Terry LeBlanc 02-17-2014

In missionary hands, the gospel was too often a bludgeon used to divide and conquer Native communities. Today, Indigenous theologians are finding redemptive power in that very same gospel.

Ed Spivey Jr. 02-10-2014

Illustration by Ken Davis

Okay, so maybe not actually die. Just change. And quickly.

Tom Ehrich 02-04-2014

Color photocrome postcard of the Hillsdale Shopping Center, mid-1950s. Photo courtesy Igor Stchogol via Wikimedia/ via RNS

The enclosed mall at Hillsdale Shopping Center had everything on a Friday morning: 1.3 million square feet of glistening space, top-drawer retailers like Nordstrom, reliable outlets like Macy’s, and teen-focused shops like American Eagle Outfitters.

It had everything except people.

The fabled mall — opened in 1954, enclosed in 1982 — felt like a ghost town. Or, in my frame of reference, like a big mainline Protestant church on a Sunday morning.

Rebecca Kraybill 02-04-2014

Carol Roth (Photo courtesy of Everett J. Thomas/The Mennonite)

Carol Roth, a staff leader with Native Mennonite Ministries, connects Native Mennonites with the broader Mennonite church.

Kathleen McCoy 02-04-2014

Sometimes even we— / pierced with arrow-words, with brassy / cacophonies of slurs—stand in calm.

Robert Hirschfield 02-04-2014

Marking the centennial of pacifist poet William Stafford

Gareth Higgins 02-04-2014

The Coens realize that sometimes, of course, comedy is bleak. But the point of gargoyles is to remind us that sacred and profane coexist.

Melanie Mullen 02-04-2014

City of God: Faith in the Streets. Jericho Books.

Otis Moss III 02-04-2014

U.S. cinema has been an enforcer of our racialized imagination -- but that’s changing.

Cindy Brandt 02-03-2014
Photo Courtesy of Disney

The queen of the kingdom of Arendelle, Elsa, was born with a special ability to manipulate ice. Photo Courtesy of Disney

Just as polar vortices sweep through America, Elsa, one of the main characters in the latest Disney princess movie, Frozen, unleashes her icy power in the fictional kingdom Arendelle, across theaters everywhere. In addition to delighting progressive audiences by satirizing Disney’s own trope of “marriage at first sight,” the story compels viewers, young and old, to find courage to be their true selves. The Oscar-nominated signature song, “Let It Go,” poignantly expresses the sentiment of letting go of fears, secret pains, and pretense. Fans of the song, from celebrities to little girls, have been belting the tune theatrically anywhere from kitchens to car rides to the Internet.

G.K. Chesterton says,

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

A good story is more than a pleasurable experience — it empowers us to live a changed life. Frozen is filled with beloved characters and catchy melodies, but also has much to teach us about power, privilege, and community.

Joe Kay 01-31-2014
Single thread, itsmejust /

Single thread, itsmejust /

I noticed a loose thread in a blanket the other day and was reminded of something my mom always said: Never pull on a loose thread. All that will do is make it worse. It’ll yank on the other threads and wind up creating a knot. Even if you do manage to remove the one loose thread without doing too much damage to the fabric, it’ll leave a space that starts the nearby threads working their way loose, too.

Soon, the whole thing unravels. Removing even one thread from the fabric creates big problems.

Isn’t it the same with us?

Each of us is a thread woven into the fabric of our world. We’re looped around each other, pulled tightly to one another, intimately bound to one another. We’re so closely intertwined that we can’t be separated without making it all unravel.

By ourselves, we are a thread. Together, we are a blanket.

The weaver made it so.

Dick Staub 01-30-2014

Dick Staub is author of “About You: Fully Human and Fully Alive.” Photo by Karen Mason-Blair. Via RNS.

In days of old, God used a burning bush to get Moses’ attention. Today’s prophets are often the truth-telling artists, singers, songwriters, and filmmakers whose modern version of “Thus sayeth the Lord” bursts forth in a stunning, sensual explosion of sight, sound, and touch.

They get our attention, and their prophetic word is visceral. It often goes beneath the rational radar and it can disturb more than it comforts. The annual Sundance Film Festival is like a tribe huddled around a campfire listening to the stories. These stories function like burning bushes, as prophetic calls to action. These films are meant not just to be watched, but to change us and, through us, to change the world.

Here are some of the messages I heard at Sundance 2014.

Still from 'Usoni.' Via the series' Facebook page.

Still from 'Usoni.' Via the series' Facebook page.

CNN reports on Usoni , a futuristic television drama produced in Kenya that is about reversed immigration. The show depicts Europe in 2063, where life has turned unlivable after a deadly series of natural and economic disasters.

Europeans are desperately seeking a way to get to a livable continent south of them: Africa. The hardships in making the trip are unfathomable, and once the immigrants arrive, they are unwelcome, harassed, and rejected. The story follows a young couple, Ophelia and Ulysse, who are seeking to make their way with their unborn child to the land of promise.

Yes, the comparisons today to those seeking to immigrate to Europe (with obvious parallels to America) are intentional. Marc Rigaudis, the Kenya-based French filmmaker who created the program, is making a point to help us walk in the shoes of those whom we know the Bible calls “aliens and strangers.”

The chilling trailer depicting people like me being treated as illegal immigrants is enough to make one’s hair stand on end.

Pregnant woman in a sunset in the park. Photo: Shutterstock / nacroba

Taking their cue from a tried-and-true fundraising technique, one New Jersey family tried to sell the right to name their baby.

The post on the Central Jersey Craigslist, which appeared Jan. 23, said a Jewish family had just given birth to their ninth daughter, and they were taking bids on the new name, starting at $20,000.

"This is an excellent opportunity for someone who did not have children, or someone looking to honor a relative, or even to honor someone who was killed in the Holocaust," read the ad, which has since been removed for violating the site’s terms of service.

Omar Sacirbey 01-24-2014

Best Buy employee Mustafa, who is featured on a Best Buy commercial. Photo courtesy of Best Buy / RNS

Viewers watching the American Football Conference championship game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots earlier this month may have seen a Best Buy commercial for a Sharp 60-inch television that seemed ordinary, but in one way was extraordinary.

The ad shows a young, clean-shaven salesman named Mustafa talking about the television, advising customers and relaxing at home watching movies and football with his friends.

“I’m never going to get these guys out of here,” he jokes to his girlfriend at the end.

While the commercial never identifies Mustafa as a Muslim, many might assume that given his name, a diminutive for Muhammad. For viewers used to seeing negative images of Muslims on television, the commercial was a rare exception.

Courtesy of Little, Brown, and Company

Courtesy of Little, Brown, and Company

What if what you thought were advantages were actually disadvantages? And what you thought were disadvantages ended up being what actually makes people successful?

So embarks best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell of BlinkThe Tipping PointOutliers, and What the Dog Saw in his new book: David and Goliath. In the same clear, concise style that made his other books so intriguing, Gladwell challenges yet another widespread assumption — that being the underdog tends to make one an underdog forever.

Instead he argues that being the underdog can give one the upper hand. In his signature approach, Gladwell supports his hypothesis with a series of narratives, from the classic case of David and Goliath to the forgiveness one Canadian Mennonite woman was able to work towards after her daughter was murdered. Like his previous books, David and Goliath is both entertaining and thought provoking and obliges readers reflect over their lives and reconsider personal “disadvantages” that actually required them to learn skills they otherwise might not have had.

Chris Herlinger 01-17-2014

Marc Chagall with Solitude, 1933. Private collection. ©Archives Marc et Ida Chagall, Paris. Photo:RNS courtesy The Jewish Museum

At a moment when the world is flush with new books and ever-evolving interpretations of Jesus, one of the last century’s artistic masters is providing art lovers with a striking take on the first-century religious figure.

The first U.S. exhibition exploring the “darker works” of Marc Chagall (1887-1985) shows a Jewish artist obsessed with Jesus.

Chagall: Love, War, and Exile,” at The Jewish Museum in New York showcases the work of the Russian-French artist during World War II as he tried to make sense of a world gone mad.

Of particular interest are paintings depicting the crucified Jesus — depictions that are often read as metaphors not only for war but the particular expressions of Jewish suffering and persecution in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s.

Adam Ericksen 01-16-2014

Jesus lived, died, and resurrected by the mercy strand in the Bible. nito/Shutterstock

(Editor's Note: This post was adapted from the author's speech at the Christianity 21 Conference in Denver.)

When I was in seminary, one of my best friends came up with a brilliant theological … pick up line:

"Hey, baby. What’s your hermeneutic?"

Despite the genius of that question, we soon discovered that anytime you start a pick up line with “Hey, baby” you’re in some trouble.

But it’s such a great question. Think of all the relationships that would have avoided painful break ups if they just defined the relationship in the beginning by answering the question “What’s your hermeneutic?"

Ben Sutter 01-15-2014

An IMAX camera films at the Western Wall. Photo: Nicolas Ruel, courtesy Jerusalem US LP/National Geographic Society/RNS

The old city of Jerusalem is smaller than one square mile. In 5,000 years of recorded human history there have been 180 conflicts around the city. It has been conquered 44 times, and completely destroyed twice. The story of conflict in this city is clearly not a new story.

When the producers of Jerusalem, a new movie for IMAX and other giant screen theaters, decided to approach the topic, they wanted to bring a fresh perspective to the long history.

“Jerusalem is a city in conflict,” said Taran Davies, one of the producers of Jerusalem, at a recent screening of the movie. “We wanted a new way to think about it. This [movie] is more a celebration.”

Juliet Vedral 01-10-2014
Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Gob Bluth. Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Author’s note: If you know me, you’d know that that I think the most important thing (of the things we worship ) is Jesus. And you’d also know that I love Arrested Development, with almost the same type of devotion I typically reserve for God. As a former “professional  church lady,” crafting prayers was right in my wheelhouse. So I’ve composed a psalm entirely out of Arrested Development quotes based on the ACTS style of prayer, because it is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to God. And also … not Aunt Lindsay’s nose.

Oh God. (AD 2:13)

I love you. (AD 1:7)

We all must seek forgiveness. I’ve always tried to lead a clean life. My brother and I were like those Biblical brothers, Gallant and, um … Goofuth. (AD 2:14)