Merry Christmas! We did most of our celebrating last night. This morning I was home alone, so I decided to watch The Interview, a horrible movie that exists. It is horrible because it’s essentially Abbot & Costello meet National Lampoon. Had it been more like Abbot & Costello and devoid of any similarity to National Lampoon, it would have been a great movie. Fairly certain that it would be that way, I watched it anyway because I think it was important to offer a show of support for the principle of freedom of conscience in the face of attack by North Korea and now also Russia. The Interview exists. Though I would not agree that it is a good thing that it exists, I tend to think that snuffing ideas out of existence for the whole country by force simply because I disagree with them is not on the list of things our Lord wants us to do. This is a lesson Kim Jong Un should learn. Rick Santorum agrees.
I did debate within myself the question of whether it would be okay for me to financially support, through purchase, a movie that includes scenes wholly contrary to human dignity. After all, I do strongly believe in my right to ban content in my own home. I decided that I do get some value out of the purchase, however. The value that I personally get is greater respect for freedom of conscience. If the movie does well, it will be a defeat for those in North Korea who have sought to snuff it out. Also, the value that I get out of watching the movie is that I can now more intelligently write on this topic. Though, by and large, I’d rather The Interview never have been made to begin with, I do get some value out of the fact that it was made. There is something there, in other words, to appreciate. Having said all of that, I acknowledge that I could be wrong that it was okay to purchase and watch the movie. I’m open to being convinced of that.
Christmas also exists. During a break from watching The Interview, I read a story at the New York Post about American Airlines tossing a passenger at the airport who had flipped out over staff saying “Merry Christmas” to him. I think it’s safe to assume that if this particular passenger had the same kind of power that Kim Jong Un has, Christendom would not be safe under his rule. Hats off to American Airlines for sticking up for their passengers’ right to fly in peace and for their employees’ right to say “Merry Christmas,” or even “Happy Hanukkah,” if they feel so inclined. Christmas and Hanukkah are not bad things. There is something in both that everyone can appreciate, just as there is something in this whole ordeal around The Interview that I can benefit from: greater respect for freedom of conscience.
As a Christian, I am offended by The Interview trampling all over human dignity. That does not mean that I want it to be banned. Rather, I would advise no one who is spiritually immature to watch the movie. That definitely includes teenagers. In like manner, an atheist writes at Vox Popoli about the American Airlines incident that being an atheist does not mean that you should want Christmas to be banned, and it does not mean that you should act like a tyrant when someone says “Merry Christmas” to you.
My usual response on such occasions is the same as that of my Jewish friend, who smiles and says “thank you, you too” whenever he is wished a Merry Christmas. If nothing else, it’s nice to see people who are in a good mood while out and about.
That’s the practical aspect. From philosophical perspective, it must be admitted that whether one celebrates a holiday or not, it indubitably and materially exists. One would assume that any genuinely rational atheist would understand that.
Christmas exists. Hanukkah exists. The Interview exists. We don’t have to be happy that they exist, or even agree that they should exist, but we go into the area of irrational tyranny when we demand that things be eradicated by force simply because they don’t appeal to us personally or because we find them to be grossly offensive. I hate that pornography exists and I actively protest that it does exist, but my views about it are probably similar to the views of Baptists who hate that alcohol exists but tolerate that it exists legally under civil law because attempts to ban it completely will only cause more harm than good.
As to whether it harms North Korea for people like me to purchase and watch The Interview, Max Fisher writes at Vox that it does no such thing.
This supposed act of defiance against Kim Jong Un actually helps North Korea, by buying into their disingenuous propaganda about the movie, as well as by aiding Kim in his mission to look more important than he is and to gin up conflict between his country and the US. The supposed celebration of free speech is a tremendous favor to the regime that is by far the worst human rights abuser on earth.
I disagree that it is a “tremendous favor” to Mr. Kim, but more to the point, my intent was not to “harm” Kim Jong Un by purchasing and watching the film just as it is not my intent to “harm” activist atheists by reacting warmly when someone says “Happy Hanukkah” to me. If no one were around to complain about my warm reaction to a “Happy Hanukkah” greeting, I would still react warmly. I would react warmly because my intent is to love the Jew who greeted me that way, not to harm the atheist who resents that I reacted warmly.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Kim.
Incidentally, I am offended by the official video for Katy Perry’s Firework, but love the song which is also featured in The Interview. Hence, I offer a version below without the video, which I like.