February 2012‎ > ‎

7 - In-House Review

BOOKS

After Secularism: Rethinking Religion in Global Politics
by Erin K. Wilson - link
Wilson rejects modern secularist accounts of religion in international relations that establish an either/or dichotomy – religion is either institutional or ideational, individual or communal, and rational or irrational – reduce religion to three of the dimensions (i.e. institutional, individual, and irrational), and exclude religion from the public sphere. She proposes a “relational dialogist” framework that, because of its both/and thinking, acknowledges all six dimensions as characteristic of religion. In addition, relational dialogism suggests that the concepts of the religious and the secular are fluid – they constantly interact and their meanings change historically – yet theoretically manageable and of practical use – the continuity of the concepts
arises from the fact that they exist in relationship. This revisiting of the definition of religion and blurring of the boundaries between the religious and the secular is a welcomed addition to discussions regarding what philosophers and social theorists have identified as an emerging post-secular era.
—John-Harmen Valk, MWS student

Artifice and Design
by Barry Allen
As Protagoras says, anthropos (human beings) is the measure of all things: in that whatever measure or significance there is, it comes from us.  Barry Allen refines his philosophical anthropology in "Artifice and Design" by developing concepts of art, artifice, knowledge, technology, and tool in order to explore how art and technology are mutual terms and how that relationship shapes our human experience.  With clear arguments and refreshingly well-written prose Barry Allen explores an increasingly important topic: the interrelatedness of technology and human nature.
—George Deibert, MWS student

Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination
by Brian J. Walsh - link
Through an exploration of the music of Bruce Cockburn, Walsh invites the reader to marvel at a world of wonders, to plumb the depths of its brokenness, and, in hope, to see “just beyond the range of normal sight”. He points to profound insights in Cockburn’s art that help not only to answer the questions “Where are we? Who are we? What’s wrong?” but also to reawaken a Christian imagination with which to answer the question “What is the remedy?”. In so doing, Walsh also provides an example of how Christians might engage culture more broadly – to be open to the possibility that the voice of God might be heard through “the other,” and to create the space in which God’s voice can be heard where and when it is not.
—John-Harmen Valk, MWS student

FILMS

Of Gods and Men (Des Hommes et Des Dieux)
directed by Xavier Beauvois - link
 Winner of the 2010 Cannes Grand Prix, this film provides an extraordinary account of a group of monks in Algeria faced with a wrenching decision of whether to leave their monastery, and the impoverished village with which they have established a close relationship, because of the threat posed by a rising fundamentalist faction in the region. Writer/director Xavier Beauvois weaves an incredible array of thought-provoking themes within the storyline—the relationship between freedom and loss, faith and reason, religion and violence, and rootedness and separation, to name just a few. Mark this film at the top of your "to do" list.
—John-Harmen Valk, MWS student

The Tree of Life
directed by Terence Malik
Do see The Tree of Life, but prepare before you go. This is not a beginning-middle-end story in film. It is a visionary's artistic and unconventional treatment of finding life after death in a family struggling with a beloved son's death. The main setting is Waco, Texas in the '50's, where the author was raised and where his brother died. The movie is therefore also personal. But the grand long portrayal of the birth of the universe is certainly not a personal 50's Texas story. There is very little narrative in the film, since the most significant wordings come as whispered voice overs. Catching those helps interpret the movie. And the music, magnificent as it is, is not meant to entertain but to help feel the mystery of God. The opening text from Job: Where were you when the foundations of the earth were laid, is framed by what the nuns taught the mother: there are two ways and we must choose. So after having shown us the laying of earth's foundation the film maker engages us with the struggle to choose and in the end reveals how the way of love is the way that leads to reconciliation. The movie is very controversial and, again, preparing by reading reviews (via Google) and background stories is essential. Though many find this fake and cheap religion, I see in it a contemporary engagement with love in way unrivaled and therefore perhaps not recognized. I have seen it six times and hope more will follow.
—Henk Hart, professor emeritus