1. The media has been saturated this past week with stories about the Aurora tragedy, and rightfully so. Ross Douthat’s “The Way We Fear Now” was one particulary striking (and slightly scary!) example:
[Holmes'] crime has probably also solidified the Batman movies’ status as a cultural touchstone for our era of anxiety… our contemporary iconography of evil is increasingly dominated by figures who seem to have stepped out of Nolan’s take on the DC Comics universe: world-burners, meticulous madmen, terrorists without a cause.
Older enemies — Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Mao’s China — represented a different form of evil: institutional rather than individual, strategic rather than anarchic, grasping and self-interested rather than unpredictable and nihilistic. However brutal and depraved their systems, they embodied alternative models of how a political order might be structured, rather than a rejection of political order itself.
By vanquishing or outlasting them, we won a great victory for civilization. But we ushered in an era in which evil seems to take on a more elusive, almost elemental form. Instead of goose-stepping Nazis, it’s technology-hating recluses or furious young men with machine guns. Instead of supervillains seeking money or world domination, it’s the Joker with his head leaning out of a police car, howling as a city falls apart.
And if we’ve somehow failed to sate your appetite for theo-philosophical takes on The Caped Crusader, Joe Carter’s “Why Batman Doesn’t Know Jesus” is particularly worthy of your time. It’s not at all what you’d expect.
2. On a more redemptive note, this is wonderful: Aurora Victim Released From Hospital, Says He Forgives Shooter, ht SZ.
3. As you may know, actress Kristen Stewart made headlines this week with the news that she cheated on her long-time boyfriend and Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson. The scenario has crossed the boundary from tabloid fodder to, um, non-tabloid fodder for a couple of reasons. First, her unqualified public apology was remarkable, highlighting just how rarely these things happen, that is, just how counter to our instincts repentance and vulnerability run, to say nothing of forgiveness and absolution (they must pay!). Contrition is a beautiful thing, is it not? The Atlantic wrote:
The apology is remarkable for a bunch of reasons: It seems heartfelt (“I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry” oozes far more contrition than Woods’s stilted, rambling 2010 statement); it’s revealing (Stewart had never officially acknowledged her relationship with Pattinson before); but most of all, it was fast. Has any high-profile cheater ever said sorry so quickly?
Second, in the teenybopper world, Stewart has come to symbolize a kind of fairy tale love–The Law of the Perfect Romance (or The Law of Being Kristen Stewart, as the case may be)–so her transgression has had significant implications outside of her personal sphere. Slate puts it well in their article, “Kristen Stewart’s Cheating Scandal and the End of the Fairy Tale.”
And speaking of fairly tales, Alan Jacobs explores the oddly strained relationship between magic and technology in the stories of Tolkien, Lewis, Gaiman and Rowling in a fun little essay, “Fall, Mortality and the Machine.”
4. “Communion on the Moon: The Religious Experience in Space” by Rebecca Rosen on The Atlantic is a terrific read, if only for Buzz Aldrin’s powerful account of celebrating communion in outerspace (even if he now regrets it):
During those first hours on the moon, before the planned eating and rest periods, I reached into my personal preference kit and pulled out the communion elements along with a three-by-five card on which I had written the words of Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.” I poured a thimblefull of wine from a sealed plastic container into a small chalice, and waited for the wine to settle down as it swirled in the one-sixth Earth gravity of the moon. My comments to the world were inclusive: “I would like to request a few moments of silence … and to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.” I silently read the Bible passages as I partook of the wafer and the wine, and offered a private prayer for the task at hand and the opportunity I had been given.
5. In the laugh-or-you’ll-cry department, Gawker reported this week that, Tony Robbins’ Inspirational Firewalk Ends in Serious Burns. Next, as the pictures adorning this post might attest, Cracked offered a ridiculously funny and not as mean or coarse as you’d expect (though still, fair warning, esp with #11) list of The 11 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Religious Paintings. Then, on Stuff Christians Like, Jon Acuff produced a pretty uncanny run-down of The 5 Commandments of Christian Passive Aggressive Notes. And last but not least, there’s the blog find of the year, Bad Vestments, an example of which is also above.
6. The Olympics begin tonight and Louisa Thomas’ “A Case of Olympism” testimonial on Grantland, in which she reflects at length on the romance and idealism (and soul!) at the heart of the event, serves as a terrific lead-in:
As much as I didn’t want to devote my youth to pushing my body up to and past its limits, I did want to be among the best at something. I even wanted to puke, just a little. As lazy as I was, as disinclined to feel pain, part of me wanted to sacrifice and suffer. I never resolved this contradiction. Instead, I did what most people do: tried to satisfy my desires in vicarious ways. I wanted so badly to have real talent that I hated to test myself. I rooted for other people to win. I watched them, whispering: citius, altius, fortius — faster, higher, stronger — like it was my own personal prayer.
7. In film, The New Yorker asks, Does Wes Anderson Hate Dogs?, and their case is more convincing than you might think. Elsewhere, Scott Tobias tackled the DVD of Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret on The AV Club, most notably the extended version which contains an extra half hour of footage. Having now seen the cut in question, all I can say is that Tobias is dead-on when he admits, “The first thought I had seeing the trailer for Margaret was, ‘How in the world did it take six years to put this thing together?’ My first thought after seeing the movie was, ‘No wonder.'”
8. In music, James Oestreich reports in The NY Times on “the wave of spirituality that is surging through the world of classical music”, and some of the soundbites he collected are really quite encouraging. And the initial buzz about Bob Dylan’s just-announced new record Tempest is exciting, the most Mockingbird-relevant tidbit being the news about “another standout track, “Pay in Blood,” includes the line, “I’ll pay in blood, but not my own.”
9. Finally, as the much-recommended Rooted Conference for Theology and Student Ministry approaches (8/9-11 in Birmingham, AL), be sure to read our very own Cameron Cole’s wonderful The Law and Abandonment Among American Youth over at The White Horse Inn.