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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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One of the oldest refrains in the world is the theodicy question: how could a good God let bad things happen?
That question animates Agnus Dei, which premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday. But the film's answer is expansive, complex, and subtly subversive. Directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel, Gemma Bovary) and led by an all-female cast, the movie tries to approach (but not fix) the repercussions of unspeakable cruelty with the quiet balm of beauty. It’s a must-see for CT readers.
Read it all.
Plans to show a short video promoting the message of Christmas, and featuring a nativity scene, around the festive season have been rejected as too “religious” for the big screen.
An alliance of churches and Christian charities funded and made the 45-second film as part of its annual “Christmas Starts with Christ” campaign.
It was launched online last Christmas and has been viewed 250,000 times and the organisers had hoped to take it to cinema screens this year.
Read it all from the Telegraph.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Church Year / Liturgical Seasons Christmas * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Media Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
There was a time not so very long ago when the most common complaint about Christmas was that it had become too commercial and that its Christian significance was being forgotten. Since then the decline in religious belief in Britain has grown so much that the secularity of Christmas is taken for granted. It is effectively a pagan festival now. According to the Church of England, only about one million people, or around two per cent of the population, still attend church on Sundays (though about twice that number do so on Christmas Day). The Church is in a bad way, and it is only natural that it should seek, as it has always done, to recruit new members by proselytism: hence its decision, in the run-up to Christmas, to use modern media for the purpose and screen a 60-second commercial in cinemas featuring the Lord’s Prayer.
I haven’t seen the commercial, but it sounds jumpy and irritating in the way that most cinema advertisements are. It reportedly shows the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, reciting the first line of the Lord’s Prayer, with the other lines being said in succession by different groups of people including schoolchildren, refugees, policemen and weightlifters (why weightlifters?).
It may well be irritating, but certainly no more so than all the other advertisements for such things as motor cars, watches, drinks, deodorants, or Jeremy Clarkson advertising his new paymaster, Amazon. But it has been banned by Britain’s biggest cinema chains on the grounds that it would offend cinema audiences. Digital Cinema Media (DCM), the company that handles most of Britain’s cinema advertising and is owned by Odeon and Cineworld, announced very late in the day, well after it had been approved by the appropriate authorities, that the C of E’s commercial should not be shown because it had a policy of not screening religious commercials on the grounds that advertisements reflecting personal beliefs risked ‘upsetting or offending audiences’.
Read it all from the Spectator.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch History Media Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths
...Fanaticism is real and nightmarish, and if we can’t tell the difference between sane and mad religion, we have lost a significant skill. Equally, if we treat one another as infants who can’t cope with actual disagreement about cultural and moral matters, we do no one any favours.
The happy result of the ban on the Lord’s Prayer advert has been, predictably, that an impressively large number of people have watched it online. It’s an ill wind. But the fact of the ban brings into focus one of the least sensible and helpful aspects of the way a lot of people today think about religion.
Such people forget what religion — specifically Christian religion — has made possible, despite its historical failures and scandals. And they nurse the dangerous illusion that the values of a majority (or rather the values of the feverish and prosperous minority who dictate what we have to watch before Spectre or Carol begins) are the right ones, never to be challenged.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
River stars Swedish acting legend Stellan Skarsgard as detective DI John River, a seasoned and brilliant cop who has an unusual personal history and pscyhological profile of his own.
The less you read about it, the better, especially if you like thrillers/mysteries. Just watch it: 6 episodes now available on Netflix--KSH (Hat tip: EH).
When Aaron Wolf began interviewing synagogue members and shooting footage for a documentary about the restoration of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, he considered himself a fallen-away Jew.
He knew that his late grandfather, Rabbi Alfred Wolf, had served the temple for 36 years. Aaron Wolf was bar mitzvahed in the historic sanctuary, and he spent summers at the camps for Jewish youth that his grandfather had created in Malibu.
But by the time he went to New York University to study film, he viewed religion as unimportant.
After four years of working on the documentary, "Restoring Tomorrow," and learning more about the temple's history and his grandfather's role in it, that has all changed.Read it all.
Watch it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Movies & Television Sports Travel Young Adults * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Britain’s shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture could leave as toxic a legacy for future generations as the pollution of the planet, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth has warned.
Today’s children are growing up in a culture with few if any real “heroes”, he said, while ideas of “nobility” and even “honour” are quietly disappearing.
The result could be as damaging to the nation’s “moral and imaginative ecology” as the destruction of the environment, he argued.
Britain is in danger of become a more “boring” and “mean-minded” place as a result, he added.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Rowan Williams Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Culture-Watch History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Energy, Natural Resources * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
It might not be well-publicised by the church, but every diocese in Britain has its own deliverance minister. Each is appointed, personally, by the Bishop. Many, like Stephen, become interested in taking on the role after having their own experience of some apparently supernatural phenomena . “I used to live in a house that seemed to have some sort of presence,” says Stephen. His haunting, though, was mild: more pest than pestilence. “Even though it was a relatively modern house it was always very cold, particularly in my children’s bedroom,” he says. “We bled the radiators, we looked for a draft and there was none. The place just had an atmosphere. I went away for a couple of nights and my wife, who’s fairly level headed, was freaked out just by being left in the house with my child.” At a loss, he called in a deliverance minister who told him, ‘Don’t worry, I can deal with this,’ and blessed the house. As he said his prayers everyone gathered felt the temperature rise around them, right where they stood. “It went from cool to being very warm, and it wasn’t just me that felt it,” he says. “This is something I’ve experienced a few times. The house is actually quite a pleasant place to live now.”
Becoming a deliverance minister not only requires selection by the bishop, but the attendance of a compulsory training course. “It lasts three or four days,” he says. “It gives you a huge amount of input along the lines of, ‘these are things you may not have experienced before and how you go about dealing with them.’ There’s also a very heavy emphasis on the difference between people who are psychotic and people who might be manifesting evil influences.” As part of his general training, Stephen says he completed an extended placement working at a mental health facility. “I have quite an extensive knowledge and experience of people who’ve got various psychiatric problems.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Movies & Television Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Theodicy Theology: Scripture
If the church is the body of Christ, then the megachurch is like an athlete on steroids.
Every major city has a bevy of churches drawing between 5k-25k people. To get a body to grow that big leaders have to use some sort of performance enhancer. These things—typically models, strategies, and techniques gleaned not from the gospel or the Christian narrative, but from the world of business and the narrative of consumer capitalism—serve as performance enhancers that help create enormous congregations with huge facilities and hundreds of programs.
The impact of these practices is akin to using performance-enhancing drugs. They actually alter the form and function of the body, causing real and serious long-term consequences for the church universal.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture Sports * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology
Back in the day, the iconic Walter Cronkite closed his nightly CBS newscast with the reassuring words, “And that’s the way it is.” And for a generation at least, Americans believed him.
Well, they don’t any more. Survey after survey has shown that few professions are held in lower regard by the public than journalism. Survey after survey has also revealed that many elite journalists hold to a narrow, secular worldview that sees religious belief as irrelevant to the “real” issues of the day—if not downright dangerous.
“Now the problem with this journalistic orthodoxy,” says Robert Case of the World Journalism Institute, “is that it is disingenuous. … The post-modern journalist subscribes to no external standard for her judgments. … With the post-modern loss of the quest for objective truth, journalistic judgment is subject to personal whim, and manipulation by the media elite who have their own perspective on truth.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Media Movies & Television Philosophy Psychology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Ten years ago Don DeLillo wrote that the attacks of Sept. 11 would change “the way we think and act, moment to moment, week to week, for unknown weeks and months to come, and steely years.” The historian Taylor Branch spoke of a possible “turning point against a generation of cynicism for all of us,” and Roger Rosenblatt argued in Time magazine that “one good thing could come from this horror: it could spell the end of the age of irony.”
They were wrong, of course....
Read it all.
It is not only intimate life and family dramas that are twisting in the chasm between the elite and the rest of us. CBS recently aired an instantly notorious reality show called The Briefcase, in which a struggling family is given a briefcase full of money and told they can either keep it all or give some to another, similarly struggling family. The twist is that the second family has been given an identical briefcase and told the same thing. The scenario recalls the classic “prisoner’s dilemma” of game theory—though in this case the tension comes not from rational decision making but from the anguish of the participants. The show’s producers step into the Christian Grey role, an entity with effectively limitless resources that finds a random family on which to lavish its attentions at an emotional cost it determines for them in advance.
Even philanthropy cannot seem to escape the sadistic thrill of playing Christian Grey—of dangling something people need on the far side of some ludicrous obstacle. Last year the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway invited university students to make videos explaining why their tuition should be paid for. The top entrants were invited to compete in a contest at a college football halftime show. If they managed to throw enough footballs into an oversized Dr. Pepper can, they won up to $100,000 in tuition support. If not, at least they had an all-expenses-paid trip to the conference championship game. It’s astonishing that this was called a giveaway, as if hustling up a viral video, earning the most votes, and then performing a circus trick in a stadium were not a rather taxing sort of labor.
There is a lurid odor about these entertainments. The sight of real people wriggling and dancing and chucking footballs to win a cruise makes a very slight claim on our sense of fairness and decency. The sight of them doing it for tuition or medical bills shreds it beyond any recognition.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Movies & Television Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality Violence * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
To the casual skeptic, the notion of getting sucked into the Church of Scientology's belief system is a prospect as likely as a Sunday brunch date with galactic overlord Xenu.
But for the average Canadian, it helps that this film's main liaison is filmmaker Paul Haggis, a practising Scientologist for 35 years before his explosive departure from the church in 2009.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The vicar who is the star of a reality television show in which couples are married as soon as they meet has been criticised for allowing his clerical collar to give respectability to a “seedy” experiment.
The Rev Nick Devenish is one of five experts who selected six strangers to tie the knot in the Channel 4 show Married at First Sight.
The team vicar at the Church of St Mary & St Michael in Cartmel, Cumbria, analysed the participants’ understanding of marriage, what they wanted from their union and how well they understood the seriousness and commitment required. He was part of a panel of experts alongside a sex therapist, a psychologist and two anthropologists.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev David Walker, accused the show of “inappropriate and rather seedy behaviour” and has said that a Church of England vicar should not have been involved.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Movies & Television Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK
Watch it all.
Today, a new "cloud tax" takes effect in the city of Chicago, targeting online databases and streaming entertainment services. It's a puzzling tax, cutting against many of the basic assumptions of the web, but the broader implications could be even more unsettling. Cloud services are built to be universal: Netflix works the same anywhere in the US, and except for rights constraints, you could extend that to the entire world. But many taxes are local — and as streaming services swallow up more and more of the world's entertainment, that could be a serious problem.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Movies & Television * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Personal Finance Taxes Politics in General City Government * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
They worked fror 5 years on this movie--3 years on the the storytelling alone. Watch it all.
The film's title alludes to the opening track of Wilson's 1988 debut solo album. The film delivers both in spades. Mercy is certainly shown to Wilson in the film, which skips the darkest period of his life, a fifteen-year-stretch between 1968 and the transformation that came after Melinda Ledbetter (his wife-to-be) met him. During those lost years, he was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, battling auditory hallucinations, spending much of his time in bed, using drugs, and grossly overeating (his weight soared to more than 300 pounds).
Melinda (played by Elizabeth Banks) is really the central character in the '80s narrative, and her perseverance and genuine concern for Brian's well-being ultimately get him out of his abusive relationship with Dr. Landy. Love & Mercy celebrates the gift of Wilson's music by focusing on his most fertile creative period and the light shining through after almost two decades of darkness. What makes the Wilson story so wonderful is its genuinely redemptive arc. With Melinda he has enjoyed a newfound stability (they've been happily married for 20 years) and a return to the music spotlight with 2004's Grammy-winning Brian Wilson Presents Smile and later with the long-awaited release of the masters for Smile in 2011.
While love and mercy may have both landed in the title, justice is also central to the film. In the scene that generates the largest applause, Dr. [Eugene] Landy is served papers for the lawsuit that ultimately cost him his license to practice psychiatry. That may suggest why Love & Mercy is so compelling. It avoids the formulaic quality of so many recent biopics, but it's not ashamed to tug at our heartstrings. And above all, it captures the joy of creation.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Drugs/Drug Addiction Health & Medicine History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Movies & Television Music Psychology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
US actor Mark Wahlberg has revealed that his faith in God has helped him to change his life around and achieve success.
Wahlberg, 43, earned himself the bad boy of Hollywood image following a string of misdemeanours which saw him arrested and detained multiple times as a teenager and addicted to cocaine aged 15.
He told Square Mile: “I pray every day and try to go to church every day. My faith in God is what makes me a better man.
“It’s the most important part of my life. I pray that I will live up to my intention to be the best husband and father that I can be. I never would have been able to change my life and have the success and love that I have in my world today without my faith.”
Read it all.
Lasch was not out to define the future, or to shape it either. He was not even, for some extraordinary reason, out to get rich. He had come to describe the cultural carbon clogging the national carburetor. We weren’t going to be made okay by dieting or jogging or protest-marching, or even by opening up our souls. We might, if we paid careful attention to Professor Lasch, become more fully aware of what was afoot in our culture, and what effects it was producing. Light might break through. The rest was up to us.
What was amiss? Much, it seemed. The Culture of Narcissism grew out of Lasch’s earlier study of the modern family, Haven in a Heartless World, in which he had pointed to an alarming decline in the family’s authority. It seemed, on the basis of the more extensive scrutiny supplied in The Culture of Narcissism, that the culture itself was approaching bankruptcy. “Bourgeois society seems everywhere to have used up its store of constructive ideas.”
Liberalism had nothing to offer, said this disillusioned liberal, weary as he was of cultural libertarianism. “Psychological man” had become “the final product of bourgeois individualism,” liberated from past superstitions but seeking the meaning of life. He lives “in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire.” All of which was congruent with Jimmy Carter’s presidential perceptions. But no White House speechwriter could afford to go where Lasch now led, which was toward arraignment of the “therapeutic” climate that caused Americans to seek “personal well-being, health, and psychic security.”
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Books Children History Marriage & Family Media Movies & Television Psychology Religion & Culture Sociology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
The denial of the sex industry's role in perpetuating sexism and its rebranding as "feminist" is a serious impediment to tackling gender inequality. While there is vocal commentary around reducing domestic and sexual violence in Australia, those voices are conspicuously quiet when the violence depicted is in pornography. Too many women's advocates remain complicit in the sexual entitlement and unadorned violence that this industry is making normative.
While campaigns seek longer jail terms that will keep sex offenders out of society, this won't change the terrain that is funnelling more and more young men down this dangerous path. The police cannot arrest their way out of the problem, nor can a lesson on sexual health undo a lifetime of socialisation.
Marches and protests against domestic violence rage on, discussions continue to unpack male entitlement, yet the elephant in the room remains unacknowledged. One of the most omnipresent and unavoidable drivers of sexist violence is seemingly invisible. To address sexist violence, advocates must challenge the lie that pornography is progressive.
Read it all.
Pope Francis told an Argentine newspaper that he never watches TV or logs on to the Internet. Perhaps not surprisingly, he sleeps well.
Speaking to the newspaper La Voz Del Pueblo, the pope reflected on the little over two years since he was thrust into the global limelight.
He said the swift transition from being archbishop of Buenos Aires to leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics was somewhat of a shock.
Read it all.
he medium of television is—like newspapers, magazines and books—undergoing massive disruption.
The average number of cable stations Americans receive ballooned from 129 in 2008 to 189 in 2013, an increase of one-third in just five years.(1) During the same five-year period, Netflix introduced subscription-based Internet streaming of both TV shows and movies, a service that has multiplied to include more than 60 million subscribers around the globe.(2)
What effects, if any, have these seismic shifts had on the TV audience? Barna Group surveyed a nationally representative panel of U.S. adults on their viewing habits and preferences.
Read it all.
“‘A good job’ means a really tough fire,” says retired firefighter Alfred Benjamin. Some call it terrifying or seductive, but as Rescue 5’s Joseph Esposito notes, “You should be scared…that’s what keeps you alive.”
Directed and produced by Liz Garbus (HBO’s Emmy®-nominated “Bobby Fischer Against the World”) and produced by actor Steve Buscemi (Emmy® nominee for HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”), A GOOD JOB: STORIES OF THE FDNY explores life in one of the most demanding and innovative fire departments in the world.
Read it all.
My initial reaction to the claim in the subtitle of this celebrity biography was incredulity, but Richard Zoglin has convinced me that Bob Hope (1903-2003) can fittingly be referred to as the most successful entertainer of the 20th century. This place of preeminence is secured by the heights of popularity that he achieved, the number of decades during which his star power continued to shine so brightly, and his triumphing in seemingly every possible form of mass entertainment.
That last point is particularly compelling. Hope rose to success in vaudeville, and then conquered Broadway, before proceeding to the #1 spot in radio, film, and television—holding in the top ten in all three across decades. And the half is yet untold. Hope was a singer and recording artist; on Broadway, he stole the show with "I Can't Get Started," and in his first film he did the same with "Thanks for the Memory," which became his theme song. His initial vaudeville success was as a dancer.
Hope eventually became the most successful live performer going, often setting all-time attendance records for the cities he visited. He had a regular newspaper column, and his I Never Left Home—believe it or not—was the bestselling nonfiction book of 1944. A cultural ambassador during the Cold War, he did historic shows in Russia and China. (During the Iran hostage crisis, he seriously proposed doing his 1980 Christmas special from Tehran.) Hope was considered the greatest emcee in the business—hosting the Academy Awards an astonishing 19 times—and, to bury the lede, he was "the most popular comedian in American history."
Read it all.
Set in a small coastal village in France, a crime thriller which has a great script and wonderful acting. The two leads, Thierry Lhermitte and Marie Dompnier, give especially noteworthy performances.
In French with english subtitles, and not suitable for younger viewers--KSH.
Both parents address words to their absent children which they hope, but cannot know, will reach them. Coop records video messages which he transmits back to Earth, though they will take years to arrive. Stone, meanwhile, speaks to the character who seemed to appear to her as Catholics pray to saints, asking that a message be passed on to her departed daughter.
While neither film’s protagonist is religious, “Gravity” is interested in religion in a way that “Interstellar” isn’t. Convinced that she is doomed to die in space, Stone laments that not only will no one on Earth pray for her soul, she was never even taught to pray and doesn’t know how to pray for her own soul.
Improbably traveling to two different space stations, Stone encounters a Russian Orthodox icon of Saint Christopher carrying the child Jesus in a Russian spacecraft and a smiling Buddha statue in a Chinese spacecraft. (Strikingly, the only analogous object on the American space shuttle is a statue of Marvin the Martian — an ironic comment, perhaps, on religiously deracinated Western secularism?)
Read it all.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have invited the "Dowager Countess of Grantham" to dine at Windsor Castle this evening.
Acclaimed actress Dame Maggie Smith - who plays acerbic matriarch Violet Crawley in the hit period drama Downton Abbey - is among 20 guests the monarch and Philip have asked to a private dinner party at the historic Berkshire residence.
Among those at the soiree will be the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney and his wife Diana, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife Caroline.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Archbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby * Culture-Watch History Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK
Since a number of you were kind enough to inquire, Elizabeth and I went out to eat at the new Five Loaves Cafe in Summerville, South Carolina. For those of who in the South Carolina Lowcountry (or for any who plan to visit) I can recommend it highly--the food, ambience and service were excellent. We later went to the movie Kingsman:The Secret Service--we had heard that is was "fun," and indeed it was!
A few days ago he hinted he'll be hanging up his Wolverine claws - now Hugh Jackman's reported to be taking on the role of an apostle.
Deadline magazine says the actor will star in Apostle Paul, a film being developed by Warner Bros.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's company Pearl Street Films will produce it.
Apostle Paul, also known as St Paul, was a Jewish man who was a persecutor of Jesus' followers before becoming a teacher of Christianity.
Read it all.
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.
Read it all.
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.”
Read it all.
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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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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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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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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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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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.
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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.
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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?
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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."
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...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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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.
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...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.
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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.
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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."
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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.
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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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"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.
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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.
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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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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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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
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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.
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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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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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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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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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Marriage & Family Movies & Television Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Watch it all--loads of fun.
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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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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.
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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.
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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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