John Lewis: Good Trouble, directed by Dawn Porter (Magnolia Pictures, 2020, 96 minutes)
This documentary features 1960s footage of a young John Lewis as one of the original Freedom Riders, as a speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, as a leader at the march in Selma, and as a survivor of multiple violent attacks along the way.
More striking than that footage, however, are the parts of the documentary that show Lewis himself, in 2019, watching the film on a large screen — the longtime congressman from Georgia had never seen some of it. “I think it helped him to relive some of those stories in new ways,” reports director Dawn Porter in the production notes.
In interviews, Lewis reflects on watershed events as well as lesser-known aspects of his life and work. Interviews with colleagues, family members, and friends round out the portrait of a nonviolent, strategic, faithful, and unstoppable force who gave his all to make his country better.
The film’s timing is poignant. Lewis died in July 2020 at the age of 80, but viewers can see him in recent months, working in the U.S. Capitol, at rallies and churches, urging Americans to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble” to ensure their voting rights and safeguard democracy.
Leading Lives that Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be, Second Edition, Edited by Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass (Eerdmans, 2020, 650 pp., $35)
Leading Lives that Matter dives into the themes of authenticity, virtue, vocation, and exemplarity. In the preface to this timely, updated, and expanded second edition, the editors explain that the ideal readers for this book are those who are at the same time “settled and unsettled.” This describes seminary students aptly, and they will find this a worthwhile read, as will those who are concerned with their well-being.
Six questions guide the reader’s contemplation: Must my job be the primary source of my identity? Is a balanced life possible and preferable to a life focused primarily on work? How shall I tell the story of my life? To whom and to what should I listen as I decide what to do for a living? With whom and for whom shall I live? What are my obligations to future human and other life?
Responses to these questions come in the form of 85 readings — 47 of which are new to this edition, including selections from Pope Francis, Malcolm Gladwell, Kazuo Ishiguro, Martin Luther King Jr, Winona LaDuke, Denise Levertov, Wangari Maathai, and Toni Morrison. The diverse array of voices and texts provides a rich point of departure for readers to consider what they themselves should do and should be.
Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration from Digital Distraction
By Ed Cyzewski (Herald Press, 2020, 256 pp., $30)
According to the author and retreat director Ed Cyzewski, our dependence on our devices is affecting our spirituality, our relationships, and our mental health. Writing before the surge of tech use triggered by the pandemic, Cyzewski says our addictions to social media and tech train us to do the exact opposite of what the contemplative prayer tradition urges us to practice.
Cyzewski assures readers that he has no desire to ask people to relinquish their phones or delete their Facebook accounts. Instead, his goal is to highlight how such tools can profoundly impair us. His goal is to help us rewire our ability to focus and attend to the truly important aspects of our lives.
Reconnect weaves together studies and statistics about social media and digital device use, recent literature on the topic, and the author’s reflections on how the goals of technology formation often conflict with the goals of spiritual formation.
Cyzewski’s personal stories about how technology fits (or doesn’t fit) into his own life, along with questions for reflection at the end of each chapter, gently but persuasively challenge readers to a more informed and intentional engagement with technology and social media.
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