December 6, 2016
When I first saw Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings I was struck by Howard Shore's musical score, especially his Shire theme. Immediately I noticed that as it begins we can sing right along the opening words of "This Is My Father's World" before it takes off with Shore's own melody. At first I wondered, "Doesn't he know that's a famous hymn tune?" But then it hit me. Of course he does, and he's using it on purpose.
Shore wants to communicate that if there is one place that is good and wholesome, where people appreciate beauty and the simple life, it is the Shire. Despite the evil schemes of the forces bent against Middle Earth, in the Shire and because of the Shire, we know that "though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet." By using just a half-dozen familiar notes, Shore brings all the resonances of that century-old hymn to fill in the emotional landscape of the movie. Otherwise it might have taken an entire symphonic movement to achieve the same effect.
Borrowing from the past to create something new for the future--this is how all art works. Indeed it is how all life works.
It is also how the Bible works. The New Testament is shot through with images (king, wilderness, mountain), narratives (new creation, exodus, exile), personalities (Abraham, Moses, David) and themes (redemption, faithfulness, justice) borrowed from the Old Testament. The writers very intentionally used the past to give their new content about Jesus even more weight and force than it could possibly had alone. If we miss these, if we ignore the Old Testament, we miss so much of what the New Testament authors wanted us to hear.
Christopher Wright puts it this way in The Mission of God: "The great historical account of God's redemption in the Old Testament is not like a booster rocket that, once the space capsule is launched, drops off and falls away into redundant oblivion" (p. 279). No, because the two testaments are one story, if we set aside the Old, we only have half the story. A good half, no doubt. But half nonetheless.
Next: Through Old Testament Eyes 4: Who Are the Chosen Ones?
November 29, 2016
The hillbilly or redneck culture of poor whites in Appalachia is largely hidden from view or intentionally ignored by much of the rest of the country, as the recent election showed. In Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance, who himself grew up in this culture, offers a warm yet starkly honest view of himself, his extended family and his people.Continue reading "Hillbilly Elegy"
November 17, 2016
Adolf Hitler knew his history. He knew that one of the world's greatest military geniuses, Napoleon, was defeated when he invaded Russia. Hitler knew that his Nazi generals strongly advised against opening a second front in 1941 when Germany had not yet subdued England. Yet he invaded Russia anyway. Why?Continue reading "Why Hitler Lost"
November 15, 2016
The epic life of Dmitri Schostakovich and his music offers a window into the terror of Stalin's purges and the cruelty of the Nazi blockade of his beloved Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during World War II. In Symphony for the City of the Dead, M. T. Anderson begins with Schostakovich's early life and development, taking us step by step to the climactic composition and performance of The Leningrad Symphony in the midst of the city's starvation.Continue reading "Music in the Ruins"
November 10, 2016
My wife has a heart as wide as the horizon. I have the emotional range of a turnip. While my wife disputes this, many others have confirmed it. I think I know at least part of the reason. While my name may be French, my blood seems to be Scandahoovian.Continue reading "Speaking Minnesotan"
November 9, 2016
One evening in June 1991, Michael Weisser and his wife, Julie, were unpacking boxes in their new home in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he had become the new Jewish Cantor at a Jewish congregation. The phone rang, and they answered it. "You'll be sorry you ever moved in, Jew boy," the caller said and hung up.Continue reading "Fighting Hatred in an Unexpected Way"