21 Jan 2016

Imperfect Gifts

Like many in my generation, I’ve been playing Adele’s mega-smash album 25 on repeat during the last few months. Upon multiple listenings, however, a strange realization has struck me: the album is so pristinely produced–so utterly devoid of mistakes–that it feels almost inhuman. This isn’t the fault of the singer: similar music performed in a more intimate setting, while not without its minor recording imperfections, is much more moving–and, I submit, more beautiful. Instead, the

John Ehrett 1
11 Jan 2016

The Revenant | Movie Review

The marketing materials for “The Revenant” have pitched the movie as a Canadian-wilderness revenge drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who gets smashed around by a gigantic bear. And while that’s all entirely accurate, “The Revenant” aspires to be something more – a haunting glimpse of alien northern landscapes untouched by human hands, within which a lone survivor must come to terms with both his own mortality and his own insignificance. In the capable hands of director

John Ehrett 0
07 Jan 2016

Concussion | Movie Review

For many today, the observation that “football causes concussions” is such an intuitive proposition that it borders on the redundant. The precise link between professional football and severe neurological damage, however, hadn’t been identified until recently – via a controversial series of events that sparked multimillion-dollar litigation. Inspired by an outstanding GQ article, “Concussion” recounts the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), an neurodegenerative condition found in NFL players as

John Ehrett 0
21 Dec 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Movie Review

Out of all the giant megafranchises that rule Hollywood, “Star Wars” holds a special place in my heart. I first saw the original trilogy as a kindergartener during the 1997 rereleases, grew up with the prequels, played several of the video games, read a few of the novels, and generally acquired an embarrassing level of dork knowledge (if you want to talk about the difference between Dathomir and Dantooine, or between the Rodians and the

John Ehrett 0
14 Dec 2015

Spotlight | Movie Review

Journalists – particularly those covering highly sensitive events – are often the targets of well-deserved critique (consider, for instance, the grotesque spectacle of the past week that witnessed live news crews rooting through the apartment of deceased mass shooters). Yet often it is journalists who do the legwork required to properly expose hidden evil to public scrutiny, igniting the sparks of major change. “Spotlight” is the story of one such exposure: namely, the revelation that

John Ehrett 0
09 Dec 2015

“Star Wars” and the Immanence of Myth

As a longtime fan of the “Star Wars” saga (yes, I even have a soft spot for the dysfunctional prequels), I eagerly anticipate the release of the long-awaited seventh installment. And like countless other nerds, I’ve watched the few snippets of promotional material more times than I care to admit. (After all, one can never watch enough lightsaber duels). Perhaps the most striking moment of the most recent trailer for me, however, was the short

John Ehrett 2
27 Nov 2015

V for Vendetta and the Problem of Eisegesis

Another November 5 has come and gone, and with it contemporary culture’s annual celebration of James McTeigue’s 2005 action film V for Vendetta, which popularized the Guy Fawkes mask often associated with digital surveillance protests and the Anonymous hacking collective. And every year, I find it exceedingly fascinating that the film is embraced and celebrated by individuals across radically different political traditions. Leftists praise the rising of the common people against an oppressive, Eurocentric-fascistic hierarchy.

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16 Nov 2015

Spectre | Movie Review

“Spectre” is a frustrating film to review: in its attempt to provide a resolution to the last several films, it has one hand in the best of modern James Bond (“Casino Royale,” “Skyfall”) and one in the worst (“Quantum of Solace”). Here, Bond (Daniel Craig) continues his journey into the modern era: MI6 is planning to launch a giant global surveillance program, while villainous organization Spectre (headed by an enigmatic figure allegedly from Bond’s past)

John Ehrett 0
12 Nov 2015

Conscience for Me, But Not for Thee

As a current law student at Yale, I was intrigued to read Ben Weingarten’s recent piece in The Federalist, “Allah and Man at Yale,” decrying Yale Law School’s decision to accept a significant gift for the creation of a new “Center for Islamic Law and Civilization.” My disagreements with Weingarten’s piece run deep. Not only do I strongly dispute Weingarten’s characterization of the new Islamic law center as a specter of “Islamic supremacism,” but the

John Ehrett 2
29 Oct 2015

On Lutheranism as “Reformational Catholicism”

On Lutheranism as Leithart’s “Reformational Catholicism” As a theologically conservative Lutheran who acknowledges the debt my faith owes to generations past, my celebration of the Reformation is bittersweet. What began as a pushback against corruptive authoritarianism and the exploitation of the weak eventually became an insurmountable, blood-soaked divide within Western Christianity. In this venue and others, I have argued in defense of the rigor and merit of Catholic thought, and in so doing critiqued the

John Ehrett 4
23 Oct 2015

A Christian Defense of Dark Films

As a filmgoer whose personal tastes run toward the eccentric and the macabre (Guillermo del Toro and Darren Aronofsky are two of my favorite directors), I’ve seen plenty of films that fall into the “horror” or “dark thriller” category. It saddens me that this genre is often written off by persons of faith as crude and crassly exploitative, and I’ve written elsewhere about the fascinating theological implications that lie beneath its grim exterior. Thus, inspired

John Ehrett 2
07 Oct 2015

Everest | Movie Review

Having dabbled in entry-level rock climbing in my preprofessional life, I’m fascinated by movies exploring the subject. I was nowhere near proficient: just hiking up Colorado’s 14,000-foot Mount Elbert was an unforgettably grueling experience. Needless to say, I have great admiration for those who face the savage physical test that is Mount Everest. Such a feat, however, carries with it extreme risks to life and limb. “Everest” depicts the 1996 disaster that claimed the lives

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01 Oct 2015

Gnostic Anthropology and Identity Politics

Within the general framework of contemporary identity politics – a term that I use here to refer to a synthesis between one’s personal attributes, or the intersections between said attributes, and one’s political preferences – an ancient theological debate may be resurfacing under different conceptual umbrellas. Recent scholarship has advanced an “intersectional” understanding of how race and gender interact to perpetuate discriminatory structures. Yet where the philosophy of such a movement is concerned, the two

John Ehrett 1
17 Sep 2015

Billy Budd and the Lesser Magistrates

A Counter-Narrative In the unfolding controversy over Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, an old Calvinist doctrine appears to have entered the public debate. This “doctrine of the lesser magistrates” suggests that public servants ought not comply with laws that violate their consciences, stemming from the general adage that “an unjust law is no law at all.” Other thinkers have critiqued the inherent epistemic fragmentation in this doctrine

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02 Sep 2015

Homoousios and the Dignity of Children

In the days of the Nicean Council, during the Arian Christological controversy that rocked the early church, the absence of a single Greek letter made a great deal of difference. Per the formulation that later became the Nicene Creed, God the Father was understood to be of the same (homoousios) essence as God the Son, not merely similar (homoiousios). This doctrine continues to govern Christological thought today, and forms an essential component of a proper

John Ehrett 2
20 Aug 2015

Bullet Points and Worldviews

Late last week, I found myself embroiled in a long online conversation with an acquaintance over my review of the recent film “Straight Outta Compton.” The movie, which charts the rise of controversial rap group N.W.A., is a well-made biographical drama that raises challenging questions. It also, as one might expect given the subject matter, contains a good deal of content that will be off-putting to certain viewers (and is undoubtedly inappropriate for audiences beneath

John Ehrett 2
12 Aug 2015

The Procreation Problem

A Philosophically Conservative Rejoinder to What Is Marriage? What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, authored by Ryan T. Anderson, Robert George, and Sherif Girgis, is widely recommended as the foremost defense of “one man/one woman” marriage based on natural law principles. The book has undoubtedly been influential, even to the point of being cited by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in his United States v. Windsor dissent. Significantly, the book does not rely

John Ehrett 2
29 Jul 2015

The Transformative Power of Paradox

As a theologically-minded young catechumen, on the cusp of being confirmed into the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, few doctrines troubled me more than those surrounding the sacrament of communion. How could the Body and Blood of Christ be present “in, with, and under” the sacramental elements? How could the consecration of the elements, an act of human will, result in such a transformation? Years of soul-searching followed, which led me all the way from

John Ehrett 5
20 Jul 2015

Dogma and the Boy Scouts

I read recently that the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America voted in favor of a resolution allowing openly gay adult leaders, and that the longstanding ban could be repealed as early as July 27. As an Eagle Scout, member of the Order of the Arrow, and a longtime Assistant Scoutmaster, my feelings are (to say the least) complex. Up front, it is worth noting that there is a material difference between the

John Ehrett 1
06 Jul 2015

Embracing the Aesthetics of the Lab

I often enjoy visiting the various Smithsonian museums, particularly the National Museum of Natural History – and this past weekend, I did just that. Yet this time was different: wandering through the Hall of Mammals and into the Hall of Human Origins, surrounded by old fossils and countless instances of the the “millions and millions of years ago” language criticized by some as Darwinian indoctrination, I was abruptly struck by a hitherto-unfelt realization. The aesthetic

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