The 2020 film News of the World, starring Tom Hanks, opened Christmas Day in theaters and is available for rent on Amazon Prime. Hopefully, it will soon be free to watch because it is such a good movie. It takes place in Texas in 1870, before Texas was allowed to re-join the Union after the Civil War, as they had not yet agreed to outlaw slavery. It was a violent place. White Texans murdered Black, Mexican, and Indian people at will. Hank’s character, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran and a printer before the war, now travels to remote outposts in Northern Texas to read the news to settlers for a 10 cent donation. Outside Witchita Falls, he comes across a young child in the woods, a victim of the wars over land between settlers and Indians. He learns that her white birth parents were killed; then her Kiowa parents were killed. The only language she knows is Kiowa. She has Indian agency papers listing her given name and the names of her only living blood relatives, an aunt and uncle living in a German settlement 400 miles South in Castroville. When he can’t get anyone to take her there, he does it himself. I won’t give the plot away since you probably haven’t seen it yet, but their trip is fraught with danger, and they come close to dying more than once. The movie has lots of meaningful themes prejudice and white supremacy, lawlessness and violence, making sacrifices to do what is right, and the idea that if you save someone’s life, you are responsible for them. I think the primary theme is, “Where is home? And who is family?” This child was taken from one home and family and raised in another home by another family. She even has 2 names. Johanna was her given name. Cicada is her Kiowa name. Captain Kidd is taking her to a home she can’t remember and a family she has never known, whose language she doesn’t speak and whose culture is foreign to her. In what home and with what family she ends up in isn’t known by us movie watchers until the end. So where is home? And who is family to us? Is home where we feel we belong? Where we feel safe? Where our hearts are? Can we find home in more than one place in our lifetime? In the gospels, Jesus doesn’t have a permanent home. He did. And he feels at home in different places. But he’s an itinerant preacher. In the gospel of Mark, when he was told that his mother and brothers were outside the place he was preaching, and wanted to see him, he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers? “ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.” Jesus wasn’t rejecting his family of birth. He loved them. He was making the point that the definition of family can be broader. As he journeyed from place to place, he created a great big chosen family. Gay people all over the world who have been rejected by their birth families do the same. They create beautiful chosen families who love and understand and accept them. My other favorite theme in the movie is expressed in a conversation between Captain Kidd and Johanna, when they are teaching each other words of their language and how those words convey their religious and cultural beliefs and their view of the world and life. Johanna tells him that in Kiowa, the word Daw means God, life, spirit, and circle. And while she is saying this, she makes a circle with her arms, the circle that is sacred to Native American tribes, observed in the sun and moon and stars and seasons, turning within itself and therefore never ending. Kidd responds that to his people, life is more of a straight line. And it is best not to look back. Just to keep moving forward. We can hear bitterness in his voice when he says this, like he doesn’t think it’s a good view of life, but that he is resigned to it for now. Johanna tells him that in order to move forward, you first have to go back and remember. She circles back, physically and metaphorically, and eventually, he does too. I love the image of life as an ever-turning circle. It evokes our connection to God, the earth and all its creatures, to our ancestors, and one another. It’s a vision of unity and wholeness. But I think Captain Kidd’s straight- line image, better describes life in our western world, where we only go forward from one task to another with efficiency and purpose, like we are in a race to see how much we can achieve before we die. Too many times we don’t stop to appreciate and enjoy our surroundings or ponder the big questions about life and death like other cultures do. We just keep moving towards the finish line. I think this comes from the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant Ethic most of us learned from our parents and grandparents, which values rugged individualism and ambition and achievement. But life is so much more, isn’t it? It is love and laughter and books and art and music. It is long aimless walks and stories around the fire. It’s the healing power of our natural world, and our connection to other people. To me life is humanity and spirit and God, all together, in an unfolding, eternal circle of wholeness. These themes of different kinds of home and families and different ways of viewing the world challenge us to expand our thinking from what we have been taught, what we have assumed, or what we believed in the past. To consider broader definitions of home and family and a more inclusive and unified view of life. Our new book club book, Think Again, is about this, the art of rethinking the ideologies that we have held on to, and embracing something new. And it’s what Progressive Christianity is all about, having the courage to question what we thought we knew for certain, which can bring us to a new, more meaningful relationship to God and the Bible and each other.