Russell and Duenes

the stoning of soraya m

with one comment

Here’s my take. First, the cinematography and writing: I thought the movie was a bit too formulaic, not super well acted, didn’t have the best dialogue, and the tension was not much since you knew from the beginning essentially what was going to happen and pretty much how it was going to happen. The stoning scene was brutal, but also dragged on. I agreed with Roger Ebert when he said that the ending with the woman holding the tape up and the car not starting right away was cheesy and shouldn’t have been part of it. I just thought it could have been done more powerfully. I can see why many more liberal-leaning reviewers criticized it, at least on that score.

Having said that, I read through a lot of reviews after seeing it, and as I expected, they either punted to some kind of moral equivalence which condemns all religions as having the same moral blameworthiness or they called the film a propaganda piece. It’s clear that a movie like this, no matter how well made, would not go over well with the major urban newspaper set. You can make a movie about people committing adultery, slamming Republicans, ripping our military, condemning corporations, etc, and the same movie reviewers will be slobbering all over it for its “courage.” Not everything in life has to be “nuanced” or reduced to “a gray issue.” There is righteousness and wickedness in this world, and sometimes it’s as clear as day and doesn’t have to be cast in ambiguous and equivocal terms. There are so many spiritual realities evoked by this film that went right over the heads of the reviewers. It shows you how spiritually dull we’ve become.

One thing that deeply moved me, which I didn’t expect, was the whole issue of bearing false witness. Obviously the Ten Commandments prohibit it, but we almost recite it as an afterthought, like, “Oh yeah, and don’t bear false witness; so like, don’t gossip.” As I’ve read through the Proverbs many times, I’ve found myself sometimes baffled at all the statements condemning false witnesses, but I think this film helped me see it in a new light. When “bearing witness” literally meant the difference between life and death for people, and when the Bible requires at least two witnesses for capital punishment, then we see how important honest witnesses are, and why God moves with such vehement wrath against those who testify falsely.

Another thing that struck me powerfully in watching this film is that, contrary to Christopher Hitchens’ assertion that “religion poisons everything,” we see again that, in fact, it is people who poison everything, and some do it through religion and some through irreligion. But when I watched the inexorable movement of the men in this film toward convicting and stoning Soraya, I couldn’t get Dallas Willard’s words out of my mind, namely, that there is a pervasive readiness to do evil that resides within all of us, and when the circumstances are right, we will act upon that readiness. And it takes precious little to get us to do so. It is disturbing to watch a film like this because it confronts me with my own readiness and willingness to act upon the sin and wickedness that still resides within me, and religion will not save me.

Which leads to another powerful spiritual point here. If religious people are capable of such lying, greed, cowardice, falsehood and murder, then clearly “religion” is of no help or hope to anyone. And neither is secularism. The religious and irreligious are equal-opportunity murderers, lusters, liars, rapists, coveters and perjurors. So, we are properly thrown back upon Jesus and his sacrifice for the redemption and sin-conquering power we need. Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said, “For from within, out of the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mark 7). And this is true of Muslims and non-Muslims. Honor killings are a horror and it is cowardice in the “Christian” west that keeps us from condemning it and trying to “make nice” with it. But the antidote to both the practice of it and the cowardice in the face of it is repentance and trust in Jesus to change our hearts and make us new by His Spirit. After all, it is “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). This is a good thing for me to be reflecting on as Easter approaches.

I recommend the film.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 21, 2010 at 6:15 am

Posted in Duenes, Movies

One Response

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  1. Good words. I actually enjoyed the critique of western secular thinking as much as the review of the film. I want to see the film after reading this but don’t know when it will come to Turkey.

    Duke Dillard

    March 21, 2010 at 8:38 am

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