- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

Radical cheek

“Every documentary has a subject, but a good documentary also evinces a theme. ‘The Weather Underground’ pursues those white student radicals of the ‘60s who split off from the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to form a more desperate sect of bomb-planting revolutionaries. Their disgust with American policy during the Vietnam War was a particular expression of generational backlash. …

“It’s a story that has gone back underground. Today, it’s an almost forgotten history carrying an archaic sense that being young meant devotion to an idea and a passion for issues. But ‘The Weather Underground’ is most interesting when forcing those old radicals into self-examination. … Some … haven’t entirely let go. Others remain embittered, like Bernardine Dohrn, now married to Bill Ayers and with two children. …

“Now chagrined, they have some small understanding that their dangerous folly (‘like a children’s crusade gone mad’) was an excess of privilege and timeless naivete. …

“As each interview harkens back to Vietnam as an all-purpose justification (‘The Vietnam war made us all a little crazy’), the subjects demonstrate a hollow incentive. Not having earned the right to denounce American injustice, their ‘Bring the War Home’ behavior seems based in presumption.”

Armond White,” writing on “Molotov Memories,” in the June 4 issue of New York Press


“If asked what the word ‘religion’ means, most religious people will say it’s about God or the Gods. Yet, for a century, most social-scientific studies of religion have examined nearly every aspect of faith except what people believe about Gods. When and why did we get it so wrong?

“Emile Durkheim and the other early functionalists, who emphasized the uses of religion, dismissed Gods as unimportant window dressing, stressing instead that rites and rituals are the fundamental stuff of religion. … Thus began a new social-science orthodoxy: Religion consists of participation in rites and rituals — and only rites and rituals.

“I have long suspected that the underlying ‘insight’ that directed our attention away from God and toward ritual had to do with the fact that Durkheim and his circle were militantly secular Jews who, nevertheless, sometimes attended synagogue. In their personal experience, the phenomenology of religion would not have included belief in supernatural beings, but only the solidarity of group rituals.”

Rodney Stark, writing on ‘Why Gods Should Matter,’ in the June 6 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Holy Hollywood

“Jim Carrey, the rubber-faced comic actor whose roles often defy taste and intelligence, may now add to his resume a depiction of man’s relationship with God that’s many cuts above the standard Hollywood fare — in a lot of ways, actually biblical.

“Yes, I’m dumbstruck, too, but ‘Bruce Almighty’ really is a spiritually edifying movie — once you get past the slapstick (which I enjoyed) and the occasional moral lapses (which I didn’t). When I saw the preview, I assumed it would be a movie that mocked God. …

“But that wasn’t the vision of director/producer Tom Shadyac, a devout Catholic who says that when making Bruce he seriously considered the messages the movie would send about God’s character and His relationship with man. … I didn’t expect to get so many laughs from its gut-busting humor, much less to discover an admirably thoughtful portrayal of God. …

“‘Bruce’ shows that God is infinitely larger than our finite and self-focused perspective. He’s compassionate, loving, and He’ll change our lives if we’ll surrender to Him.”

Marshall Allen, writing on “Theology Lessons with Jim Carrey,” May 29 in Boundless at www.boundless.org

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