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What We Were Made For and Hairspray

Book

What We Were Made For: Christian Reflections on Love by Sondra Wheeler notes that the Christian tradition teaches that “the love of God defines love and makes it possible. It is the source of all genuine loves and the standard against which all that calls itself love must be tested.” Wheeler sees the steadfast mercy of God in Hebrew Scripture as a prelude to the love made flesh in the New Testament. As we move from divine to human love, the question always arises, “Can we measure up?” Wheeler looks at the writings of Lutheran theologian Anders Nygren on agape and eros and then moves on to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ideas about love and God.

Wheeler examines some of the obstacles we encounter in intimate relationships and then reveals resources in the Christian tradition that can be helpful and healing. For example, worship limits control seeking, prayer answers loneliness and confession corrects self-deception. She concludes: “If human love sometimes seems like walking a tightrope, then the practices of faith remind us that there is a net. But just as love takes practice, so does faith.” The most impressive chapter is on “Love Without Boundaries: Strangers and Enemies” in which Wheeler assesses the hard practical work of compassion (Jossey-Bass/Wiley).

DVD

Hairspray is based on the 1988 screenplay by John Waters and the 2002 musical stage play. Choreographer and director Adam Shankman created a jubilant movie about an outsider who finds a way to fulfill her dreams. The opening scene sets the context for all that follows. The energetic and enthusiastic Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) jumps out of bed in the morning and on her way to school in 1962 sings “Good Morning Baltimore,” a tribute to her working-class neighborhood. In one fell swoop, we are taken into Tracy’s worldview where all is shot through with wild possibilities.

Her dream is to appear on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV dance party. Tracy is infatuated with Link Larkin (Zac Efron), whose girlfriend Amber (Brittany Snow) is very possessive. Amber’s domineering mother, Velma (Michelle Pfeiffer), is the TV station manager who does all she can to help her daughter again win the “Miss Teenage Hairspray” crown. She also wants to see the once-a-month “Negro Day” hosted by record-shop owner Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah) taken off the air.

It’s a delight to watch Tracy trying to fulfill her dreams, and she gets lots of support from her father (Christopher Walken), plus-sized mother (John Travolta), best friend Penny (Amanda Bynes) and other kids tired of being outsiders. Tracy’s innate hospitality makes her open to the African American community, and she’s soon marching with them in a stand against racial discrimination. She proves to be a feisty spiritual warrior whose models the right stuff (Warner Home Video—PG).


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