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Friday roundup: Five things worth paying attention to this week

7.20. 2018 Posted By: The Mennonite 343 Times read

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. This week we are having recurrent conversations about things that do not leave the mind:

  • Hero or villain? The coach of the Thai soccer team that was rescued after a long entrapment in a flooded cave, a young man who had spent his youth as a monk in a Buddhist temple (we’ve visited with some boys in saffron robes who spend their teens in this simple life), might well have faced lawsuits and public scorn in Western countries. In Thailand he is a hero. His calm practice and encouragement of meditation, his facing fear with a focus on living in the moment and his modeling of patience and hope have set us talking about how we handle anxiety and nurture trust building.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Film critic Kenneth Turan writes in the LA Times: “The goal of this exemplary documentary is not to tell the story of TV host Fred Rogers’ life but to show the way someone whose formidable task was, in his own words, ‘to make goodness attractive,’ made it happen.” A Presbyterian minister and called to be a pied piper for Jesus, Rogers embodied a contagious affection and respect for children. Soft spoken, gentle and a witness to the power of love, he addressed an audience of Christian broadcasters in the 1970s, and many left shaking their heads, asking, “He was ordained to be an evangelist on TV?” Another veteran broadcaster insisted, “Certainly not the gospel.” I much preferred Mister Rogers to the preachers grumbling in the audience.
  • Fear is not a Christian word. “An ideology of fear has created a fear epidemic in America,” writes Christian Century publisher Peter Marty (July 4, page 3). He quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Fear crouches in people’s hearts, hollows out their insides and secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that bind a person to God and to others.” We are talking about the consensus among social commentators who say that contrived chaos, threatening rhetoric, escalating international tension and breakdown of trusted accords all create a vision of ourselves as beleaguered and endangered by malevolent others “invading” and destroying the rights we have come to demand of our protectors. Who was it who said, “Fear not?”
  • The King. A semibiographical road movie. Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, director Eugene Jarecki takes a road trip across America in Elvis’ ’63 Rolls Royce to show us the parallel between the rise and fall of the king of rock and roll and the state of the American Dream. It is, one critic notes, a metaphor in search of a movie. This film on the bruised soul of America is less a story of progress than a national lifecycle unfolding from a troubled infancy to its current state of fat, bloated, addicted self-destructiveness. We are Elvis and he is us. (He is US, The King says)—a sobering thought.
  • Moral vertigo. Lying as the new norm. Political lies, marital lies and social lies of polite covering are only a few of the wide spectrum of lies we recognize as common in public transactions. But to hear blatant lies that assume our gullibility, stupidity, naiveté, blind acceptance and accept them as a new norm rotates the horizon and creates a moral vertigo. Reality swims before our eyes, and truth undulates underfoot. Vertigo.

David and Leann Augsburger are two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.

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