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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. The Movement Makes Us Human: An Interview with Dr. Vincent Harding on Mennonites, Vietnam and MLK by Joanna Shenk is based on interviews with this important African-American historian and activist shortly before his death in 2014. Shenk, a Mennonite pastor, explores with Harding his experience in the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. King, including his drafting of King’s Beyond Vietnam speech, as well as his relationships with Mennonites. Harding says at one point, “The freedom movement and the Anabaptist movement can be companions.”
2. Another good book just out from a Mennonite pastor is Soul Tending: Journey into the Heart of Sabbath by Anita Amstutz. She doesn’t just inform us about Sabbath; she makes us want to practice it. She draws on her own experience and on the writings of others to show how “Sabbath helps us retrieve joy from the dungeons of overwork, stress and soul weariness.” The writing is accessible, and the book is designed for individual or group study.
3. Yet another new book is Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints by Christiana N. Peterson. The author combines a memoir of her experiences in an intentional Christian community with reflections on saints such as Francis, Dorothy Day, Margery Kempe, Clare and Simone Weil. She learns to see such people as “complex, devout human beings who lived on the edges, who longed for unity with God.”
4. A delightful French film, Faces Places, directed by Agnès Varda and JR, is a documentary from 2017 that appeared on many critics’ top 10 lists, and it would have appeared on mine, had I seen it in time. Varda, 88, is a well-known director, and JR, 33, is a photographer known for placing large photos on buildings. The two travel through rural France and create portraits of people they come across, then paste them onto surrounding buildings. The effect on the people, as well as on viewers, is stunning. We come away struck by the power of art to enhance community and help us see our world in new ways. I watched it on a Netflix disc. If you can find it, it’s worth watching. Here’s the trailer:
5. Another documentary worth watching is Dirty Money, created by Alex Gibney, which is streaming on Netflix. This six-part series looks at stories exposing greed, corruption and crime spreading through the global economy. Each part is directed by a different person. The first one, directed by Gibney, tells of Volkswagen lying about its poisonous emissions, then shows that other companies are committing similar acts and getting away with it. Another part looks at a payday loan company that cheats poor people. Here’s the trailer:
Gordon Houser is editor of The Mennonite magazine.
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