Attention Culture Vultures

On our web-only "Books & Culture" section is a terrific review by Fr. Robert Barron of a movie you may not have heard of, but which Fr. Barron says is well worth seeing, "The Stoning of Soraya M."  Here's the first part, which should whet your appetite for the movie and the review: 


"A few years ago, I read an article in the New Yorker that described the barbarism of certain aspects of Shari’a law. The author detailed how, in many Middle Eastern countries, Muslim men use the prescriptions in the traditional Islamic legal code to terrorize, brutalize, and in extreme cases, kill women who, they claim, have committed sexual offenses. According to the article, some of the victims are put to death by their own brothers and fathers!

I was appalled by the article when I read it, but I confess that its impact was short-lived. It came roaring back to me the other night when I saw the devastatingly powerful film “The Stoning of Soraya M.” The movie is based on the true story of a young woman who lived in a small Iranian village during the years just following the Khomeini revolution of 1979. Soraya was caught in a dreadful situation: her husband, who beat her regularly and cheated on her, wanted to put her away and marry another woman. When Soraya refused to grant him the divorce, her husband conspired with the mullah of the village, the mayor and several other men to accuse her of adultery, though she was utterly innocent of the charge. When the accusation became public, Soraya raised her voice in protest, but her complaint carried no legal weight under Shari’a law, and the council of the village, composed exclusively of men, condemned her to death by stoning. The depiction of Soraya’s execution is overwhelming. She is buried to her waist and her hands tied behind her back. The first stones are thrown by her own father and by her two pre-adolescent sons. Next, her husband attacks her and then all of the men of the town rain stones upon her, as they chant Allahu akhbar (God is great).

I realize how dangerous and delicate it is to raise a matter such as this. It is extremely easy to fall into the trap of tsk-tsking and tut-tutting at the objectionable practices of another religion without admitting to the outrages of one’s own. And I fully admit that our own religious traditions are anything but blameless. The most casual glance at the Book of Leviticus discloses that ancient Israel certainly accepted a legal code that sanctioned lethal violence—burning and stoning—for various offenses. And I humbly confess that Christians, over the centuries, have done terrible things in the name of Christ: the burning of witches, the torturing of heretics, the slaughter of non-Christians, to name just a few. Nevertheless, the events described in “The Stoning of Soraya M.” are not from ancient history; they took place a few decades ago. And the imposition of Shari’a law is a lively issue in a number of countries today. So what do we do with a movie such as this?"  Read the rest here.

Also, don't miss an early review (soon to be in the print version--another reason to check up on the Culture online section frequently--of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama, "Ruined," reviewed by one of our new theater reviewers, Rob Weinert-Kendt.   His review is here.   Stay tuned for new (and longtime favorite) authors reviewing new movies, new television shows, new plays, new art exhibitions and new ideas in the Culture section online and in the mag.

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9 years 6 months ago
Thank you, Father, for directing readers to these powerful works of art that can lead us to greater knowledge of the horrors in our contemporary world and to works of mercy , however small, to begin to alleviate the injustice inflicted on innocent victims.  Our prayers and our support of agencies such as CRS and JRS  is of critical importance.   Father Barron mentioned the work of the Christian anthropologist, Rene Girard.  I'd like to recommend to readers, the works of a Catholic layman, Gil Bailie, who is the founder of the Cornerstone Forum.  He has incorporated the works of Girard, as well as, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs Von Balthasaar and John Paul"s Theology of the Body  (and other theologians and philosophers) into a Christian anthropology that is accessible to ordinary lay people.  For several years he travelled throughout the country giving a series of talks, with the overall title:"Awakening a Wholehearted Faith in a Half-hearted Age"  He is currently recovering from cancer surgery, and no doubt is working on his next project.  This brilliant man shines with the love of Christ. His one published book is:  ""Violence Unveiled:  Humanity at the Crossroads".  New York Crossroads, 1995. In the Spring, 2008 issue of "Communio", he has an article:  "Raising the Ante:  Recovering an Alpha and Omega Christology".    His website is:
9 years 6 months ago
This is of course horrible - the stoning of Soraya decades ago. But so is the timing of the movie and the review of it just as the warmongers drum up more excuses for war in Iran - Iran, a country continually gang-raped by the British and their allies since the early part of this century - for oil, of course.  Any coincidence?  Just who made and funded and distributed and promoted this movie - the CIA? Hollywood movie barons? Hey, that is the culture to investigate. And, not's let forget, recently in Lebanon and Gaza thousands of women were killed and macerated along with their children - not by stones, of course, but by metals mined, manufactured, and milled into flesh smashing monsters by wit of Christian nations.


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