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Posts in: December 2014

Scary Santa

Over the weekend, my sister relayed the sad tale of my five-year-old nephew. It seems that, for the past nights, he’s cried himself to sleep, terrified that he hasn’t been good enough this year for Santa to visit. At the other end of the spectrum, however, is, my younger nephew, age three. He is so taken with the concept Santa that the only thing he asked for besides toys was a painting of the fat and jolly man himself, an oddly adorable request.

There’s something wrong with this picture, but it’s not greed or consumerism. The morality of Christmas is merely a reflection of Christianity itself: do good things (i.e., give gifts) so that good things happened to you (i.e., you receive even better gifts). I think the reason some Christians these days want to reject Christmas isn’t because of its roots as a pagan ritual, the un-Christian perils of materialism, or the dishonesty of propping up a false idol as the symbol of the holiday; it’s because this plain fact throws into sharp relief the biggest flaw in Christian ethics. Don’t do good things because they’re inherently right (and yes, certain actions are inherently right and wrong); do good things because you’re ascared of God’s wrath, or ascared your seat in Heaven won’t be quite as good.

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Why The Interview Doesn’t Matter

Short answer: Because a corporation is not a government.

Slightly longer answer: As hard as it is for many film critics and pop-culture commentators to accept, Sony Pictures is not in the business of making art; they are, like all entertainment companies, in the business of making money. I offer the following 2014 releases as evidence: Heaven Is for Real, Think Like a Man Too, RoboCop, About Last Night, Pompeii. The fact that sometimes a surefire blockbuster flops (as Pompeii did) doesn’t negate the studio’s driving force. In the same way, the fact that sometimes financial interests overlap with artistic interests doesn’t mean Sony has any interest in art, free speech, or anything else; it’s just a happy accident on the road to earning more.

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Protecting Interests

This is the Persian Empire, known today as Iran. For 2500 years, this land was ruled by a series of kings, known as shahs. In 1950, the people of Iran elected Mohammad Mosaddegh, a secular democrat, as Prime Minister. He nationalized British and U.S. petroleum holdings, returning Iran’s oil to its people. But in 1953, the U.S. and Great Britain engineered a coup d’etat that deposed Mosadegh and installed [Mohammad] Reza Pahlavi as shah. The young Shah was known for opulence and excess. His wife was rumored to bathe in milk while the shah had his lunches flown in by Concorde from Paris. The people starved. The shah kept power through his ruthless internal police, the SAVAK. An era of torture and fear began. He then began a campaign to westernize Iran, enraging a mostly traditional Shi’ite population. In 1979, the people of Iran overthrew the shah. The exiled cleric, Ayatollah Khomeini, returned to rule Iran. It descended into score-settling, death squads, and chaos. Dying of cancer, the shah as given asylum in the U.S. The Iranian people took to the streets outside the U.S. Embassy, demanding the shah be returned, tried and hanged.
— Opening narration, Argo (2012)

I’ll try to ignore the fact that much of this narration is factually inaccurate, but I do want to correct a couple of points before I get into what I actually want to talk about:

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