Ebert is one of the few critics who gave that new adult comic book movie for kids Kick-*ss a bad review, questioning its moral compass. In fact Ebert is one of the few film critics who will outright call a movie "immoral" (as he did for one of the Texas Chainsaw remakes and other pictures in the dubiously but aptly titled new category "torture p*rn").
What I find even more unique about this is that Roger Ebert is an atheist. Yes, I know atheists in general do not think one must be religious to be moral, but that's not the point I mean to make. I was reminded of Ebert's cinematic moral compass recently when reading this post at Justin Taylor's blog, about how/why Steve Jobs forbids p*rn apps on Apple products. From the article:
Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms.
The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:
‘Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’ and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.’
The interlocuter replied:
“I don’t want ‘freedom from porn’. Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”
In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:
“You might care more about porn when you have kids.”
Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.
The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra ‘The customer is always right.’ Business wants the customers’ money.
But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved—and that trumps the dollar.
And here is where I want to go with this stuff: It's great that Ebert and Jobs and lots of others who do not know Christ are "moral" people who assert their morality. But this is why the still persisting message of the American evangelical church, that of "Be a better you thanks to God" or what-have-you, is a powerless, un-compelling message. Aside from the fact that "Behave!" is not the message of the gospel or the concerted call of Scripture, it is not something that will appeal to millions of Americans who think they're doing pretty well already, thank you very much. They love animals, provide for their families, give to charities, cry when "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" ends, and aspire to justification by recycling. And see the dangers of p*rn and the moral bankruptcy of many modern films. Why add the baggage of church when they're managing moral just fine?
Angelina Jolie has adopted, like, forty-eight babies. How many have you rescued?
This is one more reason why morality cannot be the baseline. The line is Christ, the call is the cross. And it is for sinners and "saints" -- even atheistic ones -- alike.