Last month there was a bit of controversy about the excision of religious content from episodes of Veggie Tales airing on NBC.
From an article of the same title on beliefnet by Chansin Bird of the Religion News Service:
Fans of VeggieTales, those lovable animated singing and talking vegetables, may notice a change in the episodes aired on NBC's Saturday morning cartoon lineup: There's less editing than originally feared.
"The last batch of episodes are airing with very little editing," VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer wrote in an e-mail to Religion News Service. "Not none whatsoever, but very nearly none whatsoever. Much less than earlier episodes."
Originally, NBC had asked for changes in four of 13 episodes -- mostly editing out references to God and the Bible. Vischer said he was not thrilled with the edits, but was happy to have the cartoons on network television.
Every once in a while (maybe once or twice a year), when I'm sitting in front of the computer and need to kill some time for some reason, I poke around on concernedmembers.com to see if I can find something interesting to read. The mission of that site is described as this:
There are thousands of Churches undergoing hostile takeovers and being changed into a venue of "Holy Entertainment" by the "community church" movement.
"No one here will admonish anyone for worshipping God in what ever manner they believe to be correct. However, when someone subverts an existing Church by secrecy and deceit against the principles of it's founders and members...
...WE HAVE A PROBLEM!"
The below listings are links to various church member sites where the members discuss what's happening at their church, and learn about the problems causing division and take-overs.
This past weekend, during such a moment of random browsing, I came across this post by a Rochester College student. Rochester College is located in the Detroit-suburb of Rochester and is affiliated with the churches of Christ. The student documents his/her concerns about Rochester College, focusing on the lightning rod himself Rubel Shelly and also the controversy surrounding a Black History Month (BHM) guest chapel speaker that plagiarized from an internet chain email of dubious veracity known as "Life Without Black People."
...aims to foster an intellectual environment in which analytical students are free to question the teaching and philosophies taught by Rochester College, both in its activities and assemblies.
The blog is interesting and represents a pretty good discussion of the issues related to the controversial chapel speech without much gratuitous bickering. Much of it is anonymous, but there are also comments from folks like Candace Cain, RC's dean of students, and Calvin Moore, president of RC's Student Action Diversity Committee (SADC). There was also apparently the formation of a Caucasian Support Group on facebook, in analogy to the already-existing African-American Support Group, thrown in for good measure.
The poster (Tacitus) at concerned members summarizes his/her motivation in a postscript:
Note: My main intention in writing this (as well as the intentions of other Rochester student writers will be joining in this endeavor as well) to simply "let the truth be known" about what's going on at Rochester College. Rochester College portrays itself as a Bible-believing, conservative Christian institution, but it has shown itself to be anything but that. I hope that you will pass this information on to your friends and church members - it's time donors and visitors see past the facade Rochester College is putting on to attract and maintain students and funds.
Final Note: This is only the beginning of the accounts of troubling incidents at Rochester College. I and other students will write more as time permits.
Also, the House of God Sessions, organized by Calvin Moore and RC's SADC, looks like it could be very interesting.
From an article of the same title by Louis Sahagun in the LA Times:
The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori was empowered to take charge of the Episcopal Church on Saturday in a Gothic sanctuary filled with well-wishers and the acrid smell of hot wax and incense, becoming the first woman to lead a national church in the Anglican Communion's roughly 500-year history.
Her selection as the 26th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the denomination's highest office, was hailed as a breakthrough for women and for the inclusion of gays and lesbians, which she supports. It also made her a target in an international battle of opposing views on sexuality and interpretation of Scripture that have pushed the worldwide 77-million-member Communion toward schism.
"If some in this church feel wounded by recent decisions, then our salvation, our health as a body, is at some hazard, and it becomes the duty of all of us to seek healing and wholeness," she said. "As long as children live exposed on the streets, while seniors go without food to pay for life-sustaining drugs, wherever people are sickened by industrial waste, the body suffers, and none of us can say we have finally come home."
Slate's Daniel Engber defines an evangelical in an article of the same title:
Evangelicals believe in a strong personal relationship with Jesus, and most make an active conversion to their faith at a discrete moment in their lives. (Those who grow up evangelical are often "born again" as children, or in their teenage years.) They also tend to be very active in their churches. They are apt to form organizations to help needy people and to proselytize nonbelievers. They place enormous faith in the Bible and treat its specific teachings with gravity, and they emphasize the notion that Christ died on the cross for our sins.
Modern evangelicalism emerged from an early-20th-century conflict between Protestant liberals and fundamentalists. The fundamentalists felt that the liberals had strayed too far from the teachings of the Bible and urged a return to the most orthodox teachings. The evangelicals staked out a middle groundâ€”more conservative than the liberals but not quite as old-fashioned as the fundamentalists. The evangelicals and fundamentalists remain two distinct groups, though they share a belief in the importance of a personal relationship with God and the Bible. In general, the fundamentalists tend to be stricter and more isolated from mainstream culture. An evangelical parent might encourage his kids to listen to Christian rock, for example, while a fundamentalist parent would object to all music of that kind.
Are you an evangelical? I am.
From a UPI story of the same title on belief.net:
U.S. scientists, in a first-of-its-kind study, have found decreased brain activity in people "speaking in tongues," a condition known as glossolalia.
The unusual mental state is associated with some religious traditions and occurs when people appear to be speaking in an incomprehensible language, yet perceive it to have great personal meaning.
"Our brain imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues."
From an article of the same title by Ricardo Baca in the Denver Post:
Much of Christian music's integration into the pop culture mainstream comes via the rockers who happen to be Christian - as opposed to the Christian rockers who wear their faiths on their sleeves and crosses around their necks. Each group of musicians is writing about what makes them tick, but one crafts its art with more subtlety, yet its intentions are never fully hidden by metaphor.
Is it a conversion tool? Or is it simply art? Indie rockers from Dave Bazan (Pedro the Lion), Jeremy Enigk (The Fire Theft, Sunny Day Real Estate), Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) and Sufjan Stevens have developed secular followings regardless of their faiths - and it's not always an easy road with certain listeners turned off by any mention of a god.
Which is where Page France comes in. The Maryland band's music is soft and sweet, melodic and melancholy, literate and lush - and heavily laced with Christian symbols, ideals and history.
"David Bazan from Pedro the Lion won't even say he's a Christian because of what (evangelical Christianity) has come to mean culturally," said Beaujon. "Part of the cost of the political polarization is that Christianity has become a really loaded term, and it's hard for people to reconcile the basic fact that rock 'n' roll came out of the church."
Many bands, including The Fray, who hail from Denver and are enjoying nationwide popularity, purposefully avoid religious issues in their music regardless of their devout faith. Other musicians' message is a baseball bat to the head. Then there are those in the middle - Page France, Stevens, Bazan & Co. - whose moderate approach leaves them scrutinized from both sides.
"Dave Bazan has been pigeonholed, and I worry about Page France in the same sense," said Lewis. "Here's a band that makes beautiful music. They're just being sincere, but when you go into a public sphere, you have to be ready to deal with that."
Though I've always been an avid fan of music, I've never been an avid listener to contemporary Christian music. Pedro the Lion and Neutral Milk Hotel are two of my favorite bands ever. I listened to Page France on myspace. It sounds OK.
Ted Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. An outspoken opponent of gay marriage, Haggard gave up his post "while a church panel investigates allegations he paid a man for sex." He has since admitted that he "visited a male prostitute for a massage and bought methamphetamine for personal use â€” though he said he threw the drugs away without using them." Today he was fired by his megachurch for "sexually immoral conduct."
It's terrible timing for the environment as folks associated with the National Association of Evangelicals have recently announced a faith-based campaign on global warming.
"It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election -- especially the vote on Colorado's marriage-protection amendment -- which Ted strongly supports.
"He has shown a great deal of grace under these unfortunate circumstances, quickly turning this matter over to his church for an independent investigation. That is a testament to the character I have seen him exhibit over and over again through the years."
From an article of the same title by Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam in The Washington Post:
...Jack Straw, a top official in Prime Minister Tony Blair's government and leader of the House of Commons...started the controversy this month by complaining that veils create distance between individuals and cultures...
The veil debate has become part of a larger discussion in Britain about Muslims and religious tolerance, free expression, human rights, prejudice and security. These issues have dominated public discourse since the July 2005 bombings on the London public transportation system and a plot uncovered in August this year that allegedly involved blowing up transatlantic jetliners. In both cases, Britons were alarmed to discover that the men who allegedly committed or contemplated mass murder were young Muslim men who had been raised in Britain.
While the veil issue has exacerbated tensions between non-Muslims and Muslims, it has also sparked passionate reactions within Muslim communities. Some Muslim leaders have accused Straw, Blair -- who called veils a "mark of separation" -- and others of demonizing Muslims, but others have said they have raised an important issue that has no clear consensus among Muslims...
The veil issue has also divided women's rights advocates, Muslim and non-Muslim. Some argue that wearing the veil is simply a woman's choice, whether a statement of quiet religious observance or a battle cry for political independence, and should not be questioned by white male government officials. But others call veils a sad symbol of oppression and subservience.
From an AP article of the same title on beliefnet:
New York's highest court ruled Thursday that social service agencies run by the Roman Catholic Church and other faiths must provide birth-control coverage to their employees, even if they consider contraception a sin.
The 6-0 decision by the Court of Appeals hinged on whether Catholic Charities and the nine other groups are essentially social service agencies, not churches.
At issue was a 2002 state law that requires employers to provide health insurance coverage for mammograms, bone density screening and other preventive services for women, including prescription contraceptives. The law exempts churches, seminaries and other institutions with a mainly religious mission.
Catholic Charities and the other groups sued the state for an exemption but lost in the lower courts.
Via Boing Boing:
Artist Michael Gross flooded a London church-turned-gallery with water. The "lake" hides a system of mechanically-moving steps that enable visitors to walk on water. The installation, titled Bridge, is up until October 29 at Dilston Grove.
From the gallery's description:
Each step emerges one step in front of you and disappears back underneath behind you as you go. This â€˜bridge' is purely mechanical, the weight of the person on it depresses each step a little, this force activates a submerged mechanism which raises the next step.