Feb 08, 2005
When my parents bought their home in Marshall, Texas, in 1984, there were 96 mature trees on their one-acre lot, many of them towering pines that rise 75 feet or more from the ground, covering their house with a peaceful green canopy. These giant pines are beautiful but deadly. Now and then an unbalanced growth pattern or a particularly savage storm disrupts the delicate balance of one of these trees, causing it to topple. The tree leans and the ground bulges. Roots snap with gunshot concussions as the tree begins to fall.
When Nadarajah Arulnathan visits his church at Pasikudah, he puts on a surgical mask because along the way he must pass rotting bodies tangled in the underbrush. They can’t be removed because of the landmines, washed loose from a nearby military base and scattered across the land. The church sanctuary is battered but still stands.
On my last night in Nyala, in southern Darfur, convoys of combat-ready security forces circled the streets of the city, which has become part fortress, part camp for the displaced, and part home for dozens of international humanitarian groups.
The “kingdom” of God and “gospel” are usually thought of as terms unique to Christianity. And who else but Jesus was called not only “the son of God” but also “Lord” and “Savior”?
In fact, say biblical experts, these terms and concepts were already familiar to residents of the Roman Empire who knew them as references to the authority and divinity of the emperors, beginning notably with Caesar Augustus before the dawn of the first century.
In The Woodsman, Kevin Bacon plays Walter Rossworth, a pedophile who, having served a 12-year prison sentence, tries to settle down to a normal life. His sister has disowned him, but his brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt) remains friendly. He has a tough but tender co-worker, Vicki (played by Bacon’s real-life wife, Kyra Sedgwick), who is drawn to him and doesn’t recoil when he reveals his past.
At a dinner in honor of a prominent guest, I was seated next to a woman who works for CBS.The tsunami had just struck off the coast of Sumatra with all its destructive force, and we were talking about the magnitude of desolation, the plight of the victims and the insanity of the event. She knew I was a theologian, so she broached the question of God. “Where was God?” she asked bluntly. “How can one believe in a good God in the face of such suffering?” And that’s when I made my mistake.