December 12, 2005


The gay, the bad and the Israeli (Spengler, 12/13/05, Asia Times)

But no film of the first decade of the 21st century will flop as miserably as Spielberg's Munich, a "prayer for peace" derived from the 1972 terrorist attacks on Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. Spielberg's theme, as he explained in the Time story, is the futility of the Israelis' subsequent retaliation.

Futility makes poor theater. If Spielberg had portrayed a moral equivalence between the great white shark and its hunters, Jaws would have bombed at the box office. American audiences sat on the edge of their seats waiting for Roy Scheider to wreak vengeance against the toothsome monster. Indiana Jones' enemies meet hideous deaths, to audience cheers. The director who made his reputation pandering to vengeful bloodlust now wants moviegoers to ponder the moral equivalences in war. Vengeance makes for good box office, as Aeschylus well knew. Moral ambiguity just wins the Pulitzer Prize (or in the case of Harold Pinter, the Nobel).

Speaking of the Pulitzer, noteworthy is Spielberg's choice of the world's worst playwright as screenwriter, namely Tony Kushner. Thanks to HBO, Kushner's Pulitzer-winning magnum opus Angels in America was played before the world by the likes of Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. Kushner's "gay fantasia on political themes" waves placards and shouts slogans with the worst kind of agitprop didacticism. Kushner is not only gay, but also a Marxist. Of Jewish extraction, he despises Zionism.

Kushner identified with the Soviet Union until its collapse. Afterward he told an interviewer, "The collapse of the Soviet system does not mean that capitalism has succeeded ... Socialism is simply the idea that people are better off if we work collectively and that the economic system we live in is made by people and therefore can be controlled intelligently rather than let loose. There's no way that can't be true." [...]

It may seem incongruous for the liberal mainstream to set against the Bush administration a gay Marxist's view of the Middle East. In fact, Spielberg's transition from the world of Indiana Jones to the realm of Angels in America measures the miserable state of the liberal mainstream since September 11, 2001. Well may Americans disapprove of the president's poor handling of Iraq, but they are quite happy to slaughter their enemies when opportunity permits. Nor do they sit up nights worrying, like Kushner's fictional Mossad agents, about whether they might kill the wrong fellow on occasion.

If one disdains revealed truth as a relic of the barbaric past, one finds truth only in the "authentic" self-expression of every grouplet in the world. Gays become authentic by actualizing their own truth, along with African-Americans, Native Americans, Palestinians, or whatever band of sufferers might turn up with a grievance.

The more evidence accumulates that the "authenticity" of some groups centers on wreaking havoc on other groups, the more desperately liberal opinion clings to the illusion that the self-expression of each grouplet may be subject to universal reconciliation.

"Revealed truth" is, of course, redundant, but disdain for it is in fact why secularism is suicidal, destroying the basis of liberal society and delegitimizing its defense.

Christian community in the shadow of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Fukuyama (Peter Sellick, 10/2/03, Online Opinion)

Francis Fukuyama's book The End of History and the Last Man draws heavily on the above authors to tell us that liberal democracy is the end point of political development. He attributes the movement towards liberal democracy to the equalitarian aspects of Christianity which proclaim that all are equal in the Kingdom of God. However, following Hegel, he argues that Christianity is the last great slave religion because the freedom that adherents are called to is cancelled when they bow their necks to an imaginary Lord who is none other than their own projection. Furthermore, he argues, along with Nietzsche, that the idea that all men are equal is a prejudice perpetrated by Christianity and an expression of the assertion of the weak against the strong. This has produced a fanaticism that strives to make all equal as witnessed by the programs of political correctness. Christians are thus the un-free compared to those liberated by the movements of secular liberalism. [....]

The old joke about Hegel is pertinent here: he explained all things except how we must get through the day. My recent reading of Walker Percy underlines this. Our science is able to explain the macrocosmic and the microcosmic but we find ourselves "left over". We must still struggle with the mystery of our own lives. Stable government may bring an end to war and revolution and establish a soft welfare net but the journey towards God, discovered in the ancient accounts and in our own lives must still be embarked upon. This is why the end of history in liberal democracy may not be likened to the end of history described so luridly and mysteriously in the book of Revelation in which Christ becomes all in all.

Hegel located the event that signalled the end of history as the battle of Jena in 1806 at which the basic principles of the liberal democratic state were seen in their full form although not in their universal application (we are not there yet). The church, on the other hand, proclaims a different date and event, the crucifixion of a wandering teacher by the Roman authorities in AD 30. This is the hinge of history from which there is no turning back that directs all events towards a culmination in the kingdom of God, that earthly reality in which human freedom and justice and peace will be complete. That would be a real end of history, not just the end of political evolution. It shares with Hegel's end of history the continuing tension of the now but not yet, of the end being seen in the present in an incomplete form yet glimmering on the horizon to beckon us on.

May we understand the establishment of liberal democracy as being a part of the journey towards the Kingdom? But then why not see the invention of penicillin or electrification or any number of technologies as being a part of our progression towards the Kingdom? We could well point to the materialism of Israel being the necessary precursor to scientific thought in a similar way that we point to the egalitarian content of Christianity being the precursor to the liberal democratic state.

The parable of the ferment of the yeast is apt here. The yeast remains invisible in the dough but produces the leavening that makes the bread delicious. Just so the gospel ferments in culture to produce good things. It is not there for itself but for the ferment that it produces.

So there is a way that we can see liberal democracy as a fruit of the gospel, but it is not the gospel itself. As such it is not any kind of end or telos. History or geography may still sweep Western culture away, even end the species. We would be mistaken to identify our cozy position in life with the kingdom. Such a conclusion would pre-empt the kingdom and close the future. It would also strengthen the hubris of the West. The establishment of liberal democracy does not end our waiting. For as John says in his first letter:

Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

This is the arrow of history, this waiting and not knowing, this leaning into an unknown history to reveal what we already know in part that we will know in full.

The ease with which we can choose secular "liberation" from God's commands to us puts the lie to the notion that Judeo-Christianity is a form of slavery. Rather God grants us Free Will to either choose to conform to the good or instead sink into selfish evil and demonstrates His astonishing faith in us by assuming that we, or at least some considerable portion of us, will indeed choose well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2005 9:04 AM

Speaking of the Pulitzer, noteworthy is Spielberg's choice of the world's worst playwright as screenwriter, namely Tony Kushner.

That is a great sentence.

Posted by: pchuck at December 12, 2005 10:52 AM

If this analysis of 'Munich' is true, two things will happen.

1) 'Munich' and 'Brokeback Mountain' will be two of the most talked about and nominated movies at Oscar time (which 'Brokeback' will likely win)....


2) The Oscar telecast will be by a long shot the lowest rated Oscar ever, as America yawns at both.

Let's add a third...

3) This will prove to Hollywood (a lot of them at least) that they must redouble their efforts at giving the American public what they "ought to see" instead of what they want to see, and box office revenue will continue it's free fall.

Posted by: Andrew X at December 12, 2005 12:10 PM

Nah. Whatever sympathy one might have had for Bruce was mitigated by the super-cool way Roy Scheider offed him at the end.

Posted by: M. Bulger at December 12, 2005 2:01 PM


Stuff the tank in Dreyfus and blow him up and the crowd goes so berserk the theater crumbles.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 2:08 PM


Maybe. Even more likely if it had happened in Close Encounters. But the damn shark had eaten Robert Shaw, the best (human) part of the movie. It deserved its fate.

Now, if we're talking about any of the sequels, I'm with you...

Posted by: M. Bulger at December 12, 2005 2:15 PM

Certainly in Close Encounters & ET we all wanted the aliens to come out with death rays blazing. That's why it was so scary when he announced he was making Schindlers' List....

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 2:20 PM

there is a video clip of someone shooting a scuba tank with a rifle, to see if it would really explode. of course it didn't but it did take off like a rocket so maybe it would have done some damage to the shark. of course just shooting the
shark would have killed it too :)

Posted by: anon at December 12, 2005 2:20 PM


You wanted ET to be able to kill people with that pointer-thing just by touching them?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 12, 2005 10:58 PM

I'm not picky.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2005 11:04 PM

Note -- the sentence in my essay to the effect that Americans "are stuck with Bush's lies" was inserted without my knowledge by an editor. I do not know that Bush lied about Iraq, and personally do not believe that he lied.

Posted by: Spengler at December 13, 2005 11:27 PM