Books, Film

Raising Dion

Some of you might remember my old post about Man of Steel. One of the things that really touched me in that film was a scene that featured Clark as a young boy. It put my curiosity into overdrive. In fact, at the time I said

Could you imagine being a kid and having to wrestle with superhuman abilities? Could you imagine being a parent and having to raise a son who could burn you by looking at you? Kudos to the writers…Not only did I feel Clark’s vulnerability. I caught a glimpse of what Martha Kent must have felt as the mother of such a precious and powerful child.

In the end I was left asking the very questions that open the trailer for a brand new comic book, Raising Dion.

There’s so much to appreciate about this video.

Firstly, the casting made me smile. When I was younger I longed to see myself in some of the worlds that captured my imagination. In the past I’ve found it hard not to take the exclusion of non-white actors as an insult. I felt as though the folks behind the scenes were saying, “People who look like you aren’t good enough to experience this magic…”

I realize that we live in the era of Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Still, it’s truly heartwarming to me to see a Black woman depicted as a normal human being rather than a gaggle of stereotypes.

Secondly, again, I’m really intrigued by Raising Dion‘s premise. My knowledge of comic books and superhero lore isn’t extensive. However, I doubt that a parent’s take on raising a superchild is something that’s been explored in great detail. That isn’t to say that most stories in the genre don’t include poignant moments shared between a parent and her wunderkind. They do. Yet I’m used to relatives being relegated to the role of virtual bookends in a supercharacter’s life.

Overall, when I think of Raising Dion, there’s a lot of hope in my heart. The first issue of the comic book is available for download on its writer’s web site. I can’t decide which I’d want more–for it to be a TV series, or a film. At the very least I see Raising Dion as a story that is bound to inspire kids of all ages.

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Books

Losing My Religion?: A look at Love (Wins).

A few weeks ago I drafted a long-winded blog post about having an alternative take on my faith. (I was inspired when I read this article from The Huffington Post about one of the Pope’s declarations.)

I sent what I’d come up with to a friend of mine. Among other things, when she wrote me back she suggested I read Love Wins. [Thank you, Lisa.]

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I finished the book last month.

And if I’m completely honest, I thought that every word of it made sense.

(At this point, some of you will say,“So what?” Well…If you’re not very religious, you should know: To some, Rob Bell is a heretic. His book’s content does not fall in line with (conservative) Christian rhetoric. Love Wins emphasizes the idea of pursuing a faith focused on God’s love over condemnation. It was not well received in some circles. Hence, basically, by agreeing with Bell’s work, I realize that to certain people, I’m basically a heathen.)

Some people complain a lot about those who are disappointed with the church (aka organized religion). However, I think they need to be open to all of the reasons that people are turned off–and often choose to leave. There are those who become atheists or convert to other faiths. Yet there are also folks like me, who adopt a broader view of what they believe. For example, I still believe in God, and I pray. But I do not believe that my faith makes me superior to anyone else–religious or otherwise.

Quite frankly, conventional Christianity has left me weary of its over-reliance on an us-vs-them gospel.

Still, for conservatives, the “othering” of non-Christians is vital. This is one of the reasons that I think that some Christians reacted to Rob Bell’s work as they did. They’re protective of the ideas that he rejects.

Yet I don’t think Rob Bell’s work expressed anything truly blasphemous. In fact, he wrote what many of us do not have the courage to say aloud. As far as I can tell, people objected to the fact that Bell’s ideas pose a threat to the Christian establishment. They undermine a notion that a lot of folks’ faith is built on.

Hate. Fear. And being right in a world full of wrong.

A few weeks ago, I caught myself feeling…Bound by what I believe. I was wrestling with an issue. One sensation kept coming up, again and again.

I felt trapped.

I struggled with the usual demon–the sense of obligation that I’ve felt towards my faith. For years I’ve reluctantly accepted the fact that I was meant to endure negative tension between myself and…Life. I was having thoughts along those lines when  I had an epiphany:

I can be as free as I want to be in my spirituality. Or, as strict. For better or worse, my path is mine to choose.

I’ve shared this piece so that you would know my spiritual status. However, it’s also here because I need to breathe.

I’m eager to address my fears these days. And I shouldn’t feel anxious about being honest about what makes me me.

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Books

This Is How You Lose Her

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This Is How… is a fantastic book of short stories by the flawless Junot Díaz. I finished it last month. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you might remember me talking about it on one of my podcast episodes. The delay in finishing it is purely my fault. I’m always surfing the web or chatting with people on Twitter when I should be doing God’s work*–writing and reading.

Last month I brought my copy with me to my day job. A Grade 12 student asked if I thought it was a good book. “Yes…” I nervously began. And then I offered a disclaimer or two:

The book is written in Spanglish. If you don’t speak Spanish you should be able to understand what’s going on. But I figure that knowing a bit of the language can only enhance your experience.

This next one was a biggie for me: As they say before certain tv shows, “The following contains coarse language and adult situations.” Basically, I mentioned that certain segments of the book might not be suitable for someone in her age group.

Now, to be honest with you, I couldn’t care less about swearing and sex in books. (With exceptions. If the bulk of your content hangs on those two things without a substantial plot or characters, I’m going to wonder if you have any talent at all.) That said, I don’t know what kids are reading these days. Even though there may not be much difference between what’s in This Is How You Lose Her and a movie or–gasp–a teen’s own personal life, I don’t want any student(s) telling their mom or dad, “Ms. said we should read this book…”

Mark my words. I embarrass myself enough as it is by being my awkward self. I am not going to be ousted from my profession because I “suggested students read inappropriate materials”.

And speaking of risqué books, I understand that Shades of Grey is available in some school libraries.

But that’s another rant for another time…

*I believe that the things we were born to do were divinely assigned.

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Books

What is the world coming to?

Really, though.
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Wars are being fought overseas. Gun control is out of control, with tragedies making headlines on an almost weekly basis.

Yet yesterday it was the photo above that sent me over the edge.

Before the rest of you nerds go off on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s estate, know that they are not to blame. According to this article, an independent publisher decided to have his (or her) way with Anne. For, you see…Anne of Green Gables is a part of the public domain. From what I gather, that means that that indie publishers can re-sell such works in whatever guise they want.

People have been up in arms because the image features a blond Anne. Meanwhile, in my opinion, that’s the last thing that’s wrong with that picture…

I suppose I should be relieved. I thought that this cover belonged to an officially-sanctioned version of the series. Thankfully it does not.

Nevertheless, I’m concerned. Our artistic treasures deserve to be protected.

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Books

Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans


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Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood is engaging. She brings her readers on a journey and shows us what can happen when someone decides to take some of the Bible’s commands concerning feminine conduct literally.

For those readers who are not aware, there’s a faction of Christianity that is obsessed with upholding certain standards among men and women. When people discuss Biblical womanhood they often emphasize things such as the notion that a woman should focus on bearing and caring for children, as well as being modest and submissive.

In light of this idea, what did some of Ms. Held Evans’ duties include?

Over the course of her year of experimentation, she did things such as alter her mode of dress and wear a head covering as a display of modesty. She also sequestered herself in a tent and avoided touching men during her “time of the month”. Although these changes may sound odd to our modern ears, one can easily find support for them in scripture. Which begs the question that I believe drove Ms. Held Evans’ work: When people say that they support Biblically-based gender roles, just how far are they willing to take things?

In my opinion, Rachel Held Evans’ book illustrates a flaw in a much-heralded system. It’s true that there are women who prefer domestic pursuits. However what about those who do not fit the mold?

I have a love-hate relationship with feminine virtues. I think that having a family is a blessing. If my time and budget allowed for it, I would welcome the chance to get married and be a homemaker. However, what if, after having children, I decide that I would like to go back to work? Or, what if none of my domestic dreams come true? There are Christian women out there who are single and/or childless whose existence does not deserve to be diminished.

It seems foolish to me to reduce femininity to a series of stereotypes. Yet many individuals and entire church communities have no problem displaying a bias in the way that they treat women who do not fit the mold of a so-called Biblical woman.

For challenging these notions, Rachel Held Evans will have my eternal respect and gratitude.

Apart from my regular review, in writing about this book, I believe I would be remiss if I didn’t address some of the controversy surrounding it.

Lifeway Christian Resources is an American bookstore chain that has decided not to carry Ms. Held Evans’ book. Although the official reason remains unknown, Ms. Held Evans has mentioned that she believes that their rationale has something to do with her use of the word “vagina”.

I disagree. I saw the dreaded v-word in her text. To be quite honest, I barely noticed it. (I believe my reaction was, “What? That’s IT…?”)

However, throughout Biblical Womanhood I saw items that I thought provided evidence of the real reason why Lifeway would not permit her book to be on their shelves.

The more I read, the more one thing became clear to me: The ideas that Held Evans expressed do not coincide with the conservative Evangelical community’s agenda*. And quite frankly, customers who follow said agenda are big-box “Christian” bookstores’ bread and butter.

Here are a few of the things that I believe fundamentalists might object to:

1. Rachel does not frown on Catholicism. (Among other minor indiscretions, in one chapter she spends time in a monastery.) In response to my mentioning this, I know many will say “So what?” However, in this day and age I still encounter people who believe that Catholics do not worship God.

2. Rachel mentions aspects of other religions in a non-judgmental way. When she says things such as how if she was feeling differently about a particular circumstance** she might read the Bhagavad Gita, she doesn’t offer any apologies or disclaimers. Mind you…I know that a person can be rooted in Christ yet respectful of other religions. However in most Fundamentalists’ minds, such a thing is impossible. In fact, if you admit to some folks that you can learn something relevant from another faith’s traditions, you may as well tell them that you are consorting with the devil.

3. Time and again she attempts to edify her readers concerning the content of God’s word. Her book contains references to historical context for certain passages, as well as little-known facts. Her writing does not discredit the Bible. Yet here I feel it’s vital to note something. I notice that there tends to be a rift between what some Christians think the Bible says, versus what is actually in the text. I admire the fact that Ms. Held Evans aims to close that gap. However I’m not sure that others will feel the same way.

4. Rachel dares to call a spade a spade. In light of her book’s general premise, Ms. Held Evans speaks openly about some of the problems related to Evangelicals’ gender bias. Along the way, she mentions one of Evangelical Christianity’s leaders–John Piper. In addition to being a popular author and speaker, Pastor Piper is one of the cofounders of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Some of his ideas are interesting–or troubling, depending on who you speak to. Either way, in her chapter entitled “Silence” Rachel provides interesting food for thought related to regulations concerning women speaking–and teaching–in church. I deeply respect Ms. Held-Evans for noting the potential flaws in a popular leader’s line of thinking. Nevertheless I also know that there are those who likely believe that John Piper’s ideas are above reproach.

Let me make myself clear: I do not have a problem with any of these points. In fact, Held Evans’ honesty is one of the things that I love the most about A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

However, I think that with her latest book, Rachel Held Evans may have reached her Rob Bell* moment. She has shown that she is not afraid to discuss ideas that are contrary to what the Evangelical establishment expects. Overall, I think this is wonderful. In spite of what critics may have to say there are scores of people like me who appreciate Held Evans’ bravery.

Women need to know that their faith communities recognize their worth—beyond the domestic realm. In that regard, Rachel Held Evans’ work is revolutionary. I look forward to reading her next book.

*Maybe I’m off my rocker for theorizing about why Lifeway isn’t carrying her book. But I think I’ve read enough Christian books and known enough Fundamentalists in my day to make a solid hypothesis. If you believe I’m being unfair, let me know in the comments below.

**I apologize for being so vague. (Rachel, feel free to correct me!) There’s a sentence where Held Evans casually mentions the Bhagavad Gita. It was a very simple passage, and I didn’t take proper notes on it. Suffice it to say it was as harmless as me saying that I’d consult the Koran if I was interested in learning about Muhammad.

***I haven’t read the straw that broke the camel’s back. Yet I know that Rob Bell is an author who has been slammed for not toeing the party line. I say that respectfully, in spite of the fact that I may not agree with everything that Mr. Bell may believe.

Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.

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