Season of Anxiety

Third Sunday of Advent

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

One of the high-water marks of 20th century culture, an event that I revisit every year, is the 1965 television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. The fact that it continues to air fifty years after its premiere lets me know that I’m not alone in this assessment. And while the conclusion, when Linus strides onto the stage to remind Charlie Brown and all those gathered in the school gym “What Christmas is really all about,” might be the most rousing part of the short film, the opening scenes also speak in a pretty powerful way to the human condition. Read more

Tough Guy

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 31:10-31 OR Wisdom 2:12-22
Psalm 1
James 3:16-4:3
Mark 9:30-37

Over the recent Labor Day weekend, one of the movie channels was showing a Rocky marathon, so I took the opportunity to introduce my kids to a movie that, in my mind, once represented the apex of filmmaking—Rocky III. While it’s always fun to revisit a cultural experience from my childhood, in this case we found ourselves laughing at all the wrong moments.

Particularly confounding to my kids was the character of Clubber Lang, played by Mr. T. For those of you who don’t remember Mr. T, he was a grumpy, mohawked celebrity in the early 1980’s, the star of television shows, cartoons, and numerous commercials. He even had a breakfast cereal named after him.

And as his appearance in Rocky III reminded me, his persona could be boiled down to one basic characteristic: he was a tough guy. In the movie, his dramatic range extends from macho posturing to aggressive verbal abuse, all delivered in a gravelly, staccato cadence. My two kids, who are around the age I was when Mr. T dominated the airwaves, had a hard time understanding why I—and millions of other red-blooded American children—had once thought that he was so cool.

Of course, if such characters were only found in fiction, this world would be a much safer place. As we enter another presidential campaign, and another glut of debates, Super PAC commercials, and stump speeches hit the airwaves, I’m reminded that Mr. T’s hair and wardrobe may have been mercifully left in the 1980’s, but his affectations have never gone out of style. Read more