- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

From light to dark

“This last of six films in the ‘Star Wars’ saga, that monument of American myth-making, is finished — and it is good. There was danger that things would turn out differently, and the tale of these characters would have been eclipsed by the tale of their maker: a young man who started out brilliantly, then hesitated, then fumbled, and wound up being an object lesson himself. Instead, the applause George Lucas receives for ‘Revenge of the Sith’ will be genuine and sincere. That’s got to be gratifying to him, and a relief to us. …

“As I watched ‘Revenge of the Sith’ I kept thinking that this might be the film Lucas wanted to make all along. It’s the emotional hinge of the series, the most powerful in that sense. …

“The outline of this story is Shakespearean, and Lucas handles it to satisfaction.

“‘Revenge of the Sith’ … had one thing to do — move Anakin [Skywalker] from the light to the dark — and it does it admirably. Another person at the screening remarked that his only complaint was that, at the end of the movie, they brought up the house lights too fast; he had not had time to dry his eyes.”

—Frederica Mathewes-Green, writing on “‘Wars’ End,” Wednesday in National Review Online at www.nationalreview.com

Marketing the faith

“Joel Osteen’s flourishing Lakewood Church enterprise brought in $55 million in contributions last year. … Flush with success, Osteen is laying out $90 million to transform the massive Compaq Center in downtown Houston — former home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets — into a church that will seat 16,000, complete with a high-tech stage for his TV shows and Sunday school for 5,000 children.

“After it opens in July, he predicts weekend attendance will rocket to 100,000. … Pastor Joel is one of a new generation of evangelical entrepreneurs transforming their branch of Protestantism into one of the fastest-growing and most influential religious groups in America.

“Their runaway success is modeled unabashedly on business. They borrow tools ranging from niche marketing to MBA hiring to lift their share of U.S. churchgoers. Like Osteen, many evangelical pastors focus intently on a huge potential market — the millions of Americans who have drifted away from mainline Protestant denominations or simply never joined a church in the first place.”

—William C. Symonds in “Earthly Empires: How evangelical churches are borrowing from the business playbook” in the May 23 issue of BusinessWeek

Historical envy

“This month marks the publication of ‘1776,’ David McCullough’s rousing, feel-good tale of how George Washington led a ragtag crew of continental soldiers into their fateful battle for independence. It’s safe to predict that ‘1776’ … will vault to the top of the best-seller lists. …

“It will also drive many academic historians up the wall.

“Our exasperation will stem partly, to be sure, from envy of McCullough’s undeniable gift for storytelling and of his smashing popularity. But my academic colleagues will (or should) raise legitimate objections to … the surfeit of scene-setting and personality, the meager analysis and argument, the lack of a compelling rationale for writing about a topic already amply covered. McCullough’s fans won’t care. They typically have little use for what they regard … as the narrowly focused, politically correct, jargon-clotted academic monographs that dwell on arcane issues instead of big, meaty topics like politics, diplomacy and war.”

—David Greenberg, writing on “That Barnes & Noble Dream,” Tuesday in Slate at www.slate.com

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