Culture

Image via RNS/ Screetshot from video 

Curtis thought there would be a few still shots taken of their meeting in an otherwise empty City Council chamber. But a video was made instead, showing the two men stretching, twisting, and wrapping a scarlet cloth on the mayor’s head. 

At the end, Pandher breaks into Bhangra — a traditional folk dance from the Punjab region — and Curtis gamely follows, despite his portly figure and business suit. 

The video ricocheted around Canada and then overseas via BBC News. It has been viewed more than 4.5 million times. 

The Editors 06-07-2016
Smooth Truths

Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter sings love, faith, and even a grooving tribute to nonviolent protest on Take Me to the Alley. The title track is a parable of a visiting king who spurns “shiny things” prepared for him and asks to be taken to “the afflicted ones.” Blue Note

Brothers, in Christ

The Berrigan Letters contains copious personal correspondence between Father Daniel Berrigan and his brother Philip across seven decades of activism. The collection is a glimpse into the hopes, dreams, and daily lives of two of the greatest peacemakers of the 20th century. Orbis

The Editors 03-28-2016
Hélène Grimaud

Hélène Grimaud

Elemental

Classical pianist Hélène Grimaud’s live album Water is a musical and spiritual reflection on the life-sustaining, yet too-often limited, resource. It is a beautiful compilation of compositions that celebrate the power, beauty, and rhythm of water, with a hope that it encourages ecological awareness. Deutsche Grammophon

For All Ages

Ronald J. Sider and Ben Lowe dialogue in The Future of Our Faith: An Intergenerational Conversation on Critical Issues Facing the Church. Each chapter has sidebar reflections from other leaders, including Christena Cleveland, Gabriel Salguero, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and Jenny Yang. Brazos Press

Abby Olcese 03-08-2016

Image via Missouri Division of Tourism/Flickr.

The True/False film festival in Columbia, Mo., likes to bill itself as “different.” And it is — the intimate weekend-long documentary fest has a well-earned reputation as a place where anything can happen: Here you’ll find award-winning directors hobnobbing with writers and college students over brunch, and accountants and lawyers who transform themselves, Cinderella-style, into flamboyantly dressed volunteers. But Columbia’s festival is unique in another way, one that’s more important than simple aesthetics: True/False also focuses on the unifying power of story.

Over its 13 years of existence, the festival has been committed to promoting the idea that introducing audiences to stories wildly different from their own expands our understanding of the human experience.

Juliet Vedral 02-18-2016

RISEN, Sony Pictures

I think the component of introducing a non-believer takes [away] the curse of trying to get it right for everybody, because he’s a non-believer. So let’s see how this works out. But we’re not portraying Christ head-on. We’re coming at them at such an angle that it’s easier to absorb and not be either threatened or challenged or for a lot of people that might not be what it is in Scripture, or their portrayal or their image of Christ or that moment it might not be what the filmmakers have done. … It’s a gentle way in, because you could find him an awful, destructive, murderous Roman soldier. You don’t have to like him; he’s not set up to be liked. … I just think that angle stops it being too head-on for people and then it grows out of that. Just getting a glimpse of Jesus makes us want to get there again and see it again. It’s kind of like in our lives … it’s kind of like faith is strong one day and it’s weak the next.

Cindy Brandt 01-28-2016

Graffiti on the wall of the abandoned building in Zelenogorsk City, Russia. TatyanaKokoulina / Shutterstock.com

Of course good art is in the eye of the beholder, but I define good art to be creations of paint, music, or stories that speak profoundly to the human condition and break open our imagination beyond what already is. Much of what is qualified as “Christian” art or music has instead done the opposite. It shuts down possibilities by offering a script to be consumed. Instead of creating space for genuine exploration of questions about God — who God is, what God does, where God can be found, etc. — Christian art supplies manufactured answers in a new marketing package. We have struggled to rise up into a prophetic imagination to speak against the dominant consumer culture. If anything, the subculture has been subsumed by consumerism.

Abby Olcese 01-14-2016

In marketing the film, Bay and the real-life men he portrays have stated that 13 Hours is not a political film. The goal, they say, is simply to show what happened, as it happened, and to recognize the courage and sacrifice of the people on the ground that day.

But it takes a more nuanced filmmaker than Bay (the creator of Bad Boys, Armageddon, and the Transformers films) to take an inherently political story like this one and truly make it free from bias. While 13 Hours doesn’t specifically call anyone out, or criticize (or endorse) the decisions of any particular leader or party, Bay and screenwriter Chuck Hogan mistake those qualities as the only ones required to make the film “non-political.”

Abby Olcese 11-30-2015

Still from Brooklyn. Image via Brooklyn Movie on Facebook.

There are many reasons to recommend Brooklyn — its relatable story for one, its glowing visuals and performances for another. But Brooklyn’s commendable qualities go far beyond this, including the amount of respect writer Nick Hornby and director John Crowley give the movie’s female protagonist. Brooklyn is a movie about hard choices, and for the most part, Eilis makes those choices on her own. At different points in the film, she’s caught between romantic relationships, and familial and personal obligations. But in none of these situations does it feel like her hand is forced. The movie lets us know early that Eilis can take care of herself, and she’s never forced to compromise on that point, though she easily could have been.

Although politics aren’t really on Brooklyn’s agenda, the film also carries an unintentional point on that score worth considering. At a time when the United States is anxious about welcoming refugees and immigrants, this film reminds us that our country is made up largely of immigrants — some who look like Eilis, but also many who don’t.

Abby Olcese 11-18-2015
The 33

Still from the movie 'The 33' / via The 33 Movie on Facebook

The 33, a dramatization of the 2010 San Jose mine collapse in Chile, has all the markings of a Hollywood tentpole film. Heartfelt, incredible true story: check. Touching human drama: check. Stirring score: check (it’s one of the last created by composer James Horner before his death in June, giving it extra poignancy). There are more lines about “not giving up” than there are tears in an Oscar acceptance speech. The 33 fits the end-of-year crowd-pleaser profile in every way.

The 33 tells the famous story of the collapse of the gold mine in Chile’s Atacama desert from three different perspectives. 

the Web Editors 11-17-2015

Bill Maher is known for his often vitriolic rhetoric against religion, especially Islam. But the comedian was actually raised Catholic. When Maher stopped by the Late Show to chat with Stephen Colbert, America’s most famous Catholic invited him to give Catholicism another try.

Their conversation was clearly tongue-in-cheek, but you can certainly feel some tension.

Abby Olcese 07-09-2015
Screenshot via 'Moonrise Kingdom' trailer/YouTube

Screenshot via 'Moonrise Kingdom' trailer/YouTube

Actor and writer Dylan Marron is the creator of Every Single Word, a popular tumblr and video series dedicated to exposing the lack of racial diversity in mainstream Hollywood films.

For the series, Marron, a biracial native of Venezuela best known for his work on the cult-favorite podcast Welcome to Night Vale, chooses a well-known, recent film and edits it down to only the lines spoken by people of color. The results are damning. None of the videos in Marron’s series last over a minute. Some, like Noahand Into the Woods, which feature no actors of color at all, simply cut directly to black.

Marron spoke with Sojourners about the origins of the project, the long-term effects of poor diversity representation onscreen, and systemic struggles facing people of color in the entertainment industry.

Shane Claiborne 06-29-2015
confederateflagblock

Image via /shutterstock.com

I own a Confederate flag. Growing up, the flag meant little more to me than school spirit, pep rallies, and Southern pride … until I left East Tennessee. I’ll never forget the moment things began to change. I moved into my college dorm room and established my new home at Eastern University in Philadelphia. I carefully set up my desk, put my posters on the wall, and displayed my high school yearbook — with a Confederate flag on the cover — proudly on my bookshelf.

Photo courtesy of ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc / RNS

The Wylie family from Rio Vista, Texas. Photo courtesy of ©2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc / RNS

If a briefcase of money fell in your lap, would you keep it, share it, or give it all away?

The new reality show The Briefcase is asking that question. But viewers and ethicists are asking more:

How could CBS put this on the air? Are there better ways to address the financial challenges of the middle class?

The hourlong show, which airs its fourth episode June 17, introduces two families each episode with the struggles of bills and not enough money coming in to achieve all their goals — whether dealing with a lost job, medical bills, or the potential costs of in vitro fertilization.

Abby Olcese 06-12-2015
Image via Jurassic Park on Facebook

Image via Jurassic Park on Facebook

Among the big releases this summer, two films offer new installments of iconic franchises. One, Mad Max: Fury Road is a master class in how to do it right. Made as a labor of love, not a studio cash-grab, it uses a familiar setting and hero to explore new artistic territory, and still maintains an insanely entertaining level of action.

The other is Jurassic World.

Ed Spivey Jr. 06-08-2015

Illustration by Ken Davis

When I get tired of talking to myself I talk to strangers. (Lucky strangers.)

Aaron Brown 06-08-2015
Micael Nussbaumer/Shutterstock

There’s a photo he carries for long journeys
like this one, for trips on loaded market lorries
where the passengers take their seat, perching
on top of cargo, or sitting on crude benches
inside the buses coming from Sudan with names
like “Best of Luck” or “Mr. Good Looking.”

Brittany Shoot 06-08-2015

Radiant Truths: Essential Dispatches, Reports, Confessions, & Other Essays in American Belief edited by Jeff Sharlet. 

Kurt Armstrong 06-08-2015

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers

Gareth Higgins 06-08-2015

Too much is going on, and not all of it is good. 

Danny Duncan Collum 06-08-2015

Brian Fallon's Christianity is less apparent than his Bruce devotion. 

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