Browser: Of Billboards, Brando, and the Best of 2008 (Updated 10:25AM)

NPR has the story of Rev. Gloria White Hammond, who brings a “ministry of healing” to those who are suffering in Darfur.

Today, as I read this story of faith, love, and compassion, I’m reminded that Washington State’s Governor Gregoire has allowed the following statement to be posted beside a Nativity Scene in the State Capitol”

“There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Then why do the hopeless turn to the churches… not just for a message of hope, but for an outpouring of generosity and care during hard times? Why did America’s slaves express their hopes and dreams most poignantly through gospel music, rather than through expressions of casting off all belief in God?

The truth will set you free. The music of freedom is gospel music. The holiday of freedom is Christmas, in which we celebrate the birth of one who would suffer persecution, rejection, and an excruciating death, in order to demonstrate once and for all that death has been defeated, and that we can all be free of fear and slavery.

I think that display in the Capitol makes its point very powerfully: One is a defiant statement of contempt for the choices of others. (Ahhh… Washington… the state of “tolerance.”) The other is a work of art, full of mystery, which draws people of all ages all around the world and kindles questions of hope in their hearts.

Which path appeals to you?

Merry Christmas, everybody.

  • Jeffrey Wells asks, “If — I say if — a Brando biopic were to happen, is there a better actor to fill the role?” Which actor is he talking about? Find out. Me, I heartily agree with him.


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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • moe99

    Then we are agreed res ipsa loquitor. “The thing speaks for itself.”

  • closerlooker

    I don’t believe I said anything about censoring.

    It’s just such a shame that the very same folks who cry “tolerance” insist on setting up an exhibit of brash condemnation alongside a work of art.

    I agree with Madeleine L’Engle, who said that we do not draw people to our perspective “by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely, we long with all our hearts to know the source of it.”

    By that standard, I see no need to censor the faith-haters’ exhibit. By choosing to voice their views the way they have, they have only heightened the brightness of the mystery they’re attacking.

  • moe99

    As long as that view did not amount to censoring others’ views.

  • closerlooker

    Then I take it you have no problem with me “holding a different view” and expressing it. Thank you for your tolerance.

  • moe99

    Please, Jeffrey, I understand your POV, but we live in a society where we have a secular government. And as Governor Gregoire (a Democrat) and Attorney General Rob McKenna (a Republican, and a Catholic I will add) stated jointly:

    “Last year, after a federal lawsuit was filed against the state of Washington by the Alliance Defense Fund, the state’s Department of General Administration set forth a policy allowing individuals or groups to sponsor a display regardless of that individual’s or group’s views.

    “The Legislative Building belongs to all citizens of Washington state, and houses the state Legislature, as well as the offices of several state-elected executives, including the governor. The U.S. Supreme Court has been consistent and clear that, under the Constitution’s First Amendment, once government admits one religious display or viewpoint onto public property, it may not discriminate against the content of other displays, including the viewpoints of non-believers.”

    We are a big tent, and we should be secure enough in ourselves and our beliefs to permit others holding different views to have the ability to express them.