Albert Serra: Iconic Images

Originally published at Senses of Cinema.

Lee Isaac Chung: The Storm of Progress

Originally published at Sojourners.

Ron Austin’s In a New Light: Spirituality and the Media Arts

This essay was originally published at Sojourners.

Abel Ferrara’s Battle with the Irrational

To watch the body of Abel Ferrara’s films, as I’ve tried my best to do over the last month and a half, is to see a man wrestling obsessively — sadomasochistically, even — with the Irrational. The stylized violence, the scenery-chewing performances, the gratuitous and exploitative female nudity — all are window dressing. What’s at stake here is nothing less than the very possibility of grace.

Calls to Conscience and Action

Varda, as much an essayist as filmmaker, explores gleaning as a hypertext of ideas: gleaning is an alternate economy; at times it’s a moral choice, at others a lamentable necessity; it’s both transgressive and communal; and, finally, it’s a metaphor for the artistic process itself.

Five Spiritually Significant Films

The fine folks at the Arts and Faith discussion forum have cast their votes, crunched the numbers, and released their second annual list of the Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films. In honor of their fine work, I offer my own obvious and predictable Top 5 list.

The Filmgoer’s Guide To God

A few interesting snippets from part 1 of Jonathan Hourigan’s interview with Tim Cawkwell, author of The Filmgoer’s Guide To God. . .

Fallen Creatures in a Fallen World: The Films of John Cassavetes

This essay was originally published at Sojourners.

On the Newsstand

When I was contacted by an editor at Sojourners a couple months ago and invited to contribute to their Culture Watch section, I felt some ambivalence about the offer.

More Church Stuff

My recent rambling on “relevance” is far and away the most-read, most-linked-to, most-commented-upon post in Long Pauses history, which is both strange and strangely comforting. The more I search, the more fellow travelers I find.


I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, claim to be a Merton-like contemplative, but I am suffering the realization that I no longer know what relevance the evangelical church has for me. If I leave, I want it to be a considered decision rather than the slow consequence of atrophy.

The Great Divide

I genuinely admire Jeffrey Overstreet for his willingness to write this stuff. I’m glad that someone is doing it. I’m even more glad that that someone ain’t me.

A New Read

The New Pantagruel is a just-launched Web journal “run by a cadre of intemperate but friendly Catholics and Protestants.” If Stegall and his compatriots manage to achieve even half of the promise on display in his introductory comments, then I will be reading each quarter with great anticipation.

My First Block Quote of 2004

“All around the world there are those who believe in the basic goodness of the American people, who agonize with you in your pain, but also long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.” — Bishop Peter Storey of South Africa

Moral Empathy

Jeffrey Alexander and Ron Eyerman published a great piece yesterday in Newsday (also available at Common Dreams), in which they argue that the massive economic and social changes necessary to alleviate suffering on a global scale are dependent, finally, upon change of a more fundamental and personal nature

World Enough, and Time

Some days I fantasize about giving up on this dissertation. Mostly I want my free time back. I want to walk into a library and choose a book that has nothing to do with Cold War history or American literature.

This is Persecution?

So, while driving to and from Atlanta this week we heard two interviews with David Limbaugh, who is out promoting his latest book, Persecution: How Liberals are Waging War Against Christianity.

God and the Machine

Today’s issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education features an interview with Alan Lightman, a professor of physics and the humanities at M.I.T. Lightman recently edited a collection of essays, Living With the Genie, in which various authors examine the effects of technology (both good and bad) on our lives.

Incompatible with Morality?

Hitchens, a man obviously capable of higher-order thinking, looks at the Church and denounces it as incompatible with morality. I disagree completely, of course, but, watching events as they unfolded in Alabama, I can’t say that I blame him. Hitchens, a man obviously capable of higher-order thinking, looks at the Church and denounces it as incompatible with morality. I disagree completely, of course, but, watching events as they unfolded in Alabama, I can’t say that I blame him.

Grief Sucks

In the last week, several friends have been forced, suddenly — and even if it’s expected, it’s still always suddenly — to deal with death.

Theology of Empire

This weekend I received the latest issue of Sojourners, in which editor-in-chief Jim Wallis discusses the neocon move toward empire and the bad theology that Bush uses to promote it.

It Smells Like . . . Victory

I was aware of Sheen’s activism, of course — it’s near impossible not to be when he is so often demonized by the conservative media — but I’d never heard him explain so rationally and passionately his motivations.

A Dangerous Admission

I’m slowly waking to the realization that I’m a socialist.

Christian Nation

“Christian” — if you mean by Christian what the Sermon on the Mount says — is a weighty word, and it’s serious, and, most remarkable of all, it’s full of grace. Please don’t affix that word to this country, which, for some reason, has been blessed with the delicate gift of democracy but will never deserve it.

News from the Front

Tonight, I listened to Shane Claiborne tell stories about Baghdad. He’s taller than I expected (6′ 3″, maybe) and skinnier and younger. I mean, I knew he was young, but after reading his diaries for the last few weeks I somehow expected him to carry the weight of his experience in his skin.


Two quotes from Tony Kushner.

Tarkovsky and Sandwiches

I spent my lunch hour (and then some) sitting around a table with the senior pastor of a Presbyterian church, the priest of a local Orthodox congregation, and three other laymen, discussing Andrei Rublev.

Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

What Bergman does get absolutely right in Through a Glass Darkly, though, is the very real horror of the existential crisis, the moment when Camus’s Sisyphus pauses, watching his stone roll once again down the mountain.

Hauerwas, Bush, and Alexander

After listening to me ramble incessantly, a professor recently pointed me toward Stanley Hauerwas. I now see why.

Holy Moments

Film, when rightly enjoyed, can offer holy moments such as this during which we are able to escape, even if only temporarily, from this “extraordinary egoism” into the freedom of God’s grace, experiencing anew the beautiful complexity of his creation and our selfless calling in it.

In Their Own Words

Snippets from church statements in opposition to the war in Iraq.

All We Are Sayin’

Liza Featherstone’s article, “Peace Gets a Chance,” provides a helpful overview of the various coalitions being formed to protest America’s regrettable foreign policy decisions of late.

Evangelical Fallacy

“But the mistake is in thinking that we should only attempt to treat — that is, pray for — the fallenness and sinfulness without dealing with their symptoms.”

This American Irony

Knowing that I’m a fan, a friend just sent me this link to an interview with Ira Glass. I’ve always been struck by Glass’s even-handed treatment of Christianity, which is somewhat surprising for two reasons: 1) he broadcasts on National Public Radio (I’m an NPR-o-holic, but I know evangelicals who refuse to listen to it […]

Dorothy Day

Apparently this is going to be an unusually “religious” blog today. It had been several days since I last visited Sightings, so I had missed both excellent entries from last week. In “Your Two Cents,” Martin Marty gives voice to the many recent responses by Sightings readers. Then, in “A Just War?” James Evans summarizes […]

Cries and Whispers (1972)

Cries and Whispers is built from the simplest of premises: two wealthy women, both trapped in loveless marriages, return home to the family estate to comfort their dying sister.

Day of Wrath (1943)

Day of Wrath is a damning critique of hypocritical authoritarian power told in very human terms, a modern fable that interrogates faith and sin, love and family, desire and its consequences.

Winter Light (1963)

A crisis of faith, however, is a process, an on-going debate that can often seem frustratingly one-sided. Reducing such a debate to a simple question and an even simpler answer — as often happens both in the movies and the Church — only trivializes it.

My Night at Maud’s (1969)

Jean-Louis, a young engineer, spies his ideal woman at Sunday Mass. Francoise is young, attractive, blonde, and, most importantly, a practicing Catholic. Before they have even met, Jean-Louis determines that Francoise will be his wife.

Sculpting in Time

I’ve never read another book like Sculpting in Time. In it Tarkovsky speaks as eloquently about art as he does faith and philosophy, and does so in a remarkably kind, concerned voice.

Sculpting in Time (1987)

I’ve never read another book like Sculpting in Time. In it Tarkovsky speaks as eloquently about art as he does faith and philosophy, and does so in a remarkably kind, concerned voice. To him, his subject —the unique ability of the cinematic image to touch the soul and inspire spiritual improvement — is quite literally a matter of life and death.

New Seeds of Contemplation (1961)

Like “Making Peace,” the Denise Levertov poem that inspired this site, Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation is concerned with the destructive influences of greed, superficiality, and passivity on our hectic, disjointed lives.