Friday, January 19, 2007

Pop Culture Roundup

I started The Misunderstood Jew by Amy Jill Levine this week. Levine is a New Testament scholar and a Jew, which ensures that she'll provide a unique perspective. She spoke at Eden while I was there and many of us were struck by both her scholarship and her feistiness, so when I saw this book I wanted to take a look. Levine explores Jewish-Christian relations as it pertains to the figure of Jesus. In the introduction she suggests that both groups could learn something from the other about him: Christians could gain a better picture of Jesus' Jewishness (as well as an appreciation for its importance) from Jews, and Jews can better understand why he's seen as the central figure of Christianity. After a treatment of the Gospels through Jewish lenses, Levine moves on to the early arguments in the early church concerning who is in and who is out. She shares that gentiles actually fell into subcategories for Jews including "resident aliens" and "righteous gentiles," categories that recognized them as accepted by the community and beloved by God; then suggests that Paul wanted to bring "righteous gentiles" to the forefront of his movement. She's pretty critical of Paul, showing how disturbing and scandalous his removal of dietary restrictions and the requirement of circumcision would have been to Jews. It's a very interesting read so far.

While channel-surfing a few days ago, I wound up finding Brokeback Mountain on one of the HBO channels. This was a movie that I shouldn't have watched by myself because it left me with a lot to process. As I watched, certain scenes were, to me, naturally uncomfortable, but what I think stuck with me the most was having to watch both men's marriages devolve; the people around them hurt. I found myself getting more caught up in what the wives and children were feeling than the dilemma in which Jack and Ennis found themselves; the effect that their increasingly disinterested felt need to keep up appearances had on those around them. Jack and Ennis are not saints, and I think that other supporters of the movie wanted to state that they were. There is, of course, more to the characters' reasoning...they struggle with wanting to be together versus the stigma and violence they might face. But it takes its toll. I don't think that I want to write anything else about it right now. Maybe another time when I can find a way to avoid offending people that I don't want to offend. Nevertheless, it has stuck with me through the week.

We also watched Lucky Number Slevin this week. This is a movie that could be put in the same category as The Usual Suspects or Suicide Kings. It's an organized crime movie with a twist...which I called about halfway through, Ithankyou. I haven't seen Josh Hartnett in too many movies. Actually, the only performances I've seen from him (Pearl Harbor, The Faculty) were in movies that weren't worth watching, but this was a pretty good one for him. I'm kind of a fan of the genre, so that certainly helped. Anyway, the only problem I really had with the movie was that it takes the final 1/3 to explain the first 2/3, which seems like a lot. There's a lot to explain, but the explanation kind of dominates the last part of the movie. But Lucy Liu's in it. So we're fine.

It's been a KT Tunstall kind of week. I don't know what that really means, but it has been.

Around the web, Songbird recently transferred to a new pastorate and I've been enjoying reading about how that's gone. If I've understood correctly over the time I've blog-known her, this is her first such transition since entering ministry. As a first-pastorate guy, I harbor this constant curiosity about that inevitable day when I might have to go through the same (not that that's going to happen any time soon). I'll write more about that some other time, but for now scroll down through her recent entries and read up.