The Democratization of Narnia

Apparently the new Narnia films significantly misrepresent Lewis's books. See this essay from Touchstone Magazine. The specific claim of the essay is that hierarchy and moral greatness are crucial to Lewis's story, and that these features are absent from the films. Lewis's moral heroes have been replaced with characters that are easier for us to understand and to relate. Stephen Boyer gives us an example of this in his essay:
Then follow some remarkable lines. Says Peter, “Don’t you ever get tired of being treated like a kid?” “We are kids,” Edmund wryly observes. “Well, I wasn’t always,” Peter retorts. He is obviously remembering that he used to be a king in Narnia—and he wants the kingship back.

Director Andrew Adamson helps us understand just what is going on in this scene in a commentary that is one of the bonus features on the Prince Caspian DVD. Adamson explains,
I always felt . . . how hard it must have been, particularly for Peter, to have gone from being high king to going back to high school, and what that would do to him, do to his ego. . . . I always thought that would be a really hard thing for a kid to go through.
Adamson acknowledges that this emotional turmoil was “not something that C. S. Lewis really got into,” but as director he wanted “to create more depth for the characters, more reality to the situation.” He wanted “to deal with what all the kids would go through having left behind that incredible experience and wanting to relive it.”

This emotional realism was Adamson’s explicit aim, and as a result, the screenwriters who put this scene together were actively encouraged to think about what it would be like to go from “king” to “schoolboy”—not a pleasant prospect, of course, and one to which any of us might react with bitterness and resentment, just as Peter does.

Right, any of us might react that way—but that is because we have not breathed the air of Narnia. We are thinking like ordinary persons (and worse, like self-sufficient, twenty-first-century, Western intellectuals) instead of like knights or kings. In Lewis’s telling of all of the Narnia tales, the children’s experiences as kings and queens in Narnia consistently transform them into nobler, more virtuous people in their own world. They are not spoiled children wanting to be kings again; they are noble kings who carry that very nobility back into their non-royal roles as schoolchildren.
Our Hollywood directors know something about the culture that is not completely obvious. That is, our culture has no concept of saints. We cannot see them, because we do not know what they look like. When we are presented with a saint, in literature or in the movies, we re-imagine them to be more like us, rather than aspire to be more like them. We don't believe in saints anymore. Moral goodness is offensive. A morally good person makes you feel bad about yourself! Only morally weak people, people like us, are truly lovable. The saint is not lovable because he is not real.

I think this is a great challenge for modern Christians.


Kinda sad

Protestantism in New England, 2010:
DERRY – A local congregation is taking a leap of faith: They're looking at selling their Calvary Bible Church building in an effort to reduce their debt and find a more suitable use for the sprawling $5.5 million 18-acre parcel that used to also house a K-12 school.


Peter Lawler Has a Blog

And everyone should read it.

He's the best political thinker there is.

Here he is, on INDIVIDUALISM, rightly understood:
According to Alexis de Tocquevile (who is--I hope you've figured out--an authority for me on just about everything), the vice of modern democracy is INDIVIDUALISM. He doesn't mean of course the "rugged individualism" or John Wayne or even the entrepreneurial individualism praised by our Randian libertarians. He means apathetic withdrawal into a small circle of friends and family, a withdrawal based on the mistaken judgment that, in general, love and hate are more trouble than their worth. Individualism is a kind of "heart disease" that turns active citizens into passive dependents, a disease that can morph democratic self-government into a kind of despotism.

The Government's Taking Over

From the Washington Examiner:
Here are 10 reasons why they are right that it is a government takeover of health care:

1. For the first time in our nation's history, the government will order citizens to spend our private money on a private product -- health insurance -- and will penalize us if we refuse.

2. Any employer with more than 50 employees will be told it must provide government-decreed health insurance to its workers -- or face financial penalties.

3. Government has the authority to the destroy the private insurance market by preventing insurers from earning a reasonable return. If companies charge "unreasonable" premiums, as determined by Health Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, she can block them from participating in a huge sector of the market -- as she already has threatened to do. Michael Barone calls this "gangster government."

4. The law provides the foundation -- and $6 billion -- for a stealth public plan. The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program will help set up non-profit, member-run health insurance companies in all 50 states.

5. As many as 80 to 100 million people will not have the option of keeping the coverage they have now, per President Obama's promise. According to analyst Allisa A. Meade of McKinsey & Company, they will be switched into other policies after the insurance mandates take effect in 2014 ?-- whether they like it or not.

6. The federal government will determine what health benefits are essential -- or not.

7. Doctors and hospitals will face an avalanche of new reporting rules to make sure they are providing health care that fits the government's definition of "quality care."

8. The legislation creates the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute that is modeled on rationing boards in other countries with government-run health systems. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the U.K., for example, has a record of denying access to the newest drugs, with government officials often deciding they just aren't worth the cost. That's already happening here with the FDA'S withdrawal of its approval for Avastin last week.

9. States are being treated like contractors to the federal government, ordered to expand Medicaid to levels that could bankrupt them, and to set up new Health Exchange bureaucracies lest the federal government sweep in and do it for them.

10. Obamacare expands Medicaid, the worst health plan in the country, to cover 84 million people by 2019, stretching yet another of our government-run health programs to the bursting point.


The Sing-Off

Yeah, I really enjoy the television show "The Sing-Off."

My wife and I were floored that Committed won the show last night. America voted and I think they actually chose correctly! I was shocked because democracy rarely works like this. Rarely does the natural aristoi rise to the top. But I guess it does on NBC!

It was also great to see Ben Folds sing one of his songs.


Friendship and the Truth

I recently ordered "Voegelin in Toronto" from the University of Missouri Press. This is a four and one half hour DVD of a conference held in the late 1970s. Part of this DVD is a discussion held on reading Plato's Republic, with the great Professors Allan Bloom and Eric Voegelin.

At the beginning of the talk, Professor Bloom utters something marvelous about friendship. Friendship, he says, is possible only given the oneness of the truth. This is the Platonic view of things, anyway; the reason for philosophy was ultimately true friendship - friendship being two persons able to communicate without any misunderstanding, and delight in what is together. This is only possible with true knowledge of what is.

This idea stands in stark contrast to modern philosophies which emphasize individual perspectives and claim that ultimately, there is no truth, and that nothing is really held in common. Friendship, in this understanding, is really quite impossible. You cannot be truly friends with anyone because there is no way to relate to anyone else. Everyone is isolated from each other because there is no common language.

I'm further struck that this is an idea coming from an ancient Greek and an interpretation of his work by a Professor reputed to be areligious(Bloom). This is strange because this idea, of course, is a thoroughly Catholic idea. It is the Eternal Word that makes all life and all true friendship possible. Father Neuhaus said once that the deepest ground for human friendship is Jesus Christ. Christ is the source of all truth and all goodness and is indeed these things himself. So the ancient Greeks and the quirky professor know the same thing as the Christian mystic but without any knowledge of Revelation. From this it is clear that some aspects of the beauty of God's design for human life, love and friendship are knowable without the Gospel. But oh, how they are lit up and glorified with it.


Edward Feser Explains the Church's Teaching on Health Care as a Right

Entirely lucid, as Professor Feser's writing usually is:
It is in any event important to remind ourselves of what the Church actually teaches, and what she teaches is not at all what such liberal Catholics think it is. To be sure, in line with statements made by popes John XXIII and John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does indeed speak of a “right to medical care” as among those the “political community” has a duty to uphold (2211). But does this entail that universal health care must be funded by and/or administered by the federal government, or indeed by any government? No, it doesn’t. Consider first that the same documents that affirm a “right” to medical care also affirm “rights” to “food, clothing, [and] shelter” (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris 8) and “to private property, to free enterprise, [and] to obtain work and housing” (the Catechism again). But no one claims that the Church teaches that governments have a duty to provide everyone with a government job, or free food, clothing, shelter, or other kinds of property at taxpayer expense, or a guarantee of entrepreneurial opportunities.

Why not? Because the term “right” is simply not used in Catholic moral theology in the crude manner in which modern American liberal politicians like to use it, viz. as expressing a legally enforceable demand on the part of an individual that he be provided with some benefit by government (either in the form of a service funded by the taxpayer or in the form of coercion of those who might otherwise “discriminate” against him). Rather, the theory of rights enshrined in traditional natural law thinking and the traditional Catholic moral theology informed by it is very complex and nuanced, and includes a number of crucial distinctions that must be borne in mind in any analysis of what the magisterial documents of the Church entail. There is, for example, the distinction between objective right – some thing or act one might in some sense have a claim to – and subjective right – the moral power he might have to claim that thing or act he has an objective right to. There is the distinction between natural rights – rights we have simply by virtue of being human – and positive rights – those that exist only given a certain man-made legal framework. There is the distinction between a connatural right – a right one has independently of any conditions – and an acquired right – a right one has given the fulfillment of certain conditions. There is the distinction between an affirmative right – a right to have some good provided to one – and a negative right – a right merely not to be impeded in the pursuit of some good. There is the distinction between a perfect right – a right which is a precondition of the possibility of everyday moral life – and an imperfect right – a right which is not strictly necessary to make everyday moral life possible but which nevertheless considerably facilitates it. Among perfect rights, there are those which must be enforced via the power of the state (e.g. the right not to be killed unjustly) and those which are not appropriately enforced in this way (e.g. the right to be treated with respect by one’s children). Among imperfect rights, there are rights to things strictly due to us (e.g. gratitude from those we have benefited) and rights to things that are not strictly due to us (e.g. to be treated pleasantly by those we come into contact with in day to day life). There are further distinctions to be made, and elaborations and qualifications to be made to the distinctions already made; and a good book on ethics or moral theology of the sort I recommended in an earlier post will spell them out for the interested reader. (Volume I of Cronin’s Science of Ethics is particularly good on this subject, as on so much else.)

The point for present purposes is to emphasize that noting that a magisterial document speaks of a “right” to something by itself does nothing to show that government must provide it. All it shows is that people have a claim of some sort against others – how strong a claim, how that claim is to be respected, whether and to what extent government has a role in ensuring that it is respected, etc. are all further issues requiring careful analysis. This is especially so of something like a “right to medical care,” which, unlike such negative rights as the right of an innocent person not to be killed, involves a positive claim against others that a certain service be provided. Does the right to medical care entail that government itself must provide medical services? Or only that it provide citizens with the means to purchase such services? Must it provide them to all citizens, or only to those otherwise unable to afford them? What level of government is supposed to do this – municipal, state, or federal? Does it require government to force some individuals to become medical doctors, nurses, and the like so that the services can be provided? (They don’t grow on trees, after all.) Or is government involvement really necessary here at all? Is the right in question instead only a right that others provide those who need medical assistance with the means to do so in some way or other – through government if necessary, but through private means if possible? And if so, which persons in particular are supposed to provide this aid – family members and friends, churches and charities, or total strangers too? Merely noting that the Church teaches that people have a “right” to medical care (or to food, shelter, a job, etc.) answers none of these questions.