Arts

Insights into faith questions in a postmodern world

 How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith: Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy and Art, by  Crystal L. Downing (InterVarsity Press, 240 pages, softcover, $17.47 at amazon.ca). 

Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian, by Heath White (Brazos Press,  176 pages, softcover, $17.47 at amazon.ca).

In the midst of the controversy about Pope Benedict XVI’s University of Regensburg address, some interpreters lost sight of the Holy Father’s primary focus on faith, reason and culture — specifically, Christian faith, Greek reason and European culture. One person who was not misled was the Swiss muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. In an incisive critique published widely, Ramadan deplored the violence that followed the Pope’s address. But he also questioned the Holy Father’s interpretation of faith, reason and especially culture. Muslim scholars, he suggested, could and should respond by offering an alternate account.

    Africa’s dark beauty

     Hope in the Dark, photography by Jeremy Cowart with reflections by Jena Lee (Relevant Books, 192 pages, softcover, $16.49 at amazon.ca).

    The beauty of Africa is that nothing is hidden, what you see is what you get. There is less business of cologne, deodorant, tinted windows, gloves all aimed at covering reality — making it appear good and nice. In Africa, good, nice, beauty, messiness, ugliness, sadness, life and death are all joined in a wonderful marriage. It takes courage to walk that line in peace, hope and joy.

      Tides of faith roll out, but they always come back

       Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War,  by Michael Burleigh. (HarperCollins Canada, 530 pages, hardcover, $26.37 at amazon.ca).

      The tides roll out. They also return. The metaphor of tides slipping away from a beach became a favourite of writers and commentators after Matthew Arnold penned his famous lines in Dover Beach (1867) about the loss of faith and religion. What is sometimes forgotten about this analogy is that tides return, though probably never in exactly the same way.

        Jesus’ mystery revealed through John the Baptist

         John the Baptist: Prophet and Disciple, by Alexander J. Burke Jr. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 232 pages; $15.27 at amazon.ca).

        In the flood of books on the historical Jesus published over the last 20 years, it is remarkable so little has been written about John the Baptist. After Jesus, Peter and Paul, John the Baptist is one of the most prominent figures in the New Testament, and yet he has been largely eclipsed by the interest in his more famous relative, Jesus. In this new book, Alexander Burke attempts to end John’s time in the shadows by presenting a thoughtful interdisciplinary look at the forerunner of the Lord.

          Fall Reading Guide: Across the editor’s desk

           The United States Library of Congress estimates it has catalogued 29 million books over the last 200 years. The International Standard Book Number System currently has 628,795 publishers in 248 countries listed. The Vatican

            Superman: man of faith

            {mosimage}Superman has returned to earth and he looks more like Christ than ever before.

            The 2006 release of Superman Returns is directed by Bryan Singer and opened in Canadian theatres on June 28.

            The film's introduction explains that Superman ascended from earth five years earlier to find out who survived on the planet Kryptonite.

              Despite poor reviews, Da Vinci phenomenon grows

              {mosimage}Finally, the buildup to The Da Vinci Code movie release is over and we can now dispense with speculation about its faithfulness to the famous novel by Dan Brown. All in all, the movie follows the novel quite faithfully, with all of its wild and erroneous claims about "real" history. And, the movie has no notice that it is based on a work of fiction. There is no disclaimer about the picture it presents of Opus Dei or of traditional Christian orthodoxy. However, it is quite significant that both Ron Howard and Tom Hanks played up the element of fiction in interviews, rather than bragging about Brown's alleged incredible research. Neither was inclined to give serious attention to the fact that the movie was advertised with the line: "seek the truth."

                Critics pan The Da Vinci Code

                {mosimage}CANNES, France - Toward the end of the movie The Da Vinci Code, the main character, Robert Langdon, tells his sleuthing partner, Sophie Neveu: "You are the last living descendent of Jesus Christ."

                  DVD seeks answers from the cast of The Passion of the Christ

                  {mosimage}It's not going to be the blockbuster that Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ became, but a spin-off documentary DVD is in a quiet way more interesting. The Big Question, released this month in Canada by independent Toronto filmmaker TH!NKFilm, is a gentle movie that asks very important questions.

                    Terror on terror

                    {mosimage}It is as unlikely that anyone will be able to parse the meaning of V for Vendetta by reviewing the political history of Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder conspiracy as it is that history will remember all those tortured, turgid, adolescent essays about the philosophy behind The Matrix trilogy. If the Wachowski brothers — the verbose screensmiths behind this movie and that previous black leather opus — have a political philosophy it is well hidden.

                      Woody Allen's collateral damage

                      {mosimage}The opening voiceover of Match Point, with its image of a tennis ball tipped at the net and hovering, about to fall on one side or the other, might lead some to quickly pigeonhole Woody Allen’s forthright blunder back into film making respectability. This movie is a story about luck, the role chance plays in determining our lives, it says.

                        The Yes Men

                        {mosimage}The telling moment in The Yes Men comes at the three-quarter mark when intrepid pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno engage in a wistful meditation on satire.

                          Battlefield for the soul

                          {mosimage}We ask God not to lead us into temptation because temptation is real. If Jesus had to face it in His 40 days in the desert, then there's no reason to believe any of us will be spared such a quintessentially human experience.