From an article of the same title by Claire Hoffman in the LA Times:
A study released Thursday by the Parents Television Council, a frequent critic of the TV industry over such issues as broadcast indecency, found that prime-time shows in the last year dealt with religion half as much as the year before. When they did, the Los Angeles-based group said, religion was cast in negative light more than one-third of the time.
The study was the council's seventh annual report on the subject. This year, the group pointed an angry finger at the Fox network, specifically such shows as "The Family Guy" and "House," that it said consistently mocked religion and people of faith. A Fox spokesman declined to comment.
...it gives reality shows high marks for showing frequent, unscripted outbursts of faith.
Francis Collins, author of "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," was on The Colbert Report last night. The director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Collins considers DNA "the language of God," the means He used
He was profiled in the LA Times a while back. There was a debate of sorts between Collins and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins in a recent issue of Time. It was an interesting read. I'm going to read Collins' book. I certainly don't have all the answers, and I'm sure he doesn't either...but I'm interested in ways to synthesize what we observe in the world with with we observe in the Word.
Here are the video clips from Colbert:
From the LA Times article:
He believes in evolution and in the resurrection. He wears a silver ring with a raised cross and works at a dining-room table painted with the double-helix of DNA...
Collins considers evolution irrefutable; he has no doubt that all life emerged from a common ancestor over millions of years. But he began to ask himself whether God could have set this amazing process in motion...
...perhaps evolution is a logical, even elegant, way to populate the planet. Maybe God intended mutations in DNA over the millennia to lead to the emergence of Homo sapiens. Once man arrived, maybe God set him apart from the other creatures by endowing him with knowledge of right and wrong, a sense of altruism and a yearning for spiritual nourishment....
Polls have found that 40% of scientists believe, as Collins does, in a God who actively communicates with man. Among elite biologists, however, the figure is much lower, about 5%...
From David Plotz's discussion of 2 Kings chapter 3 in his Blogging the Bible series:
Another appalling war. The bad king of Israel allies with good King Jehoshaphat of Judah to attack the Moabites. The armies end up in the desert without any water. The Israelite king begs Elisha to save them. Elisha says he would let the Israelites die without a second thought, but because he admires Jehoshaphat, he'll help. Elisha then reveals himself to be the Funky Prophet: He can only conjure the power of the Lord when music is playing. A musician is summoned, and Elisha delivers a lifesaving flood of water.
Here's the bad part. Elisha also orders the armies to block every Moabite spring, cover Moabite cropland with stones, and chop down every Moabite fruit tree. They do it, and triumph. But let's hearken back to Deuteronomy, chapter 20, when the Lord establishes laws of war. One of them, explained very carefully, was that you may not cut down enemy orchards. The trees are innocent parties and must be left unmolested. Cutting down fruit trees is a 50-year war crime, ruining the lives of your enemy, as well as their children's and grandchildren's lives. This is presumably why God banned it so emphatically. So, it's confusing and tragic that He encourages it this time. (Alternative theory: Elisha is a false prophet, and these were not God's orders.)
The passage from 2 Kings 3:14-19
14 Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you. 15 But now bring me a harpist." While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha 16 and he said, "This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches. 17 For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. 18 This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD; he will also hand Moab over to you. 19 You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones."
The passage from Deuteronomy 20:10-20
10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby. 16 However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy themâ€”the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusitesâ€”as the LORD your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God. 19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them? 20 However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.
What do you think? Why would Elisha encourage them to cut down all the trees in violation of the Deuteronomy passage?
I don't know...when I read the passage from 2 Kings, it isn't obvious to me that Elisha is encouraging or commanding but rather simply predicting. Approval of cutting the trees doesn't seem to be necessarily implicit in his statement...though I would probably assume it but for the Deuteronomy passage.
The film...may be the best weapon yet for the pro-life movement. That wasn't the purpose of the documentary -- the first ever to record animals in the womb -- but these images of gestating life pack a powerful wallop.
The mind makes a natural leap to questions of how we consider and treat the pre-born.
Via Andrew Sullivan, David Kuo (author of Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction), in his open letter to Dobson and Colson, hits on what I was trying to get at in "The Christian Message" post:
Jesus' name is being destroyed in the name of partisan politics such that people now identify him more with issues like abortion and gay marriage and with wickedly partisan attacks than they do with the Good News.
It's been at or near the No. 1 spot among the best-selling books listed on Wal-Mart's Web site since its early fall release. The retail chain Family Christian Stores say it's the fastest-selling audio Bible it has ever stocked.
The 21-hour production, which lists for $49.99, features the voice talents of more than 250 singers, clergy and actors, including Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr., Angela Bassett and Alfre Woodard. Blair Underwood portrays Jesus, and Samuel L. Jackson, who played a Scripture-spouting hit man in "Pulp Fiction," is the voice of God.
"It's really good and it's transcending every barrier. We're thrilled with the way that the product has turned out," said Paul Caminiti, vice president and publisher of Bibles for Zondervan, a Grand Rapids-based division of News Corp.-owned HarperCollins.
Don't forget to put it on your wish list.
Via Phil Wilson, our alma mater (Lipcomb University) and one of its professors (Lee Camp...our first couple years at Lipscomb we made Antioch church of Christ our church home and Lee was their campus minister or some such at the time) are embroiled in a controversy over reporting in The Tennessean regarding Camp's statements at the "Invitation to Dialogue: Conversations on Religious Conflict" at Lipscomb's Institute for Conflict Management. Apparently The Tennessean really botched its summary of Camps comments and the online discussion board/blog free-for-all/chaos ensued. Camp and Lipscomb issued a statement clarifying what Lee actually said.
This is the best and worst of the net. It's cool that so many people so quickly and easily learn about what's going on and engage in a discussion. On the other hand, its pretty sad how ugly the tone of much of the "discussion" is (read the all the comments folks left for The Tennessean article).
A week or two ago, an interview with Elton John started me thinking about the common perspective that Jesus and his teachings are good and admirable but that organized religion and the modern church are not desirable and are actually harmful to society. The way John put it:
...the world could be a more compassionate place free of "hateful lemmings" if only all religion was banned. In an interview with Observer Music Monthly magazine, Sir Elton says that while he loves "the idea of the teachings of Christ," he still believes that, as a whole, "organized religion doesn't seem to work."
I wondered what the root of this is: Do people like John misunderstand the teachings of Jesus and what he was all about...or is the modern church distracted and failing to live out and emphasize the teachings of Jesus?
The post created such a deluge of conversation that I thought I'd bring it up again and continue my conversation with myself.
Several more stories recently spurred me to think more about this subject.
Last month, the president-elect of the Christian Coalition made news by indicating that the message of the gospel goes beyond pro-life, pro-family, pro-morality...such as concern for the environment. Well it was too good to last...via Dvorak Uncensored, an AP story reported that Hunter has resigned over philosophical differences:
The Rev. Joel Hunter...said Wednesday that the national group would not let him expand the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.
This is the latest setback for the group founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster the Rev. Pat Robertson. Four states - Georgia, Alabama, Iowa and Ohio - have decided to split from the group over concerns its changing direction on issues like the minimum wage, the environment and Internet law instead of core issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Hunter, who was scheduled to take over the socially conservative political group Jan. 1, said he had hoped to focus on issues such as poverty and the environment.
"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.
He resigned Tuesday during an organization board meeting. Hunter said he was not asked to leave.
"They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues, that's not our base,'" Hunter said.
This past Saturday, in an article titled "Group targets Midland Wal-Mart" by Angela E. Lackey, our local newspaper reported on protesters outside our Wal-Mart on Black Friday:
Area Wal-Mart stores were targeted by protesters Friday, part of a nationwide effort of Operation Save Wal-Mart to return the giant retailer to its "godly roots" and stop its alleged support of abortion and homosexuality.
Cal Zastrow and his 13-year-old daughter, Corrie, of Kawkawlin, stood on one corner near the Midland Wal-Mart store. He and his small group earlier went to the Bay City and Saginaw Wal-Mart stores. They plan to return to the Kochville store today and protest at other stores in the future.
"Our motivation is to encourage Wal-Mart to stop funding abortion and homosexuality," Zastrow said. "And we are to lift up the Lord Jesus Christ."
Zastrow had two large signs, each depicting an aborted fetus with torn body parts, propped against each hand. Corrie held up a plastic banner that read, "Wal-Mart Funds Murder & Perversion."
Saginaw resident Ryan Murphy stood across the street. As vehicles stopped to turn onto Joe Mann Boulevard, he handed out fliers that said Wal-Mart supported homosexual causes in several ways, including donating $25,000 to the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), becoming a corporate member of the NGLCC and sponsoring some of its programs.
The flier said the retailer supports abortion by dispensing the Plan B pill, which the group calls the "abortion pill." Zastrow also said Wal-Mart supports Planned Parenthood.
The American Family Association...said it was pleased that Wal-Mart had pledged in a statement to stay away from controversial causes.
Wal-Mart said it would make changes in the way it contributed to such groups, earmarking funds only for specific causes it supported, such as workplace equality, rather than giving unrestricted gifts.
"This has been Christian families' favorite store _ and now they're giving in, sliding down the slippery slope so many other corporations have gone down," said the Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Save America. "They're all being extorted by the radical homosexual agenda."
Finally, via Andrew Sullivan, Baptist minister Oliver "Buzz" Thomas wrote in an opinion piece in USA Today titled "When religion loses its credibility" in which he questioned (not very persuasively) the conventional Christian view on homosexuality and again raised the possibility of a disconnect between the modern church's pet issues and the message of Jesus:
For those who have lingering doubts, dust off your Bibles and take a few hours to reacquaint yourself with the teachings of Jesus. You won't find a single reference to homosexuality. There are teachings on money, lust, revenge, divorce, fasting and a thousand other subjects, but there is nothing on homosexuality. Strange, don't you think, if being gay were such a moral threat?
On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.
So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?
Frankly, I'm not completely on board with Buzz's arguments. Based on my study of the Bible, I believe that the practice of homosexuality is contrary to the will of God. That's different from believing that homosexuals should be subjected to discrimination by our society and government. I don't believe that the teachings of the apostles lack importance if they don't have an explicit shout-out from Jesus. But I do think there is something to the argument that there are conclusions to be drawn from what Jesus actually said and did and what he didn't say or do. Again, it's not that I think issues like homosexuality have no place in the teachings of the church. But maybe that place is actually in the church as a means to help committed Christians continue their transformation according to God's will...and maybe not as the poster-child issue that frames the conversation between Christians and non-Christians. There is a core message of Jesus and the gospel. Maybe Elton John, Joel Hunter, and Buzz Thomas have valid points. Maybe the modern church does Jesus a disservice by drowning out his core message to a lost world with issues and debates that are not central to Jesus message even if they are of some importantance and relevance to a life lived according to God's will. Maybe, as Thomas suggested in his article, the collective we do need to reacquaint ourselves with the teachings of Jesus and reformulate the expression of the Christian message that we share with non-Christians.
From an article of the same title on beliefnet:
According to Sir Elton John, the world could be a more compassionate place free of "hateful lemmings" if only all religion was banned. In an interview with Observer Music Monthly magazine, Sir Elton says that while he loves "the idea of the teachings of Christ," he still believes that, as a whole, "organized religion doesn't seem to work."
This isn't an uncommon sentiment: the teachings of Jesus are good but organized religion and modern Christianity are bad. For example, I've heard Bill Maher say similar things.
What's at the root of this sentiment? Do people like John and Maher misunderstand the teachings of Jesus and what he was all about...or is the modern church distracted and failing to live out and emphasize the teachings of Jesus?