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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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    • The Reverse Genesis Narrative of ‘Bird Box’

      Bird Box begins in hell. Hell, in this case, is a rapidly escalating global catastrophe—a creaturely presence that, upon being seen, drives one to sudden and violent death by suicide. The only way to save oneself is not to see this evil. Survival depends on remaining behind darkened windows when inside and wearing a blindfold when out. Adapted from a 2014 novel, the Netflix original film (directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier) was viewed a record-breaking 45 million times within a week of its release. As thrillers go, Bird Box is intense. (It kept the adrenaline of this suspense addict jacked up for all 124 minutes.) The suicide scenes are so disturbing that some have (understandably) called for trigger warnings for the sake of viewers struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts. The suspenseful content is heightened by the story’s artful structure, which effectively cuts back and forth between scenes taking place just before, during, and several years after the onset of the apocalypse. This non-chronological order does more than just build suspense, however. It also highlights the development of the central character, Malorie (Sandra Bullock), from reluctant to loving mother. Horror of Parenting This parenting theme is one reason many compare Bird Box to last year’s A Quiet Place, leaving some to wonder if the former merely imitated the latter (which isn’t the case, since the novel Bird Box was published in 2014, with the film rights sold in 2013 before the book was even released). Even so, the similarities between the films are notable. Viewers unversed in the genre may not realize how central a role parenting—whether good or ill—plays in horror films from Carrie to Halloween to The Shining. Both A Quiet Place and Bird Box portray parents and parenting in a positive light—an unexpected, but welcome tilt of a common trope. The horror in these two films is also directly connected to the senses—hearing in A Quiet Place and sight in Bird Box. In this age of sensory overload (manifested, increasingly and not surprisingly, in sensory disorders), these films demonstrate how the horror genre always deals in some way with whatever scares us most in any given age. What scares Malorie is becoming a parent. The film hints that her fears about becoming a mother are directly connected to her own parents’ problems. In a conversation with her sister (Sarah Paulson) about a horse her sister hopes to purchase, Malorie says wryly, “Great to be a horse. Then we would have, like, a mother who would have actually raised us and a father off on some faraway stud farm.” “Hold on,” her sister responds. “Our father was off on a faraway stud farm.” The film opens several years after this conversation, with Malorie sharply commanding a young boy and girl, both blindfolded as they set off on a dangerous boat ride down a river. Then a flashback (the first of many) returns to a heavily pregnant (and single) Malorie, who is so detached from the child she carries that her obstetrician gently suggests she consider placing the baby up for adoption. Not only does Malorie keep the child (birthed in terrifying circumstances, also similar to A Quiet Place), but she also takes into her care another child whose mother falls victim to the apocalyptic plague. Adoption thus emerges as one of the film’s more subtle but interesting themes, a theme reinforced by the birds of the titular box. Birds and Blindness The birds serve a number of functions in the story, both literal and symbolic. One thematic purpose is explicit in the film’s script but doesn’t appear to show up in the film. The movie portrays Malorie obtaining the birds in an abandoned grocery store. The script states that “a trampled sign on the floor” reads, “TODAY ONLY / ADOPT A PET!” Malorie does. The investment of so much care in such seemingly insignificant creatures as small birds, under the circumstances, is a stretch of the imagination—unless viewed within the context of the film’s central theme about risking love in a dangerous world. It’s a world in which loving someone—a child, a sibling, a spouse, even a pet—all but guarantees the pain of loss. The thematic significance of the film’s central image of blindness/seeing goes back at least as far as the ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles, and much chatter by viewers (not to mention the viral memes) about Bird Box centers on interpretations of just what kind of moral, personal, or social “blindness” the film suggests. Echoes of Genesis However, it’s the more subtle archetypal symbols that increase the film’s interest for me (spoilers below). The safety Malorie seeks for herself and the children is found in a boat, a type of ark. At a critical moment, Malorie faces a kind of Sophie’s Choice between one life or another—and refuses to choose. Immediately afterward, the boat capsizes, and the trio’s journey on the boat ends. She and the children are immersed the river’s waters in a kind of baptism before undertaking the last steps in their pilgrimage. Like Christian’s journey in Pilgrim’s Progress, they must resist the pull of voices that would lure them away from their destination. They must resist the temptation to take off the blindfold, opting instead to (literally) “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). In a reverse Genesis narrative, Bird Box ends with an entrance into, rather than an expulsion from, a kind of Eden. Unlike Adam and Eve, who were ejected from Eden for their insistence on knowing, Malorie enters not by knowing, but by trusting. This is a paradise not incorruptible like the new heaven and the new earth, but one that is lush, flourishing, full of love, and a shelter from the unseen evil terrorizing the outside world. It is a place where birds beckon and warn by song, fly free, and play upon a canopy of trees, recalling a story told earlier in the film to the children, a story of hope Malorie refused to hear because she was afraid to hope. She so lacked in hope, in fact, that she refused to name the children. Reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s unnamed “boy” protagonist in his apocalyptic novel The Road, the children in Bird Box are simply called “boy” and “girl.” But when Malorie arrives at an Edenic garden hidden away, she finds hope. Startlingly, delightfully, the refuge is populated by those who have what in the pre-apocalyptic world would be considered a disability but is, ironically, lifesaving. In their weakness is their strength. All along—until that pivotal point earlier in the boat—Malorie has believed her power lie in her invulnerability to both external evil and internal emotion. At last, she gives up her resistance to risky love and, like Adam in that first Eden, gives the children names, declaring to the others—but mostly herself—“I am their mother.” View the full article

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    • Pro-Life Politician Declares He’s a Woman to Rebut Pro-Choice Argument

      A pro-life male member of Australia’s Senate discovered a unique way this week to rebut a common argument by pro-choice politicians: He declared himself to be a woman. View the full article

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    • Trump May Reverse Obama's Decision and Define Gender by Biology, Not Choice

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    • There Is No Christian Argument Against Overturning Roe v Wade

      The news that Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy will retire next month has immediately conjured up images of a pro-life judge’s taking his place and becoming the crucial fifth piece to strike down Roe v. Wade, the Court’s 1973 affirmation of a universal right to abortion. For pro-life activists and observers, this is a historic opportunity to challenge the bloodiest injustice in America for the past 50 years. While overturning Roe would not itself criminalize abortion, it would blow away the barrier against state-based laws and almost certainly result in at least 20 states outlawing abortion in most circumstances. All it takes is five justices to intervene on behalf of the lives of millions of unborn Americans. It is very close.   It is close because Donald Trump won an astonishing election the same year that Justice Antonin Scalia astonishingly died, denying the Democratic Party an opportunity to solidify Roe via President Hillary Clinton. It is close because then-candidate Trump said onstage during a presidential debate that he would seek to overturn Roe if given the opportunity to appoint justices. It is because of the relationship between the judiciary and the executive, a relationship crafted by the men on our dollars and coins, that this opportunity has come. And it is also because of Donald Trump. This is a hard saying. Who can bear it?   In our current age, we are given to making value judgments by association. Because Donald Trump is a man of vice whose administration has pursued some cruel policies (and whose rhetoric tends to exult in such cruelty), some evangelicals will struggle with feeling joy at this vacant Court seat. “I’m personally pro-life,” they might say, “but I just don’t trust Trump, and I don’t like it that people who voted for him seem happy about this.” Thus, they might try to reason themselves into the belief that Roe ought not be overturned, that a pro-life justice ought not be appointed, all because Donald Trump ought not be president and evangelicals ought not be feeling victorious right now.   The frustration is understandable, but the logic is not. Evangelicals don’t have to set aside their convictions about race, immigrants, women, or the Religious Right in order to perceive a moral mandate when it comes to abortion. There is no Christian case against overturning Roe. None.   Once upon what seems now like a lifetime ago, pro-life evangelicals were united in horror and imprecatory prayer at the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood released by the Center for Medical Progress. Those videos have been legally prosecuted and forgotten, but they have not been unmade. There are many of us who vividly remember where we were when we watched a physician “harvest” the tiny anatomy of an aborted boy (yes, “it’s a boy”), or when we listened to Planned Parenthood reps talk about the money and humor in the trafficking of babies. While these videos were being released, there was no question amongst most evangelicals whether abortion was a cause worth engaging at the highest possible level. There was no Donald Trump and no morally compromised Religious Right to complicate things.   Three years later, the producers of those videos are fighting litigation, and many of us who watched and cried and prayed are fighting ourselves. The illusion of virtue in our tribe was dismantled by 2016, by #MeToo, by the children of refugees in prison-like holding cells. It has been terrible. But evangelicals cannot allow the hypocrisy of their elders to blind them to the innocence of their infants. It is not remotely unreasonable or incoherent to stand as far away as possible from the rot of God and country Republicanism while charging alongside it against Roe v. Wade. In fact, it is the only option we have.   In a now-deleted tweet, a prominent progressive evangelical writer said though she was “convictionally pro-life” (those slippery adverbs!), she could not support the overturning of Roe v Wade due to all the “effects” it would have. After deleting the tweet, she said that Twitter was obviously not the right place to talk about abortion. Nothing more than a 2 minute perusal of her Twitter account reveals dozens of impassioned threads about everything from gun control to immigration to policing. This sort of double dealing has become rampant among younger, socially conscious evangelicals in the aftermath of Trump’s election. While abortion is a “complex conversation” that requires nuance instead of activism, the issues that the Republican Party morally fails on are apparently no-brainers.   I don’t think this attitude necessarily comes from apathy about unborn babies or rank partisanship. I think it mostly comes from fear—fear of becoming the wrong kind of person in the wrong kind of tribe. Again, the fear is understandable, but the rationalization seen above is not. To act as if morally upright Christians cannot support President Trump’s appointment of a justice who would tip the scales against Roe is to prioritize political consistency and tribal identity over human life itself. It is the literal opposite of a Christ-honoring public theology.   Martin Luther King famously said that laws could not make white people love black people, but they could keep white people from lynching black people. In other words, a law that doesn’t address the deepest problems but still preserves life is a worthy law. Evangelicals who say that overturning Roe would not destroy back alley abortions need to ponder the truth in King’s statement. The possibility that a law will be broken and that people will suffer is not an argument against a moral law. It’s an argument against us sinful people.  The overturning of Roe would allow states to codify the sanctity of unborn life, and laws do teach. We may not be able to change hearts, but we can shape them as they grow…but only if they’re allowed to beat.   Roe v. Wade is a legal catastrophe. It is Constitutional soothsaying. It’s a decision based on discredited scientific claims and cartoon philosophy. Worst of all, it has been the death sentence of over 60 million Americans. Worrying about whether its reversal will register as a win for a president who is unworthy of it is not a competing interest to its destruction. This should not, must not, and cannot be a “white Republican Christian” issue. It’s everyone’s issue. There is no Christian case for keeping Roe. None.   Source: There Is No Christian Argument Against Overturning Roe v Wade – Letter & Liturgy  

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    • Three Reasons Why the "Nothing to Hide" Argument is Flawed

      Over the years, we at DuckDuckGo have often heard a flawed counter-argument to online privacy: “Why should I care? I have nothing to hide.” As Internet privacy has become more mainstream, this argument is rightfully fading away. However, it’s still floating around and so we wanted to take a moment to explain three key reasons why it's flawed. 1) Privacy isn’t about hiding information; privacy is about protecting information, and surely you have information that you’d like to protect. Do you close the door when you go to the bathroom? Would you give your bank account information to anyone? Do you want all your search and browsing history made public? Of course not. Simply put, everyone wants to keep certain things private and you can easily illustrate that by asking people to let you make all their emails, texts, searches, financial information, medical information, etc. public. Very few people will say yes. 2) Privacy is a fundamental right and you don't need to prove the necessity of fundamental rights to anyone. You should have the right to free speech even if you feel you have nothing important to say right now. You should have the right to assemble even if you feel you have nothing to protest right now. These should be fundamental rights just like the right to privacy. And for good reason. Think of commonplace scenarios in which privacy is crucial and desirable like intimate conversations, medical procedures, and voting. We change our behavior when we're being watched, which is made obvious when voting; hence, an argument can be made that privacy in voting underpins democracy. 3) Lack of privacy creates significant harms that everyone wants to avoid. You need privacy to avoid unfortunately common threats like identity theft, manipulation through ads, discrimination based on your personal information, harassment, the filter bubble, and many other real harms that arise from invasions of privacy. In addition, what many people don’t realize is that several small pieces of your personal data can be put together to reveal much more about you than you would think is possible. For example, an analysis conducted by MIT researchers found that “just four fairly vague pieces of information — the dates and locations of four purchases — are enough to identify 90 percent of the people in a data set recording three months of credit-card transactions by 1.1 million users.” It’s critical to remember that privacy isn't just about protecting a single and seemingly insignificant piece of personal data, which is often what people think about when they say, “I have nothing to hide.” For example, some may say they don't mind if a company knows their email address while others might say they don't care if a company knows where they shop online. However, these small pieces of personal data are increasingly aggregated by advertising platforms like Google and Facebook to form a more complete picture of who you are, what you do, where you go, and with whom you spend time. And those large data profiles can then lead much more easily to significant privacy harms. If that feels creepy, it’s because it is. We can't stress enough that your privacy shouldn’t be taken for granted. The ‘I have nothing to hide’ response does just that, implying that government and corporate surveillance should be acceptable as the default. Privacy should be the default. We are setting a new standard of trust online and believe getting the privacy you want online should be as easy as closing the blinds. For more privacy advice, follow us on Twitter & get our privacy crash course. View the full article

      in Computers & Technology

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