The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Born Again and Again and Good Night, and Good Luck


Born Again and Again: The Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood by Jon M. Sweeney is a bridge-building volume. We live in times of great religious divisiveness. The most obvious polarity exists between politically active Christian fundamentalists and the group they see as their archenemies, the secularists who tout reason and science as their authorities. But another battle is also being waged: the conflict between Christian fundamentalists and those associated with mainline denominations, who often call themselves progressives. Sweeney has experience in both those worlds. He was born-again at age 5 and spent his childhood, youth and coming-of-age in a fundamentalist milieu during the 1970s and 1980s. He now belongs to an Episcopal church.

Sweeney makes a convincing case for the gifts he received from this dogmatic and rigorous tradition. “Fundamentalism taught me that God was so close as to be inside my body, my heart,” he writes. “With my active childhood imagination, this theology germinated into lively spiritual experiences. I often saw God the Father and Jesus or John the Baptist above me, just hanging around, listening.”

Although Sweeney has moved away from his fundamentalist upbringing, he refuses to give up the idea that we all are born again ... and again. His practice of openness and hospitality make this autobiographical journey something special. His respect for his fellow Christians, even those with different beliefs, is something we should all emulate in our own spiritual journeys (Paraclete Press, 2005).


Good Night, and Good Luck, directed by George Clooney, is a stirring tribute to the idealism, courage and integrity of TV journalist Edward R. Murrow, who from 1953 to 1954 took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Committee and their communist witch hunt. David Strathairn stars as Murrow, a popular TV journalist whose news documentary show, See It Now, airs on CBS. He also hosts the talk show Person to Person. After Murrow and his team bring the public’s attention to the case of Milo Radulovich, who was dismissed from the Army Air Corps for being a “security risk,” without benefit of seeing the evidence against him, McCarthy accuses the journalist of being a communist sympathizer. But instead of backing off, Murrow responds on air to the charges, condemning the climate of fear consuming the country and raising key questions about the meaning of American freedom: “We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

This hard-hitting drama, although set in the 1950s, speaks directly to our times about the need to give no quarter to those who are exploiting the fears in our society as they promote policies that would place limits of our freedoms. Hats off to Clooney for giving this drama such vitality and ethical clout (Warner Independent Pictures—PG).


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February issue


Embracing diversity