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Friday roundup: Five things worth paying attention to this week

5.29. 2020 Posted By: Gordon Houser

Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.

1. Contagious action: The climate crisis is already so dire that it invites despair of any effort having an effect. Yet, as Samuel Johnson said, “To do nothing is in every man’s power.” In his article “In Praise of the Herd Mentality” (The Atlantic, March), Robert H. Frank draws on studies about the influence of peer behavior. This “power of contagion,” as he labels it, can have ill effects and good effects. Frank notes that “radical change can happen quickly” and offers the example of smoking, which is now relatively rare. Peer behavior can have negative or positive effects. “Installing solar panels, adopting a more climate-friendly diet or buying an electric vehicle is likely to spur others to take similar steps,” Frank writes. He concludes, “We have the power to act, and our actions have the power to shape those of people around us.”

2. One-Child Nation: This shocking documentary (at pbs.org) looks at China’s one-child policy, which ran from 1979 to 2015, and its harrowing effects. Workers for the government, for example, performed thousands of forced abortions, some on full-term fetuses, and made parents give up children for adoption. Co-director Nanfu Wang, who was born and raised in China and moved to the United States to attend college, became interested in China’s one-child policy after she had a child in 2017.

3. Crip Camp: This documentary (streaming on Netflix) ties the experiences of young people with disabilities at a summer camp in the late 1960s to a revolution in disability rights in the United States. Many things we may take for granted today regarding accessibility became law through the remarkable courage and persistence of these people. The film tells an important history and provides a lesson in bringing about social change.

4. The Half of It: This romantic comedy (streaming on Netflix) set in a high school is anything but cliched. Director-writer Alice Wu takes off on Cyrano de Bergerac but with a twist. Here Ellie Chu, a nerdy girl who is hired by other students in her high school to write their essays, is approached by Paul Munsky, the tight end of the school’s terrible football team, to write a letter to a girl he likes. After charging him for the letter, she writes more because she, too, secretly likes the girl. The film deals not only with teenage angst but the racism toward Asian-Americans in the fictional Squahamish, Washington, and it undercuts stereotypes by giving its characters complexity and respect. It’s a funny and moving film that will leave you with a warm feeling, much needed these days.

5. The Holy Trinity: June 7 is Trinity Sunday on the Christian calendar. In preparing for a sermon, I’ve been reading some books on the Trinity. I’ll mention two. The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three by Cynthia Bourgeault is a fascinating yet complex exploration of how the world is best understood through a ternary system, what she calls the law of three: “Instead of paired opposites, the interplay of two polarities calls forth a third, which is the mediating or reconciling principle between them.” Like I said, it’s complex. She then applies this to the Trinity, which also operates in this way and reveals God creating love, “the driveshaft of all creation.” The other book, which I’m rereading, is The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr. While his book is in harmony with Bourgeault’s ideas, it’s much more accessible, and I highly recommend it. The Trinity is a subject most Christians ignore and see as irrelevant. These books help correct that notion.

Gordon Houser is editor of The Mennonite.

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