, he was surprised to find a call girl crumpled on the floor, weeping loudly. He quickly moved past her so he could take in the beauty of the cathedral. Miffed as he was that the call-girl’s sobs were distracting him from the beautiful surroundings, he was inspired to pray thus: “God, thank you that I have the capacity to truly appreciate and understand all this architecture and artwork. Thank you for giving me a sense of decorum in such a place...” (Here he spared half a thought for the girl in the back, whose sobs rose briefly in volume). “I write articles for reputable publications, and I contribute to your work through charitable giving. Thank you that I am not like so many other people who come in here: half-drunk, half-awake, half-crazy.” On his way out of the cathedral, the professor could hear the call girl, who was still on the floor, mumbling the words, “Have mercy, I’m such a rotten sinn

Chronological “Snubbery”: On the Proper Reading Order for The Chronicles of Narnia

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Those who purchase a book set of The Chronicles of Narnia today might assume the content of the series is in the same format as it was when C. S. Lewis first wrote it. That assumption, while understandable, is inaccurate. For the length of C. S. Lewis’s life (and decades beyond), his seven books from the world of Narnia were arranged so that readers would go through them in the order in which they were published. In 1994, however, the books were reordered and renumbered. The seven separate installments, as they were originally written and released, progressively develop the world of Narnia. As such, the rearranged book set unfolds the overarching narrative in a jumbled fashion. It ends up revealing information to the first-time reader in a slapdash manner. At several key narrative points, the current book order tips its hand to the reader before it even makes its play (so to speak). The argument in favor of this new arrangement is that the books are now in a more chronological o

Men, Be Brave and Bold—not Macho or Milquetoast

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In the NFL, an average game lasts about three hours. Take out all the commercials and you have only an hour of game time. Remove all the time between plays and you end up with an eleven minute game. Of course, for individual players, the play time is even shorter. A quarterback, for example, can hold the ball in active play for fewer than 120 seconds. And yet, even though actual play time per game is incredibly small, players prepare for those scant minutes —or seconds— with over 60 hours of training. Now, if you know me, football facts don’t just roll off my tongue. I ’ m not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination. About the closest I get to watching football is checking out the Super Bowl commercials—after they’ve aired. No, I learned the NFL facts above from Marty Machowski’s newest book, Brave and Bold: 31 Devotions to Strengthen Men . Those football stats, Machowski says, can illustrate an important truth: the extensive testing (or, rather, training) of our faith devel

Hollywood’s Most Oscar-Worthy Treatment of Rape

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Rarely does a cinematic exploration of sexual violence make it all the way to the Oscars. The 93 rd Academy Awards, however, have proven to be an exception. The film Promising Young Woman  “seeks to subvert the rape-revenge genre, replacing mindless fantasy tropes with deliberate and realistic elements.” Regardless of the film’s merits (or lack thereof ), what this year’s Oscars have reminded me of is an event over 70 years ago—the 21 st Academy Awards , in which another cinematic exploration of rape received even more notable attention. The year was 1949. Oscar nominated films included the likes of Joan of Arc (starring Ingrid Bergman) and Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet . The film with most nominations, however, was Johnny Belinda . With an awkward title and promotional poster, the movie might not look like anything special to a modern audience, but belying its uncouth outer shell is an artistic powerhouse of a film. To this day, Johnny Belinda remains one of the most Oscar-nominated

How to Push Back Against the Tide of an Immoral Society

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With rampant licentiousness being the societal norm, we need a robust Christian sexual ethic—something more than just a vague notion that sex should be reserved for marriage. We must reclaim a thoroughly God-centered, neighbor-serving perspective. I explore what that perspective should entail in a new article for Crosswalk : Under the surface of our society’s unabashed promiscuity is a root we can easily overlook: a climate of consumerism. Using an impersonal, utilitarian lens, our consumeristic culture encourages us to evaluate others based on their perceived usefulness. The more willing others are to play to an individual’s felt needs, the more willing he is to treat them with dignity and respect.   This tendency essentially views or treats others as objects. It points back to the end-user as the end goal: what he wants reigns supreme. The emphasis becomes inward rather than outward. The question becomes, “How can this person benefit  me ?”   An inward, consumeristic focus

If a Movie Includes Coerced Nudity, Who’s to Blame?

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Whenever an actor shares the shame and humiliation of being bullied into undressing or sexually acting out for the camera, there are a plethora of responses from armchair critics. Since I write about this topic often, I’ve seen a lot of these responses, many of which can often lean toward the shame-based end of the spectrum : “It’s her fault for not telling the director ‘no.’” “What did she expect, working with a bunch of perverts?” “She’s complaining now, but did she complain about the paycheck she received?” “If you don’t like the mud don’t roll around with the pigs!” For consumers far removed from the goings on of a film set, it’s easy to simplify matters so as to lay the blame at the actress’ feet, as if the most appropriate summation is, “She shouldn’t have done that.” The reality, however, is more complex, and Scripture can help us better navigate this complexity. Consider for example the story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar (see Genesis 38). Childless, and after the lo

Rape Revenge Fantasies and Male Entitlement

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Revenge movies are nothing new. A staple of Hollywood throughout the decades, they run the gamut from Oscar-worthy ( Ben-Hur and Gladiator ) to cheap exploitation (no need to list specific titles here). There is something about vigilante justice that appeals to our nature, although the mileage of any given film will vary depending on how realistically, honestly, and/or cathartically it handles the topic. There is a subgenre of the revenge narrative that is especially ripe for exploitation: the rape-revenge film. Movies in this category often act as excuses for gratuitous displays of sex and violence. The victim/protagonist typically enacts vengeance on the perpetrator(s) by treating him/them the way she was treated—i.e., as an object of dehumanizing violence. Part of the fantasy, of course, is that an act of violence can actually negate or overcome or erase a previous act of violence. There’s a new movie in town, however, and it seeks to subvert the rape-revenge genre, replacing min

Third Blog’s the Charm

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Four score and seven years ago (or so it seems), I staked my claim on a small corner of cyberspace . The actual date when I began my blog? January 16, 2006. The actual title of the blog? Well, Four Scores and Seven Films Ago . This title captured my love of three elements: instrumental film scores, movies, and American history (with an obvious nod to Abraham Lincoln). The aesthetic of the blog reflected its title, with an intentionally dated, parchment-paper look. Seven years later, in January of 2013, I gave the blog a serious facelift . The generic blogging URL was replaced with a custom domain name, and the original title replaced with the shorter, and more ambiguous, Happier Far . (I lifted this phase from a gospel moment in Paradise Lost , the epic poem by John Milton.) The new blog title fit the theological bent of my writings at the time. The new template also reflected a more modern aesthetic. Of course, over seven more years have passed (just over eight, actually), and the

President Biden to Replace Hyde Amendment with “Rawhide Amendment”

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In one of his first acts as President of the Divided States of America, Biden has purposed to not only eliminate the Hyde Amendment, but to replace it with what he is calling the Rawhide Amendment. During a press conference awkwardly scheduled on the National Sanctity of Human Life Day, Biden said, “Why call it Rawhide? Well, why not? I mean, it even rhymes with Hyde. It’s perfect!” He continued: “We have a language problem, and it needs to stop. So many d**n people keep injecting the abortion debate with a vulgar vernacular. As such, I am introducing a legislative provision to make it a legal requirement to use only scientific terms.” First, Biden proposes that pre-born humans be referred to as fetuses—not babies. “A fetus is not yet a baby,” he said. “Science must be the determining factor here—not our emotions or personal preferences. Let’s stick to the facts, people! Our nation’s rich history illustrates how humans aren’t fully human until the United States government says th

The Top 20 of 2020

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When it comes to life itself, sometimes it’s easier to see the road in the rearview mirror. When it comes to public blogging, it’s nice to sometimes take a look back and see what worked best—that is, what got the most traction and feedback. I know it has been popular to joke about how horrible the last year was ( this is my favorite 2020 meme ), but a lot of good happened too. In my own narrow corner of cyberspace, below are what you might call my Top 20 of 2020: the ten most popular blog posts of the year, and ten notable writing (or related) events that took place last year. First up, the ten most popular blog posts of 2020, listed in reverse order. 10. How Skipping Movies with Sex Scenes Prepared Me for the Coronavirus Early in the year, COVID-19 started to dominate the news, as well as our daily lives. As we all were forced to adjust to a new normal, I made a surprising discovery: one particular practice I put into place a few years ago had helped prepare me for responding be