Brandon Hook 11-02-2012
Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns

Kevin Read, Chuck Criss, Judah Dadone, Jacob Hyman and Nicole Mourelatos of Freelance Whales. Photo by Andy Sheppard/Redferns

Freelance Whales’ performance on Wednesday was a bit like my experience with Hurricane Sandy: One minute was jubilation at the prospect of no work for two days, and the next minute was a mellowed out restlessness, presumably from staying inside for too long.

That is definitely not to say that the performance was by any means terrible or disengaging. Rather, it simply means that the group from Queens meandered through most of their current catalogue, which consisted of the poppy, upbeat Weathervanes and the recently released, mellow, ambient Diluvia.

For popular catchy songs like “Generator ^ First Floor,” “Hannah,” or “Ghosting,” the crowd was quick to nod their heads, raise their hands, and sing along.

Brandon Hook 9-26-2012
Mumford & Sons new album, Babel.

Mumford & Sons new album, Babel.

“Are Mumford & Sons as big in America as they are here?” my English friend asked me a year ago over a pint at a pub on High Street in Oxford, England.

“Uh … yea,” I replied, astonished that their popularity was even in question. “They’re huge.”

Turns out that English friend is Marcus Mumford’s cousin, and he eventually got to see how big they are in the states, spending this past summer in Arizona and scurrying over to Colorado for their show at Red Rocks. (I know I’m jealous.)

But has that popularity and success translated into a decent sophomore album? Absolutely. One way to avoid the perilous “sophomore slump” that plagues many musicians and bands these days is to stick to your guns. And that’s exactly what English quartet Mumford & Sons did with their second album Babel.

 “The idea was always, ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’” producer Markus Dravs told Rolling Stone.

And that’s almost exactly what audiences get on Babel. It’s as if Mumford took all the good things from their first record, Sigh No More, and channeled them into Babel.

Who blames ‘em? Their foot-stomping, banjo-plucking signature folk-rock sound has sent them to the far corners of the earth and back. It also shot Sigh No More up to platinum status, selling five million copies and nominating the band for two Grammys.

Lauren F. Winner 9-01-2011

The Dream is Freedom: Pauli Murray and American Democratic Faith, by Sarah Azaransky.

Richard Vernon 9-01-2011

The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Nancy Lukens 2-01-2011

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's writings, his prophetic Christian witness amid criminal abuses of power, racial persecution, terror, and genocide by his own government, and his martyrdom for participating in the coup to overthrow Hitler continue to inspire and provoke important questions and actions. The global following for this German pastor and theologian includes agnostics and atheists, evangelicals and liberal Protestants, Catholics and Jews, and people of many political persuasions, young and old alike.

By the same token, Bonhoeffer has been claimed by quite different, indeed opposite, religious groups, individuals, and political leaders to support their purposes. George W. Bush invoked his name before the German parliament in 2002 to justify the invasion of Iraq. Nelson Mandela read him in prison on Robben Island before his release in 1990. East German youth sang verses of his prison poem "By Powers of Good" before the fall of communism, without necessarily knowing he was a Christian.

The very titles of two biographies of Bonhoeffer that appeared within a few weeks of each other in 2010 suggest the diversity of those who may be drawn to him. While Eric Metaxas' book title, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich (Thomas Nelson), and his engaging style give his book the accessibility and appeal of a novel, it is stunningly flawed as a biography. Metaxas misleads readers both by his title and by his presentation of Bonhoeffer as a lone heroic figure. Yes, Bonhoeffer's covert position with a military intelligence office gave him the cover needed to travel abroad on behalf of the resistance, but a James-Bond-like "spy" he was not. Nor does Metaxas ever explain in the book the use of the term "righteous gentile" in the title. This designation is bestowed by Yad Veshem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, to those who aided Jews in the Holocaust. Does Metaxas know that Bonhoeffer has not been given this honor?

Julie Polter 9-01-2010

Consider All the Works

Abayea Pelt 9-01-2010
The ArchAndroid, by Janelle Monáe, Atlantic Records.
Gareth Higgins 8-01-2010
It’s ironic that the explosive, high-budget thrill rides understand so little about their own themes.
Lit: A Memoir, by Mary Karr. HarperCollins.
Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle. Free Press.
Becky Garrison 7-01-2010
Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes all the Difference, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. Harper One.
The Future of Faith, by Harvey Cox. HarperOne.
Onleilove Alston 4-01-2010
The BQE, by Sufjan Stevens. Asthmatic Kitty Records.
Allyne Smith 4-01-2010
Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church Rather Than the State, by Daniel M. Bell Jr. Brazos Press.
Gareth Higgins 4-01-2010

It’s the end of the world for Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli, one of the legion of recent films (including one actually titled Legion) that suggest that while the earth ma

Tom Getman 3-01-2010
With God on Our Side, directed by Porter Speakman Jr. (Rooftop Productions)
Molly Marsh 2-01-2010

Blessed Are …

Gareth Higgins 2-01-2010

Cormac McCarthy’s novels are the Ecclesiastes of postmodern American literature—finely wrought chunks of sparseness in which the protagonists struggle to survive a violent or deadening

Jim Forest 2-01-2010

City of Belief, by Nicole d'Entremont

Gareth Higgins 1-01-2010

Another look at Gone with the Wind.