In the form of a baby

By Kenneth Tanner

God takes the form of a baby because divine helplessness is greater than any other force in the universe.

When on the first Christmas divine humility and powerlessness and poverty are revealed as the foundation of all that exists, this revelation of God in the flesh threatens all human notions of power, all human leadership that rests on exertions of might.

Real Christmas was and remains political. The conception and birth of Jesus—the helpless, silent infant who spoke all things into existence and who holds all things together—set a challenge to all other rulers and kingdoms, visible and invisible.

All temporal rulers instinctively know they are bested by an eternal kingdom of others-directed, self-sacrificial love that does not seek its own, that does not keep a record of wrongs, that is not jealous, that seeks to serve rather than to be served.

Herod knew the jig was up, that the age of self-seeking rulers was now exposed and that the game was over. Herod turned to murder to try to reimpose the old order, as have so many visible and invisible powers down the centuries since the Incarnation, since God took up permanent residence as a member of the human race in Jesus Christ.

I appreciate the way this artist captures the horror real infants and real mothers faced in the aftermath of the real Christmas, the infamous slaughter of male Hebrew children in and around Bethlehem that me remember today.

Fleeting worldly powers desperate to hold on to a false power that is being defeated by divine humility lash out. They always do, for violence is their defeated way of maintaining strength.

What they did not know is that in (eventually) killing Jesus Christ they reversed the permanence not only of their rule but of all their violent actions.

These poor children and all who suffer violence have in Jesus Christ a glorious way now to endure beyond suffering and death, to shine forever in the kingdom of their Father, while the kingdoms of this world and their violence await permanent, shameful expiration.

A blessed Fourth Day of this great feast of the Incarnation to you and yours. Remember the Innocents. We have inherited a kingdom; we await a world without end.

The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Michigan. This article originally appeared on Huffington Post HERE. Follow him on Twitter: 

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Chesterton’s thoughts on Santa

“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.

“As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good—far from it.

“And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me…What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.

“Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

“Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.”

—G.K. Chesterton, for the win

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Second Day of Christmas

By Kenneth Tanner

It must be self-evident to most people that humanity needs rescue from sin, violence, and death. A God who participates in sin, violence, and death is not other than fallen humanity but a projection of our worst fears and hatreds.

A God who liberates us from sin, violence, and death is good and welcome news from outside ordinary human experience and thought. Such a God would be light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made. And it is the Incarnation that makes this God known to us, and makes this God real for us.

For it is the nails driven into the flesh of Christ by humanity and spirits of darkness that decisively counter and make vain all human, demonic, and anti-Christian imagination that the Father who creates and upholds the world by love is in some other part of himself the one who destroys the world or his Son.

There is a destroyer but his false, homicidal way of violence, abuse, coercion, and death is defeated by the humility of God acting in Jesus Christ.

He is the father of detestable instruments of death like nuclear weapons, for only a “god” who hates humanity and creation would author such abominations, and in sin we partnered in their “creation” with this god’s hatred of the image of God in humanity and in human civilization, his hatred of creation, his contempt for the Incarnation.

The nails driven into the flesh of Christ are also the nails driven into the coffin of the idea that the Living God sends evil or participates in darkness or desires the death of anyone.

Gloria in excelsis Deo. Happy Second Day of Christmas.

The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Michigan. This article originally appeared on Huffington Post HERE. Follow him on Twitter: 

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Too Great a Mystery for One Day

By Kenneth Tanner

Christmas isn’t just for Christmas anymore. The season eclipses Thanksgiving, swallows Advent whole, and comes to a sudden, grinding halt with Christmas Day.

Our family celebrates Christmas old school, starting with worship on Christmas Eve. Then we let the Incarnation linger in our hearts and permeate our gatherings through 12 days ending on Epiphany (January 6).

And I am beginning to understand something. Christmas is too great a mystery for one night or one day or even 12 days.

How can this great love — a God who fashions us from clay becomes clay so we might be like God — not claim every day of our lives for worship?

This God was not content to let Creation, to let his creatures, slowly waste away, to languish in suffering, without taking responsibility for our plight by joining us in our predicament. He came to exist at the margins as so many humans do, like we all do if we honestly grasp the human situation.

 

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Chesterton and Congdon on Christmas

The Christ Child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ Child lay on Mary’s breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ Child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ Child stood at Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him
And all the stars looked down.

– G. K. Chesterton

Art by William Congdon HERE

 

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Into the Dark with God

A Christmas Meditation on the Incarnation, for a Troubled World

And the angel said to them,

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you Good News of a great joy that will come to all the people: for to you is born this day in the city oft David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” ( Luke 2:10-12).

The Lord has left his glory behind him and gone into the dark world, into the child’s apparent insignificance.

On Christmas night the shepherds are addressed by an angel who shines upon them with the blinding glory of God, and they are very much afraid. The tremendous, unearthly radiance shows that the angel is a messenger of heaven and clothes him with an incontrovertible authority. With this authority he commands them not to be afraid but to embrace the great joy he is announcing to them. And while the angel is speaking thus to these poor frightened people, he is joined by a vast number of others, who unite in a “Gloria” praising God in heaven’s heights and announcing the peace of God’s goodwill to men on earth. Then, we read, “the angels went away from them into heaven.” In all probability the singing was very beautiful and the shepherds were glad to listen; doubtless they were sorry when the concert was over and the performers disappeared behind heaven’s curtain. Probably, however, they were secretly a little relieved when the unwonted light of divine glory and the unwonted sound of heavenly music came to an end, and they found themselves once more in their familiar earthly darkness. They probably felt like shabby beggars who had suddenly been set in a king’s audience chamber among courtiers dressed in magnificent robes and were glad to slip away unnoticed and take to their heels.

But the strange thing is that the intimidating glory of the heavenly realm, which has now vanished, has left behind a human glow of joy in their souls, a light of joyous expectation, reinforcing the heavenward-pointing angel’s word and causing them to set out for Bethlehem. Now they can turn their backs on the whole epiphany of the heavenly glory—for it was only a starting point, an initial spark, a stimulus leading to what was really intended; all that remains of it is the tiny seed of the word that has been implanted in their hearts and that now starts to grow in the form of expectation, curiosity and hope: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” They want to see the word that has taken place. Not the angel’s word with its heavenly radiance: that has already become unimportant. They want to see the content of the angel’s word, that is, the Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. They want to see the word that has “happened”, the word that has taken place, the word that is not only something uttered but something done, something that can not only be heard but also seen.

Thus the word that the shepherds want to see is not the angel’s word. This was only the proclamation (the kerygma, as people say nowadays); it was only a pointer. The angels, with their heavenly authority, disappear: they belong to the heavenly realm; all that remains is a pointer to a word that has been done. By God, of course. Just as it is God who made it known to them through the angels.

What is the point of my efforts, my dedication, my sacrifice, my pleading to God for a world that is resolved to perish?

So they set off, heaven behind them, and the earthly sign before them. But, Lord, what a sign! Not even the Child, but a child. Some child or other. No special child. Not a child radiating a light of glory, as the religious painters depicted, but on the contrary: a child that looks as ‘inglorious as possible. Wrapped in swaddling clothes. So that it cannot move. It lies there, imprisoned, as it were, in the clothes in which it has been wrapped through the solicitude of others. There is nothing elevating about the manger in which it lies, either, nothing even remotely corresponding to the heavenly glory of the singing angels. There is practically nothing even half worth seeing; the destination of the shepherds’ nightly journey is the most ordinary scene. Indeed, in its poverty it is decidedly disappointing. It is something entirely human and ordinary, something quite profane, in no way distinguishedexcept for the fact that this is the promised sign, and it fits.The shepherds believe the word. The word sends them from heaven and to earth, and as they proceed along this path, from light to darkness, from the extraordinary to the ordinary, from the solitary experience of God to the realm of ordinary human intercourse, from the splendor above to the poverty below, they are given the confirmation they need: the sign fits. Only now does their fearful joy under heaven’s radiance turn into a completely uninhibited, human and Christian joy. Because it fits. And why does it fit? Because the Lord, the High God, has taken the same path as they have: he has left his glory behind him and gone into the dark world, into the child’s apparent insignificance, into the unfreedom of human restrictions and bonds, into the poverty of the crib. This is the Word in action, and as yet the shepherds do not know, no one knows, how far down into the darkness this Word-in-action will lead. At all events it will descend much deeper than anyone else into what is worldly, apparently insignificant and profane; into what is bound, poor and powerless; so much so that we shall not be able to follow the last stage of his path. A heavy stone will block the way, preventing the others from approaching, while, in utter night, in ultimate loneliness and forsakenness, he descends to his dead human brothers.

The very finding of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger—is this not a miracle in itself?

It is true, therefore: in order that he shall find God, the Christian is placed on the streets of the world, sent to his manacled and poor brethren, to all who suffer, hunger and thirst; to all who are naked, sick and in prison. From henceforth this is his place; he must identify with them all. This is the great joy that is proclaimed to him today, for it is the same way that God sent a Savior to us. We ourselves may be poor and in bondage too, in need of liberation; yet at the same time all of us who have been given a share in the joy of deliverance are sent to be companions of those who are poor and in bondage.But who will step out along this road that leads from God’s glory to the figure of the poor Child lying in the manger? Not the person who is taking a walk for his own pleasure. He will walk along other paths that are more likely to run in the opposite direction, paths that lead from the misery of his own existence toward some imaginary or dreamed-up attempt at a heaven, whether of a brief pleasure or of a long oblivion. The only one to journey from heaven, through the world, to the hell of the lost, is he who is aware, deep in his heart, of a mission to do so; such a one obeys a call that is stronger than his own comfort and his resistance. This is a call that has complete power and authority over my life; I submit to it because it comes from a higher plane than my entire existence. It is an appeal to my heart, demanding the investment of my total self; its hidden, magisterial radiance obliges me, willy-nilly, to submit. I may not know who it is that so takes me into his service. But one thing I do know: if l stay locked within myself, if I seek myself, I shall not find the peace that is promised to the man on whom God’s favor rests. I must go. I must enter the service of the poor and imprisoned. I must lose my soul if I am to regain it, for so long as I hold onto it, I shall lose it. This implacable, silent word (which yet is so unmistakable) burns in my heart and will not leave me in peace. 

In other lands there are millions who are starving, who work themselves to death for a derisory day’s wage, heartlessly exploited like cattle. There too are the slaughtered peoples whose wars cannot end because certain interests (which are not theirs) are tied up with the continuance of their misery. And I know that all my talk about progress and mankind’s liberation will be dismissed with laughter and mockery by all the realistic forecasters of mankind’s next few decades. Indeed, I only need to open my eyes and ears, and I shall hear the cry of those unjustly oppressed growing louder every day, along with the clamor of those who are resolved to gain power at any price, through hatred and annihilation. These are the superpowers of darkness; in the face of them all our courage drains away, and we lose all belief in the mission that resides in our hearts, that mission that was once so bright, joyous and peace bringing; we lose all hope of really finding the poor Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. What can my pitiful mission achieve, this drop of water in the white-hot furnace? What is the point of my efforts, my dedication, my sacrifice, my pleading to God for a world that is resolved to perish?

From a worldly point of view everything may seem very dark; your dedication may seem unproductive and a failure. But do not be afraid: you are on God’s path.

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you Good News of a great joy… This day is born the Savior”, that is, he who, as Son of God and Son of the Father, has traveled (in obedience to the Father) the path that leads away from the Father and into the darkness of the world. Behind him omnipotence and freedom; before, powerlessness, bonds and obedience. Behind him the comprehensive divine vision; before him the prospect of the meaninglessness of death on the Cross between two criminals, Behind him the bliss of life with the Father; before him, grievous solidarity with all who do not know the Father, do not want to know him and deny his existence. Rejoice then, for God himself has passed this way! The Son took with him the awareness of doing the Father’s will. He took with him the unceasing prayer that the Father’s will would be done on the dark earth as in the brightness of heaven. He took with him his rejoicing that the Father had hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes, to the simple and the poor. “I am the way”, and this way is “the truth” for you; along this way you will find “the life”. Along “the way” that I am you will learn to lose your life in order to find it; you will learn to grow beyond yourselves and your insincerity into a truth that is greater than you are. From a worldly point of view everything may seem very dark; your dedication may seem unproductive and a failure. But do not be afraid: you are on God’s path. “Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God; believe also in me.” I am walking on ahead of you and blazing the trail of Christian love for you. It leads to your most inaccessible brother, the person most forsaken by God. But it is the path of divine love itself. You are on the right path. All who deny themselves in order to carry out love’s commission are on the right path.Miracles happen along this path. Apparently insignificant miracles, noticed by hardly anyone. The very finding of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger—is this not a miracle in itself? Then there is the miracle when a particular mission, hidden in a person’s heart, really reaches its goal, bringing God’s peace and joy where there were nothing but despair and resignation; when someone succeeds in striking a tiny light in the midst of an overpowering darkness. When joy irradiates a heart that no longer dared to believe in it. Now and again we ourselves are assured that the angel’s word we are trying to obey will bring us to the place where God’s Word and Son is already made man. We are assured that, in spite of all the noise and nonsense, today, December 25, is Christmas just as truly as two millennia ago. Once and for all God has started out on his journey toward us, and nothing, till the world’s end, will stop him from coming to us and abiding in us.

 


HANS URS VON BALTHASAR is considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. This sermon is from the collection “You Crown the Year With Your Goodness,” Ignatius Press, 1989. (The German original was published in 1982). To order from Ignatius Press, call 1-800-651-1531. Special thanks to Godspy for posting this HERE.

 

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Imprisoned for Art campaign

Peter Gabriel, Johnny Depp, Tom Morello and Nadya from P—y Riot are among the artists taking part in the Voice Project’s “Imprisoned for Art” campaign, which aims to raise awareness and funds to support free expression. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ Alex Ebert and Ana Tijoux are also involved with the project, with each artist photographed as a mug shot signifying a real person who has been imprisoned for their art.

collage-artists-activists-8a6229e1-215d-4503-abf9-4618ef27f626Gabriel holds a slate that reads “Amsara Eritrea, Indefinite Detention,” a reference to writer Dawit Isaak, who was been held in prison in Eritrea since 2001 without trial after being labeled a traitor by the government. Depp’s photo is a tribute to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, currently imprisoned in Russia on suspicion of plotting terrorist acts for his role in fighting the Crimea annexation.

“Freedom of Expression — it’s easy to take it for granted until it’s gone,” the Voice Project said in a statement. “We speak up for those who speak out, for those imprisoned around the globe for having raised their voice in dissent. We have to stand up for each other, no matter the distance, no matter the borders. You never know when you’ll need the same in return.”

Each photograph will be printed on a T-shirt that will be available for purchase, with proceeds benefitting the organization alongside efforts to free the imprisoned artists. Visit the Voice Project’s Represent page for more information.voice project, tom morello, peter gabriel, pussy riot nadya, johnny depp, voice project johnny depp, voice project peter gabriel

“When I first started traveling around the world [for the Human Rights Now tour in 1988], I was shocked to discover in how many countries there were artists who were in jail, or who had been tortured or killed for doing exactly the same thing that I do — writing and singing songs,” Gabriel said in a statement. “We have to defend and protect those with the courage to speak out.”

“You can’t buy free speech, but you can give it away,” added Morello. “You can also fight like hell for it.”

“Unfortunately, America is about to start looking more like Russia under Putin, it’s already happening, and dissent is going to become a more dangerous business,” Nadya from Pussy Riot, who represents Turkish singer Nûdem Durak for the project, said in a statement. “But that just means dissent is more important than ever. The good news is we can learn from each other, help each other—that we are stronger than we think, both individually and collectively, we have more fight in us that we believe. I know this from being a person in prison, but also from seeing all the people who banded together to get me out.”

Ebert’s shirt is dedicated to singer Trần Vũ anh Bình, currently imprisoned in Vietnam, while Morello’s shirt is for Thai singer Tom Dundee, behind bars for “offending” the Thailand government. Tijoux’s shirt honors the poet Ashraf Fayad being held in Saudi Arabia.

From Rolling Stone, click HERE for full story. 

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Bamf: The gospel according to Nightcrawler

nightcrawler-166754By Steve Beard

There was more than a ripple of thrill coursing through the veins of comic book fans when the cast was announced last year for X-Men: Apocalypse. Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Olivia Munn, and James McAvoy were some of the stars named to the film. For many fans, however, a pivotal announcement from director Bryan Singer was the reemergence of Nightcrawler, the teleporting mutant also known as Kurt Wagner.

On the first official day of production in April 2015, Singer posted an image that briefly showed Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler to his more than 100,000 followers on Instagram. As quickly as it appeared, it was removed. Bamf!

When moviegoers were first introduced to Wagner in the 2003 blockbuster film X2: X-Men United, he was darting through a legion of hapless Secret Service officers at the White House. Mysteriously, the character has been absent from the last five films in the series.

For comic book fans, Nightcrawler’s appearance in X2 (played by Alan Cumming) was welcomed with delight. At first glance, he appeared as a fierce demon-looking character that was able to disappear into thin air and reappear across the room. As a “teleporter,” the German-accented mutant is able to morph into a puff of blue smoke and transport himself with the speed of sound. With acrobatic grace, he cuts quite an image with his dark blue skin, tail, pointy ears, three-fingered-hands, and funny teeth.

Nightcrawler has been one of Marvel Comics’ most unique and complex superheroes since 1975. For those outside the X-Men cult of fans, the series revolves around a cast of characters that have some form of genetic mutation that manifests itself through extraordinary abilities. They have names such as Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto, and Rogue. The mutants can control the weather (Storm), blow freezing cold wind (Iceman), or walk through walls (Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat). As you would expect, they are treated as freaks and ostracized from society. The storyline revolves around the struggle between the humans and mutants and the need to fight prejudice, suspicion, and bigotry when dealing with people who may have different looks or talents.

nightcrawler-x2Perhaps the most intriguing characteristic about Nightcrawler is that he is a mutant of faith — a devout Christian. Out of all the myriad of cartoon superheroes created in the last fifty years, very few have articulated or been identified with a specific religious faith.

There have, however, been exceptions to the rule. In 2002, it was revealed in the comics that Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) of The Fantastic Four was Jewish. In the movie Daredevil, crucifixes and other religious iconography flood the screen (as well as visits to the confessional) in order to convey Matt Murdock’s struggle between vigilantism and his boyhood Catholic faith.

To their credit, the screenwriters, director, and producers of X2 allowed Nightcrawler to retain his purity of faith and hope. They skipped the subtle, read-between-the-lines type of allusions to his Christianity and let him express full-metal devotion. Nightcrawler takes refuge in an abandoned cathedral in Boston, festooned with statues of Jesus. When he is nervous, he holds a crucifix and says the rosary in German. When he needs to summon inner strength, he recites the Lord’s Prayer. When the group is confronted with tragedy, he pastorally quotes Psalm 23.

Quite simply, Nightcrawler is one of the most devout and unconventional Christian characters that has ever been portrayed on the big screen. Furthermore, his distinct characteristics span his portrayal in comic books, graphic novels, and an animated film. He talks righteously about sin and the power of faith, without the slightest hint of holier-than-thouism. Although he has every right to be angry at humans for their bigotry, he chooses to help them. He has fears, but he acts with courage through the power of prayer. He quotes the Scripture to find strength that his genetically mutated special powers cannot give him.

In the movie version, Nightcrawler’s faith is further highlighted in that his body is covered in tattoos, one for each of his sins. He calls them his “angel marks.” In a form of penance, they are self-inflicted ancient Enochian symbols considered to be an angelic alphabet.

 

Good-natured swashbuckler

When Nightcrawler first began with the X-Men, he was not conceived as a religious superhero. He was a swashbuckling adventurer with a good sense of humor and a special charisma with the ladies. He even became the leader of the British superhero group Excalibur.

His unique look always made him appear to be something that he was not — namely a demon. The creators used his image to further press their point that prejudice and bigotry brutally cloud our judgment in being able to truly judge a person. This was only heightened when Nightcrawler began quoting Scripture, praying, and hanging out in abandoned cathedrals. He began to be mentored by a priest at Church of Michael the Archangel in Brooklyn and studying for the priesthood.

For a period of time in the X-Men comics, Nightcrawler was shown wearing a clerical collar and even presiding over the funeral of a friend. In the midst of his theological studies, he also struggles with his faith, the tremendous injustice that he sees all around him, and what it would mean to become a priest.

In the graphic novel Uncanny X-Men Vol. 1: Hope (2003, written by Chuck Austen), Nightcrawler is staring at a life-size crucifix in St. Patrick’s Cathedral when he says, “Your death was intended to show us a shining example of how we should live in loving union with you and those around us. Yet even those of us who hold you deepest in our hearts — fail — in keeping true to your divine word.”

In continuing his confession, he says: “Clergy, parishioners, priests — me. I have such thoughts — feelings I cannot escape — the desires for the touch of a woman.” While the temptations of the flesh weigh heavy on his conscience, Nightcrawler’s vastly more threatening challenge is against the racist and religious humans of the Church of Humanity, a Ku-Klux-Klan type of anti-mutant organization.

With the gritty and heart-torn anxiety of the Psalmist, his poignant monologue continues by unleashing his frustration on a seemingly standoffish God. “And now another Holy War is brewing — more fools take up weapons of murder in Your name. And You allow it. Perhaps even encourage it. If we take You into our hearts, does that mean fighting and killing in Your name — or not fighting and being killed in your name? Which is the right answer? And what purpose does it serve to torment your most faithful when the goal is maybe one day sitting beside you — alone — possibly forever apart from the ones we love and desire — who chose wrongly or failed your uncertain tests?”

The scene concludes with Nightcrawler looking at his crucified Jesus and saying, “When next we meet, I expect answers.”

 

Did God give up on the mutants?

With the heightened popularity of the X-Men movies, a DVD collection of animated TV episodes from the early 1990s was released entitled X-Men: The Legend of Wolverine (Buena Vista, written by Eric Lewald, Mark Edward Edens, and Sidney Iwanter). It includes an entire episode devoted to the origin and theological disposition of Nightcrawler.

The story takes place within a monastery in a small Bavarian village in Germany. Three of the X-Men (Wolverine, Gambit, and Rogue) find themselves being aided by monks in the aftermath of an avalanche. Having been mistaken for a demon by the townspeople because of his looks, Nightcrawler explains to Wolverine and his friends that his genetic mutations were evident from birth and that the villagers chased he and his mother of out of town.

His mom (Mystique) also abandoned him as a child (in the comics, she throws him over a waterfall) and a family of travelling performers took him in. When he was young he was able to work in the circus, but he was still treated as an outcast, “shunned and hated.” In talking with Wolverine, Nightcrawler says, “Though all people are flawed and struggle with the capacity for sin, none likes to be reminded of our shared human weakness. My appearance does not make it easy.”

“Don’t it make you crazy?” Wolverine asks with incredulity.

“It did once, but then I found peace by devoting my life to God,” said Nightcrawler. “He directed me to this place [the monastery] where they value the character of my heart, not my appearance.”

This only sends Wolverine further into a rage. “What are you talking about? God gave up on us long ago!” Nightcrawler counters, “No, my friend, God does not give up on his children — human or mutant. He is there for us in our times of joy and to help us when we are in pain — if we let Him.”

Later, Nightcrawler tells Wolverine, “We are alike, you and I — angry at the world. My pain drives me to seek God, yours drove you away.” Wolverine is further infuriated when he asks why God would have allowed him to be treated so badly. “Our ability to understand God’s purposes are limited,” says Nightcrawler, “but take comfort in the fact that his love is limitless.”

The episode concludes with Wolverine kneeling in a French cathedral reading the Bible and saying, “I will give thanks to you O Lord. Though you are angry with me, your anger is turned away and you have comforted me. I will trust you. I will not be afraid.”

Not a bad message — especially coming from an unconventional superhero.

 

Steve Beard is a roller derby photographer, editor, and the curator of Thunderstruck.org.

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Rolling Stone review of Chance the Rapper’s latest

1035x1035-chanceKanye West called The Life of Pablo a gospel album. But the new mixtape-LP from fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper (who had a major appearance on TLOP’s “Ultralight Beam”) truly lives up to that promise. Coloring Book is the richest hip hop album of 2016 so far. Gospel choirs are the backbone of the LP, rocketing skyward in the background the same way soul samples did on Kanye records, James Brown breaks did on Public Enemy records or disco interpolations did in the Sugar Hill catalog. Reaching back to the very beginning of black music in America, Chance recontextualizes one of the most enduring African-American art forms for 2016’s most urgent one.

Coloring Book comes at a time when the biggest rap and R&B stars are looking deep into their musical and cultural heritage, a trend that’s perhaps unsurprising in a country where policemen regularly get away with murder, a presidential candidate refuses to disown the KKK and the water in many American cities is poison. Most everything on Coloring Book seems to take on a spiritual hue: Even though “No Problem” is full of industry-bucking threats (“If one more label try to stop me/It’s gon’ be some dreadhead niggas in your lobby”), Chance is too busy milly-rocking over his blessings. He can paint a vivid picture of growing up in his beleaguered Chicago (“Bunch of tank-top, nappy-headed, bike-stealing Chatham boys/None of my niggas ain’t had no dad/None of my niggas ain’t have no choice”), but when New York alt-soul songwriter Francis and the Lights testifies through a vocoder and a prayer is given during the bridge, a bluesy dirge takes on an aura of warmth and hopefulness. D.R.A.M., the man behind the giddy viral hit “Cha Cha,” comes by for a beautiful interlude somewhere between Sly Stone and Animal Collective with the chorus “Everyone is special.”

While gospel icon Kirk Franklin plays hypeman, a choir sings one of the most important lines on the album: “Take me to your mountain/So someday Chicago will be free.” Chance reports live from Chicago, a city with nearly 500 homicides last year and the real and terrifying possibility that local government tried to cover up the police shooting of black teenager Laquan MacDonald. As Chance says in the opening track, “This for the kids of the king of all kings.”

And, as a rapper, Chance is everything we love about hip-hop in 2016. The convoluted and conscious-minded bars of Kendrick Lamar, the melodic gymnastics of Young Thug, the Oculus Rift ambitions of Kanye West. Mixing American music at its most vintage, today’s most cutting-edge rhyming and the emotional vocoder music that symbolizes our future, this lush, powerful album attempts to move hip-hop past Planet Rock and into the Heavens.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/chance-the-rapper-coloring-book-20160518#ixzz4AuX5UEek

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Paul Simon’s Spiritual Fascination

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 11.10.24 AMBy Cathleen Falsani

While he waits for the Brazilian faith healer to arrive, Paul Simon is supposed be meditating quietly with his eyes closed.

Instead, he’s peeking.

“I want to see what’s going on,” Simon said, recalling his visit to the Casa de Dom Inácio de Loyola in Abadiânia, Brazil, where, in the summer of 2014, he underwent a “spiritual operation” performed by João Teixeira de Faria — a medium and psychic healer known as João de Deus (or “John of God”).

Eventually, John of God enters the room where Simon and about a dozen other pilgrims, a few lying on gurneys, await with varying degrees of patience, anxiety, and faith.

“He speaks in Portuguese — I assume a prayer — and he leaves,” Simon said. “And then everyone gets up and leaves the room. And I say to my guide, ‘Well, when is the operation?’ And she says, ‘No, that was it. You had it.’ … I felt nothing.”

While in Brazil — a 10-day trip he took at the urging of his wife, the musician Edie Brickell, who had traveled to Abadiânia for her own “spiritual surgery” several months earlier — Simon began writing the song “Proof of Love,” a six-minute epic that is, arguably, the centerpiece of his masterful new album.

To read entire article on Sojourners, click HERE

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