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Posts Tagged ‘Steven Spielberg’

I really have been trying not to over-rely on Youtube videos recently.  But in his commentary on Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Bishop Robert Barron offers a beautifully succinct presentation of the cardinal human virtues.

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E_t_the_extra_terrestrial_ver3It is never a bad time to talk about the classics.  But especially around Halloween, it seems appropriate to touch on Steven Spielberg’s moving and timeless alien/family tale, “E.T. — The Extraterrestrial.”

It would not be fair to call “E.T.” a Christian parable.  It came, after all, from the imaginations of a Jewish director and a screenwriter (Melissa Mathison) who, if I’m not mistaken, leans more toward Buddhist spirituality (someone please correct me if I’m wrong about that).  But I think the very solid analogies you can find nonetheless demonstrate two things, both of which are far more interesting and significant than any explicit allegory:

  1. Jesus Christ has insinuated Himself irreversibly into the thoughts and imaginations of Western culture, so that even the secularist age in which we are living cannot entirely expunge His influence;
  2. Jesus is the Eternal Word, who speaks to the depths of all men’s hearts and, at times, even causes them to say something of Him in spite of themselves.

Okay, so let’s get started:

eliottsaygoodbye.jpgFirst, what do we think of when we hear any variant of the phrase “aliens come to earth?”

We think of an attack.  We think of monstrous or tyrannical beings who far surpass us in power and come to take over our lives and our world.

And yet when Elliott (Henry Thomas) and his family meet E.T., what do they find?  A gentle, vulnerable creature no bigger than a child, and with an abundantly kind heart.

Three MagiIn just such a way, the Divine came into the world.  Many of the pagan cultures of the ancient world generally believed that the gods were fierce, capricious, and cruel.  Even many Jewish people were expecting God’s Messiah to come as a mighty, avenging warrior who would destroy the enemies of Israel.

But when the Messiah — who was none other than God in the flesh — finally did come into the world, it was as a little baby — too weak even to lift His own head, and born into obscurity and poverty.  And ultimately, He was to reveal Himself as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

ET-flowerFrom there, we’ll go a step further and look at E.T. in his role as healer.  At numerous points throughout the film, we see him applying strange healing powers to things such as cuts and bruises, and even reviving a dying plant at one point.

What we notice, however, is that this seems to take something out of E.T. each time he does it.  He becomes weaker, sicker…almost as if he were drawing from the store of his own life to restore the health of other creatures.

AGN35544If we read the Gospels carefully, we will notice something similar in Christ’s healing ministry.  When we read of Him performing healing miracles, we also read that “the power went out of Him” (cf. Luke 8:46).  This indicates that when He cured illnesses, gave sight to the blind, drove demons out of people, etc., it cost Him something.  We can well imagine His disciples seeing this become more and more apparent as His ministry progressed, just as Elliott and his siblings see it progressively take hold of E.T.

Let’s take a break, and return to this exploration shortly.

Movie stills obtained through a Google image search; movie poster and other images obtained from Wikipedia

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I just saw Steven Spielberg’s epic biopic “Lincoln” with my family this past weekend.  For those of you who have seen it, I need not go into the details; and for those of you who have not, I don’t want to give anything away.

But I will briefly offer my humble review.  Succinctly stated, “Lincoln” is an excellent work of cinematic art that offers a profound sense of the time period it portrays.  Performances and production values alike are superlative, and I’m glad to have seen it on the big screen where its full effect could be felt.

The film focuses on the last few months of Lincoln’s presidency and his efforts to abolish slavery.  In Congress, the pro-slavery and anti-slavery players clash in scenes of political jousting that would give the British Parliament a run for its money.

I’d like to talk about one particular thing that struck me about the arguments the two sides presented against one another in the film.  At one point, each side argued that the opposing view of slavery was a violation of the very same thing — the natural law.

By “natural law,” one means the innate and fundamental law that all human beings, as creatures of reason, know in their hearts — the law that reflects the mind of the Creator and, therefore, can be seen in some sense reflected in nature and its laws.  For centuries, it was considered to be the basis of all just laws and human conduct.  We could talk about this as Thomas Jefferson put it, referring to the “laws of nature and nature’s God.”

The anti-slavery side of the debate: Black people are people, and slavery is a violation of the rights and dignity endowed upon them as human beings.

The pro-slavery side: Black people are clearly different from white people (at that time, they were believed to be more primitive, less educated, etc.), and therefore to treat them as equals would be an insult to the truth.

Discrimination and non-discrimination are very important issues pertaining to the natural law.  Any value discrimination we make that nature has not made is, in a very real sense, a crime against nature.  But there is also such a thing as just discrimination — that is, keeping apart things not designed to be put together or deemed alike (for example, we would never say that a hippopotamus has the same right to fly an airplane as a human being who is a licensed pilot).  Not to observe this rule is likewise a crime against nature.

The anti-slavery side applied the first position to slavery, while their pro-slavery opponents applied the second position to the abolition.

So at this decisive moment in United States history, we had two opposing views of how the natural law applied, each side of a debate using it differently.

At this time, however, we have entered into a very different kind of debate.  Rather than arguing which side of a position natural law supports, we are arguing the question of whether there is a “natural law” to begin with.  I can well imagine people who are against the notion of a natural law using the above example, or others like it, as a case in point.  “Questions about ‘natural law’ just get people fighting,” they might say, “so we should just scrap it.”

My response to that is very simple: The abuse of something does not invalidate its proper use.  Any time we are talking about something that can be properly used, we should be very careful about dismissing it.  And when it comes to something this “heavy,” we should think all the longer and harder.

Anyway, I just thought this was an interesting subject that Spielberg’s film suggested for viewer reflection.  What are your thoughts on the issue?  I would love to read other people’s perspectives  — provided, of course, that all comments are civil and respectful.

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