The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

'Noah:' Deeply, Passionately Biblical

I’ll begin by cutting to the chase: Forget most of what you’ve read about Darren Aronofsky’s new film, Noah. It opens Friday. Go see it and decide for yourself.

Having said that, in my opinion Aronofksy’s Noah is a beautiful, powerful, difficult film worthy of the “epic” label. A vivid, visually spectacular reimagining of an ancient story held as sacred by all three Abrahamic religious traditions, it also is the most spiritually nuanced, exquisitely articulated exploration of the ideas of justice and mercy I’ve ever seen on a movie screen.

And despite what you may have heard elsewhere, Noah is deeply, passionately biblical.

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Envy: Beware the Green-Eyed Monster

I think what lies at the heart of the mix-up between jealousy and envy is not only the result of many of us zoning out during English class, but may also be a consequence of the way our culture objectifies people. An easy example of cultural objectification is the way women are often portrayed in movies, TV shows, ads, and other forms of media. Women are often the passive recipients of a man’s sexual desire, a designer’s clothing, or a corporation’s product. The message communicated through these portrayals is that women are not people who have dignity, but are objects waiting, and wanting, to be used. Other examples of objectification are bountiful and are sadly all too common in our world.

The objectification of another human being runs directly counter to the Gospel message. By virtue of the fact that all people are created by God — and even made in God’s image, as we are told in Genesis 1:27 — all humans possess a God-given dignity that should not be overlooked. This dignity includes being seen as a unique person with whom a relationship can be nurtured, the ability to lead and contribute to a community, and just being valued and loved for the very fact that the person is God’s creation.

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A More Just Minimum Wage

Last summer we marked the 75th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Fair Labor Standards Act – a landmark law that protected children, limited the number of hours in a workweek, and established the nation’s first minimum wage. The genesis of that law is often traced back to the story of one little girl who managed to get a poignant letter in the hands of the campaigning president. The note read:

“I wish you could do something to help us girls. We have been working in a sewing factory, and up to a few months ago we were getting our minimum pay of $11 a week. Today the 200 of us girls have been cut down to $4 and $5 and $6 a week.”

During this season of Lent, as we ponder the deep meaning of our faith, we also contemplate what that faith teaches us about the inherent dignity of every human being, how it compels us to better listen to one another, and why we must always strive to better serve one another.

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What Caring Looks Like

I spent last Saturday walking around Anthem, Ariz. It’s a strip of outlet malls and a Wal-Mart 30 miles north of Phoenix in the desert, and it’s as bad as it sounds. It’s hot and boring, and I was walking around all day because my new truck was broken and the mechanic wasn’t going to get to it until Monday. And it was going to cost $1,600 … which I don’t have. So I walked around and felt miserable and it sucked in a Big Way.

Saturday night my friend drove 30 miles to come and pick me up. He let me eat dinner at his house, and his mom made steak and it was delicious. I got a ride back home with some other friends that night, and for the rest of the weekend, I was driven around by my girlfriend. In addition to this, my family lent me money. Some family gave me money. I was stranded in Anthem, Ariz., where I didn’t know anybody and didn’t have any money in my bank account and I was worried and bored and scared, and maybe I cried a little bit. But I talked to my family and my friends on the phone and they helped me. They cared for me. And they are still caring for me.

I don’t have a hard life and I’m grateful for that, but in this time of mini-crisis, the people who love me have gone out of their way to care of me. They’ve asked me exactly what I needed and given it to me without thinking twice. In some cases, they’ve seen that I’m too proud (or stupid) to ask for what I need and given it to me anyway. And it has punched me in the stomach. It is humbling and it is touching, and it makes me want to be a better person.

You see, Christian brothers and sisters, that’s what caring looks like.

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The Joy of Forgiveness and the Seven Deadly Sins

I live in Washington D.C., a city in which mistakes are messaged and shortcomings are spun. True confession and true repentance do not occur — unless it is politically advantageous. Naturally, cynicism runs rampant.

In this environment, though we all know our own weaknesses, grace is rarely offered for failures.

Which is why Lent is such an important season on the Christian calendar. It is an opportunity to pause and reflect, to examine our hearts, and to acknowledge the ways in which we have fallen short. But we don’t confess our failures to a public waiting to crucify us. Instead, we confess our sins to one who loves us and was willing to be crucified in order to reconcile us once and for all.

Lent is rarely talked about as a celebration, but it is an opportunity to revel in the joy of forgiveness.

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Rachel Held Evans: Saying the Things Pastors Can't

You can certainly get community outside of church, says bestselling author and blogger Rachel Held Evans, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth being part of a church community.

“Church forces us into relationship with those who are different than us,” Rachel told Sojourners. As a follower of Christ, she said, I have to be ready and willing to be in community with those who are different than me.

I recently caught up with Evans at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. It was her ninth public appearance in the eight weeks as she bounced from Texas and the Midwest to the East Coast and back to Texas, with a foray to Michigan.

Rachel has made her career out of vocalizing what others are feeling, but can’t articulate quite as clearly.

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The Fallacy of Good v. Evil: A Q&A with 'Noah' Writer Ari Handel

Last Sunday in Los Angeles, Cathleen Falsani sat down with Ari Handel, a screenwriter and frequent collaborator with Noah director Darren Aronofsky, with whom he co-wrote the film and the graphic novel, Noah, upon which it was based, to discuss some of the extra-biblical elements of the $150 million movie.

Longtime friends Handel and Aronofsky were suitemates at Harvard University. Before becoming a screenwriter and film producer, Handel was a neuroscientist. He holds a PhD in neurobiology from New York University. He was a producer on Aronofsky’s films Black Swan, The Wrestler, and The Fountain (which he co-wrote with Aronofsky), and had a small role as a Kabbalah scholar in the director’s debut film, 1998’s Pi.

Editor’s Note: The following Q&A contains some spoilers about the film. It has been edited for length.

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World Vision Reverses Decision on Same-Sex Marriage, Calls It 'A Mistake'

Christian relief organization World Vision has reversed its decision after announcing this week that it will no longer define marriage as between a man and a woman in its employee conduct manual.

The earlier decision was a groundbreaking change for the Christian institution that came with heavy criticism from evangelicals. After its initial announcement, the Assemblies of God had urged its members to consider dropping support.

Ryan Reed tweeted on Wednesday (March 26), “My wife works for WV. In today’s staff meeting Stearns announced that so far 2000 kids dropped.”

World Vision’s child sponsorships are $35 a month, which means the organization could have lost at least $840,000 in revenue over the longterm.

About $567 million of World Vision’s $1 billion budget comes from private contributions, according to the 2012 annual report, according to Christianity Today.

“We’ve listened,” World Vision president Stearns told reporter, to supporters who were concerned about the conduct change in policy. “We believe we made a mistake. We’re asking them to forgive and understand our poor judgement in the original decision.”

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8-year-old Student Not Feminine Enough, Christian School Says

The family of a little girl in western Virginia has removed her from her private Christian school after administrators said she did not appear feminine enough.

Sunnie Kahle, 8, likes autographed baseballs and hunting knives alongside stuffed animals and jewelry, according to CBS affiliate WDBJ.

“It’s fun,” Sunnie said.

Sometimes her schoolmates at Timberlake Christian School asked whether she was a boy or girl, Sunnie told the station.

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Pope Francis Fired 'Bishop Bling.' Will More Follow?

The news that Pope Francis fired — or “accepted the resignation of” — the German churchman known as “Bishop Bling” because of his big-spending ways has touched off speculation among Catholics that other dismissals could be in the offing.

Here’s the answer in four words: Perhaps, but probably not.

Recent history shows why: Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, Mo., remains in office 18 months after his conviction – and $1.4 million spent on his defense — for failing to report a priest suspected of abuse. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony enjoys a high-profile retirement in spite of the disapproval of his own successor over Mahony’s abuse record. Similarly, Cardinal Bernard Law, formerly of Boston, is still living a gilded existence in Rome years after he was plucked from the U.S. amid the clergy abuse scandal.

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