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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'The Virtue in the Vice' and 'The Story of the Weeping Camel'

B O O K S

The Virtue in the Vice: Finding Seven Lively Virtues in the Seven Deadly Sins is an unusual take on the virtuous life by Robin R. Meyers, a pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Oklahoma City. He has observed that most Christians have become so fixated on sin that they have given short shrift to the virtues. He wonders why murder wasn't on the list of seven deadly sins and then goes on to characterize our culture as Roman rather than Christian, given our compulsion to seek both perfection and power.

Meyers finds within each of the seven deadly sins a life-affirming virtue that can deepen and enrich our everyday experiences. For example, envy, often called a loser's emotion, eats away at our self-esteem. The lively virtue associated with it, emulation, "takes the acid of envy and neutralizes it with a nobler human response." Instead of looking malevolently at others, we can look up to them and see that everyone can be our spiritual teacher in a world where human growth is part of the divine curriculum. Another vice, anger, can be a sign of self-centeredness, but it can also yield righteous indignation in response to injustice.

In other expansions of the meaning of the sins, Meyers notes how lust moves to holy eros; gluttony becomes communion; greed gives way to wanting wisely; and sloth becomes contentment. This important book makes the seven lively virtues into pathways to ethical action and a balanced life in troubled times (Health Communications, 2005).

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The Story of the Weeping Camel was nominated for an Academy Award this year in the documentary feature category. In the Gobi Desert of South Mongolia, four generations of nomadic shepherds live together in a community of tents. Everyone in this extended family is on alert during the camels' birthing season. The first camel to deliver is decorated with a special harness. Another has a difficult labor and gives birth to a rare white calf, which she then rejects. This causes great sorrow among the shepherds, who begin feeding the baby by hand. At one point, they tie the mother camel's legs together so the baby can suckle, but once free she wanders away, her unhappy calf following at a distance behind her.

This wonderful Mongolian film directed by Luigi Falorni and Byambasuren Davaa gives us a glimpse of life in this rugged countryside as the clan tends to their animals and deals with the elements.

This film is a total delight from start to finish. It speaks volumes about the spiritual power of nurturing as an essential ingredient in keeping life bountiful and opening the hearts of all species (Warner Home Video — PG).


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