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May 14, 2009

Daily roundup

’Slumdog’ actor’s home destroyed

Ismail The BBC reports that Azharuddin Ismail, one of the child actors from the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, lost his home (a tent in the slums of Mumbai), which was demolished by city authorities with the accusation that the family had been squatting on the land.

Controversy had already erupted over fair compensation for a few of the child actors from the film (two, including Ismail, actually came from the slums they were representing in the film).

(Image © Fox Searchlight)

Thank you, Mr. President

Art.1700.obama.cnn I was extremely thankful to read that President Obama has reversed course and now opposes releasing any more photos of detainees being interrogated. He has wisely noted that releasing these photos would flame anti-American sentiment and endanger our troops. According to the president, “The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by small number of individuals."

I wish the ACLU got this. Thank goodness, the president does. 

(Image © Shawna Shepherd for CNN)

Anyone Watching ’Castle’?

Castle As much as I like Nathan Fillion (sigh, I still miss Firefly), I have not had a chance to watch his new show, Castle. However, according to this reviewer, I'm missing a great show. 

Have any of our Pointificators checked out Castle? If so, is it worth what I'm going to have to pay iTunes to catch up?

(Image © ABC)

May 13, 2009

Daily roundup

He’s got a point

Obamatrump_comp_297 I'm not a big Donald Trump fan, but give him credit for guts: He pointed out what most same-sex marriage advocates are studiously ignoring.

(Image © Politico)

May 12, 2009

What about Celebrating Christian Day?

Believe it or not, Hawaii's lawmakers have voted to celebrate "Islam Day."

They wanted to recognize Islam's "rich religious, scientific, cultural and artistic contributions." Really? If they give them a day for their contributions then they should give Christianity a year to recognize its contributions.

It seems to me that the U.S. is quickly forgetting what happened on 9/11. And I can just imagine what the uproar would be like if these lawmakers wanted a Christian Day.

Hef’s last boundary

Shia_labeouf Years ago in a religious studies class, a professor of mine--no prude, he--told us a startling remark by Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner to keep us on our toes.  My professor referenced an early interview Hefner gave after he launched Playboy, in which the pajama-clad Casanova said airily, "Incest is the last boundary we need to cross."

So much for harmless soft porn, eh?

Well, as Hefner has been busy crowning the 50th Playboy Playmate, his famous publication is legitimizing at least conversation on such taboo subjects. Shia LeBeouf, a rising young actor, said in a recent interview that he found his mother so sexually attractive that if she wasn't his mother, he'd want to be with her that way.

While breaking through the last remaining cultural and ethical barricades makes some young Hollywood members feel liberated, there's a reason such barricades are up, of course. For one thing, they separate us from the animals. But, like Phil Donahue and others, Hef no doubt sees us as merely human animals, with no soul to protect and value in ourselves or others.

(Image © AP)

May 11, 2009

Daily roundup

KFC and Oprah-tunity Knocking

KFC You may have heard about the snafu last week, when Oprah announced free downloadable coupons to try Kentucky Fried Chicken's new grilled chicken. The response was so overwhelming that local KFC chains had to turn away customers because they ran out of the product. And instead of using this to their marketing advantage, apparently some KFC stores were actually rude and belligerent in turning the hungry customers away. My takeaway:

Do count your chickens before you hatch a scheme with Oprah. 

Now is it just me, or is anyone else just a little freaked out about how powerful Oprah is, to control the reins of the populace like this? Oprah loves The Shack. Everyone loves The Shack. Oprah hails grilled chicken. KFC is inundated by consumers. Oprah becomes an adherent of Eckhart Tolle and his wacko beliefs. Lo and behold, so does your neighbor, and three out of five of your friends on Facebook.

Don't get me wrong, if Oprah-tunity came knocking on my door, I wouldn't turn it down. But just the very fact that her word holds so much power is a little... chilling. I think if she told Americans that standing on their head for five hours a day would cure cancer, the world would, well, be turned upside down.

(Image © KFC)

A new era of civility?

Sykes So much for that idea.

(Image © Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

May 08, 2009

Daily roundup

A. N. Wilson’s Return

Following up on Kim's post, Dr. Benjamin Wiker has a wonderful article on Wilson's recent re-conversion to Christianity. He quotes Wilson's description of the cultural conditions that first led him away from Christianity, conditions we recognize all around us: 

Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe..., I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti. 

To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.

This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.

It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.

I celebrate Wilson's return to Christ, but I wonder how many of us -- even those who have never turned away from our Savior -- are affected by that same negative culture. How much do I allow this subtle and not-so-subtle prejudice against Christianity to lead me to be less trusting in God, less bold in my witness, and less likely to see the need to think Christianly about all of life? To what degree am I more concerned with what the world thinks of Christians (and me) than I am of what Christ thinks of me? Food for thought...

’Trek’s’ triumvirate

Egosuperegoid-2 In honor of the new Star Trek film, Gary Robinson offers a take on the original series that is, well, fascinating. (Sorry.)

(Image courtesy of Christianity Today)

Blogger roundup

Here's a collection of full-length articles recently published by your Point bloggers:

I’ll just stay down, thanks

Up Here's a fun Friday video: Lileks demonstrates exactly how yours truly feels about heights.

Well, not exactly. I wouldn't have made it six or eight feet off the ground. Heck, I wouldn't have made it within twenty feet of the chair.

(Image courtesy of James Lileks)

May 07, 2009

Daily roundup

Barnyard reign of terror halted

Animal farm . . . and other unexpected results of the swine flu.

(Image courtesy of WORD)

May 06, 2009

Daily roundup

The Stoning of Soraya M.

It looks like Gina and I might be attending a sneak preview of the film which won the coveted People's Choice Award at the Toronto International film festival, The Stoning of Soraya M.

Mind you, that's an award which such terrific films as Slumdog Millionaire, Bella, Tsotsi, and Hotel Rwanda have won in years past. It looks like this film, based on a true story, has an important message. And they've got a stellar actor in Jim Caviezel. I've been very impressed how he continues to navigate Hollywood with his strong faith, choosing films which don't compromise him. Here's the trailer:

May 05, 2009

Daily roundup

Absolutely hysterical

Doris-day In discussing Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon's decision to decline the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, MSNBC described the medal and previous recipients thusly:

The Laetare medal (pronounced Lay-tah-ray) was established in 1883, and is considered one of the oldest and prestigious awards that can be given to an American Catholic. It’s given out annually at the University of Notre Dame commencement ceremony. Previous recipients include President John F. Kennedy, Catholic Worker founder Doris Day, and fictional American president Martin Sheen, who received the award last year.

Did you catch that? The Catholic Worker movement was founded by a bubbly blond actress who starred in "Pillow Talk" with Rock Hudson!

MSNBC has since fixed its error, but the story is another reminder that when it comes to covering religion, the MSM is two-plus-two-is-three brainless.

Or as the other Miss Day might say, "Que sera, sera."

For more on the REAL founder of the Catholic Worker movement, click here.

An Artists’ Quarrel

I've long been fascinated with Vincent Van Gogh -- his life, his work, his art, his faith. One historian is now claiming that evidence shows that Van Gogh never cut off his own ear, but instead lost it in a sword fight to his friend, renowned artist Paul Gauguin, and then decided to cover for him. It's an interesting twist.

Continue reading "An Artists’ Quarrel" »

May 04, 2009

Daily roundup

To Dream the Impossible Dream?

When a drama instructor told several disabled students that it was time to give up on their acting dreams, they decided not to take no for an answer. In 1989, they formed the theater company PHAMALY (pronounced "family") which stands for Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actor's League. Today the company wows audiences with their performances. On stage this summer, Man of La Mancha. If you need a little inspiration today, watch their video. If I'm ever in Denver, I want to stop by and see a performance.

May 01, 2009

Daily roundup

’The Crossing’

080608_p16_crossing In the first half hour or so of The Crossing, the pregnant wife of former North Korean soccer star Yong-Soo (Cha In-pyo) develops tuberculosis from malnutrition, and their neighbors are arrested for hiding Bibles in their house. By the time the family is driven to eating their dog, you'll have grasped that this movie is not for the squeamish. Though the violence and the depictions of poverty and sickness are only occasionally explicit, the struggles of the characters in this film -- based on the stories of real North Korean refugees -- are heartbreaking and tragic. (We're approaching Boy in the Striped Pajamas territory here.)

It's one thing to read newspaper stories about oppression in places like North Korea, but to watch the fears, hopes, and sufferings of these characters opens a viewer's eyes in a whole new way. And when the desperate father cries, "Does Jesus Christ only live in South Korea?" it makes you think about just how much we take our blessings for granted, and our responsibility as the Body of Christ toward our persecuted brothers and sisters.

To the best of my knowledge, the DVD of the film is not yet widely available, but you can check its website and the North Korea Freedom Coalition's website to find out about possible screenings in your area and to keep track of DVD release plans.

(Image courtesy of Big House-Vantage Holdings)

April 30, 2009

Daily roundup

April 29, 2009

Daily roundup

E-Book Implications

E-books

I'm not sure if I'm ready for the revolution. Here are just a few implications this WSJ piece points out:

  • exacerbating our already short attention spans
  • more book buying, less book finishing
  • chatter in my novel?

(Image © Geoffrey A. Fowler for the Wall Street Journal)

April 28, 2009

Daily roundup

Re: Broken for you

Mark Hemingway has an update in The Corner on the controversial Obama painting, including this quote from the artist:

I wanted to create a dialog politically but not religiously. I didn't mean to make fun of anybody's religion; maybe I did so naively but I didn't mean it that way. In the bible Jesus is The Truth and comparing Obama that way isn't something I meant to do at all.

Apparently, I've upset a lot of people. And I've decided that's not what I wanted to do and I'm not going to display it in the park on Wednesday ... art is meant to be somewhat provocative but the religious element went way farther than I had anticipated.

Read more.

April 27, 2009

Daily roundup

The Soloist

The-soloist To fix or befriend? That is the question that plagues journalist Steve Lopez (played by Robert Downey, Jr., in the poignant true-story film The Soloist, which premiered Friday).

When Lopez, a popular columnist for the L.A. Times, stumbles across Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a schizophrenic homeless musician, a story is born. Soon, Lopez finds himself caught in the tension between crafting a brilliant story about a Juillard student turned homeless man, and looking out for a guy who simply needs someone to care.

But for Lopez, that tension is soon overshadowed by a deeper tension: to help Ayers or simply be his friend?

Like any well-intentioned citizen, Lopez tries to help Ayers find housing, medication, and cello lessons. Those good designs end with Lopez lying flat on the floor under Ayers's foot. Here, Lopez must make a choice: to give up on Ayers because he is beyond changing, or to love him unconditionally, schizophrenia, homeless shopping cart, and all.

As the curtain closes on Ayers and Lopez sitting next to each other enjoying the glorious strains filling an L.A. concert hall, it becomes clear that helping and befriending aren't all that distinct. Perhaps, they are even one and the same.

I usually dread paying $10.50 for movie. But this film earned every cent. It's not an armrest-gripper, but rather, a simple story of friendship that transforms. That's one plot that never grows outdated. In short, go see it!

(Image © DreamWorks)

Steven Curtis Chapman Shout-out

On Thursday night, the Dove Awards honored singer/songwriter and longtime friend of Prison Fellowship Steven Curtis Chapman with the Artist of the Year award. Chapman, who lost his daughter Maria Sue in a devastating accident last May, has been a wonderful example to all of us of what standing firm in the face of tragedy looks like. He's wrestled openly with doubts, but continued to see the opportunities this tragedy brought as occasions to share the hope within--and he has done that faithfully. Chapman performed "Cinderella" at the ceremony. It's a beautiful song he dedicated to Maria. He tells the story behind it here:


In related news, the orphans' ministry of Steven and Mary Beth Chapman recently unveiled a new name and new logo. After stumbling over the long name Shaohannah's Hope and misspelling it too many times to count, I like the simpler Show Hope. It keeps the continuity with the original and is a lot easier to say and remember. And the website looks super snazzy--hats off to all our friends over at Show Hope! If you're not familiar with the work of this wonderful nonprofit, take a few minutes to see all that they do and how you can get involved.

Broken for you

Obama cross

Every once in a while, people try to convince me that no one is really treating Obama like a messiah -- that it's all just hyperbole coming from his opponents.

Something tells me that these people aren't paying attention.

(Image © Michael D'Antuono; H/T Some Have Hats)

April 24, 2009

The Lines, They Are a-Changin'

After decades of eschewing the label "Religious Left," Jim Wallis—founder and editor of the socially liberal Christian magazine and activist community Sojourners—seems to have found peace with the nomenclature.

"I wanted to gauge your interest in the first big mobilization of the Religious Left in the Obama era—a signal of the shift in power dynamics," Wallis states in a new press release promoting an anti-poverty conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend. "This is the Religious Left filling the hole created by the decline of the Religious Right but now we have the political power and ear of the White House—definitely a new trend and a 'first' within this new political era."

Ted Olsen of Christianity Today's Politics Blog points out that this is a clear shift in Sojourner's approach. Wallis has repeatedly said that he does not see himself as part of the "Religious Left," claiming that he is instead seeking to provide a "moral center" for those religious people tired of political posturing of both left and right. On Sojourners' website, Wallis claims, “The alternative to the Religious Right is not the Religious Left. It's time to transcend the old polarities of our public life.”

It appears that Wallis feels that having "the political power and the ear of the White House" justifies the maintaining of the old polarities—at least until his agenda has been adopted by the new administration.  I'm interested in hearing how Mr. Wallis differentiates the current approach of Sojourners and that of the "Religious Right" he has spent several decades decrying.

Ask Miley. Or Don’t.

Miley "I want to be a role model," Miley Cyrus told the L.A. Times. "And my job is to be a role model. But that shouldn't require me to be a parent. I'm going to make mistakes. While your kids are growing up, I have to grow up too."

That's advice blogger Perez Hilton should have kept in mind before asking Miley to weigh in on Miss California Carrie Prejean's comments on gay marriage. In a Twitter to Hilton, Cyrus wrote:

Jesus loves you and your partner and wants you to know how much he cares! That's like a daddy not loving his lil boy cuz he's gay and that is wrong and very sad! Like I said everyone deserves to be happy. I am a Christian and I love you — gay or not. Because you are no different [than] anyone else! We are all God's children!

Of course, at this, everyone's hands fly in the air. Here we go! Another teen star gone south (or, at least, liberal). Another one who's lost forever.

Since when did we ask the 16-year-olds in our lives--pop star or not--to offer an authoritative opinion on gay marriage, or really anything, for that matter? Furthermore, Miley's comment to Hilton was not offered in an official interview or public statement. It was over Twitter!

Now, I'm not saying that I agree with Miley's position or that she should have offered it. I am saying that we ought to examine whether a Twitter sent from a teenager ought to achieve newsworthy status, and whether we ought to give gravitas to a 16-year-old's opinion on the issue anyway. Nor can we conclude that this opinion is Miley's hard and fast stance on the issue from now until the grave. She's 16, folks.

Continue reading "Ask Miley. Or Don’t." »

April 23, 2009

Daily roundup

April 22, 2009

Daily roundup

Why, indeed?

Biden debate

I didn’t hear the outrage when Joe Biden said that he and Barack Obama are against gay marriage. No incendiary language, no insults, no four letter obscenities.

Why is it acceptable for Obama and Biden to have this opinion but not a conservative female? 

Andrea Tantaros, "Miss (Liberal) USA?" April 21

(H/T Big Hollywood; image courtesy of TheBostonChannel)

Uh-oh

Fatherknows "New Regency and 20th Century Fox are teaming to turn the classic TV series 'Father Knows Best' into a feature."

I can't even begin to imagine. . . .

(Image © The Museum of Broadcast Communications)

Four-year-old girl wows America, offers hope

Holding the microphone close to her little mouth, Kaitlyn stares confidently out into the audience, and begins the first few lines of her favorite song, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me ..."

About a year ago, on her way to an audition for America's Got Talent, then 4-year-old Kaitlyn Maher told her father, "Daddy, I want to see the sparkles come down." Gently, Reuben told his young daughter that it would be nice if she would make it all the way to the Top 10, but that if it didn't happen it would be okay.

"Daddy, I'm going to ask Jesus," Kaitlyn responded, bowing her head to ask Jesus to let her see the confetti fall at the night the winners of the show are announced, but adding that if it wasn't His will, she didn't want it.

Continue reading "Four-year-old girl wows America, offers hope" »

April 21, 2009

Daily roundup

Miss Runner-Up: A Better Crown Is Coming

If you're ready for something that will alternately make your blood boil, and make you proud, take a look at this interview on The Today Show with Miss California and the judge, Perez Hilton, whose own intolerance led him to say that had Miss California won he would have run on stage and ripped the tiara off her head. For what? For stating her beliefs in a way that clearly was not meant to offend, but was spoken truly from the passion of her convictions.

Apparently, a "perfect Miss USA" would be as intolerant of views that differed from her own as Perez. Apparently, a "perfect Miss USA" would give a neutral and meaningless answer rather than dare have a conviction.

I, for one, like to recall that there are better crowns coming. And one of them, I believe, will be for Miss California.

What Social Conditions Promote Reconciliation?

As We Forgive 2 Jordan Ballor over at Acton's Power Blog turns his attention to As We Forgive in week two of my fourteen-week blog tour. (Aren't familiar with a blog tour? It's the poor man's--er woman's book tour.) I'm hoping to use these 100 days to raise awareness and support for reconciliation in Rwanda. As the week unfolds, look for a review of the book on Acton's site, some personal reflections, and some Acton Institute folks weighing in on a recent trip to Rwanda.

Ballor introduces the Power Blog's question of the week: What social conditions promote reconciliation? I'd be interested in hearing our Point readers weigh in on that one as well.

By the way, I just heard that As We Forgive has already gone into its second printing!

April 20, 2009

Daily roundup

Religious beliefs have no politics!

When a beauty pageant director becomes incoherent with anger, it ain't pretty.

There’s a Thing Called Grace

09speaker_joe After spending many years living a sordid lifestyle and promoting the same through his art, by the grace of God, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas had a change of heart. 

On April 25th, Biola University is hosting a conference about faith and the entertainment industry at which Eszterhas is the keynote speaker. 

If you can't make the conference, you might consider purchasing Eszterhas's book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith.

(Image courtesy of Biola University)

April 17, 2009

Daily roundup