History, Blasphemy, and Russia

 When the protesters were sentenced last week for their performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, a friend asked me why Orthodox Christians were so upset about what they’d done. For him, this was clearly a political protest. It was aimed at a too-close entwining of church and state, so it took place in a church. What’s the big deal? But, in practice, there’s a difference.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

The movie hadn’t been on very long, but I had the feeling that most of the funny scenes from the trailer had already flown by. I checked my watch: six minutes. Not much later the rest of the trailer galloped past. Then Dodge, the Steve Carrell character, pulled into his rooftop parking place at work. He leaned forward to check an insect bite on his cheek in the rear view mirror. With a shattering crash, a body landed on his windshield.  


As I watched the trailer for Brave I had a sinking feeling. It’s funny, of course, and the images and characters are brightly appealing. But the plot … hmm. A feisty young princess is to learn which of three princes — who range from wimpy to oafish — will be her future husband. They will compete with each other in feats of archery, with the winner to wed the princess. But she refuses her socially assigned fate; taking up the bow herself, she easily bests the suitors and wins her own hand.

Where Do We Go Now?

[Christianity Today Online; May 11, 2012] 3 stars Cast: Nadine Labaki (Amale), Julian Farhat (Rabih), Leyla Hakim (Afaf), Yvonne Malouf (Yvonne), Ali Haidar (Roukoz) Outside a small, dusty village in Lebanon, a few teens with an old-fashioned boom box are climbing the hills, trying to find a place where they can get good reception; their home town is so isolated that news from the outside world is an occasional thing. Only a narrow, badly-maintained bridge connects them with the surrounding countryside, and it is surrounded by land mines that were planted long ago and never removed. Yet it’s worth it to take that risk sometimes, if they can find a signal.

The Naked Face Project

Just today I read about the Naked Face Project; two women in Charlotte, NC, Molly Barker and Caitlin Boyle, decided to try, for just 60 days, to go without makeup, jewelry, shaving, uncomfortable clothing (like tight skirts and high heels), painted nails, beauty lotions, and anything more than basic hair styling.


As the last scene of this movie faded away, replaced by a screen reading “Directed by Madonna,” I asked my companion, “If you’d known ahead of time that Madonna was the director, would you have enjoyed this movie as much?” He replied, “Honestly, no.”

The Pro-Life Cause, Orthodoxy, and Hope

Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion—through all 50 states, for any reason whatsoever. When I was a college student, back in the 70’s, I was in favor of legalizing abortion. I wasn’t a Christian then, but I was a feminist, the first feminist in my dorm, and I was loudly in favor of social revolution and women’s rights. I took it for granted that abortion was necessary, if women were ever going to be equal to men.

On Improving as a Listener

LISTENING INVOLVES THE WHOLE BODY Don’t listen with your ears alone; use your eyes, as well, to gather clues from the person’s expression, stance, and overall demeanor. The body can reveal the soul. In writing about Eastern Orthodox spirituality, Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (1914-2003) said that the body is like a Geiger counter;[i] it can disclose what is going on in the soul. He was making the point that it is not necessary for a monk to continually plumb the psyche, because his own body will disclose his inner spiritual and emotional processes. We can use that insight as well. By paying attention to what the other person’s body communicates as we listen to them, we can discern what is going on inside the heart, soul, and understanding. 

An Introduction to “Anna Karenina”

If you know anything about Anna Karenina, you know that it is the story of a woman who abandons her husband for another man, and comes to a bad end. What you might not know is that the novel is about two marriages: Anna’s, which ends sadly, and Levin’s, which, though not without the usual stresses, goes well. The often-quoted first sentence of the book sets up the dichotomy: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” 

The Adventures of Tintin

I have 11 grandchildren. I see plenty of children’s movies. I have acquired a jaundiced eye. As autumn leaves drift into piles, as souvenir teacups proliferate around a royal wedding, thus do crass, crude, cynical children’s movies pile up around the family DVD player. Until now. The Adventures of Tintin is superb. Grandparents everywhere will babble tearful thanks: it’s so much better than it had to be, given the industry’s steadily decreasing quality (everywhere but Pixar-land). Credit must go to both the stars at the helm, Peter Jackson (of The Lord of the Rings) and Steven Spielberg (of too many hits to mention), and the new technologies (motion-capture animation, improved 3-D process) deserve a toast as well. However, none of this would be here without the hero himself.