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“Freedom” is an ever-present word in the United States, but I’ve heard it more often these past couple of days. From Simone Biles opting out of some Olympic competitions despite the pressures on her to perform, to Britney Spears’ father potentially relinquishing control of his daughter and her estate (although not, it seems, to her), to arguments that mask and vaccine mandates are the beginning of the end of this nation’s liberty, “freedom” is on the minds of many — which is to say subjection is also a forefront concern. Who can tell us what to do, how to live? Why can one person’s freedom spell another person’s demise?
Respect, the new Aretha Franklin biopic, tackles some of these questions: It paints a portrait similar to Spears’ present dilemma, Franklin struggling out of her father’s hold on her career. And, as usual, Sojourners has something to say about these concerns, too. While the Falwells’ latest public relations disaster is entertainment and an example of karma to many, Devi Abraham takes a closer look at the purity culture issues the scandal both speaks to and appears to have emerged from. Film critic Sarah Welch-Larson shows us that the Alien series, helmed by male directors with a woman as its primary hero, is a fascinating specimen that says more about our world than we may think. And Yanan Melo writes about how his grandmother, Mama Lilia, is “participating in God’s work of a shared, divine ecology” and undoing “colonialist thinking” and actions.
We’re going to keep hearing “freedom” and debating what it means and whether it’s accessible to all (spoiler alert: NO), but now, thanks to the South African director Liesl Tommy, who grew up in apartheid, we’re going to hear the word “respect” more often, too. “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” Franklin and Annie Lennox sang nearly 36 years ago: In the context of the patriarchy still in the church, the new Peacock comedy We Are Lady Parts, this second summer of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and more, it’s as simple and complex as that.
1. “Aretha Franklin Biopic ‘Respect’ Highlights Dangers of Patriarchy” by Da’Shawn Mosley
Aretha’s voice is repeatedly curtailed, her desires opposed.
2. “Viewing the ‘Alien’ Franchise Through a Feminist Theology Lens” by Abby Olcese
Catherine Keller’s idea that sin stems from a denial of our responsibility to the world around us is a perfect fit for the Alien films.
3. “My Lola Is Decolonizing the Garden of Eden” by Yanan Melo
Exiled from the very land they belonged to, Indigenous peoples, wildlife, and plants have been reduced to tourist attractions, providing resources, food, and vacation spots for white people to enjoy.
4. “Crossing Cultural and Religious Barriers In ‘We Are Lady Parts’” by Abby Olcese
The Peacock series about an all-female, Muslim punk band, shows a group of characters who support each other on their individual journeys of identity.
5. “Snorting Nutmeg at Vacation Bible School with Lucy Dacus” by Jenna Barnett
Dacus’ album Home Video could have just as easily been named “Youth Group.”
6. “Dorothy Day Didn’t Segment Her Life” by Rosalie G. Riegle
The spiritual is also political in Day’s Catholic Worker columns of the ‘60s.
7. “‘In God We Lust’ Is a Gossipy Take on the Falwell Saga. We Need More” by Devi Abraham
The story is an invitation to reflect on the systems that allowed someone like Jerry Falwell Jr. to prosper for so long.
8. “Five Iron Frenzy Has Never Sounded Better” by Joel Heng Hartse
Released days after the Capitol insurrection, the band’s album Until This Shakes Apart unleashes righteous anger at heartless immigration policy, the Confederate flag, and more.
9. “Simone Biles Knows What Christians Too Often Forget” by Angela Denker
She cradled her head in her hands and chose her life.
10. “Exploring Grief and Change With Georgia O’Keeffe” by Faith-Marie Zamblé
“One of the few O’Keeffe pieces I’ve seen in person is related to her attempts to find sanctuary.”