Thursday, November 22, 2012

Life of Pi: A Christian review

A new movie by Ang Lee is hitting theaters and the movie-appreciating audience is making a buzz over it. Ang Lee was the man who directed Brokeback Mountain (an ode to homosexuality) and the beautiful and absorbing fairy tale Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Lee is considered one of contemporary filmmaking's best directors. He has been nominated for Oscars and has won Oscars. He is well regarded and has a unique visual style that he brings to the screen which immediately identifies his work.

The movie that's making so much buzz Ang Lee's Life of Pi. Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. It won the Booker Prize, garnered other prizes and went on to become a best-seller. This is a story that Hollywood initially sought to bring to the screen because the book was so well-written, unique, and salable.

However, Hollywood soon dropped the idea of making the book into a movie due to the inherently exquisite difficulties of bringing the otherworldly narrative to film. Eventually, most producers thought that it would be too hard to relate the mystical beauty of the tale to film in a way that would hold audience attention.

Ang Lee's incredible talent was brought to the fore and he surmounted those difficulties. The film was released yesterday. By all accounts it is a visual triumph and a stand-out, unique film compared to the fodder and tripe that usually permeates the theaters at this time of year.

Wikipedia reports, "In a letter directly to Martel, Barack Obama described Life of Pi as "an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling". Brian Bethune of Maclean's describes Life of Pi as "[a] head-scratching combination of dense religious allegory, zoological lore and enthralling adventure tale, written with warmth and grace". Master Plots suggested the "[c]entral themes of Life of Pi concern religion and human faith in God".

Apparently not only is the story well-told on film, not only is it a feast for the eyes in lyrical beauty and lauded its ability to transport the viewer to another place of peace and transcendence. Not only is it a box-office triumph, but many Christian reviewers are rating it highly also.

This fact has piqued the interest of a usually under-served Christian segment of the movie-going population, and so Christian families are streaming to the movie in droves. This essay is to determine if the movie is good food for Christian families to absorb.

We long for family movies that honor God and exalt Jesus. We are thirsty for some good food to take in, where we can relax in our seats and know that nothing we that we're presented on the film will assault the eyes or offend God.

Life of Pi is NOT THAT MOVIE.

I have not seen it. Yet I am reviewing it. How can this be? Well, sometimes one can read an outline of the plot and know immediately that it is not worthy of attention. Do I need to watch Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ to know that it is not something I want to enter my mind? No. I don't have to watch Jesus repudiate God's plan and descend from the cross to live a fleshly life with Mary to understand it wasn't something that God wants us to entertain.

One part of Wikipedia's synopsis caught my attention.

"Pi is raised a Hindu, but as a fourteen-year-old he is introduced to Christianity and Islam, and starts to follow all three religions as he "just wants to love God." He tries to understand God through the lens of each religion and comes to recognize benefits in each one."

Right away I know this is not a movie for me. Anything that competes with or elevates anther god to equal status with the One True God is not worthy of my money, time, or attention. Pi, who is born a Hindu, at his mother's behest to embrace plurality in everything, praises Jesus for bearing our sins while reciting the Quran? No thanks.


But that's one person's synopsis, what do others say?

CBN is Christian Broadcasting Network. CBN's Movie Review says-

"While Christian audiences will be thrilled with the amount of onscreen time devoted to the cause of Christ and what it means to believe, they will also be quite disappointed as Islam and Hinduism receive equal representation. However, when viewed through the eyes of evangelical Christianity, you can't help but be encouraged by the flickers of faith being projected onscreen. ... Filled with thought-provoking moments of self-discovery, redemption and God's unrequited grace, Life of Pi is an exploration into whether a person truly believes what they say they believe. For Christians, that is whether Jesus Christ went to the Cross as the ultimate sacrifice for sinners to be saved by grace. Unfortunately, this quest is played out for the other three religions as well."

Are we so desperate for crumbs of a true holiness presented on screen that we are willing to eat the crumb off the corner of satan's lip after having spewed Allah, Vishnu, and Catholic gods? Why do we settle for "flickers"? And lying flickers at that? Is that what encouragement has diluted down to? Apparently.

Christian Science Monitor wrote:
"Young Pi, raised in a not-very-strict Hindu household, tries his hand at Christianity and Islam as well. He’s an ecumenical free spirit who sees all religions as equally affirming."

They called it a "sane movie" and gave it a B rating. That's insane.

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Christian Cinema gave it 'five doves' and referred to the fact that the movie is 'Dove Family Approved' by the Dove Foundation several times in its review. So let's see what they wrote:

"Pi's agnostic father taught him, "Faith is a house with many rooms." Pi himself is a religious person, but without a specific doctrine. He often prays to the God he learned about from a Catholic priest, but occasionally sends up an appeal to Allah, Vishnu, and Krishna. One desperate prayer Pi cries out when he's nearly lost all hope is, "God, I give myself to you, a vessel." The cinematography is spectacular, and the CGI and 3D effects rival those in "Avatar." The movie is rated PG, however, there are several tragic events that are better taken in by older audiences. Therefore, we are pleased to award this profoundly moving story on film the Dove "Family-Approved" Seal for audiences over age 12."

How can this be a Christian-approved movie when it is blatantly stated that the main protagonist prays to false gods, and when all his hope is lost, gives himself to one of them? Which one? The Catholic false god? The Hindu false God? The Muslim false god? And the Dove Foundation calls this "profoundly moving?!"

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Crosswalk is the only Christian review I've read that calls it what it is, 'full of wonder but a poison pill'. They write-

"English theologian Ronald Knox once quipped, "Comparative religion is an admirable recipe for making people comparatively religious." The current spirit of our age is to embrace many faiths as leading to the same god, not a philosophy that works with orthodox Christianity. The Bible practically screams warnings against such thinking, such as in 1 John 4, 2 John 1, 1 Timothy 4, 2 Corinthians 11—the list goes on."

"Life of Pi", the new film from director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) and based on the bestselling book from Yann Martel, has, at its core, a message that Christians reject. But—can there be a “but” after that?—the filmmaking in Life of Pi is often nothing short of spectacular. It has images of beauty and power that won’t be matched by any other film this year. Visually, it’s marvelous—it literally contains one marvel after another. But sandwiched in between those thrills is a message that’s contrary to the Gospel."

That is how satan works. Sinuously. Beautifully. He comes as a beautiful angel of light but he brings death.

You will be tempted to view the film for its vaunted visuals. In 3D I hear it is even prettier. But do you want to violate the scripture that says--

"Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder." (Proverbs 23:31-32)

Gill's Exposition says
"when it moveth itself aright; sparkles in the glass, or goes down the throat pleasantly; or rather looks well to the eye, and appears right and good, and promises a great deal of satisfaction and delight."

You say, 'But that is a prohibition against drinking too much wine! It has nothing to do with a movie!"

The principle is the same. It sparkles... you're attracted to it... you drink it in... it poisons you.

Listen to what Psalm 101:3-4 says- "I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil." (NLT)

I would rather you go to see Brokeback Mountain, because it is honest in its lies and perversity. At least it is what it is. Life of Pi is what it isn't. Mixing our Holy God with other gods and equalizing them is a worse blasphemy. Why would a Hindu or a Catholic think he needs Jesus after seeing this film, and especially if you are sitting next to him enthusiastically affirming the movie's premise? Why would a recently saved youth or a weaker Christian brother see the need to repent of his Oprah-Osteen "many paths" apostasy when he sees you taking in the same lies, and liking it?

"Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21). An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God. Or competes with Him.

Read this from 1 Samuel 5:1-5:
"When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day."

God tolerates no others in His house. Now your body is His house.

GotQuestions asks, "Should a Christian go to movies?"
"The Bible tells us that many things are permitted, but not all things are beneficial or constructive (1 Corinthians 10:23). It also says that whatever we say or do (or watch) should be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are to set our minds on things that are noble and pure (Philippians 4:8). If—and this is a big if—we can watch a movie or TV program that contains questionable content AND still be in agreement with these commands from the Bible, then it’s hard to see a wrong in this. The danger lies in (1) how what we are watching affects our heart and (2) how it affects others."

It IS a danger, especially in this day of the last days when satan's encroachment into everything is so pervasive. MacArthur said in his sermon, The Danger of Being a Friend of the World, "The evil impulses of man's heart draw him toward worldliness and a worldly life brings one into a conflict with God."

This movie will draw you, beautifully, but it is a draw toward compromise nonetheless. I take a hard line, as you know. I believe I could watch that movie and enjoy its visuals and its reported life-affirming message without compromise to my faith. I believe that my watching it would not present a stumbling block to weaker ones in my sphere. I believe my faith is very strong and that it would not be a problem. However, I will not watch it. Why?

Because my faith is so strong! It pains me to see other gods given equal time. It hurts to see others fall under satan's lie that there are many paths to 'life'. I mourn over the lies satan so easily sends out in tendrils that choke a heart. Unless the movie clearly identifies Jesus as the only way by the end of the film, it is not life-affirming. It is death affirming. My faith won't let me spend two hours in a death-affirming event, no matter how prettily it's presented.

Proverbs 26:23 says it best, "Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart." The heart of Life of Pi is evil. I reject the crumb satan offers from his lips and I will stay away.

25 comments:

  1. Can be called the twin brother of Avatar in the sense of ENTERTAINMENT. Integrated 3D special effects, holophonic sound effects and great team work makes this movie a worth watch.

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    1. All that tells me is that you'll compromise your standards if it is entertaining enough.

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  2. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15a)

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  3. Thank you for your honest review. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to hear the truth. As my walk with Jesus strengthens, I am more and more selective about what I expose myself to. This type of movie doesn't appeal to me, but now after reading your review, I really don't want to see it. Thank you.

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    1. You're welcome Jennifer. It is getting REALLY hard to find anything worth watching. But that is part of what Paul meant when he said run the race...to me, that means not compromising even when it gets hard. The Ephesians and Corinthians had a tough go as well- their entire culture was devoted to fasts, drunkenness, orgies, false gods, and other unsuitable activities. Yet they remained in the world without being of the world. I doubt that after Paul's first few warnings they did not dare to attend a feast or a pagan theater production just to grab some entertainment

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  4. You are, once again, SPOT ON Liz! I read this book over a year ago, before I rededicated my life to God. And even though I wasn't walking with the Lord at the time I was still able to point out what was errorneous in it. However, that deception started to creep in. The enticing glimmer of "well, he believes in God, Pi is still a good person, he's religious..." And that false belief that we can have our pie & eat it too tried to take root. Fortunately, God called me back to Him & now I can fully see this book for what it is, rubbish. You can liken this book to The Shack. I haven't read that book but, like you, I read the synopsis & put it down & backed away slowly. Unfortunately, this is where soooo many of our brothers & sisters in the Lord get it wrong; we have got to be sooooo careful! On guard, armor on, prayed up & ready for a fight because our enemy doesn't tire. The battle begins in the mind & if he can start to make us doubt then he starts to win. Even if we don't renounce God & walk away from the faith. What can happen is that we walk around, defeated, and not walking around in the authority that God has given us. And I think satan wants that even more than the lost. Its a dig at God to harm his children on any way. Its not 'just a book' any more than the Bible is 'just a book.' I, for one, will not go to see this movie. I'm sure the cinematography is awesome but, its not worth it. Not in the grand scheme of things. We're so close to His return, lets remember that fact in everything we do even when we watch movies.

    Thanks for another great post Liz! Happy Thanksgiving =)

    Blessings,
    Amber

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for your well-written and enthusiastic testimony!! Happy Thanksgiving to you as well.

      I prefer Elizabeth to Liz BTW ;)

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  5. LOL, I was wondering that after I hit send! Sorry, we have a family friend we call Liz & I guess I'm use to hearing that. My apologies, it has been noted! =)

    Blessings!

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  6. Thank you for speaking the truth about this movie!

    We are told to RUN from the enemy dressed in light and his clever snares, traps and "entertainment"! hello?...RUN away! Not go get in line and see it like "everyone else"...

    We are not to "test" sin and get as close as we can to the something that appeals to the "flesh" and "emotions". Ooooo pretty colors! and pictures! People, it is a trap of eye candy.

    A bigger & harder question is...what part does "entertainment" play at ALL in pursuing God and His Holiness...? gulp. :) Can cultural "entertainment" AND Holiness coexist?

    I like Leonard Ravenhill's statement from years ago: "Entertainment is the Devil's substitute for joy." (...and true Joy only comes from the Lord)

    Ouch...the road IS narrow! :)

    Thank you and praise Jesus for you Elizabeth!,
    Todd

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  7. Why do you believe that it is Satan's work to mix religions? Religion helps define what a person is supposed to do in life. The message of Christ was not that we must not accept any other religion. His message was that we must help and aid one another. The same message applied to Mohammed and to Moses and to Krishna and to Buddha. The idea is that we must help one another, and Pi lived by that principle. He is a vegetarian, not because of Hinduism, but for his value of the lives of GODs creatures.

    I chose to post this comment to educate you that GOD wants us to live in harmony and that all religions that say to help others and be good people are symbiotic with one another.

    Do not make the mistake of believing that your religion is THE religion. There is no religion, only GOD.

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    1. Shant, beloved, Jesus did not die on the cross saying to all peoples, "Aid one another!"

      He came to show that He is the one true God. He came to show that He has standards for eternal life, and that standard is to repent of sins and believe on Him who died and rose again as the sacrifice for sins, on whom God poured out His wrath to satisfy His justice.

      The way we help one another is by sharing His message, which is that resurrected and perfect Jesus, who is God and man, is the only way to heaven. Period.

      Jesus did not say I am one of the truths, one of the ways and one of the lives. He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.

      We will never live in harmony. He told us that He brings a sword, and He brings division, even among families. He said He is a stumbling block. Jesus is even the dividing point in human history- BC and AD.

      Yes, Jesus' message applied to Krishna and Buddha and Mohammad: and that message is repent to Me, the one true God and live, or refuse and die.

      Yes, there is only God. But which one? You think there are many. There is only Jesus.

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  8. Thank you for this review. I've done a lot of research into the New Age, esoteric movement in American society. Everything from UFO's to the occult point towards a one world religion - where practitioners can believe in Jesus, Mohammad, Krishna, to find "truth". This is true for the Emergent Church movement - it's a repackaging of gnostic heresy. Jesus is the only way for salvation. He is the Word that became flesh to die for our sins. This movie being praised by "Christians"... let me rephrase that: This movie being praised by Christian Mystics is absolutely disgusting. Now is the time to read the Word of God -

    Romans 10:17
    So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

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  9. How can you call this a review of a movie if you are not going to see the film itself. In your attemp to make yourself seem more morally correct than other Christian reviewers who can actually judge the film on its themes and execution, by declaring it unwatchable, you make yourself out as an arrogant do-nothing that takes things at face value the moment they enconter something unfamiliar.

    Nobody likes being talked down or preached at for a incoming event, especially when the idiot preaching has no knowledge about it. If you are going to denounce any film, at least watch it so you can be an actual critic.

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    1. LOL, cool, "arrogant do-nothing" has just become one of my favorite all-time insults!

      The bible says not to allow any other gods or idols compete for attention with God. He is God and there is no other. Any film that pushes satan's agenda that God is the same God of Islam and Hinduism is satanic in origin. I do not need to watch it to know that it isn't something Christians should be paying for. Do I need to actually ingest poison to reassure myself that it is "actual" poison? Of course not. Same with this movie. I DENOUNCE it and I say so with all confidence.

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    2. I feel sad for you Elizabeth Prata. I've been a Christian since I was 5 years old, but loved this movie. The movie discusses religion and faith in a very mature way. All of them are represented equally and we are shown it through the eyes of a confused teenager. Who among us hasn't been in his position? He talks about how doubt is a healthy thing and how faith impacts you.

      You should be happy Christianity is mentioned at all. If you keep this up, major movies won't ever mention Jesus. Or is that what you what? Also, is there any modern movie you like? Do you like The Lion King? It has killing, and God said not to kill, so I'm guessing you think Christians should avoid it x)

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    3. Jesus is not a crumb to be licked up by Christians who are happy "he is mentioned at all." Jesus doesn't share the stage with any false God, ever. Faith in the One True God is not a second best, also ran or a leftover. He is THE HOLY GOD if ISRAEL and any discussion that pretends to exalt Jesus but fails to proclaim that fact is evil!

      I would rather watch Friday the Thirteenth than a movie like Pi, because the Friday 13th movies are what they are. Pi is poison, because it is seducing unwitting, naive people into thinking it is a "mature discussion" when it is just a poison apple with a rotten core.

      I think too much of my Jesus to accept second best. You should feel that way too.

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  10. I'm puzzled at the nature of your faith, which requires anyone who disagrees with you not only to be wrong, but also possibly from SATAN!!!!

    My own view, a Hindu view, is that my mother is obviously the best in the world, and when you say your mother is the best in the world, that too, is true. All things begin with Ishwara (God) and all things end with Ishwara (God), there is no such thing as "a movie from Satan".



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    1. Truth is not relative. Both our mothers cannot be "the best." There is only one best. That is why it is called the best. Best is a superlative of good. It means excellent above all others. ALL. Others.

      There is God and there are all others, and they are false. There is only one best, and that is God. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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  11. I have read through this and agree with 99% of what you are saying. I see this as a coming of the end times. Those who "will call evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20), and Matthew 7:15 when we are told to beware of false prophets. I believe that this movie has serious potential to lead Christians astray. However, these things must come to pass before Christ will come in all His glory. The 1% I'm not sure how to take is you refer to Catholic "false gods". I do not understand. I'm Catholic and believe what you believe; I know Christ is the only way to the One True God and that he died for our sins. I consider us brothers and sisters in Christ. Catholocism is the oldest of the Christian religions and has been the most unchanging of all of them. That does not put us above any other Christian religion, because the core beliefs are the same, and it does not put any other Christian religion above us. Please understand, I do not trust in the Roman hierarchy as they are human, I trust in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, just as you do. Why do you equate your Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ with the likes of Islam and Hindu? I know of no other "false god" we worship. Do you say this because we pray to saints? Those are intercessory prayers. We pray to them that they pray for us, not like they have some mystical power God bestows upon them that He will not give blessings to his followers without a prayer to that saint! Or are you referring to the "Hail Mary" prayer? The first half of that prayer is biblical (Luke 1:28) and is what the angel Gabriel said to Mary from his own lips when he appeared to her! The other half is merely an intercessory prayer again. We do not worship them, we worship God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit...they were simply very honorable human beings, and their abilities were gifts from God. I don't understand how I can read everything that you posted and agree with it all and then be shocked by your saying something so hurtful, equating what we believe is concocted by Satan. I honestly thought it was a typo until I saw it again, and again. Please explain yourself...I think you have some serious misinterpretations of what your Catholic brethren believe...you also are not above sin, and I don't think God wants you to strike great divides with those who will one day share His kingdom with you.

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    1. Catholicism is a false religion. It is false. Every pope who ever lived I can say with fair assurance is in hell right now. Mother Teresa is in hell. Any person who believes the Catholic Church doctrines is not saved from Jesus's wrath and when they die they go to hell.

      I am being deliberately blunt because I want to get through to you. You do NOT believe what I believe. You will NOT share the kingdom with me. You and I are divided and you are on the wrong side of that divide. Here is why--

      --RCC does not believe scripture alone is sufficient
      --The pope is not the vicar of Christ
      --Priests cannot absolve sin
      --you regularly violate the second commandment not to make an image and bow to it
      --you do not believe in grace alone but in works
      --you do not believe in the hell that Jesus preached but have added purgatory and limbo. These are not biblical
      --Mary was not sinless and she was not taken to heaven bodily and she is not the Queen of Heaven and she is not a mediator between us and Jesus
      --you believe in regeneration at baptism, even in babies
      --you have added to scripture with non-canonical books which were not inspired by Holy Spirit
      --you have an incorrect view of transubstantiation

      there are many more incorrect RCC doctrines but you get the idea. Please pray to the one True God and ask Him to send His Spirit to lead you to repentance and faith in Jesus, and for wisdom for when you read the scriptures (the ESV or NAS, not RCC version). He will justify you if you repent, because He is risen! He is NOT still hanging on the cross. He will deliver grace to you.

      Please do this now, there isn't a lot of time left.

      FMI-
      http://carm.org/roman-catholicism
      http://www.gotquestions.org/difference-Catholic-Protestant.html

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    2. Not sure if your blog is having issues, but I already posted a response to your reply a couple days ago, and it told me it would show up "once it is approved". Not sure what that means, or if it is you who approves it, but please allow my comment to show up in it's entirety. If I need to re-submit it, I will. Thank you.

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    3. The blog is not having issues. I did not allow it to pass moderation. I make determinations as to each comment's value to a thread. If it offers no new information, if the person seems to have missed the point (whether deliberately or naively), if the comment is bellicose, if there is profanity or blasphemy in it, or if the comment simply does not gracefully push the conversation forward, among other reasons, then I delete it. I disallow tit for tat, arguments, or any other conversations that I deem pointless, then the comment doesn't see the light of day. People become weary at reading back-and-forth conversations that go nowhere. I prefer the 1 comment, 1 reply kind of thread, unless it has biblical value (ie, lots of scriptures and graceful interpretations or are used a foundation for making the point).

      I offered two links that had a lot of scripture, which supported my case. your reply came quickly, didn't mention the links or any scriptures, or even the facts I presented. This told me you're entrenched and don't want the truth or even have an open mind. End of conversation.

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  12. You are missing the point. The movie is about Pi going on a spiritual journey about religion. He's confused, which frankly happens to a lot of teenagers out of there. Heck, it happens with a lot of grown ups. You need to see this movie before reviewing it like this.

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    1. His journey about religion ended him where he started: confused and unsaved, destined for hell. Some journey.

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