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Thank You for Smoking
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Adult Study, Adult Study
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Thank You for Smoking is about tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) and how he lives with himself. The answer is: pretty well. He's an epicure with a taste for fine wine, fine women, good friends, and good parenting, all floated by a great job with the Academy for Tobacco Studies--Big Tobacco's lobbying arm. It's only as fun as it is because the job is impossible: neutralizing tobacco's critics is a quixotic, Herculean task. If you can do it, you must be the best: "If you can do tobacco, you can do anything," Nick crows at one point. And Nick is the best.

The film raises troubling issues about truth telling. We are not unfamiliar with talking heads opposing near-dominant scientific opinion on matters of public health import: pseudoscientific opponents of Darwinism and global warming come to mind. This film alternates effectively between the rollicking good fun of puncturing received opinion and the potentially catastrophic damage of doing just that--not only to the health of millions but to the souls of those who bend the truth for a living.

In this session we will discuss three scenes from the film that show its whimsical look at efforts to throw up enough haze and charm that viewers can't see the truth in question. We will ask, precisely what makes this funny? Big Tobacco normally does not come off well in films, as in real life. Finally we will ask what stake the church has in truth telling in our own midst and by those outside our ranks in the world.

Jason Byassee is Assistant Editor at Christian Century. He has taught adjunct at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, North Park Theological Seminary, and Wheaton College. He is a probationary elder in the United Methodist Church.

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