Rekindling the Intellectual, Spiritual, Creative legacy of Christians in Culture

CWHollywood • Last week's academy awards showed American imperialism is alive and well as evidenced by these observations by NYT's David Carr. Drawing a sports analogy my Scottish friend Bill Hogg would ask--does the World Series determine the world champion baseball team or just the champion of the US? My friend Marty O'Donnell just returned from taping two weeks of personalities for "Halo III," and reports that during the Oscars people in Hollywood really believe the entire world is focused on them and they honerstly believe the Anna Nicole Smith story belongs on the front page.
Here is what Carr reports: "Old-line Hollywood studios, confronted over the last few years by indifferent audiences and an insurgent collection of independent film makers, declared dominion over the industry's crowning event. Last year the industry was a bystander at its own party and was probably left to wonder how an event conceived for studio self-congratulation had been kidnapped by a bunch of people who couldn't get a good table at Ivy if their lives depended on it. The first part of this year's Academy Awards seemed to following the same script: a polyglot of languages, cobbled-together indie efforts and little movies that accomplished big things. But as the evening progressed, you could see old-line Hollywood bolting down the Big Win. "Last night proved that the Academy Awards is a major international event, as evidenced by the nominees from all over the world," said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, a specialty division of Sony (which won best foreign-language film for "The Lives of Others). "There were indies and foreign efforts that received a lot of recognition. But best picture, best director and best screenplay all went to a big studio film, which suggests that American films are still at the center of the culture." On our Kindlings Muse you'll hear Jeffrey Overstreet complain that "Children of Men" didn't take the cinematography award. At least it was taken home by "Pan's Labyrinth" another import.

Less you feel overwhelmed by the Hollywood entertainment machine, check out this story about Amy Allin who is taking poetry to the people! "Just like she's done every Sunday since early July -- whether in summer heat or freezing rain or snow -- Amy Allin last weekend set up a small wooden table along the northwest shore of Green Lake. Hanging from the front of the table, glittery glass letters spelled out "P-O-E-T." Then Allin, 39, sat and waited for the curious who jogged, bicycled or simply walked along the path 30 feet away. Sometimes she reads poems; sometimes people read poems to her that she's selected. She prefers to select the work of other writers -- some well-known, and others less known. Allin has a yearlong mission: to bring poetry to everyday people, whom she says the poets have forgotten. "Poets are on an academic campus and writing for each other. I'm tired of poets who think that reading to one another is enough," she said. So the Poetess at Green Lake spends all day each Sunday at her table across from the Shell gas station on West Green Lake Drive North. She's taking poetry literally to where the public is."

Evangelicals are preoccupied with themselves, and usually don't like the rap they get in American culture. According to Sarah Bakhshian they hope to use "Amazing Grace," the story of William Wilberforce "to reclaim Wilberforce as one of the early architects of modern-day evangelism and to raise awareness about modern-day slavery."  "Randall Balmer, an expert on evangelicals at Barnard College/Columbia University in New York, said religious conservatives 'are taking great pains to style themselves as the so-called 'new abolitionists' in order to emphasize the moral parallel between their opposition to abortion and the abolitionist movement in the early 19th century.' Balmer finds that a bit disingenuous. 'As I see it, the great contribution of 19th-century evangelicals was to work on behalf of those on the margin of society, including slaves but also women and the poor," he said. "I simply don't see that range of concerns reflected in the actions and the agenda of the religious right at the turn of the 21st century.'"

As if to prove Balmer's point, Laurie Goodstein reports that the Christian Right, (people like James Dobson, Gary Bauer, Tony Perkins and Paul Weyrich) are trying to force the National Association of Evangelicals director of government affairs to stop speaking out on global warming. "The conservative leaders say they are not convinced that global warming is human-induced or that human intervention can prevent it. And they accuse the director, the Rev. Richard Cizik, the association's vice president for government affairs, of diverting the evangelical movement from what they deem more important issues, like abortion and homosexuality. The letter underlines a struggle between established conservative Christian leaders, whose priority has long been sexual morality, and challengers who are pushing to expand the evangelical movement's agenda to include issues like climate change and human rights. 'We have observed," the letter says, "that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time.'"
This raises some really interesting questions: If Wilberforce was alive today, what issue would captivate him today as the abolition of slavery did in his day? If Wilberforce is the model of today's evangelicals, who are the real evangelicals today? And a macro question, was Wilberforce concerned about his identity as an "evangelical" or was he just following Jesus and his teachings? Post your thoughts!
Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.