505 Readers tell us about Ted Kennedy, prayers for New Orleans & violent films

Once again, thanks to readers like you,
we’ve got your feedback to share …

A Different “Take” on
the Passing of Senator Kennedy

MOST PEOPLE recognize that the death of Senator Ted Kennedy is a milestone for reflection. We’ve seen lots of television, listened to lots of talk radio and this weekend we’ll see lots of newspaper commentaries on the passing of this political lion.
    Thanks to Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, author of “You Don’t Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right” for alerting us to his own unusual “take” on one of Senator Kennedy’s trademark affirmations: “The work is unfinished.”
    Rabbi Hirschfield writes that this was an important truth in Kennedy’s approach to politics: “Since the work to be done would always be unfinished, Senator
Kennedy never worried about ideological purity or being compromised by
making compromises, as long as things were moving in a direction with
which he could live. … Whether he
knew it or not, Mr. Kennedy’s politics were rooted in the Bible and the
words of the rabbis of the Mishnah.”
    Rabbi Hirschfield points toward wisdom in Deuteronomy 16 and writes: “The Torah can live with unfinished work, but not with workers who
fail to be engaged in the project. Sounds like Ted to me and it brings
to mind a famous teaching from Pirke Avot, the Mishna Tractate devoted
to practical ethics.
    “Avot 2:20, referring to the work of connecting to God and healing
the world, teaches that while we are not obligated to complete the task
before us, neither are we free to give up that very work.”
    Click here to read Rabbi Hirschfield’s entire reflection in his column “Windows and Doors”.
    Ever since hearing of his death, I’ve been thinking about another of Senator Kennedy’s favorite lines: “All of us can make a difference—and each of us should try.”
    Email us with your thoughts on Senator Kennedy’s spiritual legacy.

Encouraging Prayers for Our Cities 
We Focus on Core Values

REGULAR READERS know that we’re in the midst of three weeks of prayers for “cities” around the world. The most elaborate effort is unfolding in Michigan near our Home Office. Check out our Lift Detroit in Prayer Resource Page.
    As part of that overall effort, this week, we shared different approaches to prayer for cities: Monday (prayers for 4 cities around the world), Tuesday (an appeal on behalf of New Orleans) and Wednesday (news about Zondervan’s major new START> program).
    On Tuesday, the New Orleans day, I reviewed a new-to-DVD documentary, “Trouble the Waters.” I wrote at some length about my reaction to the film—and my impressions of the relief effort. In response, readers objected to a few notions in that review.
    First, Greg pointed out that it’s not just college students who’ve made the journey to New Orleans to help with rebuilding efforts. Greg’s own church sent an adult crew to help with the cleanup. In fact, I know a good number of men and women myself who’ve been on such crews. All volunteers are appreciated!
    Second, Peggy criticized the implication in my film review that Americans are turning a cold shoulder toward New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. A lot of people are financially strapped these days, Peggy pointed out. Many people don’t have “the vacation time or the money to go to New Orleans and help rebuild it or the capacity to donate for rebuilding.”
    Peggy also pointed out that the Lower Ninth Ward is, indeed, “lower” than the water level and there is a “serious and valid” policy debate continuing “about where the city should be rebuilt.”
    Thank you, Greg and Peggy! Both are thoughtful notes.
    One thing I can say is: That’s why our actual recommended prayers are so brief. We’re trying to focus, in our prayers, on core values. I think everyone can share in the actual prayer written by the college student Taylor for New Orleans:
    I pray that the music of New Orleans never goes quiet.
    That the culture never slows down.
    That the people and their faith thrive.
    And the love survives.

Are You Heading Out to
Violent Films This Weekend?
If So, You Won’t Want to Miss This …

A LOT OF READERS responded to a note we published about the movie “District 9” in our Monday-morning Planner newsletter. (The newsletter is free. No ads. It contains several items each week that go “behind the news” at ReadTheSpirit. To receive it, Email us and send the word “subscribe.”)
    In the Planner note, I wrote honestly that I wasn’t sure whether to try to draw spiritual connections with a movie as violent and flat-out gory as “District 9.” It’s a popular sci-fi drama in theaters nationwide, right now, that explores racism aimed at alien creatures stranded on Earth when their space ship breaks down.
    Readers almost immediately began sending us links to online spiritually themed reviews of “District 9.” They urged us to wrestle with the tough stuff in the film—to highlight some of the golden themes within.
    THEN, “Inglourious Basterds” opened, which is a least as violent as “District 9″—and deals with even more sensitive subject matter: World War II and the Holocaust.
    Suddenly, in addition to notes about “District 9,” readers were sending us very thoughtful notes about “Inglourious Basterds.”
    SO, your ReadTheSpirit staff decided to devote more than a mere Friday “item” to this complex matter. Starting Monday, Dr. Wayne Baker at www.OurValues.com will explore both the values and the violence in these films. Adding to his series will be some thoughts from Rabbi Irwin Kula, another noted Jewish author and commentator on popular culture.
    Don’t miss that, starting Monday!
    AND WE ADD—a huge “thank you” to all of our readers. You truly shape our coverage!

THAT WAS TRUE THIS WEEK with our special two-story return to The Spiritual Influence of Bono and U2—including news about a first national academic conference on the band. You told us you wanted more on U2—and we’ve got it this week.


    Not only do we welcome your notes—but our readers enjoy them as well. You can do this
anytime by clicking on the “Comment” links at the end of each story.
You also can Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm. We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube and other social-networking sites as well.
    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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