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September 12, 2009

Ebert Reviews Christianity

Critic won't review film, but critiques "fundamentalist minority of American Christians"

Invoking journalistic ethics by saying he "adamantly" won't review Creation till it releases to theaters, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert then went on to "review" Christians in a recent blog post from the Toronto International Film Festival.

Ebert had been to a screening of Creation, the ironically titled film about Charles Darwin, opening in the UK this month and in the U.S. sometime next year. Adhering to an unwritten critics' code to not review a film till it releases, Ebert goes on to voice a few observations about Christians, Darwin and more.

He noted that one member of the audience walked out shortly after a scene in the film in which Darwin walks out of a church during a sermon on Genesis 1 -- the creation story. Ebert wonders: "Was he offended by the film? There's no way to say. There were an unusually large number of walk-outs, but who knows if they were leaving for theological reasons, or to get in line for the screenings of [other TIFF films], or because of boredom?"

Just wondering: If several had walked out of any other film, would it even have crossed Ebert's mind that they might be leaving because of "theological reasons"?

I usually try not to read too much between the lines of what people write, but it's hard not to do that when Ebert goes on to write: "Did it occur to Darwin . . . that nothing in his ideas precluded the existence of God? Today, no major religion finds conflict between God and the theory of evolution. The majority of Christians can live with both ideas; religious opposition to Darwin is limited primarily to a fundamentalist minority of American Christians."

It's fascinating that Ebert uses no adjective to describe Christians who find no conflict between God and evolution. But for those Christians who do find conflict, they are "fundamentalist," a "minority," and "American."

Pretty hard not to read between the lines there. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Finally, I'm not sure what Ebert was trying to communicate by including these two images with his blog post, in this sequence:



I think it's more appropriate to say he 'observes' Christianity instead of reviewing it, per se. Fair enough. He has a blog, he has thoughts, he's working them out.

Just FYI, the guy who runs slashfilm.com left early. He said it wasn't his thing and was bored.

Actually it sounds like ebert was being quite fair about Christians...and it is quite true that a minority of Christians see a problem between evolution and creation (especially in light of the Catholic denomination never criticizing evolution).

finally, it is worth remembering that evolution has no idea or theory on the origin of life on earth. perhaps it is right when it comes to the origin of the variety of species, but the vastly bigger question is the origin of life. God has a corner on that market :)

actually, evolution DOES has an idea about the origin of life on earth, several ideas in fact. A self-replicating molecule similar to RNA maybe, either way amino acids were probably involved. Anyway, don't worry, thousands of intelligent, rational, free-thinking scientists are currently looking into it so if I were God I'd start filing for bankruptcy. Christianity has opposed science from it's inception because it provides answers to questions that previously only priests and shaman gave themselves the authority to answer: the sun IS the centre of the solar system (no need to burn men to death for saying it), women DO have equal rights to men and evolution beautifully describes and explains ALL life on earth using mountains of evidence from numerous different sciences. religion is a relic of our stone-age past where any answer was better than nothing. We know more now, we have EVIDENCE. Use the internet, research for yourselves, be brave, test your faith .

Absolutely no form of evolution is compatible with Genesis. Yes, there is a 600+ million year record of escalating death, but the correct literal reading of the first chapter of Genesis told mankind about the geologic history of Earth more than 3,000 years before secular science discovered it. Both creationism and theology have failed to do their homework, and the truth of Genesis is not being represented. Unfortunately, the news media has practiced censorship in ignoring the world’s leading expert on Genesis, keeping the public in the dark about the available truth of scripture.

There are no creation accounts in Genesis. Creationism is not the opposing view of evolution. Biblical Creation is the opposing view of “the Big Bang” theory. The Observations of Moses (Gen 1:1 – 2:3) is the opposing view of evolution. Therefore there is no ‘creation/evolution’ contest. There are Factual Genesis seminars available to educate the public if institutions are willing the host them.

Herman Cummings
PO Box 1745
Fortson GA, 31808-1745

I must confess, I do you think you are reading too much between the lines here, Mark. Does one word - fundamentalist - written by Roger Ebert really merit the perception that he's critiquing Christianity as a whole? That's a heck of a way to ferret out Ebert's beliefs on the subject.

I would defend his musing on whether or not theology prompted a walk-out as being very fair to apply to this film above others. This film is built on the story of one of the most contentious religion-vs.-science debates that remains strong in the current day, and is a very emotionally charged matter to boot. I knew a guy in college whose entire opposition to Christianity was based on his conviction that any non-Darwinist creation theory was stupid. He didn't care about any other areas of theology or philosophy, or consider any of them valid to the consideration of Christianity as truth or falsehood. This is a really big deal for a lot of people. Also, it's not unusual for someone to go to a film they know will be contentious, but decide after 20 minutes that's it's just too contentious for them and leave.

It makes sense to imagine that someone would walk out on this particular film for theological reasons. What good reason would there be to wonder if someone walked out of District 9 because of theological reasons? Yeah, some people were offended by the anti-shamanism sub-plot, but safe money is that people who walk out of movies the moment they feel uncomfortable aren't the kind of people who put down $13 for an R-rated action thriller in the first place, and that they'd have left long before the shaman's introduction because Wikus swears so much. (I suppose, if one really wanted to, one could assume that the person's assumed aversion to swearing was theologically-based, and that assumption could very well be correct...but theology isn't the only valid reason for avoiding copious use of the f-word.) If someone walked out of Terminator: Salvation, I'd assume it was because they thought the film was lame, and not because they were offended by the series Christological theme (so blatant this one's named after it!). That, or they really needed a bathroom break. :p

I think those images are a brilliant summary of the religion-vs.-Darwin debate. The theory of evolution, at its climax, presents modern-day man as coming directly from apes, and continuing to share many properties - "in their image", so to speak. The famous thumbnail from the Sistine chapel shows man coming from God, in his image. A rather ingenious way to encapsulate the emotional crux of the argument, I'd say.

Lighten up for God's sake. In Woody Allen's film "Curse of the Jade Scorpion", someone tells Woody, "You know there's a word for people who think like you." and Woody responds, "Yeah, perceptive."
That's funny, but you are scary. Seek help.

Anthropologist Joseph Campbell in “The Power of Myth” makes an eliminating observation: “If you know something is true, it’s no longer faith.” Although humorous, martinius’s comment about “God filing for bankruptcy” isn’t necessarily so just as long as the religion business stays out of the science business. It is my contention that it doesn’t matter whether or not there actually is a God if your faith makes you a better person and makes your brief stay here on earth a more beautiful experience. Neither of which can be said of the man on the magazine cover in the upper-right portion of your page, John Calvin, another monster who burned a man alive.
If you can go along with that, you aren’t a better person and there is no beautiful experience in life, only horror. Would God want to spend eternity with such a person? If the answer is yes, as Jim Morrison said, you can “cancel my subscription to the resurrection.”


Dear Mr. Moring

Write in haste... My aplogies for the "but you are scary. Seek help." comment. I shouldn't have said that, because it was rude and, upon relection, not true.

Of course the "John Calvin, another monster" refers to all of the people throughout hitory who have done horrible things.

Yours truly, Don

I read Ebert's blog religiously and although he is not a believer himself and at times can have pretty harsh words to the excesses of Christianity. He often defends the Christian faith to the many detractors that comment on his blog. You can see this in many of his reviews. For instance, he gave a very measured review of the Passion of the Christ when others were simply describing it as anti-semitic. Darwin seems to very quite important to his worldview and its rejection may create ire for him. But, I will have to say he is a very firm defender of the sincerity of many Christians and also of the importance of Christian art forms. I am not sure what more you can expect from someone openly not committed to religion.

From what I've read of the film I would not bother to see - even free on TV - what I infer to be, basically, a 'chick flick'.

To anyone with a reasonable science background can see with a serious read of the Biblical text that the Law of Thermodynamics was in effect before Adam and Eve appear on the scene. All digestion, cell division, movement, requires movement from hot bodies to cold for *any* biological function to normally occur, which requires the 2nd Law to already be in effect. Since plants and animals were on the scene before man's sin guess what - Decay (required for digestion) was already in effect. It is the YEC (Young Earth Creationist) viewpoint that generally runs afoul of the physics that God chose when He created the universe.

Darwinism is theologically neutral whether you believe it or not - Abiogenesis is a different matter altogether and should be considered antithetical to the Biblical position.

As Christians who are well informed in science, we have the strongest position in the history of Mankind to argue for the biblical position due to recent findings about Fine Tuning in the Universe at any layer you could want (biological, hydrological, chemical, Earth, our habital zone in the solar system, extra-solar habital zone, galactic habital zone, galatic supergroup, etc).

But let's avoid confusing Darwinism with Abiogenesis. That plays into the hands of the Other Team (Atheists) who do want to link them together for obvious reasons and would prefer we infight while they are free to lampoon us in the arena of ideas.

Mark Moring is another gullible fool who has fallen for the nonsense of Christianity. Open the Gospel of Mark, Mark. Jesus walks into a synagogue where an "unclean pneuma" has taken possession of a man. Not a real story, just an insult as a response to the synagogues denying the Church permission to recruit new members.... because Christianity was and is an END OF THE WORLD CULT. Come over to Roger's blog and post your slander and let us respond. Oh, wait, that would require integrity and courage. You're a coward, Mark. A coward who doesn't understand what DEMONS are. A scam.