“Fences” and “Hidden Figures”: Finding Purpose in Unexpected Places

By Kathy Winings

kathy_winings_3_profileTwo recent films, each nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, help white America understand the challenges and struggles of black America from different perspectives. On the one hand, “Fences” is a story that shines a light on the challenges and issues faced by black families in the 1950s. On the other hand, in “Hidden Figures,” we have Hollywood telling the amazing story of three immensely talented black women who made invaluable contributions to NASA and the American space program.

August Wilson has been called one of the finest American playwrights of the 20th century. His plays have highlighted and brought to life African Americans in everyday roles dealing with everyday issues including love, struggle, duty, and betrayal. The impetus behind his plays was so white Americans could begin to see African Americans in a different light; see them dealing with the same issues that define life for most whites so that whites just might treat African Americans differently. “Fences” was one of his best-known plays for which he received both a Pulitzer and a Tony award.  In 2016, “Fences” came to the big screen directed by Denzel Washington.

“Fences” is the story of Troy Maxson, a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh.  Portrayed passionately by Denzel Washington, Maxson is a bitter man whose dream of becoming a professional baseball player died early on because he was too old by the time Major League  Baseball began admitting black players. As a result, after spending time in prison, he now struggles with his own ambitions to find success in his job and as a man needing to feel vibrant and loved. Yet, he looks for this, as the proverbial song says, “in all the wrong places.”

His main support is his long-suffering wife, Rose, played brilliantly by Viola Davis, who won the 2010 Tony for best actress in the role and the 2017 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the same role (her Oscar acceptance speech was deeply moving).

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“Collateral Beauty”: A Conversation with Time, Death and Love

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By Kathy Winings

kathy_winings_3_profileThe death of a child is probably the most devastating experience a parent can go through. This is made all the more devastating when the child is very young and has just begun to spread his or her wings.

This is the experience of Howard Inlet (Will Smith) in the new film “Collateral Beauty.” Howard’s whole life has been turned upside down with the death of his six-year old daughter. Unable to deal with her death, Inlet, once the creative force behind a successful New York advertising agency, withdraws completely from life. Over the year following her death, he only comes to the office to create massive and intricate domino-like designs that he proceeds to topple once the masterpiece is complete. He retreats so far into his grief that he does not eat or sleep, does not communicate with his business partners and friends, sits alone in a dark apartment, and cycles recklessly through the city day in and day out.

During one of his daily cycling rides, Howard appears to stumble on a support group for parents who have lost a child. He finds himself periodically sitting in on their meetings only to leave if asked to share about his experience. Over time, he begins conversing with the group’s director (Naomie Harris) who also lost a child, a six-year old daughter, to cancer. It is during one of their conversations that she shares a concept that helped get her through her grief. This concept is the phrase “collateral beauty.” As she describes it, collateral beauty is recognizing the possibilities of meaning and beauty that are all around us even in the midst of death and pain. But Inlet cannot move past the pain of his loss and cannot or will not acknowledge what happened to his daughter.

Trying to salvage a now-suffering business and also wanting to reach out to their friend, Howard’s business partners Claire (Kate Winslet), Whit (Edward Norton) and Simon (Michael Peña) take the drastic step of hiring a private detective to follow Howard in the hope of obtaining evidence that can be used to force him to turn over his controlling stock in the agency.

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“Loving”: Outlawing Love and Marriage

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By Kathy Winings

kathy_winings_3_profileI am a romantic. Like many romantics, we like to believe that when two people share a deep and abiding love, there should be no problem why they cannot have a happy marriage. Unfortunately, we have come to see this is not always the case – especially when the two people are racially diverse. This is because we still live in a world that is racially charged and racially divided. Racism seems to be one of the most intractable problems to solve. Our inability to see “the other” as an equal, as our neighbor and as fully human, has plagued us since the beginning of the human race.

Nowhere is the challenge of racism more evident than in the movie “Loving,” written and directed by Jeff Nichols, and nominated for two Golden Globes in acting. Loving tells the story of an interracial couple living in pre-civil rights, 1950s Virginia, who ultimately became the center of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that addressed the unconstitutionality of the anti-miscegenation law of Virginia and those of 24 other states (Loving v. Virginia).

Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), a white construction worker, and his wife, Mildred (Ruth Negga) a black woman, begin their arduous legal journey with the simple act of getting married in 1956 and creating a home in rural Caroline County in northeastern Virginia. Though they are legally married in the District of Columbia, their home is in Virginia and such an act is illegal under Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law.

It does not take long before news of their interracial marriage spreads, resulting in the couple’s arrest in the middle of the night after local police raid their home. When their case comes before the judge, the Lovings are given two options if they want to avoid prison: divorce immediately or plead guilty and leave their home and family in Virginia and not return for a minimum of 25 years. Though expecting their first child, the Lovings plead guilty and move to Washington, DC – leaving behind everyone they love and hold dear.

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The Ethics of Care

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By Keisuke Noda

Keisuke_NodaThe ethics of care is an emerging discipline developed by feminist ethicists in the latter half of the 20th century. It has gradually gained support from non-feminist ethicists and is now examined not as a feminist ethics but as a possible general ethical theory.

Care ethics has three main characteristics:

  • It views the human being as interdependent, who values caring relationships and recognizes the family as the primary setting where interdependence is evident and caring relationships are cultivated.
  • It recognizes the moral value of emotional feelings and emotion-based virtues such as benevolence, empathy, receptivity, and sensitivity.
  • It acknowledges the moral value of partiality in intimate relationships, such as those defined by family ties and close friendships.

This article considers each of these characteristics, notes criticism from traditional ethicists, examines the Unificationist perspective, and suggests that it offers the basis for a global ethic.

 Interdependence. Major proponents of this theory such as Carol Gilligan, Virginia Held and Nel Noddings argue that dominant modern ethics, such as Kantian ethics and utilitarianism which they characterize as ethics of justice, were built upon the assumption that the human being is an autonomous, rational, independent individual.

Care ethicists disagree. They point out the fact that no human can survive without caring adults who nurture and raise him or her at the early stages of life. Later in life, one also becomes dependent upon others who take care of them. It is an illusory view, care ethics theorists argue, that a human being is independent. Rather, they argue that an adequate ethical theory must be built upon the understanding that human beings are essentially interdependent.

This insight is similar to the Unificationist understanding of co-existence. One’s identity is not an isolated, atomic entity. It is intertwined with others.

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Cremation: An Acceptable Alternative to Burial

By William P. Selig

Bill SeligMany members have asked what is the Unificationist position on cremation. As a dynamic Movement relating to our Heavenly Parent, it is natural our traditions will continue to be reexamined and updated. Such is the case with our position on cremation.

The Tradition, published in 1985, was the first attempt to describe in an orderly form the official traditions of our faith – attendance, prayer, pledge, holy songs, holy salt, holy grounds, tithing, holy days and holidays, and birth and death rituals. It also put in writing for the first time our position on issues such as abortion, contraception, circumcision, as well as cremation.

Regarding cremation, it was declared to be “not in accordance with the Unification view, as it does not allow the physical body a natural return to the physical (material) world.”

Mother’s Position

After the ascension of Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 2012, the movement’s leadership passed to his wife, Mother Hak Ja Han Moon. On the one-year anniversary of Father’s ascension, Dr. Chang Shik Yang, former FFWPU Continental Director, North America, spoke with Mother and asked about cremation. She acknowledged that cremation has become common in Korea among members. Statistics are not available for the movement, but in the general population of Korea, almost 80% of people who die are cremated, while in Japan it is nearly 100%.

According to Seoul’s Hankyoreh newspaper, “A recent study shows eight out of every ten funerals is now carried out by cremation. It’s the result of a combination of factors, including changing family structures, more favorable perceptions among South Koreans, and a lack of space for burials.” There has been a big shift in South Koreans’ thinking due to Western influence and recently a strong government push to consider cremation as a way to save space. A law passed in 2000 requires anyone burying their dead after 2000 to remove the grave 60 years after burial.

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On the Internal Meaning of Lineage

By Andrew Lausberg

75995_459821110372_999357_nIn the teachings of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, lineage comes up time and time again. Lineage is cited as a significant element in a number of ways: the need to restore humanity, originally of God’s lineage, from Satan’s lineage back to God’s lineage; the significance of lineage in terms of a person being chosen by God for providential work; the significance of lineage in terms of what kind of sin needs to be resolved on earth; etc.

Despite the prominence of lineage as a concept in Rev. Moon’s teaching, there is surprisingly little extrapolation on the topic. He frequently used all sorts of real world and theoretical examples to illustrate his understanding of how God’s creation works. Concepts such as internal and external, vertical and horizontal are pivotal to illustrating the ideas he is dealing with. The Principle itself goes into the idea of “spherical movement” of living beings. How then does lineage fit into this conceptual framework?

In many cases, Father Moon discusses different dimensions. Consider the eight-stages of restoration. He describes eight horizontal stages: individual → family → clan → ethnic group → nation → world → cosmos → God; and eight vertical stages: servant of servants → servant → adopted child → stepchild (or illegitimate child) → true child → mother → father → God. We can understand that these two dimensions as interacting or interfacing like an x and y axis. At any given point in time, a person may be at one of the horizontal levels, such as at the level of nation. By this, we mean that the person is dealing with issues that impact on a national level of existence.

Likewise, at any given point, a person may be at a vertical stage of restoration or growth, such as the stage of adopted son. We mean that the person is dealing with issues that impact or are related to a quality of relationship typified as that of an adopted child and his or her adopted parent. One axis deals with dimensions of human existence embodied in larger or smaller social groupings, the other deals with dimensions of relationships of heart — equated with “internal dimensions.”

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Hollywood, Sexuality and Cultural Marxism

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By David Eaton

david_eatonConfucius once averred:

“If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.”

I contemplated his observation as I watched the telecast of last month’s 88th Academy Awards. If we were to substitute the word “music” with “cinema” or “culture,” the Chinese sage might be more than a bit angst-ridden given the tone and tenor of the Oscars.

Predictably, the show’s host, Chris Rock, pummeled the Hollywood establishment for its lack of racial diversity among the nominees — a major issue in the run-up to the Oscars. But not far from the surface was Hollywood’s seemingly incessant need to sexualize the proceedings. Comedienne Sarah Silverman’s riff on sexual intercourse viz. James Bond, and Rock’s quips, about helping the show’s music director “get l__d at the Governor’s Ball” and the panties of a female pop star in the audience, were reminders of Hollywood’s duplicity in matters of sexual probity.

I wondered how Chris Rock’s Girl Scout daughters reacted to Silverman and their dad’s overt sexual suggestiveness. Surely they were watching (as I was with my 21-year old daughter), and I cringed at the vulgar and completely unnecessary sexual repartee. But here again was an example of the in-your-face sexuality Hollywood both glorifies and aggressively markets while attempting to be viewed as virtuous on other social matters.

To be fair, the serious issue of sexual abuse was front-and-center at the Oscars with “Spotlight” spotlighting the problems within the Catholic Church (and winning Best Picture). “The Hunting Ground,” dealing with the problem of campus rape, was not nominated for Best Documentary Film, but the film’s song, “Til It Happens To You,” was a nominee for Best Original Song.

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“Steve Jobs”: A Film Really About Heroines

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By Mark P. Barry

Mark Barry Photo 2When Steve Jobs died in 2011, his authorized biography was rushed to press, quickly followed by the low-budget, independent film, “Jobs.” Fans of the Apple CEO had to wait until last October for the full Hollywood production, “Steve Jobs,” featuring an A-list cast and team, to reach the big screen.

Audiences were disappointed in the film because it bombed at the box office. Expectations surely were for a depiction of Jobs’ stellar technology and business achievements. But the truth is: this movie is more about its heroines than its hero.

For her performance in “Steve Jobs,” Kate Winslet won the 2016 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress and was nominated for an Oscar this year as well. She plays Joanna Hoffman, long-time marketing chief at Apple and “right-hand woman” to its co-founder. Known as the one person who could stand up to the difficult and temperamental Jobs, in the film Hoffman calls herself his “work wife.” Winslet, as Joanna, is the moral center of the movie.

Very loosely based on the Walter Isaacson official biography – a book Apple and Jobs’ family were not happy with – “Steve Jobs” is written by Aaron Sorkin, who won the 2011 Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “The Social Network” and this year’s Golden Globe for Best Screenplay for “Steve Jobs.”

“Steve Jobs” was lucky to get made. It was originally produced by Sony Pictures, but after North Korea hacked its computers in late 2014, divulging embarrassing executive emails, Universal Pictures acquired the film. A who’s who of actors and actresses were considered for parts. Oscar-winning director, Danny Boyle, chose Matthew Fassbender — despite looking nothing like Jobs — for the title role (he was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award).

Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell-Jobs, encouraged Isaacson to write his book, but her eventual dissatisfaction with it, as a less-than-flattering portrait of her husband, led her to reportedly block the film’s production. However, there may have been a more underlying reason.

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Lessons of Illness and Death

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by William Selig

WS CU cropIn my capacity as chaplain in an inner-city hospital, I deal with end-of-life situations as frequently as two or three times a day. My faith as a Unificationist accepts death as normal and part of God’s plan. I know that if God is in our life, then He must also be in our death, and this gives me a sense of comfort and the strength to offer spiritual support to the patient, family and staff.

When I enter the room and see the patient lying on the bed, the family is generally gathered around or standing outside in the hallway or hurriedly on their way to the hospital. The air is thick with emotion. My heart never fails to be moved by the sincerity and tears. I am deeply touched by the weeping and what I call “quiet tears” where I know the family’s feelings are building up inside and ready to overflow.

I try to provide a compassionate presence even if the patient is unresponsive. I always assume their spirit self or inner being is awake and appreciative of companionship.

When a person knows that death is imminent, what happens next really depends on their values and beliefs. Faith and spirituality often become very important even if he or she hasn’t set foot in a house of worship for years. Many appreciate hearing sacred words and prayer. Most often people request Psalm 23. It is known to everyone and provides a comfortable assurance that Heavenly Parent is in the room.

Besides the patient, I offer spiritual support to the family and loved ones through companionship, prayers, and a listening heart. Essentially the chaplain is a reminder that life has a spiritual dimension. I try to help them deal with the situation and find some sense of spiritual peace.

I’m always been inspired by how God opens the hearts of the families. Although I am a total stranger, I am immediately welcomed into the center of an emotionally intimate situation, certainly not as an individual, but rather as what the chaplain represents. The family wants to feel the presence of God. They want the assurance that God is in charge and that he’s there, even when things aren’t going according to their own wishes or expected plan.

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