As we encounter the popular culture -- movies, television, music and all the rest -- I think people of faith can and should juxtapose what they're seeing, reading or listening to through the eyes of faith.
The main character, Capt. Rich Phillips, played really well by Tom Hanks, winds up as a hostage on an enclosed lifeboat moving toward the Somali coast. Trailing that small craft is, first, the very cargo ship that the pirates took over and then abandoned. Soon U.S. Navy ships and aircraft enter the fray, too.
Spoiler alert: Phillips survives to tell the tale.
Well, it's a tense, action-packed film. But what was it that I saw through my own theological lenses?
I saw a demonstration of the reality that the American culture still holds one of the prime values taught by Christianity (though not exclusively so). Which is that each individual is of ultimate worth. Each person is of inestimable value.
Various religious traditions would describe in different terms why that is so. For Christianity, it's that each person bears the image of God and has a God-given destiny. In Christian theology, God cared enough about individuals to die for them.
That value, which author Glenn Tinder, in The Political Meaning of Christianity, calls the "spiritual center of Western politics," is why we send fire fighters into burning buildings to rescue people. It's why we send the Coast Guard out to rescue a single drunken civilian sailor. That's why we have a welfare system.
Is this value under attack in our culture today? Yes. It's under attack when we don't respond to the unspeakably high murder rate in our central cities. It's under attack when we cut private and government programs designed to help feed and shelter and educate people.
But that core value still is in our DNA. And when the White House, the Navy Seals and other Navy resources went into action to rescue one individual, Capt. Rich Phillips, it was a demonstration of that.
We'll be better people if we never lose or diminish the idea of the exhaulted individual.
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SOME ASSISTANCE FACING THE END
The British writer of this engaging piece is right: People who rarely think about death and dying need the help of people who think about it a lot.