Good Work Being Done

We don’t have an article to share this week. We’ll be back with something new next week. So, in the spirit of Brehm Center’s Weekly Round-Up, we’d like to recommend five articles on a wide variety of topics related to spirituality, film and television from some of our friends that we think are particularly good. Also, instead of tweeting links to this post, we’ll be tweeting links directly to the articles in question throughout the week.


One of my favorite television shows, Parks and Recreation, ended its series run recently. The airwaves will be a lesser place for its absence. Tish Harrison Warren, writing for Christianity Today’s Her•meneutics blog, wrote about the show’s particular gift to society in a piece entitled The Prophetic Voice of Leslie Knope.

Leslie Knope’s most profound political motivation is love—love for a people and a place. She finds joy in battling raccoons and cleaning up rivers. And her joy is contagious—her co-workers (even the most cynical among them), her town, and we who are watching can’t help but be swept up in it.

The 2015 Academy Awards aired recently as well, and while we didn’t give them much attention on our website this year, many others certainly did. Most of the talk about the Oscars online was speculative about who might win before the ceremony and then afterwards, incensed about who didn’t win. Josh Larsen, writing for Think Christian, adopted a different, more hospitable point-of-view and considered the similarities between director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s comments upon winning about pride and the similar words of literary luminary C.S. Lewis in a piece entitled Birdman (or, the Unexpected Virtue of the Academy Awards).

In his Oscars acceptance speech after winning Best Director, Birdman’s Alejandro González Iñárritu addressed the subject of his film, which he described as “that little prick called ego.” Iñárritu’s words, especially his reference to competition, recall C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on pride, which he identified in Mere Christianity as “the essential vice … the complete anti-God state of mind.”

An icon of both the big and small screen left us last week. Leonard Nimoy died, and we lost both a fine actor and one of the most compelling characters even created for the cinematic age, Mr. Spock, First Mate on Star Trek‘s Enterprise. Writing for Christ and Pop Culture in a piece entitled Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock, and the Right Kind of Reason, Geoffrey Reiter considers the gift that Mr. Spock’s reason could be to the evangelical persuasion of the Christian faith if we would be wise enough to listen.

Emotions, personal experience, devotion (“passion” in our modern usage): these qualities are not intrinsically negative, and I am thankful that Christianity has recognized their place in life. Still, I often fear that too many evangelical Christians truly do suffer from their passions, allow their emotions to dominate their lives. If for an instant we don’t “feel” like worshiping, we suddenly worry we’re dead souls.

We cover a lot of films here, but we don’t cover them all. One we missed is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a much-lauded, Iranian, vampire movie that came out last year. Sarah Hanssen, writing for Curator Magazine in a piece entitled Haunted Loves, considers the lingering virtues of this unorthodox film.

The film moves beyond entertainment and becomes an opportunity to reflect on our limited human understanding, how restricted our perceptions are. How often we think we know what’s in front of us, and yet, the truth would shock us. Arash, as endearing as he is, has no idea who he’s really in bed with. And sometimes, neither do we.

The Superbowl always provides an interesting opportunity for cultural commentary, and the best of it is most often about the commercials we watch between snaps more than about the game itself. Will McDavid, writing for Mockingbird in a piece entitled Parsing America’s Professional Prophets: Thoughts on Recent Commercials, considers what our recent slate of ads reveals about where we are as a society and where we might be going.

To be clear, no culture today seems nearly as bound up in close interrelation to Providence as Israel was, and for Christianity, odds are that none ever will be. But this business of reading the human heart continues, occasionally in such preternatural geniuses as J.G Hamann or Hannah Arendt, though now the task is more modest and more mundane. A group of people are paid billions of dollars to see, if not where we’re going, at least where we are – to mark out the desires and insecurities of a culture and stimulate and allay them, respectively. Those people are advertisers.