Sacrifice as Justification: Downton Abbey

The idea of sacrifice is put to many uses today. It is used to honor heroic soldiers, to motivate athletes, and to accuse those who have hurt us or don’t appreciate us. It is a means for assuaging our grief, making sense of tragic and senseless losses. As we will see in this post, it is also a way of consoling our consciences, providing justification for some harm we have caused or,…

Discussion Questions for Welcoming Gifts

In response to a request, I’ve put together some discussion questions for groups reading through my book Welcoming Gifts: Sacrifice in the Bible and Christian Life. Individuals reading the book might also find them helpful for reflection along the way. These are in addition to general questions like, “What did you find interesting or helpful in this chapter?” “What was confusing?” etc. Chapter 1: “Our Cloud Was Their Silver Lining” How have you used…

Sacrifice as Farcical Hospitality: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

As strange as it may sound, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa—a children’s movie—gives us one of the most authentic explanations of sacrifice in modern media. Stranger still, it comes from the mouth of King Julien, a demented lemur.  In this second installment of the franchise, the gang of zoo animals from the original Madagascar find themselves in an African wildlife preserve. During their stay, the local animal community is thrown into panic as…

Sacrifice as Consolation: The Expanse

The idea of sacrifice is often used today as a kind of consolation for loss, a way of giving meaning to something senseless and valorizing it. The recently released sixth season of The Expanse, a sci-fi series, provides us with an ironically down-to-earth and relatable example of this.  At the beginning of episode 4 (“Redoubt”), a family is grieving the tragic death of their young son, Xan, who was hit by a…

Sacrifice as Instructive Self-Harm: Avengers: Infinity War

Art sometimes reflects our fears back to us in such a way that we willingly face and emotionally grapple with anxieties that otherwise remain subconscious. And yes, I just called Avengers: Infinity War art. It’s not the Mona Lisa, but it does pull us out of our mundane day-by-day and force us to grapple with deep (dare I say, “spiritual”?) questions of meaning, existence, relationships, etc. You may call me a philistine,…

Sacrifice as Accusation: “You Oughta Know”

In 1995 Alanis Morissette emerged on the pop-music scene with a distinctively gritty, raw, impassioned, and honest—even confessional—style. Her breakout album was Jagged Little Pill, and one of its songs, in particular, swept through the airwaves and into the hearts of listeners across the country: “You Oughta Know.” The premise of the song is simple: a woman has lost her lover, who has since entered another relationship and forgotten her. Despite this…

Sacrifice as Horror: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I was a big fan of Indiana Jones in my childhood. I must have watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade a dozen times or more. But once was enough when it came to The Temple of Doom! This movie is the apotheosis of bizarre grossness, pumped up with successive hits of cringe-inducing shocks. It certainly appealed to a little boy’s dark side, but the spiritual hangover afterward—like a…