The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

The Healing Power of Kindness
by Jean Maalouf proclaims that this spiritual virtue can bring about both societal and personal renewal. It fosters peace, creates deep joy in our hearts and makes us considerate of others. Kindness in action has a cosmic scope and divine energy. It results in works of mercy and draws us closer to God. One of its most practical applications is in speech. Maalouf notes how gossip can wound others and leave them shattered. What a challenge it is not to join others when they are ridiculing another person. But even listening to such cruelty has a toxic effect upon our consciousness. Kind words have just the opposite effect: They are salutary and healing because they offer encouragement and hope to others. Maalouf concludes that practicing kindness takes strength and perseverance. Kindness isn't a weak or sentimental notion. It is God's gift to us that constantly connects us to others (Twenty-Third Publications).

More of our choices for the most spiritually literate films of 2003 are now available in VHS/DVD.

Lost in Translation, with an Academy Award-winning screenplay by Sofia Coppola, boasts stellar performances by Bill Murray as Bob and Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte, two Americans who reach out over the age barrier to connect with each other in Tokyo. He's a middle-aged movie star in the city to make a commercial. She's right out of college and hasn't decided what to do with her life. While her husband works, she hangs around the hotel, meeting Bob in the bar and then going on a few excursions into the city with him. As they talk about life and their feelings, we realize they share a lot more than an inability to sleep (Universal Studios Home Video, R­some sexual content).

21 Grams deals with heart transplants, religious faith, artificial insemination, addiction, guilt, grief, redemption and the hold the dead have over us. It's a deeply spiritual film about a heart-transplant recipient (Sean Penn), a grieving mother (Naomi Watts) and a born-again ex-con (Benicio Del Toro) who are drawn together in a mysterious and life-changing connection. This riveting drama speaks to our souls with its incessant probes into the importance of human choice and the degradations brought on by self-destructiveness. The title 21 Grams refers to the weight we lose when we die: It's the weight of a stack of five nickels, a hummingbird, a chocolate bar and, we ask, what else? (Universal Studios HomeVideo, R--language, sexuality, some violence, drug use).

Dirty Pretty Things
is a soul-stirring movie about some illegal immigrants in London. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a doctor in Nigeria, now works at a hotel. Senay (Audrey Tautou), a Turk, is a chambermaid at the same place. Watching the decisions they have to make as they struggle to survive, we realize how invisible these immigrants are in a world built upon money, power and status (Buena Vista Home Entertainment; R--sexual content, disturbing images, language).


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February issue


Embracing diversity