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I'll Come Speak

    I write and speak on all sorts of topics: ancient Christian spirituality and the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Jesus Prayer, marriage and family, the pro-life cause, cultural issues, and more. You can contact Cynthia Damaskos of the Orthodox Speakers Bureau if you’d like to bring me to an event. This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.

 

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Sunday
Oct092011

PBS Interview: Higher Ground

[October 8, 2011]

Here’s a link to my interview on the PBS show, “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” about the movie Higher Ground:

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/october-7-2011/higher-ground/9668/

 

Tuesday
Aug302011

Interview with Vera Farmiga, "Higher Ground" Director

Here’s what happens. You prepare for a phone interview with an actor or director by thinking up a list of questions. Really, you only need one or two good ones, and the conversation takes care of itself.

 

But the person being interviewed has a different perspective. There are certain points they want to get across, regardless of which questions you ask. They may have been reiterating these same points into different microphones a dozen times a day for many days.

 

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Tuesday
Aug302011

Higher Ground

When evangelicals hear that there’s a new movie about their brand of Christianity, they get nervous. All too often they are presented as idiots or villains. Stereotypes about narrow-mindedness, intolerance, cultish mind-control, and harsh subjugation of women abound.

 

Carolyn Briggs’ 2002 memoir, This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost hit a number of those notes. When their church leaders counsel her not to get a college degree, when they counsel her husband to forgo a plum job opportunity because they need instead the headship of the church leaders, when she refused medication during a complicated pregnancy and scoffed at taking shelter during a tornado, well, it sounds to many evangelicals like a pretty kooky church, if not a cult. But don’t expect members of the general public to make that distinction. Christianity Today’s review commented, “Unfortunately, this book is likely to win plaudits for its savaging of evangelical Christianity as the source of one woman’s oppression, and her abandonment of that faith as a fount of liberation.”

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Friday
Jul152011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, the eighth and final film in the Harry Potter series, opens today in a blaze of special effects: castles burning, bridges collapsing, dragon-fire blasting, stone knights clunking stiffly to life, giants whacking smaller figures off the earth like tiny golf balls. This is not the first fantasy-action film to suffer under a Disproportionatus Curse, in which whatever profound themes exist in a book are obliterated, in the film version, by spectacle. This is a two-hour movie, and one hour is devoted to the battle at Hogwarts. What adolescent boys think of as “the good part,” and headachey adults as “the noisy part,” is delivered with exuberance and excess. Many young fans are looking for exactly that, and the film will fulfill all their hopes.

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Friday
Jul012011

Larry Crowne

Picture Tom Hanks. Got it? OK, now picture a guy whom Julia Roberts would find so overwhelmingly yummy that she would not only kiss him with the enthusiasm of a golden retriever, but even try to jump up and wrap her legs around his waist. Now, very slowly, try to merge those two images.

 

If you can’t do it, don’t feel bad. Almost no one can come up with a result they find plausible. Almost no one but Tom Hanks.

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Thursday
Jun302011

Vita

COMPLETE  VITA

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Wednesday
Feb232011

Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer

What’s so mysterious about the Jesus Prayer? It’s one of the shortest and simplest prayers you can find: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.” It’s one of the most ancient prayers, too; think of how often in the Gospels people ask Jesus for mercy. A prayer for mercy would likely have been one of the variations when the Desert Mothers and Fathers (AD 2nd-5th c), who sought to pray constantly, were trying out different short, repeated verses of Scripture to discipline the wandering mind. (St. Augustine reports that they “have very frequent prayers, but these are very brief.”) Those ancient monasteries and hermitages are the spiritual nursery in which the Jesus Prayer had its birth. 

 

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Wednesday
Feb092011

The Illusionist

[National Review Online; Feb 10, 2011]

The Illusionist has been nominated for Best Animated Feature (I mean the new animated film, of course, not the 2006 live-action movie by the same title), and no one who has seen it was surprised. It is simply a beautiful motion picture. Our protagonist, slipping past middle age, watches mountains and rivers flow past his train window; rain is drizzling, summer is fading into fall, and on the soundtrack someone is wandering around the piano keys in a Gallic sort of way. Sigh. What could be more delicately poignant, or more lovely?

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Sunday
Jan232011

Good Nous

I was once asked to give a talk at Washington’s National Cathedral on prayer in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. I brought with me a large icon, one familiar to many people, showing the Holy Trinity as the three visitors who came to Abraham (Gen. 19:1-8); it was painted by St. Andrei Rublev in 1410. I set up the icon on an easel, but after saying a few words about it, focused on the Jesus Prayer. This simple, repetitive prayer—“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”— was developed by the Desert Fathers, as a help toward learning to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).

But when we re-gathered for a workshop later on, I found that the participants wanted to know more about the role of the icon. What is its function in prayer? What are the prayers used when looking at an icon?

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Wednesday
Oct132010

Life As We Know It

How bad can a blind date be? When Eric Messer (“Call me Messer”) shows up an hour late at Holly Berenson’s apartment, invites her to climb onto his motorcycle in a sheath dress and high heels, then answers his phone and makes a date for later (“11:00”—a glance at Holly—“no, 10:30”), it could hardly be worse. 

Who thought these two would mesh? Pete Novack, Messer’s best friend from high school, and Alison, Holly’s best friend from college. After the disastrous date, we see a montage of home-movie clips of Pete and Alison’s life—wedding, dinners, parties, and baby Sophie’s first birthday—with Messer and Holly eternally sparring in the background.

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