Culture

Joshua Witchger 01-24-2012

Take a roller coaster ride on a classical music score, and see a voilionist respond to a cell phone interruption. See a visual of the day the internet went dark, and generate your own SuperPAC name. Plus, for the first time, Disney employees can grow facial hair. Take a look at today's links of awesomeness!  

http://youtu.be/uub0z8wJfhU

Julie Clawson 01-24-2012

Beyond the typical objections that the Harry Potter books will turn children into Satan-worshipers and encourage them to disrespect authority, one mom complained that she found it inappropriate that at Hogwarts food magically appears on the table at mealtime. Her argument was that she wants her children to have a good work ethic and not to believe that anything in life is free. She wanted her girls to know that preparing meals is hard work and so would therefore be sheltering them from this absurd depiction of people getting something for nothing.

I think at the time I had to restrain myself from asking if she also banned her kids from hearing the story of the feeding on the 5,000 in Sunday school, but it was hard not to think about her objection a few months later as I read The Goblet of Fire and its subplot about house elves. As it revealed, food does not magically appear on the tables at Hogwarts, it is prepared by hardworking elves who in the wizarding world are generally kept as slaves.

the Web Editors 01-24-2012

Obama To Take On Economic Anxiety In Election-Year State Of The Union, Amid GOP Attacks; Black, Latino Students Perform At Levels Of 30 Years Ago; Obama Offends The Catholic Left; Evangelicals And Romney: Should Theology Matter?; What’s Up With The Arab League?; "Self Deportation": It's A Real Thing, And It Isn't Pretty; Who Are Boko Haram and Why Are They Terrorizing Nigerian Christians?; 2011 Annual Letter From Bill Gates; Florida GOP Debate: Immigration Proposals Anger Protesters; An Occupy Prayer Breakfast: There Is Enough For Everyone!; Violence Spikes In Key Afghan Regions.

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll

HE SAID: David Vanderveen

Real marriages develop from two people who are committed to making them work. The specifics of how two real people make one real marriage work is largely irrelevant given the freedom we have in Christ. Marriage is supposed to be a symbol of our relationship with God on earth.

We don’t need more multiple choice tests and true-and-false quizzes with black-and-white answers to bring heaven to earth; we need to put the love of the other first — with God at the core — to make our marriages work.

SHE SAID: Sarah Vanderveen

Real Marriage is a poorly written, poorly researched book by a well-meaning pastor who I believe is struggling with his own sexuality and sense of self-worth. I don’t know how else to explain his weirdly inappropriate fixation on masculinity and specific sexual practices, and his failure to address the complexity of human sexuality and relationships.

It feels to me like he doesn’t really want to understand the whole person, rather he just wants to cut straight to the salacious tidbits. I realize that’s how you sell a lot of books, but still. I get the distinct impression that Driscoll is not a man at peace.

Joshua Witchger 01-20-2012

President Obama wishes Betty White a happy 90th birthday, Will Farrell's homemade commercials for Old Milwaukee, contest for Anne Rice's new novel, Megadeath bassist to become ordained Lutheran minister, and more.  

http://youtu.be/CqtbPG25G0k

the Web Editors 01-13-2012

Evangelical Leaders Struggle To Crown A Candidate; George W. Bush Cancels Visit To Swiss Charity Gala Over Fears He Could Be Arrested On Torture Charges;Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011: Report; Evangelicals Taking Second Look At Romney; In The Fight Against Poverty, It’s Time for A Revolution (OPINION); Iranian Government Delays Pastor's Death Sentence For Apostasy One Year Hoping Media Will Forget; Tavis Smiley, Of Poverty Tour, Hosts “Reawakening America” With Panelists Cornel West, Suze Orman, Michael Moore; A Pro Snowboarder's Guide To Climate Change; Okay Progressives, What's Your Alternative To Ron Paul?; Congressional Chaplains Minister To A Sharply Divided Flock.

Cathleen Falsani 01-13-2012
Robert Duvall at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival

Robert Duvall at the Toronto Film Festival, 2009. Photo by Josh Jensen via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3920752942

Many cinephiles have a short list of virtuoso actors who are so graceful and true we'd watch them read a phone book. For me, the list includes Jeff Bridges, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton, John Mahoney, Christopher Plummer and that great icon of American cinema, Oscar-winner Robert Duvall.

So when a publicist for Seven Days in Utopia contacted me recently about the Christian-themed film and asked whether I'd like to interview Duvall, I jumped at the chance. A loudhailer of a film, long on message and cliché but woefully short on subtlety or artistry (save for Duvall's charmingly folksy performance), Seven Days in Utopia — set in rural Texas, it's an exploration of redemption and golf — is not a flick I'm going to be urging you to run out and see or rent, unless you, like me, would watch Duvall read the proverbial White Pages.

In the film, which opened in theaters last fall and was released on DVD at the end of last year, Duval plays Johnny Crawford, a golf-pro-cum-cowboy who helps a young pro golfer, Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black), reclaim his game and his faith. Duvall's Johnny is like Yoda with a five iron and hearkens back to many of the archetypal characters the Oscar-winner (who turned 81 years old last week) has played throughout his storied career.

Duvall, who began his career on the New York stage in the early 1960s (as a struggling young actor at The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, he roomed with fellow students Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman), has appeared in some of the most spiritually eloquent films of our time, often playing the role of ersatz sage and spiritual counselor. He is a workingman's working actor with about 150 performances in film and television productions under his belt buckle since his premiere in an episode of the Armstrong Circle Theater television series in 1959.

From "Boo Radley" in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird and "Tom Hagen" in The Godfather (parts 1 and 2) or "Lieutenant Kilgore" in Apocalypse Now and "Bull Meechum" in The Great Santini, to "Mac Sledge" in Tender Mercies (for which he won the best actor Academy Award) and "Gus McCrae" in Lonesome Dove or "Wayne Cramer" in Crazy Heart and "Felix Bush" in Get Low, Duvall has created indelible characters who are authentic, honest and transcendent.

Christian Piatt 01-13-2012

I was a Star Wars kid. I was almost six years old when the first movie hit theaters and it blew my mind, as it did the minds of all my friends. We all wanted to grow up either to be Darth Vader or Obiwan Kenobi, depending on your particular bent.

Not for nothing, but I did tear up when Vader finally died. Kenobi just wasn’t as cool.

The Star Wars saga helped define pop culture in many ways throughout my childhood. And so George Lucas, creator of the epic films, was the cinematic god of our youth. And if anyone has juice in Hollywood to get things done, it’s Lucas, who owns Lucasfilms (his own production company). So if there’s a film he wants to get made, it’s going to happen.

Unless the stars of the movie are black, that is.

Joshua Witchger 01-12-2012

TV's award winning comedy 30 Rock debuts tonight, create your own remixes with Mono's customer appreciation page, discover hidden features on the iPhone, Hostess nears bankruptcy, GOOD's new social justice efforts, and more. Plus videos of chain reaction mechanics performing mundane tasks and a backstage glimpse into the gospel vibes of Wilco, Mavis Staples, and Nick Lowe. 

Christian Piatt 01-12-2012
Sexperiment, the book.

Sexperiment, the book.

Ed Young and his wife, Lisa, have penned a new book called “Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse,” which is a sort of how-to guide for couples to rekindle intimacy in their marriage while remaining within the boundaries of biblical virtues, as interpreted by the authors.

First off, I’m glad evangelicals are joining the sexuality discussion. Having helped create a series of books whose first title was focused on faith and sex/sexuality, I believe it’s of great importance that faith leaders speak in open, healthy ways about sexuality, sexual expression, attraction, and so on.

One of the most hyped points made in the book is that it encourages married couples to engage in their own “Sexperiment,” where they commit to having sex each day for a week. The theory is that this will renew physical and emotional intimacy, and also help reduce the urge for things like pornography.

Hey, sex for Jesus sounds like a no-brainer to me. Sign me up!

Ed Spivey Jr. 01-11-2012
"Jesus is My Coach" figurine via www.standrewschurchsupply.com

"Jesus is My Coach" figurine via www.standrewschurchsupply.com

When God chose Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow to be His witness to a hurting world, it might not have been clear that this was only a temporary calling. To be sure, during the regular season God was appreciative of Tebow’s on-field witness of kneeling in prayer and pointing skyward after every touchdown. After all, what better way to show the power of divine love than in front of millions of people drinking beer on the Sabbath.

Joshua Witchger 01-11-2012

Polaroid camera are back on the market, apocalypse survival guide, Jack Kerouac for bros, the NBA begins using 3D graphics, the hit show Portlandia, James Franco's new film, classic album covers are given a clip art makeover, and more.

Joshua Witchger 01-11-2012

It's always encouraging to see musicians using their unique platform to inspire social change.

When it comes to an indie supergroup such as  New Party Systems — compirsed of members from TV on the Radio, Notekillers, and Liturgy — disparate audiences are drawn together for common purpose: economic justice.

New Party Systems's song "We Are," which dropped on the web yesterday, draws attention back to what the Occupy Movement is: A place of rising consciousness, full of energy and passion to bring about change.

While it may seem that the Occupy Movement is losing its steam, this expression reminds us its the spirit is alive — and growing.

Joshua Witchger 01-10-2012

A zombie version of the Oregon Trial, what it would look like if Batman had been created by Dr. Suess, and could an App a day keep the doctor away? Plus, videos of wackadoo political candidates, what happens in a book store at night when no one's around, how to get discovered on YouTube by Russell Crowe (without even trying), and ... Aunt Carol grooving to Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna.”

http://youtu.be/V755gIgP700

Steve Stockman 01-10-2012
Kicking at the Darkness by Brian Walsh

Kicking at the Darkness by Brian Walsh

When a friend told me about this book late last year, I thought that all my Christmas had come early.

A theological treatise on Bruce Cockburn has been very necessary for years, but surely he was such a cult artist that no publisher would ever see a book on him as profitable. So fair play to Brazos Press for the courage and vision. And the author might have swayed the deal.

Walsh does a good few things in Kicking At The Darkness; Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination. He confirms all your thoughts on your favorite Cockburn lyrics. (They were as theologically potent as you always thought!) He also reminds you how many great lines Cockburn has written, causing you to scuttle back to re-listen to every album right back to the first.

Tripp Hudgins 01-10-2012
Imagine. Image via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/2512334908

The Strawberry Fields "Imagine" memorial in NYC's Central Park. Image via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/2512334908

Cee Lo Green got himself in some pop-culture hot water on New Years Eve when he changed the lyrics to John Lennon's "Imagine." You would think he was changing the Bible or something, but no, it was much worse. He changed the lyrics to a John Lennon song. "No religions" became "all religions" and all hell broke loose....

Suffice it to say that people were put out. They defended Lennon's unchangeable artistic canon. Green's supporters suggested that all art can be reinterpreted...even John Lennon's. Personally, I didn't find it offensive at all. Instead, I thought it was a thoughtful (if momentary) update to the iconic pop song. Given the religious strife in the world, expressing a love for humanity through all the world's religion was generous and very appropriate for a New Year celebration.

Alas, no. We're beset by fundamentalisms of all kinds (Lennonists?) and on all sides in this nation of ours. We're sufficiently afraid of religiosity that we've turned anti-religiosity into a religion and musicians become gods and their three minute songs become scripture...unchangeable holy writ.

We're afraid and that fear strips us of our compassion.

Richard Beck 01-09-2012
Lady Gaga. Image via http://bit.ly/AjdhWA

Lady Gaga. Image via http://bit.ly/AjdhWA

During all my reading about Robyn and Lady Gaga I came across some stuff about Lady Gaga that I found interesting, theologically speaking. As I told Jana over the summer, "I'm sort of developing a theological curiosity about Lady Gaga." Jana asked, "How so?"

Well, Lady Gaga calls her fans "monsters." Or "little monsters." And by that she means freaks--the odd, the weird, the lonely, the rejects, the nerds, the castoffs. And you can't help but wonder, in light of the gospels, about that demographic. In my book Unclean I have a chapter on monsters. And I've written about the theology of monsters on this blog. Consequently, Lady Gaga's use of the label "monsters" caught my attention.

Because as I've written, the category "monster" is charged with ambivalence. On the surface the monster is a normative threat--a defilement, a degradation, a location of moral and communal harm. Thus, monsters are expelled from community. And yet, most monster stories suggest that the monster is often a scapegoat. That the monster is more victim than victimizer. Underneath, if we could but see it, the monster is one of us.

So it's theologically apt that Lady Gaga uses the category monster for her fans. Because she's targeting a group that has been cast out of society. Again, she's explicitly embracing the freaks, weirdos and social outcasts. But Gaga, like in the monster stories, has flipped this and made the label "monster" a term of affection, welcome, embrace, community, inclusion and hospitality. (The diminutive "little" signals the playful affection.) This parallels my own interests in Unclean--Can we show hospitality toward monsters? So I'm intrigued by Gaga's community of "little monsters."

the Web Editors 01-06-2012

Evangelicalism's Changing Heart On Immigration, Congress, White House Cut Heating Assistance Just In Time For Winter, Unemployment Rate Key To 2012 Election, College Kids Vow To End Slavery, The 23 Best Countries For Work-Life Balance (We Are Number 23), Rick Santorum’s God And Gays Message Falls Flat In New Hampshire.

Joshua Witchger 01-06-2012

Stephen Colbert takes Pat Robertson's challenge to America and prays at full volume, file sharing considered "religious expression," Harrison Ford watches Indiana Jones for the first time, Gary Busey and Ted Haggard on Wife Swap, facebook plans networking offline, part two of Jimmy Kimmel's Christmas trick, and — our of the mouths of babes —a Christian version of the Black Eyed Peas song "My Humps."

http://youtu.be/wSmHGjEmNC8

Cathleen Falsani 01-06-2012
Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

"How was all of this created? If the answer to that question is God created everything, there was a creator, than I say, great! What a great job. And I like the idea. I find it very, I don’t know, I find it comforting in some way. But if the answer to that is there is no God, I don’t feel like, well, what a jerk I’ve been. I feel, oh fine, so there’s another answer. I don’t know the answer. I’m just a speck of dust here for a nanosecond, and I’m very grateful." — Paul Simon in an interview that will air this weekend on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Watch the interview in its entirety inside ...

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