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Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

An Oscar Primer (or “Before You Vote”)

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2011 at 12:48 am

Submitted By: Kevin Smith Clark

I admit it…I’m an Oscar-junkie.  I think I’ve watched every Academy Awards show (in part or entirety) since 1991 (when GoodFellas got screwed in favor of Dances With Wolves), except 1997’s (the year of The English Patient) ceremony.  Wanna hear me go even dorkier?  This Sunday night, my wife will humor me for the 9th straight year, and we’ll go head-to-head on choosing who will win each of the 24 categories.  Ready for me to go even further off the deep end?  I’m giving you a strategy, a rubric if you will, to increase your chances of picking the winners by showing you the “trends.”  Disclaimer: my categories/reasons may sound offensive, prejudicial, homophobic, red-state-ish, misogynist, or any other label you can conjure.  That’s not my intent…I’m simply going on 20 years of watching and research.  Just stating what I see, not necessarily what is there.  And for time’s sake, I’ll only deal with major categories.

Acting awards – Actors/actresses will typically earn nominations/awards for the following: (1) playing crazy (Charlize Theron, Monster; Forrest Whitaker, Last King of Scotland; Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight), (2) playing anyone involved in either the Holocaust or WWII (Adrien Brody, The Pianist; Kate Winslet, The Reader; Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds), (3) straight playing gay (Tom Hanks, Philadelphia; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote; Sean Penn, Milk; Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain; Annette Benning, The Kids are All Right), and (4) The Lifetime Achievement Award (Denzel Washington, Training Day; Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich; Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side)

Picture awards – Best Picture winners are either (1) The Three-Hour Epic (Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, Titanic, Return of the King) (2) War-related (Schindler’s List, The English Patient, Gladiator, Hurt Locker), (3) Overcoming Odds Award-Bait (Forrest Gump, Shakespeare in Love, A Beautiful Mind, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, this year’s The King’s Speech), and (4) Wild Card (usually reserved for when Oscar actually gets it right – The Silence of the Lambs, American Beauty, No Country for Old Men).

Director – this one usually angers me the most, because it falls under (1) “Your film will win Best Picture, so we’ll go ahead and give you Best Director” (Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby; James Cameron, Titanic; Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump) (2) You won the Director’s Guild Award, so 95% of the time, you get the Oscar (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven; Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan; Danny Boyle, Slumdog) (3) We passed you over on better work, so here’s The Lifetime Achievement for Directing (Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind; Scorsese, The Departed; Coens, No Country…; Roman Polanski, The Pianist)

Now that you know what to look for, here’s why I’m choosing whom in the major categories:

Best Supporting Actress – easily the toughest to choose, because of its history of randomness (did you know Mary Steenburgen has a Best Supporting Actress Oscar?  Yep, that Mary Steenburgen.).  That’s why I’m going with Hallie Steinfeld in True Grit…because no one’s heard of her.  Nobody knew who Marisa Tomei was in 1993, or Anna Paquin in 1994, or Mira Sorvino in 1996, or Angelina Jolie in 2000, or Jennifer Hudson in 2007, or…you get the picture.  Upset alert: following the rubric, watch out for Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, because she’s been around forever, and has been overlooked a few times, so she may pull a Lifetime Achievement.

Best Supporting Actor – Going with Christian Bale in The Fighter, because his loose-cannon, drug addicted character qualifies him under “playing crazy” and this too is a Lifetime Achievement…especially with the way he alters his appearance every time he steps on screen…double whammy. Upset alert: the only person I see bumping Bale is Geoffrey Rush from The King’s Speech…but he already has an Oscar from Shine…but he’s also playing the “Anne Sullivan” role in this film, which has Oscar-bait all over it.

Best Actress – this one’s easy…Natalie Portman in Black Swan…this is ape-nuts crazy, screaming, crying, picking feathers out of her back-crazy.  Voters love this crap (cf. Peter Finch, Network; Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman; Jack Nicholson, As Good as It Gets).  She’s cleaned house at the awards, this is merely a formality.  Upset alert: only Annette Bening’s overrated turn as the doctor mom in The Kids are All Right can derail Portman, because she meets the criteria “straight playing gay” and “Lifetime Achievement” (she was WRONGED for American Beauty).

Best Actor – Jesse Eisenberg was great in The Social Network, as was James Franco in 127 Hours, but Colin Firth’s stammering monarch in The King’s Speech is your winner.  He’s overcoming odds, it has the Merchant-Ivory British pretense, and he was passed over for A Single Man last year (straight playing gay, btw) so Jeff Bridges could get the Lifetimer for Crazy HeartUpset Alert: Eisenberg, but it ain’t happening.

Best Director – This really should be David Fincher’s for The Social Network because (1) he did this film without relying on the visual flair that made Se7en and Fight Club great (2) he’s been nominated before and has made some Kubrickian flicks over the years.  But guess what…the Academy no likey Kubrick, so Fincher’s out, and The King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper is in (he won the DGA earlier this year).  Upset alert: it’s Fincher, Hooper, or nothing.  And for the record, what does Christopher Nolan have to do to get a nomination?

Best Picture – The King’s Speech.  Haven’t seen it, but it seems to have the momentum.  I’ve seen five of the ten nominations, and I’d rank them in this order: (1) Inception (I don’t care what you think, I loved it, it hooked me and never let up), (2) Toy Story 3 (again, I don’t care, this one messed me up), (3) The Social Network, (4) 127 Hours (great stuff…like Cast Away, but 50 minutes shorter…and better), (5) The Kids are All Right (the more I think about it, the less I like it…Julianne Moore – great in anything…but not Best Picture caliber).  Upset Alert: if we can learn anything from Shakespeare in Love and Crash (which sucked, btw), is once in a while, anything can happen.  So, I guess it’s possible The Social Network could pull an upset.  We’ll know Sunday night around 11:30pm.

Best of luck with your voting…

I’m A Runner

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Submitted By: Slowfo

Just thought I’d let everyone know that I am training for a half-marathon. See, I’m a runner. I’ve got shoes made exclusively for running. Every once in a while I get running-type magazines. My goal is to do the Oklahoma City Half Marathon on May 1st. I started my training last week. I ran last Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and my week totaled out at running a full 2 miles for the week. I’m a runner! Impressed? I know 2 miles may not seem like much to you but it’s 2 miles more than I’ve run over the last 8 months or so. I actually kinda like to run. I just haven’t done it in a while. As a matter of fact, I’ve done next to nothing as far as exercise for the last year unless you count climbing up and down the attic stairs to put our Christmas junk away. But after I got done with my first full mile on Saturday, I felt invigorated. I AM a runner. I am an athlete! Even though I ran at a pace where my 104 year old grandma could have beaten me in her wheel chair, I felt alive! In my mind, I had just graduated into being able to start all conversations with my friends with, “Yeah, I went running this morning and…..”

I share all of this because it struck me how, I’m a Christian and the plight of the poor and oppressed is on my mind quite a bit but I really don’t do much about it. Sure, I’ll write a check or two, but that’s about it. I’ll read books about how more needs to be done to help them. I’ll watch powerful videos on YouTube about mission trips, feeding the homeless, etc.  I keep up with what local charities are doing but I rarely get my hands dirty. So Saturday, I finished my run and was amazed at how actually running even such a short distance can make me feel so much better and I mentally consider myself to really be a runner when I actually get out and do it. Makes me wonder if, once I really get my hands dirty and build relationships with and help the homeless, maybe then I’ll know what being a Christian is really like.

Slowfo’s Unsolicited Cultural Editorial

Have you ever noticed that when some Christians are talking and one is sharing how God is moving in their life, the other one will give little “..mmm…………..yes……..” type utterances? The dialogue might go like this:

Christian #1: “Last night I was praying and the spirit of God just came over me……”

Christian #2: “…..mmm….”

Christian #1: “God just seemed to be saying that I need to make some changes…..”

Christian #2: “…….mmmmm……….yes……”

Christian #1: “I know I need to give God all of me and not just part of me….”

Christian #2: “…..wow………yes”

Christian #1: ”Jesus is the only way to know TRUE peace in life!”

Christian #2: “…..MMMM…….yes, you got it!”

So let’s just pull Christian #2’s comments aside:

“……mmm……mmmmm…..yes…….wow……..yes……..MMMM……yes, you got it!”

I heard a podcast the other day where a Christian guy sounded almost exactly like this while interviewing someone. Why do some Christians choose to sound orgasmic when they talk? I don’t get it and it sounds ridiculous. Can you imagine if Larry King was sounding like this while he interviewed guests on his show? People would wonder if something was going on under that desk.

 

Unashamed of the Impossible Dream

In Uncategorized on February 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Yesterday Triangle celebrated the lives of two women, Gladys and Connie, who have each served the organization for over 30 years. Triangle employees from each of our four decades of service gathered at a local function hall to share a good word, eat a little cake, and celebrate these two remarkable women.

In the middle of the program, Dr. Conti, one of Triangle’s founders, said his piece and then said he wanted to sing the Triangle theme song. I didn’t know Triangle had a theme song, but apparently we do. It’s “The Impossible Dream,” which is one of those songs I didn’t think I knew until I heard it. The song was written for The Man of La Mancha, thought I don’t remember Sam crooning it on Quantum Leap. It goes something like this:

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.

To right the unrightable wrong
To be better far than you are
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest, to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far…

When you read the lyrics, all Arial and abstract like that, it sounds like pablum. The kind of song that would resonate if Andy Williams used it as an encore at his Moon River Theater in Branson, but would ring hollow elsewhere.

But not in that room. Not yesterday. Not with 40 years of people who have given years, given up more competitive compensation and invested their very lives in providing support, challenge and opportunity for people with disabilities.

As Dr. Conti sang, as sappy as it seems, I was challenged once again to remember the mission that Christ introduced and many of us have felt compelled by the Spirit to join since. Namely, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. To announce, as it were, the year of God’s Jubilee.

Perhaps that sounds like pablum, or at least a little starry-eyed, to others. I don’t care. I can only hope that if I have the grace to make it to Dr. Conti’s age I will also be able to sing of the dream of justice, healing, liberation, and Divine favor with sustained passion, without apology and without embarrassment.

Here’s to the impossible dream.

Overheard: Ira Glass’ Radio Stories in Boston

In Uncategorized on February 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Submitted By: Gentry

Last night Kellie and I had the opportunity to see Ira Glass share his “Radio Stories and Other Stories” at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. Before I mention anything about Ira’s talk, I should note that this show was Kellie’s surprise birthday present. When I was laid up at home on Thursday because of Five Guys Hamburgers and Fries fueled puking throughout the early morning hours, I saw this talk advertised on Boston.com and immediately knew that we had to find a way to get there. After the Carrie Erwin and the Cade’s graciously offered to help with childcare I secured two tickets – in the orchestra no less! – and impatiently waited until Kellie got home so that I could tell her about her present.

When I told her that we were going to see Ira Glass on Thursday evening, she actually let out a little scream of joy. That moment brought me as much pleasure as the event itself. I’ve got to find ways to make that happen more often.

Anyway, to the show. Ira started the show in the dark, talking about the intimacy of radio and how, even though we don’t see each other, radio creates an environment in which the power of the word has the opportunity to break boundaries between people and foster a strong sense of empathy. I wish those of us who preach always had the same confidence. Ira quipped that he had asked the crew at Sanders Theater to let him complete his lecture in the dark, but since Churchill had not done likewise when he held the same space, they refused to do so. At that moment the lights went up, the audience clapped and, you know, things unfolded.

Ira was seated behind a board like the one pictured above.  With radio clips on his right, music on his left, and a mixer at center Ira talked about his history at NPR and how he had developed the idea that public radio needed to alter its aesthetic by entertaining, connecting, and empathizing with their audience. He said that he believed the NPR could move beyond its high fiber cereal – great for you if only you can choke it down – appeal if it would learn to use stories well. Ira then provided a brilliant, brief introduction to the structure of story that you can also hear directly from Ira, for free, at open culture, so I won’t rehash it here. Simply said, Ira noted that anyone can sound 80% smarter if they tell stories that are structured as a series of sequential events and include an honest, meaningful moment of reflection. He also cast the topic sentence as the great enemy of story and said that we have to trust the power of narrative to communicate information, connect with others and help us make sense of the world.

After illustrating and explicating the idea of story for a while, Ira admitted that although he believed he discovered the most elemental structure for story, he was shocked a few years ago to hear his favorite Rabbi preach at Rosh Hashanah – “the Super Bowl of the Jewish year” – and hear this same structure. He now lives across the street from a seminary and he says that every student realizes that the idea of story isn’t just in the Bible, it is the Bible. How many of our young preachers who’ve been taught to prepare sermons like they are five paragraph essays and more experienced preachers who rely on movie clips to provide this narrative power and often unwittingly hijack the biblical narrative in the process, need to either hear this lecture or read Lowry’s The Homiletical Plot? It’s not that difficult colleagues, get with it.

I realize this is going long, but nobody reads posts published on Sundays anyway. The best of the rest.

On Juan Williams: Ira admitted that NPR was wrong to fire Williams for a quote that was completely taken out of context. He said that when reporters admit their visceral reactions to situations – such Williams did by saying that he gets nervous when he sees fellow airline passengers in “Muslim garb” on a flight – before discussing why we need to move past our visceral reactions in order to live in a free, civil society – as Williams did – they should be commended for transparency, not fired. He said that NPR had provided its mea culpa in the “corporate way” by accepting the resignation of the head of NPR news, then he turned to consider Williams’ post-firing accusations on Fox News. Glass said that Williams has claimed several times that NPR is driving by ideology and that their reporters are expected to be standard bearers of the political left. Ira said this accusation was manifestly untrue – admitting that professional standards would not allow him to call it a lie – and said that if partisan news organizations like Fox want to test the objectivity of their reporting against NPR they should “bring it on.” He stated in no uncertain terms that NPR would win that fight. For my part, I question whether NPR would be willing to embrace the tactics that it would likely take to win that kind of fight at this moment in time.

On Amazing, Un-Aired This American Life Stories (TAL): He played a few, including a spellbinding story of a veteran who dumped his wife’s ashes out in the parking lot of a veteran’s cemetery when the government’s promise of free interment for veterans like his wife was hindered by a $16 handling fee. This story was riveting, scored with the standard TAL soundtrack and ready to kill. Only one problem, a fact checker at the eleventh hour discovered that the handling fee never existed and the female veteran’s ashes were safely stored in the crypt next to her since departed husband. Apparently the husband fabricated this astonishing story, and subsequently endured years of humorous harassment from his family, for a reason no one will ever know.

On Balloon Animals: Ira showed off his teenage magician skills by twisting a poodle and giving it to an elated and oddly demonstrative upper middle-aged lady in the front row.

Ira closed the evening with a shortened question and answer session since he had indulged us by running 20 minutes over his alloted lecture time. During the Q & A he: said that TAL doesn’t have plans to send reporters into Egypt since the news division is doing a great job covering the story and he’s not eager to see their contributors kidnapped, spoke briefly about the use of music in the show as well as a few often used sound clips that readers were begging him to stop using and, in response to an awkwardly phrased question about the “lowest common denominator of TAL’s stories” said, “I don’t understand the question. A banana peel?”

As Kellie and I darted out of the theater into the lighting and driving rain we had stupid grins on our faces and I wished that, four or five of you in particular, had been there to enjoy the evening with us.

First Church of Cash

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Submitted By: Slowfo

Gentry’s Note: I’m pretty sure that Slowfo first saw this on the Stuff Christian Culture Likes page on FB. They apparently lifted it from here.

What is it they say about pictures and a thousand words? Hmmm………Now before you get your Acts 29’s in a wad, I’m not specifically pointing out Mars Hill as being a money-hungry church. Heck, I’d at least have to get to know them a little before I gave them a good tongue lashing over their financial dealings. The quick defenders of Mars Hill might even look at this photo and say, “This picture doesn’t tell the whole story. You’re taking a photo completely out of context from everything that transpires with the church.” Context. Yes, lets’ provide some context.

As my family and I are home-bound due to 18 inches of snow being dumped on the Tulsa area this week (we Okies are paralyzed at 3 inches of snow, let alone 18!), we’ve had plenty of time for TV watching. Last night, we stumbled upon Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. I like that Adam Richman. Just a good-guy, John Belushi look-alike who attempts to take on the biggest food challenges that this country has to offer. I watched as he successfully choked down the hottest burger on the planet, attempted to eat 11 pounds of pizza with a friend in 60 minutes and then tackled 4 pounds of blueberry pancakes in 90 minutes. How this guy will live through this TV series is beyond me but I found myself entertained nonetheless.

It was only after I consumed 90 minutes of this program that “context” finally dawned on me. We were watching a television production that cost thousands upon thousands of dollars to create (that’s just a guess – if anyone actually knows how much a show costs to produce, let me know) to be entertained by seeing a guy gorge himself with as much food as humanly possible in a short amount of time. Meanwhile, the world’s story is much different. In the U.S., we are consumed by multi-million dollar entertainment and excessive amounts of food to the point of gross obesity while half-way around the world and even on our own streets, there are many that are hoping to just have enough food to make it for a few more days. The hungry don’t know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, instead living meal to meal. With the rare Oklahoma blizzard this week, I was saying my prayers and being thankful for electricity that still worked when an acquaintance of mine offered up a prayer for the homeless in Tulsa…..praying that they would find shelter and warmth in the midst of sub zero temperatures. Sadly, I hadn’t even thought of their plight until he reminded me and I quickly followed his lead to ask God for their protection. I was embarrassed that I had forgotten even my local context.

I don’t really even need to spell out the global context for the church, do I? There are millions and millions of church dollars that are put towards just the right property locations, modern looking mini-mall facilities, giant, state-of-the-art projection screens, and even more armored trucks full of dollars thrown at advertising while pastors easily justify the expense, muttering with a crack in their voices, “It would all be worth it even if we could just save one soul.”

The Church is trying to keep up with the entertainment world and instead should be a breath of fresh air for society. The church should NOT be a testament to bloated consumption and excessive entertainment. Instead, She is to be the constant reminder to society that we MUST pay attention to the hungry and poor.

C’mon Church, surely your Dave Ramsey classes have taught you the value of money by now. Are we really doing the right thing spending so much on ourselves while our brothers and sisters around the globe starve? Trust me, I understand that I’m probably coming off like a bleeding heart who’s asking for “the end of global hunger” when it’s just not that realistic or simple. I get it. But we really need to stop and look at a photo like the one above and ask ourselves, “Have we just gotten so used to seeing a picture like this and dismissing it that we forget about the true context of what is really happening?” I just think Jesus calls her Bride to stop looking in the mirror at how pretty she is and instead to do more to heal the pains of this world we live in.

About – and Hopefully Beyond – Tithing

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm

 

Submitted By: Mother Beth Maynard

Gentry’s Note: Mother Beth is an Episcopal priest and dear friend who, along with her husband Mark Dirksen, leads a community focused on formation and prayer on Beverly’s Mill Street. Last week I asked her if there is a biblical reason that Christians should tithe a whole 10% of their income to the church and then tack on justice or poverty related giving on top of that figure. While deeply dedicated to the mission of the church, my family really wants to make a significant impact on the lives of the poor throughout the world and we simply cannot do that in a substantial way without reallocating some of our giving. This is Mother Beth’s gracious response.

Thanks for asking me to expand a little on my comments about tithing. I’ve been tithing for about 25 years and think it’s a magnificent spiritual practice, but since I come from a denominational tradition where a 10% tithe is official policy but rarely taught or practiced, I expect that the standpoint from which I think about tithing overall is rather different than that of many of your readers. The reasoning that I’d use to talk about where the 10% goes wasn’t forged in dialogue with evangelicals who have a long background of teaching about tithing to a local church, but with people who are exclaiming, “You’re telling me the Bible says we should do WHAT?!” With that caveat, here are a few of the questions from which I’d approach that issue:

1) I’d want to be asking the kind of questions anyone asks about applying Biblical instructions in a different cultural context. If Scripture says not to covet your neighbor’s ox, we can all appropriately translate that principle pretty quick to not coveting her Lexus.  But is the social service/political/economic matrix we are in really so similar to OT society that “give to the Temple” is transparently translatable to “give to a local congregation of your choice?”  Does a local PCUSA or Baptist church and its leaders play anything like the same role in the lives of Americans (and our experienced globalized world) that the Temple did in Israel?

2) The spiritual disciplines in general are behaviors that we freely and grace-fully commit to engage in and which God uses to form us as disciples, but which do not earn merit. Where is the actual ascetical fulcrum that functions in the spiritual discipline of tithing: in the exterior result of where the money ends up, or in the formational effect of the commitment on us? Which of these two foci more closely echoes the NT way of talking about spirituality?

3) What would be the effect of keeping in mind that the NT seems to presume that the work of the Spirit in us will lead us delightedly and freely to surpass the demands of OT ethical instructions?  What kind of conversations would we be having if we couldn’t wait to joyously pass along 45% of our income, instead of bean-counting what we can get away with on the 10% we’re determined not to have to exceed?

4) A more pragmatic question: Surveys on US giving show that most people donate far, far less than 10% of their income. To change this, we need to invite them into a vision of the joy of opening your hands, living from abundance/trust instead of scarcity/control, and discovering the faithfulness of God when you share your resources. How effective in helping those people actually grow is the strategy of beginning with hard and fast rules as to what they should be doing with the 10% they aren’t giving before they are allowed to support anything else they care about?  Might this not be especially dicey in a culture where a common assumption is that “all the church wants is your money”?

5) This has aspects of a couple of the previous ones in it, and is a bit flip; but as I quipped to you earlier, it’s tough for me to imagine Jesus saying “Hey! Don’t you give that starving guy any wheat unless you can prove to me you’ve already given 10% of your harvest to the Temple!”

There are other questions I could ask as well, but those would be the ones that first come to mind. It seems to me that the central message that is appropriate for the majority of Americans is: HEY, WE’RE RICH! LET’S GIVE MONEY AWAY! GLORY TO GOD! GIVE A LOT!  IT’S AN AWESOME WAY TO LIVE!  When all Christians are thoroughly infamous for acting like that, then we can probably justify spending time on hashing over various details of our ecstatically generous world-changing prodigality.

 

King on True Social Peace

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Submitted By: Paul Drake

Gentry’s Note: I have been reading quite a bit about and by Dr. King lately – focusing especially on Bearing the Cross by Garrow and the Testament of Hope compendium of Dr. King’s writings – but I had not heard this interesting piece of biblical exposition until Paul mentioned it. For that reason, I asked Paul to repost his MLK day piece here.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought I’d share a passage of his that I have found quite meaningful and challenging:

I remember when I was in Montgomery, Alabama, one of the white citizens came to me one day and said – and I think he was very sincere about this – that in Montgomery for all of these years we have been such a peaceful community, we have had so much harmony in race relations and then you people have started this movement and boycott, and it has done so much to disturb race relations, and we just don’t love the Negro like we used to love them, because you have destroyed the harmony and the peace that we once had in race relations.  And I said to him, in the best way I could say and I tried to say it in nonviolent terms, we have never had peace in Montgomery, Alabama, we have never had peace in the South.  We have had a negative peace, which is merely the absence of tension; we’ve had a negative peace in which the Negro patiently accepted his situation and his plight, we’ve never had the peace, we’ve never had positive peace, and what we’re seeking now is to develop this positive peace…

True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but it is the presence of justice and brotherhood.  I think this is what Jesus meant when he said, “I come not to bring peace but a sword.”  Now Jesus didn’t mean he came to start war, to bring a physical sword, and he didn’t mean, I come not to bring positive peace.  But I think what Jesus was saying in substance was this, that I come not to bring an old negative peace, which makes for stagnant passivity and deadening complacency, I come to bring something different, and whenever I come, a conflict is precipitated, between the old and the new, whenever I come a struggle takes place between the old and the new, whenever I come a struggle takes place between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. I come not to bring a negative peace, but a positive peace, which is brotherhood, which is justice, which is the Kingdom of God.

“Love, Law, and Civil Disobedience,” 1961

Such a holistic understanding of peace, I find, echoes the rich biblical concept of shalom, and Christian Scripture as a whole, which rejects cheap grace in favor of maturely discipled love, which is ultimately to reflect the perfect love of God, in whom righteousness and peace coexist in perfect harmony (Ps. 85).  It is the difficult work of instantiating or approximating this peace and justice here in our broken world that King speaks so authentically to, in his words, his life, and ultimately his death.  Rather than bringing wanton violence like Jared Lee Loughner, King suffered it, showing that seeking both justice and peace can prove costly.  It certainly proved costly to God, in Christ, when he submitted to death on a cross to achieve a just peace with humanity and to lay a foundation for a just peace among humanity (Eph. 2:11-22; Phil. 2; Col. 1:20).

The other, more common (but more difficult) cost King speaks to here is that of relinquishing the insulation that comes from our privileged social locations.  Choosing to expose ourselves to the unjust sufferings of our fellow creatures appears to be an essential part of authentically seeking justice (Is. 58:7).  The humility that God the Son exhibited in submitting to death, first involved submitting to life, human, earthly life, with all of its struggles (Phil. 2; Heb. 2:14-18).  If Christ, who did not owe it to us to relinquish his privileged position, exposed himself to our weak human condition, how much more ought we be willing to expose ourselves to the weak condition of others?  King’s words are a continual reminder to me that we must be sure to hear the cries of the weak and the poor rather than dismissing them, and that a meaningful response to injustice requires committed confrontation.  I’ve found that both hearing and responding challenge me with the personal costs of effort, time, honesty, dissonance, power-sharing, and the risks of confronting power, but that they ultimately result in a deeper peace, in a truer shalom.

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