The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month


Breakfast Epiphanies: Finding Wonder in the Everyday by David Anderson is a fine collection of inspirational essays. The author, a columnist for the and rector of Trinity Church, writes: "In all religious traditions, the door to the numinous stands in the ordinary." We just need to keep our eyes and ears open to notice it. Wonderful revelations will take us by surprise while we're doing our chores or attending to our work. As Anderson says, "There is in fact some ultimate purpose in this drama, and I have a speaking part. These epiphanies are not always glorious; there are moments when I understand how pain has a strangely rightful place, and how inscrutable life finally is. But even then, it is enough to know that this is the truth."
(Beacon Press


Spirited Away
is an English-language version of the animated feature directed by Hayeo Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, 1997) that was the most successful film ever in Japan. Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl, is moving to a new home with her parents when they take a detour and end up in a phantasmagoric world inhabited by nature spirits.

Separated from her parents, she must find within herself the pluck and the love to endure a series of dangerous tests. This cross-cultural masterpiece is similar to Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, stories that take us to an unfamiliar world where we learn to see familiar things with fresh eyes. Here greed, gluttony and selfishness are depicted as dangerous excesses to be avoided. The transformation of Chihiro from a sulky, clinging and fearful little girl into a resourceful, loving and sensitive person is a marvel to behold. Her most magic moment comes when she embraces the dark side of her best friend, which manifests itself as a dragon. Instead of turning against him, she reaches out to help him in his mission to discover his true identity.

All of the central characters in Spirited Away have a light and a dark side. Unlike so many animated features and adventure movies, this one doesn't resort to a simplistic identification of a dastardly demonic force that has to be overcome and obliterated. We aren't encouraged to develop what author on spirituality Sam Keen has called the "hostile imagination" where those who are different from us are immediately assumed to be enemies. Spirited Away frees us from excluding anyone from our world and helps us see that we are all in this together (Walt Disney, PG).


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February issue


Embracing diversity