The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month

No Room at the Table: Earth's Most Vulnerable Children
by Donald H. Dunson identifies the many kinds and large numbers of at-risk children around the world. Chapters deal with child soldiers, sexually exploited youth, children who work and never play, hungry kids, refugees and those suffering from AIDS or who have lost parents to the disease. Most people would admit to being committed to their children's safety, health and welfare. Canadian theologian Ronald Rolheiser observed: "Perhaps there is nothing in this world as powerful to break selfishness as is the simple act of looking at our own children. In our love for them we are given a privileged avenue to feel what God feels — to burst in unselfishness, in joy, in delight and in the desire to let another's life be more real and important than our own." Dunson says we must feel that kind of love and compassion toward children beyond our own households.

Dunson presents stories of the Earth's most vulnerable children. Children were soldiers in almost half of the 55 armed conflicts that raged across the world in 2002. The smuggling of youth for the purpose of sexual exploitation has become one of the fastest new branches of organized crime. The sacred trust we have with these vulnerable ones has been broken, and it's important that we find new ways to nurture and look after them (Orbis Books).

House of Sand and Fog
is an engrossing drama directed by Vadim Perlman and based on the novel by Andre Dubus III. Ben Kingsley stars as Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military under the Shah. He is living beyond his means in California with his wife and teenage son. He works with a highway crew during the day and as a convenience-store clerk at night. Then he buys a house at an auction. He plans to makes a few changes and immediately sell it for a substantial profit. The county has seized the bungalow for back taxes. The owner is Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), a recovering alcoholic who cleans houses and is still reeling from her husband's recent exit. Deputy Sheriff Lester Burdon (Ron Eldard) helps her move her meager possessions into storage until she figures out what to do next.

The fog shrouding the California coast near the bungalow almost seems like another character in the film. It becomes a metaphor for the mysteriousness of human nature, which challenges us to never judge people too quickly. The central characters are flawed but capable of kindness, love and self-sacrifice. Viewers will find themselves shifting allegiances back and forth between Behrani and Kathy as their conflict over the house escalates and draws them into a circle of anger, recrimination and loss. On an even deeper level, we can all see aspects of our dark emotions as these adversaries struggle to grab hold of what they each see as their rightful share of the American Dream.
Dreamworks, R — some violence/disturbing images, language, a scene of sexuality).


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February issue


Embracing diversity