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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Paul

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Are some British comedians on a cinematic crusade to export the widespread atheism of their home country to the shores of the United States and beyond?

The year 2009 gave us Ricky Gervais' malignant fantasy "The Invention of Lying," which presented the existence of God and the idea of an afterlife as just so much wishful thinking. And this year brings the aggressively, though illogically, anti-religious satire "Paul" (Universal) penned by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost ("Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz").

They play Graeme and Clive, a pair of sci-fi-loving U.K. geeks on a tour of stateside sites associated with their hobby. While driving their rented RV near Nevada's famously secretive military base, Area 51, they encounter the titular spaceman (voice of Seth Rogen), who, as he explains, has just escaped from 60 years of government captivity there.

Recovering from their initial shock, the duo befriend the smart-alecky E.T. -- whose computer-generated image is that of a little green man direct from central casting -- and agree to give him a lift to the spot where he has arranged for his fellow space travelers to rescue him.

Buddy comedy meets road trip adventure meets alien-movie genre spoof; so far so good. Or, at least, not so bad.

When they stop for the night at a trailer park, however, the newfound pals meet -- and Graeme immediately falls for -- the establishment's much-put-upon manager, Ruth (Kristen Wiig).

Raised under the thumb of her fanatically fundamentalist dad, Moses (John Carroll Lynch) -- the stopover's owner -- Ruth shares his religious views sufficiently to sport a T-shirt with a picture of Jesus blowing Charles Darwin away with a gun and the caption "Evolve this!"

But her first sight of Paul instantly shatters Ruth's worldview. And Paul himself assures her that his very existence disproves any traditional version of Judeo-Christian belief. (Unsurprisingly, the reasoning behind all this is never explained.)

Now that there is no God and therefore no sin, Ruth is suddenly free to swear, smoke dope and -- to adopt her own term for it -- fornicate at will. Needless to say, Graeme is pleased by this turn of events, and viewers are clearly meant to cheer Ruth's "liberation" as well.

Perhaps to reinforce the message that science is all we need, Paul is also shown to have the power to heal the wounded and even resurrect the dead. Such gifts are not miraculous, you understand, just the fruit of his intergalactic wisdom. In an additional nugget of sagacity, Paul informs Clive that everyone on his planet is bisexual because, "it's about pleasure."

By assuming that scriptural faith would be fatally undermined by the presence of intelligent life on other planets, Pegg and Frost prove themselves as unfamiliar with biblically based religion as they are contemptuous of it. Yet, however philosophically ill-founded it may be, the militant atheism underlying this otherwise routine offering from director Greg Mottola should inspire believers of all stripes to steer clear.

The film contains an explicit rejection of Christian faith and morals, endorsement of homosexual acts, nonmarital sexual activity and petty theft, a benign view of drug use, occasional gory violence, a few uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching, and using me—even before I perform or after my seeming failures. Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there.

 
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