Weekly Round-Up, May 8, 2015

May 8, 2015

There is so much good happening in the world of theology and the arts. At the end of each week, we'd like to share with you a few of the great things we've discovered this past week from around the internet.

If you haven't noticed yet, we love Krista Tippet's On Being. Recently, she interviewed composer Muhammed Fairuz about the uniqueness of poetry and art; access to sacred spaces; the importance of text; the idea that obsession can be a good thing essential to getting things done; and more. Also, the music is just incredible. Listen above. Actually, you're probably already listening, because we can't figure out how to stop the auto-play.

Horror films are fequently ripe pickings for theological thinking. It Follows, the latest horror flick to turn heads (around in fear, perhaps), is no exception. For Curator, Daniel Saunders recently reflected on the resonances between the contemporary horror film, Augustine, Aquinas, and Dante.

Part of the horror of horror stories resides in the unveiling of the unknown, of fears, anxieties, and inclinations that normally lie submerged in the unconscious. Sexual desire is one such inclination—indeed, one of the most powerful and mysterious. Horror’s almost psychoanalytical interest in the dark side of sex is thus pertinent and fitting to one of its aims, which is to unearth the disturbing realities that hide in the darkness.

Speaking of movies that hinge on secret fears, Kevin Nye tackled the biggest film of the year so far, Avengers: Age of Ultron, for Reel Spirituality this past week and put the film into conversation with Walter Breuggemann, who spoke at last week's Fuller Forum.

This is not the first time Marvel has tackled the ideas of freedom and fear. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel’s best film to date, shows Cap’s refusal to accept a world where we allow fear to take us into total surveillance and utter annihilation. Brueggemann echoes these sentiments from a theological perspective: “Fear makes us selfish. Fear makes us do crazy things. Fear turns neighbors into threats.  Fear drives us into a desperate self-sufficiency and a yearning for privatism. Fear drives to greed and idolatry. Fear refuses the other. And now we live in a culture of fear that regards as ordinary surveillance and torture and drone because perfect fear drives out love.”

Then, picking up where Kevin left off, Reel Spirituality's Elijah Davidson, in his Alternate Take on the film, looked at little deeper at what the structure of these Marvel superhero movies might tell us about the ethos of the society we've been living in for the past fifteen years.

If it is true that our cinematic stories are the key stories of our day, and if it is true that the stories we tell and listen to reveal the matters pressing most urgently on our hearts, and if these Marvel movies are indeed the most popular and therefore most revelatory stories of our day, we can draw a few conclusions from Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Coming down from the Athenian-esque mountain that is the Avengers and taking a walk through the woods of North America, we turn to Fiction Writers Review's Rolf Yngve's interview with Nathan Poole, author of Pathkiller As the Holy Ghost, among others. Yngve's interview explores the dual-foscination of Poole with both theology and the forest.

These are the places that sustain us, that generate the air we breathe, what we eat, that’s what I mean by dynamism. Of course this has all been said before, and recently. But why shouldn’t fiction remind us of that relationship? We may no longer belong in a forest, but we still belong to it. Someone healed suddenly of his blindness once said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Why would anyone say that if those images were not in their blood, as a likeness of the self?

Readers in the San Diego area have the great opportunity of seeing a remarkable exhibit of Lalla Essaydi's beautiful, brilliant photography at the San Diego Museum of Art. Lalla Essaydi: Photographs includes works from three different exhibitions all attempting to return agency to Muslim women long-marginalized by both Western lenses and extremists from within their society. If you are not in the San Diego area, you can view Essaydi's photographs on her website.

Returning once again to Curator, they are in the process of releasing the various papers presented at the recent Calvin College Festival of Faith and Music. This past week, they featured a great essay by Zac Settle on the complicated relationship between popular music and consumerism.

Any criticism that aims to dismantle the production of an item or set of ideas without properly examining the telos, the cultural and economic demand that enables the production of the object in the first place, has obviously missed the point.

Speaking of considering the "why" of the music we listen to as well as the "what" and "how," our Practicing Critic Program is beginning to roll out great criticism of both concerts and album. Check out this review of Json's No Filter by Joseph Kolapudi.

His latest album No Filter, named after the popular hashtag on Twitter, doesn’t just dwell on the influence of popular culture and social media alone, but rather addresses some of life’s toughest issues from a personal, no-holds-barred standpoint, Json tackles these issues head-on, but is able to address these issues with the aid of hindsight from a Christian perspective.

Finally, it's never too late to be humble about and grateful for the roads we've walked that have led us to where we are. In that spirit, Matthew Milliner, writing for First Things, contends that All [He] Really Needs To Know [He] Learned From Evangelicalism, in an article that is equal parts funny and poignant. 

Decades ago someone wrote a bestseller entitled “All I really need to Know I learned in Kindergarten” (including, I presume, how to work the anti-intellectual American book market). Nevertheless, I’m tempted to say that all I really need to know about Christian life I learned in the evangelical culture that I so desperately tried to escape.

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