Michael Woolf received his doctorate of theology from Harvard. He writes about the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, practical theology, and ecclesiology. Follow him on Twitter at ​@RevMichaelWoolf.

Posts By This Author

Women, LGBTQ People Take Lead in ‘Willow’ ... And in Church?

by Michael Woolf 02-16-2023

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.

Puss in Boots’ Nine Wild and Precious Lives

by Michael Woolf 01-19-2023

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.

The Christian Roots of Abortion Sanctuaries

by Michael Woolf 06-28-2022

Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery, Ala., on May 19, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger.

Now that federal abortion rights have been struck down by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson, we need a new sanctuary movement that takes seriously the threat posed by the criminalization of abortion and acts to care for those seeking it.

What Reparations Is Costing My Church

by Michael Woolf 02-22-2022

Sancturary of Lake Street Church of Evanston in Evanston, Ill. Photo used with permission.

In effect, imagining churches as places uniquely positioned for practicing reparations means a paradigm shift in how churches imagine themselves in their communities. Churches are capable of celebrating beauty but they are also capable of creating wounds. Such a shift would be akin to what theologian Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas refers to as “broaden[ing] our moral imagination.” For the church to broaden its moral imagination, congregations need to start asking questions like: What does it mean to own property? Who did that exclude in the context of redlining? What assumptions are we making about the assumed good of a church’s continued existence in a place? Being open to accountability and discernment about reparations means that no question, no matter how difficult or threatening to the continuance of a congregation, is off-limits.

Remain in Mexico, Remain in Egypt

by Michael Woolf 12-16-2021

Photo of asylum seeker in Nogales, Ariz., at the border wall separating the United States and Mexico (via Reuters). Photo credit: Christopher Brown/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News.

As Christians, we believe it is not just immigrants or asylum seekers who are being bandied about as political pawns; it is Jesus himself. Jesus is being denied adequate legal advice; he has been denied the rights to asylum that are guaranteed under international law. Jesus himself is at risk of being kidnapped and exploited due to the Biden administration’s policies. This Advent, as Christians the world over contemplate the birth of Jesus, they cannot ignore where he is incarnate now, nor the policy decisions that make him absent in our communities.

Christians Can't Ignore the Border Crisis in Our Hearts

by Michael Woolf 09-29-2021

Photo credit Daniel Becerril via Reuters Connect | A Haitian migrant seeking refuge in the U.S., sits outside the Casa INDI shelter as they try to reach the border with United States, in Monterrey, Mexico September 28, 2021.

In the United States, white supremacy has made it impossible to see immigrants — but especially Haitian immigrants — as siblings who God commands us to love as though they were our neighbors. The U.S. has long resisted seeing Haitians not only as neighbors but as humans.

Using the Bible to Debunk 10 Myths About Reparations

A Black Lives Matter sign is seen near the corner of Emerson Street and Dodge Avenue in Evanston, Ill., U.S., March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Eileen T. Meslar.

Talking about reparations in church inevitably brings up theological and economic questions. Sometimes these questions are asked in good faith. Other times, these questions are based on myths that need to be deconstructed.