Peace

Cine-Monastic Disciplines

ONE OF THE paradoxes of writing about film is the application of one form of language to interpret another. The medium we’re discussing here is visual, and despite the relevance of the word “poetic” to the great works of cinema, to interact with the movies means, as writer-director John Sayles says, to “think in pictures.” In an age with multiple ways to consume films, and the pressure to respond with the immediacy of social media, to think deeply about movies is a countercultural act.

I noticed this again after being given a record player a few weeks ago. I’ve listened to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks more than pretty much any other album over the past 20 years and now on the vinyl recording I can actually hear instruments I’d never noticed before. I can’t deny the superiority of the medium, at least in terms of what we might call “musical richness.” But digital transmission makes the sound crisper and more available.

There’s a parallel paradox with cinema, in that the experience of watching films has both diminished and expanded over most of our lifetimes. There are more portals than ever (you can watch Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story or Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo on your phone, for goodness’ sake). Yet the opportunity to see films in optimal settings (decent projection, focused audience, without 25 minutes of commercials for soda mingling with threats of prosecution directed at the people who have paid to see the film by the industrial complex that depends on them) doesn’t come often for most of us. Without conscious resistance, the flattened culture of entertainment globalization is going to continue to dominate.

So, as a modest proposal, I’m considering some contemporary cine-monastic disciplines for the renewal of the cinematic mind:

Hospitality: I’m trying to watch one non-English language film (or one from the U.K., Canada, or Australia/New Zealand) for every U.S. one.

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Theology Quotes: Lisa Sharon Harper

I'm taking a course this semester on Spirituality and Leadership. The course has just started but we've already heard a wonderful variety of voices. This week, our readings include an article by Lisa Sharon Harper, the director of mobilizing for Sojourners. I heard her speak a few years ago at an Interfaith Immigration breakfast in Seattle and was deeply inspired by her commitment to a lived faith that does justice. I just finished reading her chapter, "Singing the Creator's Song in a Strange Land," in the book Learning to Lead: Lessons in Leadership for People of Faith. I am challenged and inspired by this quote, which I in turn share with you in the latest installment of Theology Quotes on the blog.

62 Organizations Warn Senate Against New Iran Sanctions

Sixty-two organizations delivered a joint letter to the Senate today urging the Senate to oppose new Iran sanctions legislation, S.1881, that they say would “critically endanger the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff with Iran, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran and an unnecessary and costly war.”

The Peacemakers

Chiamaka tells of women who plant seeds
of peace in tribal towns, pot-banging with spoons
to call men off their game of raid-and-rape.

A girl named Hope intercepts the hands
of crowing children trading blows
and coaxes them to shake their hands

although her own are quaking. At school
my shy daughter stuffs notes in friends’ lockers,
imploring playground harmony.

In town there are the vocal ones who yield the floor
and quiet ones now brave enough to vote
against their own friends for a just cause.

Anyone will bless those who fear no fire,
stout souls no bomb can keep away
from those who need a sip, a hand, an ear,

but can’t we also bless survivors whose hearts
and skin are plucked or peeled to give to someone else
whose family awaits some news in silent burning?

Can’t we bless the time-gnarled knuckles
of hands that knead and lead and wring and hammer
and hold and pause and praise?

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

We watch. Although we fibrillate with doubt, still
we bless the one who stands before the rolling tank
and all the world’s dark eyes that gather light.

Kathleen McCoy, a creative writing teacher at SUNY Adirondack, lives in Queensbury, N.Y. She’s actively involved with Split This Rock and with 100 Thousand Poets for Change.

Image: Soldier show in Children's Day, Trakan / Shutterstock.com 

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New & Noteworthy

Faith and Reform
Writer and social reform Harriet Beecher Stowe’s controversial 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought many people to the anti-slavery movement. In Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life, biographer Nancy Koester illuminates the shifting role and expression of faith in Stowe’s personal and public life and work. Wm. B. Eerdmans

Falling into Love
A few years ago a young man named Rocky Braat left Pittsburgh to wander India; he’s ended up working for years in an orphanage for HIV-positive children there. His friend, filmmaker Steve Hoover, went to explore why. The result is a Sundance-award-winning documentary, Blood Brother. www.bloodbrotherfilm.com

A Way of Peace
In The Nonviolent Life, veteran peace activist John Dear offers a primer on what he sees as the three vital dimensions of living nonviolently: nonviolence toward ourselves, toward all others (and all creation), and joining the global grassroots movement for peace. Pace e Beene Press

Spirit of Respect
Introduction to First Nations Ministry, by Cheryl Bear-Barnetson (Nadleh Whut’en), presents a course on Indigenous values, world views, history, theology, and ministry. Created for Foursquare Church ministers, the content is helpful for anyone seeking to learn more about Indigenous Christianity. Cherohala Press

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The Thorn Tree Resistance

Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold to be refined ... They put their hand to the flinty rock, and overturn mountains by the roots. They cut out channels in the rocks, and their eyes see every precious thing ... But where shall wisdom be found? —Job 28:1, 9-12

THE DIRT ROAD twists down into a gully at La Puya, Guatemala, and up the other side, slipping between the knee-high fields of holy corn. The river doesn’t run anymore at the bottom, but the butterflies gather in remembrance of the water of times past. Hundreds of them rest and then flutter suddenly up as a woman goes by to gather fresh basil or chipilin from the little herb and vegetable garden that grows in tires and the ground all along the blocked access road leading into the proposed gold-mine site.

La Puya is the curve in the road where a thorn tree used to stand, throwing fine sharp needles down on unsuspecting passersby. Now it is a well-ordered encampment of neighbors from the twin municipalities of San Pedro Ayampúc and San José del Golfo, 10 miles northwest of Guatemala City.

These women and men are here in a startling act of markedly Christian peaceable resistance. They have been at the gates around the clock and around the calendar since March 2, 2012, when a lone woman pulled her car across the access road to the mine, blocking some incoming machinery. Then a bus bumping down the main road stopped, and the passengers piled off when they saw what was happening.

Then more people came, and dozens stayed. They settled in for a long night that became a long season of resistance. Local communities had had enough of the obfuscation, lies, and manipulation from Radius Gold, a mining company based in Vancouver, Canada.

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Forget Swords and Plowshares: Turn Guns Into Guitars

"Disarm" Photo via PedroReyes.net
"Disarm" Photo via PedroReyes.net

Understanding the process of turning an implement of death and violence into a tool for creativity and imagination is one part of the strategy. In doing so, there is hope that participants in such an event will begin to reimagine their own world and how they engage it. After all, true change first begins with imagining the possibility of such transformation.

Further, Reyes hopes to challenge U.S. citizens to consider their relationships with guns, and moreover, the impact that value has on people in other countries. Again, in the NPR story, Reyes explains, “We have to be allowed to ask questions. If you are not allowed to ask questions, you are not free."

 

Smoking What We’re Growing: 8 Things That Happen When We Live (or Don’t Live) What We Talk About

Theory v. action concept, art4all / Shutterstock.com
Theory v. action concept, art4all / Shutterstock.com

I was down in Mexico a few years ago for a gathering of peers who are leading faith communities around the world. It was a rich time of conversation, encouragement, and visioning.

Walking through a local Mexican neighborhood between sessions, something struck me. While those of us in the Minority World (often called the 1st or Western World) are thinking and talking about our theology, most of the folks in the Majority World (often called the 3rd World) have no choice but to simply live into their theology. Talking about our theology, faith, and practice in lecture halls, church buildings, and conference rooms is a luxury that the vast majority of Jesus followers in the world have no opportunity to participate in.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is reality. And those of us with this luxury better own up to it, because it is easy for us in the West to think we have a corner on the market of theology, which we then project (whether consciously or subconsciously) onto the rest of the world. But who's to say theology built in academia is any more valid than theology build in the realities of everyday life?

The Pope and the President: What to Look for in the Obama-Francis Summit

Original photo by Andrea Sabbadini/RNS.
Original photo by Andrea Sabbadini/RNS. illustration created through obamapostermaker.com

The news that President Obama will meet with Pope Francis on March 27 brightened a snowy Tuesday morning for Catholics who see a broad overlap between the president’s agenda and the pontiff’s repeated denunciations of income inequality and “trickle down” economics, and his support for the poor and migrants.

Other Catholics, especially conservatives already unsettled by Francis’ new approach, hoped that the pope would use the encounter at the Vatican to wag a finger at Obama over the president’s support for abortion rights and gay marriage.

So what will the two leaders talk about? What issues will they avoid? With Francis, anything is possible, but here are some initial ideas on how the summit could play out:

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