The Jesuz of Tupac & Social Awareness

In October I get the chance to speak at the Christian Community Development Association’s (CCDA) national conference in Miami, Fl. The overall theme of the CCDA conference this year is peace. So, when asked, I proposed that I do a workshop on Tupac & peace. Oxymoron, right? Some might just say that, but I wouldn’t. In fact, just the opposite. It’s amazing to me how the media can make someone into a villain overnight, and Tupac was just that in many people’s eyes. Last Saturday, September 13, was Tupac’s 13th year death anniversary. Many people celebrated his life and his message. Here are some thoughts of mine on the Jesus of Tupac and how it all connects to being socially aware.

Tupac pioneered the dialogue about theological matters in the ‘hood and Hip Hop culture. Tupac became a lighting rod for those theological matters, both positive and negative. Tupac connected the profane to the sacred. Moreover, Tupac made religion, God, church, and community attainable for comprehension and understanding by the masses.[1] I use the term theological message as Tupac’s own interpretation of the scriptures, Jesus, salvation, and Heaven using his own contextual hermeneutic. Here, Tupac’s spiritual message is centered more on both an idealistic and realistic message for living. A lot of Tupac’s spirituality[2] was shaped over his entire life; his theological understanding came during his formative years as a child through his early adulthood.

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Tags | Music

Salting Salt

"We Christians are to be salting salt in this world. We are to try to redeem culture, even as salt stops decay and gives taste to things. That is the only task we have. If we are put in a prison camp or a concentration camp, we are not allowed to work anymore.

Well, no, maybe we can work, even there."

- Hans Rookmaaker


Reacting To vs Engaging With... The Conversation Continues

I just came across this. I copied it from a Hans Rookmaaker biography, and it speaks to this conversation about reacting to vs. engaging with our culture.

"Man is not just a piece of straw on the flow of history. He can go against the stream. It may mean we are drowned, swallowed, damaged, thrown aside; that we don't come to the end. But it is better to go upstream, fighting against the stream, than to go down and fall into the deep abyss."

-Hans Rookmaaker

Are you a movie lover? Take the Quiz

Are you a movie lover?  Do you find yourself quoting random lines from TOMMY BOY or LORD OF THE RINGS?  Then you should take the INTO THE DARK quiz.
My smart and savvy publishers at Baker Academic are giving away cash and prizes.  All you have to do is take the short, sweet, but tricky INTO THE DARK quiz. Yes, to promote the release of my new book, Baker Books has created an online movie test.   This is exactly the kind of trivia that has attracted my attention since I first saw Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.   It features twelve questions about films featured in my book–contemporary classics like MementoEternal Sunshine, and No Country for Old Men.   Only one week left to enter, so take the quiz here.
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Tags | Film


Tyler Perry is the most prolific, successful and unapologetic filmmaker blending faith and film.  His comedic first feature, Diary of a Mad Black Women introduced Madea, the broadest, most imposing and insightful black “Mama” since Hattie McDaniel in Gone with the Wind.   Perry put on a house dress and high heels to offer Madea’s comedic observations and moral corrections.    It was a tribute to his aunt and the mother who raised him.

Born outside the studio system in Perry’s Atlanta home, Diary of a Mad Black Woman became an unexpected hit, earning $50 million on a modest $5 million budget.   Only indie studio Lionsgate understood how many black moviegoers had already discovered Madea through Perry’s popular stage plays.   Years of touring on the ‘chitlin circuit’ with his melodramas had created brand loyalty.  Lionsgate and Perry have teamed up for a string of hits aimed at his devoted audience, from Madea’s Family Reunion to Why Did I Get Married? and Meet the Browns

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Tags | Film

Poetry Friday returns: Vassar Miller

Today's poet is Vassar Miller, whose inspiring and challenging story can be read on The Curator today. I encourage you to read the article, which will help illuminate the poem for you.

Without Ceremony

Except ourselves, we have no other prayer;
Our needs are sores upon our nakedness.
We do not have to name them; we are here.
And You who can make eyes can see no less.
We fall, not on our knees, but on our hearts,
A posture humbler far and more downcast;
While Father Pain instructs us in the arts
Of praying, hunger is the worthiest fast.
We find ourselves where tongues cannot wage war
On silence (farther, mystics never flew)
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Painting Over Murals That Divide

The murals created in sectarian neighborhoods during the troubles, a generational conflict between the Catholic and Protestant communities of Northern Ireland, are a dark reminder of the conflict’s legacy. Most often found in public housing estates, the murals were markers of community identity and a visual enforcement of division between communities.

With ongoing political efforts to address the heritage of division and communities overcoming the barriers that separated Catholic from Protestant, the violent murals of Belfest have come under increasing scrutiny. In a community awakening to life with less fear of violence, are the sectarian murals an important historical reminder of the past or do they continue to reinforce the divides many people are working to overcome?

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Tags | Art

Life Lessons from the Sofa

I love a good documentary. I feel like I can learn more from a well-made documentary than I ever can from watching hours of American news media. I especially love movies that expose injustice, cultural issues, or a side of humanity that is misunderstood or under-represented.

Last night, we watched Jimmy Carter: Man from Plains. I thought this would be a movie that documented the life of Jimmy Carter (which it did, and he is my new hero). But what I really learned about from the film was the ongoing struggle between Israel and Palestine. I've been aware of this conflict, but never really fully understood all the implications. This movie was so informative and I feel like I have a new compassion for both sides caught up in this struggle. Check it out - your thinking will be changed.
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Tags | Film

Three movies to look for

I recently saw the Coen brothers' new comedy, Burn After Reading. I believe it's releasing this weekend, so technically I guess I can't say too much. But let's just say that it is my kind of movie - a little dark, a little weird, and very funny. They somehow managed to make both George Clooney and Brad Pitt deeply unattractive (not a small feat, my friends), and Brad Pitt in particular is kind of astounding as a bouncy, vaguely juvenile personal trainer who shares a penchant for adventure with Frances McDormand. Also notable is the appearance of Richard Jenkins, who I am happy to see popping up all over the big screen lately.

I finally watched The Band's Visit the other night, which is now available on DVD. It's a sweet, funny comedy about an Egyptian classical folk band that gets accidentally stranded in the wrong Israeli town en route to a cultural exchange. Instead of the ethnic tension I was expecting, the film is mainly about people learning from each other and bettering one another's lives, all in the space of an evening. This is very likely going to be one of my top ten films of the year, and it's well worth seeing. (Incidentally, it's also good for people who are just getting into subtitled films; about half of it is in English, since that's the language held in common between the two groups.)
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Tags | Film

Creating Culture

The September issue of Christianity Today features several creators of culture, including my friends Makoto Fujimura and the folks at Wedgwood. If you haven't seen the article yet, be sure to pick one up - in NYC you can find it at the Union Square Barnes and Noble.

And for anyone seriously interested in the "creating culture" dialogue, plan now to come to NYC for International Arts Movement's Encounter 09 "Art in Action," February 26-28, 2009.

With presenters including former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, LIGHTPAINTER Eva Flatscher, artist Makoto Fujimura, philosopher

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