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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Best this month

B O O K S

Bethlehem Besieged: Stories of Hope in Times of Trouble
by Mitri Raheb, a Palestinian Arab and Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem, is a sad and powerful firsthand account of what it has been like to live under years of Israeli occupation. Raheb says writing it has been an act of nonviolent resistance since it speaks out against the many injustices suffered by his people. For the Palestinians, curfew is "a state of wholesale imprisonment" in that it closes down schools, ends the regular functioning of businesses and forces clinics to shut their doors. And the situation has worsened since Israel started building 24-foot-high walls with trenches, buffer zones, barbed wires and sensors around Bethlehem and other cities. The author notes the similarity of this policy to the creation of homeland areas during South Africa's apartheid era. But some programs in the community are designed to lift the spirits of the people, and he discusses them as he calls for a workable peace. That is why the concluding pages of this paperback where Raheb spells out the meaning of Christian hope are so inspiring (Augsburg Fortress, 2004.)

M O V I E S

The Village
is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who has made a string of successful movies that deal with the mysteries of faith, family, inexplicable events and the ties that bind very different people together in adverse situations. This film is set in a late 19th century village that is run by a sober group of elders led by Edward Walker (William Hurt) who are pleased with the simple and harmonious life they have created for their community. The children are well-disciplined, but they are also free enough to have some fun with their chores, splashing water on each other or twirling around while sweeping the porch.

Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) is a quiet but intense young man who has a deep yearning to help his community after a child dies because they lack medicine. He wants to get some from "the towns," but that requires walking through the surrounding woods where terrible creatures live. Everyone is frightened of these violent beings — referred to as "those we don't speak of." The only other fearless person in the community is Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard), a tomboy who although she is blind has keen insights into what is going on around her.

The Village is a powerful, surprising and wise movie about the dangers of a fear-based culture that segregates the world into "us" vs. "them." Although safety is a universally recognized value, it can never replace love and hope, two spiritual values that are saluted in this extraordinary film. And last, but not least, any community that focuses all its energies on the evil outside usually proves defenseless against the dark forces within its walls (Buena Vista Pictures, PG-1 — scene of violence, frightening situations).


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November issue

NOVEMBER issue:

The ELCA's aging clergy wave

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