Saturday, June 30, 2007

With Evan Almighty, Hollywood Strikes Out Again in Effort to Appeal to Faith-Based Audience

Interesting read. The movie industry is so clueless concerning Christians:

I've produced three books, The Rock & Roll Rebellion, Faith, God & Rock n' Roll and Pop Goes Religion, all making the case for lowering the wall of separation between faith and entertainment. But if the result is both dumbed-down religion and comedy as in the box office flop Evan Almighty, it may be the strongest argument yet for reinstating that wall and keeping religion and the movies as far apart as possible.

In its aftermath, once again the chatter from Hollywood is how, despite another earnest and sincere attempt to make a movie for "those people," the elusive faith-based audience that came out to see the Passion of The Christ has once again failed to turn out en masse for a movie thought to be tailor-made for them. The problem with such an analysis is that it's not unlike making a movie featuring blackface and wondering why the African-American audience isn't interested.

Some experts like Hollywood box office watcher Nikki Finke are wondering if Grace Hill Media, the company many studios engage to reach the faith audience, was the problem. But that is misplaced blame, since Grace Hill did what it always does well: creating broad awareness of the film through faith-based media, months before the film's release.

No, the inability of Evan Almighty to connect with the faith-based audience is deeper and goes to the choices made by the studio, the director and the writers as well as the systemic problems with the way Hollywood has always done business and seems resistant to changing. Read More.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Unrest grows amid gas rationing in Iran

This could turn into something significant:

Unrest spread in Tehran on Thursday, the second day of gasoline rationing in oil-rich Iran, with drivers lining up for miles, gas stations being set on fire and state-run banks and business centers coming under attack.

Dozens were arrested, and the Tehran police chief, Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, complained to reporters that the police had been caught unaware by the decision to ration fuel.

The anger posed a keen threat to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was elected two years ago on a platform of bringing income from oil to the nation's households. Instead, even though Iran is one of the world's largest producers of crude oil, it has been forced to import about 40 percent of its gasoline at an annual cost of $5 billion to make up for shortfalls in its archaic refining industry. Read More.

Description of a Missional Church

  • A missional church is one where people are exploring and rediscovering what it means to be Jesus' sent people as their identity and vocation.
  • A missional church is individuals willing and ready to be Christ's people in their own situation and place.
  • A missional church knows that they must be a cross-cultural missionary (contextual) people in their own community.
  • A missional church will be engaged with the culture (in the world) without being absorbed by the culture (not of the world). They will become intentionally indigenous.
  • A missional church understands that God is already present in the culture where it finds itself. Therefore, a missional church doesn't view its purpose as bringing God into the culture or taking individuals out of the culture to a sacred space.
  • A missional church is about more than just being contextual, it is also about the nature of the church and how it relates to God.
  • A missional church will seek to plant all types of missional communities.
  • A missional church is evangelistic and faithfully proclaims the gospel through word and deed. Words alone are not sufficient; how the gospel is embodied in our community and service is as important as what we say.
  • A missional church understands the power of the gospel and does not lose confidence in it.
  • A missional church will align all their activities around the missio dei -- the mission of God.
  • A missional church seeks to put the good of their neighbor over their own.
  • A missional church will give integrity, morality, good character and conduct, compassion, love and a resurrection life filled with hope preeminence to give credence to their reasoned verbal witness.
  • A missional church practices hospitality by welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community.
  • A missional church will see themselves as a community or family on a mission together. There are no "Lone Ranger" Christians in a missional church.
  • A missional church will see themselves as representatives of Jesus and will do nothing to dishonor his name.
  • A missional church will be totally reliant on God in all it does. It will move beyond superficial faith to a life of supernatural living.
  • A missional church will be desperately dependent on prayer.
  • A missional church gathered will be for the purpose of worship, encouragement, supplemental teaching, training, and to seek God's presence and to be realigned with God's missionary purpose.
  • A missional church is orthodox in its view of the gospel and scripture, but culturally relevant in its methods and practice so that it can engage the worldview of the hearers.
  • A missional church will feed deeply on the scriptures throughout the week.
  • A missional church will be a community where all members are involved in learning "the way of Jesus." Spiritual development is an expectation.
  • A missional church will help people discover and develop their spiritual gifts and will rely on gifted people for ministry instead of talented people.
  • A missional church is a healing community where people carry each other's burdens and help restore gently.

Missional Jesus

What does it mean to be missional? It is to grasp and let the mission of God become a part of who we are. When we see those around us who are suffering, to see injustice, it stirs something in our hearts as Christians. We begin to see the world through the eyes of God and how he sees hurting humanity.

Scot McKnight at the Jesus Creed is beginning a series on this topic. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Read the sunspots

This makes a lot of sense. What will drive our weather more than anything? The sun of course.

Politicians and environmentalists these days convey the impression that climate-change research is an exceptionally dull field with little left to discover. We are assured by everyone from David Suzuki to Al Gore to Prime Minister Stephen Harper that "the science is settled." At the recent G8 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel even attempted to convince world leaders to play God by restricting carbon-dioxide emissions to a level that would magically limit the rise in world temperatures to 2C.
The fact that science is many years away from properly understanding global climate doesn't seem to bother our leaders at all. Inviting testimony only from those who don't question political orthodoxy on the issue, parliamentarians are charging ahead with the impossible and expensive goal of "stopping global climate change." Liberal MP Ralph Goodale's June 11 House of Commons assertion that Parliament should have "a real good discussion about the potential for carbon capture and sequestration in dealing with carbon dioxide, which has tremendous potential for improving the climate, not only here in Canada but around the world," would be humorous were he, and even the current government, not deadly serious about devoting vast resources to this hopeless crusade.
Read More.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"I am both Muslim and Christian"

This poor soul is living a theological impossibility. You cannot be both a Muslim and a Christian. This is a good example of religious relativism gone amok.

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.

On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.

She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.

Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?

But it has drawn other reactions too. Friends generally say they support her, while religious scholars are mixed: Some say that, depending on how one interprets the tenets of the two faiths, it is, indeed, possible to be both. Others consider the two faiths mutually exclusive.

"There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different," said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. "The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?"

Christianity has historically regarded Jesus as the son of God and God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine. Muslims, though they regard Jesus as a great prophet, do not see him as divine and do not consider him the son of God.

"I don't think it's possible" to be both, Fredrickson said, just like "you can't be a Republican and a Democrat."

Redding, who will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University this fall, has a different analogy: "I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both." Read More.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

California Looms

Unfortunately where California goes so goes the nation. It is not looking that good for civil liberties I'm afraid:

California is a behemoth among states. If it seceded from the United States, as Libertarian blogger Ron Getty advocates, its gross national product of $1.62 trillion dollars would make it the seventh largest economy in the world. California has approximately 16 million more people than Australia. How can the Rocky Mountain States not be affected by everything California does?

Hollywood has molded the image and the myths of the Rocky Mountain West for the entire world. Much of the technology that went into the computer on which you’re reading this article was developed in Silicon Valley. Much of the food in your refrigerator probably comes from the Central Valley. Much of the new population of the interior West’s cities emigrated from California.

California is a trendsetter state. Much like the weather, every Californian fad eventually makes its way over the Sierras and diffuses into the intermountain West. That’s wonderful, and it’s frightening, because there are some pretty disturbing things going on in the Golden State right now. Read More.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Studies say death penalty deters crime

Whether you agree with the death penalty or not, this study is going to stir the pot.

Anti-death penalty forces have gained momentum in the past few years, with a moratorium in Illinois, court disputes over lethal injection in more than a half-dozen states and progress toward outright abolishment in New Jersey.

The steady drumbeat of DNA exonerations — pointing out flaws in the justice system — has weighed against capital punishment. The moral opposition is loud, too, echoed in Europe and the rest of the industrialized world, where all but a few countries banned executions years ago.

What gets little notice, however, is a series of academic studies over the last half-dozen years that claim to settle a once hotly debated argument — whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder. The analyses say yes. They count between three and 18 lives that would be saved by the execution of each convicted killer.

The reports have horrified death penalty opponents and several scientists, who vigorously question the data and its implications. Read more.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

god is not Great by Christopher Hitchens:

Hitchens book is causing quite a stir and is a best seller. Mark Roberts debated Hitchens and is now blogging his critique of the book. This should be a good read.

A few hours ago I had the opportunity to debate Christopher Hitchens on the subject of his recent bestseller: god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. For three hours (including commercials) Mr. Hitchens and I stood toe-to-toe (electronically speaking) on the Hugh Hewitt Show, a talk-radio program. (Note: if you missed this program live, it will soon be available on the Internet. Check this website. Picture to the right: Christopher Hitchens holding forth.) Read More.

Religion and Spirituality among University Scientists

Very interesting:

Religion occupies a controversial place in university settings. While some university scholars historically viewed scientific knowledge as incompatible with religion,1 students are increasingly interested in religion as well as less traditional forms of spirituality. Some faculty and administrators might want to ignore religion, but in broader American public spheres religious rhetoric continues to be a force. In this context, many faculty, university chaplains, and administrators are searching for ways to meet the needs of already religious students and those exploring religion and spirituality, while not violating accepted academic norms of pluralism and tolerance. Read More.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Hitchens vs Hitchens

Fascinating critique of hitch's book by his brother.

We disagreed about the Iraq War – he was for it, I was against it. Despite the occasional temptation, I have never reviewed any of his books until today.

But now, in God Is Not Great, he has written about religion itself, attacking it as a stupid delusion.

This case, I feel, needs an answer. Most of the British elite will applaud, since they see religion as an embarrassing and (worse) unfashionable form of mania.

And I am no less qualified to defend God than Christopher is to attack him, neither of us being experts on the subject.

People sometimes ask how two brothers, born less than three years apart, should have come to such different conclusions.

To which I’d answer that I’m not sure they’re as different as they look, and that it’s not over yet.

Christopher has quite often written and spoken about our upbringing and background, whereas I haven’t, but I think I’m now entitled to give a small account of what we have in common. Read More.


Venezuela's RCTV Keeps Cameras Rolling

This is quite interesting. It shows the power of new media in that the station is using You Tube to broadcast some of it news programs. It is much more difficult to censor thoughts and ideas today because of the internet.

Inside the studios of Radio Caracas Television, actors are still filming soap operas and news anchors are still going on-camera more than a week after President Hugo Chavez forced the station off the air.

Some of the programs are making their way to viewers on the Internet or by satellite to stations abroad. Other shows are not reaching any audience at all, but cameramen, sound engineers and actors are continuing to produce most of RCTV's programs in hopes they may once again reach viewers across Venezuela, if only by cable. Read More.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mugabe’s role is to liberate the continent from self-doubt

This is from a letter to the editor from a newspaper in Kenya. Wonder what the Zimbabweans would have to say:

Africans are victims of imperialism and their minds are still shackled.

This is why some claim that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a shame to Africa. This is a lie. Mugabe is demonised for fighting for the rights of blacks whose land the Whites took forcefully.

Mugabe is doing the right thing by giving back land to the owners. The argument that the people of Zimbabwe do not have the skills to run ranches and commercial farms is a non-starter.

In 20 or 30 years, Zimbabwe will have a generation of black Africans who will benefit from land ownership and will have acquired the necessary knowledge to manage the properties.

Africa needs more Mugabes so that the citizens can chart their own destiny without foreign interference. A free Zimbabwe, where the population charts its future without foreign domination, is all Mugabe wants.

He is a remnant of the struggle to emancipate the black man from self-doubt. Mugabe is a hero to all Africans who know that independence will never be complete without ownership of land.

Zimbabweans have an example to emulate — the Great Zimbabwe civilisation whose grandeur and architecture stunned Europeans. That was the work of African engineers. It is the same Zimbabwe, only that the people have lost their identity, courage and willpower to conquer socio-economic problems. Link.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Recruited To Die

In 2004, 24-year-old Brooke Goldstein spent her summer in the West Bank filming more than five hours of in-person interviews with terrorists — all of which she conducted without a bodyguard and without a weapon. A Cardozo Law student with a fashion model's high cheekbones and long blond hair, Ms. Goldstein came face-to-face with Zacaria Zubeidah, a notorious recruiter of child suicide bombers. She interviewed suicide bombers' families and children, who aspire to "martyrdom." The resulting film, "The Making of a Martyr," will screen as part of the Brooklyn International Film Festival on Saturday and Tuesday. Read the whole thing.