Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.



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  • On Noah's choice in the film NOAH

    • Posted on Apr 02, 2014 by Scott Cawelti


    SPOILER ALERT!  Do not read on if you believe that knowing the ending will erode your enjoyment of the film.  Go see Noah and come back. 

    Noah believes that he has been clearly commanded by God to destroy all mankind.   Because humanity has become so utterly evil, nothing will save humans from God’s scorn and wrath.  

    Noah’s plan (derived, he believes, from God’s will) is to leave no heirs—to just let his family die natural deaths from old age.  But his plan gets spoiled when the girl they had rescued from a marauding clan miraculously gets pregnant with twins—daughters, as it were.

    Noah knows that this means mankind will continue, since two daughters are capable of producing any number of future humans, especially since Noah’s son fathered them, and can father more.  Yet Noah continues to believe that God does not want mankind to survive.  And that would include Noah and his family. 

     To carry out God’s commandment, he—Noah—must murder his granddaughters.    He has no choice, he insists over and over.   This doesn’t sit well with his family, all of whom think he has become a madman, and tell him so.   
    Noah, however, will not be stopped, and with his knife raised, ready to slaughter his beautiful newborns, he pauses.   Then instead of stabbing them dead, he gently and sweetly kisses each one. 


    Thus Noah blatantly gives up on God’s commandment.   At first, this is horrible for him.  By disobeying God’s order he feels as though he utterly betrayed the Creator, and the poor man lapses into severe depression, hobbled by guilt, and soon turns to the fermented grape for comfort.   He’s a guilty mess. 

     To his family, however, Noah finally came to his senses and became the loyal father and husband they loved.

     More than that, they eventually convince him, supported by supposed signs from heaven (the sun’s rays peak through at just the right time, white doves return to the ark) that his refusal to kill his grandchildren was also an order from God, only from inside Noah in the form of his conscience.  God evidently changed His mind.  
    Mankind will continue after all, and Noah feels fine about that in the end.  

    Thus the film ends happily, with Noah’s family carrying on, post-flood, in the belief that mankind does have a few redeeming features—granddaughters and such.   

     SO:  where is God? Is he out there, issuing orders that seem cruel and heartless?  Or in there, letting each human listen to whatever their consciences tell them?   

    Here’s the rub.  God’s initial demand on Noah was directly contradicted by Noah’s choice to spare his granddaughters.  Directly.  You can’t have it both ways—if you’re listening to the God “out there” commanding you to do something you find distasteful, then change your mind because your conscience tells you it’s fine to disobey the first command, you have a problem.   You’re left to decide for yourself which set of commands to follow.

    This is exactly the same as not worrying about God at all.   Do what you think is right, and forget about trying to please anyone but your own conscience.  That’s what Noah does, and though he eventually believes God approves, this seems suspiciously like a rationalization, a self-serving decision to please his family and himself.  Who’s to say, really, whether he pleased God or not?  

    Thus the film Noah raises this question: Do we need God to help us do the right thing?  And down deep, offers this answer:  not really.  


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  • Good Podcast

    • Posted on Mar 24, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    Last night (Sunday, March 23, 2014) I was interviewed for an hour by Aaron Habel, who co-runs the "Generation Why" Podcast. He had recently read BROTHER'S BLOOD and wanted to talk at length about it.  Well worth my time, since it showed there is genuine curiosity and interest still in the Mark family murders.  

    You can hear it on the "Generation Why" Facebook page or here:

    If you listen and want to discuss it or some aspect of it, comment below.  Always enjoy hearing from readers.    

    Go comment!
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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