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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Best this month

Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat's reviews are now available on the Web. If you would like more information on something reviewed in this column, visit www.SpiritualityHealth.com. More than 3,000 recent reviews exist in the database, and new ones are added every week.

B O O K S

The Good Life: Truths That Last in Times of Need
by Peter J. Gomes proves that Christian character-building virtues can provide meaning and adventure to all our days. While U.S. culture celebrates success and happiness as the rewards of the good life, Gomes turns instead to the virtues affirmed by Thomas Aquinas (prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude) and those outlined by Paul (faith, hope, love). Gomes, an African American whom Time named as one of the seven best preachers in America, thinks far too much emphasis has been put on becoming, as writer Tom Wolfe sarcastically put it, "masters of the universe." The Christian tradition reveals that individuals can profit from their failures and use them as "teachable moments." Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer went further when he observed: "The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard."

Gomes hits high stride in his elucidation of faith, hope and love, which he sees as both the content and the expression of the good life (HarperSanFrancisco).

M O V I E S

Skins
is the second feature film from Native American director Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals). It revolves around a trickster spirit that takes hold of a serious and self-righteous Native American cop and takes him for a strange ride. This incredibly engaging drama was shot at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It's based on a 1995 novel by poet Adrian C. Louis, who taught on this Lakota Sioux reservation, located in the poorest county in the United States. It has 75 percent unemployment, substandard living conditions and rampant alcoholism. Those who live here have a 50 percent shorter life expectancy than other Americans.

Eric Scheig stars as Rudy. This policeman has his hands full looking after his alcoholic brother Mogie (Graham Greene), who hasn't been the same after returning from Vietnam with three Purple Hearts.

Skins is the kind of small movie that usually has a hard time finding an audience. But this touching story set in a place of great suffering and loss deserves to be experienced by those who cherish intimate dramas about individuals struggling against all odds to practice love, compassion and forgiveness (First Look Pictures, not rated).

V I D E O S

The Rookie
tells the wonderful story of a young boy whose hope of one day playing baseball is supported by Rita, patron saint of impossible dreams, and the community where he grew up. Dennis Quaid puts in a superb performance in this true story of the Texan who in 1999 became the oldest rookie major league baseball star to take the field in 40 years. Rachel Griffiths is just right as his loving wife, and Angus T. Jones enthusiastically plays his adoring son. The Rookie salutes the power of yearning in our lives while also paying tribute to the unique ways we depend on others to make our fondest dreams come true (Buena Vista, G).


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