Another Week Ends

1. NPR has sure been on a roll this past week. They brought us another […]

David Zahl / 5.20.11

1. NPR has sure been on a roll this past week. They brought us another extremely powerful and must-read/-listen item this morning, “Forgiving Her Son’s Killer: ‘Not An Easy Thing.'” It tells a story of radical forgiveness involving mother Mary Johnson and her son’s killer, Oshea Israel. Very, very inspiring stuff (and that the church has played a laudable but key behind the scenes role is to its credit), ht MC:

As Johnson recalls, their first face-to-face conversation took place at Stillwater Prison, when Israel agreed to her repeated requests to see him. “I wanted to know if you [Oshea] were in the same mindset of what I remembered from court, where I wanted to go over and hurt you,” Johnson tells Israel. “But you were not that 16-year-old. You were a grown man. I shared with you about my son.”

“And he became human to me,” Israel says. At the end of their meeting at the prison, Johnson was overcome by emotion. “The initial thing to do was just try and hold you up as best I can,” Israel says, “just hug you like I would my own mother.”

Johnson says, “After you left the room, I began to say, ‘I just hugged the man that murdered my son.’ And I instantly knew that all that anger and the animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you — I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you.”

Johnson’s forgiveness has brought both changes and challenges to [Oshea’s] life.”Sometimes I still don’t know how to take it,” he says, “because I haven’t totally forgiven myself yet. It’s something that I’m learning from you. I won’t say that I have learned yet, because it’s still a process that I’m going through.”

“I treat you as I would treat my son,” Johnson says. “And our relationship is beyond belief.” In fact, the two live right next door to one another in Minneapolis.

2. Terrence Malick’s much-anticipated film Tree of Life made its debut at Cannes this past week and the notices have been rapturous. In both senses… That is, it would appear, as suspected, the film has a very strong religious sensibility. Which it’s amusing to see those involved, in Malick’s typical absence, do cartwheels around. So I give Manohla Dargis all the more credit for her frank and flattering review in The NY Times:

[Tree of Life] serves as a reminder of how few contemporary filmmakers engage questions of life and death, God and soul, and risk such questioning without the crutch of an obvious story. It isn’t that these life questions aren’t asked in our movies; they are, if sometimes obliquely. Rather it’s the directness of Mr. Malick’s engagement with them that feels so surprising at this moment, and that goes against the mainstream filmmaking grain.

The film opens with a quotation from the Book of Job — “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the Earth?” — taken from a passage in which God, like a hectoring, aggrandizing father, challenges Job with questions….It’s a beautiful if hermetic vision that I admire for its ambition if finally not for its philosophy.


3. struck gold this past week with their guide, “How Self-Control Works and How To Boost Your Willpower By Better Understanding It.” It begins from the premise that each of us has a finite amount of self-control we can dole out each day, and goes on to advise us on how was can make the most of what we’ve got. It’s more than a little entertaining. Not only because it amounts to a kind of behavioral manipulation that feeds on our lack of self-control (and reveals it as the spiritual dead-end that it is), but because it sheds more than a little light on certain strains of religion. Their thoughts on fear as a motivating factor for self-control, for example, are particularly audacious, ht JD:

Fear is also a great means of self-control. It’s easier to adjust your diet or kick a habit if you truly believe it’s going to kill you or cause immediate harm… What you can do is spend time with people who are the poster children for poor life choices and fearfully think of them next time you want to indulge.

4. The Onion radio contributes the following little gem:

5. Andrew Sullivan put up a great little quote this week on “The Language of Judgment,” ht MS.

6. Digital Trends confirms what we already knew, namely, that Apple causes a ‘religious reaction’ in the brains of its fans, ht TB.

7. Some relevant tidbits in TIME’s profile of comic Zach Galifianakis about the nature of fame and comedy:

Galifianakis didn’t suffer fans gladly before The Hangover made him famous, you should see him now. “He has a hate-hate relationship with his audience,” says Todd Phillips, the director of Due Date and the Hangovers. “Comedy is about the unexpected. That’s about as surprising a thing as you can do — hate being loved.”

“It’s not good for comedy to be like, Thanks for liking me,” Galifianakis says. “Being popular is poison. My mom and dad are like, ‘You’re not enjoying any of this.’ I say, ‘It’s your fault for not raising me to be superficial.'”

“He’s the best kind of comic, who makes you just uncomfortable enough to wonder why you’re laughing,” [actor Jon] Hamm says. “That’s the role of comics in our society — to call out the weirdness and make you think about it.”

8. Over at the Gospel Coalition, Tullian Tchividjian reflects on a forthcoming parenting book that sounds very promising, Give Them Grace. Almost sounds like Dorothy Martyn’s insights made more explicit. With maybe a little Alfie Kohn mixed in. Can’t wait to read it!

9. Finally, a FAIL for the weekend: