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The American President

May 6, 2011

As part of my ethic class we were required to write a movie review. It had to be a movie that contained ethic issues. I chose the American President which was an unusual choice given that it is a romantic comedy. However I thought it contained some very interesting ethical issues, besides which, I don’t like watching ‘serious’ movies! Here’s what I wrote:

Andrew Shepherd is the president in the movie, The American President (1995) directed by Rob Reiner. Shepherd is campaigning to create legislation to ban assault weapons. He is a widower who becomes romantically interested in Sydney Wade. She is a lobbyist working to introduce legislation which will reduce fossil fuel emissions.

These are the ethical issues: firstly the legislation to ban handguns and assault weapons; secondly the environmental issue of reducing fossil fuel emissions; thirdly ‘just war’ – there is a scene where Liberia has bombed an American missile base and the President has to decide whether to retaliate; and fourthly family values – is the President a good role model when he is sleeping with girlfriend down the hall from his 12 year old daughter?

The first issue, banning handguns and assault weapons, raises the question of whether it is ethical for citizens to defend themselves by carrying weapons. The President believes that restricting the availability of weapons will reduce crime especially amongst drug dealers. This legislation is not carried through in the movie. In reality it is unclear whether this restriction would actually reduce crime. The Bible does not prevent people from carrying defensive weapons. The disciples certainly carried swords. Yet in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would not let the disciples use them. Jesus advocates “turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39); loving and praying for enemies; and trusting God for protection. Carrying swords may have been for protection against wild animals rather than people. So restricting handguns and assault weapons to protect innocent people would be in agreement with much of the intent of Scripture even though there is no specific Biblical teaching preventing people from carrying arms.

The second issue regarding the environment concerns global warming which is taken as a fact. The movie presents the need to reduce fossil fuel emissions as necessary to avoid an environmental disaster. The movie does not discuss the costs of the legislation or the flow on effect to the American people. Too much focus on the environment can create the danger of the environment becoming a type of idol that people worship. However there was no indication of this happening in the movie. The biblical view would also be to look after the environment. However this must be done responsibly and not through scare tactics or at the expense of caring for people or by making the environment an end in itself.

More next time…

by Susan Barnes
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Susan Barnes

~ writer of insightful posts about God and faith