The Tree of Life (PG-13) is mesmerizing, unlike any other film showing at the cineplex. Terrence Mallick uses impressionistic images and a nonlinear narrative to explore the life of grace and the life of nature, represented respectively by Mrs. O’Brien and Mr. O’Brien, a couple in a 1950s Texas small town. Their son Jack grows up under the domineering hand of his father. Jack is a lost soul who struggles to find meaning in life and questions faith. The film is less something to watch than something to experience. It will annoy some and captivate others. I was captivated.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (PG-13) is the eighth and final film of this popular franchise that follows J. K. Rowling’s magnificent seven-volume story of the boy wizard. The film emphasizes the action of the final battle between good and evil but is saved by the wonderful characters Rowling created, the older ones played in the films by some of the greatest current British actors. The Christian, even pacifist, themes in the books come through here, though the film’s climax downplays Rowling’s emphasis on showing mercy even to enemies.
Teaching That Transforms: Why Anabaptist-Mennonite Education Matters by John D. Roth (Herald Press, 2011, $12.99) makes the case for a church-related alternative to the public school system—one shaped by the distinctive emphases of the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. Roth looks at the ethos and practices of an Anabaptist-Mennonite pedagogy and at the outcomes of a Mennonite education, then considers tough questions about such education and looks to the future. He writes: “Schools committed to an Anabaptist-Mennonite understanding of the Christian faith will reflect the qualities of an incarnated gospel.”