The Post – Movie Discussion
The Post is a story about the battle between the press and the government over the press’s right to free to speech, vs. the government’s right to privacy and to control what is released to the public. There’s much more there, of course—like the Post also happens to be run by the nation’s first female publisher, and there is a leak about a government cover-up (over four presidential terms) surrounding the Vietnam war which was full of controversy itself. It’s about leadership and taking risks and standing up for what you believe is right. It’s also about our deep distrust of authority figures, especially any in government.
It’s about rights, but it’s also, more importantly, about service. This is an important point, especially in our time. The movie really does appear to be a battle of rights. Everyone is staking a claim to their rights, (the right to print, the right to privacy, rights as press, rights as the president, rights as citizens to the truth, rights as soldiers... etc.). Kay, the head of the Post, is in a very difficult position. She could be sent to jail for publishing these government secrets. She could lose everything her family and herself had worked so hard to establish. She had friends in politics that would be affected. And yet, she was a journalist, too, with a desire to run a good newspaper that published truth. Her decision would affect not only herself, but the paper’s employees, as well as the nation. As she said, “I understand we have a responsibility to the employees and the long-term health of the paper. Yet, the prospectus talks about [excellence in reporting and the overall good of the nation].” She chose the overall good of the nation, even at great risk to herself, personally.
This is the difference between Kay and the presidents she outed—she (taking a page out of Jesus’ handbook) chose not to save her own self, but to do what was best for the nation. The presidents’ actions, however, were not for the good of the nation, as they should have been, but for the sake of saving face, for pride. (I do recognize that is an over-simplification and the issues the presidents faced were more complex and their motives, undoubtedly, were as well.)
Interestingly, when the supreme court ruling was read, they didn’t talk about rights, so much as service. “The founding fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its roll in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” Actually, both the press and the government were set up as institutions to serve the people. The issue here was less about who had a right and more about who had done their job to serve. Sadly, the government (according to this story, at least) had been serving itself more than the people. They wanted to stop the press because they didn’t want to be outed. They wanted to protect themselves, rather than the people—literally, they were sending boys off to slaughter in Vietnam because they didn’t want to be embarrassed. This was not serving the people.
This is a critical point for us to see in the movie. We are in a culture that loves to claim our rights, demand our rights. But that so often puts us in a place of defending (or at least our right to defend) our pride which, more often than not, leads us down a slippery, slippery slope. The same one the government found itself on. The one that says I have a right to protect my pride, to do what I want, etc. This is, I dare say, very often (if not always) anti-Christian. Christ never demanded his rights. He didn’t demand we serve Him as King. He didn’t demand we treat Him fairly. He has never demanded we love Him. He came to serve (Matthew 20:28)—and He served the very ones who crucified Him, by dying at their hands.
In a movie that is all about rights, it’s telling that the answer isn’t found in rights, but in service. When we take on an attitude of service, the way becomes clearer. Our pride gets silenced. The confusion of competing rights gets sorted, and right and wrong become simpler.
This is one of the truly astounding things about Jesus. He actually did have a right (to any and everything) and He didn’t claim it—He set it aside to serve. In our culture, we have such a deeply ingrained skepticism about authority figures, because we’ve seen such abuses. Note that first off, the Lord doesn’t demand, He doesn’t have to protect His pride or ego, and He has nothing to cover-up. This is an authority figure unlike those we’ve known. He is perfect, full of integrity and love. Our government may have asked its people for sovereign trust and then violated that trust, but God never does. He is fully and absolutely trust-worthy. And he asks us to follow Him in setting aside our rights and instead taking up the way of the servant.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:3-11
Questions for Discussion:
- Do you tend to trust or distrust authority figures? The government? Do you think that affects your perception of the trustworthiness of God?
- How did the idea of service help clear up the question of who was in the right?
- In what areas of your life are you prone to want to claim or defend your rights? How would the issues change if you looked not at your rights, but at your opportunity to serve?
- Have you ever thought about whether or not defending your rights was a Christian concept? Do you think Jesus defended his rights?