Revising (and Reviving) History through Fiction

Photo by Flickr user History Books

Photo by Flickr user History Books

 

“History takes a long time for us to reach.”

That rather obvious statement was made by a former president of the United States, George W. Bush, when reflecting upon his legacy. While some sneered that his B.A. in history from Yale University meant little, this was not the only time that Bush proved he had learned a little something about the topic. He told Brian Williams in 2006, “There’s no such thing as short-term history, as far as I’m concerned.” He also famously said, “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” (In Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward)

While it is possible to view these quotes as simple explanations of a basic fact of human existence – time adds upon time adds upon time – or as an attempt to avoid responsibility, Bush was actually getting at something profoundly true. While we may view history as that most unchanging of all things, forever frozen in place, experience suggests otherwise. Continue reading

I Love Mark Driscoll

Pastor and author Mark Driscoll speaks at the opening of a new location of Mars Hill Church in the Seattle area in 2011. Flickr photo by Mars Hill Church Seattle

Pastor and author Mark Driscoll speaks at the opening of a new location of Mars Hill Church in the Seattle area in 2011. Flickr photo by Mars Hill Church Seattle

“There is nothing new under the sun.”

These famous words from the book of Ecclesiastes (1:9b) are so universally relevant that they tend to pop into my head whenever I find human behavior once again failing to provide any real element of surprise, despite the apparent contextual differences. Over the last couple days, I have been thinking about them once again.

It all started when I made a visit to that website that everyone seems to use even though no one appears to like it: Facebook. I was scrolling through my “news feed”, which in actuality is a concoction of approximately 20% advertisements, 20% baby and/or pet pictures, 20% people posting quotes or verses that they want their friends to read, 20% people saying “X number of years ago today…” someone got married or was born, and 20% people complaining about something. (No judgment here – I’m pretty sure I’ve done all of those things on Facebook.)

In due course, a headline jumped out at me from a website I had “liked” once upon a time, saying something along the lines of “Acts 29 Network Kicks out Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church”. Continue reading

Iran Needs More Babies

Iran's families are getting smaller. Flickr photo by Adam Jones

Iran’s families are getting smaller. Flickr photo by Adam Jones

 

There are some things in Iran that are not in short supply. You need natural gas? No problem. Looking for some pistachios? They have you covered. Is your floor looking rather unadorned? They can give you a carpet with few rivals. And when it comes to women’s clothing, well, black is the new black.

Unfortunately, there are some items that are less common in Iran, or at least not as plentiful as they would prefer. Airplane parts would be one of them. International trade would be another. Surely some (but likely not all) would prefer that the country had a few more nuclear weapons. However, these deficits may all prove easier to overcome than the one that Iran’s government is currently campaigning against: a lack of babies. Continue reading

2014 Oscars Best Dressed List

If it’s the Oscars, you know that I have to be putting together a best dressed list for the ten most beautifully attired females in attendance. In order to avoid copyright violations, I am going to be linking to pictures of the garments in question rather than stealing them and posting them here. Just click on the name of any of these ladies to see what I am talking about.

10. Jennifer Lawrence – A classic red peplum dress; nice and glamorous, though it could have done with some more glitzy jewelry. (It’s the Oscars: if you’re not going to go with the glitz here, then where else?)

9. Naomi Watts – She played Princess Diana this year in a film that was widely panned, but this dress, which looks as if it could have been worn by Di herself, gets an ‘A’ grade from me. Continue reading

What was Missing in the Sochi Opening Ceremony (Other than the Fifth Olympic Ring)

These images show a brief portion of the international broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia.  They were captured and posted online by Twitter user @BuzzFeedUK.

These images show a brief portion of the international broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia. They were captured and posted online by Twitter user @BuzzFeedUK. Their use for commentary purposes qualifies as fair use.

The introduction to the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi may have told us something about how much success women have had in Russian history. Is the United States any better?

The opening ceremony at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games began with a recorded video segment in which a Russian girl went through the Cyrillic alphabet and assigned a prominent Russian personality, achievement, or location to each letter. While I admittedly did not understand all of the references, one thing was fairly clear: there was a notable absence of women, unless you count the little girl narrating the piece.

This made me wonder, “Are there no Russian women who could have been included in this list?” Perhaps Russian history has not been very open to female advancement over the years.  The main Russian females who leap to my mind are Catherine the Great (who was actually German), Anna Karenina (who was fictional), and a bunch of athletes. Were I an expert on ballet, I could undoubtedly find some female names there, but the point still stands that most of the prominent Russians throughout history have been men. Women have not been absent, but they seemingly did not merit inclusion by the team organizing the opening ceremony. Continue reading

L’affaire du Président, or President Hollande is a Naughty Boy

800px-Julie_Gayet_at_the_2007_Deauville_American_Film_Festival-01, Wikipedia Mireille Ampilhac

French actress Julie Gayet, the latest object of President Hollande’s affection, is shown here at the 2007 Deauville American Film Festival. Wikipedia photo by Mireille Ampilhac

Today I am going to write about something taking place in France.  Have I lost you already?  I only ask because I know that many Americans are either thoroughly apathique or completely hostile when it comes to our French collègues.  I’ve heard the usual complaints: they live in a nanny state, they don’t believe in working, they hate Américains, they are complete cowards in all their military campagnes, and they have a preference for the kind of cheese that looks like a science experiment gone wrong.

Perhaps the thought of reading an entire article about France fills you with disgust.  Perhaps you are still unwilling to give the French credit for “freedom fries” more than a decade after the fact. (There is actually an ongoing dispute about whether deep fried potato strips originated in France or modern day Belgium.) Perhaps you think that the term “Francophile” is synonymous with “socialist”.

Allow me to reassure you by insisting that this is not really a French story at all: it is an age old tale about a politician caught in a sex scandal, full of the kind of details that are sure to reinforce your cynicism, while at the same time making you feel superior to other members of the human race.  Are you interested now?  I hope so, because that is about the best sales pitch I can give. Continue reading

Are Women Better off Catholic?

St. Peter's Square in Vatican City with St. Peter's Basilica in the background. Photo by Greg O'Beirne via Wikipedia/GFDL Creative Commons

St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Photo by Greg O’Beirne via Wikipedia/GFDL Creative Commons

Is Catholicism better then Evangelicalism when it comes to females?

The very title of this piece may be confusing for some.  Is the Roman Catholic Church better for women than evangelical Protestantism?  Some may argue that Catholicism is by nature highly patriarchal and even sexist.  Women are not allowed to be priests, not allowed to use birth control, etc.  The Catholic Church is run by a bunch of men who believe that marrying a woman would simply be too distracting from their duties.  They do not allow women to play a role in selecting the Pope, voting on important doctrinal issues, or administering the sacraments.

To all this I respond, “How is that really any different from evangelicalism?”  We too typically prevent women from becoming members of the clergy or serving on the deacon and elder boards that make important church decisions.  While we do not condemn all forms of birth control, we do start to ask questions when people don’t seem to want to get married, have children, or participate in idyllic family life.  Generally, the role of women in basic church governance, teaching, and administration is no greater in evangelicalism than in Catholicism. Continue reading

A Woman on the Move

FISCAL MONITOR

Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen speaks at an International Monetary Fund event. IMF photo via Flickr

Janet Yellen is about to become the most powerful female in U.S. political history, and most Americans have never heard of her.

Granted, we’ve had women in positions of political power before this point.  There have been three female secretaries of state – Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton – each of whom was fourth in the line of presidential succession.  Our two female vice presidential nominees, Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin, ended up losing.  One woman, also Hillary Clinton, came very close to gaining the presidential nomination of a major political party.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan have all been members of the Supreme Court.  You could also make the case that some First Ladies, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton (again), held enormous power through their influence over the president.  Nancy Pelosi has served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, placing her second in the line of presidential succession, arguably the highest ranking achieved by a woman in America’s political system. Continue reading

Angela Merkel: Mädchen in Flammen

Aleph

Photo by Wikipedia user Aleph

Germany’s Chancellor looks set for another victory in this month’s parliamentary elections.  What, if anything, can we learn from her success?

On September 22, Germans will head to the polls to choose who will represent them in the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament.  At the center of attention will be Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor (similar to a prime minister).  As head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the largest party in the Bundestag, Merkel has served as Bundeskanzlerin since 2005, and she is widely expected to remain in that position after the election.

Merkel’s time at the top of German politics has come at a critical period for Europe.  The financial meltdown of 2008 and ongoing Eurozone crisis have placed her at the pinnacle of global power, the head of the most dynamic economy in the European Union.  Although the country’s economic growth did slip into negative territory in 2009 – the result of an international slowdown – it has since rebounded and is looking much better than France, Spain, or Italy. Continue reading

Lost in Austen Adaptations

Eymery

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia user Eymery

While at the movies this past weekend, I saw a trailer for the new film Austenland, which apparently features Kerri Russell going to some sort of Jane Austen-themed resort in England where guests dress in period costume, attend nightly balls, and engage in flirtations with the opposite sex.  The film will apparently show how a dose of Jane helps the heroine to overcome her fears and give in to love, or something like that.  All I could think was, “Another one of these movies?  Really?”

Don’t get me wrong: I love Jane Austen, as do most women who are at least moderately clever and can appreciate men who know how to dress and dance properly.  I’ve seen pretty much every adaptation of an Austen novel made in the past twenty years.  There are probably too many of them, but at least they tend to stay true to the source material.  There are worse things I could spend my time watching. Continue reading