Preaching Connection: Self-Deception

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Movies for Preaching

The Apostle (1997)

Written by Robert Duvall. 134 minutes. PG-13. Starring Robert Duvall, Farrah Fawcett, June Carter Cash, and Billy Bob Thornton. Forty years a preacher, an apostle full of brimstone and sweet Jesus, and Euliss “Sonny” Dewey still doesn’t get it, specifically the nature of the “Holy Ghost power” he has relished and exalted his whole long…

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Reading for Preaching

A Pretty Good Person

“Nobody ever says, ‘I think I will lie to myself today.’  This is the double treachery of self-deception: First we deceive ourselves, and then we convince ourselves that we are not deceiving ourselves.”
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The Life of Samuel Johnson

Johnson quoted Alexander Pope to a man named Beauclerk: “Thy love of folly, and thy scorn of fools—everything thou dost shows the one, and everything thou sayest the other.”
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A Flash of Green

“Most people who do questionable things are as unremarkable as the people who don’t. Most people who find themselves thrown into jail for good reason are vastly astonished to find themselves there, because they look and feel like anyone else. It is all some kind of mistake.”
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An Innocent Millionaire

John and Shirley Vallentine are plotting to steal Mark’s treasure. Shirley argues herself into the idea that Mark doesn’t really need this treasure: “It isn’t as if he needed emeralds for food and sheets, … He’s young and healthy, he can work. He’s quite good-looking too—I’m sure there are girls who would be glad to...
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A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

John Paul Vann was killed in a helicopter crash. The copter was being flown by a twenty-six-year-old aviator who was capable and daring but maybe lacked good judgment. “The aviator may have suddenly found himself in a patch of blinding weather and instead of instantly switching to his instruments for guidance, attempted to continue to...
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Vital Lies: Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception

Attorney John Dean’s memory of Watergate-related conversations was remarkably long and detailed. It was also remarkably inaccurate in reporting specifics. Mostly Dean’s account, compared with the tapes, shows “wishful memory,” skewing specifics to make himself look more important. “Dean’s testimony really describes not the meeting itself but his fantasy of it: the meeting as it...
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Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay

Aristotle, distinguishes (Midgley’s words) “people of weak will, who do wrong against their real wishes , and vicious people, who do wrong contentedly and with conviction.” Interestingly, weak people usually know and accept the description of themselves as morally weak. “With vice, this is not usually so. Contentedly vicious people do not as a rule...
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Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945

WWI’s defeated Germany, humiliated by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, made ex-corporal Adolf Hitler its Chancellor in 1933. Most of Germany was reeling from the horrors of WWI and her defeat and what happened at Versailles. Hitler was a rare breed: he wanted more war: only by war could he restore Germany’s rightful...
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The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank generously accommodates the newcomer Dr. Dussel (he’s a middle-aged dentist) in her room in the Annex, but he proves to be patronizing and imperialistic. He takes over the little table in their room so that Anne can’t get at it to work and write. She asks him politely whether she may have 2/3...
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“Sport: Pool Sharks”

A pool shark needs a good night’s sleep. He depends on his eyes. Never call a good pool shark before noon. “We feel ambiguous about the pool shark. We praise his skills and condemn his dishonesty.” He is duplicitous–and yet, because he preys on hubris, a weakness we abhor, we tolerate him. Everything about the...
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