According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Strong Themes of Redemption in Disney's 2017 Beauty & the Beast



From the start I knew the remake of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" (2017) was going to be phenomenal. How? Why because its main character was to be the redoubtable Emma Watson of "Harry Potter" fame! It would be from Emma's many talents and gifts who would bring so naturally her own special British magic to the 25 year old original film story for a new generation of youth to enjoy. No need for Harry Potter this time as our wizardress-heroine Hermione Granger reprises an even stronger role in the character of beloved Belle's deep inner strengths we have come to know and love of Emma's graceful acting upon this 17th Century French legend from long ago.

Besides caring for her father who is a genius clockmaker - recalling to the mind the talented Farrer family of Scottish clockmakers - Belle is portrayed "time and again" :) as one of those rare talents who knows what she's about and how she wishes to invest her life for the general good of all whom she meets. She has no visions of being a stay-at-home-mom when she can lead and teach and educate all who are willing to listen and follow her determination to break out of the life's many defining molds.

But to those narcissistic brutes like a Gaston who carelessly go about life heedless of the harm they do - Belle can only reach out as a feeble broken mirror towards a more reflective way of life offering more than mere self-pleasure and gratification. But as a developing redemptive figure she can only go so far without the willing response of the other in genuine acknowledgement and purposeful change. This, Gaston is not willing to do, as he becomes a darker image of himself as the movie progresses across its colorful scenes of disquieted unrest. Here then lies the truer beast of the film which no magic can undo as Gaston finds his own ruinous ends of self-destruction molded by hateful discrimination's unrelenting drive to subdue a kingdom that is his alone to ruthlessly rule. It is not a dissimilar darkness to the one we saw before throughout the Harry Potter series in Lord Voldemort's committed quest for absolute power over the individual dignities and freedoms of others he would subvert.



The other sad feature of the film is the town people's deep forgetfulness of who they were when having once served the Prince - himself now turned to an angry Beast - when once they had found their own "life and light" in the duties of princely order and rule. But when the Prince lost his way, they, like himself, would be tested as to their truer heart's advocations. It was only through a Prince's belated contrition that a townspeople might once again find its purpose and place in life. And the Prince? It took Belle's forgiving sacrifice and compassionate healing touch to raise him up from the dead (quite literally at the end of the story) to enable him to lead, encourage, and serve his townsfolk again. A Prince once lost to himself in a heart grown cold and beastly. And when done, we sadly find a townsfolk loss to their own purposes to become the more willing pawns to any fiction of leadership which might arrive as substitute role. Which it did in the self-declarative vows of the reprobate personage of Gaston whose leadership is decidely unprincely and thoroughly devoid of compassion, kindness or the slightest hints of thoughtfulness.

It is into these several dramas dear Belle comes to redeem beginning with her simple, fatherly home life that only truly lives with her presence abiding and caring within; then into a small colloquial town inhabited by provincially well-meaning peasants (usually a delight but never in any village when harboring deep stereotypes of fear and ignorance); soon, across the ways of deceiving manly men (Gaston); and later into the torn angers of a fallen hubris (the Beast). To all Belle comes to redeem as the unlikeliest of redeemers. Betrayed by her singing heart and ready goodwill to the difficult tasks lying ahead, she little realizes her difficult course had been set many years earlier by a magician's curse upon the town's beloved Prince.




At which point Belle "comes of age" during a steadily growing infliction of deep personal struggles for survival against a host of unworthies found upon the lying lips of gossip, innuendo, and name-calling; or, an unwanted and troublesome wooer; or that of a struggling aged father dealing with social disconnectedness; or a threatening dark forest holding dangerous rending wolves; and soon thereafter, a foreboding castle ravaged by anger's lost where her worst fears come to life. Fears which seem to mount upwards like the endless towering turrets climbing across the rooflines of a hidden castle's sinister aspect. Here she finds her imprisoned father to then be confronted by the unhopeful dilemma of herself being trapped forever as a prisoner. Thus stealing from her any possibility of becoming who she might become - very life and light to all who would come into her sphere of influence. But rather than to think on these things, in rapid, willful exchange she sacrifices her right to life by freeing her doomed father held against his will for stealing a garden rose from the Beast's beknighted estates. Belle's role as would-be savior unceremoniously ends with the echoing clang of an heavy iron door ringing shut met by a gloomy darkness settling everywhere about.

How curious then that in the midst of dashed hopes and dreams, in the darkest of hours, some lifestories have opportunity to rise above the meanness and anger spinning around them? These are the rare stories of heroes and heroines who breath life into the world's blackness to shine a radiant light into the cellars of imaginations grown cold with time and loss. It is a story as old as the one we find in the personage of Jesus come into a world more religious than godly, more hateful than loving, more ignorant than enlightened. It is a story where to find life one must lose their life in order for others to live. It is a story "as old as time" where when the promised "rose of life" drops its last decaying petal may come the promised luxuriant redemption of love and forgiveness when needed most from the most unlikeliest source of empowerment. That of a hopeful spirit learning her strength of resilency and foresightedness against the unsightly darkness of a world forgetting itself and the good it could do with each other.

God bless the Belle's of this life. Let us learn to listen to them, and allow them to be the blessings they must be for the good of our souls and this wobbly world we live in. There can be no better magic than the heartwarming magic of love and forgiveness! Peace.

R. E. Slater
March 26, 2017





A CRYSTAL FOREST
poetry link

by William Sharp

The air is blue and keen and cold,
With snow the roads and fields are white
But here the forest's clothed with light
And in a shining sheath enrolled.
Each branch, each twig, each blade of grass,
Seems clad miraculously with glass:

Above the ice-bound streamlet bends
Each frozen fern with crystal ends.
.
.
.
Belle reads William Sharp's poem "A Crystal Forest"
in Beauty & the Beast and then adds the following
lines from the Disney script:

"For in that solemn silence is heard
in the whisper of every sleeping thing:

Look, look at me,
Come wake me up
for still here I'll be."



BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Official Trailer (2017)
Emma Watson, Dan Stevens Movie




Emma Watson sings as Belle 
n Disney's 2017 "Beauty & the Beast"








Belle the Bold: How Disney’s New Beauty and
the Beast Redefines the Classic, Heroine Role
http://www.vogue.com/article/beauty-and-the-beast-screening-artist-cleo-wade

March 13, 2017

On the night of International Women’s Day, an intimate group of editors joined artist, activist, and poet Cleo Wade for a special screening of Disney’s new live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. The film, which stars Emma Watson as a stronger, more intrepid and courageous Belle, confronts classical fairy-tale traditions by redefining the princess role. Following the screening at the Crosby Street Hotel, Wade led a discussion addressing the movie’s themes of female empowerment, human compassion, and unconditional love. Below are some of the evening’s highlights.

Belle is not the typical “Beauty” . . .

“There is no hero in this film, only a ‘she-ro,’ ” said Wade. “I love what a nontraditional princess Belle [Watson] is. She is the ‘girl power’ princess . . . there is not a single moment in the film where she is the damsel in distress.” Throughout the movie, Belle proves she’s an educator, an innovator, and a swift decision-maker. “She’s obsessed with reading, and she’s the one always saving the day,” said Wade. Assertive and brave, Belle consistently refuses the advances of the dim-witted hunk Gaston, and in doing so, sets her bar high. “I love in life when women are able to set their standards and keep their standards. Then the men have to rise to those standards,” Wade said.

. . . And Gaston is just not good enough.

“I thought Gaston was really interesting because he is more than a character—he is a symbol of a certain type of male who, I think, is not enough for the modern woman,” said Wade. Belle’s refusal of Gaston sends a clear message that a man’s interest alone is not a reason to acquiesce. “He’s not just the guy that you are annoyed with. For young girls, it’s like, ‘This is not good enough for you.’ ”

The village rally, initiated by Gaston, is a warning sign for modern times.

Apart from being a former captain in the army, Gaston is also the de facto leader of the village. When he hears about the Beast, his immediate reaction is to mobilize troops and attack. “It was so interesting to see the parallels in real life,” said Wade about this moment in the film. “This one thing—just proof the Beast exists—is used to rally a large group of people behind something that isn’t necessary true or real. I so hope that young people watch this film and understand that there are two sides to every story. You never know—the beast can actually be a prince.”




The cast of "Beauty and the Beast"
dish on the upcoming remake






A tale of two Belles: 1991 and 2017.


How Disney Subtly Made ‘Beauty And The Beast’ More Feminist
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-disney-subtly-made-beauty-and-the-beast-more-feminist_us_58cfd97ce4b0ec9d29dd676f

by Emma Gray
March 20, 2017


The new film goes to great lengths to demonstrate
Belle’s agency in every part of the story.

For women who grew up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, few characters loom larger than Belle from the 1991 Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast.”

Compared to her Disney princess predecessors, Belle was a revelation. She wasn’t asleep for 75 percent of a story that centered around her (”Sleeping Beauty”). She did more than dress up for a ball (”Cinderella”) and unintentionally threaten other women with her beauty (”Snow White”). And she didn’t have to woo a man while physically stripped of her voice (”The Little Mermaid”). Belle, with her interest in learning and reading, and her lack of interest in being married off to a walking caricature of toxic masculinity, presented a portrait of a more empowered Disney princess.

The latest iteration of the 18th-century fairy tale is the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” starring Emma Watson, which came out over the weekend with a record-breaking $170 million in ticket sales. It’s delightful to watch, complete with stunning visuals, splashy musical numbers and a subtle but refreshingly feminist update.

Feminists have long grappled with the contradictory forces that are at play in the 1991 Disney film. On the one hand, Belle maintains a strong sense of self throughout the movie. She has a passion for books. She is defiant in the face of men who want to make decisions for her. She is fiercely loyal to her father. She wants adventure “much more than this provincial life.” On the other hand, she falls in love with a literal animal who initially tells her that she must remain his prisoner forever.

Over the years, the movie has received strong criticism for romanticizing Stockholm Syndrome and sending a message to young girls that it is their job to tame the male “beasts” in their lives. The 2017 version of “Beauty and the Beast” had to contend with this critique before it was even released, with Emma Watson pushing back on it in a February interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“It’s something I really grappled with at the beginning; the kind of Stockholm Syndrome question about this story,” she said. “That’s where a prisoner will take on the characteristics of and fall in love with the captor. Belle actively argues and disagrees with [Beast] constantly. She has none of the characteristics of someone with Stockholm Syndrome because she keeps her independence, she keeps her independence of mind.”

The new film goes to great lengths to demonstrate Belle’s agency in every part of the story, amplifying things that are only subtly touched on in the animated version, and in some cases, creating totally new pieces of plot.

In the 1991 film, Belle is an avid reader. In the 2017 version, she wants to pass that skill and passion along to other girls. (At one point in the film, she attempts to teach a young girl in town to read and is reprimanded by the older male schoolmaster.) And to make it even clearer that Belle’s mind ― not her pretty face ― is her greatest asset, the film turns her into an inventor. She is shown doing the laundry with a contraption she invented herself, sort of a horse-powered precursor to the washing machine.

The movie also makes a point to highlight her romantic agency. Belle rejects the overtures of town cad Gaston even more clearly in 2017 than she did in 1991, telling him flat-out that they could never ever make each other happy and that she will never marry him.


And when it comes to the slow burn romance between Belle and the Beast, the film at least attempts to offer a better explanation for their eventual amorous connection ― and attempts to make it clear that Belle never accepts her fate as a permanent prisoner. She swears to her father that she will escape from the Beast’s castle when she forces him to to trade spots with her. On her first night in the castle, she begins constructing a long chain made of dresses, implying that she might use it in the future to scale her way out of the castle.

Later on, rather than simply justifying Belle and Beast’s romantic bond with one life-saving incident, a few snowballs and a few books (though all of those elements are present in the new movie), the updated version leaves more room for their affection to grow. They discuss Shakespeare and King Arthur. They briefly travel to Paris through an enchanted book and learn about the fate of Belle’s mother ― a character whose existence is ignored in the animated movie. The resulting emotional intimacy bolsters the argument that the Beast has earned Belle’s eventual love.

As an added bonus, the side characters, both women and men, are fleshed out in ways that add to the stakes of the story. The audience is not just invested in Belle and her quest for love, understanding and adventure. We also feel for the other inhabitants of the cursed castle. The family film also highlights (albeit subtly) an openly gay character, Le Fou, and includes two prominent interracial couples ― Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald) and new character Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci).

Interestingly, despite its shortcomings, “Beauty and the Beast” has always included elements of feminist commentary ― even in its earliest iterations. The fairy tale was first published in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, and then revised and republished in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Even the earliest version of story ― which contains many narrative elements that the 1991 animated film does not ― pushed back on the notion that women must be resigned to a marital partner of their father’s choosing, something that was common practice in 18th-century France.

This theme of ownership over one’s life choices comes through quite strongly in the 1991 film.

As French professor Paul Young told Time of the story’s 18th-century context: “[’Beauty and the Beast’ is] a story written and published by a woman, with a strong female character at its lead, who is very reflective and intelligent and she makes her own choices, which is not something you saw in French literature or in French society at the time.”

Of course, there will always be limits to the progressive messaging of a story that involves a woman falling in love with a man who begins as her captor. But in 2017, the “tale as old as time” manages to strike a balance between the warmth of nostalgia and the importance of feminist progress. So, Disney, if you’re thinking of giving feminist updates to more of the classics... Be Our Guest!