Welcome to Yankee Gospel Girl! You can call me Esther O’Reilly. I’m an old soul with many interests, and these are a few of my favorite things: great art (including music, film and literature), conservative politics, and stuff that’s been around since before I was born. If you’re a first-time visitor, thanks for reading! Check out my “About” page, follow me on Youtube, and browse around in the filing cabinet for my musings on all genres of music, movies, faith and culture, and old stuff. I hope you like what you find! God bless.
Little Sis and I pick up where we left off. We begin by discussing the film’s implicit pacifism, then really go at it over Marvel’s morality of magic and healing. We tackle the question of whether parallels can be drawn from Marvel world to our world, or to the world C. S. Lewis creates in Narnia. Finally, I wrap it up with a little discussion of new Harry Potter universe blockbuster Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, whose sympathetic portrayal of persecuted witches has been explicitly criticized by Catholic critic Steven Greydanus.
Enjoy! (And, as before, apologies for all the places where we say “Mordu” instead of “Mordo.” We forgot, okay?)
Courtesy of Thanksgiving Break, Little Sis and I bring you our SPOILERIFIC deep dive into Dr. Strange. We discuss favorite moments and funny bits, as well as how the film handles mind/body dualism, death, and (of course!) magic. It got a little long, as LS observed towards the end, so I’ve broken it up into two parts. In Part II, we will discuss the film’s philosophy of suffering and hash out some differences of opinion on the last Easter Egg and whether we agree with its perspective on magical healing, while expanding on some compare and contrast with C. S. Lewis’s Magician’s Nephew. For now, enjoy Part I, and stay tuned! (Note: I apologize in advance for our erroneous and repeated reference to the character of Mordo as “Mordu.” As you might be able to tell, we’re not exactly die-hard comic book fans, we just watch the movies!)
[Note: I’ve had to delete some inflammatory comments on this post. I did so without apology and will continue to do so. However, in the course of one rant, a person did ask why I am making an analogy to a “horrific” show that “no Christian should be watching.” In response to this, I do offer the caveat that much of it is horrific, and I personally stopped watching after Season 1. I would recommend similar discernment in other Christian viewers. However, my attention was recently drawn to a specific couple of tragically poignant, well-written scenes from the show past the point at which I stopped watching, and this was why it happened to be on my mind at the time of the election.]
Half of America woke up yesterday morning feeling despair. The other half woke up feeling drunk elation.
I woke up feeling nothing.
A few of my friends are mourning Hillary Clinton’s national humiliation, but I cannot muster the sympathy to comfort them. I shed no tears for the fall of the Clinton dynasty. She got nothing. She lost. Good day, ma’am.
More of my friends are celebrating Donald Trump’s poll-defying, media-shaming win. Yet I cannot muster the enthusiasm to join them.
I read post-mortems dissecting the demographic breakdown. I surveyed bar graphs and maps showing in stark red and blue how the sleeping giant of underclass America had been roused to cast their ballots, like a wretched dog that’s been slapped across the nose one too many times. I read anecdotal reports of people physically bringing their mail-in ballots to the polls, just to be sure.
But amidst all the cheering, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth and quaking of stock markets, all I could think of was Jesse Pinkman’s wooden box.
So here I was, grimly resigned to the fact that I should probably write something or other about the election but really wishing I could write about something else instead. Something timely that wasn’t soul-crushingly depressing, about which I could muster the time and energy to say something moderately original and intelligent.
Enter Ben Zobrist and the Chicago Cubs. I don’t care if you’re the nerdiest of nerds to walk the earth. I don’t care if you wander around with 15 pens in your pocket, or if you think the SuperBowl is a moderately important tennis tournament. If you were breathing air and had red American blood in your veins early last Thursday morning, you were in front of some screen, somewhere, just to see if they would really do it this time. Yes, you. You know who you are.
I’ll leave the gloriously sentimental victory songs to Chicago sports journalism’s finest. Meanwhile, I took great interest in another story that emerged this weekend about Ben Zobrist, the Cubs’ freshly minted MVP. While this was known before, many people are just now discovering that Zobrist is a devout evangelical Christian. (And just for those of you who do not have red American blood in your veins and therefore are oblivious as to what Zobrist’s contributions were this series, he scored multiple key runs, including a clutch RB in Game 7’s nail-biting 10th inning that paved the way for Cubs defense to shut it down.)
Now, I know what some of you may have thought when you first saw the headline: “Oh great, another celebrity who said something positive about Jesus once and is now being hyped as a CHRISTIAAAAAAAN celebrity because everyone happens to be talking about him right now.” I can understand why that thought might have crossed your mind. It crossed my mind as well, I confess, cynical kill-joy that I am. But I’m glad I didn’t stop at the headline, because it appears that I drastically underestimated Mr. Ben Zobrist.
I may have lapsed in updating this little space, but if you follow me on FaceBook, you know I have not been idle in writing. Here is a quick run-down of what I’ve been up to.
First, I shared some thoughts in the aftermath of Phyllis Schlafly’s death for The Stream, which you can read here. In particular, I fondly recall getting to meet her in person at the age of 10.
Secondly, Tyler Smith’s podcast More Than One Lesson is one of my favorite places to soak up good film criticism with a Christian slant. Not all his tastes correspond with mine, but I frequently glean interesting insights from him on the films I do like. Recently, he approached me and asked if I’d be interested in throwing my hat in the contributors’ ring for the More Than One Lesson website. My first piece debuted a new film editing project I worked on over the summer, combining a beautiful song called “One Thing of Beauty” with the film The Soloist. In the piece, I reflect on the significance of beauty and how both the song and the film reflect mankind’s search for it. Die-hard readers may recognize echoes of some thoughts I jotted down here a while back.
Finally, last week Tyler posted another piece of mine about a stunning new documentary film called A German Life, about the woman who served as the personal stenographer for Nazi war criminal Joseph Goebbels. It looks like a gripping work, and I can’t wait to see the whole thing myself. In this piece, I take a sober look at what we can learn from this woman’s actions and how we can show mercy towards her. Here’s the trailer:
That’s all for the moment! I hope to check in here from time to time despite yet another demanding year of coursework for my graduate degree. While I’ve been blessed with a lot of freelancing opportunities this year and will keep you posted on those, I’m sure I will continue to have many thoughts that don’t fit neatly anywhere else but here, in this little space where it all started.
When progressive David Gushee sent out his warning to Christian higher ed that no bargains could be struck with the gay agenda, I couldn’t help noticing the ironic timing of the piece, because The Atlantic had just published something arguing exactly that. In my latest for The Stream, I analyze Professor Alan Noble’s proposition for a compromise and explain why its flimsiness cannot hold up under the coming onslaught that Gushee accurately predicts. Click here to read more.
[Note: If you were genuinely moved by the new Ben-Hur movie, chances are good you’ll be offended by this post. I wish to offend no man needlessly, so if you fit this description, you’ve been warned.]
“Why do they need to re-make Ben-Hur?” My sister asked this question the other day. It’s a good question. I’ll let you decide the answer.
Me, I wasn’t even going to bother seeing if it was as bad as I’d heard. But then, I got this idea that I could sell a free-lance piece including some discussion of the Jesus scenes, which had been very hyped up in the movie’s marketing. Supposedly, this re-make was going to improve on the Heston classic by giving Jesus top billing. That seemed interesting, but then early reviews started coming in. If they were to be trusted, Ben-Hur 2016 Jesus was about as deep as Joel Osteen’s Twitter feed. But, understandably, I couldn’t get paid to write anything about it unless I could say I’d seen the movie.
So, I saw it, only to discover that this new and improved, ostensibly beefed-up Jesus was so over-hyped, every single scene of his had already been put on YouTube or mentioned in the two reviews I saw. There was literally nothing else there. Fortune-cookie Joel Osteen Jesus was it.
But hey, I thought, at least I can have a little fun panning the whole thing for my blog, and that will make me feel like my $6.50 wasn’t entirely wasted. So, herewith, seven things I hated about the new Ben-Hur movie.
A few years ago, I discovered that former Oak Ridge Boy Chris Golden had launched a solo career with his project Sunday Shoes. A country-gospel mix of forgotten tunes and new songs, some contributed by Chris’s songwriting brother Rusty, the album didn’t garner a whole lot of attention. But I kept it in rotation for a long time and still return to my favorite cuts from it. (The best one, “On Jordan’s Banks,” would later be covered by Alabama on their project Angels Among Us.) Most of the songs were new to me, and the arrangements had a spark to them that kept my attention. I was especially impressed by the fact that Chris did his own production and recorded most of his own instrumentals. Not only that, but he recorded these very polished-sounding tracks on the fly, recording in hotel rooms and on stages in between concert appearances. That’s the kind of talent that can’t be taught.
Since then, Chris has released several more projects, and he was kind enough to provide me with a copy of his newest album, Less of Me, for review. While I have found my attention drifting from the gospel music scene in recent months, I knew anything by Chris was worth a listen.
When Steve Green did an interview for his project Woven in Time, he laughed when asked what type of music it contained, replying “It contains all the music I like!” This seems to be Chris’s guiding principle with Less of Me. While the album is light on fresh material, it offers engaging takes on a selection of some of Golden’s personal favorite standards, including several ORB chestnuts. With a performance background comprising gospel, country and rock, Golden brings an eclectic sensibility to his musicianship that injects new life into old songs. “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms” is a particularly entertaining, Hammond-and-electric-guitar-drenched shuffle. Once again, he did his own arranging and most of his own recording for this album, so that gives me an even deeper appreciation for the richness of arrangements like this:
The ORB tunes that Golden is blowing the dust off of include Dottie Rambo-penned tunes like “On the Sunny Banks” and “When I Lift Up My Head,” plus the Glen Campbell-penned title track and the feel-good fave “Thank God for Kids.” Golden makes the latter a family affair, allowing his dad to relive the glory days with a solo and bringing in his own kids on backup. His kids also contribute to a wistfully poignant arrangement of “Nothing But the Blood.” I particularly like the way this arrangement begins quietly and proceeds to a stirring climax, falling away to just an acappella breakdown.
Three tunes will be less familiar to listeners. The ballad “Show Me the Way to Go” was recorded on a newer Oak Ridge Boys project. Here, Chris opts to strip back the production to just piano and vocal, to tasteful effect. He also offers a low-key take on Russ Lee’s 2003 hit “Love is a Cross” and revives the Booth Brothers’ reflectively bluesy deep cut “What Salvation’s Done For Me.” I had forgotten about the latter and was reminded how much I liked it. This fun little tune was co-written by Rusty Golden and Dianne Wilkinson (one of several successful collaborations).
Although the song selection for this project isn’t quite as strong or original as some of his other work, it’s a fun walk down musical memory lane for Golden, and curious listeners should seek out his other projects. This versatile artist truly has something for everyone.
I’m back, with a vengeance! Well, actually, I’m just back with a new article, which the folks at The Stream are graciously hosting. In it, I discuss the ways in which Trump and Co. have hijacked the phrase “politically incorrect,” and I propose that as conservatives, we collectively put it to bed as a phrase that has lost its meaning. Click here to read it.
If we can’t make the case to the American people that voting for our party’s nominee is consistent with voting your conscience, is consistent with defending freedom and being faithful to the Constitution, then we are not going to win, and we don’t deserve to win. — Ted Cruz
I am uncharacteristically left speechless after the sad, sad events in Cleveland this past week. As Matt Walsh said, “not my circus, not my elephants,” but it’s still hard not to cry a little cry over the final bullet in the head of the Republican party. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to all that social/fiscal conservatism… stuff, I guess. I mean, minor details really. Not like we’re gutting the soul of the party or anything. Move along folks.
The only bright spot, of course, was Ted Cruz’s perfect balance of principle and savvy, reminding us of what Republicanism used to stand for and reminding us that far more hangs in the balance this election than the presidency. One of the most devastating potential consequences of Trump’s nomination is that discouraged Never Trumpers will not mobilize to keep Congress in the red, as dozens of seats are up for grabs. Cruz’s reminder to vote our consciences “up and down the ballot” was not just a subtle dig at Trump. It was a useful word of advice to real conservatives that there are still worthy senators and representatives out there who need their vote. By the way, I’ve seen a number of people condescendingly wag their fingers at Cruz for “breaking his pledge” by not explicitly endorsing Trump. (And how interesting that even Trump’s own supporters know good and well that “vote your conscience” doesn’t mean their guy.) What a lot of sanctimonious hoo-ha. I won’t even try to respond to all that better than the man himself.
But anyway, I thought about writing a little eulogy, until I read around and realized it’s all been said more eloquently than I can match. So, I refer my gentle readers to the following gems of wisdom. Take up and read:
Maggie Gallagher on where the Republican party is going from here (spoiler, it’s leftward ho!)
Matt Walsh on what true conservative unity should look like (and why uniting around Trump isn’t it)