Violence and Nonviolence

Sweeney Todd and the Spiral of Violence

Tim Burton's striking and gruesome film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical 'Sweeney Todd' made me feel alternately impressed by Johnny Depp's singing talent and wince at the violence. The story of a 19th century barber who avenges the loss of his wife and daughter by providing the closest shave ever to a litany of customers including the judge who caused his pain left me preoccupied by [...]

A New Year's Prayer for Christian Peacemakers

Last year, my wife Jeanette and I returned to Honduras with a group from our congregation. What alarmed me was that a decade ago the MS (La Mara Salvatrucha) had a considerable presence in many of the poorest neighborhoods. Now they have a stronghold. One of my pastor friends told me, "Gabriel, people are afraid to come to church. The MS killed a woman in front of the church just the other day." The MS is going global. Recently Law & Order had an episode that featured the MS [...]

Where Does 'The Golden Compass' Point ?

Here's the good news: The Golden Compass does not promote atheism. It isn't going to steal your children. It does not signal the end of hope for religion in the West. That's the good news. Here's the bad news: it promotes the same, shallow "don't touch my stuff or I'll kill you" message that appears in so much of popular culture. But more than this, in spite of delightful visual imagery, [...]

Soldier Suicides: Counting the Forgotten Casualties of War

After more than six years of field exercises in some of the most grueling weather our country offers, I am rarely affected by even the most chilling winter rains. Months of accumulated time in the forests of North Carolina, the deserts of California, and the wetlands of Louisiana - training for war has built up in me a bit of immunity to succumbing to the shivers. However, there is one thing that [...]

The War in Our Neighborhood

Suddenly it seems there's a full-scale war going on in our neighborhood, and we and our neighbors here are in a new kind of danger.

On their way back to college after helping out at our weekly dinner party, our friends Jenny and Alyssa stopped at an intersection and noticed a group of guys milling around in the early evening, less than a block from our church. A moment later, guns started [...]

'No Country for Old Men': Thoughtful, Frightening, and Beguiling

When a film ends with the recounting of a dream in which a weather-beaten, life-weary man searches for the fire his father is building to warm them, it's impossible not to think of the love we all yearn for and can hopefully muster. It's also a welcome spiritual respite when that film has seduced its audience on a journey into a hell of the relentless violence that follows a man after he steals [...]

I Got Mugged

Two months ago, for the first time in my eight years living in Washington, D.C., I was mugged. Two young men rolled up in a pickup truck while I was unloading groceries from my car in the alley next to my condo building. They made me lie on the ground, held a gun to my neck as they took my money, and then locked me in the trunk of my car as they made their getaway. Fortunately I still had my cell [...]