Culture

Antonio Banderas at a news conference during the 62nd Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 15, 2012. Photo:cinemafestival / Shutterstock

Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas may be cast in the role of Pope Francis in the first feature film to be made on the life of the Argentine pontiff.

Italian director Daniele Luchetti plans to make the $12 million Spanish language film, titled “Call Me Francesco,” with producer Pietro Valsecchi, who has made some of Italy’s highest-grossing movies.

Valsecchi’s Rome-based production house, Taodue Film, confirmed the news Wednesday, and a spokeswoman said the company was looking to shoot the film in various locations, including Argentina and Italy.

Banderas is one of the top Spanish-speaking actors being considered to play the lead role, she told Religion News Service.

Christian Piatt 05-13-2014

One phrase comes to mind, time and again, when I think of Frank Schaeffer: “THINK AGAIN.” Any time I think I have a handle on things theological, he seems to find the thread, hanging from the edges, and gives it a good, solid yank.

Such is the case once again with his newest book, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace. Just when it seems the delineations between theism and atheism, between believers and nonbelievers, is sufficiently clear, Schaeffer blurs even those lines, leaving us to wonder what it is any of us actually believes and why.

Frank Schaeffer is not one to deconstruct theology (or even the lack thereof) with some kind of sadistic joy, leaving us to sort through the pieces. Rather he explores what I might call trans-theism, offering us practices, a vocabulary, and a worldview that take us far beyond belief toward a deeply human – and yet inexplicably transcendent – experience.

I asked Frank several questions about his new project; here is what he had to say.

05-13-2014
As Murdock writes, A standard Q tactic is to pair apparent opposites together and have them talk about something on which they can agree. Two years ago in Washington, Moore’s predecessor, the conservative Richard Land, was seated next to the left leaning Jim Wallis of Sojourners to tag-team immigration reform. The odd couples this year included the state’s Republican Governor Bill Haslam and Nashville’s Democrat Mayor Karl Dean who traded compliments and discussed public education. A Jewish Israeli mother who had lost a son and a Muslim Palestinian father who had lost a daughter shared the emotional stories that brought them together to work for peace. Theologians Matthew Levering and Timothy George summarized the unity achieved through twenty years of work by Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an effort begun by Gabe Lyons’s mentor Chuck Colson and First Things’s own Richard John Neuhaus.
05-12-2014
Jim Wallis on The Daily Show Sojourners founder, author and theologian Jim Wallis has been a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart multiple times since 2005 to discuss the intersections of politics, religion and activism. In this throwback clip from Jon Stewart’s early days on the Comedy Central staple (starting at 12:52 in the video below), the two discuss Wallis’ popular book God’s Politics. The discussion primarily involves the religious implications of the then current political issues, morality and activism. But in a more personal moment, Wallis tells Stewart (who is Jewish), “The Hebrew prophets used humor and truth-telling to make their point. Which I think you do very well. So maybe you’re one of the prophets.”
Ed Spivey Jr. 05-12-2014

Illustration by Ken Davis

...although maybe we should have kept a little for ourselves.

Tyler Francke 05-08-2014
Via 'A Matter of Faith' website, amatteroffaithmovie.com

Via 'A Matter of Faith' website, amatteroffaithmovie.com

In just the latest evidence that a certain subset of conservative evangelical Christians really has no interest in occupying the real world with the rest of us, the trailer for a new movie called A Matter of Faith has hit the Internet.

The film follows the travails of a Christian father, who — horrified by the fact that his daughter’s college teaches the theory of evolution as a fact (gasp!) — challenges the villainous biology professor to a public debate that will no doubt settle the matter once and for all.

If this premise sounds strangely familiar, it could be that you’re remembering God’s Not Dead, a film released in March, in which a Christian student who — horrified by the fact that his philosophy professor is a committed atheist — challenges the dastardly nonbeliever to a debate on the existence of God that, no doubt, settled the matter once and for all.

(I’m told that the new movie was called Christians vs. the Straw Man II: This Time It’s Personal throughout production, before filmmakers decided to rename it A Matter of Faith.)

The similarities between the two pictures don’t stop there.

05-06-2014
And guess what? It didn’t really change anything. I still don’t have agents and publishers knocking down my doors. I still get fewer than five comments on most of my blog posts. “Why I am a Christian Democrat” still brings in a fair amount of traffic; it is almost always one of the most popular posts on my blog. But otherwise, my writing life today is very much the same as it was back in October 2012. I write here a few times a week. I guest post for friends’ and colleagues’ blogs. Without a solid idea for another book, I’m focusing on getting articles and blog posts published by print and online magazines, including the Christian Century and Sojourners.
05-01-2014
Proclaiming that the tomb is empty – that Jesus has risen from the grave – is the most powerful witness any Christian can offer. But if our Easter celebration stops at proclamation then we’ve shortchanged the world of the hope and joy it sorely needs. The resurrection must also be about embodiment. It should change the way we live and move and have our being. Easter should transform and strengthen us to participate in God’s reconciling work in the world.
05-01-2014
His work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, Sojourners, Oxford American and other publications. He is a former commentator for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim 04-28-2014
VLADGRIN/Shutterstock.com

VLADGRIN/Shutterstock.com

I grew up in the days of the encyclopedia salesman. I clearly remember the day when a clean-cut well-dressed man knocked on our apartment door to sell the 26-volume World Book Encyclopedia.

We were recent immigrants and could not speak English fluently. We had few worldly possessions and the last thing we needed in our house was a 26-volume encyclopedia.

After the hour presentation during which we flipped through the volumes full of exciting information, my dad said no. The salesman looked sad and pitiful as he packed his sales kit. As he exited the door, he gave one last pitch and, suddenly, my dad changed his mind and we bought the whole set.

Either the salesman was good or my parents had this strong desire that their children needed to know “everything there is to know about the world.” Maybe it was a bit of both.

In 2014, long gone are those 26-volume encyclopedias that once filled the bookshelves of many of my childhood friends’ homes. Now we have everything that we need to know at our fingertips through iPads, computers, cell phones, or other gadgets.

04-22-2014
Writing on the Sojourner's Magazine blog, editor and baseball fan Jim Wallis says that "the key emotion of my baseball experience is hope over despair, which is also the most important meaning of Easter for us as Christians.
Tripp Hudgins 04-22-2014
Historic church organ, FooTToo / Shutterstock.com

Historic church organ, FooTToo / Shutterstock.com

Nostalgia drives liturgical change as much as it drives musical entrepreneurship. What songs warm our hearts? What reminds us of grandmother? A song might symbolize an imagined, more perfect, time in the church. Nostalgia and utopian dreams of the past collude and what emerges is new liturgy.

The new is born of ideations of the old. The new is born of nostalgia as much as anything else.

Of course, most of us are nostalgic for times and places that are irrecoverable. How we partake of the table feast is predicated on what moves our heart. And it is mediated by the liturgical power structures of our own traditions. Perhaps you have a prayer book like the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. So, you try to create a liturgy for both you and your grandmother even though your grandmother still perceives the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as an innovation and not the church of her childhood for which she too is very nostalgic. She misses her parents. She misses her grandparents.

David Burger 04-21-2014

Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees performs in 2012. Photo courtesy of Mike Deerkoski via Wikimedia Commons.

KISS may have been on the cover of the April 10 issue of Rolling Stone, but the most eye-opening headline may have been the one that proclaimed: “Gay, Mormon & Finally Out.”

It led readers to page 46 and a story about Tyler Glenn, the frontman for Neon Trees, Utah’s most prominent band.

After years of denials and lyrics that obscure the issue, Glenn declared proudly that he is gay — and still a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I believe and I have faith and I was born with this,” Glenn told The Salt Lake Tribune in one of the first interviews since coming out.

Claudia Puig 04-16-2014

A wide-eyed 4-year-old makes a fairly convincing case for the existence of an afterlife in Heaven Is for Real. But it’s Greg Kinnear, with his characteristic affability, who just about seals the deal.

Humor infuses the film (rated PG), which opens nationwide Wednesday (April 16) and is based on the best-selling book. By focusing on the bond between father and son, the movie avoids being heavy-handed or preachy, a wise choice for a film that asserts heaven exists, based on the earnest insistence of a precocious preschooler.

Video courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment via YouTube

Mary Beth McCauley 04-16-2014

Cantata 79, J.S. Bach played by First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, in October 2013. Photo courtesy Jennifer Gay/RNS

Think Christmas, and carols come to mind: “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” “The First Noel.” But think of the other great Christian season — Holy Week and Easter — and most people draw a musical blank.

That’s a shame, say church music experts, because the great trove of Holy Week music is firmly rooted in church, where, depending on location, tradition, and taste, believers hear everything from folk music to Gregorian chant, from classical requiem Masses to Passions by modern composers.

“The music written for Holy Week is some of the richest in our literature,” said David Ludwig, dean of artistic programs at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

A lunar eclipse from Sydney on Aug. 28, 2007. Photo courtesy of Peter Gaylard, via Wikimedia Commons

Could a series of “blood moon” events be connected to Jesus’ return? Some Christians think so.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the moon slid into Earth’s shadow, casting a reddish hue on the moon. There are about two lunar eclipses per year, according to NASA, but what’s unusual this time around is that there will be four blood moons within 18 months — astronomers call that a tetrad — and all of them occur during Jewish holidays.

A string of books have been published surrounding the event, with authors referring to a Bible passage that refers to the moon turning into blood. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2:31 says.

04-07-2014
Baseball's opening day "reminds us that at the heart of our lives is a need for joy and hope. Easter reveals its source," writes Sojourners president and Christian leader Jim Wallis in Huffington Post.
04-07-2014
Oh my, did I need Opening Day this year. Opening Day, of course, is the first day of the baseball season. For baseball fans, it is a time when hope comes alive again, after a long winter of waiting.
04-07-2014
Select titles from the Religion Nonfiction finalists are: Boring by Michael Kelley (B&H Books); Consider the Birds by Debbie Blue (Abingdon Press);On God's Side by Jim Wallis (Brazos Press/Baker Publishing Group); Playing God by Andy Crouch (IVP Books); Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by J.D. Greear (B&H Books); and The Good Funeral by Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch (Westminster John Knox Press).
04-07-2014
Co-writer Ari Handel said in an interview with Cathleen Falsani of Sojourners that Ila was a way to explore Noah's love. "Obviously the notion of barrenness and infertility is a very biblical concept and it fits right in with the Noah story because it’s all about the death of life and the birth of new life; it’s all about second chances and next generations," he explained. "So I think she came out of those places. She ends up also becoming, as you see, in some ways a different kind of a voice — a humanizing voice — that is able to bring Noah back from his despair."

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