Gareth Higgins 01-05-2014

The 10 best U.S. films of 2013.

Dave Browning 12-10-2013
Courtesy of Atlantic Records

Courtesy of Atlantic Records

Way back in the day (circa 2004), Switchfoot's lead singer, Jon Foreman, was asked if the band is a “Christian” band. Even though it's been a while, his response is worth looking at again.

Julie Polter 11-05-2013

A blog by David Hilfiker / Sing to the Moon by Laure Mvula / High Rise Stories:Voices from Chicago Public Houses by Audrey Petty / Walk with Me by Tanisha Christie and Ellie Walton 



Charles Honey 09-30-2013
Photo courtesy of Charles Honey

The gun mural at Fountain Street Church, before erasure. Photo courtesy of Charles Honey

It didn’t take long to erase the gun.

Greg Bokor’s ArtPrize drawing of an assault rifle at Grand Rapids’ Fountain Street Church was rubbed out Sept. 21 after the public was invited to wield erasers imprinted with sorrow.

Normally festive art lovers obliterated the killing machine with erasers bearing the names of 83 massacred children and adults. They included Jesse Lewis, age 6, one of 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December; Veronica Moser-Sullivan, also 6, youngest of 12 people killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colo. movie-theater slaughter; and the 45 victims of the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech shootings.

Within hours, the public had rendered the AR-15 just a faintly visible image. It was a powerful symbol of what many of us would like to see happen to these weapons of death so easily available to mentally deranged people seeking sick revenge.

Tragically, in real life, it is the children and other victims who have been so easily erased from our consciousness.

Katherine Burgess 09-24-2013

“Our Lady of Perpetual Exhaustion” by Cynthia Farrell Johnson, mixed media (2012). Photo via RNS/Wesley Theological Seminary

Meet “Our Lady of Perpetual Exhaustion,” a saint everyone probably can relate to.

The chaos of everyday life and the methods we use to overcome it are on display at the “Our Lady of Perpetual Exhaustion” exhibit in two D.C. galleries.

“We all have coping mechanisms,” said Cynthia Farrell Johnson, creator of the exhibit’s theme. “And for most of us, part of our coping mechanism is our spiritual life.”

Joe Kay 08-13-2013
 Potter's hands on a wheel, bluelake /

Potter's hands on a wheel, bluelake /

Biblical writers suggest that God loves a holy mess. They compare God’s creative spirit to a strong wind, and we all know what happens when a powerful wind blows through our windows or through our lives — everything gets upended! One image in Genesis has God scooping up a bit of earth to create us. Yes, God had to get some dirt under the fingernails in order to bring us about.

Jesus was creative in how he touched and healed people, often making himself ritually unclean in the process. He embraced his uncleanliness.

Sadly, many religious institutions discourage us from doing the same.

Alessandro Speciale 05-15-2013
Uncreation photo courtesy Pontifical Council for Culture (

Uncreation photo courtesy Pontifical Council for Culture (

For centuries, popes sponsored the work of artists such as Michelangelo, Raffaello, or Bernini, who went on to create some of their masterpieces within the very walls of the Vatican.

Yet over time, the marriage between art and faith grew stale — the Vatican’s culture minister even called it a “divorce” — with the Roman Catholic Church finding itself estranged from the art world it did so much to create.

Now, in a bid to revive its ancient tradition of arts patronage, the Holy See will participate with its own pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, a leading international arts festival.

Danny Duncan Collum 04-04-2013

Vernon Bowman speaks outside the Supreme Court following arguments against Monsanto.

"It's time to declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture."

Jesse James DeConto 01-08-2013
Photo illustration, © Elena Ray /

Photo illustration, © Elena Ray /

Almost two years ago, I took a titanic risk. If you look at things from an earthbound perspective, what I did is: I took my livelihood, and my children's provision, in my hands alone. I quit my job at The News & Observer, a major, Pulitzer-prize-winning newspaper where I earned a decent salary and reached 150,000 to 200,000 readers on any given day. 

The decision was a long time coming — my whole adult life, really. Before I ever started my first newspaper job in 2000, I’d wanted to help people explore deeper things than just tax policy, or crime, or environmental regulation. These just skim the surface of who we are as humans: why we share or hoard, why we hurt or protect one another, what we owe to Mother Earth.

What I found as a newspaper reporter was that I had no choice but to skim the surface of things. There’s not enough space to go deeper, but, more importantly, deeper takes you into hypothesis, not fact — and hypothesis is a leap of faith. What you find when you go deeper depends a lot on the gear you’re wearing when you dive. I’m cloaked in Bible stories and Christian tradition, and therefore I live in hope that there’s a Creator and that this God is working quietly to heal the world.

I read recently in Psalm 27: 

“The Lord is my light and my salvation —
 whom shall I fear?
 The Lord is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?”

Jesse James DeConto 11-27-2012
Photo: Hands playing piano, © silver-john /

Photo: Hands playing piano, © silver-john /

How is it possible that the creative life can feel simultaneously self-giving and narcissistic? On the one hand, the artist, or musician, or writer has a gift that not everyone has. And because paintings and songs and books give other people great joy – and might even change their lives — those gifts must be shared. But that means the artist herself must be shared, and that’s the problem.

For the artist, self-expression is unavoidable – it is part of the job description. As a songwriter, my raw material is the world as I observe it. That’s all I’ve got. The most realistic painter or sculptor still has to rely on his own vision. Even as a journalist, I have to draw upon my five senses, my own mind and my own experiences. Even as I tell someone else’s story, it is in part my story. I can’t tell your story without filtering it through my story; it’s how we make sense of new information. I’m only human, after all.

Trevor Barton 11-13-2012
Photo:  IMAGEMORE Co, Ltd. / Getty Images

Photo: IMAGEMORE Co, Ltd. / Getty Images

We were walking up the beach, on the sand as the tide moved out toward the ocean. I was holding Zeke's hand, talking with him about sea things. "I didn't know jellyfish swam this close to the shore during the spring," he said in 5-year-old wonderment. "I bet that drift wood is as old as The Old Man and the Sea. I think a horseshoe crab's blood can be used to treat cancer."

"Look," I said.

"What is it, Dad?" he asked.

I picked up a shell out of the deep, hot sand and held it in my open hand.

Tim Townsend 09-18-2012
RNS photo courtesy Wikimedia/Public Domain

Michelangelo's painting titled 'Last Judgment.' RNS photo courtesy Wikimedia/Public Domain

In the middle of the 16th century, Catholic bishops and theologians met sporadically in the city of Trento in northern Italy to discuss the church's response to the Reformation. Over the course of 18 years, the Council of Trent produced documents correcting abuses like indulgences and other corruption.

In 1564, the council ordered that some naked figures in Michelangelo's massive "Last Judgment" fresco in the Sistine Chapel be covered up as a result of the council's dictate that "all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust."

It will be difficult for critics to compare Michelangelo's nudes with the ones photographed by the Rev. John Blair. Just after the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri launched an investigation of the St. Louis priest, many of his photos of nude models were removed from the Internet.

And yet the diocese's disciplinary board, whose members will decide if Blair's photography constitutes sexual misconduct, will try to answer the same question as Trent's participants 450 years ago: How does the church recognize the beauty of art that depicts God's creation — the human form — without seeming to condone "a beauty exciting to lust"?

RNS photo by Sid Hastings/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Members of the Islamic Foundation of St. Louis perform in honor of Sept 11. RNS photo by Sid Hastings/St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Timothy O'Leary sat in an audience of 2,000 New Yorkers listening to the Brooklyn Philharmonic perform a concert about terrorism — the 1985 murder of an American tourist by members of the Palestine Liberation Front on a Mediterranean cruise ship. It was one of the most powerful moments he'd ever had in a theater.

Terrorism stories are rarely happy stories, and yet the path O'Leary has taken — from bringing the controversial opera "The Death of Klinghoffer" to St. Louis last year to a Sept. 11 memorial concert on Sept. 9 — ends with a hopeful, permanent pairing of faith and the arts in St. Louis.

Tripp Hudgins 09-04-2012
Michael Gungor performs at Wild Goose West. Photo by Bill Dahl for Wild Goose.

Michael Gungor performs at Wild Goose West. Photo by Bill Dahl for Wild Goose.

Hello fellow Sojourners!

This is a brief missive for your enjoyment. I just returned from the Wild Goose Festival in Corvallis, Ore.

Yes, Oregon and not North Carolina. You see, in a fit of wisdom, the good people of Wild Goose found a west coast location. I hope it worked well for them because I'm sold on the place.

I wish you could have been there. It was amazing. To tantalize you into attending next year, here (in no particular order) are Nine Good Reasons to Attend The Wild Goose Festival.

1. There are no bugs.

None. Well, some flies, but this is Oregon and not North Carolina and though the nights are chilly and the mornings moreso (I awoke the last morning to see my breath in the air), the sun arose and everything warmed up to make for some of the most beautiful weather you'll ever experience.

2. All the notables are there.

Rachel, Richard (and Richard), Brian, Nadia, Gareth, Bruce, Christian, Amy, Yvette, Hilary, Greg, Steve...So many people to meet and to know.

Joshua Witchger 08-15-2012

National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest selects 11 winners out of 12,000+ entries --- Kirby Ferguson's TED talk on originality, creativity, and remixing --- billboards play on Shell's slogan, stick it to the corporate oil giant --- world's first all-female Street Art conference kicks off --- pickin' tunes from the Milk Carton Kids. See these and more in today's Links of Awesomeness...

Joshua Witchger 08-07-2012

Peter Jackson releases a second trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey --- feminist Ryan Gosling to become coffee table book --- animals forming their own bands --- Conan O'Brien's "Clueless Gamer" --- Sesame Street minimalist art --- Stephen Colbert's music performance festival Setphest Colbchella. See these and more in today's Links of Awesomeness...

Anne Marie Roderick 08-01-2012

Documentary: "Concrete, Steel, and Paint"

Concrete, Steel, and Paint, directed by Cindy Burstein and Tony Heriza

Joshua Witchger 07-31-2012

Break out the tambourines and rise up singing! A hymn revival is happening … again.

This month, The Lower Lights continue to shine as they release a second stand-out collection of hymns, aptly titled, “A Hymn Revival II.” And this time around, the group of 20+ musicians expands their repertoire outside of the “American Protestant” catalog, and into the wider collection of folk music, including country classics like Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” and “Calling You,” the African-American spiritual “Go Down Moses,” and the familiar Irish hymn “Be Thou My Vision.”  

Each of the 16 tracks on “A Hymn Revival Vol. II,” glow with intention. Whether it’s the soft but steady pulse of the song “Nearer My God to Thee,” or the call-and-response elicited from snappy chorus of “In the Sweet By and By,” The Lower Lights’ sophomore album presents another authentic look at the joy of the Christian life found in community and comradery, all propelled by the sacred art of making music.

David Anderson 07-12-2012
RNS photo by Patti Jette Hanley

Print about John F. Kennedy and Pope John XXIII incorporates the Sunkist company logo. RNS photo by Patti Jette Hanley

Combining images and words from advertising, pop culture, and religion, the bold graphic art of Sister Mary Corita was as deeply representative of the spirit of the 1960s as it was ubiquitous in church basements, dorm rooms. and urban communes of people involved in the struggle for civil rights and the campaign to end the Vietnam War.

In today's visual and graphically dominant popular culture, Corita's work — her bold typography, vivid colors, the use of ad logos and slogans — resonates with a new generation, attracted by what has been called "her festive involvement in the world'' and her interest in "blurring the lines between art and life.''

"Corita's art from the 1960s, which is based in advertising, has this great pop appeal to us today in our media-saturated culture,'' said Kathryn Wat of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. 

Joshua Witchger 07-02-2012

"Sun Boxes" a solar powered outdoor art installation of music – life size Hot Wheels track earns World Record –belt buckle flask –summery fruit sculptures –man plays typewriter in symphony –realistic names for common snack foods – and eleven months of hard work finally pays off in this stunning video of a used engine rebuilt. See today's Links of Awesomeness for all the details...