Saturday, July 29, 2017
Jesus is famous. Jesus is loved. Jesus receives a lot of attention.
Sometimes internet posters ride piggyback on Jesus' fame and love and attention.
Joe Internet wants to say something that will receive a lot of attention.
If Joe Internet says, "I support Obamacare," who will care?
Joe Internet could say, "Jesus supports Obamacare," and suddenly he gets five hundred replies to his post.
Joe is riding piggyback on Jesus. He's using Jesus' high profile to enhance his own.
I don't begrudge Joe's need for attention. I want attention, too.
Often people who don't like Christ, Christians, or Christianity ride piggyback on Jesus. They attempt to tear Christianity down by attributing false quotes to Jesus. They insist that Jesus said things he never said, and did things he never did.
I ran across such a post the other day. It was followed by many other posts by people who don't like Christ, Christians, or Christianity insisting that they know everything there is to know about Jesus.
We've all heard the claims: Jesus married Mary Magdalene and they had ten kids and their descendants are living in France today. Except that Jesus never actually existed. (That a man who never actually existed managed to have ten kids whose descendants are living in France today is in itself pretty miraculous.)
Jesus never wanted to form a religion. Jesus would hate modern Christians. There's a secret Gospel, known only to the elite, that, if word got out, would smash Christianity to smithereens. Jesus this Jesus that.
Again, if you say, "I think that ... " maybe your mother will listen.
If you say, "Jesus thought that ... " suddenly you get a lot of attention.
It's riding piggyback on Jesus to raise your own height.
Funny thing. One of the folks in this internet discussion admires the late rock star, David Bowie.
I said, "David Bowie once advised his fans to snort coke till their septums melted." This Bowie fan, who was embracing misquoting Jesus, was *very offended* at my misquoting of David Bowie. And she never saw the relationship between the two.
Misquoting Jesus is okay. Misquoting David Bowie? A crime against humanity.
Beware of folks riding piggyback on Jesus. If you want to know what Jesus said, read the Bible. He's there. Waiting for you.
Thursday, July 27, 2017
|Polish girl by Jozef Chelmonski|
I listened to the show yesterday. Judge Black quotes me in the very final minute of the broadcast. He has a great voice and when he quotes me it's very nice to hear my words in his great voice.
He identifies the author of the quote as "Danielle Goshuck." I don't think Judge Black will probably ever read this, but I have to say: Danusha Goska. It's a Polish name.
And thank you for mentioning my work, "Political Paralysis," and quoting from it.
You can hear the podcast here. Judge Black mentions "Political Paralysis" in the very final minute of the broadcast.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
After you turn the final page of Douglas Murray's 2017 The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, you may find yourself staring off into the distance, sipping absent-mindedly at your absinthe, planning your escape to New Zealand or better yet, Mars. You may enter a monastery or a gun store. You may immediately plan to have twelve children, or you may get sterilized.
The basic facts are few: after the mass slaughter of World Wars I and II, Europe faced a labor shortage. Europe voted in socialists, and promised cradle-to-grave benefits. To solve both problems, Europe imported large numbers of often Muslim laborers.
Again, the World Wars' horrors, documented in excruciating detail, followed by the collapse of European imperialism, caused many elites to feel ashamed of their own identity, and to promote cultural relativism and multiculturalism. Europe abandoned its Judeo-Christian roots and the concept of the nation-state. Europe's most theatrically "moral" and "enlightened" elites promoted "diversity," open borders and a denigration of European culture as the height of virtue.
At the same time, non-European cultures were assessed as superior. These trends reached their climax in recent years, when massive numbers of mostly young, male, Muslim migrants made their way toward Europe in rickety boats and fragile rafts, and Europe, led by Angela Merkel, announced, "Come on in. Our social safety net will hand you cash, food, housing, and healthcare. Our multiculturalism will elevate you above any critique."
Among the migrants were some who indeed assessed their own culture not only as superior to European culture, but as the culture that should, through violence and terror, dominate the world. The inescapable boogeyman of this tale is simple mathematics. Muslims have more children; Europeans have fewer. "By the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive, Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home," as Murray puts it.
Other books have covered similar territory: Oriana Fallaci's 2002 The Rage and the Pride, Bat Yeor's 2005 Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis, Bruce Bawer's 2006 While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within, Melanie Philips' 2006 Londonistan: How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within, Claire Berlinski's 2007 Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too, and Mark Steyn's 2008 America Alone: The End Of The World As We Know It.
Even if you have read one of the previous books, you will want to read Murray's. Murray addresses what has often been referred to as "the migrant crisis," dated from 2015, and he covers events as recent as December, 2016. Murray brings his own late-night, brooding, depth. This is a book that dares to relate life's big questions to current headlines.
The Strange Death of Europe's 320 densely-packed pages open with four irrefutable words: "Europe is committing suicide." There are ample shocks to be had when reading this book. Here is one: Murray tells the truth. Truth has been so demonized that we are used to speakers avoiding truth, the way a wagon train might avoid quicksand. I found myself, more than once, turning to the copyright page to confirm that this was not a self-published book.
Let's with a few bullet points that will stay with me for a long time.
· In December, 2014, Africans took a smugglers' boat from Morocco to Spain. A Christian prayed. The captain and crew systematically identified, beat, and threw overboard all Christian passengers. This is not an isolated incident. Christian passengers on other boats have been drowned. Not just Christophobia but also racism dominates on the boats. Economically better off Tunisians and Syrians look down on, and outrank, darker skinned and poorer sub-Saharan Africans. Middle Eastern Muslims occupy the best seats on the boat and are most likely to survive any accidents.
· On September 27, 2016, a 27-year-old Pakistani migrant in Germany was arrested while publicly raping an Iraqi girl. The girl's father approached with a knife. The police shot him dead, presumably right in front of the little migrant who had just been raped. She was now orphaned, as well as being a six-year-old, stateless rape survivor. She is not alone. Women are regularly raped and pimped by their fellow migrants, who are majority young men.
· The November, 2015 terror attacks in Paris killed or injured over five hundred people. Seven of the nine terrorists had posed as Syrian refugees.
· An eleven-year-old British girl's buttocks was branded with hot metal with the letter "M" for "Mohammed." The Mohammed in question "owned" her, beat, raped, and tortured her, and pimped her to numerous other sexual sadists, all Muslims. When victims like her – there are uncounted thousands – sought justice in England, they were accused of being "racists." When MP Ann Cryer took up rape of underage English girls by Muslim men, she was accused of being an "Islamophobe." She required police protection. A Muslim man spoke up; he received death threats from his fellow Muslims. English authorities hushed up, and enabled similar grooming gangs for "more than a decade."
· In 2004, in Marseille, France, Ghofrane Haddaoui, a 23-year-old Muslima, was stoned to death for rejecting a Muslim man's advances. This is not an isolated incident. "UK police admitted that they had failed to investigate scores of suspicious deaths of young Muslim women because they had thought these potential honor killings were community matters."
These events begin to strip the veneer off "multiculturalism" and Europe's approach to the "migrant crisis" as a warm and cozy humanitarian triumph.
And here's one more anecdote. Visiting a migrant camp, Murray met a 31-year-old husband and father. Back home in Afghanistan, this man had been a school administrator. The Taliban ordered him to help them poison the water supply for hundreds of schoolchildren. Poisoning Muslim schoolchildren would advance their goal of eliminating education, which they see as un-Islamic. To urge him to comply with their plan, they tortured the man in unspeakable ways, including repeatedly raping him while telling him, "You have no god; we are your god; you must do whatever we say." "If anyone tries to send me back to Afghanistan," this migrant promised Murray, "I will kill myself."
Murray makes clear: he understands that many migrants are escaping hellish lives. But Murray has the courage to ask whether it is Europe's duty – or even within Europe's ability – to take in every person on earth living a hellish life. The Afghan made most of his trip overland. He could have stopped in any number of relatively peaceful and comfortable Muslim countries he passed through on the way. He didn't. He, like the other migrants, insists on Europe, and, indeed, Western Europe.
Research has shown that refugees do best when they are taken in by countries and cultures closer to their own. There are over fifty Muslim-majority countries in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Central and East Asia. Most are at peace and many are very wealthy. Migrants walk through these countries to get to Europe. Why? Aylan Kurdi, whose death photo was exploited as a passport for uncountable refuges, was not escaping war; his employed father, living as an Iraqi refugee in peacetime Turkey, wanted the better welfare benefits to be had in Europe.
Murray points out that the ummah, or international community of Muslims, has not responded to the "migrant crisis" with much urgency, generosity, or compassion. Fahad al-Shalami, a Kuwaiti official, explained that his country is unsuitable for migrants because it is expensive and suitable for workers, not migrants. Further, al-Shalami unabashedly stated, migrants posed a threat to his nation. "You cannot accept people who come from a different atmosphere, from a different place. These are people who suffer from psychological problems, from trauma." Saudi Arabia has 100,000 empty air conditioned tents it refuses to a single migrant. But Saudi Arabia offered to build 200 mosques in Germany to accommodate new migrant arrivals.
Murray, using facts and figures, shoots down the claim that current immigration policy benefits Europe economically. He argues that that policy is in fact a drain on national wealth, as significant numbers of current immigrants are more likely to take more out of the government coffers than they put in. He also argues that housing, schools and other social services are suffering. Greens and other leftists who had previously argued for the benefits of zero population growth are suddenly arguing for the benefits of huge and sudden increases in population. In short, Islamophiles are willing to say anything as long as it serves their agenda. In any case, "immigrants get old as well," Murray observes, in response to the argument that Europe is "graying" and needs fresh blood. Expecting immigration to keep up welfare benefits for an aging population is "a pyramid scheme." Regarding the alleged cultural benefits of current immigration policies, Murray remarks, "If there is a bit more beheading and sexual assault than there used to be in Europe, then at lest we also benefit from a much wider range of cuisines."
In contrast to the Muslim world, Western Europe is dominated by elites who are, in a word, suicidal. Open borders is "a deliberate policy of societal transformation: a culture war waged against the British people using immigrants as a battering ram." Multiculturalism is a lie. "Amid the endless celebrations of diversity, the greatest irony remains that the one thing people cannot bring themselves to celebrate is the culture that encouraged such diversity in the first place." Murray quotes Samuel Huntington, "Multiculturalism is in its essence anti-European civilization. It is basically an anti-Western ideology." Rather, multiculturalism is "self-annihilating."
Murray quotes opinion-leaders who insist that European cultures have no identity, or at least no identity worth saving. A Swedish Minister of Integration told new arrivals that Swedes envy them because they have a culture, whereas Sweden has no culture worthy of mention. If one challenges this, the response is that white, Christian Europeans are the most evil people in history, who have done nothing but invade, colonize, and enslave. In 2006, the Swedish Prime Minster, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said, "Only barbarism is genuinely Swedish. All further development has been brought from the outside." "Destruction is exactly what our societies deserve," Murray writes, paraphrasing the pro-migrant mindset. Europe "must be uniquely punished for the deeds of history."
Masochism is the hip European's most potent drug. Murray cites Norwegian politician Karsten Nordal Hauken who was raped by a male Somali migrant. Hauken expressed his own "guilt." "I had a strong feeling of guilt … I was the reason that he would …be sent to a dark and uncertain future in Somalia."
In 2015 a "No Borders" activist was gang-raped. Her comrades urged her not to report the rape. At first, she did not. When she finally did, her comrades accused her of "spite."
In January, 2016, a 24-year-old woman was raped by three migrants in Mannheim. She published an open letter to her attackers. She wrote, "I am so incredibly sorry … you aren't safe here, because we live in a sexist society … you are beset by increasing and more aggressive racism … I will not allow it … I will not stand idly by and watch as racists call you a problem. You are not the problem. You are not a problem at all."
A German intellectual told Murray that "the German people were anti-Semitic and prejudiced and deserved to be replaced." "Only modern Europeans," Murray writes "are happy to be self-loathing in an international marketplace of sadists."
Islam, on the other hand, must be celebrated as a font of all good things, as in the 1001 Islamic Inventions exhibit in the London Science Museum. When medieval scholar Sylvain Gouguenheim published an essay arguing that the texts from Ancient Greece said to have been saved by Muslims were in fact preserved by Syriac Christians, Gouguenheim was condemned for "Islamophobia." Scholars publishing on questions so simple as the origins of the Koran must publish under pseudonyms and live in hiding. Western Europeans, no less than terrorists, adhere to this speech and thought suppression. "The one thing our societies really do hold sacred and impervious to ridicule or criticism are the claims and teachings of Mohammed."
To facilitate their war on the West, pro-migrant activists hammer away at mind-numbingly repetitious Nazi analogies. It is 1939, and Muslim migrants are just like Jews in Nazi Germany, and open borders activists are just like the saviors of Anne Frank. This scenario is not just false, it is fantastical, self-flattering and tantamount to Holocaust denial.
Murray asks why Eastern Europe is so different. I can only hope he might read my own 2015 article, "Western European v Eastern European Responses to Mass, Unvetted, Muslim Migration."
Groups paying the highest price for Europe's approach to "multiculturalism" include, of course, women, homosexuals, and Jews. One Parisian said in 2015, after the November attacks of that year, "Before, it was just the Jews, the writers, or the cartoonists." Tommy Robinson, not a member of the elite, was rendered a non-person by the UK for his resistance. Murray comments on the double standard here. "It is infinitely easier to criticize generally white-skinned people, especially if they are working class, than it is to criticize generally darker-skinned people whatever their background." "In 2003 a report into anti-Semitism by the European Monitoring Center was quietly shelved when it found that the upsurge in anti-Semitic activity in Europe was caused by a rise in attacks on Jews by young Muslims." In Paris in 2006 Jew Ilan Halimi was tortured for three weeks, and killed, at the hands of Muslims. On Bastille Day in 2014, "worshipers at a synagogue in Paris were barricaded inside by immigrant protesters chanting, 'Death to the Jews.'"
Murray, like many other commentators on the "migrant crisis" doesn't dwell on the fact that the crisis is a crisis for the sending countries, as well as the receiving ones. The migrants are not those most likely to suffer in war. They are not the poorest of the poor, the elderly, women, and children. The migrants are overwhelmingly healthy, young men with enough cash to pay considerable smugglers' fees and enough sophistication to navigate any obstacles using iPhones and instructions sent to them by "open borders" activists. As young, healthy, resourceful men who are able to achieve their goals, they are, in short, the raw material for an army. They could be in their home countries fighting to defeat ISIS. They could be working to build a better future for their wives and children.
What happens to a poor, unstable country when its most energetic population rises up, en masse, and leaves for Europe? At least one scholarly study, focused on Pakistan, argues that male migration has profound negative impacts. Ambitious young men are a unique resource, and they should be using their drive to improve their homelands, not to outwit border patrols and the disbursers of welfare checks, not to compete to prove that they are more pathetic and more worthy of Europeans' pity than the next "refugee," not to join with other migrants in mass sexual assaults on the women, girls and boys of naïve hosts offering them refuge.
Murray repeatedly cites opinion polls that show that a majority of Europeans don't want mass Muslim immigration into their countries. He mentions Enoch Powell, a conservative politician who gave a 1968 speech, later known as the "Rivers of Blood" speech, that voiced many of the concerns that Murray outlines in his book. Powell was removed from the political scene. And yet, Murray says, about 75% of the public agreed with him. Ray Honeyford, a headmaster, wrote a 1984 article critical of the effect of multiculturalism on education. Honeyford's carrier was ruined.
Given these overwhelming pressures, one must ask: what made early counter-jihadis so much more insightful and courageous than their peers? The answer, I think, is comparable to the characteristics that typify Holocaust rescuers. Rescuers, according to scholar Nechama Tec, are independent outsiders with universalistic values that transcend race and ethnicity. Just so with counter-jihadis. Not a few counter-jihadis were and are gay: Pim Fortuyn, Bruce Bawer, Tommy English, and Murray himself.
Murray remarks, "If a concern is felt by a majority of the public for many years and nothing is done to address it, then trouble and resentment are certainly stored up. If the response is not just to ignore the concern but to argue that it is actually impossible to do anything about it, then radical alternatives being to brew … at worst they will surface on the streets."
Murray does not address one possibility that seems all too plausible: war. Ayaan Hirsi Ali warned of war in June, 2017. Political scientist and Arabist Professor Gilles Kepel discussed the possibility in September, 2016, as did Daniel Pipes in 2007. Tommy Robinson, in a June, 2017 interview, expressed the despair he feels "as a father of three." "There's no light at the end of the tunnel … When people get desperate – it's like they're forcing people down that path" to war.
In a chapter entitled "Tiredness," Murray says that maybe Europe is dying, as per Oswald Spengler in Decline of the West. Murray recognizes that the West is founded on "Judeo-Christian culture, the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and the discoveries of the Enlightenment."
"For centuries in Europe one of the great – if not the greatest – sources of energy came from the spirit of the continent's religion … it drove Europe to the greatest heights of human creativity." Murray says that a couple of forces destroyed Christianity. One was nineteenth-century German biblical criticism, that desacralized previously sacred texts. The other was Darwin.
In place of Christianity, no substitute has arisen except for nihilism and hedonism. "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," Murray quotes an atheist bus campaign slogan.
Scholarship cannot fill in the gap left by retreating Christianity. There's a lapidary set piece in the book where Murray skewers an academic conference. "A group of academics and others had gathered to discuss the history of Europe's relations with the Middle East. It soon became clear that nothing would be learned because nothing could be said … the aim of this game – for game it was – was to maintain the pretense of academic inquiry while making fruitful discussion impossible."
Art, too, cannot replace religion. It is contemptuous of its audiences. It has journeyed from creating works that cause the viewer to say, "I wish I could do that," to works that cause the viewer to say, "Even a child could do that." "The art of our time seems to have given up any effort to kindle something else in us."
Nature abhors a vacuum. People have always asked, and will always ask, "What am I doing here?" Western Europeans no longer have answers to such questions. Islam is sure of itself. Islamists and their Islamophile allies guarantee that Islam is above reproach. Young Europeans seeking meaning will convert to Islam.
In spite of all this, Murray recognizes that, as atheist author Don Culpitt wrote in 2008, "Nobody in the West can be wholly non-Christian. You may call youself non-Christian, but the dreams you dream are still Christian dreams … the modern, secular world is itself a Christian creation." Murray writes, "The culture of human rights, for instance, owes more to the creed preached by Jesus of Nazareth than it does, say, to that of Mohammed … Europe is a collection of towns and villages. Leave a village and you will eventually stumble upon another. And in any low-built area the first thing you will see is the church, placed at the heart of the community. Today, where these hearts of the community are not wholly dead and converted into housing they are dying … I cannot help feeling that much of the future of Europe will be decided on what our attitude is towards the church buildings and other great cultural buildings of our heritage standing in our midst … A society that says we are defined exclusively by the bar and the nightclub, by self-indulgence and our sense of entitlement, cannot be said to have deep roots or much likelihood of survival. But a society which holds that our culture consists of the cathedral, the playhouse and the playing field, the shopping mall and Shakespeare, has a chance."
Murray, who had previously self-identified as a practicing Anglican, but now identifies as an atheist, insists that any real return to Christianity is impossible. One gets the sense that Murray believes that only the Amish and pockets of Hasids still take the Bible seriously. Murray sounds so genuinely sad in these passages, so deeply elegiac, that I wished I could hand him a copy of my own book, Save Send Delete, in which I argue for Biblical faith as a reasonable choice for a modern, educated, thinking person. I can only hope that he might stumble across this review and email me. I will send him a free copy.
Murray's book, as well as all discourse on Europe's overwhelming and rapid Islamization, could benefit from mention of the scholarship of Robert Putnam. Marxist social engineers act on the belief that existence precedes essence – there is no such thing as an essential human being. Human beings can be manipulated to be whatever those in power want them to be. If the elite decides that rapid Islamization is a good idea, people can be made to accept that through proper training from their betters.
Such training kicks in immediately after every terror attack. We know exactly that Sadiq Khan is going to say that the latest attack "Has nothing to do with Islam. We cherish our diversity. We are going to go about our daily lives." Those statements, repeated robotically ad nauseum, masquerade as avuncular reassurances. In fact, they are more sinister. They are 1984-style dictatorial scripts, brainwashing the masses and red-lining the limits of acceptable speech. This is what we are required to say. We may not ask, "What can we do differently to avoid such terror attacks?" We may not ask, "Isn't it time we refuted the teachings that inspired the murderers?" or, "Who is minding the border?"
Social engineers are wrong. There are essential aspects to a human being. Normal people inescapably do better when they have a sense of community and heritage. When the support of community and heritage is ripped from them, they react negatively. As John Leo wrote in 2007, summing up Robert Putnam's then-recent research, "immigration and ethnic diversity have a devastating short- and medium-term influence on the social capital, fabric of associations, trust, and neighborliness that create and sustain communities."
Indeed, if the very anti-Western, pro-Islamization forces were to learn that, say, Mali, a majority Muslim country in Africa, were to become, through immigration, majority atheist Chinese in this century, those very activists would be on fire with concern for "indigenous" Malians. Funny how being an "indigenous" person is highly valued by anti-Western forces when one is talking about a country like Mali, and that very status becomes an insult when one is talking about white Europeans.
Murray's book reminds us of an important fact. Believe it or not, right-wing counter-jihadis and Islamophiles like NPR, The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ludicrously self-identified "anti-fa" or "anti-fascists" all have something significant in common. Both claim that counter-jihad is an exclusively right-wing phenomenon. Left-wingers want to discredit and marginalize counter-jihad by labeling it "hard right." Right-wing counter-jihadis want to monopolize credit.
Murray reminds us that the early counter-jihadis in Europe were not right-wingers at all. As a child, Oriana Fallaci had engaged in real anti-fascist activity in Nazi-occupied Italy. Retired sex bomb, animal rights activist, and vegetarian Brigitte Bardot is no right-winger. Pim Fortuyn, Theo Van Gogh, Bruce Bawer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the staff of Charlie Hebdo, Tommy English, leader of Gays Against Shariah UK: none of these are right-wingers. In this country, neither are Sam Harris, Bill Maher, and Eric Allen Bell. On the other hand, Republican President George Bush went to the Islamic Center of Washington, DC, six days after 9/11, to say, in the company of CAIR's Nihad Awad, that "Islam is Peace." I had a schizophrenic experience with a Catholic priest. When it comes to abortion, women or married priests, he is an arch-conservative. When I tried to talk to him about jihad, that same arch-conservative priest suddenly sounded like an "open borders" advocate. You can read our exchange here.
Opposing FGM, child marriage, and the murder of people with whom you disagree are not inherently right-wing stances. In a 2009 Gallup Poll, zero percent of surveyed Muslims thought homosexuality morally acceptable. Opposing the murder of homosexuals is not an exclusively "'right-wing" position. Counter-jihad is too important to risk alienating any potential allies by labeling counter-jihad as a purely "right-wing" concern. Counter-jihad is a universal, human concern.
You can read this piece at FrontPageMagazine here
You can read this piece at FrontPageMagazine here
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
"The Book of Henry" has the potential to become a cult classic. There's a subset of people for whom the shambolic plot of this film will scratch their itch. Underneath all the autumn leaf clutter and heartwarming kitchen scenes, there's an unfortunate message about girls and about sexual assault victims.
Warning: this review will reveal the ending of "The Book of Henry."
TBOH starts out in one of those idyllic towns you only see in middlebrow American films. No one has a regional accent. There are wooded hillsides all around, and scenic waterfalls, and quilts on couches. You can tell that characters are meant to be coded "poor" or "working class" because they are wearing Goodwill clothing, but they manage to live in big Victorians on lots of wooded property. If this were a real town in contemporary America, I'm afraid it would be one of those places with a high opiate abuse rate.
Susan (Naomi Watts) is a single mom of two adorable boys, Henry and Peter. Susan is a waitress, she drinks too much, and she is addicted to video games. Susan's best friend Sheila (Sarah Silverman) is a sharp-tongued lush with a heart of gold and cleavage so low we can see her heart beating.
Henry is a genius and has the personality, not just of a mature man, but actually of a saint or a Bodhisattva or Cary Grant, the angel character in "The Bishop's Wife." Henry spends his time hanging out in a treehouse designed by Norman Rockwell on acid, creating Rube Goldberg machines, and amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars – and he talks to his broker on a pay phone. Where are there still pay phones? Wouldn't a boy genius have a cell phone?
At first you think, okay, this is going to be like a Steven Spielberg boy's true adventure film. An "ET" crossed with a tad of homebound Thelma and Louise. But no.
Henry looks out his window and concludes, from what he sees, that the next-door neighbor, Glenn, is sexually molesting his step-daughter, Christina. Uh, oh. This has just turned into an educational film about the horrors of child abuse and incest. Or maybe a Eugene O'Neill style family horror story. Well, there's a fleeting few seconds of that, but then Henry is hiding in a gun store, learning how to buy illegal weapons. Okay, this is quite the roller coaster ride. You don't even have time to make sure you have fastened the safety latch when Henry suddenly develops a bad headache and worse vision.
Henry goes into seizures. It's a disease of the week movie! No, wait! A handsome surgeon steps in to operate, and to make eyes at Naomi Watts who, yes, is still in the movie. Is this going to be a romance film? Where does this train stop?
Henry dies. Just like that. The titular character is dead, halfway into this PG family story / unsuitable for children incest story / true crime story. His death is so quick and so subtle I didn't realize he was dead until Susan is shown mourning by obsessively baking brownies while wearing a chocolate-stained apron.
This is where the "Book of Henry" of the title comes in. Note that "Book of Henry" sounds like a Biblical book. That's because Henry is now dead and doing good deeds from the afterlife. Susan discovers that Henry left a notebook with a detailed plan for her to murder her next-door neighbor, Glenn. So now we are back to this being a Hitchcockian story. But it never goes there. It never does what suspense or true crime or horror films do. It continues to play as if it were a wholesome, small town Americana comedy. The sight of Naomi Watts going from chocolate-stained apron to staring down the sights of an illegal automatic weapon with a silencer in a PG movie chilled my blood.
Susan comes within seconds of following her dead son's macabre / wholesome plan to its final, murderous / humanitarian end, but then she can't bring herself to pull – or as Henry would have it – squeeze the trigger. She merely informs Glenn that she is on his tail, and Glenn kills himself.
Susan then adopts Christina and puts Christina in the same bedroom that Henry had previously occupied – with her other son, Peter. No doubt there will be a sequel on how one of these two needs to be killed for a subsequent incest flare-up.
And the whole thing is meant to be heartwarming and kind of funny.
It's hard to talk about this train wreck of a film in any serious way, but. Christina, the incest victim, says almost nothing in the movie. She is silent. The obvious thing for Susan to do, even before buying a high-powered rifle, would be to get Christina alone, away from her stepfather, with an authority figure and encourage her to tell her own story. In this Hollywood movie, a dead boy is the master puppeteer for his adult mother, who is merely a marionette, and that dead boy is more verbal than a live girl. And that's a disgusting and dangerous message.