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« December 2008 | Main | February 2009 »

January 30, 2009

Daily roundup

Open movie thread: Family movie edition

Movie camera On recent outings with friends, I've caught two family movies that I enjoyed very much: Bedtime Stories and Inkheart. With nothing that might be considered objectionable except for a bit of gross-out humor in the former and some fantasy-type violence in the latter, both movies featured good stories; strong, appealing characters; and loving families. Bedtime Stories, which in its best moments reminded me of the days when Disney really knew how to make 'em, did well at the box office. But I was sorry to see that Inkheart didn't follow suit. Perhaps the violence took it out of the running for the youngest kids, or perhaps, as some have suggested, it was just released too soon after its predecessor. But in any case -- again, unless the violence in Inkheart would be a problem for any of your children -- I would recommend either for a night out with the kids.

Have you seen any good family films lately that you'd like to recommend?

Forgiveness: ’A Miracle to the World’

Today's BreakPoint commentary, "Love Your Enemies," discusses a man who is a hero to many of us, Bishop John Rucyahana. Bishop John was a big part of the reason I took my journey to Rwanda to write As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda, which will be released on Sunday. I share a part of his story in my book. If you haven't yet read the BreakPoint commentary, read it.

Also, in this video from PFI you'll see Bishop John talk toward the end and you'll see the kinds of stories I traveled to write about.

What Ted Said on Oprah

Art.haggard.oprah.harpo Did anyone see Ted Haggard on Oprah yesterday (Jan. 29)? What do you think? Joe Dallas, author and past president of Exodus International, has an excellent article on the interview. A former gay man himself, Dallas shares his thoughts on what Haggard said at the interview, what he wishes he’d said, and what needs to be said to shed more light on God’s true word on homosexuality.

Dallas concludes:

Given the volatility of the subject and Oprah’s pro-gay position, I appreciate Ted’s efforts. In the coming years, who knows how many other believers will find themselves pointedly asked, “Is homosexuality a sin? Doesn’t God love gays? Shouldn’t we all just accept who we are?” To which I hope we’ll all have the grace to say, in our own words:

Everyone sins, and God alone decides what sin is. That’s why He inspired men to write the Scriptures, so we’d know what’s expected of us. And someday all of us will answer to Him for how well or how poorly we’ve met those expectations. I receive Christ because I knew I’d never meet them on my own, and He promised to pay the price when I fell short. So is homosexuality a sin? Sure, look it up. Does God love gays? You bet. But should we all just accept who we are as we are? Only if that means accepting that we’re loved by God, called to follow Him, and willing to surrender our will to His.

(Image © Harpo Productions)

’Unborn Obama’ blocked from Superbowl

That beautiful pro-life ad from CatholicVote.com almost made it to the Superbowl, but was rejected by NBC for "political advocacy." Click here to read about what happened and to let NBC know, politely, how you feel about it.

Re: ’Revolutionary’

Diane, TypePad threw a tantrum when I put this in a comment, so I'll have to put it in a post. And I would just like to say to TypePad, thank you so very much for "improving" your system. We're having such fun handling the dozens of new little hassles that crop up every day.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, Revolutionary Road. I haven't seen it either. But I was intrigued by the Weekly Standard review, which makes the case that the original novel was actually a satire of people like the Wheelers (Kate and Leo's characters), and that the problem with the movie is that it takes them and their petty problems seriously. Click here to read it.

Revolutionary Message or Just Another Hollywood Lie?

Revolutionary_road I've been hearing quite a bit about the Oscar-nominated (for supporting actor, art direction, and costumes) film Revolutionary Road, enough to convince me not to waste my money. This article by Jennifer Roback Morse is a great summary of why filmgoers should stay away from this movie, no matter how much the folks out in La La Land keep harping on its supposed greatness.

Here's one telling paragraph from Dr. Morse's review: "But what makes this movie so bad is not just the hackneyed storyline, but the socially irresponsible message the movie conveys. I am talking about the thinly veiled hostility to children, combined with the nauseating narcissism of the adults. In an era of demographic decline, the message that children are the problem and abortion is the solution is grotesque." In contrast, Dr. Morse recommends another film, Demographic Winter, which shows "the consequences of the population collapse of industrialized countries." 

I'm curious about whether any of our Pointificators have seen either film. If so, what did you think? 

(Image © DreamWorks/Paramount Vantage)

The Point Radio: The Power of Touch

It feels real, but is it?...

Click play above to listen.

Joel Garreau, “The Next Big Sensation?Washington Post, 15 December 2008.

January 29, 2009

A Pointless day

Sorry for the terrible pun. :-) We're taking a day off today. Comments will be published, but not posts. Have a good day and we'll see you tomorrow.

The Point Radio: Work It Out

Divorce is expensive....

Click play above to listen.

Alex Johnson, “Wanting to Divorce, but Unable to Afford It,” MSNBC.com, 23 November 2008.

January 28, 2009


Since The Swedish One has opened the door, we may as well just declare it German Video Theme Week, so I can post this. (Explanation here.) We need a blog category for "Awww, that is so CUTE!"

Rabbit runs no more

Updike Modern American literary legend John Updike has died.

As an undergraduate English major, I struggled through Updike's The Centaur in a class on literary criticism. The Greek mythology and Christian metaphor seemed to bury the story too deep for real enjoyment. Suffice it to say that I have read very little Updike since, although I have one of his more famous paperbacks on my bookshelf, in the pile of things to be read some day. 

A quick search for The Centaur turned up this article published a few years ago in Theology Today that just might inspire me to give it another try: 

As a Christian himself, Updike takes the Christian myth seriously and makes considerable use of it in his fiction. Not surprisingly, then, Olinger High is not only Olympus but also Bethlehem, and Caldwell is not only Chiron but also Christ. Christ-like as well as Chiron-like, George Caldwell relinquishes his immortality and dies to self. He does so by staying in the classroom, by resisting the temptation posed by Vera/Venus, by remaining faithful to his wife and family. In any number of small and not so small ways, Caldwell becomes, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said of Jesus, "the man for others." He freely gives his gloves to a tramp. He generously gives an insulting drunk his last handful of change. He constantly gives guidance and encouragement to his students. He gives his very life, and the shelter it provides, for his son. There is humor in George Caldwell's antic generosity and steep self-deprecation, but there is also a genuine reflection of the self-giving Christ of the Christian story.

(Image © Doug Elbinger)

Contraceptives dropped from stimulus bill

That's one waste of money averted. Of course, Planned Parenthood & Co. are not happy.

Romance and realism

The Christian Lover Reviewing Michael and Victoria Haykin's book The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers, Tim Challies quotes from the following letter from Adoniram Judson to his future wife, Ann:

May this be the year in which you will change your name; in which you will take final leave of your relatives and native land; in which you will cross the wide ocean, and dwell on the other side of the world, among a heathen people. What a great change will this year probably effect in our lives! How very different will be our situation and employment!! If our lives are preserved and our attempt prospered, we shall next new year’s day be in India, and perhaps wish each other a happy new year in the uncouth dialect of Hindostan or Burma. We shall no more see our kind friends round us, or enjoy the conveniences of civilized life, or go to the house of God with those that keep holy day; but swarthy countenances will everywhere meet our eye, the jargon of an unknown tongue will assail our ears, and we shall witness the assembling of heathen to celebrate the worship of idol gods. We shall be weary of the world, and wish for wings like a dove, that we may fly away and be at rest. We shall probably experience seasons when we shall be “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” We shall see many dreary, disconsolate hours, and feel a sinking of spirits, anguish of mind, of which now we can form little conception. O, we shall wish to lie down and die. And that time may soon come. One of us may be unable to sustain the heat of the climate and the change of habits; and the other may say, with literal truth, over the grave:

By foreign hands the dying eyes were closed;
By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed;
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned.

Isn't it romantic?

Well, yes, I think maybe it is. More romantic than our contemporary "We're gonna have a HUGE party and everything after that's gonna be hunky dory!" attitude, anyway. It must be far more conducive to a lasting marriage to acknowledge beforehand that there will be troubles and difficulties, and helping each other prepare to face them. And what's more romantic than doing all one can to ensure that marriage will last?

(Image © Reformation Trust Publishing)

Stimulus? Please. Try ’Generational Theft Act.’

Credit to Andy McCarthy for thinking up that alias. It's perfect.

Of the many things that I find disturbing about these bogus stimulus efforts is that they really are a theft by the generational majority from the smaller generations. Ditto expansion of entitlements with bankrupt trajectories under Bush. Ditto the annoying fact that nine out of every ten bond initiatives that show up on your annual voting ballot get passed.

Having expanded the "general welfare" clause of the Constitution to mean "do whatever feels good," American democracy has turned into a massive credit card that AARP and their constituents swipe at every opportunity and pass on to the young to pay. With interest galore.

Gee, thanks. Don't worry about us. We're just your children and grandchildren.

The Point Radio: It’s Never Too Late

The words "I'm sorry" might be the most difficult and most important words any of us will ever say....

Click play above to listen.

Learn more about the Apology Project.

January 27, 2009

Daily roundup

Rites of passage

Miley-cyrus-vanity-fair Most of us are well aware that pop culture is contributing to hyper-sexualization of young girls. Study after study -- not to mention the evidence of our own eyes and ears -- has shown that. But in this piece, University of Wisconsin student Allison Prolte starts a train of thought about how the process works and why it's so effective.

The main female stars that kids look to as role models are definitely the Disney stars, such as Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens and Nickelodeon star Jamie Lynn Spears. Though all of the aforementioned celebrities have starred in squeaky-clean movies and television shows, their personal lives are anything but clean.

Sixteen-year-old Cyrus, who prides herself on being a good Christian girl, is currently dating 20-year-old underwear model Justin Gaston. Parents of "Hannah Montana" fans everywhere must be proud. Cyrus has also had her fair share of racy pictures on the Internet, showing her in nothing but her underwear and in seductive poses.

In 2007, then-18-year-old Vanessa Hudgens got herself into a little problem that no song and dance from "High School Musical" could begin to solve. Naked pictures of her spread like wildfire on the Internet.

And 17-year-old Spears, star of the hit Nickelodeon show, Zoey 101, announced that she was pregnant last year.

More than a decade ago, adolescents could watch "Clarissa Explains it All" on Nickelodeon without the fear of cancellation because Melissa Joan Hart was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby.

It's no surprise that television shows and their stars have become racier as years go on. There are networks like The CW, which primarily has teen-oriented material, showing advertisements of the stars of the highly-popular "Gossip Girl" naked in a pool. People of all ages see and remember that.

Prolte's words suggest a certain pattern that, when you think about it, has become a modern rite of passage in the eyes of young viewers. A preteen or teenage actress or singer starts off fresh, wholesome, and innocent -- someone mom and dad can feel comfortable with as their little girl dresses like her, lip-syncs all her songs, or covers her room with posters of her. The whole family is happy. Then, one of two things happens. Or sometimes both.

Continue reading "Rites of passage" »

Twelve Days Debunking Darwinism: A Counter-Celebration

Darwin Over the next few weeks, hundreds of events in dozens of countries will be held to celebrate the bicentennial birthday of Charles Darwin, occurring on February 12. “Darwin Days,” as the event has been called, will honor the celebrant and showcase the evolutionary theory he popularized. Organizers will be offering lectures, museum exhibits, and workshops, as well as reenactments of the Scopes Trial and Darwin’s journey on the HMS Beagle. And that’s just for starters.

In response, we're planning an event of our own right here at The Point. But first, some background.

It is doubtful that any figure in the last 200 years has had as much influence on modern society as Charles Darwin. Today, everything from black holes to black magic is being attributed to some evolutionary process that traces its beginning to the ideas Darwin advanced in On the Origin of Species. As one prominent scientist remarked about his field of expertise, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

According to Darwin, all life descended from a common, ancient ancestor through a gradual process of random variation, adaptation and natural selection. Although his theory only applied to the diversification and complexification of life, not its origin, its thoroughgoing naturalism convinced people, charmed by Enlightenment thinking, that a grand materialistic narrative could be crafted to replace various theistic accounts, especially the benighted one of Genesis.

Today, no one expresses that confidence more openly than Richard Dawkins. With characteristic candor, Dawkins famously quipped, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Soaring confidence notwithstanding, evolutionary enthusiasts like Dawkins have constructed their worldview on a foundation of quicksand.

Continue reading "Twelve Days Debunking Darwinism: A Counter-Celebration" »

Blogs are like potato chips

Dickensblog2 . . . You can't have just one. At least, I can't. So I'm happy to present my latest endeavor, Dickensblog.

This is a personal project, not a PF-related one, but nonetheless you're all invited to come and visit as often as you'd like! :-)

Special thanks to Lori for helping me get this new blog underway.

Wow -- the Germans Really Do Drive Fast

In an odd tip o' the hat to LeeQuod, Dave the Swede now plans to speak only in the third person when he emerges from his burrow.

Dave the Swede is also a Germanophile. You don't need to understand German to appreciate this video from Die Welt newspaper (Hamburg). The Deutschen really do put the pedal to the metal.

Oh, the Christian worldview point: Don't fly your car through the air and land on a church's roof.

(You may get a little German ad before the news video.)

Just what is that ’rightful place’?

As Labrialumn noted the other day, since the election of Barack Obama, in many cases "the Left are crowing that the Christians are now irrelevant and [can] be shut up." The article on which I had posted -- the one that claimed that now "reason replaces religion" -- is just one case in point.

I've been wondering about that. Since President Obama has openly professed faith in Christ, why do so many of his allies seem so slow to believe his faith has any relevance, or that he will find any common cause with his fellow believers?

I think Mike D'Virgilio at The Culture Project has found the key, in examining Obama's words from the Inaugural Address about "restoring science to its rightful place":

The lefty blogs and commentators that I read about this jumped on the contrast of “Science” to the “faith-based” world of President Bush. In six words President Obama, I’m sure more than he knows, laid down the gauntlet in the cultural clash of our time.

“Science” as we all know has become the de facto authoritative force for all truth and morality in Western culture. Of course science cannot play the role fully or very well, because science isn’t philosophy or religion. The true “rightful place” of science is in the area of observable, empirical data. But “science” circa 2009 is observable, empirical data along with a whole host of non-empirical assumptions and political agendas.

President Obama’s “Science,” and that of all his pals on the secular left, and in fact of most Americans, including many on the right, is the Magisterium of our time. We look to science as medieval man looked to The Church. “Science” will save us, “Science” will comfort us, and “Science” will interpret our world, our place in the universe, the meaning of our lives.

Read more.

When the economy gets tough, sell your eggs....and sperm

Oh, the irony: As other Pointers have noted, Nancy Pelosi, the rocket scientist in the House, says spending taxpayer dollars on birth control will help jump start the economy, because all those rug rats cost money. (Maybe we should simply forbid couples from having children for, say, five years, or at least until the economy gets better?) Meanwhile, a Massachusetts news outlet informs us that the bad economy is driving more people to donate their sperm or eggs--which will, of course, lead to more babies.

I wonder if Miss Nancy will go after these folks next....or the people who purchase their products.

The Point Radio: A Sports Gene

Are your kids future Olympians or Pro football players?

Click play above to listen.

Juliet Macur, "Born to Run? Little Ones Get Test for Sports Gene," The New York Times, 29 November 2008.

January 26, 2009

Daily roundup

Grace begins another presidency

It's hard not to be moved by the rich voice of Wintley Phipps belting out the familiar lines of "Amazing Grace," but I was struck, watching this clip from the National Prayer Service, by how moved our new president--already known for his reserve--appeared to be by the words and melody filling the lofty spaces of the National Cathedral.

Artist Andrew Wyeth Dies

Seaslide Amidst the Inauguration festivities last week, many people probably missed the news item that contemporary artist Andrew Wyeth had died at the age of 91. 

Wyeth, thankfully, didn't follow many of his Cubist or Dadaist contemporaries in painting ugly, depressing, or nonsensical items. In fact, Wyeth's paintings were permeated with with dignity and life, and something else. Writing in Trinity Forum's journal, Provocations, T. M. Moore says that while Wyeth did "not appear to be a religious man," his work was imbued with a spiritual sense. 

T. M. continues, "[W]hile Wyeth proposes no certain conclusions about the nature of spiritual reality, yet he shows himself to be keenly aware of its existence beyond the merely subjective, respectful of its potential, and hopeful as to its prospect." 

To paint, Andrew Wyeth said, he had to "put his foot in truth." The Truth he put his foot into, whether he finally acknowledged it or not, is our Creator who imbued heaven and earth with His glory.

(Image courtesy of the New York Times)

’They just care about babies’

March1 Hard to believe we've reached a point where that would be considered a bad thing, isn't it? Read more about things heard and seen at last week's March for Life in Kathryn Lopez' excellent report at NRO.

Like Kathryn, I also saw pro-choice counter-protesters in the crowd at the Supreme Court. One woman was arguing fiercely with some of the marchers: "Do you really want to pay for all those children?" I was too far away to jump into the conversation, but the first thing I would have wanted to say was, If we said yes, would you let us? The second thing was, Why is it that those who follow the supposedly tolerant and compassionate ideology are willing to wipe out children for money?

March4 I was reminded of that scene again the very next day when posting the story about the Malual quintuplets. While members of the Grace Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland, were helping care for the babies and their mother, as reported in the Washington Post article, others were busy filling the Post's comments section with derogatory and sometimes profane comments about the "disgusting thief" and her "5 little money-makers."

On which side of that argument would the pro-choicers fighting for "human rights" and disdaining those who "just care about babies" come down, do you suppose?

(Images © Gina Dalfonzo)


Perhaps you thought it couldn't get worse for the cause of life after President Obama reversed President Bush's pro-life position on the Mexico City policy. But never to be outdone in the eyes of the Margaret Sanger wing of the pro-choice movement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called and raised Obama's bet with this oddity on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous this weekend:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those -- one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. We have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.

Continue reading "Grotesque" »

A Weekend to Remember

Mi dr uchyahana The weekend of January 16-18 found, I'm sure, many Americans eagerly preparing for the Inauguration of our new president. However, three members of my family (my husband, daughter, and I) were happily doing something else that weekend -- attending the Wilberforce Weekend Conference where Bishop John Rucyahana of Rwanda was honored as the recipient of the 2009 Wilberforce award: "As chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Rucyahana organized the Umuvumu Tree Project, a nationwide program to prepare perpetrators and victims of the genocide for face-to-face meetings."

It was an honor to meet a man who has led so many others to find forgiveness and redemption, not only in God's sight, but in the sight of those they have harmed. His is a powerful witness to the true power of Christ to change hearts and minds and to heal our most grievous wounds. In his acceptance speech, Bishop Rucyahana made one statement I will never forget. Christians tend to say "I accepted Christ as my Savior." But Bishop John reversed that. He said, "Christ graciously accepted me and has called me to a mission." (And all God's people said, "Amen!")

While attending the award ceremony was certainly a highlight of the weekend, it was not the only bright spot. All the conference speakers -- Chuck Colson, T.M. Moore, Mark Earley, Ken Boa, Glenn Sunshine, Robert George, Fr. Robert Sirico, Art Lindsley, as well as a host of my fellow Centurions -- brought incredible words of hope and encouragement for the dark times in which we live. 

Chuck likened these times to a "perfect storm" -- one that offers Christians great opportunities for demonstrating the goodness of God and the greatness of Christ to our friends, family, and neighbors. He reminded us that "Christians do the best of things in the worst of times," and he encouraged us to let God consume us, for "if God consumes you, there's no room for worrying about yourself." 

My family flew out of Washington, D.C., on Sunday night as many supporters of our new president were flying in. Don't get me wrong:  I'm praying for President Obama because I love my nation. But this weekend reminded me that his power -- whether he uses it for good or ill -- is minor compared to the power we have in Jesus Christ.

As circumstances in the nation continue to decline, and as more and more Americans suffer as a result, it would be easy to give in to the sin of despair. Instead, we need to see this "perfect storm" as a chance to be "the good news incarnate" as Jesus intends for us to be until He returns to establish His Kingdom. For all these reasons (and more), January 16-18, 2009 will be a weekend I will remember forever. Even more importantly, I'm praying that God will show me how to live what I learned: this is certainly no time to be a "hearer" only.

(Image courtesy of ASSIST News Service)

Leon’s Mite

090109-bolivia-water-hmed-1p.small Leon shines shoes for $3.50 a pair. From that, he still chooses to give to help others. What a great reminder in these tough economic times: If we bring God what we have, He still multiplies it.

(Image © MSNBC.com)

Wired for Sentiment

I’m busting a gut over Clive Thompson’s Wired column-o'-gripe.  In the piece, ostensibly about the quite likely reality that our Web-empowered culture is gaining in information but declining in knowledge, Thompson complains that there are too many rubes who ask the following ignorant questions about “incontrovertibly” “settled facts”:

Is global warming caused by humans? Is Barack Obama a Christian? Is evolution a well-supported theory?

Thompson rails that too many Republicans doubt anthropogenic global warming, too many Texans believe that Obama is Muslim, and too many Americans do not subscribe to evolution.

Thompson blames this horror on a “disinformation revolution” that “attempts to foster ignorance," of which the result is that “reality dies screaming."

But if there exists a more ironic (put together, “more” and “ironic” form … well, you can figure it out) published complaint, it’s a glorious, secret deprivation and I demand to be informed immediately.  Thompson’s piece is unintended hilarity of the most delicious sort.

Continue reading "Wired for Sentiment" »

The Point Radio: Precious Years

Congratulations! You've been given an extra 30 years to live.

Click play above to listen.

Further reading:

Average US Life Expectancy Tops 78,” CBS News, AP News Story, 11 June 2008.

January 23, 2009

Obama repeals Mexico City policy

. . . Then again, perhaps the religious left doesn't always get what it asks for.

Daily roundup

Open book thread: Short story edition

Open book 2 I'm sometimes given a gentle and much-needed reminder by one or the other of our Pointificators, that not everyone has time for the lengthy books that we always seem to be recommending around here. That's why I thought some of you might be interested in a find I recently came across on the discount shelves at our church bookstore. Eyes to See, Volumes One and Two, are collections of short stories that, in the words of editor Bret Lott, "seek to speak to and of the greatest story ever told: the love of God for us, a love so deep He gave His only begotten Son that we might have life everlasting."

The writers represented in Volume One include, among others, G. K. Chesterton, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Shusaku Endo, Flannery O'Connor, Leo Tolstoy, and Anthony Trollope. Those in Volume Two include Chesterton, O'Connor, and Tolstoy again, plus Frederick Buechner, Charles Dickens, Sarah Orne Jewett, George MacDonald, John Updike, Charles Williams, and more. Those are some stellar lineups. And by design, these are books that are easy for the time-deprived to pick up, read a story or two, and then put back down for later.

Despite the occasional rant, I really do enjoy the form on the whole. Maybe someday I'll put together a list of my favorite short stories to post here. And I'd be interested to hear about your favorites as well.

When you’re in Liberia feeling lonely

Christina Get to work building a community, like my friend Christina Holder did:

Jesus didn't wait for people to invite Him into their communities. He created His own communities. He asked people to join him.

From a young age, Jesus was establishing community. He went to the temple at the age of 12 and began preaching the word of God. I love the account of this in Luke. Scripture says that Jesus was “sitting in the midst of the teachers” (Luke 2:46). Jesus didn't pass by the temple and wait for someone to call Him inside. He climbed the temple steps and settled into the midst of the people with whom He wanted relationships ...

Grasping the way Jesus called people to join Him in what He was doing has changed the way I have approached community-building in Liberia. Instead of lamenting how some people haven't reached out to me, I decided to start calling people to join me in what I was doing.

In the six months I've been in Liberia, I started a dance class for women at my church. I began a writer's group for people who want to become better writers and who need encouragement to start or finish their writing projects. I organized a war art show with a group of young Liberian artists as a way to bring more awareness to the arts in Liberia and to help Liberians begin to heal from all that they have experienced during Liberia's 14-year civil war ...

In building my communities, I recognize that maybe I won't always feel included or feel like I belong. And the reality is that communities are often filled with people who don't get along. But I know I'm making the right steps as I try to follow Jesus' lead.

(Image courtesy of Christina Holder)

Subversive traditionalism?

After Proposition 8 passed in California, there was some fuss about whether the Sundance Film Festival should continue to be held in Utah (you know, because of those easily scapegoated Mormons). In the end, not only did the Festival stay where it was, but some participants seemed to get a bit of a thrill out of the location (profanity in article):

[John] Cooper said . . . "I didn’t want to leave here because I like the subversive nature of it. Personally, I like coming here to Utah.”

[B. Ruby] Rich also said the fact that the festival occurs in Utah has an “extra subversive aspect to it,” and the fact that the world media being here “meant that you could make a really big difference.”

Hanging out with the family values crowd has become "subversive"? Given the artistic community's love of rebellion and going against the grain, this could be a very good thing.

’God will provide’

Quints What could be harder or scarier for a young woman than "growing up in Sudan as war tore apart her homeland, discovering in the midst of it that she was pregnant, coming to this strange land of America," and then giving birth here without her husband nearby and without insurance?

How about giving birth to quintuplets?

In one day alone, the quintuplets go through 40 diapers and several bottles of formula. The biggest, Nyandeng, is now 6 pounds 5 ounces, and the smallest, Athei, is 4 pounds 7 ounces. Two need particularly close attention and are hooked up to machines that monitor their breathing. [Adwai] Malual and her mother have also struggled to find affordable transportation large enough to take all five babies to their doctor's appointments.

Volunteers from Grace Baptist Church in Bowie visit periodically to help feed the babies and to drive the family to get supplies and groceries. Relatives from Utah and Maine flew in during the first few weeks to take over feeding shifts.

In the long run, however, Malual knows that the situation is unsustainable. Her husband, who works in Tanzania as a liaison for the military in southern Sudan, has seen only pictures of the quintuplets and is unable to leave his post. Her mother, Anne Abyei, will eventually return home.

Malual, a Christian, says that when worries loom, she reminds herself, "These children are blessings from God. . . . He brought them to me, protected them through all that time. So for the future, I think I must live day by day. God will provide." Through the members of Christ's Body here on earth, He's doing just that.

If you live in or near Maryland and would like to donate food, diapers, or clothing to the Maluals, you can take them to the Clothes Box at the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis (click here for the address). For those who don't live nearby but would like to help, checks can be sent to the AAMC Foundation Office at the same address. Make sure to put "For the Malual quints" in the memo portion of your check.

(Image © The Washington Post)

’Defiance’: Life is beautiful

Defiance I was out of town last weekend, so I wasn't able to see Defiance, which opened on Friday, until this week. The film is based on the lives of the Bielski brothers, who not only led a cadre of resistance fighters, but who eventually came to shelter more than 1200 Jews in the forests of Belarus during World War II. 

Before I headed to the theater, I checked out this review. Though the reviewer is rather neutral on the film's value, the comments were more illuminating. One clueless fellow said, "Enough Already.  Who are these films supposed to appeal to anymore?"

Thankfully, other responses showed more wisdom: "These films, and the novels, essays, poems, and books of nonfiction on the era are all 'supposed to appeal' to thinking humans who continue to ponder the nature of humankind, what we owe one another, and how we might prevent this happening again." Another commentator simply observed, "We will have 'enough' Holocaust films after six million stories are told." I'm hoping that the wiser voices about the value of seeing Defiance will prevail.

It's not an easy film to watch, and well deserves its R-rating for violence and language. Yet, it's the very grittiness of the film that makes it so valuable. The film doesn't gloss over those moments when the Jewish survivors choose revenge over compassion, but it also shows the danger of doing so as they risk becoming as cruel as their collaborating neighbors and the Germans. The film forces viewers to repeatedly ask, "What would I have done if I had been in their shoes?" It makes us pit our ideals (often formed in peace, security and comfort) against the reality of unwanted moral choices foisted upon us by war. As Sam Thielman says over at World, "The ethical complexities of the movie make it worth chewing over." 

But Defiance does more than that. Some of the best scenes in the film are those that show these desperate, isolated survivors forming a new community: They share food, they build shelters, they nurse the sick, they protect the unborn, they fall in love and marry, and they worship together. The film most strongly reaffirms the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak, but it also reminds us that there's more to life than mere survival. 

In a simple scene near the end of the film, as the Jews flee deeper into the woods, Daniel Craig's character (Tuvia) stops for an instant to soak in the beauty of the forest.  It's a telling moment that reminds Tuvia, and us, that life -- even at its most difficult and dangerous -- is indeed beautiful.

(Image © Paramount Vantage)

Oh, you mean THAT cholera epidemic...

Mugabe2 After weeks of denying that cholera was killing his nation's people in droves, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe now says the epidemic of cholera constitutes a "national emergency." Now let's hope--and pray--that international aid groups will actually be allowed to enter the country and help the people of Zimbabwe. Given the past history of Mugabe's administration, that hope seems a bit dim.

(Image © AP)

The Point Radio: Jargon Detox

Sick of jargon and buzzwords?

Click play above to listen.

Speak the King’s English, please, no more buzzwords,” CNN.com, 21 June 2008.

January 22, 2009

Daily roundup

One step forward, one step back?

President Obama did not repeal the Mexico City policy and restore U.S. funding of foreign abortions today as expected -- because, Beliefnet suggests, members of the religious left have asked him not to "make a big pro-choice move without also taking some abortion-reduction step."

Change you can believe in? Or the same old "you scratch our back, we'll scratch yours" politics?

It’s All About Me, My, I: Read At Your Own Risk

The ability to achieve great wealth, success, and power has always driven American professionals.  


Actually, Dallas Willard says once upon a time, people acknowledged that professionals had "a moral role in society."  Find out why.

Getting Out of Guilt’s Grip

On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I just want to give a shout out to the great work that Michaelene Fredenburg is doing over at her Abortion Changes You website. This isn't a political website. This is for those who are struggling with the emotions after an abortion, whether it be recent or in the distant past, whether it be the woman who was pregnant, the child's father, or the people connected to them.

I've been thinking a little bit lately about how guilt is sometimes harder to shake than grief. It seems when we are grieving, people are more ready to put their arms around us and say it is going to be okay. Their touch is a way in which we feel God's touch.

But when we are feeling guilty, even if we've confessed that wrong to the Father, we rarely get the same kind of human-level interaction where another person looks you in the eye and reminds you that if you have confessed and repented, God really has forgiven you. This is one of the reasons reconciliation is so important when there is a possiblity of it. But when loss or distance or other circumstances separate us from those whom we've wronged, it can be hard to know in that deep experiential way--in that cleansing, setting us free way--that we are truly forgiven. That's one of the reasons I'm glad Michaelene is working on creating a virtual community. It's also a good reminder that we as the Body have a role to play in helping people deal with guilt as well as grief.

Pandora’s box

On the booing of Bush at the Inauguration, blogger "no exit" at TPMCafe opines,

In all fairness, the man deserves boos and worse for the conduct of his criminal administration, but, I find myself feeling much as I did about the protests over Rick Warren's inclusion in the ceremony. That it is time to restore some civility and some dialogue to our nations discourse and, finally, restore rational thought as our guiding principle. In order for this to happen, we must be willing to speak with the Rick Warren's of the world, or anyone in fact, who is truly interested in dialogue and with whom we can find common ground. While Bush's administration needs to be investigated and, most likely prosecuted, yesterday's demonstration seemed rude. As a nation, we are better than that or so I'd like to believe. I am comforted by the fact that the booes were not overwhelming or particularly venomous, more a reflexive reaction of disgust to the mere sight of the worst president in our nation's history. 

Another encouraging sign is the positivity on the part of most of the blogosphere and blogopundits. Aside from the very few influential right wing sites, the internet coverage has been for the most part approving of Obama's conduct so far. I am confident that as we move forward and make the hard decisions of which Obama so pointedly reminded us, that Brad Delong can disband his Order of the Shrill and that Bush Derangement Syndrome will go the way of polio and small pox, virtually stamped out except for infrequent outbreaks occasioned by particular spasms of disgust as the sordid tale that was his presidency finally unravels.

I wouldn't bet on it. When for eight years you've been encouraging and applauding the "venomous" and the "shrill," there's no stuffing back into the box what you've brought forth. As another blogger, The Anchoress, mentioned in a post I linked to in yesterday's Roundup, the Left may find that its behavior has reverberations far greater than it may have anticipated -- and that a few bromides about hope and change have little power to change minds nourished on anger and hate.

’Sometimes we’re called for a long fight’

Brownback.jpg Senator Sam Brownback recounted the story some of you might remember from the film Amazing Grace, where William Wilberforce was close to a victory over slavery until someone slipped opera tickets to his allies on the day of the vote -- and he was in for another 20-some years of fighting. He also mentioned the story from John 5 of the man who was ill for many years before Jesus healed him. We can lament that "We were so close" to victory; we can wonder why God would take so long to act; but in the end we have to recognize that "sometimes we're called for a long fight," and refuse to give up.

(Image © Gina Dalfonzo)

Based on a true story

The film 22 Weeks had a screening at Union Station last night, and the trailer was just shown here. Director Angel Manuel Soto is saying that they're hoping the movie can play the same kind of role that Uncle Tom's Cabin played in ending slavery.

Learn more at the movie's website. (Angele, the woman portrayed in the film, will be speaking on The Laura Ingraham Show later this morning.)

Fight FOCA

Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life just announced that the organization's Fight FOCA petition reached half a million signatures yesterday. If you haven't added your name yet, there's no time like the present. . . .

(And yes, I sent Charmaine a Facebook message while we were both here in the audience. Quit snickering, Allen.)