Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Priorities, Carelessness, and Conservatives

The movie "Wedding Crashers" continues to do well in theaters. I haven't seen the movie, and I don't ever want to see it. I've read some reviews of it, and I've seen some clips of it, enough to convince me that it ought to be avoided. But it's been getting good reviews from a lot of sources, including some politically and sometimes culturally conservative sources, such as some of the writers for National Review Online.

On July 15, I saw Ben Jones on "Scarborough Country" on MSNBC, discussing the upcoming "Dukes of Hazzard" movie. Jones is a former Congressman and was part of the cast of the "Dukes of Hazzard" television series. He was criticizing the movie because of its immoral content. The television series wasn't particularly commendable either, but the movie probably is a lot worse. As the interview went on, Jones explained that he's not a "prude". He enjoys watching television shows and movies with that sort of content, but he's concerned about children being exposed to these things.

We see this sort of argumentation a lot, whether with "Wedding Crashers", "Dukes of Hazzard", or something else. Supposedly, children should be protected from vulgarity, sexual immorality, and immoral violence, for example, but it's acceptable for adults to swear, watch movies that incite lust, and enjoy television programs that encourage unkindness, bitterness, and vengefulness. I sometimes come across professing Christians who seem to think that using vulgar language is evidence of their intelligence and maturity. And then there's the now common tendency of music, video game, television, and movie reviewers to speak highly of a product because it has the virtue of breaking at least one of God's commandments. David Edelstein, writing for the liberal Slate.com, commends the movie "Wedding Crashers", telling us that:

"OK, the view of women is admittedly sexist. Given the moralistic climate of the moment, though, it's exhilarating to see a genuinely R-rated comedy with dirty talk and casual sex."

Somebody like Ben Jones will tend to be more conservative than somebody like David Edelstein, but neither of them is putting forward a particularly reasonable standard. Even though the problem isn't as bad among social and political conservatives, it's still a problem. Anybody who has listened to Rush Limbaugh for a while or has read much of National Review Online, for example, will know that this sort of moral carelessness isn't limited to the left.

Last month, The New Republic published a discouraging story on what prominent American conservatives think of the theories of evolution and intelligent design. A small portion of the comments made by these conservatives is encouraging, but the general impression you come away with is that most of these people don't know much about the issue, and that many of them lean toward evolution. These are conservatives, remember, not liberals. Around the same time, The Weekly Standard, a conservative publication, ran an article that largely argues for theistic evolution. In previous entries on this blog, I've given examples of conservatives like John Derbyshire and George Will misrepresenting intelligent design in support of evolution.

There are many people who know a lot about tax policy, social security, foreign policy, movies, or sports, but don't know much about issues that are far more important. If you grew up with parents, grandparents, or other influences in your life who encouraged you to be more concerned with knowing God and knowing scripture than with knowing tax policy and knowing about the latest movies, you should be grateful. This weekend, thousands of people will go out and buy the latest Harry Potter book, and they'll spend hours reading it, thinking about it, and discussing it with other people. How much time do you think they've spent reading, thinking about, and discussing books on theology, apologetics, or church history?

I can to some extent understand this sort of false prioritizing, carelessness, and vulgarity among conservatives who don't profess to be Christian or who are immature Christians, but what about people who are older or more knowledgeable in the Christian faith? A lot of us need to think about the words of Jesus and the apostles in Matthew 5:28, 12:36, and 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, for example, and consider these things in light of the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the language we use, etc. I know that God had to discipline me in some of these things, such as with regard to video games and the time spent following sports. Often, there are better things we can be setting our minds upon and better things we should be doing. "Our citizenship is in Heaven" (Philippians 3:20).