Author Archive

Sundance 2013 Diary: Imagining the world as it ought to be

Sundance 2013 Diary: Imagining the world as it ought to be

PARK CITY, Utah It’s been said that Hollywood films comfort the afflicted while Sundance films afflict the comfortable. Film offers a vicarious entry to the world the way it is, and the films I saw at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival left me longing for a different world — the world the way it ought to be.

It ought to be a world in which Muslims and Christians love, serve, protect and forgive each other. “Circles” is based on a 1993 incident that took place in Trebinje, a small town in the Serbian region of east Herzegovina. Three Serb soldiers were brutally beating Alen Glavovic, a Muslim shopkeeper. When Srdjan Aleksic, a Christian Serb intervened to stop the soldiers, they turned their attention on him and beat him to death. The film explores the impact of this incident on the Muslim who survived the beating, Srdjan’s fiance and his father, on the children of the perpetrators and on the whole village.

It ought to be a world in which we see each human as a child of God, deserving of love and respect. “C.O.G.” is the first-ever film adaptation of a David Sedaris essay, one in which Sedaris tells of his first venture west as a recent and pretentious college graduate. His encounter with a group of conservative Christians reveals their conditional love. When he hit rock bottom, these Christians helped him get back on his feet, but when they learned he was gay they turned on him.

Similarly, “Valentine Road” is a documentary exploring the brutal murder of a gay eighth-grader, Larry King, by Brandon McInerney, a fellow student who hated gays. We watch as educators, children, a local community and then jurists divide over whether King was a victim or the cause of the murder; their answer differs based on their prejudices about homosexuality — a prejudice often shaped by their religious upbringing.

On a positive note, “This is Martin Bonner” is a story about the mutual respect and reciprocal rehabilitation of a Christian man who needed a second chance after his divorce and a recently released prisoner seeking help with re-entry into everyday life.

 It ought to be a world in which there is justice for all. The documentary “Gideon’s Army” follows the lives of three public defenders whose clients are unable to afford bail or an attorney. The public defender’s job is a low-paying, thankless one, but as this film shows, ours is a country of liberty and justice for all, regardless of ethnicity or income, and guilty and innocent alike deserve competent legal representation.

It ought to be a world in which people of all religions are free to express their faith, but not to impose it on others. “The Square” follows five revolutionaries through Egypt’s Arab Spring uprising. We see how hatred for President Hosni Mubarak unifies Egypt’s disparate religious factions, and how after Mubarak’s overthrow the democratic vision of young idealistic revolutionaries was quickly displaced by the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood, whose stated goal is to instill the Quran as the central reference point for ordering the life of the Muslim family, individuals, community and state.

It ought to be a world in which the strength of religion is found in its ability to help us encounter God. “There Will Come a Day” is a visually sumptuous film crafted by Italian Giorgio Diritti. It follows Augusta, a young Parisian who journeys to Brazil to try to find herself, joining a precocious nun (and family friend) to serve the poor living along the Amazon River. But God’s silence eats at Augusta, and the Catholicism that once provided comfort and direction now seems cold and distant. She settles in a shantytown where she finds an authentic community of people who have discovered what really matters most in life, freeing her to navigate her own journey towards God.

It ought to be a world in which the family is a supportive place where love prevails. “Breathe In,”Toy’s House” and “The Way, Way Back” each explore the strains and stresses of family life and their impact, but each also sees a hopeful way forward.

In the Q &A following “Circles,” Serbian filmmaker Srdan Golubovic said: “When you throw a stone in water, something happens. I wanted to explore the ripple effect of one horrific event in which a good man took action. I believe in good, and the only sense in life is to do good.”

This is the lasting impact of Sundance 2013; for the world to be the way it ought to be, I need to be the way I ought to be.

Dick Staub is an award-winning broadcaster, writer, and speaker whose work focuses on the intersection of faith and culture. He blogs at is the host of The Kindlings Muse, and is author of “About You: Fully Human and Fully Alive,” The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite,”Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters” and “Too Christian, Too Pagan.” (Photo by Karen Mason-Blair)



Posted in Staublog in January 25, 2013 by | 1 Comment »


The Christmas story is one of strange, unlikely, jarring juxtapositions. He came unto his own and his own received him not. Light entered darkness and men loved darkness rather than light. Joy to the world the Lord has come, And then Herod slaughtered the innocents in Bethlehem. Such is life as we know it on planet earth. Is the juxtaposition what keeps it from being, as Mary Oliver suggests, a shruggable comfort? Read More.

Posted in Thoughts in December 21, 2012 by | No Comments »

Christmas, A Shruggable Comfort.

Christmas, A Shruggable Comfort.
The Christmas story is one of strange, unlikely, jarring juxtapositions.
He came unto his own and his own received him not.
Light entered darkness and men loved darkness rather than light.
Joy to the world the Lord has come,
And then Herod slaughtered the innocents in Bethlehem.
Newtown, Connecticut.
Such is life as we know it on planet earth.
As the poet Mary Oliver puts it,
“for it’s true, isn’t it,
in our world, 
that the petals pooled with nectar, and the polished thorns
are a single thing–
that even the purest light, lacking the robe of darkness,
would be without expression–
that love itself, without its pain, would be 
no more than a shruggable comfort.”

Posted in Staublog in December 21, 2012 by | 1 Comment »


What can we do when traumatized by deeds of darkness? In this season announced as joyful, yet followed by Herod’s massacre of the innocents in Jesus’ time, and Newtown, CT in ours. What are we to do? Time to dust off the word lament and reflect on it. In the words of Lamentations,  time to “take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.” READ MORE

Posted in Thoughts in December 18, 2012 by | No Comments »

When The Innocents Died; An Earlier Foreboding Tale.

When The Innocents Died; An Earlier Foreboding Tale.

 What can we do when traumatized by deeds of darkness? In this season announced as joyful, yet followed by Herod’s massacre of the innocents in Jesus’ time, and Newtown, CT in ours. What are we to do? Time to dust off the word lament and reflect on it.

After 911, Stanley Hauerwas advised that the horror of that day “requires a kind of silence.” “We desperately want to ‘explain’ what happened… I believe attempts to explain must be resisted. Rather, we should learn to wait before what we know not, hoping to gain time and space sufficient to learn how to speak without lying.”

What follows the quiet should be a careful process of evaluation and lament, followed by confession, and then a decision to begin the process of a personal and cultural transformation. We must allow time for this process.

To aid us let me recommend reading the Old Testament book of Lamentations in Eugene Peterson’s The Message, where he makes this subject come alive. Lamentations describes the devastation of the once great city of Jerusalem, the exile of the Jews to foreign lands and the grief that followed. He defines a lamentation as and “intense witness to suffering.

I would recommend that you read the whole Book Of Lamentations (Only 5 chapters), but in the interest of time, here are a few selected passages organized around key themes.

Reflect on these themes for a few minutes and prayerfully consider their relevance for us today. Also ask: Who is speaking out about our fallen culture today? What are they saying? What do they identify as the problem and solution? How often are you hearing public statements about the spiritual deterioration of the human race and our own country? How often does God appear as a player on the dialogue? What are we to do?

 • The deterioration of a once great city and culture.

1.1 Oh, oh, oh . . . How empty the city, once teeming with people. A widow, this city, once in the front rank of nations, once queen of the ball, she’s now a drudge in the kitchen.

2.15 Astonished, passersby can’t believe what they see. They rub their eyes and they shake their heads over Jerusalem. Is this the city voted “Most Beautiful” and “Best Place to Live”?

4.1 Oh, oh, oh . . . How gold is treated like dirt, the finest gold thrown out with the garbage, Priceless jewels scattered all over, jewels loose in the gutters.

 • The horrific evil humans are capable of (And the mystery of God allowing it).

2.20-22 Look at us, God. Think it over. Have you ever treated anyone like this? Should women eat their own babies, the very children they raised? Should priests and prophets be murdered in the Master’s own Sanctuary? 21 “Boys and old men lie in the gutters of the streets, my young men and women killed in their prime. Angry, you killed them in cold blood, cut them down without mercy. 22 “You invited, like friends to a party, men to swoop down in attack so that on the big day of God’s wrath no one would get away. The children I loved and reared – gone, gone, gone.
4.3-10 Even wild jackals nurture their babies, give them their breasts to suckle. But my people have turned cruel to their babies, like an ostrich in the wilderness. 4 Babies have nothing to drink. Their tongues stick to the roofs of their mouths. Little children ask for bread but no one gives them so much as a crust. 5 People used to the finest cuisine forage for food in the streets. People used to the latest in fashions pick through the trash for something to wear. 6 The evil guilt of my dear people was worse than the sin of Sodom – The city was destroyed in a flash, and no one around to help. 7 The splendid and sacred nobles once glowed with health. Their bodies were robust and ruddy, their beards like carved stone. 8 But now they are smeared with soot, unrecognizable in the street, Their bones sticking out, their skin dried out like old leather. 9 Better to have been killed in battle than killed by starvation. Better to have died of battle wounds than to slowly starve to death. 10 Nice and kindly women boiled their own children for supper. This was the only food in town when my dear people were broken.

 • Failure of religious leaders to see and speak the truth.

2.14 Your prophets courted you with sweet talk. They didn’t face you with your sin so that you could repent. Their sermons were all wishful thinking, deceptive illusions.

4.13-16 Because of the sins of her prophets and the evil of her priests, Who exploited good and trusting people, robbing them of their lives, 14 These prophets and priests blindly grope their way through the streets, grimy and stained from their dirty lives, Wasted by their wasted lives, shuffling from fatigue, dressed in rags. 15 People yell at them, “Get out of here, dirty old men! Get lost, don’t touch us, don’t infect us!” They have to leave town. They wander off. Nobody wants them to stay here. Everyone knows, wherever they wander, that they’ve been kicked out of their own hometown. 16 God himself scattered them. No longer does he look out for them. He has nothing to do with the priests; he cares nothing for the elders.

 • Frustration with God’s silence, and a suspicion that God is allowing the people to pay the price for their own wrongdoing.

1.8: 8 Jerusalem, who out-sinned the whole world, is an outcast. All who admired her despise her now that they see beneath the surface. Miserable, she groans and turns away in shame.

1.9 She played fast and loose with life, she never considered tomorrow, and now she’s crashed royally, with no one to hold her hand: “Look at my pain, O God! And how the enemy cruelly struts.

2.17 God did carry out, item by item, exactly what he said he’d do. He always said he’d do this. Now he’s done it – torn the place down. He’s let your enemies walk all over you, declared them world champions!

• Sorrow and Lamentation.

1.16 For all this I weep, weep buckets of tears, and not a soul within miles around cares for my soul. My children are wasted, my enemy got his way.”

2.1 Oh, oh, oh . . . How the Master has cut down Daughter Zion from the skies, dashed Israel’s glorious city to earth, in his anger treated his favorite as throwaway junk.

2.18 Give out heart-cries to the Master, dear repentant Zion. Let the tears roll like a river, day and night, and keep at it – no time-outs. Keep those tears flowing! 19 As each night watch begins, get up and cry out in prayer. Pour your heart out face to face with the Master. Lift high your hands. Beg for the lives of your children who are starving to death out on the streets.

• Confession and Reformation.

3. 25-36 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. 26 It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. 27 It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. 28 When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. 29 Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. 30 Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst. 31 Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. 32 If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. 33 He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way:

3. 40-51 Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God. 41 Let’s lift our hearts and hands at one and the same time, praying to God in heaven: 42 “We’ve been contrary and willful, and you haven’t forgiven. 43 “You lost your temper with us, holding nothing back. You chased us and cut us down without mercy. 44 You wrapped yourself in thick blankets of clouds so no prayers could get through. 45 You treated us like dirty dishwater, threw us out in the backyard of the nations. 46 “Our enemies shout abuse, their mouths full of derision, spitting invective. 47 We’ve been to hell and back. We’ve nowhere to turn, nowhere to go. 48 Rivers of tears pour from my eyes at the smashup of my dear people. 49 “The tears stream from my eyes, an artesian well of tears, 50 Until you, God, look down from on high, look and see my tears.

3. 55-57 “I called out your name, O God, called from the bottom of the pit. 56 You listened when I called out, ‘Don’t shut your ears! Get me out of here! Save me!’ 57 You came close when I called out. You said, ‘It’s going to be all right.’

5. 1-22 Remember, God, all we’ve been through. Study our plight, the black mark we’ve made in history. 2 Our precious land has been given to outsiders, our homes to strangers. 3 Orphans we are, not a father in sight, and our mothers no better than widows. 4 We have to pay to drink our own water. Even our firewood comes at a price. 5 We’re nothing but slaves, bullied and bowed, worn out and without any rest. 6 We sold ourselves to Assyria and Egypt just to get something to eat. 7 Our parents sinned and are no more, and now we’re paying for the wrongs they did. 8 Slaves rule over us; there’s no escape from their grip. 9 We risk our lives to gather food in the bandit-infested desert. 10 Our skin has turned black as an oven, dried out like old leather from the famine. 11 Our wives were raped in the streets in Zion, and our virgins in the cities of Judah. 12 They hanged our princes by their hands, dishonored our elders. 13 Strapping young men were put to women’s work, mere boys forced to do men’s work. 14 The city gate is empty of wise elders. Music from the young is heard no more. 15 All the joy is gone from our hearts. Our dances have turned into dirges. 16 The crown of glory has toppled from our head. Woe! Woe! Would that we’d never sinned! 17 Because of all this we’re heartsick; we can’t see through the tears. 18 On Mount Zion, wrecked and ruined, jackals pace and prowl. 19 And yet, God, you’re sovereign still, your throne intact and eternal. 20 So why do you keep forgetting us? Why dump us and leave us like this? 21 Bring us back to you, God – we’re ready to come back. Give us a fresh start. 22 As it is, you’ve cruelly disowned us. You’ve been so very angry with us.”

Read this poem by John Blasé.


In the beginning was the word, scattered everywhere.

Then the word was assembled with experience, colored

with the red of blood and the black of eyes, and the word

became a sentence and the story took shape.

The question posed to the magi was not what gifts do you bring?

but good or bad, either way, can you bear the story?

It is a question best borne with song.

That is why the angels sang, and so must we.


Let us observe the world around us and within us.

Let us think.

Let us lament.

Let us pray.

Let us “take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.”

Let us sing.

Let us act.







Posted in Staublog in December 18, 2012 by | 1 Comment »


“Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.” ― George MacDonald

Posted in Thoughts in November 19, 2012 by | No Comments »

Laugh! More Church Bulletin Bloopers

Laugh! More Church Bulletin Bloopers
These sentences (with all the BLOOPERS) actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services
The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals. 
The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’ 
Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands. 
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you. 
Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help. 
Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation. 
For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs. 
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get. 
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days. 
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.. 
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice. 
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children. 
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.. 
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow. 
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon. 
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin. 
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM . All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. Is done. 
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday. 
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM . Please use the back door. 
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM . The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy. 
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church Please use large double door at the side entrance. 
The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: ‘I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours!

Posted in Staublog in November 13, 2012 by | 1 Comment »


“From caring comes courage.” Lao Tzu. For those concerned about the political process, I offer you good news. Things are going to get better because my 10 year-old Grandson Eli has entered politics. Read More.

Posted in Thoughts in November 10, 2012 by | No Comments »

From Caring Comes Courage.

From Caring Comes Courage.
For those concerned about the political process I offer you good news, things are going to get better because my 10 year-old Grandson Eli has entered politics.
Eli’s elementary school goes through the fifth grade. Never in the history of the school had a fourth grader ran for president, but Eli did last year and narrowly lost.
This year he ran a winning campaign. He realized the kids wanted more recreational equipment. His winning speech included the line “I’ve already talked with Mr. Jonathan Grimm, manager of the Burbank Jamba Juice, And if I am elected he will do a fundraiser that will allow us to buy ALL the equipment we need…” With this pork barrel speech he won by a landslide.
I actually liked his losing speech from the previous year. It ended with this line: “In the words of Lao Tzu, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’ Let the journey begin.”*
I like to think Eli’s fourth grade campaign was motivated by the fact that he cared… Because Lao Tzu also said, “From caring comes courage.”
If you ask me on this veteran’s day weekend,  “What is the essential virtue?”  I would say it is courage. I am in good company in saying this. Aristotle said, Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality, which guarantees the others. C. S. Lewis said, Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.
If you ask, “what is the virtue most lacking among us today?” I would also say it is courage.
I say this because our individual and institutional life are too often marked by  Fear of failure and conformity. Today’s political correctness is exactly what French Philosopher Albert Camus warned us of when he said, “Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.” George Bernard Shaw described today’s conformist so well, “A man of great common sense and good taste –Meaning thereby a man without originality or moral courage!”
Sadly a lack of courage is sometimes pervasive among Christians and our churches and often with grave consequences.
Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran Pastor who early on failed to stand up to Nazism in Germany said,  “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Our heritage as Christians is one of courage. You see this in the disciples after Pentecost when the common, ordinary unschooled upstarts, Peter and John stood before the Sanhedrin, the bureaucratic, elite power brokers of 1st century Judaism.
Peter and John’s outrageous courage prompted two questions: First, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (ACTS 3:7, in the Message it is put this way, “”Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”) Second, “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. (Acts 3:
So my prayer today is, Oh God, I pray that I might think, speak and act in such a way that people would ask the source of my power, and that they might be constantly wondering what in the heck they are going to do with me?”
*(I love that the line originated from Eli’s own thinking, his parents had no hand in the speech, he found the quote online!)

Posted in Staublog in November 10, 2012 by | 1 Comment »


The spiritual life is first of all a life. It is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.  Thomas Merton

Posted in Thoughts in November 1, 2012 by | No Comments »