Thinking Out Loud

May 10, 2013

Save Me from Save Me

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:51 am

Save_Me_NBC

Just a little over a year after ABC-TV gave us Good Christian Bitches  which got abbreviated to GCB at the same time as the Southern Baptist Convention offered an alternative name Great Commission Baptists; NBC-TV is just days away from the launch of the four-week miniseries Save Me. The series stars Anne Heche as a woman who, after nearly choking to death on a sandwich, takes on a prophetic role as a direct pipeline to God. Sitcoms Online reports the series will air for four weeks, as of now, from May 23 through June 13.

And so it begins again. Lately the hallmark of mainstream media’s portrayal of Christianity has been slightly more accurate in terms of theology, or at least in terms of what we could term megachurch culture, with shows like Sisterhood blurring the distinctions between drama, comedy and reality TV. But the characters all tend to be slightly over-the-top representations, and many times the humor is at the expense of those who seem to be afflicted with faith. A two-minute preview of Save Me reveals a show that is mostly uses a religious framework to advance a script that might have developed just as well without dragging God into it.

Still, we don’t wish to judge a program we haven’t seen so we’ll have to wait for  May 23rd at 8:00 PM Eastern. But we couldn’t resist the post header above. Truly, I hope we’re not saying “Save Me” in the first five minutes.  Watch a preview on YouTube. (Language issues.)

saveme_firstphoto

January 2, 2013

Wednesday Link List

II Cor 10_13--15  Online Translation

And you thought I would take the day off, didn’t you? Well, the link list crew worked all New Year’s Day to bring this to you.

  • Russell D. Moore has a unique observation post from which to consider the decision by the Russian government to suspend adoptions of Russian children by Americans. I think his two Russian born children would agree with his summary.
  • Hi readers. Meet Matt Rawlings. Matt read 134 books last year. How did you do? 
  • And here’s another Matt. Matt Appling has put together an amazing essay on why the concept of shame is ripe for a comeback.
  • David Murrow has an interesting idea in which popular TV pastors are a brand that is a type of new denomination. He also has other ideas about what the church will look like in 50 years. (Or read the Todd Rhoades summary.)
  • Some readers here also blog, and if that’s you, perhaps you do the “top posts” thing. (I don’t.) But if you had a post-of-the-year, I can almost guarantee it weren’t nothin’ like this must-read one.
  • “This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen.” Denny Burk on what is largely a U.S.-based story, but with justice issues anyone can appreciate: The case of Hobby Lobby.
  • Can some of you see yourself in this story? “It’s really hard for me to read God’s word without dissecting it. I like to have commentaries and cross references. I like to take notes. I like to circle, underline, rewrite. And then my time with God turns into another homework assignment.” I can. More at Reflect blog.
  • This one may be sobering for a few of you. David Fitch offers three signs that you are not a leader, at least where the Kingdom of God is concerned.
  • “We put people into leadership roles too early, on purpose. We operate under the assumption that adults learn on a need-to-know basis. The sooner they discover what they don’t know, the sooner they will be interested in learning what they need to know…At times, it creates problems. We like those kinds of problems…” Read a sample of Andy Stanley’s new book, Deep and Wide, at Catalyst blog.
  • So for some of you, 2013 represents getting back on the horse again, even though you feel you failed so many times last year. Jon Acuff seems to understand what you’re going through.
  • Dan Gilgoff leaves the editor’s desk at CNN Belief Blog after three years and notes five things he learned in the process.
  • More detail on the Westboro petition(s) at the blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars; along with our get well wishes to blog proprietor Ed Brayton, recovering from open heart surgery.
  • Rachel Held Evans mentioned this one yesterday: The How To Talk Evangelical Project.  Sample: “If Christianese was a language, evangelical was our own special dialect. A cadence. A rhythm…” Click the banner at the top for recent posts.
  • Not sure how long this has been available, but for all you Bible study types,  here’s the ultimate list for academically-inclined people who want to own the best Bible commentary for each Bible book. (And support your local bookstore if you still have one!)
  • Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us.
  • Flashback all the way to September for this one: Gary Molander notes that the primary work of a pastor is somewhat in direct conflict with the calling they feel they are to pursue. He calls it, Why is it So Stinkin’ Hard to Work for a Church?
  • Nearly three years ago, we linked to this one and it’s still running: CreationSwap.com where media shared for videos, photos, logos, church bulletins, is sold or given away by thousands of Christian artists.

Christian books I hope you never see

September 9, 2012

USAToday Scales Back Religion Coverage

At a time when other media outlets are stepping up coverage of religion-based or religion-influenced stories, USAToday, which led the way in this area for several years, is scaling back. Cathy Lynn Grossman reports at the soon-to-be-discontinued blog, Faith and Reason*:

After four years of spirited conversation… Faith & Reason and its accompanying reader-led Faith & Reason Forum are shutting down.

USA TODAY is celebrating 30 years with a massive redesign of all publishing platforms…

…Several digital subject-area pages, including the online religion page, will vanish as stories are mainstreamed into News. If you read on a smartphone or tablet, you won’t notice any change. But if you read religion coverage at USATODAY.com on your laptop, these stories will be running in News, Nation and Politics, just as they already do in print…

But then this note:

…so many posted at the Faith & Reason Forum it became the most successful forum at USATODAY.com by a mile.

So why end it now?

I have been meaning however, to note here at some point how much the general media pages devoted to religion have been dominated by coverage of Roman Catholic people and events. Perhaps others have noted that as well, and it’s led to this decision. And the CNN Belief blog is often dominated by commentary instead of news, and one particular writer especially. There’s a place where I would have preferred to see the winds of change blow.

Faith and Reason at USAToday was very much appreciated.  Cathy, I tried to leave a comment only to find it had become a Facebook-members-only forum — perhaps that was not such a good idea — and since I’m not sure if you got it, here it is:  I’ve truly appreciated your insights and your perspective, and you’ve alerted me to many news stories I would have missed.  I’ll look forward to seeing your byline in other sections of USAToday.

*obviously this link may not last long

April 11, 2012

Wednesday Link List

WLL #99, but who’s counting?  Besides they existed before the name became uniform each week. 

  • Fine artist Thomas Kinkade died over the Easter weekend. He chose to highly commercialize his art rather than sell in galleries; and after becoming a Christian many of his works were faith-focused.
  • Many local churches are discovering how to do what we call The Lord’s Supper or Communion in something closer to its original context as a meal. Alan Knox shares how that happened in combination with an Easter Sunday gathering.
  • You may have seen the Google predictive search results for phrases beginning with “Christians are…”  Matt Stone tries Google searching the same phrase substituting other religions.
  • An Ontario school board wants to ban the distribution of Bibles, and now board members are receiving threats which are not coming from the Gideons.
  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) ran a report on Easter Sunday on how technology is impacting various world religions. Bobby Gruenewald of livechurch.tv was interviewed, and there was a brief shot of Craig Groeschel, but otherwise, Christian representation was limited to file footage of Billy Graham et al.
  • The American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) wandered down the same road on the same day with an interview with Rick Warren, who hasn’t done much media lately.  Don’t miss the part on page five of the transcript where he affirms that dogs and cats go to heaven. Yes, he said that. (Video not available outside the U.S.)
  • And speaking of heaven, Time Magazine revisits the concept four years later.  Here’s a link to their coverage then and now; the ’08 article is available in full, the current article will cost ya.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church went to a lot of trouble to airbrush a photo showing Patriarch Kirill I wearing a $30,000 wristwatch, but while they got they watch removed, they missed its reflection in a highly polished table.
  • Peter Rollins publicly denies the resurrection. But before you quote me on that, better watch the video.
  • Yesterday at C201 we tapped into a series from Mike Breen’s blog wherein a British pastor reflects on the differences between the church in North America and the church in England.
  • A graduate student in theology and support staff worker at Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspective Ministries gives a short Christian response to The Hunger Games franchise.
  • Rachel Held Evans spoofed her own Sunday Superlatives — the equivalent to this Wednesday Link List — on what happened to be April 1st. Too bad; some of the articles looked promising.
  • Blogger John Shore participated in a “Burning of Resentments” ceremony on Easter Sunday. Apparently in 2013 this is going to take place across religious lines in San Diego County.
  • What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him is a new collection of essays from author Byron Forrest Yawn. Check out the book trailer.
  • The character in this Motts for Tots packaging looks really familiar, but shouldn't that be tomato juice instead of apple juice?

    Jefferson Bethke, aka the “I hate religion but I love Jesus” guy, is interviewed by Trevin Wax on the topic of Student Ministry.
  • The old church annual report is never the same once it goes digital.  Here’s an analysis of the one from Elevation Church (Steven Furtick) which includes video links, infographics and humor.
  • Want to take your church service online?  Check out Church Online Platform and also 316 Networks.
  • It’s been ten months now, and this post about regulations at Perry Noble’s church still draws a lot of comments from both sides.
  • The Worship Song links in the sidebar at Christianity 201 have finally been updated, and the blogroll here is in the middle of some serious editing. Only blogs with posts within the last 30 days are listed, though some do return after disappearing.
  • Christianity Today now requires a subscription in order to read selected articles online. If you find a link here to what is now paid article, let me know and it will be deleted.

March 15, 2012

Sheila Schuller Coleman Lauches Hope Center of Christ

It was, after all, the United States’ first true megachurch. So when things at the Crystal Cathedral began to unravel a few years ago, this blogger thought it all worth mentioning even when others didn’t or wouldn’t, which resulted in much unexpected traffic.

But then, in the last few days, as the whole saga seemed to reach the final chapter, it all seemed rather anticlimactic. First there was the resignation of Robert H. and wife Arvella, widely reported. Then, on Sunday, the rather sudden announcement at the second service by daughter and pastor Sheila Coleman that it was her final service at the iconic Southern California church.

The Orange County Register story linked above chose to headline the story, “Schuller Coleman leaving; Crystal Cathedral congregation faces split;” but indeed, with only 700 in attendance at both services — many of them tourists — how do you split a congregation so small and still leave much left?

But out of the ashes, something new begins.

First, the word, that Sheila and brother-in-law Jim Penner would begin a new work, Hope Center OC — with the “OC” standing for “of Christ” while of course also intoning “Orange County.”  Another detail nested in the story:

She indicated she had received a $50,000 donation from a supporter to help with the move – “a heck of a lot more than what mom and dad” had when they started, she said.

But the location is still TBA, as in “to be acquired.” The elder Schullers announced that they would neither be going with Sheila nor continuing to attend whatever takes place at the famed church on Lewis St. in Garden Grove.

“How we will express ourselves in worship remains up in the air,” Robert H. and Arvella Schuller stated in the release.

Schuller: The Next Generation

At this rate, grandson (Robert A.’s son; pictured right) Bobby Schuller’s church, The Gathering (aka Tree of Life Community) might have more people in attendance next Sunday than either iteration of what met last Sunday, a concept that would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago.

Terry Mattingly at Get Religion finds the reporting on the story “hollow,” and suggests that even knowing more about the contents of the sermon that Coleman delivered, or what music was sung that day would give us a better picture of Sunday’s events. Whereas I’m somewhat relieved that the story is over, he finds so much more waiting to be told.

Like, for example, Robert Anthony’s take on the whole thing. The younger R.S. has been wisely silent throughout this process, but I’m sure he has both substantive ideas and strong emotions about all that’s taken place. Would the Crystal Cathedral ministry still be intact if the original succession had lasted? We’ll never know.

Perhaps Terry Mattingly is right. This is a continuing drama. The same day that Sheila Coleman and Jim Penner posted their video, this video appeared:

Favorite quotation from the video, “…Many have told me that I redefined the Christian message.  I had to…”

Had to? Yes, the gospel that the church preached for centuries was wholly inadequate. It needed, apparently, new possibilities.

And apparently it still does. Stay tuned. This story is not over.

March 4, 2012

ABC Launches GCB Tonight

Filed under: media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:51 am

My first reaction to the launch of GCB tonight is to ignore it completely, but my fear is that this might leave some Christians completely unprepared for the water cooler conversations that will happen Monday at work.

GCB portrays Christians as sexually overwrought people who maintain an outward veneer of piety and purity which covers over carnal urges.  A mix of holiness and horny-ness.  Like the saying, “Cats are like Baptists, they raise hell but you can never catch them at it.”  And, no doubt, six other deadly sins.

Starting to get the picture?

I covered the TV series here on March 20th last year.  So if you’re wondering what GCB stands for, you can click the story, but not if there are kids in the room.

Everything Hollywood produces is a caricature of real life.  And doubly so where the media tries to portray anybody with any connection to religious life.

Though a Wikipedia article downplays the faith element, this show is definitely going to cross several lines. 

And it might be you that’s taking the heat over this in the days that follow; because the message of GCB is that church life in the United States is an exercise in hypocrisy.  

March 20, 2011

Oh My! Good Christian -itches Set to Debut on TV This Fall

The book’s title probably insures there won’t be copies sold in too many Christian bookstores.  Which may be good or bad depending on how you feel about confronting the issue of people (i.e. women) who appear sanctimonious on the outside, but are in fact, often about a different agenda, especially the gossip agenda.

Surely the book could have been released with a different title, right?  Perhaps, but then, the author says it might not reach its intended audience.  Author Kim Gatlin was interviewed yesterday on the Drew Marshall Show, probably one of the few such “Christian radio” interviews she’s done.  The station wouldn’t allow him to say the third word in the book’s title.  You can hear that interview when it’s posted on Friday (3/25) at this site.

The scary part of all this is that the book is going to become a TV series in the fall.  On network television, not cable.  NBC, I think.  Hanging out “our” dirty laundry for all to see, I suppose.

Here’s what the website has to say:

Good Christian []itches is the devilishly fun, yet strikingly honest, tale of Amanda Vaughn, a recently divorced mother of two. To get a fresh start, she moves back to the affluent Dallas neighborhood where she grew up. In an Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Desperate Housewives on steroids style, her old friends are already out to destroy her reputation.

In the whirling midst of salacious gossip, Botox, and fraud, Amanda turns to those who love her and the faith she’s always known. Will the Good Christian []itches get the best of her, or will everyone see that these GCBs are as counterfeit as their travel jewelry?

Before you think that perhaps the description here describes a Christian fringe that doesn’t identify with your own church experience, you might want to look at — and take — the “Are You a GCB?” 15-question quiz at the website.

My take:

I think the author truly sees an intrinsic value in all this.  A means to an end, perhaps.

Honesty and transparency in the church is something I am 100% in favor of.  We need to be real about our failings, our foibles and our faults.  But that should be part of the natural process of living.  This TV shows strikes me as rather gratuitous attack on Christianity.  And no matter what the book has to offer, the television writers will have licensed the concept and will be creating original scripts that will go off in all kinds of directions.

Like Canada’s hit “Little Mosque on the Prairie” TV series, the writers will probably follow the tendency to portray churchgoers and clergy negatively to get laughs.

That’s what has me worried.

That, and being in a position that forces true Christ-followers — especially some Evangelicals — to go into damage control mode.

October 16, 2010

Canada’s Largest Newspaper Doubles Horoscope Space Allotment

The Toronto Star, the largest circulation newspaper in Canada has upped its commitment to readers of the daily horoscope to just under a half page.    That’s right, a half page of editorial (as opposed to paid advertising) space for people who believe that the day of your birth dictates the path of your life.  And all this at a time when other ‘religious’ space allocations are being cut.  (The paper once published over two pages of “church” copy and advertising each weekend, and then priced it so high that churches could no longer afford to advertise.)

Can you imagine the outcry if the paper printed a half page of Bible promises?   Or wisdom from the book of Proverbs?   Or how about a half page each day from various Evangelical pastors on knowing God’s will for your life?   (With the pastors receiving payment for so doing, as writer Jonathan Cainer undoubtedly does.)

This isn’t the first time this has been mentioned here, however; so I want to simply reiterate what I wrote in March of this year…

Their followers maintain religious devotion to their every pronouncement. Their right to millions of dollars of free newspaper space around the world is never questioned, in fact many of those papers pay them for inclusion in their print and online editions.

These same media outlets are very cautious about granting space of any kind to Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith groups because that would be “sectarian” and they don’t want to be seen as promoting this or that religion. So why is an exception made for this one group?

They, of course are astrologers and their daily encyclical is usually called “Your horoscope.” Their belief system is secularized predestination — Calvinists, take note — believing that our lives are guided by the stars, in various ways, depending on the star (or Zodiac) sign in place at our time of birth.

My usual tongue-in-cheek reply to this is, “I don’t believe in astrology, but then again, we Geminis are natural skeptical.”

Kidding aside, why does one faith group get preferential treatment? And how can any media outlet turn down any request from any religious group when they already grant one unfettered access to their readers?

Comments: This is a piece about press discrimination or media favoritism. Comments as to the merits of astrology will be deleted.

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