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How Shazam! gets the 7 deadly sins right

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Few people make a comic book movie their first stop in a journey of theological inquiry. And that’s just fine — it’s not what comics are for.

But DC’s Shazam!, now on the big screen, might be the shining exception that proves the rule.

There is a fairly standard-issue supervillain in the new Shazam! movie, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). But a more ancient evil lurks throughout the film that Billy Batson/Shazam must battle. The menace, which predates comic books, comes from ancient Christian tradition: a group of fundamental vices that afflict the heart, called the seven deadly sins.

I’ll be honest: As someone who’s not too well versed in comics, I was at first a little surprised by this, and then kind of delighted. The seven deadly sins themselves aren’t delightful, obviously. But the choice to have Billy Batson/Shazam battle the oldest deadly enemies of humankind (in fact, that’s what they were called in some early editions of the comics) seemed both super goofy and oddly high-stakes, all at once.

What might be more interesting, though, is the way Shazam! treats those sins. Certainly the group of vices — pride, envy, greed, anger, sloth, gluttony, and lust — have popped up in literature and popular culture before, from Dante’s Divine Comedy to David Fincher’s 1995 film Seven.

But while some storytellers can’t resist the handy grouping of sins, the stories don’t always get them right. Seven, for instance, “gets all of the sins wrong except for envy and wrath,” as Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung told me. DeYoung is a professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Michigan and a leading expert on the seven deadly sins. Fincher’s movie — in which a mysterious serial killer seems to be enacting the seven deadly sins — gets envy and wrath “dead on,” she said, but the rest of the movie makes a typical mistake: It thinks of the sins as “behavioral, not about internal disposition but external, outward errors.”

What she’s talking about turns out to be a key distinction between the way the idea of the sins developed in ancient and medieval Christianity and how they morphed during modernity. And, strangely enough, by this measure, Shazam! might just get it right.

The seven deadly sins were born in the temptations of the wilderness

So where did the list of seven “deadly” sins come from? Not the Bible, as it turns out — or at least, not explicitly. Though there are lists of sins in the Bible (like the 10 Commandments, or the list of seven “detestable” sins in the Book of Proverbs, for starters), the codified, bullet-point list of seven deadly sins came a little later.

In the third and fourth centuries, Christian monks would leave their cities and go into the wilderness to live alone. “The idea is that, just as Christ went into the wilderness to fight temptation early in his ministry, in following the way of Christ, you follow him into the desert,” DeYoung says. Being alone in the desert isn’t easy (and often fasting and intense periods of prayer were involved), but it would result in a “purgative” stage in the monk’s Christian journey.

“The idea is to achieve what [early Christian theologian] John Cassian calls ‘purity of heart,’” DeYoung says, so it’s probably not accidental that Billy Batson is deemed worthy of the powers of Shazam because of his “purity of heart” — and Sivana is rejected because he lacks it. But someone who had fled to the desert would experience sins of temptations that come from bodily desires, emotions, and thoughts. And those could only be countered by meditating upon the word of God.


The sins in Shazam!

The sins lurk in a lair.
Warner Bros.

During this period, the seven deadly sins were developed as part of the pastoral counsel that disciples who had fled into the desert, searching for wisdom from the monks, would seek. They would ask for wisdom in fighting a particular temptation, and the monk would reply with a story that was “part parable, part admonition about fight that particular temptation,” as DeYoung says. The focus was less on actions than on countering temptations toward those vices. Battling them was an effort to form one’s own disposition away from the sins.

“They’re meant to be ‘source’ vices, or foundational places where the devil gets a foothold,” DeYoung said. “But they’re not meant to be the worst things you can do.” In other words, the seven deadly sins aren’t about actions — they’re about attitudes.


Hieronymus Bosch’s The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, painted around 1500.

Hieronymus Bosch’s The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, painted around 1500.
Hieronymus Bosch/Public Domain

That’s worth pausing on. Virtues and vices, traditionally, aren’t about what you do. They are about habits of the heart and mind, or even formation of the soul, that predispose you to act in certain ways and in certain contexts. If you are beholden to the deadly sin of envy, then you’ve developed a foundational way of being that predisposes you to act enviously in certain situations. But the actual act you commit may change, depending on a variety of circumstances: You may be slanderous, or try to sabotage someone, or become violent, or any number of other things.

Those actions, however, stem from a basic proclivity born from a vice you’ve developed — a kind of virtual rut or path in your heart that you’re prone to fall into. So the deadly sins are less about the things you do than about the ways you’ve developed your heart that make you do them.

Ideas about the seven deadly sins shifted during the Middle Ages and modernity

Once the list developed as part of Christian tradition, the seven deadly sins were called “capital” sins or “principal” vices. But by the medieval age, through a variety of writers and church traditions, they morphed into “deadly” sins, a codified list that shows up in monastic manuals as well as a commentary on the biblical Book of Job, written by the man who would become Pope Gregory the Great in AD 590.

By 1215, a church council mandated that clergy preach on the seven deadly sins each year, often as part of Lent, the season of penitence leading up to Easter. (Possibly coincidentally, Shazam! was released during Lent.) “So there, it becomes a part of common conversation and culture,” DeYoung said.

During the Middle Ages, the emphasis was still on the sins as vices. But as the medieval ages gave way to the modern age, there was a shift: “The move after the Middle Ages is to go from virtue/vice talk altogether to more ‘commandment’ language,” as DeYoung put it. “Ethics in general [at this time] is shifting toward rule-based ethics.” In other words, sin was what you did, not the bent of your heart — and thus, the seven deadly sins were actions.

Part of this shift has to do with the dawn of Protestantism and the move away from the idea that “working” at virtue will save your soul. (The doctrine of “sola fide,” or salvation by faith alone, becomes important, thanks to Martin Luther and the reformers who followed.)

And so, you see a shift from thinking about the seven deadly sins as habits of the heart, and more toward being depicted as linked to specific actions. Gluttony is eating a lot; if you’re “thin,” then you can’t be a glutton, right? (Wrong.)

“One of the most interesting things today is that the seven deadly sins are either lightweight cultural kitsch or heavy-duty sin talk that has no sense of the actual Christian history,” DeYoung says. “So people tend to make up whatever they think the ‘sin; has to be — like, sloth is laziness, gluttony pairs with various eating disorders, and anger is anger management.”

In other words, as DeYoung points out, vice and virtue talk has seen a recent resurgence among Christians recently, yet Christian practice today still largely depends on thinking about what you do as a way to measure your own righteousness and character (even if actions aren’t how you earn the salvation of your soul). And when the seven deadly sins come up, they’re often within that framework.


David Fincher’s 1995 film Se7en used the sins as its jumping-off point.

David Fincher’s 1995 film Se7en used the sins as its jumping-off point.
New Line Cinema

So today, our perception of the seven deadly sins is that they are “behaviorally coded,” she said. “There’s no sense that these would be internal dispositions that would manifest themselves, sometimes in contrary ways — like sloth can manifest itself both in frantic busy-ness, and in a kind of escapism and flight, and in a depression imitating torpor that’s not actually depression. There’s a trivialization, an identification of an internal disposition with outward behavior. And then there’s confusions about what that behavior could be.”

That’s exactly what the murderer in Se7en does to illustrate the seven deadly sins. A man is forced to eat until his stomach explodes, which symbolizes gluttony. (In a classic understanding, though, gluttony could mean any inordinate desire.) A sex worker is raped with a bladed strap-on, symbolizing lust. (But lust means much more than having lots of sex, and, in fact, this one may be the most problematic of the bunch.)

Shazam! manages to actually get the seven deadly sins … kind of right?

Surprisingly enough, Shazam! seems to get it right, even if it’s mostly a lighthearted movie that’s basically Big, but with superheroes. Near the film’s climax — not to give too much away — it becomes clear that, at least in the Shazam! universe, the seven deadly sins aren’t just the things you do; they’re the attitudes and dispositions that live deep inside you. In the film, the seven deadly sins possess your soul (or, at least, Sivana’s soul). And they can only be driven out — as in ancient Christian tradition — by wise counsel, a pure heart, and a community of those who love you. (Or by some fancy DC Comics magic.)


Mark Strong and Zachary Levi in Shazam

Deadly, all right.
Warner Bros.

Whether you buy any of this in real life, of course, has everything to do with your religious predilections. But it’s interesting to see that someone at the dawn of the Shazam! universe seems to have been well-versed in Christian tradition enough to pick up on a long-running theme in Christian belief, stretching back centuries before comic books were even thought of, and actually manage to tap into its original, ancient meaning instead of the more modern twist.

And this year’s feature-film adaptation of Shazam! understands something about the ancient roots of its ominous forces of evil that modern pop culture — and even some modern Christianity — might miss. Comics are, after all, a lot more about superheroes in tights.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony is set for July 17

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After weeks of speculation about whether special counsel Robert Mueller would testify before Congress, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff have announced Mueller will appear in front of their committees in July.

On Tuesday night, Nadler announced Mueller had agreed to testify, after his committee and the House Permanent Select Committee issued subpoenas. Mueller will testify in open session on July 17, according to the chairs.

“We look forward to hearing his testimony, as do all Americans,” Schiff and Nadler’s statement reads. “Americans have demanded to hear directly from the Special Counsel so they can understand what he and his team examined, uncovered, and determined about Russia’s attack on our democracy, the Trump campaigns acceptance and use of that help, and President Trump and his associates’ obstruction of the investigation into that attack.”

But don’t expect too many bombshells from the special counsel’s testimony. Mueller has been very clear about what he will and will not talk about publicly in front of Congress: He will talk about what is already in his report on Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s alleged obstruction. He won’t talk about what he thinks about how Attorney General William Barr handled the report’s rollout, or anything else not in the report’s 448 pages.

“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said in a rare public statement last month. “I would not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before Congress.”

House Democrats want Mueller to give more information. They are deeply suspicious of the way Barr and the Trump administration handled the Mueller report rollout this spring and want to hear Mueller’s side of the story. But Mueller, seemingly afraid of politicizing the report and his role in it, has clearly said he has no desire to speak on it.

Democrats had hoped Mueller would willingly agree to testify in front of Congress, but House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler also floated the option of subpoenaing the special counsel last month if Trump tried to claim executive privilege to block it. “We will subpoena him if we have to,” Nadler reiterated in a CNN interview earlier this month.

Given the fact Mueller said his decision not to testify was his and his alone, committee chairs were hesitant to take the step of subpoenaing him, but eventually chose to. Mueller was easier to persuade than Trump administration officials, many of whom have chosen to ignore Democratic subpoenas.

Even if Mueller can’t speak to anything beyond the report, Democrats believe his testimony will be valuable as they slowly and methodically mount their campaign of investigations against Trump. Whether it will ultimately lead to impeachment is another question entirely — one House Democrats don’t appear any closer to tackling.

Mueller believes Congress should hold Trump accountable

Twice — once in his report and once in his public statement — Mueller has said he believes Congress is the body that should decide whether Trump obstructed justice by attempting to stop the investigations into his 2016 campaign.

Even with plenty of evidence, Mueller explained why his team did not charge Trump for obstructing justice, saying long-standing Department of Justice policy prevented him from indicting a sitting president. And as Vox’s Andrew Prokop wrote, Mueller went a step further, concluding he couldn’t even state whether Trump had broken the law because “it would be unfair to the president, because the fact that he can’t be charged means he can’t clear his name with an acquittal at trial.”

Mueller instead punted a fix to Congress. After examining Congress’ role through the lens of separation of powers in the US Constitution and past court cases, Mueller concluded in his report that lawmakers are the ones with the authority to act in cases in which a president may have committed obstruction of justice.

“With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller’s report reads.

He added this critical line: “The conclusion that Congress may apply obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

Mueller wrote that no person — not even the president of the United States — is above the law, and that the US Constitution doesn’t “categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice.” DOJ precedent effectively prevented Mueller from charging a sitting president but, as Prokop wrote, Mueller’s decision to investigate and lay out the potential for crimes and still not come to a conclusion one way or another sets another precedent for future presidents to act above the law — especially if they have confidence a politically split Congress won’t do anything about it.

Congress’s next steps will be critical because Mueller’s report explicitly states, “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Many Democrats viewed this as tantamount to an invitation to the House Judiciary Committee to open an impeachment inquiry — something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top lieutenants have been hesitant to wade into. The Democratic leader has instead advocated for her party to continue investigating the president, even as a growing number of her caucus calls for an inquiry to be opened.

The number of calls for an inquiry grew even more after Mueller’s public statement. Even if he is simply talking about the already known conclusions of his report, there’s the potential to cause even more Democrats to back an inquiry.

The drumbeat on an impeachment inquiry is growing steadily, but whatever House Democrats do, it is a decision now out of Mueller’s hands.

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Tik Tok China Daily Trending Videos 20190602 抖音每日热门视频

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#涂磊 Parenting and children’s 52 things Children’s Day, personally light your care! #摇音小助手(#涂磊育儿之和孩子的52件事 六一儿童节,亲手点亮你的小心愿!#抖音小助手) – 涂磊

Blame me… didn’t choose well… Hey! !(怪我了…没选好…唉!!) – A.燁煬(拳师犬阿卢)

This is quite fun(好好玩哦) – 陈乔恩

After 90, the old Timo will have to pass 6.1! I also sang a short paragraph of Deng Ziqi’s “The Devil from Heaven” #魔的天堂鬼# Today is a child(90后老提莫也要过6.1哼!我也唱一小段邓紫棋的《来自天堂的魔鬼》#来自天堂的魔鬼 #今天就做个孩子) – 冯提莫

200w powder thank you for giving you a peach blossom in the June 1st ~ Song pants is good for jumping this! I loved ~#original national wind plan(200w粉感谢❤️在六一给大家来一首桃花笑~宋裤好适合跳这个!我爱了~#原创国风计划) – Fofo酱

Is the June 6 unfair to me? ! ? ! Is my mom fake? !(六一节对我这么不公平吗?!?!我妈是假的吗?!) – 陈赫

Teacher Lang said: If a meal can’t be solved, then… two meals(浪老师说:如果一顿饭解决不了的,那就…….两顿) – 慕容瑞驰

Jie Ge, I forgive you.(杰哥我原谅你了) – 小沈阳

You are really funny, jump up, wipe your mouth, and go to sleep right away. #看我多玩玩#猫#摇音小助手(你确实很搞笑,跳上去,擦擦嘴,马上就睡觉#看我多会玩 #猫 #抖音小助手) – 可可西里

For the history of urine, this last expression(为啥史尿多最后这个表情) – 哈K

Childhood is – will look at the rain like it grows up but will envy it so rain, 6.1 happy(童年就是——会像它一样看雨 长大却会羡慕它这样看雨,6.1快乐) – 十一

Don’t let her wear high heels when going out with friends, or you will be like me.(以后跟朋友出门千万不要让她穿高跟鞋,不然你就会像我一样) – 赵铁柱

The sneak shot of a man who is about to be a father. Are men all like this?(偷拍即将当爸爸的男人。男人是不是都是这样) – 娜娜有个别人家男友

The video was found out, and the tone was lowered. It was not shouted out. It was recorded once, and I was afraid of disturbing others. The certificate is a civilized dormitory.(视频呢找出来了,降调了,不是喊出来的,就录了一遍儿,怕打扰到别人。奖状是文明宿舍。) – 风浪才子

Eat a daughter-in-law’s mental weight loss and my action to lose weight … @ Zoo Band @音乐盒(吃货媳妇的精神减肥和我的行动减肥 …@动物园乐队 @音乐盒子) – Q朋克

Some of the Magic Fairy dialects that Grandma is learning on the way home, you guess who said it. I wish you all a happy day #六一儿童节#雨女无瓜(奶奶在回家的路上现学的一些魔仙堡方言,你们猜猜是谁说的。 祝大家六一快乐#六一儿童节 #雨女无瓜) – 淘气陈奶奶

What is this position? #邓超#Deng Chao Yinhe Tuition Class @摇音小助手(请问这是什么走位?#邓超 #邓超银河补习班 @抖音小助手) – 邓超工作室

On the Children’s Day, Children’s Day is so against me, should I endure it?(六一儿童节小歪居然这么对我,我该忍着么) – 开挂的猫二歪

Classmates, Happy Children’s Day! #Apple original camera #vlog日常#爱#六一 @摇音小助手(同学,六一快乐!#苹果原相机 #vlog日常 #爱情 #六一 @抖音小助手) – 土木一班姜同学

Happy Children’s Day(六一快樂) – 张庭

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20 Marvelous Behind-the-Scenes Shots That Are Sure to Make History

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When it comes to the magic of moviemaking, it takes a lot of work to make the impossible a reality. While special effects are nearly as old as film itself (it has even appeared in silent films), the industry has come a long way. You’d be surprised to see how some of your favorite action scenes became a reality.

We at Bright Side love sharing the scenes from our favorite movies and revealing how they were made, and we can’t wait for you to see it all!

1. To be fair, Sean Gunn is cuter than a talking raccoon.

2. No, Hollywood movies don’t usually set the actors on fire.

3. Who’s a good boy?

4. A stormy day may start out green and bright.

5. It’s like space is just a room away…

6. That said, I’m sure one day we’ll make it through the looking glass.

7. So, you’re saying you shouldn’t go out and pet tigers?

8. It’s never been this easy to get to the seashore.

9. We can put a man on the moon and have a war in the stars.

10. You’d think they’d use a green screen to get to Emerald City but to each his own.

11. The most impressive part is how the pillow and wall changed color.

12. Now, if we could just find a way to actually travel back in time to the ’20s…

13. It’s time to turn off the lights (and put up the sun)!

14. Being an action hero is much safer when using a harness.

15. Who knew that getting superpowers could be so easy?

16. Finally, after all these years, they tell us how to get some air on a broomstick.

17. Sadly, giant, talking turtles are hard to come by, so you’ve got to get creative.

18. Who knew it was so easy to make a monkey out of you?

19. It’s time to put on the air conditioner!

20. This has got to be the easiest way to lose weight.

Bonus: People can have fun even in-between shots.

Do you know any other tricks filmmakers use to make their movies even more impressive? Let us know!

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