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Reform Magazine | April 23, 2024

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Reviews May 2023 - Reform Magazine

Reviews May 2023

A time for reflection

Lakelands
Directed by Robert Higgins, Patrick McGivney
Certificate 15, 100 minutes
Released 05 May

We plan our lives, or not, and they proceed, and everything’s hunky dory. Or sometimes things come out of nowhere and knock us for six. And then, no matter how seemingly impossible, we have to deal with those things. As part of the whole deal of being human.

A small, Irish town. Cian (Éanna Hardwicke) is a young man in his early twenties who works on his dad’s farm. He also plays Gaelic football, which, like many team sports, demands a level of dedication, and often goes out with mates to pubs and clubs. One night, at a club, he gets into an argument with a stranger over a girl. It’s not really anything of significance; boys, as they say, will be boys.

What happens next is a whole other deal, though. He goes outside and is jumped by the guy and his two mates, and gets beaten up. Badly. Quite how badly isn’t apparent at the time. But when he reconnects with Grace (Danielle Galligan), a girl he fancies who left and now works as a nurse in London (where she has a boyfriend, so a relationship with Cian isn’t going to happen), she pushes him to get medical advice.

So he goes in, they run tests. He makes several visits, undergoes further tests. He’s told to take it easy, there are increasing warnings he might have to give up playing football. He’s young, football is pretty much everything to him, although working for a fair day’s pay counts for a lot too. He can’t get his head round not being able to do one or the other. He starts telling people he is being told everything is fine when it isn’t. You know that it’s all going to catch up with him.

It’s strange, given how much male bias there is (even today) in movies, how rarely such things get discussed. Men are notoriously bad at vocalising health issues, preferring to ‘take it’ or carry on as normal. Western society encourages men to keep going. However, to echo Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything: sometimes we men have to take stock, re-evaluate and change direction. This film does a brilliant job of unpacking that.

Jeremy Clarke is a film critic. His website is jeremycprocessing.com

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Debate on war

War, Peace, and Violence: Four Christian views
Edited by Paul Copan
IVP Academic
£21.99
ISBN 978-1-5140-0235-3


Suicide bombers, terrorism, the threat of nuclear weapons, drones and cyber warfare mark the extreme edges of contemporary war and violence. Moral dilemmas abound. When faced with Hitler’s tyranny was the carpet bombing of Dresden and other cities morally acceptable? Should ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (ie torture) be deployed if their application might gain information that could prevent the death of hundreds of innocent bystanders from a suicide bomber?

Paul Copan brings together four Christian thinkers and invites them to discuss these questions and much else. Eric Patterson is a just war theorist. Myles Wernt is a pacifist. AJ Nolte is a Christian realist. Meic Pearse is a church historian with Anabaptist sympathies. Each writer presents a substantial essay outlining the history and theology of their position. The other three provide critiques, and the essayist is given the right of reply. The result is a rich, if occasionally repetitious, analysis of Christian responses to these ethical dilemmas. All the writers are evangelicals, yet their treatment of Scripture, tradition, history and international relations policy are varied, respectful and sometimes helpfully provocative. There is no party line or ‘right answer’. British readers will need to translate their arguments out of the book’s US political context, but that is easily done…

David Cornick is a retired URC minister living in Cambridge

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One to retire with

Still Crazy
Adrian Plass
Hodder and Stoughton
£16.99
ISBN 978-1-4736-7956-6


When the reviews editor asked me if I would review a book, I was expecting a weighty theological tome. After all, retired ministers like me have plenty time to read, more so than our still hard-working colleagues. Three hours reading in the morning, then out scone hunting, a short walk, back for a nap before tea. Then time for the crossword before Vera, and the day rounded off with Ovaltine.

I don’t have room on my bookshelves for any more erudite theological books, but Still Crazy by Adrian Plass fits nicely into place. Slim to a degree, but profound. Bags of humour therein, lots of it humbly self-effacing. That’s a commendable theology. The title alludes to the Paul Simon song ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’. Adrian’s most well-known book is The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Aged 37¾, which was written half of his lifetime ago. In this book it is clear that he has still got something to say: ‘I can be very childish at times, but I am slowly maturing.’ Take your time, Adrian! ‘Now in my eighth decade, I am serious enough about my faith to know that I need occasional doses of foolishness more than ever.’…

Ron Forster, aged 71¼, is a minister in the URC’s Northern Synod. Reform interviewed Adrian Plass in March 2017

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A season of lectures

Cherishing the Earth, Nourishing the Spirit
Edited by Maria Curtis
Lindsey Press
£12
ISBN: 978-0-85319-098-1


The title of this collection connects what should never have been seen as apart. Cherishing the earth doesn’t happen on flat spiritual batteries, and this book provides a welcome power-pack!

Cherishing the Earth, comprising essays by Unitarians, is a mixed bag of writing. Each one has a postscript of creative writing and introductions which tell you what to look out for before you trip over it. There are aspects of ‘primer’ but also of manifesto here. Don’t be daunted by a preface, a foreword, AND an introduction – they are part of the value of this book and not incidental reading. Alastair McIntosh’s foreword, especially, doesn’t waste time picking up highlights but contributes his own scientifically and spiritually literate perspective.

I commend the assertive-ness of the project and of some of the writers, who recognise that our challenge is no longer ‘what if’ and ‘it might’ but rather ‘too late!’ Tipping points have tumbled, the crisis is now! The book is a welcome contrast to the Grand-Old-Duke-of Yorkism of British mainstream Churches as they struggle to find an appropriately urgent response to a pile-up of crises…

David Coleman is the Environmental Chaplain for EcoCongregation Scotland

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Can we be friends?

Magisteria: The entangled histories of science and religion
Nicholas Spencer
Oneworld Publications
£25
ISBN: 978-0-86154-461-5


Are science and religion opponents or friends? Do they contradict each other, or give different answers to entirely different questions? Has faith inspired science or held it back? Nicholas Spencer (who has published numerous books as Nick, but now it seems has to differentiate himself on Amazon from a prolific writer of Spider-Man comics) takes a history-based approach to these questions.

Magisteria covers 1,600 years (unless you count creation and evolution, in which case it’s rather more) and tells the story of human efforts to make sense of the universe. These relatively recently coalesced into the different disciplines of science, philosophy and theology, but were originally much less differentiated.

Spencer pays particular attention to the famous stories of Galileo; Darwin, Huxley and Wilberforce; and the Scopes monkey trial, among many less celebrated episodes, and brings the book right up to date with the dawn of artificial intelligence…

Stephen Tomkins is Editor of Reform. Nicholas Spencer is interviewed on page 12

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This article was published in the May 2023 edition of Reform

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