[Editor’s note: This piece was written by our friend Mary McCampbell, who we are excited to have at Hutchmoot this year. Enjoy, and be sure to check out her session if you plan to attend.]
A few years ago, when preparing notes for a class discussion on Terence Malick’s 2011 film, The Tree of Life, I began to feel very uncomfortable about typing notes and viewing the film simultaneously.
When I tell people I’ve written a book about death, hands down, the most common response I receive is laughter.
I take no offense, though. It’s not a cruel, mocking sort of laughter. We joke about death by instinct, the way an eight year old laughs when someone passes gas. It’s socially unacceptable, therefore hilarious.
I remember when I had no imagination for how ugly the process of redemption can look. It seems like that change in the landscape of my mind marks the point in life when I could say with certainty that I had grown up. In that moment, whatever or whenever it was, hope suddenly meant something different, something heavy and precious. It wasn’t pretty—not in the traditional sense of the word anyway. Learning to carry it hurt me, and I had to get used to the weight of something so worth holding, so demanding of a firm grip.
I deleted Instagram from my phone earlier this summer. A few months before that I did the same with the Facebook app. Our family went on a pretty big adventure for a few weeks, and more than once my instinct was to share a photo of it on social media, but when I realized the app wasn’t on my phone I felt a flash of frustration followed by a sigh of relief—then I moved on, happy to be fully present where I was, when I was, how I was with those I love most.
Just the mention in some Christian circles of Modern (capital M) Art (capital A) will guarantee glazed eyes, knowing smirks, and a handful on the edge ready to pounce.
Someone may well mention the infamous “pile of bricks” bought for a fortune by London’s Tate Modern and they’ll pour scorn with words like “even my five-year-old could do that.” It won’t cut much ice to argue that their five-year-old could not have done that (as Susie Hodge has argued in her intriguing if a little uneven book from 2012, Why Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That.) Neither will it help much to mention that the Tate Modern was the UK’s second most popular attraction in 2017, and that is despite being a decommissioned 1940s Power Station and containing only artworks made since 1900. Something about that place must be connecting with people! But let’s leave that to one side for now.
Have you ever felt confused by someone’s inability, or refusal, to listen to the viewpoint of another?
One episode of this that plays in my mind was grad school days at Notre Dame: I was a teaching assistant for one of the theology professors. He assigned an essay by Leo Tolstoy to his class. It was one of Tolstoy’s classic scathing essays of social critique. When the prof opened the class up for discussion on the reading, the first student to make a comment said: “I did not know Tolstoy was a heretic.”
An endorsement blurb from Johnny Cash graces the back side of Nashville Skyline, Bob Dylan’s 1969 album recorded in Music City: “Here-in is a hell of a poet,” said Cash. And for such poetry, a half century later, Dylan would receive the Nobel Laureate for literature.
But, really, so what? “What is poetry’s role when the world is burning?” asks no less a poet than Chris Wiman.
By now, many of you may know that the Internet blew up last weekend over Childish Gambino’s music video for his new song, “This Is America.” As of the time I’m typing this, five days after release, the video has racked up over 63 million views and probably about as many think pieces.
If you wander through downtown Knoxville on a Wednesday or Saturday morning from May to November, you will likely chance upon the Market Square Farmers’ Market, and what a happy accident it will be. Your eye will feast upon a kaleidoscope of homegrown vegetables. Heirloom tomatoes bejewel the boxes and crates, their variegated skins like the cloud-cover of exotic planets. Peppers of all sizes and colors spill out from baskets, drawing the brave and foolhardy with mythic names like Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Scorpion. Greens of every shade festoon the tables.
If you’re unfamiliar with Tenebrae, it’s a traditional Holy Week service that uses the gradual extinguishing of light to draw attention to the sufferings of Christ and the resident darkness of the world. It’s an occasion to meditate on and lament the brokenness of the human heart and the groaning of creation. The following liturgy is taken from Douglas McKelvey’s Every Moment Holy. We hope it serves you well this week in the darkness before the dawn. (If you’d like to use this liturgy in a group or church setting, you can download it here.) Read More ›
It brings me great pleasure to announce that the Hutchmoot keynote speaker this October will be the wonderful Andy Crouch. If, upon reading that name, you first thought of gospel singer Andrae Crouch, then it means we’re about the same age. But while this Andy is, in fact, an excellent musician, he probably won’t be doing any killer vocal runs. Read More ›