Céire Kealty 3-02-2023
A stack of four Amazon boxes on a doormat outside a blue front door.

 Amazon boxes at the front door of a house. JL Images / Alamy

For the past month, I struggled to decide what to “fast” from. Quiet contemplation bore rich insights for Christian monastics, so I turned to silence and tried to listen to God. But no sooner did I seek out a moment of quiet, than I heard the unmistakable ping of my inbox coaxing me to “Act now!” “Check out these deals!” “Hurry!” and “Buy, buy, buy, buy!” Regardless of the brand, these retail messages are constant, pervasive, and often persuasive.

Joey Thurmond 2-23-2023

Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Pádraic (Colin Farrell) in the film Banshees of Inisherin. Image credit: Photo by Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

The Banshees of Inisherin has received several awards from the Golden Globes and multiple nominations for the forthcoming Academy Awards. It’s not hard to see why: Martin McDonagh’s film captures the complex, deep turmoil of a friendship falling apart. The friendship falls apart because the characters don’t have the framework to work through misunderstandings due to their depressive state.

Joe George 2-21-2023

Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) sit by a fireplace and eat a meal in the HBO TV series, The Last of Us. Image credit: Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO.

The Last of Us has some of the characters you’d expect in an end-of-the-world series, including Bill, a survivalist portrayed with comical stoicism by Nick Offerman. Only one word can describe the look on Bill’s face when he emerges from his stately New England home, lowers his pistol, and pulls off his gas mask: relief. Not relief that his neighbors were still there, saved from the disaster that government officials had been warning them about, but quite the opposite: Bill’s relief comes from the fact that his neighbors have gone, evacuated to a quarantine zone while he hid in his heavily fortified safe room. With the entire town to himself, Bill indulges in his new life and gets what most doomsday preppers only dream of: an actual doomsday.

A woman wrapped in a Ukrainian flag looks at pairs of shoes arranged in rows.

In Prague, a woman looks at shoes symbolising war crimes committed against Ukrainian civilians to mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: REUTERS/David W Cerny TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, Ukrainian citizens are hurting and exhausted. Meanwhile, Russia is mounting a new counter-offensive and Ukraine is restocking weapons from its allies, including the U.S. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and wounded, both Ukrainian and Russian, yet the war grinds on without an end in sight.

Michael Woolf 2-16-2023

Image: Warwick Davis, Amar Chadha-Patel, Ellie Bamber, Erin Kellyman, Dempsey Bryk, and Ruby Cruz in Diseny’s ‘Willow’ (2022).

Willow has all the themes you’d expect from a fantasy adventure: The party is assembled, there’s a quest, and they go on a rescue mission. The party has a rogue (Amar Chadha-Patel as Boorman), a wizard (Warwick Davis reprising his role as Willow), a bard (Tony Revolori as Graydon ), a paladin knight (Erin Kellyman as Jade), a princess (Ruby Cruz as Kit), and a chosen one (Ellie Bamber as Elora). Notably missing from the 1988 cast is Val Kilmer as Madmartigan (Kilmer is recovering from throat cancer.) The enemies are mainly the Crone, who live in the immemorial city, as well as an unseen quasi-deity that lives below ground — simply titled “the Wyrm.” As with any good fantasy, it’s less concerned about the plot than it is about showing the characters interact, grow, and change, along with a decent amount of throwbacks to the original movie.

A rose window casts a shadow on pews and a stone floor.

Photo: Enzo Valentini / Alamy

In November 2018, an academic acquaintance in Canada phoned me with a dilemma. She had just heard about the 2015 canonical investigation by authorities in the Roman Catholic Church that concluded that Jean Vanier’s mentor, Thomas Philippe, had sexually abused women who came to him for spiritual direction, both before and during his years at L’Arche in France. This was a big problem: She was in the early stages of planning an invitation-only academic symposium about Vanier and his legacy. Should she go ahead?  

Lauren W. Reliford 2-09-2023
President Joe Biden gestures with his hands as he delivers the State of the Union address.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 7. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/Sipa USA)

“Christmas for policy wonks.” “The political Super Bowl.” “A very boring speech.” Three different descriptions for one of the biggest nights in politics: the annual State of the Union. Here in Washington, D.C, we politicos have been known to create bingo cards or gather in bars to watch an address that will have major implications for the work we do.

Josiah R. Daniels 2-08-2023

Images courtesy of He Gets Us. Collage by Mitchell Atencio.

When I first noticed the ads on TV last March, I was cautiously optimistic. Each ad features an array of black-and-white photos with people in contemporary settings followed by a simple, relatable slogan on a plain black screen: “Jesus was wrongly judged,” “Jesus suffered anxiety, too,” “Jesus struggled to make ends meet, too;” each ad ends with the campaign’s tagline, “He get us. All of us.”

Amar D. Peterman 2-02-2023

Image credit: Image of Lizzy McAlpine from Lizzy McAlpine's Five Seconds Flat, the Film (2022).

The opening words of “doomsday” set the tone for the remainder of McAlpine’s sophomore album, Five Seconds Flat. It is an intense, gut-wrenching journey of love, loss, grief, and the complexities that come with each emotion. McAlpine leans into imagery of death, murder, reckless driving, and other macabre realities to describe this story. Through lyric and melody, she invites us in. I, like millions of others, am here for the ride.

Like the author Miriam Toews, I remember when I heard the news about the “ghost rapes” in Bolivia. I was in seminary training to be a Mennonite pastor. Toews, an ethnic Mennonite who fled her closed community decades before, was living in Toronto. But we shared a visceral and knowing horror as we learned of the events that unfolded in the Bolivian Manitoba Community, events that later inspired Toews’ 2018 novel, Women Talking, and a recent film by the same name.

A person wearing a black suit carries a paper program with a photo and name of Tyre Nichols.

An attendee holds a program while exiting a Feb. 1 memorial service for Tyre Nichols who died after being beaten by Memphis Police officers. REUTERS/Ronda Churchill 

Sometimes our nation and world are so full of injustice, loss, and pain that words fail us and our spirit can find no rest. We don’t even know what to say, how to pray, and where to begin to set right the many things that are so overwhelmingly wrong. The vicious murder of Tyre Nichols feels like one of those moments.

Jordan T. Jones 1-30-2023

Image of Otis Moss III's book, Dancing in the Darkness (2023). Image credit Betsy Shirley.

In Dancing in the Darkness, Moss urges readers to move through the sorrow of the blues to what he calls “jazz politics” — one of collaboration, community participation, and dialogue: “If we had a jazz version of democracy in our politics, where each of us could play all our notes, even the blue notes, and contribute them to the music of the whole, then dialogue and honest debate would be the norm rather than demonization and incivility.”

Abby Olcese 1-24-2023
A human-like figure with angel wings rears it's head toward the sky.

A scene from 'The Devil Conspiracy.'

Here’s the setup: A shadowy biotech conglomerate and a cabal of satanists (gasp!) are planning to release Lucifer from hell by… wait for it… stealing the linen cloth used to cover Christ’s body during his entombment, using it to clone Christ’s DNA, and then implanting it into a surrogate mother, allowing Lucifer to possess the fetus. The Devil Conspiracy is like a mix of Rosemary’s Baby, Demon Seed, and the surrogacy mix-up romcom The Switch.

Michael Woolf 1-19-2023

Puss from DreamWorks Animation's Puss In Boots: The Last Wish (2022). Courtesey of DreamWorks Animation.

Being unafraid of death is easier said than done. Death is one of the great fears that stalks the minds and hearts of human beings. That being said, there are times when Paul still dares to mock death: “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:55). As a pastor, I have held plenty of hands as people die, yet I have never heard such boasting. What I have heard are regrets, contentment, fear, and any number of emotions. How we face death is complicated.

U.S. military vehicles at the U.S. military base being established at the Mielec Airport in Poland on Feb. 12, 2022. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto)

As followers of Jesus, bringing “good news to the poor” and promoting peace should be at the center of our worldview and vocation. In our advocacy work at Sojourners, we constantly find ourselves trying to convince our country’s decision-makers to prioritize government spending that provides a lifeline to people experiencing poverty. Unfortunately, we have often found that securing adequate resources to help people lift themselves out of poverty is a constant uphill battle. While I believe in the importance of fiscal responsibility, when members of Congress become concerned about the national deficit, the programs that wind up on the chopping block are usually the programs that offer a safety net to those who are most vulnerable — while military spending continues unchecked.

JR. Forasteros 1-18-2023

Brendan Fraser in the role of Charlie, in ‘The Whale’

Darren Aronofsky’s latest film The Whale has made a splash, both for Brendan Fraser’s heart-wrenching portrayal of the 600-pound Charlie and for critics’ accusations of fatphobia in the film.

Matt Bernico 1-17-2023

An artisanal miner works at a cobalt mine-pit in Tulwizembe, Katanga province, Democratic Republic of Congo, November 25, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Kenny Katombe.

Christians need better analytical tools that can help us parse out the systems of global exploitation. These systems keep us from loving our neighbors from every nation, which is a central emphasis of the gospel. For example, investigating who is producing the products we buy and under what labor conditions they work can show us where our neighbors are hurting and how we’re implicated.

Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at an anti-war demonstration in New York City in 1967. Photo: Ian Dagnall / Alamy

King’s preaching used the power of language to interpret the gospel in the context of Black misery and Christian hope. He directed people to life-giving resources and spoke provocatively of a present and active divine interventionist who summons preachers to name reality in places where pain, oppression and neglect abound. In other words, King used a prophetic voice in his preaching — the hopeful voice that begins in prayer and attends to human tragedy.

A line of people wearing hats and sweatshirts lean against a low fence next to the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Mountains are in the distance.

Migrants from Venezuela, who are subject to Title 42 and unsure of whether to turn themselves in, wait next to people from other nationalities who are in line to be processed by United States Border Patrol in El Paso, Texas on Jan. 4, 2023. REUTERS/Paul Ratje

During his recent visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, President Joe Biden announced changes to border enforcement and the asylum process — the legal process that allows people fleeing danger to seek safety in the U.S. One of the most concerning changes was an expansion of Title 42, a public health policy invoked by former President Donald Trump that weaponized the pandemic to turn away many Black and brown migrants looking for asylum.

Carissa Zaffiro 1-11-2023

Late last week, the White House announced new enforcement measures at the U.S.-Mexico border. Among other things, these measures expand the pathway for migrants from Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua to receive two years of legal entry if they have an eligible U.S. sponsor — and allow the administration to expedite removal of migrants from these nations who cross into the U.S. from Mexico without documentation. It’s unclear what the full human impact of these measures will be, but when I read the news, my heart broke for those whose pathway to safety just slipped even further out of reach.