The 80s Gay And Straight Buddy Cop Film ‘Partners’

Anyone remember Partners? The film starred Ryan O’ Neal from Homicide Division as Sgt. Benson and John Hurt as Officer Kerwin, a records clerk. It was a buddy cop film from 1982 with a straight white male and a closeted gay man who go undercover to catch a killer murdering beefy magazine pinups. Yes? No?


Okay, it wasn’t a big hit and it wasn’t the finest hour of these notable actors, who by the way are both straight (I was certain John Hurt was gay until I read up on his marriages).

Here’s the reason why I remember the film and why I picked up the DVD to watch it again. I was around 10 when I stayed over at my friend Ryan’s house. His parents rented Partners, but because it was R-rated it was hands off for us two. So Ryan waited until his parents left the next morning to run some errands and then popped the VHS tape into the VCR (yes, VHS!) and we started watching. I honestly didn’t know what we were watching except that it was R and if you were a kid with no access to HBO or Showtime and your allowance of TV at home included The Disney Channel and reruns of Mr. Ed you were desperate to know what all those restricted movies were about.

I can’t remember at the time if I understood what “gay” was? I mean I knew what it meant in terms of slang or derision, but not “gay love.” What I did understand was this movie had female nudity as well as male and so I was fine with seeing gratuitous tit shots…that is until Ryan’s parents returned home about 45 minutes into the film and I never got to see the ending. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I rented the movie for myself and watched the whole thing one night after working my glorious fast food job.

What’s interesting about my life around 20 is that I was a Jesus Freak and I would say it was fair to call me a fundamentalist in my views even though I didn’t look the part. I was into Christian Metal and wore ripped jeans, T-shirts with gospel messages and long hair. I also volunteered my time with a pro-life group that had as part of its agenda to fight “the gay agenda.” After all, man on man sex didn’t equal babies and being pro-life is all about babies. Add to that the political climate with the OCA (Oregon Citizens Alliance) who put an anti-gay rights initiative on the local ballot and it was definitely the right time to watch a film like Partners. And yes, sadly, I voted with the OCA based on my Christian beliefs. Told ya I was a fundamentalist.

I know from doing a little surfing that Partners is not well liked by gay reviewers and Gene Siskel and Rex Reed hated it when it came out. The complaints range from stereotyping to  John Hurt’s character being a mouse of a gay man to the use of the word “fag” with no repercussions to outright homophobia. The other film that attracts this kind of criticism is William Friedkin’s Cruising starring Al Pacino, which I also watched when I was 20. Fact is, Partners is almost like a light-hearted version of Cruising.

As a straight male, I’m sure I don’t have the perspective to grasp the complaints of the gay community or be offended by stereotypes. I do know that certain movies are maligned by activist groups (gay, political, religious, etc.,) because they are perceived to represent every gay man or every Christian or every Democrat or Republican and so forth. In reality, the gay community is very complex and it has a multitude of personality types–some, dare I say, are stereotypical because I have met them–and it does include a leather scene and an interest in gay porn (which is what Partners and Cruising focused on). So to say that Partners is homophobic simply because it is not about showing gay people in a perfect light I think is unfair. You can certainly say it is a two star cheesy movie though and critique its shortcomings.

And it’s shortcomings are that the comedy is lacking, many of the jokes are cheap, the mystery is convoluted and it fails to show more of what the movie was supposed to be about: the gay community, or rather for the sake of straight couples what it was like to be gay. But I will defend the film for what it’s worth because I don’t think this movie was meant to be mean-hearted or its intention was to make fun of the gay community. It’s a curiosity film for straights. At least that’s my best guess because what was the profit motivation for Paramount Pictures? To make a minor gay film to sell tickets to a gay audience? I don’t think so. The profit was to be found in straight people who wanted to know what gay people were like (without having to get near them, let’s be honest) and to laugh at the awkward moments between gays and straights. In a way, you could view it as an exploitation film. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing with Partners.

When I watched Partners at 20 it was exactly for that reason: a matter of curiosity (how can a man love a man?). And I can say I didn’t react like you would think a homophobe would. My mind didn’t shut down with fear, I didn’t start praying over the TV or vomit over the thought of male on male intimacy. I liked the character of Officer Kerwin, he was human. That may sound patronizing, but this was important because the religious political right was making the gay community less than human. At the same time I watched Partners I also watched a propaganda film that said gays wanted special rights in order to spread disease and indoctrinate kids as well as molest them (that’s not an exaggeration). If you were looking for negative stereotypes, the propaganda film had it in droves. Imperfect as Partners was, it countered the negative propaganda. Even Sgt. Benson in the film, who acts like a dick and is filled with straight male anxieties, changes his outlook and looks forward to Kerwin’s attention (as long as it doesn’t involve touching).

Between Partners and the propaganda I was left in a constant debate about the gay lifestyle. Was it a sin above others or was it just a failure to procreate? Did God hate fags or did God forgive all? The Bible certainly didn’t seem to like gay people which unfortunately is what I kept coming back to as a conclusion. Rules are rules! But still, it’s not like gay people were all that bad, were they?

Four years later I lost my Christian faith (a story in of itself) and as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter if you were gay. One of the reasons was that after going to art school I had met several gay people and I really couldn’t think of them as “them” anymore. Since then I continue to work with coworkers/friends who happen to be gay and I would suggest that Officer Kerwin helped straight people like myself get to know someone who was gay before actually embracing real world gays. Wasn’t it Will and Grace that helped straight audiences get to know the gay community? You can view it as cultural propaganda, as exploitation, as stereotypes for straights, but whatever it is I think it works. Too bad there isn’t a popular sitcom about atheists (well, Big Bang Theory, sort of–talk about atheist stereotypes!).

The one complaint I do want to address by reviewers is the accusation that Officer Kerwin is a verbally abused wallflower. I say so what? He’s human! In the film, Sgt. Benson forces him to dance with another gay man and go up to the man’s apartment to have a drink in order to obtain information about the murders. I don’t understand why a gay man can’t be reluctantly shy, or why he should feel the need to hop in bed with every gay man he meets? My interpretation of Kerwin is that he is a closet homosexual who is a romantic traditionalist (old-fashioned, if you will) and just hasn’t met the right man.

There’s plenty of straight shy and insecure guys and gals out there who are the same way towards the opposite sex. Because Kerwin works for the police he may feel alienated from both the gay community and his peers. His main sin by today’s standards is that he’s in the closet. I get that positive films about gay people were rare in the early 80s, but can’t we consider Kerwin to be a person with flaws and insecurities and even strengths that make him an interesting character versus a shiny super gay man with a seal of approval by the LGBT crowd? And yes, he falls in love with his straight partner (another criticism). Isn’t that possible? (It’s also a friggin’ movie! A fantasy!) Sgt. Benson doesn’t seem to care in the end, he deals with it much like any of us would deal with that kind of awkwardness because it can happen with an unwanted gay crush or an unwanted straight crush. Have we never dealt with the adoration of the opposite sex who we were not interested in? As long as Kerwin is not forcing himself on Benson there’s no foul. It’s just uncomfortable at times and that’s life.

Again, Partners is a two star rental for those interested in 80s films and how the gay community was depicted. I’m not denying there are valid criticisms, but I think it’s worth a look and I don’t think it counts as homophobia. It’s cheesy fun. It may also remind you of how far we’ve come in our attitudes about being gay. Most young people growing up these days don’t think twice about it. “What’s the big deal about being gay?” If only they knew how much has changed.

The Bible Illustrated with Legos

By Jeff Swenson

As I’ve mentioned before, I collect pop culture bibles such as The Action Bible or The Picture Bible. Yesterday, I was at Barnes and Noble and in the “value” section I found The Brick Bible by Brendan Powell Smith. A Bible completely illustrated with Legos. There are two volumes, one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. I was able to grab the Old Testament.

As an artistic accomplishment, The Brick Bible is amazing considering how much work must have gone into it. As a spiritual reference, it’s ridiculous. I was amused by the quote on the inside flap from The Washington Post: “Our evolving forms of religious expression may be unsettling, but it’s hard to find fault with Brendan Smith’s whimsical artwork…” Whimsical doesn’t quite describe it. The facial expressions on the characters are hilarious and got me to thinking it would be like illustrating the Bible with South Park characters.

This isn’t what I would call evolution but a regression to pop culture over fine art. The advantage of  classical art is that it gives Biblical themes (as well as mythological themes) validity, whether you take them literally or for for spiritual truths and moral teachings. Depicting Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac for god with Legos is absurd. I’m actually jealous; this should have been done by an unbeliever as it breaks through the illusion of factual history and holiness which we have come to know by touting  ancient writings, medieval art and “heavenly” choir music. Classical art has fooled us and Legos demonstrates that what we are reading is a bunch of fairytales not to be taken seriously.

I do recommend picking up The Brick Bible, it is fascinating and humorous to look at. It’s nice to see an artist show Adam and Eve nude as described in the Bible except I guess there is no such thing as Lego genitalia or even Lego boobs (although, after “the fall,” I see Lego cleavage).


How are ‘Grizzly Adams’ and ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ Related?

I’m probably one of the few writers who would even come up with an article including Grizzly Adams and Silent Night, Deadly Night in the same paragraph, but weird is weird and find Charles Sellier (sometimes called Charles Sellier, Jr.) weird. Or maybe weird is the wrong word, maybe he’s just a huckster.

Charles Sellier died in January of 2011 and was a footnote on the history of entertainment for a slew of cheap titles, but freethinkers and faith-based purveyors of entertainment should take note. What he did is still going on in family friendly films or “faith-based” films because, ultimately, this kind of entertainment comes down to exploitation for money. No one seems to think there is such a thing as “family friendly film exploitation” or even “Christian film exploitation,” but that is exactly what’s going on. It’s no different than blaxploitation or other exploitation films that cater to a certain crowd that will pay money regardless if what is produced is mediocre or outright crap. It’s the idea that “safe” is good and anything slapped with an “R” rating is unfit for a sanctified mind. The only major exception I can think of is the masterful exploitation by Mel Gibson and his Passion of The Christ because Christ beating is acceptable violence.

I’m not referring here to target marketing. All film companies figure out who their audience is. What I’m really referring to is cheap entertainment that producers know will be bought or viewed because of an audience that can be exploited. If the producers had an opportunity to produce a film based on a Shakespeare play resulting in a family-safe production of fine art and a rehashed film about a big, lovable dog that brings a struggling Christian family towards god, which one are they going to pick? The dog movie–it has more potential to make money.

Recently, on a whim, I picked up the first season of Grizzly Adams at the local Target store. It was an approved-of show in a prudish home when I was a kid and I watched it regularly on Sunday afternoon reruns. I can’t say I was a fan of the show, but it did have an appeal with the wilderness and the wild animals and the supposed freedom of living alone with a big bear. Now as an adult, watching Grizzly Adams is like watching a cartoon. It has some nostalgic appeal, but the storylines are awful–incredibly awful considering there was a real Grizzly Adams who was ten times more interesting than this wimpy, PETA version of the mountain man.

What kind of mountain man would stop a trapper from shooting a turkey for his dinner? That’s exactly what Grizzly Adams did when he first met Mad Jack and his mule Number Seven in an early episode. And then Adams offers his jerky as a trade off  to chowing down on juicy turkey (as if the killing of a turkey is worse than the killing of cows?). The whole show features a man-child who doesn’t seem to understand nature and yet mystically attracts the friendships of all kinds of critters like The Beastmaster (the 1982 Don Coscarelli fantasy film). It’s absurd and insulting to your intelligence.

The real Grizzly Adams did tame bears, he even used them as pack animals, but he also killed them and captured them for exhibition. He trapped, he hunted and he died from wrestling bears in the circus that exacerbated a previous bear wound to the head. This Grizzly Adams was not necessarily a bad guy for the time period he lived in (though now we would find some of his activities appalling) and he obviously had an understanding of how brutal nature can be. The Grizzly Adams in Sellier’s show is so watered down and weak and without historical value that you wonder why it was even called Grizzly Adams?

So how does all this lead to Silent Night, Deadly Night–the infamous 1984 Christmas horror movie that upset parents and critics alike? Charles Sellier produced and directed both. You might ask, big deal? Bob Clark did the same thing with Black Christmas (1974) and A Christmas Story (1973),  except, Grizzly Adams was just one of Sellier’s family offerings. He specialized in family films and Christian offerings. Mixed in were psychic phenomena and pseudoscience documentaries. It’s no wonder we have a confused public when it comes to religion and science. Here are just a couple of his family friendly productions for Christians:

1976 In Search of Noah’s Ark
1979 In Search of the Historic Jesus
1979 Greatest Heroes of The Bible
1993 Ancient Secrets of the Bible
1993 The Incredible Discovery of Noah’s Ark
2004 The Evidence for Heaven
2004 George W. Bush: Faith in the White House
2006 Miracles in our Midst
2006 Apocalypse and the End Times
2007 The Case for Christ’s Ressurection

According to Wikipedia, Sellier considered himself to be an Evangelical Christian. Previously, he was raised Catholic and then converted to Mormonism until becoming born again. So why would an Evangelical Christian direct Silent Night, Deadly Night? A movie that starts out with a family road trip singing holiday tunes until they are accosted by a felon who proceeds to shoot the father, molest and stab the mother and then traumatize the young boy who is an eyewitness to it all? The kids grows up to fear Santa and Christmas until he is made the store Santa at his job and snaps. Then the killing really begins. It’s exactly the kind of movie you would expect during the popularity of Friday the 13th and other eighties slasher films. From Jesus Christ to an ax in the head!

The same year of  Silent Night, Deadly Night, Sellier released Snowballing. A brief look at the cover will tell you it was made in the tradition of Porky’s (1982) or Hot Dog… The Movie (1984). Snowballing is also a sexual reference whereby one woman sucks off a guy and spits the cum into another girl’s mouth (and no, I’m not making that up). Even if Sellier didn’t mean it in that manner, the term “balling” is pretty obvious from the cover art (to have sex).

I would contend the reason Sellier made these movies is he needed money. Much like he exploited the family genre and the supernatural genre, he decided to exploit the teenage genre of horror and sex comedies. Charles Sellier was nothing more than a schlockster (is that a word, hell, I’m going to use it anyways). I love schlock, but I don’t think most Christians know when they are seeing schlock: Noah’s Ark Schlock, Jesus Resurrection Schlock, End Times Schlock–any documentary or movie that promises to reveal evidence to confirm what you already have blind faith in.

Sellier got paid, Christians got ripped off. Those documentaries were filled with pseudoscience and unverified claims. At least with Silent Night, Deadly Night we were exploited with entertaining nudity and violence and laughable acting that put a smile on your face because you knew it was all fake and badly staged. Can Charles Sellier be considered an Evangelical Christian in good standing when he was willing to switch gears to horror and sex for convenience and money and then switch back to faith films afterwards? Seems like the kind of weak, hypocritical Christianity you see on TBN and Daystar. Producers of family friendly films are still schlocking. It’s all about the love of money and Christian pop culture plays right along.

SIDENOTE: It was actually hard to find a lot of good material on Charles Sellier and why he did make Silent Night, Deadly Night. One of the best resources on him is from the site Temple of Schlock. It has original articles from the controversy of when the film was released. For awhile, I thought Wikipedia had made a mistake including Silent Night, Deadly Night in Charles Sellier’s resume–there must be another Sellier?! But no, there’s an article on Temple of Schlock that confirms it is the same man who made Grizzly Adams. Technically, making Santa into a figure of fear is not anti-Christian so maybe that’s what Sellier was thinking. It’s still questionable to show the violence, blood and nudity though if you purport to be an Evangelical and the morals they espouse.

Article by Cartoonist Jeff Swenson

Rockford Files: ‘Quickie Nirvana’

Rockford Files - Jim takes on the case of "Quickie Nirvana"

Rockford Files, Episode: “Quickie Nirvana” where a clueless new ager just doesn’t get it.

Add this episode to your Netflix Que, freethinkers and skeptics: Rockford Files, season 4, episode is “Quickie Nirvana.”

I was never much of a fan of the Rockford Files when I was a kid and the series was constantly in reruns so I kept avoiding it, but after watching the first season on Netflix I was hooked. RF is a better than average detective series because of the scripts and James Garner’s characterization of Jim Rockford, a private eye who knows when to punch, when to back off and when to fake-out.

In “Quickie Nirvana” we’re treated to the brutal reality of a new ager calling herself Sky Aquarian who is clueless and irresponsible, but she thinks she knows it all and makes judgments on those who are not enlightened. Rockford, in one beautiful scene, lays it on her that she’s a flake who follows any path but her own and mooches off others because she doesn’t hold down a job. It’s an indictment of  insincere, gullible new-agers who think  religion and spirituality are all are one truth and that every schmuck calling him or herself a guru is worthy of following.

There’s plenty of humor from Rockford’s smart remarks as he tolerates Sky–even shows a fondness for her–and helps her out on a case involving stolen money. However, the episode is rather dark in its sarcasm. I was a bit shocked to see Rockford holding a guru( he just caught for stealing money) around the neck and Sky tells the guru how disappointed she is. Whap! The guru slaps her hard. Then Rockford says, “That’s the sound of one hand clapping,” a reference to an earlier “wise saying” by Sky. The slapping scene is wake-up call to the new-ager on how gullible she has been and is the kind of metaphorical slap we wish we could lay on some people who have given their minds over to nonsense. Unfortunately, Sky is found 6 months later to not have learned her lesson and we end the episode on a sour note shaking our heads.

Also be sure to catch Sky’s reference to a certain Robert Heinlein novel which I’m sure has been used by new-agers in the past with a straight face. I laughed out loud.

Slapped Woman

“That’s the sound of one hand clapping.”


Pearl Jam’s ‘Marker in the Sand,’ Atheist Leanings

You have to be careful whenever you make any claim about a band’s lyrics because rock bands are notorious for being ambiguous. However, after listening to Pearl Jam’s “Marker in the Sand” I have to say it leans towards agnosticism/atheism and a freeing of the mind from religion. It doesn’t mean we have to yell hooray or anything, but if you want to add it to your freethinking playlist it would be a good entry. And if you want to interpret it to support your faith and as some sort of indictment of hypocritical religion then feel free too, but what I know of Eddie Vedder is that he leans towards unbelief. has a great discussion on what listeners think the song means.

Also please note that asking or calling out God is a literary device often used by unbelievers (I’ve done it myself). It doesn’t indicate actual belief, rather it’s a form of sarcasm.

The lyrics are quite beautiful:

There is a marker, no one sees it ’cause the sand
Has covered over, all the messages it kept
Misunderstanding, what original truth was
And out expanding, in a faith, but not in love

What went wrong?

Walking tightrope high over moral ground
Seeing visions of falling up somehow
Do come down

With the living let what is living love
So unforgiving, yet needing forgiveness first

God, what do you say?

Those undecided needn’t have faith to be free
And those misguided, there was a plan for them to be
Now you got both sides claiming killing in God’s name
But god is nowhere to be found, conveniently

What goes on?

Walking tightrope high over moral ground
Walk the bridges before you burn them down
Do come round

With the living let what is living love
Unforgiving, yet needing forgiveness first

God, what do you say? What do you say?

I feel a sickness. A sickness coming over me
Like watching freedom being sucked straight out to sea
And the solution? Well, from me far would it be
But the delusion is feeling dangerous to me

What goes wrong?

Walking tightrope high over moral ground
Seeing visions of falling up somehow
Do come down

With the living, let what is living love
Are forgiving, yet needing forgiveness first

What do you say? God, what do you say?
What do you say?

Calling out, calling out
Calling out, I’m calling you out


‘Jesus Christ Pose,’ a Soundgarden Classic

I’ve been organizing discographies of my favorite bands including the grunge era. One of the best songs to come out of that time period is “Jesus Christ Pose” by Soundgarden. Not only does it have great lyrics but Chris Cornell wailing them out against a pounding rhythm is…well, it fuckin’ wakes up your senses.

The lyrics can be interpreted in several ways, but Chris Cornell has said the Jesus Christ Pose (JCP for short) mainly refers to people who exploit religion for personal benefit. Those religious leaders, politicians and celebrities who put their arms out as if they’re being crucified in the same way as Christ are often attention seeking hypocrites. I would add to that the general mass of western Christians who shout bigotry whenever someone dares to make a crack about their religion or tell them they can’t put the Ten Commandments up in a state courthouse, whining as if they’re a persecuted minority when their faith is in the majority.

The video is a bit more obscure with the meaning, as with all rock videos, and shows some images that might imply more bite–why is there a skeleton still hanging on the cross? The woman on the cross is more obvious (persecution of women) but a skeleton implies permanent death with no resurrection. It may have been unintentional. According to Wiki, numerous items/people were shot on the cross and then narrowed down to only a couple of visually striking images.

The real hypocrisy is MTV banning this video in 1991 and apparently still not playing it in its entirety because of a woman on a cross and related imagery. As if, by this time, this JCP message is still that offensive and MTV’s  junk TV isn’t offensive to the intellect to begin with? Even Christians could see this video as an indictment of false prophets and anti-Christs. And Jesus Christ, if he existed, never had exclusive reign over being crucified. It was simply a method of execution.

And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
Like you’ve been carrying a load
And you swear to me
You don’t want to be my slave

But you’re staring at me
Like I need to be saved
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
In your Jesus Christ pose
Thorns and shroud
Like it’s the coming of the Lord
And I swear to you
That I would never feed you pain

But your staring at me
Like I’m driving the nails
In your Jesus Christ pose
And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out like it’s
The coming of the Lord

And would it pay you more to walk on water
Then to wear a crown of thorns
It wouldn’t pain me more to bury you rich
Then to bury you poor
In your Jesus Christ pose

‘The Freethinker’s Child’ Review: Eternal Security Horror

The Freethinker’s Child is a horror novel by Sean Phillips,  a regular visitor to Freethunk who comments on my posts and we’ve emailed back and forth on various topics, debated a bit and so forth. I was interested in his book since I collect autographed copies of works by authors and artists I run into and so I asked him for a copy. Because it’s a fiction piece on the eternal security of the soul it may have an interest to some Freethunk visitors who like the horror genre. The best way to describe the feel of the book is John Saul meets Frank Peretti with a  little Stephen King thrown in (as I’m reminded of Cycle of the Werewolf).

The horror genre itself works as a vehicle for Sean to expose the doctrine of Eternal Security; the idea that once saved by Christ, always saved by Christ. The problem with this doctrine is fairly obvious as we have to ask, “What if I kill someone, am I still saved?” Context matters, yes, however, if you accept Jesus Christ into your heart and then go on a killing spree? What good is salvation that protects mass murderers? Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were professed Christians before they died.

And that’s where we meet Jebson Proust. From the back cover: “…the charismatic pastor of Carlsville Holy Gospel Church, a man of dazzling persona who virtually owns the town and its budding university.” Proust is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, in more ways than one. Proust has taken over a small town with his Christian university, church and community interests. We don’t know what he’s exactly up to, but the prologue suggests he’s not talking to god but the other guy.

The freethinker’s child in question is the son of the token atheist, Dr. Collins who was invited to teach at the university to give it an air of unbiased learning. Unfortunately, young Sam Collins can’t keep his mouth shut and parrots many of his dad’s ideas, in a less civil manner. From the book when another child, the son of a Christian couple, describes Sam’s behavior: “‘Sam’s always braggin’ about he’s smarter than everyone ‘cuz he doesn’t believe in God or go to church. If anyone ever says something about Jesus, he calls them a dummy, and tells them he’s way too smart to believe.'” Not exactly how most atheists would like to be represented, a simplified playground retort to larger questions of god’s existence, science and reason. Children aren’t exactly known for sophisticated theology (remember the Transformers versus Gobots debate, who would win? Or maybe I’m dating myself).

Sam stirs up the wrath of Jebson Proust which is immediately noticed by the hero of the book, David Louther (and I’m betting Louther was chosen because it sounds like Martin Luther, a reformer of doctrine–just a guess though). Louther came to Carlsville to work for the University and the token atheist. He is a freethinker of sorts himself, questioning Jebson’s firm stance on the validity of Eternal Security. There are several dialogues throughout the book on for and against arguments, but David is our guide to the end that shows Eternal Security is a farce.

In full disclosure, the author is Christian, but the book is a critique of a known Christian doctrine. It is a fast read and done in the manner of what I would call popular writing (like I mentioned, Frank Peretti and John Saul). I wouldn’t pick it up to delve deeply into theology. It is entertainment with a twist, one that shows, at least by supernatural means, that Eternal Security allows for too much freedom to ever be of use to a religion that professes to be moral. As an atheist, I take issue with salvation to begin with and have made the point several times that using blood atonement to forgive sins makes no sense unless you believe in a god with limited powers (they can only forgive if this or that ritual is done). To me salvation is a free pass on past crimes, no matter how horrible. Hitler indirectly killed six million Jews through his government sponsored cult, but if he professed Christ before his death (and was executed instead of shooting himself) then he could go to heaven–that is the Christian message.

Eternal Security itself is a ludicrous position that extends the free pass far into the future. Once saved, always saved? Why not cheat, steal and kill and make your life better if there are no eternal consequences. Sure, you might go to jail, but it was worth the risk if your eternal soul is secure. For atheists, we’re about the here and now which means the risk is great if we do anything to get ourselves thrown in jail (that was your life, it’s gone). It’s about reason and rationally understanding what is going to be a good life using morality to live peacefully with others. There are more believers in jail than atheists because when someone is caught, they tend to to turn (or often return) to religion after the fact–religion never made them moral when it counted.

Christians will probably like Sean’s horror novel. Atheists might be amused but also annoyed at the token atheist who is shown to mainly have an interest in protecting his university standing and reputation (which may be true of many academics). The book could have expanded further, but as a horror read with some theological bantering, it’s a nice escape on a “dark and stormy” afternoon. The timing might be perfect as we enter into October and one of my favorite holidays…

The Freethinker’s Child is available in paperback from

SIDENOTE: I got to see Frank Peretti speak at a Bible college when his book This Present Darkness hit it big. That guy eats too much sugar, was hyper.

‘The Master,’ Pretentious Art Film or ‘Master’piece?

The Master — * Star

My first instinct is to tell you that after watching The Master, the new film by director Paul Thomas Anderson (of Boogie Nights fame) is that it is pretentious shit. And part of that is because of all the rave reviews I saw of this film before going  into the theater. I have a fairly high tolerance for self-indulgent directors and wandering films that provide no guidance for the audience as I can always read up on any visual cues or background information later, but halfway into this film I started to get bored and really annoyed. I also felt this from everyone around me and the crowd was an older, introspective group who, like me, was looking for a literary experience (based on the rave reviews) and some insight into how cults may have started after World War 2.

If you don’t already know, The Master mirrors Scientology (in the film they call it “The Cause”) and founder L. Ron Hubbard. The producers and I believe even the director are quick to dismiss that the film is a critique of the religion–it’s supposed to be a period piece fueled by character studies; only observations with no judgments. That is exactly true. The Master isn’t a  critique of anything, purely observational which is the problem. We feel so damned lost with these characters that it’s like a bad dinner conversation that’s gone off into some bizarre direction where you can’t remember if there ever was a topic of interest. Then throw in some odd sexual moments for additional confusion. It also suffers because the film isn’t dangerous. You would think with a director taking on subject matter inspired by L. Ron Hubbard that the film would have some bite. Not so, there’s no teeth and we’re slowly gummed into apathy.

The only good thing I can say about the film are the performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman as the cult leader Lancaster Dodd and Joaquin Phoenix as his protege  Freddie Quell. Joaquin especially seems to transform himself into the ultimate war vet loser who can’t embrace the new religion but is loyal to its leader since he has no other friends.

It’s not that Director Anderson had to take a stance against Scientology, but he should have explored it more than what was pictured. Yes, he did take some time to focus on “processing” which is code for Scientology’s “auditing” and it did show some of the techniques used to break down a person’s resistance to it’s strange ideas. However, as there was no apparent transformation of Freddie Quell (he starts off as a boozer with violent tendencies and after a long session of manipulativel exercises continues his life in the same manner as shown by his attack on a book publisher). We learn nothing. The excuse is that the film is really about Freddie Quell, but Quell is not likable in the least and he’s not even that fascinating from that perspective. I found him a dull character study, the guy who should have been left on the side while we spent time with Lancaster Dodd and what made him start a new religion.

According to Wikipedia, Tom Cruise was allowed to screen The Master ahead of time and report back to Scientology headquarters, like the good soldier that he is. The offense they took was that at one point in the film Lancaster Dodd’s son tells Freddie Quell that his dad is just making it up as he goes. In other words, L. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer, just made up Scientology too. Honestly, Scientology doesn’t have much to worry about except the drooling critics. The public at large isn’t going to care about this film and even geeks like me are likely not to recommend it (as we can see here with this review). It may be worth one curiosity viewing  if you can tolerate some of the boredom and want to see the performances, but expect to be checking your watch (when is this over?). There is some random nudity (such as a party scene which I don’t know if it was meant to be real or imagined by Freddie Quell), fart humor, a hand job and masturbation, in case that helps (though again, these small offenses add nothing to the story).

If the director wanted to make a film just for himself, he succeeded, but for an audience it’s frustrating. I really went in wanting to like a film that dared to show Scientology in its infancy. All we got is a tease of the potential filled with unexplained moments and yawns.

‘Cellmates’ Movie Review

Cellmates — ***Stars

Released last year in theaters (didn’t see one ad for it, but…), Cellmates is the story of a KKK Grand Dragon named Leroy Lowe who gets thrown in jail by the US government and eventually has to bunk with a Mexican immigrant Emilio. The real story, though, is not how these two manage to get along, but how Leroy falls in love with another Mexican, the warden’s office cleaner (derogatorily referred to as “the maid”). Leroy and the cleaning lady begin passing notes back and forth to each other without the warden catching on. Eventually, as expected, Leroy turns his back on his former life and racist views and, like a puppy, follows after his new love Madalena.

The official website has the tagline: “A Heartwarming Buddy Comedy With Something To Offend Everyone.” …This film is not offensive. It’s very sweet and I think that tagline was a mistake in promoting the film. I suppose some people may be offended initially by the depiction of a KKK leader, but even that is so toned down that I can’t imagine there being an objection. For instance, I don’t remember hearing any racial slurs thrown about by Leroy Lowe, not one. He gave his politics about Mexicans staying in their own country, that’s about as dirty as it got. Dare I say, with the exception of maybe a couple of swear words, this is a family film. There isn’t even so much as a kiss shown when Leroy and Madalena are left alone for the first time.

The sweetness is in the transformation of Leroy Lowe from stubborn white guy to soft-hearted American championing the rights of others because of his friendship to Emilio (falsely arrested because of a labor dispute) and his love for Madalena, hard working cleaning lady who wants to start her own restaurant. There really isn’t much more to the story except the direction is very light-hearted and offbeat. We’re always waiting to see what happens next with the letter passing. The letter where Leroy tells Madalena that Mexicans should stay in their own country is pretty hilarious as her eyes get real wide reading it and then the subsequent lover’s spat in the form of broom sweeping.

Hector Jimenez plays Emilio with the same quirky feel of his other character Esqueleto in Nacho Libre. He has American dreams and strangely enough wants to look like a TV doctor named Ben Casey so he has to figure out how to tame his wild hair (I did find this little subplot kind of weird since it ironically is a rejection of ethnicity even though it’s played for laughs).

You might think that Cellmates is a liberal white man’s fantasy about friending someone of another race and falling in love with a beautiful Mexican woman–which may be true–but I noticed Hector’s credits were listed as an executive producer. He obviously believed enough in the film’s premise to back it and overall it is a relevant story even though the time of the story takes place in the late seventies. There has been so much racism in the last decade about Mexicans taking American jobs and sucking the healthcare system dry it’s hard to imagine we’ve made progress. Sure, Mexican music can be annoying (yes, I said it!), but Mexicans are just the next wave of immigration and they are integrating with our society even as they change our society–it’s called diversity and it can be uncomfortable for the existing population. AND it’s happened before with the Irish, Swedes, Norwegians, Chinese, Germans, etc. Get used to it, bigots. If you were stuck in poverty surrounded by druglords (caused by an American black market) and American run sweatshops, you’d be running for the border too.

Ultimately, the lesson of how to get rid of bigotry is one we know works, because it’s hormonal and natural. A white bigoted man meets an attractive, caring Mexican woman and he’s going to retain his hatred for Mexicans? I don’t think so. Cellmates won’t make you laugh out loud too much, but  you will be smiling by the end of it. It’s a feelgood movie.


Jim Croce, Singing About Hypocrites From the Grave

I really shouldn’t know as much as I do about Jim Croce since he was before my time, but I love his music. He had a short run from 1966 to 1973 as a popular musician before he died in a plane crash. Some of his well known songs are “Time in a Bottle” and “Bad Leroy Brown.” One of my favorites, though, is “Which Way Are You Goin’?” Words of wisdom from the past.

Lyrics to “Which Way Are You Goin'”

Which way are you going?
Which side will you be on?
Will you stand and watch
While all the seeds of hate are sown
Will you stand with those who say
“Let his will be done?”

One hand on the bible
One hand on the gun
One hand on the bible
One hand on the gun

Which way are you looking
Is it hard to see?
Do you say
“What’s wrong for him is not wrong for me?”
You walk the streets of
Righteousness but you refuse to understand

You say you love the baby
Then you crucify the man
You say you love the baby
Then you crucify the man

Everyday things are changing
Words once honored turned to lies
People wondering, can you blame them
It’s too far to run and too late to hide

Now you turn your back on
All the things that you used to preach
Now it’s, “Let him live in freedom, if he lives like me”
Well, your light has changed, confusion rains
What have you become

All your olive branches turned to spears
When your flowers turned to guns
Your olive branches turned to spears
When your flowers turned to guns


Another interesting video take of the song:

Lyrics | Jim Croce lyricsWhich Way Are You Going lyrics