Archive

High Flying Bird

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February 14, 2019 Vic Thiessen

There is nothing worth watching at the local cinema this month, so I checked out Netflix, which released the best film made in 2018 (Roma). Roma is a perfect example of why I’m not a big fan of the concept of Netflix Original Films, because Roma deserves to be watched on a big screen, not on a TV (even if it’s 60” wide). The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, released by Netflix in November, is another example of this. But if Netflix is helping these films get made, I suppose I must view this as a positive thing. And some Netflix […]

A first step for criminal justice reform

February 8, 2019 Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

After years of work by advocates, including many constituents of Mennonite Central Committee, criminal justice reform legislation was signed into law by President Trump on December 21. The law is called the First Step Act and it is just that—a first step. Additional reforms are still needed to address mass incarceration in the U.S., which disproportionately affects communities of color. But first, what will the new law do? It will reduce a number of mandatory minimum sentences and allow judges more discretion when sentencing individuals. The “three-strike” rule, which imposed a life sentence if someone is convicted of three or […]

The Favourite

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February 7, 2019 Jerry L. Holsopple

I asked one of my students what I should review this week, with both options being about powerful women (the other was On the Basis of Sex).  On the surface, The Favourite, nominated for ten Oscars, seems to just be an expose of the decadence of the royal court in the early 18th century.  We expect this to be another costume drama that exploits the audiences desire to see inside the lives of the rich and famous, but it is not even close. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) ruled for twelve years starting in 1702.  When she came to power she […]

A steep climb for asylum seekers

February 1, 2019 Charissa Zehr

“Why don’t people wait their turn? They should just get in line!” These lines are often tossed around in the debates about families and individuals crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The distinction that many make between migrants who enter our country “legally” and those “sneaking in” between ports is a deceptive comparison. Many migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border are seeking asylum, which can be claimed at any entry point—bridge, road, desert or otherwise. Yet border officials in both the U.S. and Mexico have been actively preventing families from seeking protection through asylum and spreading deliberate misinformation. U.S. Customs and Border […]

Heartland uncovers prejudices toward the poor

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January 31, 2019 Gordon Houser

One of my favorite books from 2018 is Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh. This is an important book in its uncovering of prejudices toward people who struggle in poverty. And while it’s not written from a specifically Christian perspective, it also addresses some biblical themes. Smarsh is a journalist who has covered socioeconomic class, politics and public policy for the Guardian, VQR, NewYorker.com, Harpers.org and many other publications. She also grew up in Kansas, which drew my interest, since I’m a lifelong Kansan. Smarsh challenges an idea—a […]

Peace is not simply words

January 30, 2019 Thirdway

In November, the Ottawa Office was pleased to host Syrian peacemaker S. Laham, (full name withheld for security purposes) formerly with MCC partner Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), for meetings with Canadian policymakers about Syria. Director Anna Vogt spoke with Laham about MECC’s work and his message for Canada. Here is a condensed and edited version of Laham’s reflections.    The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) has been involved in humanitarian work since its establishment in 1974 as a communion of churches in the Middle East. MECC started by supporting Palestinian refugees, then those impacted by civil wars in Lebanon and Iraq, […]

Top 10 Films of 2018 – by Media Matters Reviewers

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January 30, 2019 Thirdway

As promised, here’s our annual list from most of our Media Matters reviewers, reflecting a pretty good year for film! Read and enjoy (or argue in the comments!) and file or bookmark this post for your film viewing queues! Several lists count down from ten meaning the best pick is last, others don’t prioritize their lists. But always fascinating what Mennonites are loving in the realm of film. Lists posted in the order they were received. (As always forgive the various list formatting of our beloved quirky reviewers. But don’t miss their descriptions/rationale for vote and placement.) Vic’s Top 10 […]

Vice

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January 24, 2019 Matthew Kauffman Smith

Vice opens with a disclaimer on its portrayal of former vice president Dick Cheney. The filmmakers claim the movie is “as true as it can be given that Dick Cheney is known as one of the most secretive leaders in recent history. But we did our (expletive) best.” This statement sets the tone for the movie as a satirical look at a polarizing figure in U.S. history. The movie is witty, but because the truth is never exactly clear, it allows writer/director Adam McKay to take liberties. Is he trying to do his “best” to tell Cheney’s story or his […]

Free speech and economic choices

January 18, 2019 Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

Esther Koontz, a math teacher from First Mennonite in Hutchinson, Kansas, wanted to contract with the state of Kansas to train math teachers. But as a condition of her employment, the state required her to pledge that she does not support economic boycotts against Israel or Israeli settlements. As a matter of conscience Esther refused to sign, and she was denied the contract. The American Civil Liberties Union took Esther’s case to court and in January 2018, a federal judge issued a favorable preliminary ruling, saying that boycotts are a protected form of free speech. The state of Kansas amended […]

Fiction readers: do you love literary or popular books?

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January 17, 2019 Gordon Houser

According to an October 2013 article in Scientific American by Julianne Chiaet, researchers at The New School in New York City “found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.” Participants in the study read excerpts from genre (or popular) fiction, literary fiction, nonfiction or nothing, then took a test that measured their ability to infer and understand other people’s thoughts and emotions. The difference was significant. Literary fiction, writes Chiaet, “focuses more on the psychology of characters and their relationships.” It increases readers’ psychological awareness. “Although literary fiction tends to be […]