Travis Weber, J.D., LL.M.
February 11, 2015
Why has American Sniper struck such a chord with the American public? No doubt in part this is due to the incredible storyline and cinematography, but other factors are certainly at play in such a blockbuster hit. While critics have scrutinized various aspects of Chris Kyle’s story, something within us is still attracted to a man with integrity (that term being defined as consistency between one’s beliefs and actions). As Kyle heads off to war in Iraq, backing-up his fellow countrymen as a sniper, his simple conviction about the importance of defending good against evil—and his willingness to act on that belief—is attractive to the viewer. His skill as a sniper, and record as the all-time crack marksmen in U.S. military history, almost become secondary.
As Owen Strachan notes at the Patheos blog, this movie has “struck a chord” because:
“We are in an age that does not want to believe in manhood, at least the traditional kind. Men are not supposed to be strong today. They are not supposed to lead their families. They are not supposed to take ownership of provision for their household. They are not supposed to be fearless. Modern men have had their innate manhood bred out of them.
“As a result, many men today don’t want to sacrifice for others. They want to be nice, and liked by everyone, and to win the approval of their peers.”
“Against this backdrop, American Sniper is a rather shocking entrée. It presents a simple man who lives by a black-and-white moral code. He is traditional. This is not existential manhood; this is non-existential manhood. Kyle does what he thinks he should do, and does not second-guess himself. He believes that he should use his God-given strength and ability to defend the weak and defeat the wicked. He believes, in fact, that there are wicked people in the world. He is not afraid to say so. He is not afraid to act on this conviction.”
Yet, “Kyle was no wilting flower. He was not a perfect man. He knew this. He was rough around the edges, he sometimes shot off his mouth, and he had a tough time with rules. In other words, he was a classically aggressive man. Our culture wants to anesthetize such men, to stick a tranquilizer in them and dose them up on medication to tame their natural aggression.”
Strachan continues, “[t]his is not what the church advocates, however. The church gives men a vocabulary for their aggression, their innate manliness. It funnels their God-given testosterone in the direction of Christlike self-sacrifice for the good of others (Eph. 5; 1 Tim. 3). It does not seek to tame men, or ask them to become half-men (or half-women). It asks them to channel all their energy and aggression and skill into the greatest cause of all: serving the kingdom of the crucified and risen Christ.”
Moreover, as men lead in this way, it is attractive to women. Strachan notes the presence of a number of young women in the movie theater, presumably excited to see this man in action.
Women are attracted to a man on this journey in which he fights courageously for Christ.
For Christ “was fearless. He was brave. We don’t know how big his shoulders were, or how handsome he was, or how fast he could run. We do know that he laughed in the face of evil, and gave no quarter to his opponents, and did not apologize for claiming that he was the way, the truth, and the life. Even as death took him down, he struck a climactic blow against the kingdom of darkness. He crushed it. He ended the reign of Satan, and began the true reign of the Son of God. Jesus was not a pacifist. He was a conqueror, and he will return to judge the quick and the dead.”
At that point, this “true man, who redeemed us, will lead us into a world where heroes do not die, but live forever with their God.”
Until that time, Chris Kyle’s conviction can help serve as a reminder of what conviction truly means.
February 10, 2015
Eugene Robinson, no social conservative, is a columnist for the Washington Post. In his op-ed in today’s paper, he offers a thoughtful critique of President Obama’s National Day of Prayer comments about Christians, the Crusades, and slavery. Titled, “At the prayer breakfast, President Obama struck a patronizing tone,” here are some trenchant excerpts:
“ … the abolitionist movement grew out of Christian belief and the Christian church. William Wilberforce, the great British activist who spurred the abolition of slavery throughout the empire — and greatly inspired abolitionists in the United States — was a born-again Christian. Long before the Civil War, the religious and moral argument had been won by the anti-slavery side … the civil rights movement never could have triumphed without the Christian churches, both in the South and the North, which served as organizational nodes. The institution led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference … to compare the depredations of the Islamic State with those of the Crusaders is patronizing in the extreme. Why? Because Muslims are not slow learners who can be held to only a medieval moral standard. Everyone in the world can be expected to know that it is wrong to burn a helpless human being alive, as Islamic State murderers did to a captive Jordanian pilot.”
February 10, 2015
It is becoming more and more clear that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) jumped the shark a long time ago. More confirmatory evidence was supplied recently when William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog noted in a post last Friday that Dr. Ben Carson, the world-famous neurosurgeon, had been placed on the SPLC’s “Extremist List.”
The absurdity of this should speak for itself, but if it does not I direct you to a very positive profile of Dr. Carson by Fred Barnes that appeared in the Weekly Standard’s Jan. 26, 2015 issue. Barnes has been a political reporter in Washington for decades, and his judgments are moderate and reasonable. Fred Barnes is no ideological or political wild man. That said, he had great praise for Dr. Carson, and it seemed that in coming to these conclusions Barnes had surprised himself about Carson’s competence and organizational skills. There is not even a hint political extremism detected on Carson’s part.
The point is that Fred Barnes and the Weekly Standard are conservative but form part of mainstream Washington sensibilities. Consequently, Carson’s listing by the SPLC appears even more eccentric and politically motivated. The SPLC’s profile lists him as being “Anti-LGBT” which can boil down simply to his having Bible-based objections to same-sex marriage. This is the way the U.K. Daily Mail seems to also size up the situation in its article interviewing Dr. Carson about the SPLC listing.
All in all, Barnes thinks Ben Carson is a long shot. That is clearly true, but he also respects the man’s character and decency. It is a great pity that SPLC’s political agenda makes it impossible to for them to see those qualities even when disagreeing with a person’s political views.
February 4, 2015
NRO’s Katherine Timpf highlights that the “PC police” are worried about unmerited privileges going to those who marry.
In Non-Marriage Reduces U.S. Labor Participation I show that the “Police’s” concern is badly founded, according to federal data:
During recessions, when corporate budgets are tightest and businesses are failing more frequently, firms do not rid themselves of their more expensive labor, married workers. Instead, less-expensive singles lose jobs more frequently.
There can be many reasons for this, but it cannot be that firms losing money decide to lose more just to favor otherwise identical, expensive workers (to whom they will simply pay a premium). That is absurd. And, if followed, would at the very least see all those firms replaced by sensible ones. There have been many recessionary cycles for this to take place.
Modern recessions are a great test of the “PC police’s” hypothesis. That hypothesis fails.
Marriage is a social good.