“Daddy, he’s real.”
She had seen computer-generated Yoda from the prequels, but upon seeing the actual puppet in Empire Strikes Back, Simon Pegg’s daughter couldn’t contain her wonder. When Pegg (who has a cameo in the new film) related this story to J.J. Abrams, the director of The Force Awakens used it to convince Disney of his plan to build a huge number of real sets, puppets and costumes.
Indeed, Abrams now introduces Pegg as “the guy whose daughter saved Star Wars.”
And saved it is. In addition to record-breaking ticket sales, the film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Abrams has put us back in the reality of Star Wars, a familiar world in which people actually live.
As the lead editor behind the dubious byline “the Web Editors,” it is within my job description to read all the Internet. And this is how the Weekly Wrap was born. This week, I decided to show all my biased cards and give you, fair reader, a glimpse behind how I decide what’s worth your spare few minutes on Fridays. As a religion writer and journalist, I give special attention to mainstream outlets that actually get faith right; I get sucked in by clickbait on the regular; I have a few favorite go-to publications (can you spot ‘em?); I link to a piece or two from our own publication that I think are excellent and perhaps underappreciated; I usually find at least one thing from my home state of Texas; and I cry ugly tears at most things having to do with babies. There are all my secrets. And here is the Weekly Wrap. —Sandi
Lewis calls us to caution, to humility in the face of our quest for power. Just because we can does not mean we should. Even if you’re an optimistic transhumanist professor in England. That Hideous Strength is a devastating picture of that danger, more than fifty years ahead of its time.
No matter how charismatic, merciful (usually), or full of truly ancient wisdom the Doctor may be, he ultimately knows himself as less than God. It’s not likely that the Doctor believes in God, and he has particularly bad associations with Christmas, and he recognizes that he isn’t the Lord — he’s just a Time Lord. He forces Amy to face the fact that he cannot save her — that he is just a madman with a box, nothing more.
Here at Sojourners, we're more than a little bit excited about Star Wars week. I mean, have you seen the cover of our January issue?
And today, we're launching a new online series "Keeping the Force: How Sci-Fi and Fantasy Show Us the Divine." So, yeah. When we saw this amazing Star Wars medley featuring Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, AND the cast of The Force Awakens, including the indomitable Carrie Fisher, we just had to share. Enjoy!
Series writers (which included Vince Gilligan of later Breaking Bad acclaim) were never exactly subtle with their nods to faith. While Mulder was an atheist, his constant journey to a truth larger than himself, and indeed, this world, mirror many a sojourner, albeit perhaps without the little green androgynous beings. And Scully’s faith as a child in the unquestionable Catholic Church, and then as a doctor in science above all, and then as a lover and a mother in a more tangible God, allowed for a deeper-than-average glimpse at the push-pull relationship between blind belief and pure, clinical reason.
But perhaps the reason why the darkness cannot understand or overcome the Light is because it will not and cannot imagine reducing itself or condescend to be like its enemy in order to overcome it. Scripture describes an adversary who wanted to be like God, but doesn’t seem to understand that God’s very nature is “gentle and humble and heart.” The nature of darkness is not a generous one. It doesn’t offer light or heat or allow other things to grow. It isolates.
For 700 years, Dante's epic poem — mainly the "Inferno" — has been the source of inspiration for preachers, pastors, and not a few theologians, who promoted hell as a physical place with its own address, zip code, and smoking embers. Add to their oratorical brimstone the fiery images from artists — Gustave Doré, Hieronymous Bosch, or Buffy producer Joss Whedon — and you've got a potent pedagogy.
Joss Whedon may not profess spiritual belief, but throughout his career, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Avengers and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., his work has fascinated believers. This may be, in part, because Whedon is a humanist, and his belief in respecting the dignity of all people is a common theme in his work. Whedon’s shows consistently emphasize compassion for people of all backgrounds and worldviews, even (especially) when his characters’ beliefs don’t match up.
Han shooting first isn’t just a better story — it’s also a truer one. The Bible is full of stories of people being given honors and responsibilities they don’t think they deserve (and to our eyes, definitely don’t). It’s in God’s character to want more for people than they want for themselves. This shows up again and again in the ways God interacts with our world. And we are made in God’s image — when we see this kind of story told well, we respond to it. The original version of Star Wars tells this kind of story about Han Solo.
I’ve noticed that when many white liberals are confronted with these numbers, and the racism that undergirds our privilege, we start feeling guilty. We generally have two choices in how we respond to our feelings of guilt: First, we can choose to become defensive. We start concealing our own racism by projecting it onto the overt racists who start Twitter campaigns that boycott Star Wars. In other words, we’d much rather take the easy way out of scapegoating. We’d rather blame the racists out there than do the difficult work of examining the racism that infects in each one of us.
But the more vehemently white liberals deny that we are racists, the more evidence we provide that that’s exactly what we are.
The second choice is to move beyond white fragility, by doing the difficult work of examining the racism within ourselves and our society. We can acknowledge that the racist structures that infect our country also infects us. We can choose to openly acknowledge the benefits we gain from racist societal structures. We can choose to work for political, economic, and educational reform that will lead toward greater racial justice.
Christians believe that Jesus definitively defeated the forces of evil. For Christians, faith is trusting that the way to defeat evil is the same way that Jesus defeated evil on the cross and in the resurrection. Jesus was no Jedi. He didn’t use “good violence” to protect himself or others from the evil forces that converged against him. Nor did he run from evil. Rather, he defeated evil by entering into it, forgiving it on the cross, and offering peace to it in the resurrection.
Of course, many – even those who profess to follow him – think Jesus is absolutely crazy. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” It’s true that following Jesus by responding to evil with nonviolent love is risky. After all, Christ was killed, as were his disciples. But fighting violence with violence is also risky and only perpetuates a mimetic cycle of violence.
When clickbait lures and controversy sells, what does it mean to read with the Bible in one hand and our newsfeeds in the other? Our series explores a question from the May issue of Sojourners: How do we unlearn our own attraction to scandal and sensationalism while still working for social change?
A Texas chef is using the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act in what might be the best possible way. Joan Cheever, whose nonprofit The Chow Train has worked to feed San Antonio homeless for the past 10 years, faces a $2,000 fine for not having an up-to-date permit during a recent stop in the city’s Maverick Park. Her defense? The state’s RFRA, which protects the free exercise of religion.
There are a lot of interesting picks this year, and all are worth a read. But a few are worth a Sojo highlight, including: HeForShe campaign lead, outspoken feminist, and actress Emma Watson (written by Jill Abramson); criminal justice reform advocate and head of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson (written by Serena Williams); head of Mary’s Meals, which soon will be feeding 1 million schoolchildren across 12 countries, Magnus McFarlane-Barrow (written by Gordon Brown); and Afghanistan’s first lady, a Christian born and raised in Lebanon, who has vowed to improve living standards for the country’s women, Rula Ghani (written by Khaled Hosseini).
The historical marker is set to be unveiled on Wall Street on Juneteenth (June 19). “It will be the city's first acknowledgement on a sign designed for public reading that in the 1700s New York had an official location for buying, selling, and renting human beings.”
“I know that there’s a lot of people who feel like, ‘Well who is she? She didn’t go to seminary, she hasn’t cut her teeth as a pastor,’” Evans said. “I think some people feel like it’s a little bit of a threat to authority, that somebody can just be a blogger, and people will listen to what they say.”
Lego is defending its “Star Wars”-based Jabba the Hutt toy set after a Turkish cultural group said it promulgates negative stereotypes of Muslims.
Earlier this year, the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria criticized the Danish toy company, saying the Jabba’s Palace set was insensitive because of its similarity to Muslim mosques.
“The terrorist Jabba the Hutt likes to smoke a hookah and have his victims killed,” said the statement, reported by the Austrian Times. “It is clear that the ugly figure of Jabba and the whole scene smacks of racial prejudice and vulgar insinuations against Asians and Orientals as people with deceitful and criminal personalities.” Earlier this year, the Turkish Cultural Community of Austria criticized the Danish toy company, saying the Jabba’s Palace set was insensitive because of its similarity to Muslim mosques.
May the 4th be with you! Today we present some of our favorite bits of Star Wars floating around the cybersphere.... Yoda talking in proper English -- C3-PO and R2-D2 give a public service announcement -- the galaxy's guide to yoga -- cello wars -- Dr. Suess' take on characters -- Darth Vadar as a good father -- and many more in today's Links of Awesomeness...
A few links for this afternoon: Explore the mystery of Pi on 3/14, read Darth Vader's letter on why he's leaving the Empire, see the many things a T-Rex cannot do, and check out Andrew Bird's visit with Stephen Colbert.
Ferris Bueller is back and ready for the Super Bowl. Kermit and Piggy strike back (at FoxNews), a dad covers Depeche Mode songs with his kids. Animals acting out scenes from Star Wars, the case of the missing ladybugs, a Sojo Octet (we told them to wear matching outfits but they didn't listen), and other odd tales...
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.
The real Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., the goods and evils of the pepper-spraying cop, N.T. Wright's fiery predecessor, the belt of the Virgin Mary closes Russian tour, Parker J. Palmer, and more.