Category Archives: Reviews

Movie: Woodlawn. I Was Impressed.

I attended  a pre-release showing of Woodlawn last night. I liked it, even though I wasn’t expecting to — I have been disappointed over and over by the mediocre attempts of evangelical filmmakers. But this felt different. What I call “the cheese factor” was missing. That’s the term I use to describe amateurish, poorly written and acted efforts at making the gospel relevant through cinema. Cheesy Christian films, perhaps unintentionally, rely on the patience and charity of church-goers whose love of the message makes them willing to accept mediocrity and suspend disbelief. The same films  tend to be soundly mocked by viewers from outside the evangelical camp.

I think Woodlawn succeeds where many have failed because it is based on a true story. When evangelicals attempt to make up a story — cinematic fiction — the “cheese factor” seems unavoidable, but this film, like The Hiding Place (1975), is based on a true story. Woodlawn is drawn from the book by the same title which, according to the Amazon summary, is about “courage, strength, and football at the height of racial tension in Birmingham, Alabama…and tells the story of Coach Tandy Gerelds, his running back Tony Nathan, and a high school football game that healed a city.” Continue reading Movie: Woodlawn. I Was Impressed.

An Homage to the Land and Her People

Wendell BerryWhen I am asked about favorite books, invariably I mention the novel by Wendell Berry entitled Jayber CrowThe Life Story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William Membership, As Written by Himself. It is  one of a series of novels drawn from the fictional farming town of Port William, Kentucky (inspired by the author’s own community of Port Royal). In it,  Berry captures the deep and abiding relationship of the people of America’s farms and the land that has sustained them. Against the fruitful backdrop of the nation’s agricultural heritage he chronicles, with reverent grief, the rise of “the business of farming” and the resulting erosion of community. This is not an adventure story or a taut drama, but a lyrical eulogy for a vanishing way of life.

Continue reading An Homage to the Land and Her People

The God Who Smokes

The God Who Smokes
The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith By Timothy Stoner

At the deepest root of the idea of God’s wrath (which fills the Scriptures from beginning to end) is the reality that it is fundamentally an expression of passion from a wounded husband and a ferociously protective father. His wrath is about His love.

Timothy Stoner, The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith. 

I finished Stoner’s book a couple of weeks ago. I liked it. 

First, a comment about the title and author: really? God smokes and the book is written by a guy named Stoner. Ya gotta be kidding. 

Nope. Not kidding. 

But, no joke, this is a good book. It seeks to balance the trend in contemporary  Christianity toward an approachable, utterly safe, kind, predictable God. Moreover, it takes some well-aimed shots at the “emerging church,” the latest incarnation of faith for contemporary culture — marketing to an inclusive society. As Stoner puts it,

[God] is so full of passion and blazing emotion that He burns—and yes, smokes in the ferocity of His infinite, holy love that compelled Him to give it all away for His Bride.

He doesn’t simmer, like warm oatmeal. He also blazes, rumbles and billows. 

Stoner admits an intolerant, exclusive God is a tough sell in this why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along world, but he argues that we’re not supposed to be marketing Him. We sell Him short if we try to sell Him at all,  trying to make Him palatable to our culture. God is who He is. It’s up to us to conform to His image, not the other way around. Creating a god that suits us is nothing short of idolatry. 

Like I said, The God Who Smokes is a good book. It isn’t comfortable, but it is honest. Beyond that it helps us make peace with God, not just when he crowns us with compassion and lovingkindness, but when he explodes in white-hot judgment as only He has a right to do.