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Can you pass the Tom Cruise worldview test?

Posted By Drew Zahn On 12/23/2012 @ 11:37 pm In Diversions,Faith,Front Page,Reviews,U.S. | No Comments

The biggest divide in America isn’t rich/poor, black/white, Republican/Democrat, red state/blue state, urban/rural or even any of the various religious differences. The one construct that divides Americans the most … is worldview.

For a “worldview” is the foundational framework upon which a person builds virtually everything he or she believes. The answers to a few, basic worldview questions – is there a God; how do you know what is true; what is the nature of man, and so forth – form a lens through which a person sees every issue, debate and event.

Unless you’re thinking is inconsistent and self-contradictory (which is, admittedly, quite common), your answer to just a few questions of worldview in turn shape your politics, ethics, economics and opinions on everything from the Syrian civil war to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. Pick a topic – gun control, abortion, the U.S. Constitution, race relations, Obamacare, same-sex marriage, the morality of spanking – if I know your worldview, I can pretty much predict your position on it.

For self-proclaimed Christians, this is particularly telling, for studies have shown that only a tiny minority of churchgoers actually hold a biblical worldview, but are far more likely to hold a secular humanist or even communist worldview, which they then struggle to reconcile with their faith. This explains why Christians don’t vote in a solid bloc: Their worldview influences their vote far more than their religion does.

So what does this have to do with Tom Cruise?

The actor stars in a new film, “Jack Reacher,” which curiously enough, presents a protagonist who personifies this divide in America.

“Jack Reacher” is a crime drama about a rogue, ex-military detective of the same name who resurfaces to investigate an Army sniper who allegedly opened fire on a random crowd of civilians.

The movie itself is an entertaining film with a witty script, exciting but not unbelievable action sequences and some outstanding camerawork that makes several of the scenes just captivating. Outside of a few slow patches, the film is an enjoyable blend of brains, intrigue and action, the biggest drawback being the star himself, whose wooden portrayal of Reacher seems more like Tom Cruise auditioning for the part than Cruise actually attempting to play the character.

When the film wraps up, however, it ends with a fascinating line that reveals in stark contrast the worldview of the filmmakers (or perhaps the author, Lee Child, upon whose books the film was based).

Though it’s the final line of the film, I don’t think it’s a “spoiler” to quote it, as it’s simply a description of the lead character: “There’s a man out there who doesn’t care about proof, doesn’t care about the law; he only cares about what’s right.”

Thus sums up Reacher, the hero of the film – though he says he’s “no hero,” he clearly is portrayed as such – an outside-the-lines sort of antihero, a man fed up with the system, who pursues “justice,” especially when the rich and powerful would see it thwarted.

The film is fun, regardless of your worldview, but what kind of hero, what kind of message is this?

One worldview would view Reacher – no proof? no law? – with suspicion, believing at a core level that the rule of law should not be so nonchalantly dismissed, for it’s what protects society from both tyranny and chaos.

Another worldview would celebrate Reacher as a man all the more virtuous for not being bound by the system in the quest to do what he believes is right and just.

So which is it? And which are you?

Are you a person who believes in the rule of law? Or bending the rules as needed?

As I’ve already asserted, this question of worldview will play out in your politics. Take immigration for example: The first camp believes in borders and citizenship and believes the term “illegal alien” really means “illegal.” The second camp doesn’t see it as just that some live in squalor and others in plenty just because they were born on opposite sides of an arbitrary line. Immigrants are people who deserve the opportunity we have in America, whether they’re “undocumented” or not.

Another example: Obamacare. In the face of this massive, federal expansion, the first camp cries out, “What about the Consitution?” The second camp asserts the document must “live” and “breathe” to make sure the uninsured have access to health care – no proof, no law, just do “right.”

It’s clear which camp the makers of “Jack Reacher” fall into, and you see it played out in the film when the hero of the film takes a gun and … well … that would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say, this Hollywood “hero” doesn’t exactly play by the rules.

Content advisory:

  • “Jack Reacher,” rated PG-13, contains roughly 40 profanities and obscenities, fairly typical in this kind of action film, but with some restraint by comparison.
  • The film has no significant sexual or romantic storylines, but some content is still present. In one scene, a woman is seen leaving Reacher’s bed wearing nothing but a thong (seen from behind). Another scene discusses some villains at a “rape rally,” but depicts nothing explicit. A young woman is described as a “hooker,” “whore” and “slut” and is scene in some mildly revealing clothing. Finally, the main actress wears one outfit in the film cut so unprofessionally low, her breasts are bulging out the top in repeated scenes.
  • The film contains a significant amount of violence in the form of fist fights, gun fights and car chases, but notably less than a Jason Bourne or James Bond-type film and far, far less than an “Expendables” flick. The most disturbing violence, however, is the repeated depiction of a mass murderer targeting his victims through a sniper’s scope. It’s powerful filmmaking, but could be more intense than some viewers expect. Notably, the scriptwriters do make the decision to go out of their way to humanize the victims of the shooting, a refreshing and responsible choice, especially for an action film.
  • The movie has little to no religious or occult content.

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