Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.
1. The Laundromat. This Steven Soderbergh film starring Meryl Streep and two swindlers, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas exposes the “shell-game” of financial sleight of hand that helps the wealthy hide their money in trusts and accounts off shore in postal box agencies. If Mammon is God, then this is divine revelation of how the Almighty dollar can conceal itself from all pursuers. If you missed it when it was released in October in theaters, it is now available on Netflix. The Panama papers—remember them?—you will after seeing this film and realize that the “children of darkness are much more clever than the children of light.”
2. Veterans respect/regret. This week we are thinking of all those who went to war and those who said “war no more.” Leann’s father, like many Mennonite Brethren men, was a conscientious objector medic in World War II, and David’s eldest brother, an Old Mennonite, was a CO in Civilian Public Service. We remember people on all sides, pray for God’s mercy on the obedient and the resistant, on those who picked up a gun and those who gave care, food and bandages to those in need of healing, on the complicit and on the naive, on those struggling for liberation and on those defending empire and corporations, on the survivors and the dead. Mercy. God makes us peacebuilders.
3. Cover-up. This week we heard award-winning Canadian novelist Miriam Toews, author of Women Talking, uncover the tragic abuse and rape in a Mennonite colony in Bolivia. Afterward we stood in a cluster of Mennonites asking, “How are humans so functional at hiding dysfunction?” Our answers? “Where there is patriarchy, there is cover-up; where there is hierarchy and repression, there is cover-up; where there is fundamentalism (cultural or theological), there is cover-up; where perfection-purity-holiness is prized, there is cover-up.” We grieved for current cases of cover-up in our church-world.
4. Harriet. An epic historical drama of a woman’s escape from slavery and the hundred-mile trek to Pennsylvania followed by the account of her work on the Underground Railroad and, ultimately, her return to lead her family into freedom. The movie creates a positive myth that breaks a cluster of assumptions—the false tale of benevolent slave-masters and happy enslaved, the gender falsehood that only men do the things that matter, the idea that in the end violence is necessary and inevitable. See the film, not just for the poignant story and the powerful music, but to see Harriet now, even if her promised portrait on the $20 bill is lost in some pile on a white man’s desk.
5. Beyond Burgers, impossible meat. With few exceptions, it is better to fast than to eat fast food, but since we are studying watershed discipleship as a church and have committed to vegetarian weekly church potlucks, we set out to compare new plant-based menu items at local chains. Mixed results, but no Animals were harmed in preparation. High praise for Beyond Burgers at Carl’s Jr (Hardee’s). Their Beyond Big Star was excellent and satisfying with a succulent patty. The Impossible Burgers at Burger King were disappointing, with a tough, leathery texture. Beyond Sausage, the breakfast sandwich at Dunkin Donuts, was tasty. Beyond Tacos and Burritos at Del Taco are pretty good. McDonald’s is testing plant-based burgers but only in Canada. KFC reports sell out success with Beyond Fried Chicken at shops in Georgia. Our verdicts: 1) Hamburgers are obsolete; 2) Creative tacos, at least in California, have unlimited possibilities; 3) Consider going meatless every other day, then most days, then every day.
David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.