Stories of Atonement–Almost

On Wednesday I went with a friend to see "Atonement: Stories About Confession, Redemption and Making Amends," at the Jewish Community Center--part of their preparation for the High Holy Days. A group of storytellers from Speakeasy DC came and performed true personal tales of childhood shoplifting, hit-and-run car damage, and dishonorable Scrabble.All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told--but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: "I sinned, … [Read more...]

“The Healing Power of Violence”: My somewhat misleadingly-titled piece

about the portrayal of penitence in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, an intensely powerful movie: An old Buddhist monk is raising a little boy, alone together in a floating temple in the middle of a lake. The boy has the casual cruelty of most children, and the old monk catches him tying rocks to small animals to torment them: a fish, a frog, a snake. The monk says nothing, but when the boy wakes up the next morning there’s a huge stone tied to his own back. He acknowledges his guilt … [Read more...]

“Jesus Dropped the Charges”

I realize this particular hard-workin' metaphor doesn't work for everybody, but it pretty much always works for me.Via Mockingbird. … [Read more...]

“Sometimes You Want to Go Where Nobody Knows Your Name”: Me on “Home”

a searing novel by Marilynne Robinson: You have preserved my life from the pit of destruction, when you cast behind your back all my sins. – Isaiah 38:17Speaking to reporters on a plane back from World Youth Day in Rio, Pope Francis made headlines with his comment, “If [gay people] accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” But the hoopla around this comment obscured an even more radical statement in a similar vein: “I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this ca … [Read more...]

“‘Middlemarch’ and What We Mean When We Say Shame Works”: me at AmCon

sorry for length!: The idea that “shame works”—that stigmatizing behaviors and shaming the people who do them are necessary and honorable tools of public policy—is a recurring theme in both conservative and more communitarian/paternalistic liberal rhetoric. It’s often based on personal experience, or home truths from one’s mom, and because people do sometimes say that shame worked for them I had a hard time articulating why I rejected this rhetoric so completely.But I recently finished readi … [Read more...]

“Wish You Were Here”: It’s a Thriller. You Know, Like “Crime and Punishment.”

Wish You Were Here is a slight Australian suspense flick about a married couple, expecting their third child, who go on a tourist jaunt to sunny Cambodia with the wife's sister and the sister's beau. After a night of hard partying the boyfriend can't be found. The married couple return to Australia as the girlfriend stays behind to try to find her man; when she comes back, still alone, it's obvious that she's hiding something--and so is her sister's husband.There are plenty of good things … [Read more...]

“Sex, Spies, and the 1960s”: Christopher Sandford

in AmCon, for those who would like a vivacious little primer on the Profumo affair: Shortly before 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 1962, a 36-year-old Soviet naval captain, gourmand, and priapic man-about-town named Yevgeni Ivanov entered a low-lit restaurant in London’s fashionable South Kensington. Although dressed in the standard boxy dark suit and gabardine raincoat, Ivanov cut a striking figure even in that free-swinging era. There was a certain bustle about him, and he moved through the r … [Read more...]


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