The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'When Jesus Came to Harvard' and 'A Love Song for Bobby Long'


When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today
by Harvey Cox relates the stories of Jesus and stories about him to some of the most nettlesome ethical and moral conundrums of our times, including genetics, money, intergenerational conflict, medical procedures, race, ecology, torture, violence and nonviolence, leadership styles, and death and dying. For nearly 20 years, Christian theologian Cox has taught a popular course titled "Jesus and the Moral Life" to Harvard undergraduates. This book recounts what he learned from that experience and his students' reactions. He discovered, for example, that Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim, as well as Christian, students were drawn to Jesus. Many of them struggled to relate Jesus' words and actions in the past to the complex issues of their present lives. A directive such as "Do not be anxious about tomorrow" was particularly hard to swallow in a culture where concern about the future is constant and datebooks or Palm Pilots are a necessity.

The secret of understanding the relevance of Jesus to contemporary issues, Cox states, is to use our imaginations to enter the situation he is discussing and empathize with those he describes, similar to the way Roman Catholics have used the spiritual exercises of Ignatius. These approaches yield a lively and salutary alternative understanding to the just-the-facts obsession of our society. Cox brings to this multileveled consideration of Jesus an informed sensitivity, sharpened discrimination and an ethically awakened conscience. (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).


A Love Song for Bobby Long is a heart-affecting drama fashioned with love, care and creativity by first-time writer and director Shainee Gabel. Upon inheriting a house in New Orleans from her mother, 18-year-old Pursy (Scarlett Johansson) discovers that it comes complete with two alcoholic men — Bobby Long (John Travolta), a once highly respected college professor, and Lawson (Gabriel Macht), his former teaching assistant who is writing a book. Even though the place is in shambles, Pursy moves in, hoping to learn more about her mother, who abandoned her long ago.

Pursy has a fine time exchanging barbs with Bobby, who doesn't like the changes she brings to their home. What really rubs him the wrong way is Lawson's puppy-dog adoration for the newcomer. The writer suggests that this high-school dropout finish her studies, especially when he learns that she has a dream of becoming a medical assistant. These three go through some hard spots before they begin to gel as an improvised family. Some of the best movies chart the fragile and mysterious movements of yearning in the lives of flawed human beings who are courageously seeking new life in strange places. This is one of them (Lions Gate‚ R—language, including some sexual references).


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February issue


Embracing diversity