Tuesday, March 13, 2012

So Why Do I Want Gingrich to Drop Out

It's funny, but I really do think Newt Gingrich should drop out of the primary and let Santorum go head to head with Romney.

Really, what business is that of mine? I am not Republican; I am scared to death of what the Republican Party is becoming these days, and I really want to see it self-destruct. So clearly any advice I would have to give cannot possibly be in good faith.

But I still think Gingrich should drop out.

It's a phenomenon I first noticed when John McCain chose Sarah Palin as Vice Presidential candidate. Many times before I had read conservative columnists making recommendations about who a Democratic candidate should pick, and always I doubted their good faith. But here I was, thinking that I understood why McCain would want a woman on the ticket, but their must be Republican women who were better qualified. I even ran down a possible list, thinking about the pros and cons (from McCain's viewpoint) of each. And no, I was not doing this in bad faith (at least not consciously so). You might say I was doing it as an American concerned that we have a potential Vice President who was qualified for the job. But really, I was putting myself in the shoes of a McCain strategist.

And so with Gingrich. As an American, I think a Gingrich presidency would be disasterous, but the Republican establishment shares my fears and will keep that from happening. And what else? I'm not a Republican and I wish nothing but ill on the Republican Party. But I still think that Republican candidates should show some basic party loyalty and not do anything harmful to their party. I certainly have no use for the right wing of the Republican Party. But if Gingrich has his heart set on beating Romney and delivering the nomination to a True Conservative, he should show some loyalty to his faction of the party and quit splitting it.

So what gives? Obviously, I can't read Gingrich's mind, so I don't know. The suggestion most often made is that he is hoping by some miracle to win a brokered convention. That seems most unlikely to me, given that the Republican Establishment is going to have a lot of pull at a brokered convention, and the Republican Establishment hates Newt Gingrich's guts. It would also quite legitimately anger Republican voters to see their choice against Gingrich overlooked. I have trouble believing that even Gingrich could be that delusional and that egocentric. If he is, that alone should disqualify him from ever being President.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tribulation Force, the Movie, Parts 9 and 10

Fred Clark has lumped together Parts 9 and 10 because Part 10 is only about 5 minutes and 43 seconds, and moves into credits about the half-way mark.

So, let's start with Part 9, and let me give credit where it is due. They don't have the lip synching right, but it is nowhere near as bad as it was before. It's just enough to be slightly distracting, not enough to drive me crazy.

We resume where we left off, in the church hospital with Chloe, Ivy, and the burn victim, who actually looks slightly better, but is dying. He puts his life in God's hands and dies. Chloe tries to pray and starts crying. Ivy is touched. She covers him over and gives Chloe a comforting hug. She sees the peace in his eyes as he died and recognizes that he found God. Clearly, she is on her way to being saved.

In Jerusalem, a crowd has gathered. Men in keffiyahs, women in head coverings, people in modern garb and, of course, many journalists with cameras. Carpathia is introducing Rabbi Ben-Judah, "the world's leading authority on rabbinical teachings and the ancient scriptures." Nicolae praises Ben-Judah for his honesty and careful research on all conclusions. Ben-Judah will speak in about an hour, but Nicolae will not be there for the announcement because pressing UN business calls him back to New York.

It is not clear why he takes off just before the presumed announcement that he is the Messiah. Yes, I know, plot necessity. His absence makes it harder for him to interfere with the real announcement. Presumably in the context of the movie, for Nicolae to introduce the Rabbi and the Rabbi to proclaim him the Messiah would be too obvious a setup. Better to be out of the way when the announcement occurs so he can pretend to be surprised by it.

Buck gets a call from Rayford on his huge cell phone. They make some vaguely conspiratorial comments, and just as the conversation ends, the Antichrist claps Buck on the shoulder. (No vision of him in his full ugliness, like Rayford had). For an Antichrist, Nicolae is remarkably gullible. He still appears to accept at face value Buck's assurance that he was at the Wailing Wall trying to discredit the Witnesses just as he was broadcasting what was about to be their proclamation of Jesus as Lord. Does he actually believe this, or is he just playing with Buck before closing in? He tells Buck this is the real reason he is here, and he is sure he will find this announcement (wink) fascinating. He apparently is not afraid of dropping hints that he knows what is going to happen. Buck remains, nervous, not knowing what is going to happen.

Ben-Judah steps up and announces that he has determined the identity of the Messiah. Everyone is watching. Buck watches and films from the crowd. Nicolae and his cohorts watch from the briefing room of the plane. Rayford watches in some back room on the plane. Chloe, Ivy and Pastor Bruce watch in Bruce's office at the church, apparently taking a break from their hospital work.

He carefully enumerates the messianic passages in the Bible and ancient rabbinical writings. (Um, clever editors may be able to twist the Bible to predict Jesus as the Messiah, but I am sure it is not foretold in ancient rabbinical writings). He says there are 109 distinct prophecies the Messiah must fulfill. The Messiah will be proceeded by a forerunner. (Um, who is this forerunner to Nicolae were are talking about?) He will be pierced with out breaking a bone. He will come of a rare bloodline and will visit Egypt as a child. He will be rejected by his own people. I have discussed before why there is no reason whatever for a rabbi to believe that any of these passages tell us anything at all about the Messiah.

Nicolae watches this smiling in satisfaction. Hattie stands beside him, supportive, with her hands over his shoulders. I should add that in the draft of the speech that Buck and Rayford read, the Rabbi explains after each prophecy how it applies to Carpathia. (Well, at least pierced without breaking a bone part. We don't actually get to hear the rest). Shouldn't Nicolae be getting suspicious that Ben-Judah isn't explaining how all this applies to him? Or does he think the Rabbi has just deviated from script to build suspense? Either way, the Rabbi then starts to deviate from the script. The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, betrayed by a close friend for 3o pieces of silver, he will have supernatural powers, he will die, be buried and be resurrected. As the Rabbi deviates more and more from script, Carpathia and the others show increasing consternation. Steve Plank tries to use the plane's communications, but Ray has removed some piece from the mechanism, so there is no connection. Nicolae sends for his cell phone.

Rabbi Ben-Judah proclaims Jesus Christ the Messiah, urges his audience to believe, and says, "Please forgive me for doubting." All our RTC friends rejoice. Nicolae sees it is too late, but when he gets his cell, he goes ahead and says to cut off the broadcast. The speech on the screen is replaced by a sign that GNN is experiencing technical difficulties. (Given the large number of media people there, aren't all the other networks broadcasting the same thing? And honestly, GNN has now cut off two broadcasts from preachers in Jerusalem for technical difficulties. Won't people start getting suspicious?)

Ivy is in tears. Together, she and Chloe pray the magic words, and Ivy is saved. I must say, I like this. Even when people start being attracted to a new religion (or whatever), it usually takes them some time to make the commitment. What a shame they didn't do the same for Chris. (I will also note that this church obviously does not put much stock in baptism. They certainly don't see it as a sacrament that washes off the taint of original sin and makes salvation possible. They don't even seem to feel the need to do it as a ritual reaffirmation after taking Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Saying the magic words is the sacrament that matters).

In Jerusalem, the crowd seemed pleased by the Rabbi's announcement when he made it, but now they are showing signs of consternation. Buck goes up to the podium and warns the rabbi he may not be safe, but Ben-Judah is ready for his 72 virgins.

In the cockpit, Rayford sends his copilot out so he can say a brief prayer of thanks to God. He looks at the mysterious locket from his wife, and then does what his copilot did before; he puts up pictures of his raptured wife and son. End of Part 9.

There isn't much to Part 10, but it begins with Nicolae in the briefing room, decidedly unhappy about this turn of events. He chases Hattie out, sweeps the papers off the table, and knocks over a chair. He shakes his fist at God and sounds off like a villain in a trashy melodrama saying, "Curses, foiled again." He says, "This is not the end! This is my time! My will be done!" Fred believes he is expressing his anger at God for God's betrayal. You see, the Antichrist is supposed to be triumphant for the next seven years. In letting him lose this round, God has broken his end of the bargain. I suppose that could explain why he was so easily taken in by Buck. Assuming he was invincible for the next seven years, he assumed that treachery was simply impossible. But now that he has learned otherwise . . . well, it doesn't bode well for our heroes.

The final scene is in the New Hope Church, with the congregation filling the pews, many of them holding candles. They are singing a hymn of praise, with Ivy sitting in the front row with Rayford and Chloe. Buck, our hero, returns in triumph. The other characters hug him (first Pastor Bruce, then Chloe, then Rayford, the Ivy, for what it's worth). Buck takes his place in the pew next to Chloe. This ending reminds me a lot of the end of the first movie, with Buck returning in triumph from being born again and escaping the Antichrist's brainwashing, returning to the church, and giving Chloe a hug.

The credits follow.

One Last Comment on Contraception

Actually, I may have been a bit naive to think that this whole uproar was about either religious freedom or economic freedom. This whole uproar is, after all, just a repeat of the earlier uproar when free birth control coverage was first mandated. There was no religious freedom issue at stake there, the conservatives were in an uproar anyhow. Even granting that they generally oppose all economic regulation on principle, it was a bit extreme.

And given Rush Limbaugh's comments and the number of people who have jumped to his support, I can only assume that the real issue is this. It is not anger over churches and other religious institutions being asked to subsidize behavior they consider immoral. It is not employers or insurance companies being asked to subsidize it. It is not even the existence of immoral behavior in the first place.

It is that they, Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts, are being asked to subsidize immoral behavior, i.e., sex outside of marriage, initially in the form of higher premiums, and later in the form of taxpayer subsidies. Remember, these are people who speak in terms of how much tax they pay, but really ultimately mean they don't want their taxes to go for that, whatever that is.

Um, hasn't anyone explained to these guys that married women use birth control, too?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rick Santorum, Catholics and Evangelicals

That being said, clearly Rick Santorum, as a conservative Catholic, has a lot of appeal to Evangelical Protestants. Their similarities are obvious. They see eye to eye on abortion, gay rights, sex outside of marriage, the desire for an overtly Christian public sphere, and (presumably) Israel.

But they have their differences as well. I have heard it said [once again, can't find link] that a lot of today's so-called conservative Catholics are far closer to Evangelical Protestants than traditional Catholics. I don't know whether this is true or not. If so, however, Santorum does not fit in that category.

Newt Gingrich, a Southern Baptist turned Catholic, still knows how to speak the Evangelical language. He presents himself as a reformed sinner, one who led an immoral life until his religious conversion. So important is the conversion narrative to Evangelicals that they are willing to overlook the detail that Gingrich's conversion was from one of their religions to Catholicism. One commentator [won't bother finding link] went so far as to suggest that Romney's picture perfect family life will hurt him with Evangelicals because it denies him the opportunity to be a repentant sinner. Color me unconvinced. Santorum's private life is irreproachable, and doesn't seem to have hurt him any with the base.

He does, however, lack what is very important to Evangelicals -- a conversion narrative. Details may differ, of course, but to Evangelicals no one can be truly Christian who does not have such a narrative -- a precise description of when he or she took Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior. Such a narrative is easier, of course, for anyone who did not grow up in an Evangelical Church. But even someone who was born and raised in such a church, and grew up attending and believing from earliest childhood still has to have a conversion narrative of how he or she went from merely faking to being a true believer. Catholics have no such requirement. Being baptized and receiving the proper sacraments is sufficient. If Santorum has any sort of story of how he took Jesus Christ as his personal savior then I, for one, have not heard about it.

Another important difference between Santorum and the Evangelicals is that Santorum is not a Bible thumper. In other words, he does not base his moral positions on finding an appropriate quote from scripture and treating that as ultimate authority. Once again, the Bible just isn't as important for Catholics as for Evangelicals. I highly recommend this hostile but highly informative account of how Santorum's manner of argument is deeply Catholic and differs from the Evangelical approach.

Evangelical Protestantism has always been a lower class rebellion against the dry and sterile intellectualism of more upscale religion and a search for a more emotional and immediate spiritual experience. As such, it has always been anti-intellectual. Catholicism, by contrast, has a formidable intellectual tradition. To call Rick Santorum one of the finest minds of the 13th Century is no insult. The 13th Century was a time of flourishing Catholic universities and the golden age of Catholic scholasiticism.

Thomas Acquinas, greatest of the scholastics, accepted the Bible as one authority, but by no means the only one. Instead, he made heavy use of the essentially secular philosophers of classical antiquity, especially Aristotle. Drawing on Aristotle, Acquinas distinguished between "divine law," that could be known only by revelation (basically, scripture) and was beyond the authority of government to enforce and "natural law" that was acessible to Christians and non-Christians alike and was binding on worldly governments. This sounds a lot like our doctrine of separation of church and state! But how do we know which is which? Presumably, Acquinas would have considered bans on abortion and homosexuality as part of the natural law.

During the 19th Century (the article continues), there was a Catholic revival of the natural law tradition. It gave the Catholic Church a secular language to make its moral and ethical arguments. It is on this tradition that Santorum draws.
There is no need to quote St. Paul to prove that homosexual sex is an
affront to the natural order and same-sex marriage a detriment to civilization:
Santorum appeals to natural law, what he calls the Catholic Church’s “operating
instructions for human beings.”

“Human beings have a purpose, or ‘end,’ a telos,” Santorum writes in his
book. According to the tradition of natural law, every part of our bodies has a
telos too. In the case of our genitalia, that natural end is heterosexual sex
for the purpose of procreation.
Such arguments have a strong appeal to Evangelical Christians -- they offer the intellectual respectability to Evangelical views that Evangelicals have secretly longed for.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Santorum on Separation of Church and State

Rick Santorum has had his day in the sun and may very well flame out on Super Tuesday. So I might as well get my licks in before that.

Famously, he has rejected John F. Kennedy's assurance that he believed in absolute separation of church and state and said the idea "makes me want to throw up."

As countless people have pointed out, Santorum is being unfair to Kennedy. He fails to take into account the very real anti-Catholic bigotry that existed at the time, especially in the Bible Belt, and many people's very real fears that if they elected a Catholic, the Pope would dictate policy. Imagine the sort of assurance people would want before electing a Muslim today!

Second, it is significant what Santorum did not say. He did not actually go to the opposite extreme from Kennedy. He did not say that he would always obey the Pope if elected, and that a vote for Santorum is a vote for the Pope. Presumably, he recognized that most people are still uneasy with the prospect of the Pope setting policy for the U.S.*

Or, as this columnist remarks, "[T]he pope, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, all the Methodist and Episcopal bishops, rabbis Orthodox and otherwise, and peaceful imams everywhere have the right to be heard. But none of them has the right, as arbiters of their faith, to compel the president of the United States to make public policy conform to religious doctrine."

*Republicans do, however, go out of their way to assure voters that they will let the Prime Minster of Israel set our Middle East policy.

Contraception, Religious Freedom, and Libertarianism

Thus far, the fight over whether insurance plans must offer free birth control has been presented (and presented itself) as a two-sided struggle. On one side -- people who want to encourage preventive health care by making it free and consider birth control a form of preventive health care. On the other side, people who consider it vitally important not to compel people to do anything that goes against their religion. Both sides have presented their parade of horribles that will happen if the other side prevails. My side believes that the religious freedom argument is largely a smoke screen for people who don't want any form of contraception made available to unmarried women, who would like very much to require women to present a marriage certificate before being allowed to buy it. And the other sides believes (no doubt sincerely) that this is part of an overall government war on religion.

But following comment threads (and sometimes Republican candidates), I reach the conclusion that there is a third side here as well. This is the libertarian side that regards all economic regulation and all requirements for any insurer to cover anything at all as acts of illegitimate tyranny. In this latest uproar, they have seen an opening to attack one particular mandate, but their ultimate goal is to sweep aside all economic regulations of any kind.

I base this on comments on the threads and the fall-back position of Republican candidates. Commenters on the threads are eager to see employers (and universities) given maximum "choice" in the benefits they offer. The possibility that their choices might have a harmful impact on employees (or students) is dismissed out of hand. If you don't like it, get another job (or go to another school). It is quite clear that these people don't see employees, as workers, as having any sort of moral claim. So long as you are free to quit, your employer, by definition, cannot wrong you, because if it was really bad enough, you were always free to find another job. The same rationale has been offered as to why there is no need to require insurance companies to cover any particular condition, or really to do anything at all. If you don't like it, get another insurance company.

Republican candidates, when called out, have said much the same thing. In response to the argument that Obama's new compromise does not require the employer to cover birth control, but lets the insurance company and the woman work that out, they reply that they want to protect the economic freedom of the insurance company. Rick Santorum, after his famous statement that insurance companies should not be required to cover prenatal testing because it would lead to more abortions, backtracked. Yes, he said, he favored prenatal testing, he just didn't want the economic freedom of insurance companies to be infringed.

The same argument gets implicitly made when Republicans are asked why they formerly supported the mandate and subsidy system that is, after all, the basis of Obamacare. Apart from some sneers about 2700 page bills, the usual answer is that Obamacare is a complete government takeover of healthcare, and they did not favor a complete government takeover of healthcare. No one ever seems to ask in what what Obamacare is a complete government takeover. So far as I can tell, the big difference between this mandate and subsidy and what the Republicans formerly proposed is that the current plan requires all insurance companies to offer a standard benefits package, and a fairly substantial one. Republicans generally favored a mandate and subsidy of a bare bones coverage, with the option to buy more out of one's own pocketbook. The argument does not strike me as all that convincing. After all, once you agree to the mandate and subsidy format, the exact contents of the mandate should be negotiable. But then again, I am not one of those people who thinks that any and all economic regulations are acts of tyranny.

What is interesting, though, is that, although Republicans sometimes use the libertarian argument as a fallback, they have generally avoided it. It is not hard to see why. The argument that employers should be free to deny employees coverage for anything they want no doubt has considerable appeal among Evangelical small business owners and aspiring small business owners, who make up a substantial portion of the Republican base. But its appeal is apt to be more limited among the broader public. And the argument that insurance companies should be free to deny coverage any time they want is unlikely to have much appeal outside the Cato Institute.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Contraception, Religious Freedom, and Law

It is a bit late in the game, but the contraception and religious exemption controversy gives no sign of going anywhere, so I might as well weigh in on the issue. Actually, I will not give my own opinion on the relative merits of these two important matters, religious freedom, and access to healthcare. I will stick to the law.

My guess is that, as the Supreme Court currently inteprets the First Amendment, there is no constitutional requirement for the federal government to carve out a conscience exemption for employers who do not want to offer employees free birth control coverage in their health insurance. This is based on Employment Division v. Smith, a 1990 Supreme Court decision. In Smith, members of the Native American Church were fired from their jobs for using peyote, a generally illegal drug that is nonetheless used as a sacrament in the Native American Church. The Oregon Employment Division denied their application for unemployment insurance on the grounds that they had been fired for misconduct. The church members appealed to the federal courts, on the grounds that use of peyote in their religion was a First Amendment right. The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Antonin Scalia, disagreed. It held that so long as the infringement on religious freedom is under a neutral law of general applicability, not intended to interfere with religion, it is constitutional under the First Amendment.

It seems a reasonable assumption that the regulation requiring employer-based health insurance to offer free contraceptives is a neutral law of general applicability, not intended to discriminate against religion. Therefore, if Scalia is honest and consistent (perhaps a dubious assumption), the requirement should pass constitutional muster.

However, our analysis does not stop there. Congress responded to Smith by passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA, pronounced Rifra). RFRA originally forbade any government, federal or state, from substantially burdening anyone's religious practice unless it is the least restrictive means to meet a compelling governmental interest. The Supreme Court later found RFRA unconstitutional as applied to the states, holding that the federal government could not impose such a burden on the states. However, it left RFRA intact as applied to the federal government, seeing no problem with the federal government imposing such a burden on itself. Congress, incidentally, responded by passing the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA, and no, I have no idea how to pronounce it), which applied the same standard to states only in certain cases of land use, and in any state prison using federal funds (which is all state prisons).

Thus although the contraceptive mandate should pass constitutional muster, it may very well violate RFRA. Incidentally, that invalidates the argument that why should such a requirement be forbidden at the federal level when 28 states already have similar mandates. Because RFRA does not apply to states, and RLUIPA does not extend to insurance regulations.

So, even if it passes constitutional muster, will the contraceptive mandate be acceptable under RFRA? And what happens when one person's religious practice steps on another person's toes?

Unfortunately, "compelling governmental interest" has no fixed or even coherent definition. Anything can be claimed as a compelling governmental interest, and anything can be denied. A compelling governmental interest is whatever the Supreme Court says it is, and they have not seen fit to give the rest of us any guidance on the subject. As for what happens when one person's religious practice infringes on another person, well, during my first year of law school I found a throw away line in one case that says that in accommodating a religious practice, courts must take into account the burden on beneficiaries, but almost nothing on what that actually meant.

One effect of RFRA was to reveal that substantial government burdens on the religious practice of free people is actually quite rare. Most RFRA and RLUIPA suits take place in a prison context. Maintaining prison security is indisputably held to be a compelling governmental interest. Furthermore, religious accommodations in prison rarely have much impact on prisoners who are not accommodated. I have seen cases allowing restrictions on access to Indian land and a case allowing an Evangelical Christian couple in bankruptcy to tithe, despite a loss of resources to creditors. Traffic hazards might be too great a burden on non-beneficiaries.

In short, any attempt to guess how the Supreme Court might rule on the matter is reading tea leaves.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tribulation Force, the Movie, Part 8

I apologize for the lack of posting. I haven't been quite well this week, and my mental energy has suffered. We are now on Part 8 out of 10. And guess what? The lips are still not perfectly matched to the sound, but much improved! Let us give thanks to the gods of lip synching.

Buck, heading off to mortal peril, looks at the string of pictures of himself and Chloe and puts them in his breast pocket. Rayford walks in and asks Buck if he is ready. Buck has the camera and the uplink to GNN, but doesn't know how to get to the Wailing Wall. Rayford says just get Ben-Judah there, he (or God) will take care of it. They do guy talk, try to be light-hearted and unconcerned, but Buck says he can't imagine how Ray feels after losing his wife and son and Ray admits his pain. They pray (well, Buck prays; Ray silently bows his head while Buck speaks).

Back at the church, Chloe is still working the first aid station in latex gloves and a loose smock. She gets a phone call and is much relieved to hear Buck's voice. They exchange affection, then Buck tells her he is still going to the Wailing Wall. Chloe warns him the UN has given the order to shoot on sight, but he insists, tells Chloe to pray for him. And maybe what I said about their lips being better synched was premature. They are still way off.

In Jerusalem, Buck meets with Ben-Judah. Although in the last clip he still appeared unconvinced, apparently he has changed his mind. "The sooner we go, the sooner we put an end to their lies," Ben-Judah says. At the wall is an iron gate, guarded by masked soldiers with a red stop sign, warning in Hebrew and English that anyone proceeding will be shot. As Buck and Ben-Judah openly approach and are turned back, Ray is sneaking up on the side, apparently about to step into the forbidden zone to create a distraction and be shot.

Suddenly the mysterious woman in white who talked to Rayford several clips back steps up and takes his hand. Apparently she is not his new love interest, but his guardian angel. Fred Clark says she is referred to in the credits at the "angelic woman." She says, "May you walk in the faith of the Lord." (The same phrase Irene used in the dream. Is she, perhaps, sent by Irene to watch over him? Do RTC's believe in that?) She begins singing "Amazing Grace." Buck turns to look. Ben-Judah does not respond. Perhaps only RTC's can see or hear her? Then the soldiers turn, so maybe they do hear her, or maybe they just see Rayford coming. She and Ray, holding hands, walk past another shrine, with candles burning to the names of the raptured, and head toward the gate. The soldiers, rattled by someone who shows no fear, yell to them to stop. Ray drops her hand and moves forward. She stops in front of the candles, but goes no singing. After yelling to stop, the lead soldier shouts something else, but I can't quite tell if he is saying, "That song!" (indicating that he does see and hear her and is offended), or something in Hebrew.

The soldiers raise their guns to fire and suddenly freeze. Ray, Buck and Ben-Judah proceed, as her singing fades into the background. While Buck and Ben-Judah head toward the Wall, Ray looks back and she is nowhere to be seen.

Buck and Ben-Judah approach the witnesses, in long robes, turbans and beards. As Buck sets up his camera, Ben-Judah steps forward and speaks to them in Hebrew. They respond, with Hebrew and English words echoing together. Ben-Judah turns to translate, but Buck says he understands; they are speaking in English. Telepathy, one presumes. Ben-Judah (lips terribly synched) denounces them as false prophets.

"For God will bring every deed into judgment," they say. To my untrained ears, it just sounds vaguely Biblical, quite possibly something Ben-Judah would accept as canonical. This is where it's very useful to have Fred Clark. He explains that this is from the New Testament, John 3, and therefore not scripture to a Jew, though not theologically objectionable. They then address him directly, though still not being sectarian (Christian), "I, the Lord, search the heart. I test the mind. And I will give every man according to his ways and according to the things he has done." Ben-Judah answers that he has kept the Commandments. (A very important matter to a traditional Jew, even more important than being a believer).

Then the Witnesses take a step in a more Christian direction, "By the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in His sight. For by grace you are saved, through faith. It is not for yourselves. It is the gift of God." Here I must confess to being out of my depth. Certainly I know that Jews acknowledge that everyone sins and is imperfect in the eyes of God, that no one can be perfect and sinless by effort alone. But they do their best. I do not know whether grace or faith are important concepts to Jews, or even concepts at all. But definitely not as important as they are in Christianity, especially Evangelical Christianity. Ben-Judah must be beginning to understand these prophets do not adhere to Jewish orthodoxy. Buck eagerly films to get this out to the world.

Carpathia is watching this on TV as they say, "Not through works that no one can boast." (Again, we are in distinctly Christian territory here). Chloe and Pastor Bruce are taking a break from hospital work and watching this in Bruce's office. Carpathia says cut it off. It cuts off, with a sign saying that GNN is experiencing technical difficulties. And Buck has presumably now blown his cover and will soon get his 72 virgins or whatever RTC's get in Heaven.

The cutoff is just in time (from Nicolae's point of view) because it stops before the Witnesses start spouting unmistakeably Christian theology about substitutionary atonement. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life." This cuts to the very core of Christian theology. This is definitely not any theology that Ben-Judah, as a Jew, would accept and orthodox, let along canonical. They go on for a while and then say, "He who does not believe is condemned already because he does not believe in the Name of the only Begotten Son of God." Of course, Ben-Judah asks for his name and is told Jesus Christ.

We don't get to see Ben-Judah's reaction to that, because just then the soldiers have un-frozen and begin firing at them. Buck and Ben-Judah duck for cover. While they huddle on the ground, two soldiers in black masks run up and start spraying the general area with bullets, but the two prophets stand their ground and are not hit. Then the prophets breath out fireballs. The soldier's clothes catch on fire and they run screaming, fall down, and die. Buck crouches on the ground, watching, while Ben-Judah runs away. I am not sure which reaction is worse.

Then, although Buck and Ben-Judah were to all appearances alone at the wall, we see a general panicked flight away. Buck and Ray meet each other in the general panic. Ray has bad news from Chloe. The broadcast was cut off. Nobody heard it. Well, that is only half-true. They heard the beginning of it, and they heard it starting to shade off in a Christian direction when talking about faith and grace. It just got cut off before they explicitly get into substitutionary atonement. Buck admits he doesn't know how Ben-Judah reacted; he ran off before Buck could ask. "It's in God's hands now," Ray says.

Back in Chicago, Ivy, now in cutoffs instead of a miniskirt, comes by the church first aid center to bring Chloe some food. The burn victim actually looks a bit better, but apparently he realizes he is dying because he tells Chloe he is ready for God. Chloe says to tell him. So the burn victim says about the same prayer Buck said in the first movie, "Dear God, I'm so sorry I've sinned against you. Please forgive me. I want to do the right thing. Jesus, thank you. Thank you for dying for me." And then, apparently he dies. Fred Clark says so. So I cheated and peaked into Part 9 and he does, indeed die. I suppose the point here is supposed to be that RTC's don't need any Catholic-style last rites because they can administer them to themselves. But in effect, Chloe has just administered the last rites.

Update: According to commenters at the site, the sign in Hebrew and English does not have actual Hebrew words, but transliterates from English! And it runs the letters from left to right! It even uses "v-v" for "w" (in will) and S-H in shot!