capitalism, psalms, and the prodigal son

What do capitalism, psalms, and the prodigal son all have in common? Well, I'm sure exactly, except that I've recently come across works on all three topics and want to offer my reviews here.

Ok, capitalism first. Every once in awhile Julie and I like to watch documentaries. So we decided to go with Michael Moore's latest film - Capitalism: A Love Story.

The film traces the onset of the economic recession in the U.S. and chronicles the personal stories of several families and individuals parallel to the crazy hoopla around the U.S. government's major economic bailout to financial institutions. Like every Michael Moore piece, you obviously get one side the story and as a economic lay-person, it's hard to critique his facts. But as usual, the film is full of Moore's creative storytelling antics - the best part is when he attempts to make citizens arrests of CEO's at major financial institutions on Wall Street in New York. The symbolism of his actions were striking: people in America (and perhaps Canada to degree) are fed up with ongoing acceptance of the inconsistencies and even illegal activities of the elite in our world. And according to Moore, a financial bailout is not the answer. And while Moore may fail to critically provide enough serious solutions (is that really his purpose?), what he does best is tell stories. The economy isn't simply about crunching numbers. It's about people's lives. Moore's storytelling makes that point well, so for his storytelling alone I'd recommend this film.

And now onto the psalms!

The Psalms are my favorite part of the Bible. They express the raw nature of our faith - how the connection between religious devotion and real life is a link wrought with tension, hardship, mystery, and joy. There is an honesty in the psalms that relates to what we experience in the world. So anytime I come across new (or old) takes on the psalms (e.g. the Message or Psalms Now), I'm excited. The latest such translation to cross my path is The Voice of Psalms.

The Voice of Psalms is a collaborative translation, bringing together writers, poets, pastors, and scholars to "capture the beauty and diversity of God's Word." This edition is one of many in a series called "The Voice," published by Thomas Nelson in conjunction with the Ecclesia Bible Society.

Overall, I'd highly recommend The Voice of Psalms. In the process of making the psalms culturally relevant, the authors are careful to maintain a faithfulness to the original text. And where they've added thoughts to clarify concepts, italics are used to highlight where liberties are being taken. This process avoids confusion when comparing it to other translations, while also allowing some freedom in understanding how the tone of these ancient poems maintain relevance today. Here's a taste with their version of Psalm 13 (one of my favorite psalms):

How long, O Eternal One? How long will You forget me? Forever?
How long will You look the other way?

How long must I agonize,
grieving Your absence in my heart every day?
How long will You let my enemies win?

Turn back; respond to me, O Eternal One, my True God!
Put the spark of life in my eyes, or I'm dead.

My enemies will boast they have beaten me;
my foes will celebrate that I have stumbled.

But I trust in Your faithful love;
my heart leaps at the thought of imminent deliverance by You.
I will sing to the Eternal One,
For He is always generous with me.

My main critique is I could have done without the smattering of anecdotes that accompany several of the psalms, as they lacked the same creativity and substance I saw in the actual translation. Also, for some reason I'm not a fan of the title for God, "Eternal One." For me it seems too generic, perhaps lacking the substance of God's identity as described in the whole biblical narrative. Maybe I'm just too used to "Lord" and "God."

I reviewed this book as a part of the "Book Sneeze" review program.

And finally, on the parable of the prodigal son, I recently reviewed Tim Keller's, The Prodigal God, for my denominational magazine, The MB Herald. Here's my summary:

With an apt blend of storytelling, cultural insights, and biblical exposition, Keller’s writing should appeal to many. Overall, The Prodigal God offers a dynamic, yet easily accessible discussion of the Christian faith, offering hope for Christians wrestling with how to understand and communicate the gospel in our world.

You can read the rest of my review here.

So, capitalism, psalms and the prodigal son - stories of life and money in a broken world, poems expressing hopeful honesty for life in a broken world, and reflections on God's love in a broken world. While I appreciate realism for the world's brokenness, I'm thankful that brokenness does not have the final word:

O my soul, why are you so overwrought?
Why are you so disturbed?
Why can't I just hope in God?
Despite all my emotions, I will hope in God again.
I will
believe and praise the One who saves me and is my life,
My Savior and my God.
(Psalm 43:5 - The Voice of Psalms)


Peter said...

Brian Doerksen's rendition of Psalm 13 is one of the most heartwrenching, yet soothing pieces of music I have ever heard. It's like God hears everything that's going on in my little brain, it's like he actually listens, and I believe he actually does.

I'm glad you liked Capitalism: A Love Story for his creative story writing. He definitely knows how to spin the emotional side of the story, and I think that is what he does best - he causes average, everyday people to connect with some of the more nebulous and hidden aspects of North American society/capitalism/individualism. I'd never quote him in a paper, but I might consider checking out his sources.

David Warkentin said...

Hey Peter, thanks for the Doerksen reference. I didn't realize he'd written a song on Psalm 13.

And yeah, I don't like Moore so much for his credibility but for his entertainment value.

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