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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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The acclaimed filmmaker discusses his new PBS documentary ‘Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,’ and his personal connection to the disease.
Cancer is the fastest growing disease on Earth. It plagues nearly 1.7 million Americans each year, and over the next two years it’s expected that more people will die from the disease than were killed in combat in all the wars the U.S. has fought — combined.
These facts set the stage for the six-hour documentary “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” which was executive produced by acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns and directed by Barak Goodman, and premieres on PBS Monday evening. The three-part series chronicles the comprehensive story of cancer, from its earliest description in an Egyptian scroll to the latest advancements in immunotherapy.
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Who (or what) is God?
Does prayer work?
Is there an afterlife?
Can you be spiritual and not religious?
These are just some of the questions TODAY is asking this week in the series "Do You Believe?" An in-depth look at faith and spirituality, this series will examine the many ways spirituality can be communicated and displayed, and feature real-life stories of survival and how faith played a role.
Read it all.
America’s churches are in trouble, and they are in trouble in communities that arguably need them the most.
One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.
The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.
Read it all from Brad Wilcox in the Washington Post.
So what does our fascination with tales of the afterlife tell us? A few things, but the most important recurring theme in Entertaining Judgment is that we partake in narratives that ease anxiety about our lives. In other words, stories about the hereafter make us feel better about the here.
Tales of ghosts, for instance, “beckon us forward toward our future . . . to become the people we are called to become.” Stories from people who returned from the dead might “shine a light into the unknown and tell us something that might assuage our anxieties”; they tell us that human beings can change and grow. Vampire stories satisfy “our desire for an eternal life in which we will be perfected” and “tap into our spiritual and emotional desires to have that which is good now . . . and could only be better when we are perfected spiritual beings.”
Demons and devils may be symptoms of our failure to “take ourselves and our own evil seriously.” Angels teach us that “we are endowed with choice . . . that it is really up to us.” Tales of a heavenly realm have “helped to dry the tears of the suffering and offered the possibility of some greater meaning in our earthly lives.” Hell, too, can assuage doubts about the world’s goodness: For “every real-life spectacle that appalls or irritates—racial cleansing, chemical warfare, children kidnapped and held as sexual slaves, stop-and-go traffic—hell offers itself as a partial explanation, and as a powerful [image] that helps to explain, at least to some extent, the existence of such cruelty and suffering.”
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The film,Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, is based on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled book-length exposé and will premiere on March 29.
Since news emerged of the documentary, Scientologists have been trying to counter the film’s arguments which isn’t at all surprising considering Scientology’s notorious methods for dealing with its critics in the past.
The film, itself, covers one such stoush the Church had with the US Internal Revenue Service who was ready to rule that Scientology should pay tax because it isn’t a religion.
David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology, retaliated by persuading thousands of Scientologists to sue individual officials of the agency.
Read it all.
In an era of revisionist fairytales such as Frozen and Maleficent, it might be a surprise to find that Branagh’s take on the story of Cinders and her glass slipper is determinedly traditionalist. “I don’t find myself so exercised by a desperation to be new,” he says, pointing out that when you mix a fresh cast with costumes and production design by, respectively, triple Oscar-winners Sandy Powell and Dante Ferretti, “all of these things create a new energy”.
And while the Charles Perrault fairytale has already been immortalised on screen by Disney’s own 1950 animated feature, taking it on held no fear for Branagh, given his experience in re-interpreting Shakespeare. “I choose to be inspired by things that have been done well in the past,” he says. “So, I don’t worry about being compared, because I think that does paralyse you.”
Read it all from the Independent.
Remember that the more specific you can be, the more the rest of us will get from your comments--KSH.
The V-shaped hand sign that made actor Leonard Nimoy famous as Mr. Spock may have seemed from a planet far away. But the “Star Trek” star who died Friday said he created it from childhood memories of his Jewish family.
“I reached back to my early years as a child when I was sitting in a synagogue in Boston with my family at the High Holidays,” he said in 2011 during a visit to B’nai Israel Congregation here. Nimoy was 83 and died in his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.
Before the sold-out audience in suburban Washington three years ago, the actor re-enacted the blessing Jewish leaders recited at that Orthodox service. Prayer shawl over his head, he stuck out his hands in the shape of the sign he adapted for the TV show that ran for just three seasons in the 1960s but became an instant pop culture phenomenon.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Judaism
We thought this was great fun--check it out.
The Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, and Archbishop Jeffrey Driver of Adelaide are concerned about the effect the changes will have on children and families.
The proposed changes would bring forward by 90 minutes to 7.30pm mature-aged material including violence, sexual content and advertising for alcohol, gambling and M-rated movies. PG-rated material would also be allowed across all channels all day.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Australia * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
I was saddened to hear Leonard Nimoy died. It was even more sorrowful to find that years of smoking had caught up with him. I caught myself thinking: Spock smoked? Why would an ascetic, someone as fastidious about his health and logical about evidence-based science, ever take up smoking? And that mental jump from the actor to the character was what made Leonard Nimoy’s professional life a burden and a blessing—a hazard for many actors who play an iconic character.
About 20 years ago I was working at a photography magazine and attended an event in the Hayden Planetarium where Nimoy was a spokesman. It was for a photography product launch, although memory of what escapes me. There was a lunch and as the tables quickly filled a colleague and I picked one that had a few seats left. There was one empty seat, and Nimoy walked over, asked if the chair was taken and sat down. He barely touched his salad before he was completely bombarded with questions about Star Trek and Mr. Spock, which he politely and warmly answered, before he made a graceful exit. To confess, during the session I was fighting temptation to add to the pile-on, but it seemed to me that he wanted to talk about photography or anything else. I saw firsthand why he had written his 1975 autobiography, I am not Spock, albeit to great uproar from the Trek fan base. I also understood why he followed it with his second installment in 1995, I am Spock. Obviously Nimoy, no matter what he did or accomplished, was stuck with Spock, and decided to embrace his inner Vulcan science officer.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch History Movies & Television Science & Technology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
Only 20 percent of disabled people work, compared to 68 percent of those who aren't disabled, according to September 2014 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
[Valeria] Jensen saved the playhouse from demolition and founded the four-theater commercial movie house, a nonprofit, in historic Ridgefield. Most of the more than 80 theater employees are disabled. But they weren't there just because they have a disability, Jensen said.
"They're here because they are a really, really valuable employee," she said.
"We are 'The Prospector' after all," she noted. "And as prospectors I work with my prospects to find out what their sparkle is."
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Charities/Non-Profit Organizations Health & Medicine Movies & Television Rural/Town Life * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
It’s one of the most famous scenes in cinema. “Michael Francis Rizzi, do you renounce Satan?” asks the priest. “I do renounce him,” replies Michael, straight-faced, knowing full well that his orders to murder Moe Greene, Emilio Barzini, Philip Tattaglia, Victor Stracci and Carmine Cuneo are being carried out at that very moment. A particularly over-the-top organ piece by Bach reaches its climax. “And all his works?” asks the priest. Michael repeats: “I do renounce them.” Brilliant stuff. And a perfect rendition of the moral/existential drama of baptism. It’s not just a little bit of genteel water-sprinkling. It’s not just a chance to get out that floral patterned dress and drink lukewarm cava with a few select friends. It’s a scary participatory drama of death and new life.
Unfortunately, however, the Church of England has just agreed to take the devil out of the baptism liturgy. “Those who work with young people give constant advice that references to the devil are likely to be misunderstood in today’s culture,” the Bishop of Truro told the Church of England’s General Synod this week. What a pity. I’m going to miss the devil and all his works. I always thought those passages rather importantly referenced that little bit of Michael Corleone in all of us. And by their omission, we are being taken still further along the road from baptism as an expression of the big themes of death and resurrection to baptism as a polite middle-class naming ceremony....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Movies & Television * Theology Sacramental Theology Baptism Theodicy Theology: Scripture
Fifteen years of private psychotherapy practice has taught me that transformations have unexpected catalysts. Therapists are trained to help clients dig deep into their psyches, family histories and daily struggles. But to achieve real change, we need to help people gain space from their problems.
I’ve found that one of the most effective ways to achieve that space – and to ignite a dramatic psychological shift — is to kick back and watch the right film.
Read it all.
Anyone listening to Pope Francis has heard his call to resist unjust social conditions and go to the margins: to the poor, weak, and defenseless in our “throwaway culture” marked by a “globalization of indifference.”
At the margins, I see twelve-year-old John fighting an addiction he did not seek. I see our daughters and sisters and wives viewed as objects for pleasure, victimized, and even trafficked. And I see a predatory porn industry that is nothing short of euphoric over these developments.
“There’s a greater sense of optimism,” a leader in the porn industry was quoted as saying earlier this year. “I believe the companies that have stood the test of time . . . have figured out a way to stay viable. I would say it’s a new era for the industry.”
It is most certainly a new era. The time has come to join our children at the margins and to defund the industries that prey so viciously and unjustly upon them.
Read it all.
But there’s something else. When you watch these clips there’s a troubling ambiguity to them now. One frame around them is: Williams pays tribute to the troops who fought the war and protected him in the desert. He does a lot to make that message explicit, and this part of the performance requires expressions of humility. I’m no solider, I’m no war correspondent, I had no business being there, I’m so grateful for these brave men and women.
When you watch it now, though, you may wonder: Why does this story keep coming up? How is it getting in front of audiences repeatedly over the years?
Let’s take the Lettermen appearance in 2013. Did the show’s producers say, “Hey, it’s the tenth anniversary of Brian almost getting shot out of the sky in the helicopter, let’s have him on…”? Seems unlikely. Letterman says in the clip he either forgot or never knew about the episode. More likely: Williams wanted to talk about it, so they programmed it in. That’s not so modest.
Why is Madison Square Garden halting a hockey game and directing the attention of fans to Brian Williams and his military buddy being “reunited?” Because they knew about this story and thought it would be nice to revisit it 12 years later? Or because NBC promotion people alerted them and asked for the story to be re-told over the PA system?
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Media Movies & Television Psychology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East Iraq * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
99% of people are stupid. Luckily, I’m part of the other 2%— Bill Murray (@BiIIMurray) January 25, 2015
The first time he put a sidecar on his motorcycle, JD Whittaker was in Egypt, carting around radio equipment for the Air Force during the Cold War. When he got home, he built one for his family.
"Kids grow up and, of course, they want to bring their dog," said Whittaker, one of 18 riders and their dogs featured in "Sit. Stay. Ride: America's Sidecar Dogs," a Kickstarter-funded documentary. "When the kids are gone, all you've got left is the dog."
Read and watch it all.
...most viewers are likely unaware of what they are actually seeing. They are not merely watching an historical drama, they are witnessing the passing of a world. And that larger story, inadequately portrayed within Downton Abbey, is a story that should not be missed. That story is part of our own story as well. It is the story of the modern age arriving with revolutionary force, and with effects that continue to shape our own world.
Downton Abbey is set in the early decades of the twentieth century. Though by season four King George V is on the throne, the era is still classically Edwardian. And the era associated with King Edward VII is the era of the great turn in British society. The early decades of the twentieth century witnessed a great transformation in England and within the British Empire. The stable hierarchies of Downton Abbey grew increasingly unstable. Britain, which had been overwhelmingly a rural nation until the last decade of the nineteenth century, became increasingly urban. A transformation in morals changed the very character of the nation, and underlying it all was a great surge of secularization that set the stage for the emergence of the radically secular nation that Britain has become.
Viewers should note the almost complete absence of Christianity from the storyline. The village vicar is an occasional presence, and church ceremonies have briefly been portrayed. But Christianity as a belief system and a living faith is absent—as is the institutional presence of the Church of England.
Political life is also largely absent, addressed mainly as it directly affects the Crawleys and their estate. This amounts to a second great omission.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Children History Marriage & Family Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Chris Kyle, often described as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, wrote in his autobiography that he prioritized his life in the following order: God, country, family.
But God doesn’t make a central appearance in the film “American Sniper,” which opens nationwide on Friday (Jan. 16). The film offers a few similarities to “Unbroken,” Angelina Jolie’s recent World War II epic about POW Louis Zamperini.
Both stories focus on the dramatic stories of warriors who died before the movie versions of their lives came out. Both “American Sniper” and “Unbroken” include an early scene of their families sitting in church. Both men struggle with substance abuse after returning from war.
And both films largely skirt the faith that Kyle and Zamperini said were key to their identity — and their survival.
Read it all.
...we're talking about, well, you know – "Christian movies." The kinds of movies that resemble fundraising letters aimed at people in niche pews. Yes, Hollywood makes some preachy movies, too. That's a topic for another day, another podcast.
But why are those "Christian movies" so bad? Another Christian in the Hollywood mainstream, David "Home Improvement" McFadzean once offered up this brutal quote: The typical "Christian movie" is very similar to a porno movie. "It has terrible acting. It has a tiny budget. And you know exactly how it's going to end."
Ouch. Anyway, this was the topic that loomed in the background this week as "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I discussed my recent Universal syndicate column about the Angelina Jolie movie version of "Unbroken," which was based on parts – wait for it – of the amazing "Unbroken" bestseller by Laura Hillenbrand.
Read it all.
Though Ms. Hillenbrand recounts Zamperini’s conversion, she doesn’t say much about how it influenced the rest of his life. In the movie “Unbroken,” Billy Graham goes unmentioned, and Zamperini’s redemption narrative is largely reduced to a few title cards flashed before the closing credits. Yet Zamperini himself believed that the religious event was the pivotal moment of his long journey. In his 2003 memoir—titled, like one he published in 1956, “Devil at My Heels”—Zamperini recounts the tent-revival experience in detail and thanks Billy Graham in the acknowledgments “for his message that caused me to turn my life around.”
In some ways the 1949 revival was also a turning point for Billy Graham: The Hollywood-handsome Southern evangelist had started his crusade ministry in 1947, when he was 29 years old, but it was the success of his Los Angeles Crusade that brought him to national prominence. The revival went on for eight weeks, with Mr. Graham preaching 65 full sermons. He addressed nearly 350,000 attendees, and by the end 3,000 people had committed their lives to Christ.
Those numbers prefigured things to come. When Mr. Graham retired from public life nearly seven decades later, more than three million souls who heard his sermons had signed commitment cards pledging their faith.
Read it all.
Stuart Scott, a longtime anchor at ESPN, died Sunday morning at the age of 49.
Among the features of the new ESPN studio in Bristol is a wall of catchphrases made famous by on-air talent over the years. An amazing nine of them belong to one man -- from his signature "Boo-Yah!" to "As cool as the other side of the pillow" to "He must be the bus driver cuz he was takin' him to school."
That man is Stuart Scott, and his contributions to the sports lexicon are writ large. But they are only one aspect of his legacy. When he passed away, he left behind so much more. He inspired his colleagues with his sheer talent, his work ethic and his devotion to his daughters, Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15. He defied convention and criticism to help bring this network into a new century. He spoke to the very athletes he was talking about with a flair and a style that ESPN president John Skipper says, "changed everything."
Read it all.
Edward Herrmann, a stalwart American actor of patrician bearing and earnest elocutionary style who became familiar across a spectrum of popular entertainment, from movies and television shows to plays, audiobooks and advertisements, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 71.
The cause was brain cancer, his son, Rory, said.
Well over six feet tall, broad-shouldered and, especially in later years, hefty, Mr. Herrmann could be formidable or friendly, authoritative or milquetoast, insistent or obsequious. He was often cast in the role of an affluent or privileged personage; he played lawyers, judges, headmasters, executives, a lot of millionaires.
More often than most actors, he had a tuxedo — or at least a suit — as a costume, but his characters could be comic or dramatic, as likely to be stuffed shirts as genuinely commanding men.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Movies & Television
One example Jackson pointed to was an evocative passage adapted from Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” as a poetic account of life after death placed on the lips of Ian McKellen’s Gandalf in “The Return of the King”: “The journey doesn’t end here …. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass …. and then you see it: white shores, and beyond …. a far green country under a swift sunrise.”
This is a lovely gloss on Tolkien — and there are similar spiritually themed touches in the “Rings” movies. Yet in the latest “Hobbit” movie, where Tolkien has a dying character utter the memorable line, “I go now to the halls of waiting to sit beside my fathers, until the world is renewed,” the film version unconscionably omits this line entirely.
Changes like these are sadly typical of the “Hobbit” prequel trilogy, which is far cruder and less sensitive to the charm and beauty of its source material than the “Lord of the Rings” films were. As bad as Christopher Tolkien’s fears in 2012 about “The Hobbit” films might have been, the reality is worse.
Read it all from Crux.
North Korea warned that any U.S. punishment over the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment would lead to damage “thousands of times greater,” with targets including the White House and Pentagon.
Hackers including the “‘Guardians of Peace’’ group that forced Sony to pull a comedy about the assassination of Kim Jong Un ‘‘are sharpening bayonets not only in the U.S. mainland but in all other parts of the world,’’ the Kim-led National Defense Commission said in a statement published yesterday by the official Korean Central News Agency. Even so, North Korea doesn’t know who the Guardians are, the commission said.
North Korea has called on the U.S. to hold a joint investigation into the incident, after rejecting the conclusion by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that it was behind the attack. President Barack Obama said last week that Sony had ‘‘suffered significant damage,’’ and vowed to respond to North Korea ‘‘in a place and time and manner that we choose.’’
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Movies & Television Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia North Korea * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
"True courage is knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one," Gandalf tells Bilbo in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.*
Gandalf's homily doesn't appear in Tokien's original novel The Hobbit. Still, the sentiment has some textual support....
[However]...if Jackson meant for Gandalf's comment to highlight Tolkien's nonviolent ethic, though, the rest of his film undercuts it—and, indeed, almost parodies it. The scene where Bilbo spares Gollum in the movie comes immediately after an extended, jovially bloody battle between dwarves and goblins, larded with visual jokes involving decapitation, disembowelment, and baddies crushed by rolling rocks. The sequence is more like a body-count video game than like anything in the sedate novel, where battles are confused and brief and frightening, rather than exuberant eye-candy ballet.
The goblin battle is hardly an aberration in the film. I had wondered how Peter Jackson was going to spread the book over three movies. Now I know: He's simply added extra bonus carnage at every opportunity. The dwarves, who in the novel are mostly hapless, are in the film transformed into super-warriors, battling thousands of goblins or orcs and fearlessly slaughtering giant wolves three-times their size.
Read it all.
I really loved this--watch it and see what you think--KSH.
What a strange week it’s been in Hollywood. Tuesday night we actually had a thunderstorm. For those who don’t know Southern California, that’s like saying House Republicans think our country might have a race problem. Or Woody Allen is considering property in Malibu. Or the new Missal really seems to be catching on. (“Under our roof,” translators? “Under our roof”?)
There was even lightning, for God’s sake.
Then yesterday, hack-beleaguered Sony Pictures actually stopped distribution of major motion picture “The Interview,” maybe forever, after the United States’ five major theater chains refused to show it for fear of a 9/11-style attack on any theater that did.
To say the Internet was not happy with this series of events would be an understatement. Hollywood writer/director/producer Judd Apatow called the chains’ decision “disgraceful” and wondered, along with many others, what’s next: “Will they pull any movie that gets an anonymous threat now?” Many called it a sad day for creative expression, and feared that this forebodes a dangerous new self-censorship. Rob Lowe compared Hollywood to Neville Chamberlain (to which the nation of Czechoslovakia replied, “Mmm, Rob, I think not”). Newt Gingrich went so far as to call the hackers’ threat an “act of war,” forgoing the need for an act of war to involve an actual act. Forget the pesky details, there’s really never a bad time for a little preemption.
Read it all from America.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Law & Legal Issues Movies & Television Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Asia North Korea * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Director Ridley Scott ’s $140 million “Exodus: Gods and Kings” isn’t exactly drowning in a red sea, but its $24.1 million opening box office last weekend wasn’t spectacular, either—nearly $20 million below that for March’s “Noah,” another expensive biblical epic. Like “Noah,” this movie had a director who couldn’t bring himself to believe in the story he was telling.
Mr. Scott is famously hostile to faith. The “biggest source of evil is of course religion,” he told Esquire in 2012. Theoretically, that shouldn’t make a difference to his moviemaking.[...but it has].
Mr. Scott’s Moses (Christian Bale) not only can’t match Charlton Heston; his job is not to try. This Moses is a 21st-century skeptic who, instead of becoming the instrument of God in freeing the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, sits back and calls God “cruel” and “inhumane” for visiting plagues upon Egypt. Gone is the rhythmic narration in the Book of Exodus (and DeMille’s movie) in which Moses travels again and again to the pharaoh to demand, “Let my people go” (not uttered in the new movie). God, for his part, is depicted as a vengeful 11-year-old brat ( Isaac Andrews ) who resembles no one so much as Joffrey, the nasty child-tyrant in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Culture-Watch History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Theology: Scripture
Comedian and actor Robin Williams, who died earlier this year, was the top search on Google during 2014.
The search engine has released its list of this year’s most searched for news events and top trending subjects. Williams’ death drew more attention than the World Cup (2nd), Ebola (3rd) or Malaysia Airlines (4th).
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Health & Medicine Media Movies & Television Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Terrorism * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In retrospect, it appears we may have been too hard on Noah.
When Darren Aronofsky’s movie about a family and a flood was released in March, many of us thought it was going to be the worst big-budget Bible-based movie of 2014. But with two weeks to go before the deadline, Ridley Scott slipped in an entry that is even worse.
Exodus: Gods and Kings had the potential to be one of the greatest films of all time; instead it’s one of the worst movies of the year. Director Ridley Scott aspired to produce the next Ten Commandments (1956) and instead gave us a revisionist version of the story that is almost as lame as the justifiably forgotten Wholly Moses! (1980).
In the future, this movie should be taught in film schools to show all the ways a movie based on a Bible story can go wrong.
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Even though Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus’ won the box office crown this weekend, it only earned an estimated $24.5 million, performing lower than studio executives hoped. While it is difficult to determine why many moviegoers chose to stay home, some have speculated that Scott’s casting decisions had something to do with it. - See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/12/15/exodus-underwhelms-box-office-boycottexodusmovie-work/#sthash.up1koZgo.dpuf
Read it all and watch the interview.
Interstellar’s scientific pretensions capture the religious spirit of our times. What should we make of all the talk of the incompatibility of science and religion? Nothing: Longing for future glory is alive and well among the scientifically literate. Some of their own apparently comprise the most fervent devotees of future hope, displaying the same desire for human transcendence as the ancients but clothing it in modern science. Interstellar is worth reflecting on, not for any dubious relation it may bear to our future, but because of its indebtedness to the past: It is an ancient myth retold and centuries of scientific progress have diminished none of its appeal.
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Two October evenings in 1949 brought together an alcoholic war hero and a fiery young evangelist. From then on, neither would be the same.
The preaching in that rented circus tent in Los Angeles changed Louis Zamperini, then 32 — who put away the bottle forever and devoted the rest of his life to Christian testimony and good works.
And those Los Angeles nights also changed the preacher, Billy Graham, and the future course of American evangelicalism as well. In Graham’s autobiography, “Just As I Am,” he calls that chapter of his life “Watershed.”
On Christmas Day, a movie directed by Angelina Jolie about Zamperini’s extraordinary survival amid the horrors of Japanese POW camps opens in theaters. “Unbroken,” is based on the award-winning book by Laura Hillenbrand.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals
The film doesn’t ignore faith, but it includes no mention of Jesus or Graham. Faith is portrayed more generically — unlike the 2010 book by Hillenbrand (she also wrote the best-selling “Seabiscuit”), which was praised by Christian readers for capturing the drama of Zamperini’s conversion.
Zamperini died from pneumonia on July 2 at age 97. His son, Luke Zamperini, is helping promote the film.
Jolie’s role as director prompted questions about the film’s faith element; given Jolie’s own lack of faith, some reviewers questioned whether the actress would give short shrift to Zamperini’s faith.
“There doesn’t need to be a God for me,” Jolie said in 2000. “There’s something in people that’s spiritual, that’s godlike.” Her husband, actor Brad Pitt, has said he is “probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
As good a year as it was for Groot and company, there was one person who stood apart: Jimmy Fallon, EW‘s 2014 Entertainer of the Year. In his first year as host of The Tonight Show, the 40-year-old turned the revered late-night franchise into the hottest party in town, a celebrity playpen full of games, music, surprise guests, and good vibes all around. Where else could you see Emma Stone shut down a lip-sync battle or Will Smith do the Stanky Legg? The fun is so infectious that even Barbra Streisand decided to return as a guest, a thing she hasn’t done in over 50 years. All the while, Fallon managed to do something almost no one expected: get the Tonight Show‘s ratings to increase from when it was in Jay Leno’s hands a year ago
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Does Hanks know that the word "Mysteries" -- with a big "M" – is at the heart of all Orthodox Christian discussions of faith and theology? I think that is a safe assumption. Does he know that he can use the word "mystery" in a secular forum and few reporters will know that? Maybe.
So what is my point? Am I arguing that the Post needed to devote a large chunk of its Kennedy Center Honors feature on Hanks to the role that Christian faith does or does not play in the actor's life and career?
Well, if part of the point of the story is that this complex man – often hailed for his moral convictions and character – has kept essential parts of his life quite closeted, I think it might have been interesting to ask why. That might include at least a few sentences about his family and his faith.
Think about it. You see, the contents of his mind and his soul might have SOMETHING to do with his art.
Perhaps there is a reason that he keeps some parts of his life private, yet not all that private. I mean, what kind of Hollywood superstar burns crosses into the frames of his doorways?
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With public revulsion rising in response to snowballing accusations that Bill Cosby victimized women in serial fashion throughout his trailblazing career, the response from those in the know has been: What took so long?
What took so long is that those in the know kept it mostly to themselves. No one wanted to disturb the Natural Order of Things, which was that Mr. Cosby was beloved; that he was as generous and paternal as his public image; and that his approach to life and work represented a bracing corrective to the coarse, self-defeating urban black ethos.
Only the first of those things was actually true....
We all have our excuses, but in ignoring these claims, we let down the women who were brave enough to speak out publicly against a powerful entertainer.
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Enjoy it all.
It isn’t hard to figure out what made Mr. Nichols so competitive. Born in Berlin in 1931, he got out of Germany at the age of 7, mere steps ahead of the Holocaust. After that, nobody had to tell him that Jews got no favors. Characteristically, he claimed that it was an advantage. “The thing about being an outsider,” he said in 2012, “is that it teaches you to hear what people are thinking because you’re constantly looking for the people who just don’t give a damn.”
Mr. Nichols made his name in the ’50s by improvising supremely sharp-witted comedy routines with Elaine May. The lightning-quick timing that he cultivated on nightclub stages served him well when he took up directing in 1963. During a rehearsal for the Broadway premiere of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” he got into a shouting match with Walter Matthau. “You’re emasculating me!” the actor shouted. “Give me back my balls!” “Certainly,” Mr. Nichols replied, then snapped his fingers to summon the stage manager. “Props!”
Mr. Nichols’s work was unshowy, even self-effacing. “It’s not a filmmaker’s job to explain his technique, but to tell his story the best way he can,” he said. Hence no one will ever think of him as a groundbreaker, a radically original creative artist. He was, rather, an interpreter, and in the studio he almost always did his best work with familiar material like Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (his first film) and the TV version of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America,” both of which clearly convey the visceral impact of the plays on which they were based. Few of his other films will be as well remembered. Even 1967’s “The Graduate,” which vaulted him into the pantheon of Hollywood superstars, now looks like a period piece, a carefully posed snapshot of a key moment in postwar American culture.
But the fact that Mr. Nichols did make films means that he himself will likely be remembered longer than any other American stage director of his generation.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Theatre/Drama/Plays * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
According to a former editor of Marvel Comics, one reason why the graphic novel has nearly universally eschewed marriage is that it “kills a good story.” Whatever could be exciting about Clark Kent if he were to remain married to Lois Lane? Not much, apparently, because DC Comics erased the 1996 marriage from history, returning Superman to bachelorhood, the preferred state of our superheroes.
Exceptions exist, of course. Amour, The Incredibles, and In America, along with many Tyler Perry films, focus on and celebrate marriage. Recent movies, such as Drinking Buddies, also trace the relation between friendship and romance, and even between friendship and marriage, explored, for example, throughout the Harry Potter franchise.
One marvelous exception is the critically acclaimed television series Friday Night Lights (FNL), which aired from 2006 to 2011. It tells the story of ordinary people in a small Texas town and their impassioned love of football. But, as Basinger notes, FNL is not so much a show about football as it is “a show about how marriage works when it actually does work.” For critics and fans alike, there has arguably never been a more honest marriage portrayed on the screen than that of coach Eric and Tami Taylor.
Theirs, unfortunately, remains the exception. More common on the small and large screen is the sense that marriage, particularly traditional marriage, is dull and irrelevant as storytelling material. More usual is the view that, “as in the days of the judges,” each one does with marriage what seems right in his or her eyes, whether in “open,” “free,” or “transgressive” style.
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Watch it all--loads of fun.
Watch them all.
A curriculum of seven films each lasting 15 to 20 minutes, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles advances a sophisticated theological anthropology. Schmemann’s breathtaking sacramental view of ordinary life is here, as are Kuyper’s distinctive spheres. Kuyper’s fellow Dutch Reformed thinkers Herman Bavinck and Lester DeKoster contribute a high view of common grace and human work, respectively. Catholic theologians such as Josef Pieper and Hans Urs von Balthasar testify to the significance of the family and the centrality of beauty to the Christian life. Rigorously careful with its language, the curriculum unapologetically resorts to Greek in its first and last episodes to articulate core concepts of oikonomia (stewardship), anamnesis (remembering), and prolepsis (anticipation).
Though true, the preceding paragraph is almost comically misleading. Because from that description you would surely never guess that our protagonist is a manically expressive 20-something named Evan (Evan Koons, who cowrote the script). Evan lives in a house filled with retro bric-a-brac, furnished circa 1940, and undisturbed by any technology invented since 1983. He is given to playing the ukulele, declaiming poetry, drinking lemonade from Mason jars—and to breaking the fourth wall, freezing the frame, and scrambling narrative sequence, using every trick of the postmodern visual storyteller.
When we meet him, Evan is in the throes of a quarter-life crisis. He’s sure that if faith means anything, it must have implications for everything, but finds little guidance from the church toward a viable calling in a pluralistic world. Evan begins the series, and ends every episode, handwriting a letter to his fellow Christians: “Dear Everybody.” The question that Evan finds most worrying is, “What is our salvation for?”
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Interviewed in 1979 when his father Robert Runcie was announced as the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury, James Runcie, then a 20-year-old Cambridge student, told a reporter he wasn’t terribly certain about things of faith. In the years that followed, almost imperceptibly, that started to change. Towards the end of his time at Canterbury the elder Runcie hinted as much. “For our children growing up, music was compulsory, religion was optional.” Now, he said, both his offspring seemed much “more interested” in the latter.
Religion and faith are at the fore in James Runcie’s Grantchester, which premiered on ITV October 6. His fourth novel in the series is due for publication next May. The chief character is a clergyman-cum-sleuth Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton), whom Runcie cheerfully admits is a loosely based on his late father.
James Runcie builds in characters bearing associations with family and friends. Sidney is named after Sidney Smith, one of his father’s favourite vicars. In the first of the series Chambers is intrigued by a piano-playing German woman who loves Bach (James Runcie’s mother, Lindy, was a piano teacher). “I didn’t intend them to be a fictionalised, alternative biography of my father — and I still hope they aren’t — but one cannot easily escape a strong paternal influence.”
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I happened to come across these this week, and I haven't seen them since 1990 when we first caught them on boxing Day in England (really). French with english subtitles, beautifully filmed, and, perhaps most notably, full of Christian themes--KSH.
Filed under: * By Kendall * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * International News & Commentary Europe France * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Christology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology Soteriology
When I ask him how God fits into his understanding of the universe, Prof Cox says: “It doesn’t at all. I honestly don’t think about religion until someone asks me about it.” And that’s because, he explains, science is not about asking grand questions but very simple ones. The way to find out answers to big questions is “almost accidentally”.
Using physics that is beyond me, Prof Cox explains how his fridge shows that there is no afterlife (thermodynamics, apparently). But then he qualifies himself. “Philosophers would rightly point out that physicists making bland and sweeping statements is naive. There is naivety in just saying there’s no God; it’s b------s,” he says. “People have thought about this. People like Leibniz and Kant. They’re not idiots. So you’ve got to at least address that.”
He suspects that another civilisation exists in the observable universe, given that it contains 350 billion galaxies. But they would be so far away that we’d never make contact. “
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Both Taylor's loss of "higher times" and Rushkoff's burden of the "infinite present" help us understand why we're so compelled by things like the Rapture—or anything apocalyptic. Living in a flattened timescape, we long for moments to take us out of the profane and everyday. In the absence of "higher times," global disasters and narratives of apocalypse stand in as sacred moments that rupture the monotony of secular time. "Where were you when . . . ?" is a question of almost spiritual gravitas for anyone alive on 9/11 or the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Especially since the advent of mass broadcasts of breaking news, we mark time by shared moments of global calamity and terror, existential pauses that give us transcendent perspective.
These are real if perverted expressions of our longing for the "higher" time we've lost, for pivot points in history, for an escape from the present. In a world where there's "nothing new under the sun," where generations come and go "but the earth remains forever" (Ecc. 1:4), we long to be part of an unexpected story, to witness something significant. But must that "something significant" be the earth's fiery end?
Christians of all people need not buy into the prevailing culture's preoccupation with doomsday. Let the world have its apocalyptic versions of the Rapture—Christians have something better. Surely there are movies to be made about not destruction, but resurrection.
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His deliverance, although he did not know it at the time, was the opening of the Comedy Store above a Soho strip club in May 1979. He is amusing on the strange acts who thrived in this hospitable habitat, none weirder than the expressionist clown Andrew Bailey, aka Podomovski, who held a large pane of magnifying glass in front of his head and made guttural noises with the mic fully in his mouth. At a stroke, Merton points out, this venue loosened the hold of Oxbridge and the TV and radio commissioners and introduced something new to the comedy scene: democracy. He does not mention that this new ecological niche was also especially welcoming to his own style of comedy: deadpan, off‑the‑cuff, reactive, full of jarring interruptions and synaptic leaps. It is one of the paradoxes of Merton's career that he is such an earnest scholar of the mechanics of carefully crafted visual and written comedy – as a boy he collected Super 8 silent films of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and projected them on to a bedsheet hung on his bedroom wall – yet his own extraordinary talents are best deployed as a virtuoso of winging it.
The book's central episode feels less fresh because Merton has already mined it for material in his act and in interviews: the breakdown he suffered in 1990, the first symptom of which was his inability to stay in his chair for the opening shot of Whose Line is it Anyway?
Merton is clear that this period, which culminated in a six-week stay at the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital, was a one-off, caused by a reaction to the anti-malarial tablets he took before a trip to Kenya. There is no reason to doubt this, but the preceding account of his erratic journey through the 1980s does give the impression of someone driven almost mad by not having a vehicle for his peculiar talents – and then made manic by suddenly being on the verge of fulfilling them.
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The Rev Kate Bottley, star of Gogglebox, Channel 4's fly-on-the-wall show, has criticised BBC1 show Songs Of Praise for being ''depressing'' and ''like a piece of soggy quiche''.
The vicar, who has become an unlikely TV favourite since appearing on the cult show, praised presenters Aled Jones and Diane Louise Jordan, and said that the Sunday teatime show was ''great for those who can't get out to church.''
But she hit out at the ''over-exaggerated mouth movements, as if the singers are trying to chew a toffee at the same time'', and the congregations, adding: ''I've never seen an Anglican church so full on a Sunday evening ....and with such a huge variety of ages.''
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Music * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology
Bishop T.D. Jakes, the founding pastor of the 30,000-member The Potter's House megachurch in Dallas, Texas, is making a weekly program based on his latest book as well as a daily talk show for national syndication in 2015 or 2016.
Jakes' weekly program will be based on his book, Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive, and his daily talk show is also being developed, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Both shows will be produced through his TDJ Enterprises, a for-profit company, and its partners 44 Blue Productions and Enlight Entertainment. The shows will be targeted for national syndication in 2015 or 2016.
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Take a look at them all.
Robin Williams died this morning, his publicist confirms. You can read a statement from his wife Susan Schneider there.
Jeff Bridges has been working on childhood hunger for longer than the children he champions today have been alive. In fact, it’s been a 30-year crusade. In the early 1980s, the Academy Award-winning actor founded the End Hunger Network, an organization focused on feeding children around the world. More recently, he’s focused on feeding kids here in the United States. Motivating the shift in Bridges’ attention is the reality that more than 16 million American kids live in households that are labelled “food insecure” – those that don’t know with certainty where their next meal will come from, or if it will come at all.
Watch the whole video.
Commemorations of the First World War have been years in the planning. No one could have foreseen when they began that this solemn anniversary would coincide with so many new wars. The Archbishop of Canterbury noted the grim paradox in his Radio 4 Thought for the Day on Monday morning, “We watch and feel for those suffering,” he said, “fear for those not born.” His final plea, to end war by making friends with our enemies, was heartfelt but, alas, unlikely to be widely translated into action.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch History Media Movies & Television * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary England / UK
It may have seemed like the makings of a perfect opening night: perhaps popcorn, soda, great seats, the whispering of an excited crowd as the lights went down for a midnight first peek at "Guardians of the Galaxy."
The previews rolled, and then ... whaaaat?
"omg," one moviegoer tweeted. "they started playing rise of the guardians instead of guardians of the galaxy."
How in the galaxy did that happen?
"EVERYONE IN THE THEATRE IS CRYING," the tweeter added.
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James Garner, the US star of hit TV series The Rockford Files and Maverick and films including The Great Escape, has died aged 86.
Garner had suffered ill health since a severe stroke in 2008.
"Mr Garner died of natural causes," the West LA Division of the Los Angeles Police Department told the BBC, adding he died on Saturday and his body has been released to his family.
His publicist confirmed to the BBC that he died at home.
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"Sometimes I'm asked to do both [magic and funerals] at once," said Lee, 76, a licensed funeral director from White Plains, New York. "People have come to know both sides of me, so they ask. And I say, why not?"
Lee, who long ago claimed the moniker "mortgician" in his AOL email address, wouldn't call himself a pioneer or part of any special movement in after-death care. But he's among many who are turning the idea of the solemn, sedate funeral on its head.
Call it the rise of the personalized "fun funeral."
The wide range of what's considered "creative" or "unusual" when burying a loved one means there are little to no statistics on such practices, but industry experts say redesigning the standard funeral is increasingly popular.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * General Interest Humor / Trivia * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Roll up my sleeves and see it as an opportunity.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
Very strongly. I have joined Dignity in Dying.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
No. I wish I did but I can’t.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
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Watch it all--LOL.
Even we Christians seem to have sidelined joy in entertainment to explore the bleaker side of reality. We find ourselves praising sad standups for what they can teach us about our faith. We binge-watch shows like Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Mad Men for the way their broken characters and their brutal worlds will reveal the dark side of human nature. Yes, we've seen how recent heavy dramas can show us the real weight of sin and the moral consequences of our decisions, but these kinds of programs can't become our only tv obsessions.
Just as we proclaim a God of grace and justice, of love and law, Christians need balance in our pop culture engagement. So do our neighbors. We need the light of the funny, silly, and joyful to glow in the dark. Shiny-happy shows don't tell the full truth, but neither do shows that punch us in the face. We've spent enough time embracing suffering and being skeptical of joy and happiness. All the more so if, as C.S. Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven."
Fallon's spirit is no shtick. His joy has been there all along. As a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1998 to 2004, he notoriously broke character, holding back laughter in the background of a sketch or cracking a smile in the middle of a punch line. His critics cite these incidents as weaknesses. I think they prove how much he likes his job.
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[NEDA] ULABY: Shows [like many at present] where nearly everyone on the planet sickens and dies appeal to scholar Nancy Tomes.
NANCY TOMES: Oh, I couldn't be happier.
ULABY: Tomes studies the history of epidemics. She wrote a book called "The Gospel Of Germs." She says science-fiction and horror often reflect contemporary fears. So during the Cold War, for example, we saw movies about big, scary, nuclear-related monsters. Now she says we worry about our bodies turning against us. In an age of gluten allergies, genetically modified food and mad cow disease.
TOMES: From what you buy in the grocery store, to what you may be breathing when you walk down the street.
ULABY: Not to mention the viral spread of terror cells in viruses attacking our computers.
Read or listen to it all.
Here are five facts about World Cup viewership in the United States and around the world:
1About 3.2 billion people around the world (roughly 46% of the global population) watched at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on TV in their homes, according to a report produced for FIFA by the British firm KantarSport. This is slightly lower than the number of people who reportedly saw at least a minute of the 2012 London Olympics (3.6 billion), according to a report produced for the International Olympic Committee. Nearly 1 billion people (909.6 million) tuned in for at least a minute of the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain defeated the Netherlands, a similar viewership number to the London Olympics’ opening ceremonies.
2In the United States, 94.5 million people (about 31% of the population) watched at least 20 consecutive minutes of the last World Cup, an increase of 19% over the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Compared to the U.S., World Cup host Brazil is far more interested in soccer, with 80% of the population watching at least 20 minutes of the matches in 2010.
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I thought this was fun to look through--see what you make of it.
Like a trailer for a summer blockbuster, the video begins with loud music and the words “Coming Soon.”
But instead of superheroes or comedians on screen, there are images of a burning American flag and a jetliner hitting the World Trade Center, and the words: “Join the Caravan of Jihad and Martyrdom.”
As the music fades away, the blurred face of a man appears. He makes a direct appeal to Americans to join the fight.
The video ends with footage of a United States passport being burned. Men are heard laughing and shouting an Arabic phrase about God’s greatness.
Although the recruitment video has circulated among extremist groups for some days, intelligence analysts now believe the man with the blurred face is a 22-year-old from Florida who blew himself up last month in a suicide attack on Syrian government forces that killed 37, according to senior American government officials....
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Her spunky personality and Hollywood success laced eulogies at her private funeral Friday morning at her home parish, St. Helena's Episcopal Church in Boerne, Texas.
Yet, the gathering focused memories on what the speakers called Davis' exemplary devotion to her faith, especially her decision in mid-career to leave Tinseltown and join an Episcopal community in Denver....
"The media had a field day" recalling her acting career, said William Frey, 84, a close friend and retired Episcopal bishop, during the homily. "But most of them have missed out on the one thing that has driven her for the last 40 years, and that is her faith."
Read it all from the San Antonio Express-News.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Movies & Television * Theology Christology Eschatology
‘D-Day 360′ Brings a New Perspective and Technology recreates the epic D-day invasion on WGBH. Read both pieces and catch them both when you can--KSH.
Consumers’ willingness to pay for digital content is in danger of being held back by their rising spending on internet access, according to a new forecast that raises questions about the media industry’s hopes for streaming music and video subscriptions.
The report from consultancy PwC, to be released on Wednesday, estimates the total size of the industry will grow to $2.15tn by 2018. But the fortunes of the market’s three segments will vary, with internet access revenues growing faster than both consumer spending and advertising.
That suggests internet providers such as Time Warner Cable and AT&T will be poised to capture a growing share of industry revenue. Streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify , the latter of which had Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as its most popular music artists last year, will also be well-positioned to lead growth in consumer spending, as they capture subscribers willing to pay for round-the-clock access to movies, television shows and music.
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From the most recent Time Magazine:
There’s a lot of discussion in the film about what happens to people after they die. Do you believe in an afterlife?
I believe in energy, and I believe that we all come from the earth and we all come back to the earth. And then what happens spiritually or mentally or emotionally–I have no idea. It’s like what Peter Pan says: “To die would be a very great adventure.”
Members of this household community — think small commune — shared most finances, cleaning duties, cooking, etc., etc. This kind of idealistic arrangement was actually not that unusual in the era in which charismatic renewal swept through many mainline Protestant bodies, and Catholicism as well. There were many wonderful households of this kind and a few with dark sides (See the amazing Julia Duin book — “Days of Fire and Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community” — about one terrible fall in Houston).
One member of the Denver community kept her Emmy Awards in the household’s television room, where they served as bookends high up on some shelves. She wasn’t very good at cooking (tacos were her norm) and she admitted that she struggled a bit with childcare. Her name, of course, was Ann B. Davis and over the years she became a friend, too.
The woman millions thought of as “Alice” was far more than her character on The Brady Bunch, or her trailblazing “Schultzy” character on “The Bob Cummings Show.” She was the kind of person that, after the conversion experience that turned her life upside down, would spend her days hidden in the back of that homeless center quietly doing laundry or sorting through donated clothes. You should have heard her cackle when she finally managed to make stray socks match.
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The takeaway message is this: no one needs churches to be nice or tasteful. If churches have a future, it's in addressing our existential darkness: sin and death. Progressive politics is important, but it doesn't do any deep religious work. And liberals in the church will have to rediscover this after we have won our culture wars. What other religion has such a dark image at its centre? And yet my own brand of liberal Christianity too often seeks salvation through a few gentle verses of All Things Bright and Beautiful or lots of self-important dressing up and wandering around in fancy churches. Devoted atheists are never going to be persuaded by a theology of the cross. But no one whatsoever is going to be persuaded by a theology of nice.
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On average, women (3.4 hours, median) watch more TV than men (3.0 hours). And, as a rule, TV watching increases with age. Elders, adults who are 69 and older, watch an average of 4.4 hours per day, while Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) watch an average of 3.8. Gen-Xers (born between 1965 and 1983) and Millennials (born 1984 to 2002) watch fewer hours: 2.5 and 2.7 hours, respectively.
Practicing Christians tend to watch more television than non-Christians. Practicing Catholics watch an average of 3.5 hours per day and practicing Protestants watch an average of 3.1 hours. By contrast, adherents to faiths other than Christianity watch 2.6 hours of TV per day and those of no faith, which includes self-identified atheists and agnostics, watch 2.7 hours. Interestingly, church attendance seems to make little difference in the number of viewing hours. Those who attended church within the past week, those who attended within the past month and those who have not attended at all within the past six months all watch an average of 3.2 hours per day.
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Watch it all--KSH.
Heaven Is for Real, the story of a young boy who reportedly had a real-life experience of heaven during emergency surgery, is currently playing in movie theaters. The film is not doing as comparatively well as the eponymous, bestselling book that inspired it — more than one million e-book copies alone of which have been sold — but it will likely inspire other Christian films, given that its gross receipts have exceeded its relatively modest budget more than sixfold thus far.
The book and the movie’s success have reminded me that people can also come to believe that God and heaven exist by realizing that the devil and, thus, hell are real, and sometimes through a shocking personal experience.
In his short pontificate, Pope Francis has spoken often of the reality of the devil, (read here too) and the accompanying existence of hell, which is definitely a place to be avoided.
Read it all and follow all the links.
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Morgan travels to Nashville, TN – the buckle of the Bible Belt – to become a guest preacher at an atheist church, a controversial and growing movement in the U.S. Along the way, he visits evangelical mega-churches, Baptist gospel churches, mosques, Mormon gatherings, and more to try and figure out exactly why people need religion in their lives, why it creates so much conflict in this world, and what his own message is for his Sunday sermon.
(You can also find a brief Tennessean article there).
Read the program transcipt here.
Watch it all. The Wash. Post wrote up the background:
Sorry, if the pivotal episode of your favorite TV show is on and a tornado warning is issued, TV stations can, should, and will cut in and cut off programming to provide potentially life-saving storm coverage.
Typically, the shows are streamed online, either in real-time or after the fact for your viewing pleasure.
But that never stops some angry viewers from bombarding stations with nasty complaints over missing such indispensable shows as Grey’s Anatomy and Big Bang. They sometimes take the form of obscenity-laden tirades. Gawker reproduces some of these selfish missives, too profane to share here.
Monday morning, something beautiful happened. KSFY anchor Nancy Naeve – out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota – spoke her mind on this disgusting practice...
The whole stands or falls, of course, on the definition of "love." If "love" means sexual arousal, well then, okey doke sport, I guess if you say so. Or if it means fondness, affection, attraction, or a hundred other emotional and even volitional states... well, how would we even have the discussion? If it's all about emotion, the "discussion" is really beside the point, isn't it? Feelings are thought...well, felt... to be self-validating. After all, you've got to follow your heart, right? And your heart is all about what you feel. Right?
Unless you start with the fear of God (Prov. 1:7) instead of the lordship of Ego. Then, everything changes.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Psychology Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Christian cinema is having a bit of a moment, with the release of “Noah,” Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and Timur Bekmambetov’s soon-to-follow “Ben-Hur.” The genre is nothing new, of course. Consider Cecil B. DeMille’s early 20th century Christian epic trilogy, consisting of “The Ten Commandments,” “The King of Kings” and “The Sign of the Cross”: Epic in its proportions and daring in its subject matter, it spoke dramatically to a generation of Americans beset by the travails of unprecedented war and economic depression.
For as much as Christian cinema repeats enduring Christian images and ideas – the same characters and stories are bound to reappear – it also tends to report on its target audience. This was true, for example, of 1973’s “Godspell,” a film rendition of the Broadway musical that reimagines Jesus and his disciples as the few outcast hippies in a New York City full of urban apathy. And now, in the era of big budget blockbusters, our theaters are preparing to host a deluge of Christian-themed epic cinema, with “Noah” being the latest iteration.
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Netflix is now paying two major internet providers for a more direct path into the homes of all those people watching movies and TV shows on its popular video streaming service.
This week, the company announced it has reached an agreement with Verizon to connect its service directly to the ISP’s network, a deal similar to the one Netflix reached with Comcast in February. In the past, Netflix delivered its service into Comcast and Verizon through middlemen networks — “transit networks” that provide the backbone for the internet. But in order to ensure that its video streams arrive in homes without too many hiccups, it’s following in the footsteps of Google and Facebook, building a straighter path into ISPs.
The rub is that Netflix doesn’t want to pay. Netflix has been loudly complaining about this sort of deal, saying that Comcast unfairly forced the agreement after allowing transmit network links to “clog up.” Comcast, Netflix says, is setting itself up as a gatekeeper that can charge whatever it likes for access to American homes.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Movies & Television Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
A pregnancy scare between the couple had been part of the early storyline in the "Southern Charm" show. It turned out to be negative.
Ravenel told The Post and Courier the couple soon began discussing having "a baby for real," afterward. "We were both in agreement, so we got what we wanted."
They are living at his Edisto Island plantation. The couple has no immediate plans to marry, he said.
"Right now we're doing what works for us," he said.
Read it all from the local paper (emphasis mine).
“Rev is an outsider's imaginative construction,” argues James Mumford in The Guardian, “a secular take on the sacred… In imposing its own outsider viewpoint, Rev defies the deepest ideal of a liberal, pluralistic society. In Rev the devout do not speak for themselves and therefore are not permitted to sit at the high table of our national media.”
He proposes a corrective plot line for a future episode. A woman would be hit by a car, sustaining spinal injuries. The reverend would then proceed to cure her through the power of prayer, and she would celebrate the miracle by running down the aisle of the church.
This proposal gets to the heart of the issue, though perhaps not the one the writer intends. His clumsy, didactic trick would turn away many viewers – and not only the atheists and agnostics, but also many Christians or sort-of-Christians who nonetheless have doubts about the healing powers of vicars.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Heaven Is for Real is more than just a field guide to the marvels of heaven. It's the story of how God comforted a frightened child. It's the story of God's faithfulness to a grieving father.
What exactly happened to Colton Burpo—whether he actually experienced the glory of heaven or had a mere hallucination—will remain a mystery. But we live in a mysterious world, and we shouldn't be surprised when we encounter the miraculous and the supernatural. We should approach tales like this with critical discernment. We can't immediately accept them, but neither should we reject them haphazardly. We should test them under the light of Scripture, and we should celebrate the fact that God, who reveals himself through his Word, is faithfully active in our world, meeting us in ways that can't (and sometimes shouldn't) be explained.
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These days, God is dead everywhere except at movie theaters. But rest easy, America, that doesn’t mean we’re spiraling into an amoral abyss or a lawless society. Indeed, by most indicators of anti-social behavior, things have never been better.
Even as polls and church-attendance records show the U.S. is becoming a more secular, less pious country, current films such as Heaven is for Real (based on a best-selling account of a four-year-old boy’s supposed trip to the afterlife) and Noah (based on the Old Testament’s account of the Great Flood) have done boffo business.
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While "'Heaven Is for Real" lacks the rich descriptions and striking imagery of many previous accounts of the afterlife, it provides an excellent example of a favorite modern view. Where Christians once longed for complete communion with God, many now think of the great hereafter as the best family reunion imaginable, where God is relegated to the role of guest star.
Journalist and author Maria Shriver says heaven "is a place that you go to and once again become reunited with those you have loved and lost. That vision is what keeps me from falling apart. . . . That's what I have faith in."
Surrounded by religious pluralism, scientific materialism and universalism, many evangelical Christians feel the church's teachings on eternal life are under attack. Into that milieu, "Heaven Is Real" provides proof of the transcendental in the form of eyewitness testimony. That the eyewitness is a guileless preschooler only adds to the appeal.
Not everyone agrees, of course.
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The highest-grossing animated film of all time is Disney’s “Frozen.” The second highest is Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.”
One common denominator between them: The same man is in charge of both companies.
Ed Catmull may not be a household name, but you’ve seen his movies -- and his imagination. He helped create the entire field of computer animation.
“As a child, my heroes were Walt Disney and Albert Einstein,” Catmull said. “So I basically wanted to be an animator, but when I left high school, I didn’t know how to proceed. There were no schools for it.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Read it all (page 8).
At a time when some argue that faith and religious life should be kept behind closed doors, it is reassuring that the BBC and other broadcasters still invest in imaginative, high-quality religious programming, especially during Christian festivals such as Easter and Christmas.
But I believe passionately that religious broadcasting is not just for Easter or Christmas: its presence is vital the whole year round. I could not agree more with Ian Hislop, who wrote in last month’s Radio Times “that programmes that concern themselves with faith are still trying to engage with the world, rather than just trying to escape from it into the next”.
The dramatic events of Holy Week remind us that God is intensely engaged with the world he created – not just the ‘religious’ bits of life. St Paul told early Christians that, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God chose to “reconcile to himself all things”.
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The show, which features Tom Hollander as a well-meaning pro-gay inner-city liberal vicar, is “ great entertainment” but it “doesn’t truly tell the whole story,” according to the Most Rev Justin Welby.
Writing in the Radio Times about the Sandford St Martin Trust Awards, which celebrate programmes that explore the relevance of faith, Archbishop Welby says: “It would be no surprise if BBC2’s Rev makes the awards shortlist next year. The show amusingly depicts some of the challenges facing clergy up and down the country. But while it’s great entertainment, it doesn’t truly tell the whole story.
“I have a friend who runs a growing church in Reading city centre, filled with young people with no church background; I have another friend who has had to plant two new churches because his congregation is bursting at the seams.
“Other churches have few people but great impact, again with visionary and inspiring leadership...."
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
ESPN Films, creators of the critically-acclaimed 30 for 30 film series, will premiere a new series in April surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup on ESPN. 30 for 30: Soccer Stories will include a mix of standalone feature-length and 30-minute-long documentary films from an award winning group of filmmakers telling compelling narratives from around the international soccer landscape.
“With ESPN being the home of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we know that sports fans will be looking forward to high quality content focused on what is perhaps the world’s most revered sport,” said Connor Schell, VP of ESPN Films and Original Content. “We feel this is the perfect time to expand upon the success of our 30 for 30 series by focusing this collection on some of the incredible stories of soccer’s legendary past.”
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With several Bible-based films to be released this year, 2014 is being called Hollywood’s year of biblical epics. Some filmmakers are already reaping box office rewards, but what are the potential pitfalls of making these movies? RandE talks with Noah director Darren Aronofsky, Son of God producer Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, actors, and scholars about the challenges of adapting sacred stories to the big screen. Says San Diego State University history professor Edward Blum: “The biblical literalist wants, ‘Oh, hey, does this match up with Genesis? Does this match up with Exodus?’ while the more liberal modernist may want the more artistic spirit of the story. But you also have another group. You have those who vigorously dislike the Bible stories, and so how do you get those three groups to like the same thing?”
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It is the themes of faithfulness and optimism that give the biblical Noah story coherence. Without them you have—as with Mr. [Darren] Aronofsky's two-and-a-half-hour movie—a vast and dreary expanse of time, space and meaning to fill. The director strives his frenetic best. He gives us giant fantasy creatures that look like Transformers, except that they're made of rocks. He gives us, as a substitute for religion, the creeds of animal rights and environmentalism, in which the gravest sins are eating meat and mining. He gives us knifings, arsons and impressive computer-generated battles.
But as a determined secularist in a determinedly secular world, he can't give us the one thing that the Noah story once stood for: hope.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Theology: Scripture
Even before the rain fell, there were questions.
Would "Noah" the big-budget action movie from Paramount Pictures, alienate the faithful? Would it attract the secular masses it needs to earn back its $125 million production budget? And most importantly, would Hollywood's splashy return to biblical epics float with key religious leaders?
Already, some of those leaders who have seen it say the movie—which opens Friday and is loaded with special effects—takes liberties with the Bible account. Some Christian leaders argue the film repurposes the book of Genesis as a modern-day environmentalist parable, layered with details not found in scripture.
Three Arab countries are even refusing to release the movie....
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches * Theology Theology: Scripture
Did stepping into the world of "Noah" make you consider your own take on religion?
I already had the sense that I was someone who was more spiritual than specifically religious. ... I’m really interested in those things that are more far-reaching than culture, nationality, race, religion.
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The newest Utah polygamous family featured in a reality TV show says sharing their story with a wide audience has been liberating.
Brady Williams and his five wives were a bit apprehensive ahead of the airing of a pilot episode in September, but they said this week an interview with The Associated Press that it felt liberating to be open about who they are and what they believe.
"It really is like coming out of the closet," said Brady Williams, 43. "It's very liberating."
His wives feel the same way, including his second, Robyn Williams, 40, who said: "I feel more free to just be who I am and not be so afraid."
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Before giving birth to her first child, Sheona Beaumont avoided watching One Born Every Minute, deeming it to be "too raw, too real".
By the time she was pregnant with her second child, she was ready not only to watch the programme, which documents births in close detail, but to participate in it. Furthermore, she is planning to use the reaction to the episode to create a piece of artwork.
Mrs Beaumont, an artist, who is married to the Revd Adam Beaumont, Assistant Curate of Holy Trinity, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, has been commissioned to contribute to the Birth Online: Birth Offline art project, which will explore perspectives on public birth. It will form part of the Birth Rites Collection, on permanent public display at the University of Salford and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in London.
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Film critics have spoken: Son of God is a dud.
Just don’t tell that to the film’s producers, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. They found evidence of divine favor in the film’s release, citing the “truly miraculous” support they received as Catholic and evangelical leaders from Charlotte to Los Angeles threw their influence behind the movie. Clearly, their efforts were successful—a film that was a re-packaged version of scenes that aired during last year’s Bible miniseries brought in $26.5 million in ticket sales for its first weekend.
Burnett and Downey attribute the wave of support to a grassroots movement and the “quiet commitment of people of faith to spread the word about the life-changing love of Jesus to their friends and neighbors.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Media Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Christology Theology: Scripture
Jesus Christ is serious business. The remarkable ratings of The Bible miniseries on the History Channel led to the release of the new film Son of God. Producers played up the fact that it had been 10 years since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ was released and grossed at the box office more than $600 million internationally. In its opening weekend, the Son of God made $26 million—not bad, given that its content had previously aired on television.
Both films are serious for their revenue generating, their strategic niche marketing to the religiously devout, and their tone, style, and approach. The Passion was two hours of brutality. Some reviewers screamed that it was a horror flick, not a holy one. Gibson was intent on accuracy (or at least how his particular Catholicism viewed the sacred story). The characters did not speak English and he had the color of actor Jim Caviezel’s eyes digitally altered from blue to brown and gave him a prosthetic nose to make him look “authentically” Jewish. The Son of God is serious in its own way. A “political thriller” and an epic “love story,” the film features overtly evangelical themes of the virgin birth, miraculous healings, vicious crucifixion, and the resurrection.
Jesus films have not always been so serious, and they have not always been directed toward particular segments of the Christian community. In the 1970s, Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar used whimsy, even silliness, to tell the old, old story, and both sought mass appeal.
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Please watch it all from Jimmy Kimmel--very funny.
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