Monday, March 16, 2015

Kill or Be Killed: Raylan Givens and the Justifications of Masculinity

This post is part of our "popular mythology" series, investigating the intersections of religion and popular culture.


By Shane Cudney

Kill or be killed. Few of us have ever faced this question in the moment of survival when instinct asserts itself and action can’t wait for deliberation. As a combat veteran, my son looked this hellhound in the eyes. While he was fortunate enough to leave Afghanistan at the end of his tour, Afghanistan never left him and he has never awakened from the nightmare. Living in a war zone does something to you. It brands you for life with the mark of hell.

For better or for much worse, the military, and every other institution, including most especially the family, are the training grounds that fundamentally shape men into who they are. These are the places where key questions are implicitly answered, the most significant of which is, what does it mean to be a man? If it’s still a man’s world, as they say, and if that world is marked by terror, violence and war, then what it means to be a man is even now inextricably linked to survival, the strategies it gives rise to, and the fear that informs them. F/X’s Justified (2010-2015), starring Timothy Olyphant, is an interesting vehicle that can’t help but explore these very questions.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Can Christianity Be Reduced to Love Seeking Justice?

By Ethan van der Leek

Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Jószepf Molnár
The Bible is filled to the brim with stories, wisdom, and prophecies of God’s liberating energies. One of the founding and establishing moments of Israel was God’s act to free them from slavery and oppression in Egypt. This event is inaugurated when God sees his people’s misery and hears them crying out. The God of the Hebrews is an attentive God, a God who responds to suffering. And it is this attentiveness that he summons his elected people too.

The event of the exodus is etched into the memory of Israel and makes its mark throughout the Old Testament. It is established at the outset of the Ten Commandments, prefacing the law given to Israel as a mark of their covenant relationship with God: “Remember the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt”. The law itself is filled with concern for the suffering; “care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger”, God says, “proclaim a year of jubilee”. It is present in the Psalms, the songbook of Israel, as a call to remember God’s faithfulness in raising Israel from Egypt. The prophets, too, claim that Israel was not faithful to God and they expressed this unfaithfulness by oppressing the poor and the land, ignoring God’s call to be a light to the nations and establish a kingdom of love and justice; Israel forgot God’s act of liberation, and established themselves as oppressors and idolaters, for which the justice of God brought them to exile.