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As I sat down to write this post, I noticed the September/October B&C on top of the stack of books I keep next to my usual spot at the kitchen table. It was open to my favorite essay of the issue, a reflection on To the Wonder and the other films of Terrence Malick by Calvin College professor Roy Anker. (click here for a preview; subscribe to read the whole thing)
Now, I’ve only seen one Malick film, have no real interest in making #2 one that features Ben Affleck (though Anker nearly sways me with this: “Though dominating screen time, [Affleck] says no more than perhaps fifty words”), and would like “The Wonder of Malick” simply for one throwaway joke:
One measure of [Malick’s] philosophical cred is that in his mid-twenties he translated Martin Heidegger’s The Essence of Reasons (1969), and not even God understands Heidegger.
But two pages (enormous pages, rich with words — how I’d miss the peculiar satisfaction of turning them!) later, I not only felt like I needed to go buy the collected oeuvre of Terrence Malick, but that I might actually know how to watch it.
Of the priest in To the Wonder played by Javier Bardem, Anker writes:
Himself thirsty and dispirited, Quintana asks God to “teach us where to seek you,” and he vows to continue to do so in whatever far-flung place his duty takes him. That Quintana’s Christ goes everywhere is made clear in the priest’s aching recitation—or is it hopeful confession?—of St. Patrick’s prayer that Christ be everywhere.
With, within, behind, before… The conviction that Christ is everywhere — but especially “in mouth of friend and stranger” — seems to animate every issue of the only periodical that I invariably read (as one frequent contributor put it today) from cover to cover. Wilson and his contributors approach books and culture without the crippling suspicion or strident antagonism that made the evangelical mind scandalous, if not an oxymoron, to many. Instead, they engage thoughtfully, critically, and generously with everything from literature to social science, history to art, politics to cinema — never contorting an author or artist’s meaning to fit a certain theological mold, but quietly confident that Christ plays in all those places. And that those who follow him need not fear intelligent questions or complex answers.
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Update: good news!