The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The Beatitudes for Today and End of the Spear


The Beatitudes for Today by James C. Howell is the first book in a new series for laity called “For Today,” which aims to provide reliable and accessible resources for the study of important biblical texts, theological documents and Christian practices. Questions for discussion are included at the end of each chapter.

Howell believes the Beatitudes offer a central hub for those who walk the Christian path of action and contemplation. One thing is clear: the Beatitudes aren’t in sync with contemporary culture, where the strong are saluted for winning, the meek are ridiculed, those who hunger for more goods are considered patriots, and those who protest for peace sometimes end up in jail. Jesus’ message has always connected with the poor, and Howell notes that the Beatitudes have special relevance for anyone who is miserable, oppressed or humiliated.

We were impressed with the richness and variety of quotations in this paperback from such writers as Archbishop Oscar Romero, Richard Rohr, Frederick Buechner and many others. We agree with Howell that we need always to keep before us exemplars of the faith who shaped their lives by the Beatitudes: Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Therese of Lisieux, Dorothy Day and Clarence Jordan (Westminster John Knox Press).


End of the Spear bills itself as “a true story of adventure, tragedy and a new beginning.” That it is, and much more.The story recounts how five American missionaries were speared to death by Waodani Indians in the Ecuadorian jungles of the Amazon in January 1956. The tribe was known to be a violent people whose practice of revenge had brought them to the edge of extinction.

Nate Saint (Chad Allen), a pilot and ardent Christian, wants to locate the elusive Waodani tribe and give them a message about nonviolence. He tells his young son Steve (Chase Ellison) that even if attacked he won’t use his gun: “We can’t shoot the Waodani. They are not ready for heaven. We are.” When Nate and his friends land, they try to appear friendly and peaceful. But the suspicious Indians kill them.

This might have been the end, but it isn’t. The men’s wives and children eventually go to live with the tribe. Although their leader, Mincayani (Louis Leonardo), doesn’t trust them, others do. After the missionaries set up a hospital and care for the sick during a polio outbreak, the dynamic shifts.

The last segment of the film takes place when Steve, now an adult living in the U.S., returns to Ecuador. The scene between him and Mincayani, which takes place at the site where his father was killed 40 years earlier is an emotional sunburst that lifts up in a convincing and salutary way the startling power of the gospel’s message of reconciliation (Every Tribe Entertainment, PG-13—intense sequences of violence).


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