Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Polanski Files

For those of us who are even slightly culturally alert, the reason case of Roman Polanski should concern us, not so much that we look down our noses at those people over there in Hollywood but because it forces us to ask sobering questions about evil and justice. We should not stand in our pulpits or in our prayer meetings with a "thank God we are not like those Hollywooders"--nevertheless this serves as an illustrate of just how far we all are headed when we are willing to openly reexamine definition of evil and justice. It should force us to ask some own questions about the nature of evil and sexual immorality.

Some of the outrage we see comes from the free pass that some within the cultural elite want to give Polanski. It communicates in effect that if one skips town and if one 'contributes' to society, particularly within the arts, ones own morals more than make up for something heinous in one's youth. It is a sort of salvation by artistic works. Without excusing hypocrisy and moral inconsistency that flows from conservatives, it is rather laughable to actually argue that Hollywood's ethics are superior:
"Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion," Weinstein said. "We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe."

This is it's own brand of Pharisaism. It is true that many in Hollywood do show compassion and they certainly give money to their causes, questionable or not. But they are hardly the only ones in America and they are hardly leading the charge. Let's not forget the Biblical distinction of giving out of riches versus given at one's expense. On this count, I dare say that Middle America looks far better (or here) than an elitist may give it credit. Thankfully there have been both conservatives and liberalism who have decried this for various reasons.

But moral compass? Consider that three major films portrayed relationships with a child in a sympathetic way to one degree or another which involved Oscar winning actor/actresses. Without entering into the debate of whether cinema pushes the culture or reflects the culture, we need to ask the question: should recent behavior and responses surprise us?

Part of the problem is the redefinitions of sexual ethics as noted from First Things:
"What is surprising, however, is to find Polanski's partisans reacting with indignation to his arrest and possible prosecution, as if he were a victim of some great injustice...Pity, yes. But indignation? This is strange, and it compels us to ask how we can account for the inclination of some in Hollywood righteously to condemn those who would bring Polanski to justice. The reasons are no doubt complex, and they probably include a sincere but misguided compassion—one that pushes pity too far by not only sympathizing with the wrongdoer but excusing his conduct...
Traditional sexual morality depended on the assumption that human sexuality possessed an objective moral nature and seriousness that all human beings were obliged to respect and that society itself was entitled to protect through law and custom. Sexual liberation rejected such notions, claiming instead that in matters of sex the acts of consenting adults were none of society's business. That is, the sexual liberation movement denied sex all intrinsic moral content and reduced sexual morality to the requirement that the consent of the participating parties be respected. The problem, however, is that once traditional sexual morality has been swept away, it is not clear that a solid respect for consent can be maintained. "
Let's not forget it is hypocrisy to laud oneself as a champion of social justice while at the same time excusing a clear violation of the Law which is established to protect the weak, innocent and vulnerable. We have this reminder from Al Mohler:
"Moral hypocrisy is an ugly thing, regardless of its source. Hypocrisy is a moral trap of constant threat -- the price of holding any moral standards at all. To hold to the truth of moral judgment and then to allow for the transgression of that moral judgment is hypocrisy in its essence. The only total escape from the threat of hypocrisy is to forfeit any claim to moral standards at all...The cultural left has responded to the arrest a week ago of Polanksi with outrage -- directed not at Polanski but at the arrest. The facts are not in dispute. Roman Polanski pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977."

Of course, it is not just Christians who are calling it evil to defend evil. From the Wall Street Journal Online, referring to those who have signed a petition to release Polanski:

Be that as it may, let's suppose for the sake of argument that the petition's signers are motivated exclusively by the desire to see justice done. What might that mean in practice? The petition starts out by coolly dismissing Mr. Polanski's crime as "a case of morals" (i.e., no big deal) involving "one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers." It then goes on to argue that the Zurich Film Festival is an "extraterritorial" event held in a "neutral country" to which filmmakers should be allowed to travel "freely and safely," just as if they were doctors or diplomats. The implication is all too clear: No matter what he may have done in the past, Mr. Polanski is an artist and therefore ought to go free. Period.

I find this pseudoargument impossible to stomach, and I can't imagine that Mr. Polanski's fellow filmmakers would be similarly inclined to make it on behalf of a director of made-for-TV movies. But the quality of Mr. Polanski's films has nothing to do with the validity of the case for releasing him. The ability to make art—good, bad or indifferent—relieves no artist of his fundamental duties as a human being, the first and foremost of which is to treat his fellow humans decently, and allow himself to be held accountable if he does not. By his own admission, Mr. Polanski flunked both parts of that test three decades ago. Since then, he's been on an exceedingly cushy lam, living in a Paris penthouse and thumbing his nose at the rule of law. It's time for him to come home to Hollywood—voluntarily or not—and pay the price for what he did.

From Katha Pollitt:

"It's enraging that literary superstars who go on and on about human dignity, and human rights, and even women's rights (at least when the women are Muslim) either don't see what Polanski did as rape, or don't care, because he is, after all, Polanski--an artist like themselves. That some of his defenders are women is particularly disappointing. Don't they see how they are signing on to arguments that blame the victim, minimize rape, and bend over backwards to exonerate the perpetrator? Error of youth, might have mistaken her age, teen slut, stage mother--is that what we want people to think when middle-aged men prey on ninth-graders? "

The only thing I think we should add is this:

Isaiah 5:15-21 15 So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased, The eyes of the proud also will be abased. 16 But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, And the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness. 17 Then the lambs will graze as in their pasture, And strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy. 18 Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, And sin as if with cart ropes; 19 Who say, "Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near And come to pass, that we may know it!" 20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!

Proverbs 17:15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

It is tough to balance true moral indignation that we should have for evil with the avoidance of a Pharisaical heart. The case of Roman Polanski isn't really another opportunity to snub the morals of those whom we somehow feel are lesser than us, although clearly and unabashedly pointing out sin is never automatically a case of being a Pharisee. It is a time to think about the true nature and source of evil. It is a time to look at the human condition. Ironically, without attempting to excuse some excuse evil, their act of excusing it may itself be a reminder to us: there is such a thing as a human condition. What I mean is, while some may be motivated by moral relativism, seeing someone fall, may be a reminder that we too have the same heart as Roman Polanski. To put it in more secular terms, as the LA Times quotes UCLA professor Jonathan Kuntz:

"I think that there are a lot of folks in Hollywood in the late '60s and '70s who may have done a lot of things they weren't really proud of, and may have been participating in very similar things,"

Because man still bears some of the image of God, no matter how marred it is, there still is a conscience in us that condemns us. This is not the time to try to suppress that conscience but confront it. What is evil? Why is it I have such a proclivity to it? Sober questions should drive us to reflect on the sober realities and seek real resolutions. Is there a solution?

The some things we should take from this are:

  1. Do I excuse evil in my own heart?
  2. Do I excuse evil in my own social groups, clicks, or church family?
  3. Do I properly identify the standards for evil that exist outside myself and my social situation?
  4. How do I define and evaluate justice? Is it Biblical?
  5. Do I recognize the abomination is God eyes of excusing evil, letting evildoers free, and redefining evil?
  6. Without removing the justice of human law, do I recognize the power of the cross to forgive the guilty who seek such forgiveness?
  7. Do I hold there are worse class of sins that are somehow unforgivable?
  8. Do I see my own sins just as heinous and wicked as Polanski's?
James 2:10-11 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11 For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.

Galatians 3:10-13 0 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM." 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "--

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