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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Rabble-Rouser for Peace and Sweet Land

Book

Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu by John Allen presents the life of the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has spent his days seeking justice for his people and waging a battle for peace in a war-torn world. Tutu came up with the phrase “the rainbow nation” as a description for the new South Africa. He overcame a sickly childhood to become a teacher like his father. In seminary he showed gifts for leadership and went on to study theology in London. He left his position as bishop of Lesotho to become the first black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches. This ministry’s biggest challenge was working for racial reconciliation.

Allen, who joined Tutu’s staff in 1986, reveals the boldness with which this church leader defied apartheid, his courage in the face of arrests and death threats, and his attempts to have racist leaders put their Christian beliefs in sync with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. The author also presents a robust overview of Tutu’s role and importance as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, convened to deal with the aftermath of apartheid. This spiritual leader emphasized the crucial moral role of forgiveness for all sides. Today Tutu continues to speak out against war and the international crisis of AIDS/HIV, which is rampant in Africa. Allen singles out Tutu’s rigorous and consistent appeal to reconciliation as the means of healing community as his single most enduring legacy (Free Press; available from www.amazon.com).

Film

Sweet Land
is a beautifully written, acted and directed movie about the blooming of love, the powerful hold of place and the challenges faced by communities who distrust outsiders. Here is a tender and touching drama about the American immigrant experience set in Minnesota in the 1920s. Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) arrives with two suitcases and a large gramophone to marry Olaf (Tim Guinee), a stoic and soft-spoken Norwegian farmer. But Pastor Sorrenson (John Heard) refuses to perform the ceremony after discovering that she doesn’t have the proper immigration papers and she is German. In this rural community, memories of World War I have made the people resentful of Germans and convinced they aren’t trustworthy or morally upright. Reaser carries Sweet Land on her shoulders as the feisty outsider whose love of music equals her patience in coping with prejudice toward her and her own dashed expectations about a new life in America.

In counterpoint to this story of courtship and love is the film’s treatment of the harm that comes from hatred of strangers. The late spiritual writer Wayne Teasdale once noted: “Openness is receptivity to everyone and everything. It is quite fundamentally an other-centeredness, a disposition of availability to others.” Sweet Land makes openness to others into an engaging story of love, memory and hospitality (Libero, PG).


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