The Weekender 10-14-2016

Welcome to the Weekend Reader. Each week we’ll curate a few suggestions for your weekend reading, thinking, and watching, and offer a few quick thoughts on why they might matter.  

Sin, Cinema, and Nate Parker: The Complicated Case of Birth of A Nation

Alissa Wilkinson, formerly the film critic for Christianity Today, is now writing at Vox. She’s always worth reading, and this one in particular is timely. The Birth of A Nation is a movie about a slave rebellion, and it premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival. But since then, allegations about the film’s writer/director/star have resurfaced; he was indicted for rape, and while he was acquitted, there were a number of questions left unanswered. 

In Alissa’s piece, she explores the tensions around the film and its maker, and ties it in with other sin-and-forgiveness controversies, including Mark Driscoll and Donald Trump. 

Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker

It’s a long-read, but David Remnick’s profile of Leonard Cohen is fascinating. Cohen is one of the great American songwriters. He’s been performing since the 1950’s, and his songs – meticulously crafted, sometimes for years – are lyrical masterpieces. Remnick explores Cohen’s spiritual journey in this piece, which has zig-zagged through Judaism, Buddhism, Kabbalah, and more. At one point, he lived as a monk. “You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time,” Cohen says, and his story is a tale about relentlessly searching for that reality. 

Charles Taylor talks about how, in a secular age, there is nonetheless a longing for transcendence. We experience it as “fullness”, a resonance that comes when art, nature, and other experiences of beauty fill us with awe and wonder. Cohen’s life is a quest for fullness, and shows how, in our age, it can lead people to cross many cultural barriers to search for it. 

Jonah Goldberg on Billy Bush

Since the release of the now-infamous Trump tapes, Billy Bush has been suspended from his job at NBC. Goldberg explores why, and notes a certain hypocrisy in it. “Celebrities serve as a kind of secular aristocracy in our culture, getting away with behaviors we would not tolerate from anyone else.” 

Had Trump remained a celebrity, rather than taking on a job as a politician, Goldberg suspects that these quotes would hardly have been news, and certainly wouldn’t have led to the career meltdown we’re watching now. This isn’t an excuse for Trump, though. It’s an indictment about our celebrity-worshiping culture, and the excuses we make for their heinous words and actions. Read more at:

Intimacy for the Avoidant

David Brooks: “A modern version of heroism is regaining control of social impulses.” Yet another (worthy) reflection on the ways that technology is reshaping our society and our relationships. 


I’m tempted to avoid anything related to politics this week. We’ve been inundated with coverage and there’s not more to say about it. Christians of conscience are trapped between two candidates who, increasingly, reveal their disqualifications for the highest office in the land. Write-in options, or third-party options like Evan McMullin, are a way to clear the conscience, but lack the hope of being able to win. 

So instead, I’ll just offer this:

Photo by Baloncici/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Baloncici/iStock / Getty Images


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