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MrZoom

pornography and violence; pacificism revisited

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This subject has been bugging me for several months. The "bugginess" had lain dormant for a while, but was agitatied yesterday by this article at Catholic Exchange. It is worth pointing out that SDG's movie reviews often are posted at that site.

The subject being: "When does a movie cross the line into pornography?"

The article cited above gives the definition of pornography from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties" (no. 2337). It seems at first glance a succinct and helpful definition.

But then looking at how individual Catholics, the USCCB, and even the Vatican actually apply that definition, causes me confusion.

Examples, point by point:

1) Schindler's List. Granted I have not seen this (would like to when it comes out on DVD next month). This film made the "Vatican Film List" as one of 45 films outstanding in the areas of art, religion or values. SDG, in his site FAQ, notes that the bedroom scene in this film is "far from pornographic" and notes that the USCCB "helpfully" described the scene as "discreet". The USCCB I believe gave the film a rating of A-III - appropriate for adult audiences. So, I figure, OK, if the sexuality depicted in a film is such that it is the primary reason the USCCB rates the film Morally Offensive, then the film has crossed the line into porn. For example....

2) Revenge of the Nerds. A film that I used to like when I was young and foolish. :oops: There is a scene in this film where the "heroes" - the Nerds - ogle naked sorority girls on video cameras they have secretly installed. ISTM that the intent of the filmmmakers in this instance is clearly designed to tiltillate, and thus is pornographic. The USCCB review states, "The underdog heroes' attitude toward women is as reprehensible as that of their tormentors. Director Jeff Kanew's farce is full of vulgarities, much nudity and the romantic treatment of what is in effect rape."

On the other hand, there is.....

3) Last Tango in Paris - with Marlon Brando. I have not seen it (and don't plan to), but ISTM that a film rated NC-17 for sexuality, and rated O by the USCCB, would clearly cross the line, given the Catechism definition ....Or maybe not. The USCCB review states, "... the sex scenes, while not pornographic are needlessly extended and explicit."

...which leaves me exasperated thinking, if that doesn't fit the Catechism definition of porn, what, for the love of heaven, does?!?

I realize most of the folks on here aren't Catholic, but I was hoping this could be an ecumenical exercise to form our consciences. Plus I would imagine SDG will be along presently to put in his two cents. wink.gif

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"I may not be able to say what it is, but I know it when I see it."

A definition of pornography is very difficult. And at a certain level, the catechism definition works. I think difficulty arises when "pornography" is seen in and of itself to be unredeemable.

Using the definition you mentioned, there are plenty of films that are pornographic. Some of them quite good films. Issues that also need to be included in judging pornography is if it is needed in telling the story (of course it could be argued that it never is - suggestion is enough without having to look at it), if it is there for the sake of arousal, if it has what has been called "socially redeeming value."

Some films I think near the cusp of pornography, but that I still appreciate: American Beauty, Eyes Wide Shut (perhaps the closest I've seen a film come to being a blend of both pornographic and valuable), and Monster's Ball (even though I view the sex scenes in it as intresic to telling the story). I really couldn't argue with calling any of the three pornographic. But I wouldn't want to put that term to them for the connotation it carries.

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Welcome, Mr Z! Great question.

I've got nothing to contribute to the definition of pornography - I tend to skip the conversations that involve haggling over definitions, touchy discursions into Big Ideas, etc - except to say that I usually find that I don't fit in very well on this particular topic. And am usually pretty cautious to mention that fact.

But the truth is, I don't share the deep aversion most Christians have toward the portrayal of sexuality in art. I see it as an extremely important part of life, and want to see it expressed and explored on screen (as well as in novels, poetry, plays, etc.). Now, that's not unique to me: it's a perspective most folks on this board would also share. But nevertheless, there is a difference between my take on this and the perspectives I usually see shared here (and greatly respect), and I'm trying to find a way to make that clear.

Here are two things that may help make my angle on this more clear:

First, I think many people would say that it's fine for a film to be ABOUT sexuality, but that if it stirs sexual feelings in the viewer, that is wrong: it is crossing into the Matthew 5:29 territory Jesus speaks of when He says "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." That may very well be the right way to see it all: I could very well be misguided here, not seeing clearly because of my own moral compromise (a humbling possibility that one has to keep in mind in this conversation). But it just doesn't seem right to me. I have a difficult time agreeing that sexual stirrings are in themselves wrong (even when they're stirred by someone besides one's spouse). I'm sure it's wrong if those stirrings lead me to take action to relate sexually to anyone I'm not married to. I'm sure they're wrong if they lead me to become less interested in, attentive to, or satisfied by my relationship with my wife - or to become fixated on sex, or on the image / person / film that stirred those feelings. Or if those sexual images twist my own appetites / inclinations into unhealthy appetites or practices. But apart from those possibilities, if they're merely sexual feelings, entertained in the imaginative construct that occurs when we engage with ANY narrative work of art (that identification, that willing suspension of disbelief), and understood as such, I just can't bring myself to see that as wrong. I'll freely admit that I can't figure out how this squares with Jesus' teachings on lust and adultery, and I'll state that I'm a pretty orthodox reader of Scripture: I'm not willing to write off anything that Jesus said just because it's inconvenient or convicting. When I look at how the sexual elements of films fit in the totality of my experience of life following Jesus, appreciating them just doesn't seem inherently inconsistent. (Recognizing that my heart, just as much as the next person's, can be deceitful and wicked.)

Second, many Christians are concerned about "the weaker brother" - while it might not do me any damage to see that arousing scene, it might be very dangerous or unhealthy that teenaged boy over there, that lonely person over there, or that recently widowed woman over there. Again, though, without being able to make a clear rationale for why I handle this as I do, and fully aware that this may be nothing but sinful rationalization, I believe this is true for a lot of things besides sexuality. Each of us has different wiring, different tolerances, different weaknesses and points of temptation. The alcoholic daren't have even one drink: I can, under the right circumstance, since the danger of me becoming an addict is presently very remote (I simply have no interest: it's a rare year when I have more than three or four glasses of beer or wine in total). And while it's a courtesy not to serve alcohol when one of my guests has an alcohol problem, I've also been told by recovering alcoholics that I should go ahead and have a glass of wine in their presence: that they are fully aware that their sobriety is their responsibility, and they are confident that, for them, my solitary glass of wine isn't going to lead them back into drinking. Not only is general Prohibition not enforcable, it's not even a good idea: wine and beer are part of God's creation (as is sex), and Jesus affirmed that with his first public miracle. (He doesn't even seem to have had a problem with providing more wine even after the wedding guests had drunk enough that they couldn't necessarily distinguish the best wine from the mediocre!) There's some recognition within creation, within the way the world works (even the world that's in the process of being redeemed) that some may, others dare not. Some people can become actors or athletes and, in so doing, live out God's call on their life: others should not because of the way success and fame will warp their egos. Some can drink wine - even get tipsy? - and in no way dishonour the Lord, while others daren't even smell liquor for fear of sliding into soul-destroying addiction. Does this carry through to the sexual content of films, novels, paintings, etc? Some can see Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN or UNFAITHFUL without sin, even though (being human, sexual beings) they find aspects of the film arousing: others should steer clear of any film that has any woman under the age of a hundred and six unless covered in a burkha. I recognize that it's appropriate to be concerned by the increasing sexualization of our culture: believe me, I have daughters aged 15 and 17, I'm very conflicted about the world they're surrounded by. But still, I'm not them, and (having also been their dad when they were too young to see BAMBI because it was too frightening), I recognize that there is such a thing as age-appropriateness. Something that is toxic or even just confusing or misleading to a child will be perfectly acceptable for an adult. And it's not just a matter of age: it's a matter of a person's sensibility, their psychological make-up. (There's also the concern I have when I see this picture sociologically rather than just psychologically: while viewing massive violence in a film isn't going to make me go out and hurt someone, I do believe that the pervasiveness of violent images in our culture is engendering a more and more violent society. Same with sex. But I still can't make the connection between that societal trend and the idea that violence in films should be prohibited, or muted. Dunno. Can't figure it out.)

So there. I'm sure that for some folks, this will be a painfully obvious exercise in spiritual blindness on my part - a detailed rationalization of my own sinful indulgence of lustful imaginings. Truly, I'm in no position to refute that - except that it doesn't seem so. The behaviour - seeing films with explicitly sexual content - doesn't seem to be leading to the kind of dealy fruit that would cause alarm - the weakening of my marriage, unhealthy relationships to other women, etc. Maybe my conscience is deadened. Maybe my morality got twisted when I did my actor training, and I bought into some lies about sexuality in the process of coming to accept the very earthy, human physicality involved in mastering my craft.

But honestly, I don't think so.

Ron

(Okay. You've said it. Now, are you going to be stupid enough to post this or not, Ron? Don't be an idiot.....)

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I don't think anyone, even the USCCB critic who reviewed Last Tango, would say that the content in this film doesn't fit the Catechism's description of pornography. (FWIW, the review was written BEFORE the Catechism came out, so the critic wouldn't have had access to the Catechism description anyway... not that the Catechism description probably rigidly applies to USCCB reviews written after the Catechism came out, either.)

In any case, the critic probably had in mind some additional criterion left unstated in the Catechism description, to the effect that pornography is intended to titillate. The absence of such a clause makes the description easy to apply, but overly broad.

Another difficulty about the Catechism description is that by confining pornography to real or simulated sexual acts, it leaves out titillating displays of undress or nudity that avoid specifically erotic acts.

I find the Catechism description helpful inasmuch as it calls out the specially problematic quality of simulated sexual acts, which I think are inherently problematic in a way that displays of undress or nudity aren't necessarily.

Nonsexual nudity may be titillating and thus pornographic, or not; nudity in a sexual context is much more likely be arousing, but even if it isn't it is still, I think, inherently problematic. Pace Ron's comments above (and Peter's reservations about my use of the term "inherently" in this connection), there is just something inherently private about human sexuality that forbids it.

Beyond a certain point -- which I would not want to try to demarcate exactly, though I could point to landmarks on both sides -- explicit physical intimacy between characters cannot be morally displayed, period. Certain physical acts cannot be performed between actors for the camera, even if they are married, and even the representation of such acts in animated form I would probably consider inherently degrading to watch.

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I tend to think that if it makes me uncomfortable, it must be porn, and I run away.

Of course, my wife asks me why I always call the dentist 'That brazen pornographer...'

-------------

21 Grams, for instance (even though I didn't like the film, but that's because everyone told me it was an incredibly redemptive piece, so I went in with expectatations that were off the mark...) has a scene in which Naomi Watts (whose performance is amazing, fwiw) gets naked with Sean Penn. The camera spent far too many moments lingering on her bare breast--trailing away, then back, then zooming in, the out, then trailing away, then back, etc...and the sex was, well, completely gratuitous.

I was like "Uh, dude, ok, we get it. She's aroused. Fine. Move on." To me, the scene added nothing to the piece but an increase in total running time. It did nothing for the story, nothing for our empathy for them, and offered no intimacy that hadn't already existed.

However, in Enemy at the Gates, there's a sexual consummation between Jude Law and Rachel Weisz which, IMO, is amazing--and we don't even see any bare skin because they're trying to be as discreet as possible while sleeping with the ranks--and it's played beautifully for the intent of the scene, conveying the desperation of the situation on many levels.

I dunno, for me, pornography exists in the realms of the gratituitous....lemme think more on it...

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I tend to think that if it makes me uncomfortable, it must be porn, and I run away.

Well who cares what you think? You've got a dog on a toilet as your avatar!

smile.gif

Ron

(Should this thread be in a different place?)

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Steven,

Another difficulty about the Catechism description is that by confining pornography to real or simulated sexual acts, it leaves out titillating displays of undress or nudity that avoid specifically erotic acts.  

I caught that also. Taken hyper-literally, it would not cover, for example, pictorials in Playboy magazine and suchlike (about which I got a fair amount of grief from basketball teammates my freshman year in college because I didn't want to view them, and after a while, I suspect out of frustration with my resistance, they accused me of being gay. :roll: laugh.gif).

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SDG--

Nonsexual nudity may be titillating

Runs away.

Which came first, the tit or the titillation?

(Ron and Jason, please. People are trying to carry on an adult conversation here.....)

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MrZoom wrote:

: 1) Schindler's List. . . . SDG, in his site FAQ, notes that the bedroom

: scene in this film is "far from pornographic" and notes that the USCCB

: "helpfully" described the scene as "discreet".

Interestingly enough, I know a few Christians who think Spielberg went too far here, and I do think one could easily argue that Schindler's List is his most sexually explicit film to date. Nowhere else that I can think of does he show two naked (or at least topless) actors rolling around in bed together; and as I recall, Liam Neeson does appear to be coming into contact with naked female body parts that I myself have made a point of not touching until marriage. (Admittedly, there are at least two Spielberg films that I have never seen, namely The Sugarland Express and 1941.) So when people talk about showing this film in high schools etc., I do have to wonder if that is such a wise thing. But I don't object to the nudity in the film, per se. Indeed, given that Spielberg opted for a docu-realistic style throughout the film, I have long argued that the sex scenes HAD to be a little more explicit -- if Spielberg had gone for the clich

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When we see Kerry Fox give Mark Rylance a blowjob in Intimacy, we are not just watching *characters* do immoral things, but *actors*, too.  (And even if they were married, I'm not convinced putting their sex on display on a movie screen would become permissible.)

Not to mention, there are at least some of us who would say that even if they were married and in the privacy of their own bedroom with no audience involved, that particular act would still be immoral, at least if it were completed. But that's a whole 'nother discussion...

Whereas when we see, I dunno, Arnold Schwarzenegger kill Lance Henriksen in The Terminator, everybody *knows* that it's all really just make-believe.

That was Lance Henriksen?! Guess I haven't seen that movie in a really long time...

This is partly why I have trouble with the idea that The Passion of the Christ is the hardest film to watch ever.

No, I certainly wouldn't say that.

It's interesting, isn't it, that we never seem to have graphic sex between two sexually *healthy* people... It could be interesting to explore why HEALTHY sex is often kept somewhat off-camera, and why graphic sex scenes tend to be about UNhealthy sex (and then, to explore why actors allow themselves to get graphic, knowing that 'graphic' often equals 'unhealthy' in the artists' and viewers' minds -- are the actors being publicly unhealthy by acting out such scenes?).  Is it because we somehow know it is wrong to be voyeurs into an intimate and private moment between two lovers?

I think so, yes. Without some element of moral or emotional resistance, it's hard to see how a graphic scene of healthy sex could avoid being voyeuristic (not that it can't also be with unhealthy sex, but at least there's the possibility there.

Oh, I just remembered two sex scenes that may or may not represent something moving towards \"healthy\" between the characters, at least in the filmmakers' minds -- and I remember them both because they involved a bit of nipple-sucking, which is more than I think two unmarried people should be doing in ANY circumstance.

That would be one of those landmarks I had in mind, yes.

: First, I think many people would say that it's fine for a film to be ABOUT

: sexuality, but that if it stirs sexual feelings in the viewer, that is wrong . . .

The problem in that case could be more the viewer's than the film's, though.

COULD be, yes. A reasonable question, not always easy to answer, is, What may reasonably be considered to be a likely occasion of sin for a typical viewer? If something falls into that category, the film is at fault.

I don't have a problem with saying that sexuality is inherently private on the inter-subjective level.

We had a long talk, once, in which you seemed to feel that the fact that it was possible to perform sex acts in public excluded the word "inherently" from the discussion. Not that I want to revive it or anything.

So, inter-subjectively, sex may not be \"public\" in the broadest sense, but objectively, it isn't \"private\" at all, whether there are two people in bed or four or whatever.

That would seem to construe "privacy" in a much more solipsistic sense than I think is reasonable in this discussion. The relevant concept of "privacy" here is not the absolute privacy of one's own mind, but the shared privacy of the marriage bed.

Ah, but if one found that scene arousing -- and I think it was! -- then perhaps it's still \"bad\", on some level?

Yes indeed. This is where I think the Catechism description is helpful, in that it reminds us that the depiction of a sex act per se, even it is discreet and no nudity is involved, remains inherently problematic.

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SDG wrote:

: : Whereas when we see, I dunno, Arnold Schwarzenegger kill Lance

: : Henriksen in The Terminator, everybody *knows* that it's all really just

: : make-believe.

:

: That was Lance Henriksen?! Guess I haven't seen that movie in a really

: long time...

I wavered between Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield. The latter played the police chief (or whatever), the former played his partner (or whatever). Since Arnold kills ALL the police officers, I assume he killed both, but to be honest, I can't recall if we actually SEE him kill either of those two characters. I ultimately went with Henriksen just because I've been watching the extras on the 'Alien quadrilogy' discs and I've got him on the brain.

: : : First, I think many people would say that it's fine for a film to be

: : : ABOUT sexuality, but that if it stirs sexual feelings in the viewer, that

: : : is wrong . . .

: :

: : The problem in that case could be more the viewer's than the film's,

: : though.

:

: COULD be, yes. A reasonable question, not always easy to answer, is,

: What may reasonably be considered to be a likely occasion of sin for a

: typical viewer? If something falls into that category, the film is at fault.

I have no problem with that -- so long as it keeps our focus on the objective question of HOW a film is about its subject, rather than on the subjective question of how any particular viewer might happen to respond to a film. (Timothy McVeigh reportedly said he went into terrorism partly because he noticed that the good guys killed lots of innocent people in Star Wars when they blew up the Death Star -- does this make Star Wars a bad movie, or does this make McVeigh a sick or evil person who was looking for any excuse to explain his actions?)

: : I don't have a problem with saying that sexuality is inherently private

: : on the inter-subjective level.

:

: We had a long talk, once, in which you seemed to feel that the fact that it

: was possible to perform sex acts in public excluded the word "inherently"

: from the discussion. Not that I want to revive it or anything.

Yeah, I remember that discussion, but I would have to see it in context -- like I say, while sex may be "inherently" private on the inter-subjective level (with the qualifier that it is NOT private for any of the given individuals who are participating in it, since they are obviously sharing an intimate part of themselves with at least one other person), there is nothing "inherently" private about it on the objective level, so I imagine that would have made the difference, then.

: The relevant concept of "privacy" here is not the absolute privacy of

: one's own mind, but the shared privacy of the marriage bed.

Or the shared privacy of the two, three, or however many people, married or unmarried, who share a bed for sexual relations -- unless you want to argue that sex is "inherently" a marital act. (And even if you did, I would point you to the scene in The Last Emperor where the protagonist shares his bed with both of his wives at the same time. The definition of marriage as monogamous vs. polygamous varies from culture to culture, and even from scripture to scripture, so there is nothing "inherent" in sex or marriage that makes it a two-person deal.)

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I think I'd disagree on the sex vs violence thing. I can aee your point Peter, but I guess whereas you see if from the actors point of view I see it more from the audiences. Generally sex is two people enjoying themselves whereas violence always involves at least one person definitely not enjoying it (lets put aside rape which is a mix of sex and violence). So personally I have less issued with a scene showing graphic sex shows graphic violence.

Interestingly this may be more of an Atlantic divide. I think I remember hearing the former head of The BBFC (BRitish Board of Film Classification) say that he thought violence in films was starting to been seen as less acceptable and that films weren't quite as violent as they were a couple of years ago. Mind you that was before Kill Bill and The Passion

Matt

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I think I'd disagree on the sex vs violence thing. I can aee your point Peter, but I guess whereas you see if from the actors point of view I see it more from the audiences. Generally sex is two people enjoying themselves whereas violence always involves at least one person definitely not enjoying it (lets put aside rape which is a mix of sex and violence). So personally I have less issued with a scene showing graphic sex shows graphic violence.

Doesn't framing it as an issue of who is enjoying themselves make it an emotional issue rather than a moral one? What has who is or isn't enjoying themselves got to do with what is or is not morally problematic to depict?

Pornography breeds lust. Lust is a sin, forbidden by the tenth commandment. It's as simple as that. Violent imagery is much more likely to repel even if it commands fascination, and simply does not pose the same sort of moral temptation, because it hasn't got a major biological imperative driving us to find the whole subject bewitchingly enjoyable. I have problems with Kill Bill, and I think the violence-as-porn argument does hold some water, but morally sex in art is just far more volatile than violence in art.

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I wouldn't call violence pornographic (perhaps my Greek lessons leave me too literal on the subject), but I do, in general, find graphic violence more objectionable than graphic sex. (E.g., I found City of God more difficult to watch than Eyes Wide Shut.) No doubt this is because I have a much more liberal view of the role of sexuality than some of you.

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: Doesn't framing it as an issue of who is enjoying themselves make it an

: emotional issue rather than a moral one?

Allow me a re-phrase. Essentially sex is a good act, a part of God's creation. Admittedly its not always (!) shown in that pure sense in film, but even in a wrong or abused sense as an act of love it still carries the mark of its creator.

(That's not in any sense meant to be an endorsement of sex outside of marriage by the way)

Violence on the other hand is thoroughly abhorrent and the work of the Satan. In my book there just isn't any good violence only bad.

So I'd prefer to see censors being harder on violence than sex in the films, (and if we're going to allow the possibility that violence to be classified as pornography then I think our classification should reflect the above)

: Violent imagery is much more likely to repel even if it commands

: fascination, and simply does not pose the same sort of moral

: temptation, because it hasn't got a major biological imperative driving

: us to find the whole subject bewitchingly enjoyable.

Not sure I agree with you on that. Any evidence to back that up. Biblically speaking Cain killed able long before stories of adultery. Whilst that's not really a fair example it at least raises questions about your assumption, which I'm not sure is entirely valid.

: Morally sex in art is just far more volatile than violence in art.

Again what is that assumption based on?

Matt

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Violence on the other hand is thoroughly abhorrent and the work of the Satan. In my book there just isn't any good violence only bad.

In that case, either you believe in absolute pacifism and nonviolence, or else you endorse using the devil's tools under certain circumstances?

: Violent imagery is much more likely to repel even if it commands

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SDG wrote:

: Sex is rooted in the order of creation, which has precedence over the

: order of the fall, to which violence belongs.

Brilliant post as ever, SDG, though this one point seems more debatable to me, given the existence of carnivorous plants and animals; indeed, I suspect Adam and Eve probably had the full omnivorous digestive systems that all their descendants have had ever since.

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SDG wrote:

: Sex is rooted in the order of creation, which has precedence over the

: order of the fall, to which violence belongs.

Brilliant post as ever, SDG, though this one point seems more debatable to me, given the existence of carnivorous plants and animals; indeed, I suspect Adam and Eve probably had the full omnivorous digestive systems that all their descendants have had ever since.

Good point, Peter. It's a difficult subject. In Genesis, before the fall, God mentions only giving Adam and Eve the fruits of the earth for food; only after the fall does he give them also the beasts of the field. On that accounting, it might be supposed that killing animals for food was something that humans did only after the fall. OTOH, it would be going too far beyond what the text asserts to maintain that carnivorous animals (and plants) began their carnivorous ways only after the sin of our first parents. And even in the case of man, whether one allows that Adam and Eve had a biological ancestry in the animal kingdom or maintains that they were specially created, either way our biological commonality with other omnivores suggests that our diet is a fundamental part of the kind of creature we are. It therefore seems quite reasonable to suppose that the impulse to kill animals for food (and probably in self-defense) is a basic part of our creatureliness, not an unhappy consequence of the fall.

Yet as long as we believe in any kind of prelapsarian state at all worthy of the term, surely the idea of raising our hand against our fellow man must be supposed to be inimical to that state. Cannibalism aside, it would seem that human-on-human violence would have to begin with something other than the impulse to kill for food or even in self-defense (since even in self-defense, what would the attacker be attacking for?). It must begin with hatred, or coveteousness, or something of the sort. Killing of this sort, killing as a specifically human act, is an entirely different moral act from the sort of killing we share with the brute beasts. It is violence of this sort, violence as a specifically human act, that I would want to maintain is a consequence of the fall.

Still, it remains a tricky point. For one thing, we can sometimes catch animals behaving in ways that look purely malicious for the sake of malice, as e.g., dolphins thrashing porpoises to death apparently for sport. Is that, too, a result of the human fall?

In any case, it's a bit of a rabbit trail, since I think my response to Matt's original question can be defended fairly cogently on the basis of the other points, without this one.

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Which came first, the tit or the titillation?

In my high school sophomore English class, our teacher once gave us a short essay question on, I think, the Reeve's Tale from Chaucer, in which he challenged us to get to "the bottom" of the morality of the tale. In my reply, after noting how the storyteller had the miller wrong the students in order to justify their escapades with his daughter and wife, I concluded that it was "a case of tit for tat morality." I got the only A in the class.

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MattPage wrote:

Violence on the other hand is thoroughly abhorrent and the work of the Satan. In my book there just isn't any good violence only bad.

: In that case, either you believe in absolute pacifism and nonviolence, or else you endorse

: using the devil's tools under certain circumstances?

Yeah I believe in the former, simply because I see other approach to

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: In that case, either you believe in absolute pacifism and nonviolence, or else you endorse  

: using the devil's tools under certain circumstances?  

Yeah I believe in the former

Really? I mean, you really believe, Hitler's marching across Europe, and it's immoral for Christians to go and fight to forcibly stop his armies? Or a Christian policeman sees a woman being attacked on the street, and it's immoral to go and forcibly restrain the guy, knock him over the head if necessary? I know it's a tangent, but I find this POV fascinating.

simply because I see other approach to

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Steven,

Thanks fo taking the time to reply to my comments. Plenty for me to think about. I feel any response I'd make at this point would be me arguing for the sake of it, so if its OK with you I'll just pause it here to mull over what you've said.

On the pacifism stuff, I'm more set in my thinking, tho' uncomfortable with the scenarios discussed here and elsewhere. I guess history provides us with a few examples of where non-violent resistance has prevailed over an oppressor (The Danes in WW2, Gandhi & Luther King) and (to totally steal from and misquote GK Chesterton) Pacifism has not been tried and found wanting it has generally been found hard and left untried.

: I think it reflects the fact that men in offices are much more likely to

: want to hit on women than they are to want to hit one another.

Not in my last office ! :wink: (sorry couldn't resist)

Matt

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...I feel any response I'd make at this point would be me arguing for the sake of it, so if its OK with you I'll just pause it here to mull over what you've said.

Spoken like a true pacifist!

I hadn't realized that we're on the same page on this one, Matt (or at least in the same chapter). Not the first time. Interesting.

Pacifism has not been tried and found wanting it has generally been found hard and left untried.

Indeed.

I, in fact, think pacifism is too hard to ever be tried, at least by nations. The biggest strain on my pacifism is that I also believe it to be virtually impractical in "the real world," populated by all us fallen human beings. It forces me to an almost untenable sense that Jesus' call is "not of this world," that He calls individuals and communities to live differently, impossibly, unfeasibly. Pacifism will never carry the day, nor will the gospel as a whole. The poor we will always have with us - not to mention the violent, the lost, the sociopathic, the selfish, and so on. I need look no further than my own soul to see that. But Jesus calls us to live an impossible way.

This rather extremely "separationist" aspect of my theology fits very awkwardly indeed with my prevailing stance toward culture, which is all about engagement. I'm a "via positiva" dude, not a "via negativa" type guy. When I err, it's usually in the "Of The World" department.

They don't fit. But I don't find the arguments in favour of Jesus' disciples taking up the sword any less absurd than I find my own position.

Still thinking, though. I became a pacifist at the point of my conversion, in high school. Over the years that got shifted, especially during my years studying theology at Regent College: I just couldn't muster the

logic behind the pacifist position, and slowly was won over to the more realistic "war is nasty, but people are fallen, so sometimes Shane's gotta strap on the six guns" position. But a few years ago I just got to the point where I couldn't stand there any more: however it's rationalized, or justified, going to war seems to me to unleash all that is most evil in human beings. However just the war, souls as well as lives are lost. There's something dark and Satanic about so much of what surrounds war, happens in war, results from war.

You want to know how simplistic it is for me? When it was time to blast Osama out of his cave, I simply couldn't picture Jesus putting on his helmet, climbing into the bomber and frying people. And when I tried to imagine myself putting on the helmet He'd refused, I couldn't hear him say anything except "Put away your sword. My kingship is not of this world. If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world." I know I'm conflating two different texts, but they seem to me of a piece. I also understand the argument that says these are specific words for the specific Gethsemane situation: it would be wrong, inappopriate to use violence to protect the Prince of Peace, particularly since it would "save" him from his calling, the cross. That it's not appropriate to generalize that specific charge to situations like police intervention, just wars, etc. I know the argument, but I can't live with it.

Honestly, neither side of this issue seems tenable to me. In THE MISSION, the priest and the soldier take opposite strategies: I'll avoid spelling out the results, in order not to spoil the film for people who haven't seen it, but suffice it to say that dialectic, incarnated in two honourable men, is much of the reason that film is so important to me.

I'm reading Bernard Brandon Scott's book Hollywood Dreams & Biblical Stories, which I think is very good. This morning I was reading the chapter on "The Hero," in which he exegetes SHANE, PALE RIDER and WITNESS. I've certainly thought about the connections between the first two, but he brings some new insights to that. I hadn't identified just how closely WITNESS resembles the other two, or how telling the differences are in a cultural, mythic sense. Anyhow, that reading stirred the pot, so when I happened on this conversation, my mind was heading that way.

Ron

P.S. Noting the original topic of this thread, and my embarassing comments at the outset, now I'm thinking I really am the "Make love not war" cliche! Sheesh. I thought I was shaped by the radical claims of the gospel of grace: now I realize it was just a bumper sticker....

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