In Shocking Twist: Oscars both Racist and Sexist

Several years ago, I was attending an academic conference with a group of colleagues from Toronto. As we gathered one evening for dinner, a male friend observed that the women in attendance were “so lucky” that we “got to” have so many different options for how we could dress for potential events, whereas men were sadly restricted to the uninspiring “business casual” option of blazer and slacks. Unsurprisingly, the women in the group quickly assured him that this state of affairs was not a gift to us, but a deeply sexist social structure which invariably guaranteed we would somehow be inappropriately dressed for any event we attend. Fortunately, the man in question is (still) a very good friend with a good sense of humor, so he took our outrage in stride and appreciated why his observation might have been a touch oblivious with respect to the lived experience of the women in his acquaintance.

I recalled that conversation last night as I (for some reason) watched the 88th Annual Academy Awards. It is no secret that for two years now the Oscars have come under criticism for the omission of black actors and filmmakers from nominations. Host Chris Rock did not disappoint when he confronted the #OscarsSoWhite movement head-on in his opening monologue. Honestly, I’m not sure what was more entertaining — Rock’s monologue itself or the awkward laughter from the audience as they were forced to confront some uncomfortable truths about the ingrained racism of the film industry. Perhaps most brilliant was Chris Rock’s articulation of what he dubbed “sorority racism”:

But here’s the real question. The real question everybody wants to know, everybody wants to know in the world is: Is Hollywood racist? Is Hollywood racist? … Is it burning-cross racist? No. Is it fetch-me-some-lemonade racist? No. No, no, no …

… Is Hollywood racist? You’re d*** right Hollywood is racist. But it ain’t that racist that you’ve grown accustomed to. Hollywood is sorority racist.

It’s like, “We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.”

This is an excellent observation of the deeply systemic racism that continues to exist even in the “nice” corners of the world, as Rock describes in his monologue. The corners of the world which are happily progressive and liberal, yet still poisoned from the toxic well of White Supremacy that has been the consistent undercurrent in our nation’s history. We all agree that overt discrimination should be illegal, but we remain uncomfortable seeing people of color in iconic roles or positions of authority. As Lupita Nyong’o recently observed, this type of insidious racism is harder to fight because it is a “battle of the mind,” not a legal battle.

So as honest, and as necessary, as Rock’s observations on the racial dynamics in Hollywood may have been, it nevertheless angered me to see him miss the mark so completely on Hollywood sexism. Even as he skewered the marginalization of black actors, Rock made an entirely unnecessary crack at “not being invited” to Rihanna’s panties–effectively reminding the incredibly accomplished performer that she remains little more than a sex object. Even more troubling to me, though, were the closing lines of his monologue when he took issues with another popular Oscars hashtag, Amy Poehler’s infamous #AskHerMore campaign. The movement challenges Red Carpet reporters to ask women questions about their acting craft or the characters they have chosen to portray, not about their appearance. Observing that “men all wear the same thing,” Rock brushed off the movement with the crack that “not everything is racist, not everything is sexist”:

There’s this whole thing, “Ask her more. You have to ask her more.” You know it’s like, You ask the men more. Everything’s not sexism, everything’s not racism.

They ask the men more because the men are all wearing the same outfits, O.K.? Every guy in there is wearing the exact same thing.

You know, every guy there might be wearing the same thing — because they know they will not be held up to public scrutiny by the media like every woman who has the audacity to set foot on a red carpet. It’s true no public figure will get it right on every issue all the time. And, honestly, I wasn’t looking for Chris Rock to take up the feminist cause in his monologue. The issue of racism in Hollywood is one that needs to be confronted without a bunch of white women (like myself) jumping in and saying “Look at me!” But the fact remains Rock DID address the issue. He, as a man, perpetuated in the same sort of systemic oppression he was calling out in his monologue. Yet, maybe in so doing he provided the perfect example of how all of us are complicit in so many varied forms of oppression. We must indeed always be vigilant regarding how we can support those struggles which are not our own and be open to correction when we inevitably fail.

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White Supremacy, “Wild Seed” and Wider Perspectives

The nice thing about being married to someone who impersonates a white supremacist is that one does become more aware of what sorts of issues are arising in the white supremacist community. While maybe not the desired outcome of their energies, racist and misogynistic ire can serve the helpful purpose of highlighting individuals of whom one was (shamefully) unaware.

IMG_0505As, for example, when certain pockets of the “weird fiction” community became quite incensed at an emerging movement to have H.P. Lovecraft’s likeness removed from the World Fantasy award, in favor of a less divisive figure. One name being put forward to assume this honor was the female African-American author Octavia Butler. The moral of this story is that angry voices on the internet introduced me to Butler as someone whose work I should probably have read years ago. I recently finished Wild Seed, the first installment in Butler’s “patternist” series, and it was indeed unlike much of what speculative fiction has to offer. Not least because a book like Wild Seed by no means allows its audience to ignore issues of race, gender, and identity. But, like all good literature, it grounds such grander social themes in very human characters.

Wild Seed tells the story of two immensely powerful individuals–Doro, who kills and inhabits any body he desires, and the shape-shifter Anyanwu. Perpetually hunting for new people with “special” abilities to incorporate into his genetic breeding program, the three thousand-year-old Doro locates the centuries-old Anyanwu in her small African village. With promises (and threats!), Doro lures Anyanwu back to his New York community where he is the effective slave master to a collection of individuals who must obey him to have any hope of survival, and whom Doro treats as little more than breeding stock in his quest to forge a genetically superior human race. Having been born in freedom (and possessing power nearly rivaling Doro’s own), Anyanwu is “wild seed,” never able to be fully controlled by Doro.

So much could be said about Butler’s depiction of race and gender in these two central characters–from Anyanwu’s attempt to hold on to her native identity in a European culture, to the various sexual boundaries Doro forces his children to cross. But the heart of the matter is how Doro and Anyanwu relate to their respective bodies. Specifically how unlimited they are to one particular embodied experience. Doro is effectively bodiless. Anyanwu questions whether he is an embodied being at all, as he seems to be pure spirit, merely “borrowing” but not truly inhabiting the bodies he kills. Anyanwu is, alternatively, almost pure body–her ability to assume various forms stems from her intimate knowledge of her body down to the smallest molecule. And it is significant that, though she may take on any form she chooses, she willfully identifies with her original form — a young black female body. If Doro holds the position in Butler’s work as ultimate oppressor, it cannot be overlooked that he is a being in no way restricted by his body.

To be unlimited by bodily limitations is, in Bulter’s writing, the ultimate power. Not because Doro–or Anyanwu–possess great physical power. But because they are in some fundamental way immune from the reality every one of us faces–we must all nagivate this world as people with specific bodily experience. That fundamentally matters if we are part of historically marginalized groups. No man can understand what it is for me to live in a female body, just as I cannot imagine what it is like to navigate a white-dominated culture as a person of color.

Towards the end of the novel, Anyanwu herself spends several years living effectively as a white male plantation owner in 19th century Louisiana. Perhaps her most poignant observation comes when she observes to Doro that, though she will not own slaves, she had become oblivious to the horrors of the slave culture surrounding her plantation. As Anyanwu notes, living as a white person for too long blinded her to the plight of those she would never have ignored before.

If I remember nothing else from Wild Seed, it will be that passage. It is a subtle but powerful reminder to those of us who navigate our culture in bodies afforded the privilege of not needing to be constantly mindful of our racial identity. It is a challenge for us to do the hard work of being mindful of those whose lived experience differs significantly from our own.

Yet more life lessons from Sleepy Hollow

In his “Letters to Malcolm” (one of by favorite books on prayer), CS Lewis stresses that we cannot bring to God only those petitions that we feel are worthy of divine attention. We can only be honest with God about what is on our mind at any given moment if we are to have any hope of integrity and authenticity in our spiritual lives.

And so, following Lewis’s sage advice, I could offer profound thoughts on our annual Lenten pilgrimage. I could talk about what a great experience it was to offer Ashes-t0-Go for the first time in my new campus community, and the vital importance of the church to in going out of our buildings to engage with the very earnest spiritual hunger in the world around us. Or I could write about Sleepy Hollow, the guiltiest of my guilty pleasure TV obsessions. The supernatural crime procedural recently return from its mid-season 3 hiatus, and all signs point to the writers taking a renewed interest in pretty much the only thing that makes the show worth watching–the fantastic performances by leads Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie. For which my unashamed fangirl heart is incredibly grateful.

I have written about Sleepy Hollow here before. Partially that is because I am a lover of the ridiculous (need I sing the praises of Galavant yet again?) and it is hard to get more ridiculous than a show about a temporally displaced Ichabod Crane serving with his faithful companion LEFtenant Abbie Mills as the two witnesses destined in the book of Revelation to thwart the apocalypse as prophesied by the Founding Fathers of the United States. Or something? It’s hard to follow. But I also find it fascinating (and depressing) to reflect on how much Sleepy Hollow was something of a victim of its own success.

Sleepy Hollow was a surprise hit of the 2013-4 TV season. And it was amazing, not to mention one of the most racially diverse series on TV–featuring not only the brilliant Beharie herself, but Lyndie Greenwood as her sister Jenny, the delightful Orlando Jones has police chief Frank Irving, and John Cho as Abbie’s former police colleague. It was awesome. Nobody made a big deal about it. And people loved it. You can read read my previous thoughts on that subject here.

Then season two happened. I have no evidence to back any of this up, but it is as if some group of executives started making decisions less born of creativity and more from a desire to build a bigger and bigger audience. Unfortunately, this led to foregrounding the stories of the white characters (some of whom were needlessly introduced) while marginalizing others, including Abbie Mills. You can read my previous thoughts on the subject here.

Which brings us to the present third season. I am delighted that the writers have learned from the error of their ways and are once again foregrounding the relationship between Ichabod and Abbie. All the same, I am frustrated at how increasingly bland the stories have become–did I mention Ichabod and Abbie are the only reason to watch the show? All I want is a zombie George Washington or cryptic theologically problematic Biblical references! Is that too much for a priest to ask? Instead we have gone from the Horsemen of the apocalypse to … Pandora? And some generic “nameless” deity. Yet again, it seems creative choices are being made by writers and produces not in the attempt to make fun or compelling television but to reach as broad an audience as possible. In so doing, they have done a pretty good job of alienating that fan base which gave them such unexpected success two years ago. And they have effectively diminished one of the truly unique projects on network TV. Only seven episodes remain before the almost certain cancellation of the series.

Perhaps there is a lesson in that for all of us, whatever our situation in life might be. In the church, for example, we are always searching for new ways to be “relevant” to the world around us. To a degree, that is absolutely right. We must constantly seek new ways of connecting with an ever-changing culture (see above, re: Ashes to Go), and we must always work to break down those barriers which rightly give people pause before crossing the threshold into our religious communities. But we must be wary not to do so wholly at the expense of those traditions which give our faith shame and meaning in the first place. It is a delicate line to walk.

Even outside the context of the church, though, it strikes me there the focus of our various endeavors can be so easily misguided. All too often, social media fails to be a source of genuine human connection and becomes a context where we are all trying to build “likes” and “followers” or “up-votes.” Rather than building friendships, we build platforms, presenting highly curated versions of our lives. We might think of what has become of the state of our democracy when candidates across the political spectrum perform for the approval of voters, not any sense of personal integrity. Or, in the context of the classroom we work for top grades and academic standing — which means we fail to take risks because it might mean bringing down a perfect GPA (a state of mind I know all too well).

I think the most any of us can strive for–whether in our spiritual lives, our friendships, or our work–is authenticity. Perhaps even vulnerability. Because if we are always working to satisfy others, rather than embracing our own unique God-given identity, our lives might be safe and comfortable, but they will always be a little more shallow–a little less quirky and unique–than they could be.

The only think I have to add is that if I stuck with three seasons of Sleepy Hollow and Abbie and Ichabod never actually get together, someone at Fox owes me a lot of money. It’s 2016. I promise the interracial couple won’t bite.

A New Tomorrow for Today

You know, sometimes things are more clever than they have any right to be. Like last night’s episode of the medieval musical comedy Galavant, featuring a chorus of enfranchised peasants declaring “A New Tomorrow for Today.”

This time last year, I wrote about my unashamed love for the critically-acclaimed, if popularly ignored, wackiness that is the ABC series Galavant. My point then, as it is now, that we all need a little silliness from time to time, especially with cable TV’s obsession with moral ambiguities and complicated anti-heroes. Maybe it’s ok just to enjoy some unapologetic wackiness.

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Introducing Amanda to my silly obsessions. She seems to be into it. 

But then, who’s to say that unapologetic wackiness can never open itself up to deeper meanings? Just because a show might be a bizarre cross between The Princess Bride and Monty Python with a dose of Disney — does that necessarily dictate it can offer no commentary on the world? As one staunch defender of the value of silliness, I say of course whimsy need not be at odds with social commentary.

Let us return to the aforementioned “Build a New Tomorrow for Today.” Our hero Galavant and his erstwhile nemesis/BFF King Richard to the later’s Kingdom, where they discover his subjects have embraced democracy in the absence of their monarch. This being a music, the peasants naturally break out into a delightful production number about their newfound egalitarian mode of governance. Well … egalitarian for some people. The song includes great lines such as:

Peasants: So we all would march together towards the future
Peasant John: Well not all per se
Just the ones who look like me
Peasants: It’s called democracy!
Peasant #8: The landed!
Peasant #3: …and the wealthy!
Peasant #5: …and the pious!
Peasant #7: …and the healthy!
Peasant #1: …and the straight ones!
Peasant #2: …and the pale ones!
Peasant #1: …and we only mean the male ones!
Peasant John: If you’re all of the above, then you’re ok!
Peasant John + Peasants: As we build a new tomorrow here today!

It is, without question, a silly little song. And it naturally pokes fun at how those great individuals who were able to envision a democratic mode of government were, shall we say, fairly limited in scope regarding just who might benefit from their endeavors. It is easy to laugh at a TV show. And it is easy to laugh at those people in generations before us who were trapped in quite a limited way of thinking about who qualified as fully a person for the purposes of the law. As Galavant notes to Richard, the peasants’ way of thinking is “quite progressive for the middle ages.”

Whether intended on the part of the writers or not (and I rather imagine the answer is “not”), there is a bit more of an edge to this song about “building a new tomorrow” while being trapped in the same inequalities and prejudices that define our world today. How many times do even those of us who would love to embrace new attitudes or new ideas still find ourselves trapped in conventional ways of thinking (perhaps without even being aware of it)? It seems to me the only way our world ever truly changes — the only way we are able to make real steps toward a more egalitarian and just world — is thanks to those people who are able to see beyond what we take as inevitable facts about the way the world simply is to what the world could potentially be. People who truly do look to a new tomorrow and not just at the way things have to be today.

For my part, I’m just happy someone somewhere had enough of a creative vision to give a silly show like Galavant one more season. Sometimes, it’s just the little things you need in life.

On “Sisters” and casual racism

It must be said that 2015 was a good year for women in movies. I have to hope that the multiple record-breaking Star Wars: Episode VII will go a long way to convincing studio executives that audiences actually want to see women at the helm of major sci-fi franchises. Not to mention all the gains made recently by women in comedy, thanks in no small part to two of my favorite women: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. When Leeman and I had a chance to enjoy that greatest of parental luxuries–seeing a movie in theater!–while visiting my family least week, of course I jumped at the latest Fey-Poehler offering, the delightful comedy Sisters.

I have so much respect for both of these extraordinary women — what they have done for women in comedy and what they have done for women in general. Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon in 30 Rock is a personal hero, assuring me that a smart, geeky woman might actually have something to offer the world. And, though I discovered her more recently, Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope has become my new feminist icon. Which is why I was so frustrated and disappointed that the otherwise hilarious Sisters several times relied on cheap jokes that were pretty darn racists and homophobic.

As hollywood comedies go, Sisters doesn’t have so much a “plot” as it does a set up for its comedic exploits. Two adult sisters find out their parents have sold their childhood home so they throw one more big party to relive/redeem who they were as teenagers. Along the way, secrets get aired. Fights are had. Property damage is acquired. Everything works out in the end and a good time is had by all.

But a few jokes had Leeman and me looking at eachother awkwardly asking “Is this racist?” (Random thought: If you have to ask, the answer is probably “yes”) At one point, Amy Poehler’s character tries to strike up a friendship with a Korean nail stylist named “Hae-Wan,” whose name Poehler fails to be able to pronounce). Hae-Wan and her friends eventually show up at the main events, and become agents of party chaos. Hae-Wan (played by Greta Lee, who does a great job with what she’s given) eventually marries would-be class clown Alex and goes into business with Tina Fey’s character. That would all be well and good, but the character exists to be nothing … except Korean. She has no function but to be ethnically and culturally “other”.

A similar discomfort struck me in the depiction of a group of lesbian characters who exist to be … lesbians, basically. They all look stereotypically masculine, dressing in plaid and denim. And they come to a party armed with workman’s tools. It just seemed a bit … odd.

The film certainly does not suggest there is anything “wrong” with being a lesbian. No more than it suggests there is anything “wrong” with being Korean. Both groups of characters are, however, unambiguously defined exclusively by the features that distinguish them from “normal” (read: white, heterosexual) women. At its core — this is what amounts to discrimination. When a privileged group fails to see others as fully human. Someone like Tina Fey (who shares a producer’s credit on the film) should understand this. Someone who has worked hard to allow women to be depicted not just as woman but as fully fleshed out and complicated human beings should understand the importance of not defaulting to ethnic or sexual stereotypes to earn a cheap laugh.

Tina Fey recently declared that she will no longer apologize for jokes that her audience finds offensive. Which is legitimate, I suppose. Flat, formulaic apologies don’t do much for anyone. But I would hope she might spend some time considering why she and Poehler have gotten some flack for their problematic punchlines, whether in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidtthe Golden Globes, or (one of my admitted favorites) Parks and Recreation.

There has been pushback from people like Tina Fey to what they see as an easily offended internet culture that wants to destroy comedy out of a desire to be “politically correct.” However, the fact is Sisters was a genuinely funny movie. I dare say I gafawed more than once or twice. But those borderline racist and homophobic moments just weren’t funny. They came across as cheap shots. Some people as well question why we need to pick apart every perceived problematic element of popular culture. Does it really matter? But I would argue that when we are reminded every day of how deeply our society is entrenched in systemic, toxic racism — yes, it actually matters quite a bit. Whenever we see a group of people, whether people of color or sexual minorities treated as less than fully human for not being whatever we consider the default to be (in this case a white heterosexual woman) we need to call it out. And we need to push those people we respect–for me that means Tina Fey and Amy Poehler–to do better, because we know they are (or should be) capable of it.

May the Girl Power be with you

Hi everyone! I’m still figuring out my new blogging schedule in my new job. When? How? Where can I reference Farscape? (Answer: There is always a way to reference Farscape.)

I may have Christmas sermons to write and new liturgies to figure out. But, goshdarnit people, there is a new Star Wars movie. A new Star Wars movie that does not involve Gungans and makes no mention of midichlorians (Yes, I am sure I misspelled that. Such narrative blights do not deserve the correct spelling.)

More importantly … this was a Star Wars movie with a woman at the forefront. I cannot begin to tell you how moving it was for me to see Daisy Ridley’s fully-realized “Rey” up on screen driving the action of this major science fiction franchise that defined so much of my childhood.

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Amanda gets her first taste of Episode IV. No girls allowed in the trench run. 

Now, I can hear you asking — what about Princess Leia? Didn’t she have spunk? She stood up to Darth Vader! She was one of the most important leaders of the Rebellion! She rescued Han Solo! Wasn’t she someone you could aspire to be as a kid? Of course, Princess (now General) Leia is supremely awesome–not to mention Carrie Fisher, and her dog, just *winning* all the press tours for Episode VII. (Never change Carrie Fisher!)

I have and always will love Leia. Yet there was something about her that never quite fulfilled that desire in me to see a girl as the hero of a story. Leia maybe occasionally gets some good moments (and is overall quite a strong character). But I can never quite get over the feeling that she doesn’t get to participate in the action on exactly the same level as the guys. Luke and Han get to save the day in the epic trench run to destroy the original death star. Against Luke’s advice, Leia jumps on a speeder when fleeing storm troopers on Endor … and almost gets blown up.  Leia was … the classic “exceptional” woman. She was allowed to play with the boys because, well, she was supremely awesome. But the original trilogy never lets you forget that Leia is playing on their terms. Let us also take a moment to note the absolutely absence of any other ancillary female characters, outside of “Aunt Beru” and “Mon Mothma” (she of the “many Bothans died to bring us this information).

Rey’s story made me want to cry tears of joy thinking of my little 9-year-old self obsessing over the Star Wars movies but never really feeling like I could be the hero of the story. Rey was everything that I wanted to be as a kid — she was smart, strong, and the heir to some mysterious but undoubtedly amazing destiny. All while being a fully realized human being with faults–as impulsive as Luke is in a New Hope, Rey is afraid to step out of the only life she has ever known–and vulnerabilities. Being a “strong woman” does not mean eschewing any those weaknesses that make us human.  Seeing her fly the Millenium Falcon and wield a lightsaber filled me with so much hope for my own daughter how much more empowering her relationship with these films might be as she grows up. I am thrilled not just for Amanda but for all the girls who will grow up seeing Star Wars as rightfully theirs, an ownership encouraged not just by Rey but by the number of female X-wing pilots and bridge officers who make up the background of the film. (And I didn’t even get to Captain Phasma … If I have one wish for Episode VIII is it more Gwendoline Christie).

Yet even as I celebrate deep in my heart for the ground-breaking presence of women in a major geek franchise — I am aware that there are still those who struggle to find representation in media, particularly women of colour. Why cast a beautiful actress like Lupita Nyong’o and hide her behind CGI performance capture? Even as we express out excitement at greater representation for one group, we must remain mindful of the work that remains to be done to ensure true equal representation of all stories in mainstream media. I give The Force Awakens tremendous credit in the white male dominated world of Hollywood for pushing boundaries of diversity in film. But it is still an uphill battle.

In the meantime, as we near the end of this Advent season, we pray: Come Lord Jesus. And May the Force be With You.

Of Faith and Faeries

Well, as Samwise Gamgee might say, “I’m back.” Back to my Alma Mater Kenyon College where I am now settled as Episcopal Chaplain and Priest-in-Charge of the local Harcourt Parish. And back to blogging, which fell to the wayside in the hustle and bustle of moving and starting a new position.

This being my first post in some time, I cannot help but feel some sense of pressure regarding what might be an appropriate topic for reflection. I will confess that part of me feels compelled to address the Syrian refugee crisis, specifically the experience of being newly resident in a state whose governors and other elected representatives have declared their intention to shut the doors on those desperately seeking shelter from our mutual enemy. But then it occurred to me … No. I will not reflect on this situation as if it were a mere political issue on which reasonable people can disagree. It is not. We may bar our doors to refugees in the name of security, but we do so out of weakness, not our strength as a nation. Either we stand with Germany, Canada, FRANCE, and so many other countries throughout the world in extending the hand of welcome to those in desperate need, or we admit that “American Exceptionalism” stands for little more than cowardice.

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Amanda has her very own Faerie circle. She is, after all, a bit of a goblin. 

So I’m not going to legitimize that topic as a valid point for discussion. Rather, I will share my thoughts on my most recent geeky obsession — BBC’s miniseries based on Susanna Clark’s delightful Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. The novel itself is a peculiar piece of work — one part historical fiction, one part faerie story, all of it liberally accented by whimsical footnotes. Somewhere in the midst of its sprawling, rambling pages is a story of two magicians — the dour, bookish Mr Norrell and the charismatic Jonathan Strange. One fears the uncontrollable powers of the Faerie realm and wishes to keep English magic “modern” and “respectable.” The other longs with wonder to behold other worlds.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to draw a neat moral lesson from the story of Strange & Norrell. Nothing so simple as the trite idea that opposites must learn to work together. The story ends inconclusively with the two friends/rivals/partners posing magical quandaries to one another in perpetuity. If there is anything for us to take away from Clark’s novel, perhaps it is this. That both Strange and Norrell are correct in their tendencies, if not their excesses. Norrell is right to fear the powers of the Faerie world as he does. But Strange is right to want to behold them. We are right to yearn for something beyond this world, but we cannot expect such things to play by our rules. Wonder and Reverence go hand in hand.

I have written on this blog many times about the deep connection I feel between my faith and my love of faerie stories. I stand by what I have written. But it might be fair to say that sometimes my reflections on opening out faith up to the wondrous are perhaps too light, too easy. It is worth holding on to the darker elements of a Faerie story like Strange and Norrell, remembering the danger of those worlds that extend outside of our comprehension. The people of Jonathan Strange’s world are quite open to his “restoration of English magic”, until such restoration begins to threaten them and their traditional hold on political and social authority. When magic begins to spark a hint of revolution it is not nearly so welcome.

We are about to embark on the Christian season of Advent, when we call for the coming of Christ into our world, singing “O Come, O Come Emmanual.” But it might be worth remembering that, though we may long for a world in which no one is hungry, where children do not flee their homes and where there is true peace — such a world is not likely to be come a reality without truly overturning the powers and principalities we know now. We cannot truly call for the coming of God’s presence into our world if we are mostly concerned with safety, security and stability.

Hmm… maybe I did bring it back to refugees after all.