Advent: Collideorscape

Joshua Paetkau

The Sunday preacher is apocalyptic. A bit tongue-in-cheek, but nonetheless. This is the first Sunday of advent, after all, the dawning of the Christian year; the time when traditionally Christians began to think about death. And why not? The hustle and bustle of commercial Christmas pales, indeed vanishes, in the swirling vortex of activity that is the Christian story. Here we encounter a murderous king driven mad to the point of genocide by news of an infant birth, foreign intellectuals who undertake an incredible journey in order to lavish expensive gifts on a small family, and agrarian labourers who neglect their work in an act of spontaneous celebration. Insanity and jubilation, unfeigned merriment and unspeakable horror; the enigma of Christmas. Advent is an onslaught ominous, glorious, unpredictable. Like wildfire, like storm the news of the coming Messiah spreads causing disturbance and upheaval in its wake. What is at stake is nothing less than a fundamental reshaping of reality that leaves all who encounter it profoundly unsettled. All, that is, except those closest to the narrative’s centre of gravity. Mary and Joseph, those paragons of serenity, who accept the incredible tasks thrust upon them with an unbelievable, almost infuriating, calm. Continue reading

Love’s Work in the Reel[1]

Julia Loktev’s Film The Loneliest Planet in Review

Jeffrey Metcalfe

In the midst of a multiplicity of choices, it is difficult to find a film these days whose images and narrative do not come with a short expiration date. For anyone who has ever been in love, The Loneliest Planet is such a film. It is haunting. By following a couple’s movements through the empty foothills of Georgia, it manages to capture that elusive spirit of love that is born out of struggle. As Bonhoffer criticized his culture for being a society in which grace was cheap, so too, our contemporary culture is a place were love comes too easily, and perhaps, not at all. Yet in her film The Loneliest Planet, Julia Loktev is able to portray love not simply as a feeling, but a work, an equivocal wrestling with naïveté, betrayal, self-doubt, self-hatred, and reconciliation that ends, if not joyfully, at least with a possibility of hope. Continue reading

I Am Not The 99%

Andre Forget

I’m am not part of the 99%. I mean this in both a global and in a local sense. While many university graduates struggle to find any work at all, let alone work in their field or work that uses their degree in some way, I find myself employed by my alma mater in work that I find stimulating, meaningful and lucrative. Does this mean that I am part of the 1%? I pay my taxes fairly willingly (knowing that I will get the bulk of it back), would have voted NDP in both the federal election and the Manitoba provincial election had I been allowed, and am entirely on board with wealth redistribution. Perhaps others in my position could lend their support to the Occupy movement whole-heartedly, without a shadow of doubt. I cannot. Continue reading

The Words that Maketh Murder

A Remembrance Day review of PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake

Jonathan Dyck

“Memory forges the chain of tradition that passes events on from generation to generation.”
-Walter Benjamin, Schriften

“Let not England forget her precedence of teaching nations how to live.”
-John Milton, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce

“The West’s asleep. Let England shake, weighted down with silent dead. I fear our blood won’t rise again.” With these somber words, a flinty-voiced PJ Harvey begins to taunts a futile “Bobby” whose only real cause or desire is the spread of indifference. It’s an eerie way to begin, especially when you already know what’s coming: a series of grim reflections on the necessary interplay between war and nation. On the opening title track, Harvey’s voice sounds detached—almost ironically so; her vocals playfully dance along to a xylophone melody lifted from Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon’s “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” If Harvey’s narrator is right to accost the Bobby for his indifferent “smile,” she offers an even more chilling form of apathy when she blankly states, “England’s dancing days are done.” It’s the first of many jarring contradictions that make up one of this year’s best and most thought-provoking albums. It’s also a sobering critique of the West’s continuing, increasingly implausible faith in the idols of history and nation. Continue reading

Whose Religion? Which Cult? Seeing on the Margins

Sean Durkin’s Film Martha Marcy May Marlene in Review

Jeffrey Metcalfe

In a time when the greed of liberal capitalism has brought the global economy to the knife’s edge of utter collapse, it may seem frivolous to spend time at the movies. Indeed as the Occupy protesters continue their encampments, the often-heard criticism by the elite – the infamous 1% – is the hypocrisy of the protesters own positions. Are they not organizing their traffic stoppages on their iphones while they sip Starbucks lattes? Are they not themselves the very consumers who keep the death march of infinite protest going? How then can they make a legitimate critique of a system in which they are implicated? We can imagine the critics shouting: “let the hippies leave their communes and go home, let them get jobs and stop complaining about a system that supports them.”

Rather than feeling like you are handing over 30 pieces of silver for a pass to the cinemas this weekend, as Martha Marcy May Marlene hits theaters, few critics of capitalism could do better then to put their protest signs back in their yurts for a few hours (its okay, you will want to take them up again later) and head over to their local cinemas for Sean Durkin’s new film. Continue reading

The Didache and the Ordo Romanus Primus

Their Social Imaginaries and Contemporary Liturgical Implications

Jeffrey Metcalfe

“A Human being is by nature a political animal.”1

-Aristotle

As the Canadian scholar James K. Smith has argued, one might equally say that human beings are “liturgical animals,”2 for our politics do not proceed first from a theoretical idea, but are always and already arriving from a set of pre-cognitive practices, “carried in images, stories, and legends.”3  According to Charles Taylor, these precognitive practices combine to construct a social imaginary which posit answers to the question “what constitutes a fulfilled life,”4 thus creating the ground upon which political choices will be made.  If then, as Smith suggests, liturgy is a practice which operates on the precognitive level, forming a particular kind of social imaginary, then it follows that liturgy will be both a reflection and a production of political reality. Continue reading