Letter from the Editor: Do You See What I See?

Almost every morning I conduct the same coffee-making ritual. Beans are weighed and ground. Coffee filter is folded and set. Forty-eight ounces of water is poured into the reservoir—as I stand on tip-toes. I stand tall like this every time, now without even thinking, because I learned that my height leaves me at a disadvantage for pouring water without spilling it all over the countertop. I need to change my perspective so I can see where the water is going.

If you are not quite so height challenged as me, it’s doubtful you have to stand on tip-toes to make your coffee, and it’s doubtful you’ve ever thought about the need for it. This is what our own viewpoint does: it makes what we see the norm. And that’s not wrong—we see what we see from the eyes we have. But the great thing is that just by standing taller, or even stooping lower, we can change our perspective, and see the whole world from a different angle.

This issue of the Christ and Pop Culture Magazine is all about Perspectives. Each feature looks at what we see, what we miss, and what we can see when we choose to adjust our gaze.

Kicking off the discussion is a feature from TJ Pancake titled “Lyrics of Lament: Suffering and Theodicy in Hip-Hop.” He takes us into the world of hip-hop and how it helps us see—and lament—the suffering in the world:

When Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin were killed, when children die around the world of preventable disease, when children and teens experience the “death” of family and get bounced around foster homes, evil is manifest. Suffering has a face. Suddenly questioning God’s plan seems the most reasonable course of action.

Choosing to see the pain others are experiencing is also the focus of Alex Sosler’s feature, “When ‘Tough Love’ Isn’t Loving: Grace for Those on Their Last Chance.” Sosler highlights the power Coach Mosley’s care to his players in the Netflix series Last Chance U

Mosley changed my imagination of what those who are struggling, those who are desperate, most need: they probably need love at that moment. Perhaps the punishment doesn’t work, because it’s been tested and tried—they got to their last chance somehow. And what they need now—more than a stern talking to or tough love—is actual care. Maybe what we all need when we have no hope left, when all our options are spent, is grace.

Like Coach Mosley, the actions we take on behalf of others are swayed by our perception of them. That’s why it’s crucial for us to have a wide view of what people are experiencing and the factors that contribute. Such a perspective isn’t easy to find, however. None of us—save God—are able to see how all the threads of joy and misery weave together for good. We don’t know what will happen if we start tugging on one thread or another. Sometimes the best we can do is acknowledge the many complexities of life and do our best to do the most good for those around us. That’s what we learn from the feature by Claire Knight, “How Foresight Changes the Battle: Miss Sloane and Spiritual Warfare.” Knight explores the way Miss Sloane arranges the pieces of a complex plan she’s devised to win a justice for a client, and how this reflects God’s work of redemption on our behalf: 

No such deception plays out in Miss Sloane, where the true nature of the protagonist is on display from the outset. The twist only gives the viewer the eyes to see it, and ears to hear the significance of her words. So it is with the “plot” of spiritual warfare throughout human history. Like Miss Sloane, God begins his story with a monologue of such significance that it shapes and reveals all that is to come. In it, his favorite phrase is repeated time and again: “it is good.” These words, when searched for their “depths of purpose and layers of meaning,” are the key to understanding God’s perspective on spiritual warfare as a completed victory. 

Complexities abound in God’s plan as well as in our own individual lives. All of our experiences add up to a unique perspective on the world and our place in it. That’s what Danielle Terceiro explores in her feature, “First Cow and Nomadland: Perspective from the Margins,” in which she looks at how friendship and life journeys weave together the basis for meaning in life:

Why are filmmakers recently interested in the perspectives of those who have not, and will not, make footprints in official history as they travel their roads? These films do not romanticize life at the margins, nor do they offer the contemporary middle class a blueprint for authenticity—for an idea of the “road is life” as a bourgeois luxury indulged in by those “safe enough to pretend this is all there is” (a tendency of many contemporary cultural scripts, as James K. A. Smith has noted).

Perhaps an answer is that both films offer their characters to us as fellow travelers on the road of life. Friendship, the comfort that warms weary bones. Sometimes it calls to us from the campfire, like Linda May, and we take comfort from the warmth of the call even as we say hello and stride off to take our existential self for a brief walk. Both films are parables, in that their stories invite us to project the same journey onto our experience. As Mark Turner notes in The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language (1996), we need parables: as humans we just can’t help but project stories onto stories in order to make sense of everyday life. 

In all these features, we find the power of perspective at play. Our own individual view is a window to our own journey. This is how I see the world. This is the beauty I’ve found. This is the pain I’ve endured. This is how I make coffee. When we share our views with each other, our personal perspectives widen to the amazing array of life, allowing us to see what we couldn’t on our own. We need to see more clearly what others see if we want to love them well. I hope these features inspire you to stand on your tip-toes, to crouch low, and to see what God sees so we can love as he loves.


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In This Issue

Lyrics of Lament: Suffering and Theodicy in Hip-Hop

When Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin were killed, when children die around the world of preventable disease, when children and teens experience the “death” of family and get bounced around foster homes, evil is manifest. Suffering has a face. Suddenly questioning God’s plan seems the most reasonable course of action.

by TJ Pancake

How Foresight Changes the Battle: Miss Sloane and Spiritual Warfare

So it is with the “plot” of spiritual warfare throughout human history. Like Miss Sloane, God begins his story with a monologue of such significance that it shapes and reveals all that is to come.

by Claire Knight

When “Tough Love” Isn’t Loving: Grace for Those on Their Last Chance

Last Chance U shows us that when our options are spent, when punishment doesn’t work, and when there’s little hope left, we need love and grace.

by Alex Sosler

First Cow and Nomadland: Perspective from the Margins

First Cow and Nomadland offer their characters to us as fellow travelers on the road of life, who know that home isn’t just a place, it’s friendship.

by Danielle Terceiro

Enola Holmes and the Goodness of Telling Old Stories from New Perspectives

What I love about the creation and inclusion of the Enola character is how much she makes sense in the Holmes family and how much she adds to the ethos of the story. 

by K. B. Hoyle

The Kiddy Pool: A Perspective on Parentology

Dalton Conley’s Parentology: Everything You Wanted to Know about the Science of Raising Children but Were Too Exhausted to Ask does not fulfill the promise of its subtitle; instead, his tongue-in-cheek memoir demonstrates how exhausting, exhilarating, and impossible it is to avoid a trial-and-error approach to rearing our young.

by Erin Wyble Newcomb

Disney’s Soul Is So Good Because It’s So Black

Soul can help Christians remember that how we share the gospel message can be just as important as sharing it.

by Timothy Thomas

Gardeners’ World and the Object of Attention

A good world that begs—and begets—attention is on display in Gardeners’ World.

by Matt Civico

One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Pagan Buns?

The spicy sweetness of hot cross buns holds the juxtaposition of this odd day—while we mourn the darkness, we know the light is on its way.

by Kendall Vanderslice

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