King and us as theologians: 1-18-10
Sacred music's ministry: 1-20-10

A free will theology: 1-19-10


The old man looked around at the devastation and said this: "If there is a God up there, he's probably turned his back on us by now."

At least that's how I remember the quote from the stark and wonderful movie "The Road" that my wife and I saw the other evening. It's based on the book by Cormac McCarthy.

A father (played by Viggo Mortensen) and a son (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) are traveling by foot through a ruined land. It's the United States, and although we're never told what caused the ruin, the obvious conclusion to draw is that it's after a nuclear war and they are trying to survive nuclear winter.

Father and son come upon the struggling old man (played by Robert Duvall, though you'd hardly recognize him) from behind and eventually, at the boy's urging, offer him some of their food and some of their company.

In the ensuing conversation, the old man offers his theology -- an agnostic sort of affirmation of humanity's free will and how people have used that free will in destructive and evil ways.

There is no Pat Robertson goofiness here about how God is punishing the U.S. and the world for making a pact with the devil or for supporting equal rights for gays and lesbians. There is no pollyanna refusal here to see the wreck of humanity. But neither is there any wildly enthusiastic affirmation here of God's presence with the sufferers in the midst of havoc.

There is simply an acceptance of responsibility. There is an accounting. There is a sense of guilt, but also a sense that the punishment is self-inflicted, as it often is. Indeed, that's quite biblical, as any clear-eyed reading of the parable of the Prodigal Son attests. In that story, the father, who stands for God, punishes the wild son simply by allowing him to have his own way. Or, rather, the father lets the son punish himself in that way.

That's the message I took away from what Duvall, as old man, said in "The Road." And it's fair to middlin' -- although not exhaustive -- theology, if you ask me.

(The photo here from the movie I found at

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The Church of England, this report says, is worried that the depiction of religion on British TV is awful. Well, it's not so hot in the U.S., either, though as I've said before perhaps the show that gets the point of religion the most is "The Simpsons," believe it or not.

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NOTE: At least temporarily, I've decided (starting with yesterday's blog posting) to stop allowing readers to leave comments on this blog. You're welcome to e-mail any comments you have to [email protected] in response to the blog's content each day. But for now you won't have the opportunity to leave comments here. Why? Well, the main reason is that the cost/benefit analysis I've done tells me it's not worth it any more. First, it takes too much of my time to moderate the comments. I have many other projects and responsibilities beyond this blog and moderating the comments is reducing the time I have to work on those. And, frankly, only about 20 percent of the comments in the last year or so ever contain anything fresh or in any way responsive to what I'm writing about that day. (Feel free to think you are the source of those good comments; maybe you are.) Instead, the comments section has largely turned into a platform for uncivil discourse between and among people who don't respect each other and who endlessly repeat theist or atheist arguments that would try the soul of any lively college sophomore. I'm tired of it to the marrow. I reserve the right on occasion to reopen the comments section (you'll know by looking for a note about it at the bottom of that day's posting). And I reserve the right to change my mind about any and all of this. But for now, I'm closing comments. Thanks for your understanding. Bill.


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