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Films & the culture wars

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Comic filmmaker Harold Ramis (“Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters”) is finishing up a project that supposedly lampoons Old Testament figures. In “Year One,” the satire has Jack Black and Michael Cera as banished cave brothers encountering the likes of Cain and Abel and Abraham. When a reporter asked the filmmaker if he thought some of the religious humor might offend, Ramis answered, “I hope so!”

It’s hard to believe nowadays, but there was a time when religion couldn’t be ridiculed in the movies. The demise of the Motion Picture Production Code in the mid-1960s changed that, along with Mel Brooks’ “History of the World, Part 1” (1981).

Today, activists who prefer to believe that the universe began with a big bang are determined to convince secular America that the following of biblical doctrine is somehow the cause of all social ills. And they aren’t shy about presenting that proposal through their art. In last year’s “Religulous,” a docu-diatribe concerning Bill Maher’s belief that all faith is faulty, the comedian stated, “Religion must die so mankind can live.”

This year’s “MILK” (Rated R), no doubt a frontrunner come film awards season, is the latest example of how poisonous and misleading secularists can be. Here we have director Gus Van Sant (“Paranoid Park,” “Good Will Hunting”), chronicling the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly homosexual to win political office. After serving on the board of supervisors, Mr. Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another elected supervisor.

Yes, the movie is involving storytelling, accompanied by intense acting and a polished visceral impact, but it is also heavy-handed, produced with a fierce humanistic, political design. And while it is, as Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn) states several times in the film, “here to recruit you,” ultimately the film serves further to divide.

Mr. Van Sant knows exactly how to press those justice-for-all buttons. But surely by now moviegoers have discerned that any viewpoint mandated by a moviemaker can seem righteous, while opposing views can be unfairly mocked. In MILK, Anita Bryant, a one-time beauty contestant/orange juice pitch person who had the temerity to answer when her views were requested concerning the issue of homosexuality, is the target Harvey and his associates throw darts at throughout the film. And in the film, Ms. Bryant represents Christian America. Indeed, MILK is a sort of call-to-arms, a less-than-subtle endeavor to divide and conquer. Those involved in the production seem determined to do more than legitimatize a lifestyle. The movie clearly stresses the need to stifle the Christian’s place in politics and society in general.

Example upon example are given whereupon Harvey Milk would do anything in order to achieve his goal, including “outing” homosexuals afraid to let their families know of their hidden passions. By film’s end, one wonders if homosexual activists are willing to sacrifice their own, then what compassion will they show Christians when our rights are systematically withdrawn? The invading of church services and defacing of church buildings may just be the first steps in their campaign to attack the rights of the religious.

Our founding fathers and our pioneering ancestors developed this nation upon Judeo-Christian ethics. In America’s historical writings, there is a reverence for God and His Holy Word. Those spiritual concepts affected the arts, the community, even the business world. In 1869, for example, when the golden spike was struck at the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, symbolically and practically uniting our nation, a prayer was offered up at that ceremony. Reverence for God was shown by people from all walks of life. God wasn’t yet exiled from many public events.

Recently I viewed a segment of the now ancient “Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” television series. Though unknown by most people today, that was the No. 1 comedy series of its day and the Nelsons were regarded as America’s best loved family. At the end of the episode, Ozzie did a public service announcement, encouraging Americans to attend their church or synagogue. This PSA aired on ABC! Ah, the times, they are a-changin’.

In Van Sant’s MILK, homosexual grownups are portrayed as emotionally immature, some even unbalanced. Twice, the movie shows Harvey engaging in sexual activity with someone he’s just met. Drug use is condoned. Homosexual leaders are shown willing to drive others out of business. Yet, it is those of us who take the Bible to heart who are painted as nasty, narrow and unwise.

I wouldn’t say we’ve lost the culture war. The majority of Americans are still uniting around common traditional values. But our nation is undergoing change, and there are those who have declared a culture war upon biblical truths. Be Prepared. As our nation further distances itself from biblical perspectives, your faith will be strongly tested.
Phil Boatwright reviews films for previewonline.org and is a regular columnist for Baptist Press.

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  • Phil Boatwright