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Have you ever been to a church Christmas program to see Mary and Joseph riding on a donkey, barn yard animals around the manger, a baby Jesus with no hint of crying, and wise men in the background, but you thought, “I wonder if that is really how the first Christmas scene looked?”
While traveling in Central America, I had the opportunity to worship at an international, interdenominational, English-speaking church. The congregation contained Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Latinos, Americans, and Asians. We sang old Irish hymns and modern, Australian worship choruses. The service was a mixture of Lutheran, Reformed, and Pentecostal elements. The welcome was given by a Canadian, a German read the Scripture lesson, and an American did the preaching. It was a wonderful, diverse experience, and for a little while I thought the kingdom of God had come.
One of the questions I have found myself asking lately to my friends, neighbors and colleagues is, “Where are you going on vacation this summer?” A lot of the responses I have received go like this: “Gotta beat the heat, we’re headed to Newport Beach,” or “It’s our year to go to Hawaii!” No matter where you go this summer on vacation, ask yourself, “How can my summer vacation be a chance to grow in my faith?”
People around the world gather to wave flags, stare in awe at fireworks, throw candy, and line the streets to watch parades that commemorate a historical event. Many times these parades are linked to current revelry of food, drinking, and a full out party atmosphere. They are fun events. We enjoy them. All the while the true cultural-historical reason for the commemoration is often misplaced. Forgotten are the lives that were committed, and even lost, to bring about such historical events.
NEW THIS WEEK
NEW THIS WEEK
LOS ANGELES — With Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" and Ridley Scott's "Exodus" preparing to duke it out for Old Testament auteur supremacy, Hollywood's religious renaissance gets off to a none-too-spectacular start with a chewed-over New Testament appetizer called "Son of God." A clumsily edited feature-length version of five episodes from History's hugely popular 10-hour miniseries "The Bible," this stiff, earnest production plays like a half-hearted throwback to the British-accented biblical dramas of yesteryear, its small-screen genesis all too apparent in its Swiss-cheese construction and subpar production values. Yet while Jesus' teachings have been reduced to a muddle of kindly gestures and mangled Scriptures, the scenes of his betrayal, death and resurrection crucially retain their emotional and dramatic power, which the charitable viewer may deem atonement enough for what feels, in all other respects, like a cynical cash grab.
New York • Hollywood may be hoping for a little less drama in 2014.
In 1691, the first Thanksgiving, where the protestant pilgrims thanked their Lord, Jesus Christ, for giving them a bountiful harvest, began. That could never happen today.
For a university with the second-largest enrollment in the country, last Friday morning at Arizona State was surprisingly serene.
In the summer of 1979, I stood in a long hot line to see what would become one of the most successful and influential science-fiction films of all time, the original "Alien," by director Ridley Scott and writer Dan O'Bannon. True to its title, this film was like nothing movie-goers had ever seen before and I still remember having the bejesus scared out of me by the original "Alien" face-hugger & chest-burster.
While reading the New Living Translation of Acts 2: 43-47, I had to stop and wonder how conservative “Born-again” Christians, especially those who strongly advocate slashing the social safety net to make up for cutting taxes for wealthy billionaires would respond to this text?
I would like to reply to the U.S. Air Force Colonel who said science has all the answers and there is “no God.” I know that you are a very intelligent man; you could not be an Air Force Colonel and not be smart. But before you destine everyone to hell, I would like to express the opinion of a person that would like everyone to believe God. Please notice I did not say believe in God. Satan believes in God and trembles. The God you would like everyone not to believe in said, “Let there be light,” and everything was made. And, believe it or not, there wasn’t a scientist around to give Him advice. Science can only theorize what they find.
When Steve Nebel talks about efforts to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he is reminded of Sisyphus. In Greek mythology, the gods punished the king by forcing him to push a boulder up a hill. It rolled back down before Sisyphus could reach the top, forcing him to begin anew the endless task.
The story about the true color red is one of many subtopics in an upcoming 90-minute PBS television program, "When Worlds Collide."
The documentary is about the century after Columbus' first contact with a whole new, previously unknown continent and what it meant to Europe and to New World people after 1492.
The program is co-written and narrated by journalist, author and performer Rubén Martinez.
"It's a story that matters today above all others," says Martinez. "And as a result, the nature of identity and ethnicity was dramatically transformed right down to our own times."
So relevant is it that he brings his own twin daughters into the picture to illustrate his point. They are, like many people, of mixed ethnicities. In the New World, the term mestizo has evolved. It is the term applied to talk about the continuing merger of people through marriage and birth, resulting in mixed ethnicities. This implies shared identities and personal histories. Notions of racial and ethnic purities have no meaning in this context, until or unless those behaviors are superimposed in the natural course of events.
The storyline for "When Worlds Collide" mercifully does not get bogged down in overworked comparisons of one group versus another. Instead, it is about reciprocity. The story is about culture and continents and the clash that occurs between differences and the eventual accommodation. Too often, when stories about conflicts are told, the part about the resolution is left out, giving the impression it's been some kind of continuous embattlement.
Take red for instance. Before contact, Europeans did not have a true red color for their textiles. They had a dirty orange instead. However, the native people of what is now the "Americas" mass-produced a true red dye, coming from the cochineal, an insect that feeds on prickly pear cactus. That is how the true reds in Rembrandt's master work painting The Jewish Bride got there. They came from cochineal dye. At one point, this true red ranked only behind gold and silver in value.
New plants and foods (maize, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, beans, sweet potatoes, chocolate, peanuts, sugar, tobacco) revolutionized European tastes and health because the average person in the so-called New World was probably better fed than those of Europe.
Martinez touches lightly on other aspects of culture contact. One that has interested me, and went mostly nuanced in the documentary, is how Christian theology was challenged to explain what this New World thing was all about. At first contact, the Americas were alternately believed to be Eden, Paradise and Utopia. Some explorers placed it in other mythological locales.
The New World saga, a half millennium old, coincides with the rise of the European nation states and colonialism, as they later became known. We have been imbued with accounts in support of national identities, war, conquest and imposed iron wills instead of shared traditions and technologies. A more balanced view, for our next half millennium, may help put things in perspective.
Too often, interpretations of history are not intended to instruct but to rationalize for one side or the other. Unfortunately, historical accounts are often used, like propaganda, to advance ideas about an inevitable dominance or superiority. The days of those notions are over. The objective truth is starting to prevail. It shows that the story behind the history is one about how different ethnicities (meaning people from differing histories and traditions) share their knowledge, exchange and trade goods, and blend through bloodliness.
Early in his beautifully filed account, Martinez says the mixing of ethnicities was one of the most dynamic eras of human history, when the new was conquered by the old. In the context of the Americas, the question still remains, which one was new, and which one was old?
Produced by Carl Byker with cinematography by Mitch Wilson, "When Worlds Collide" airs Sept. 27 on PBS.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Her passion for the works of the 20th-century Christian writer C.S. Lewis has taken Donna McDaniel to England 11 times.
Most everything about Daniel Martin Diaz’s work is swept up in the mystical.
Satan is with us. “Of course,” you say. Or, “No way.” Perhaps you scoff — or shudder. Whether he lurks in your belief system or not, the devil is often encountered as a caricature, metaphor or character on page or screen.
Astronomers love a good mystery. At this time of year there’s no better one than the Star of Bethlehem. “It’s pretty fascinating,” says Kevin Schindler, outreach manager for Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
It looked like a family reunion Sunday at a park at Falcon Field — kids swinging at a piñata, potluck dishes covering picnic tables, adults mingling. Until the sun went down. About 50 adults — some wearing hooded capes — gathered in a circle with their children.
It looked like a family reunion Sunday at a park at Falcon Field — kids swinging at a piñata, potluck dishes covering picnic tables, adults mingling. Until the sun went down.
SALEM, Mass. - Hundreds of Harry Potter fanatics have turned this historic seaport, best known for its witches and their trials, into a makeshift college campus fit for a young wizard.
In "Bruce Almighty," funnyman Jim Carrey plays a disgruntled TV news reporter (and disenchanted Catholic) who blames God for the crummy condition of his life. Enter God, played by Morgan Freeman, who endows Carrey with all his godly powers. Ultimately, Carrey learns that being omnipotent is no walk in the water park.