The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The Soul of Christianity and The Interpreter


The Soul of Christianity: Restoring the Great Tradition
by Huston Smith presents the “spiritual gold of Christianity, its intellectual expanse, the vastness of its atmosphere, and its genius for cutting through to the quick of life.” Smith’s parents were missionaries in China and instilled in him a faith that could transcend the secular culture of modernity. He went on to study many traditions and is considered the pre-eminent public scholar of world religions. He believes the myth of endless progress through science-powered technology has run out of steam and that the times are ripe for a retrieval of first millennium Christianity and its voices of peace, justice and beauty.

Although he covers many dimensions of Christianity, he reveals the most enthusiasm in his portrait of Jesus as a charismatic wonder-worker and exemplary teacher.

He sees Jesus’ life as one of “humility, self-giving and love that sought not its own.” He is quite taken with Jesus’ use of invitational language to work with people’s imaginations and to open them to God’s kingdom.

Smith also celebrates the early Christian community as comprised of radiant individuals who seemed to be released from fear, guilt and self-centeredness: “They evidenced a tranquility, simplicity, and cheerfulness that their hearers had nowhere else encountered”—a kind of transformation the world desperately needs today (HarperSanFrancisco, available from www.amazon.com).


The Interpreter
is a political thriller set in New York City that revolves around events at the U.N. Translator Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) grew up in Southern Africa and is fluent in several languages. One evening she overhears a voice mentioning a plan to assassinate Dr. Zuwanie, the leader of Matobo (a fictional African country in the vicinity of Zimbabwe), who will be addressing the U.N. in a few days. Secret Service agent Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) is assigned to investigate.

Suspecting that Silvia might be lying or even involved in the plot, he grills her unmercifully. Zuwanie has been suppressing all dissent and is linked to genocide, and Silvia also has personal reasons for opposing him.

Grief is an important theme. Both Tobin and Silvia have lost loved ones to violence. When he shares the anger he feels, she tells him about an African ritual for a community’s treatment of killers. The guilty person is taken out in a boat and thrown into the lake. The community can send someone out to save him or they can let him drown. Ancestral wisdom says the only way to end grief is to save a life. The alternative, revenge, leaves behind a poisonous residue. As Silvia puts it, “Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.” (Universal Studios Home Video, PG-13—violence, some sexual content and brief strong language).


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February issue


Embracing diversity