Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic and one of today's most prominent gay writers, attended Pat Robertson's 70th birthday party—and was shocked at how darn nice everybody was. "They seemed neither fanatics nor bigots," he writes in this week's New York Times Magazine. They had a sense of humor about themselves." More importantly, Sullivan writes, he was reminded that his cultural opponents are people—good people. "One of the deepest problems of politics in the culture war is the reflexive imputation of bad motives to the opposition and the demonization that inevitably follows. The corollary is believing that we ourselves are capable of nothing but good, and so failing to see where we also go wrong. … Similarly, there are many liberal critics of Robertson who haven't done a fraction of what he has done to help the poor or the sick or the disadvantaged. It doesn't make them wrong and him right, but it does add a context to the argument. If a man pleads good intentions, it's not unreasonable to ask him for the evidence. Robertson, to his credit, has it. That doesn't change the fact that he is still, in John McCain's words, an agent of intolerance. But it doesn't make him, in John McCain's other words, a force of evil." Sullivan concludes his article by noting that if both sides of the culture war have failed to see the other side as human beings—as seems to be the case—"it's time for a truce."
"I don't think religious conservatives have lost any of their power," Jerry Falwell said in a news conference announcing a seven-month voter registration drive. "I think they've lost their enthusiasm." Instead of trying to mobilize Christians through voter guides (like the Christian Coalition), Falwell hopes to register 10 million new voters through church meetings. Family of Christian Research Institute founder wants Hanegraaff's resignation
Walter Martin's relatives have become more vocal in their criticism of Christian Research Institute president Hank Hanegraaff, who replaced Martin in 1979. Martin's widow left the CRI board in 1996, and family members sent a letter to Hanegraaff detailing their objections in October. Now their calls for his resignation have reached the Los Angeles Times.
"Controversy may be the most overvalued Hollywood commodity this side of Arnold Schwarzenegger," writes Chicago Tribune movie writer Mark Caro. "Yet filmmakers and distributors continue to court it, convinced that the publicity it generates will give their works an edge in the overcrowded marketplace." He rattles of a list of films that received a lot of press but still bombed: Showgirls, Two Girls and a Guy, Black and White, Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, Crash, Priest (Caro goes on, but you get the idea). "The lesson may be that mainstream audiences aren't as interested in envelope-pushing depictions of sex and violence as industry types might assume."
"I can't say I felt queasy once making this movie." Christian Bale tells Entertainment Weekly of his current role as a serial killer. He had a much harder time playing the Prince of Peace. " I played Jesus in this TV thing [NBC's Mary, Mother of Jesus] after doing American Psycho—I had nightmares the whole time, like I haven't had since I was 10 years old. Sitting up in bed, sweating. Stigmata nightmares, those dreams where you think you're awake and then suddenly you realize you're still asleep and there was blood dripping from the ceiling and hitting my palms and things like that. And I was waking up going 'Aaaaaahh!'—rubbing my palms in the middle of the night, heart going. But [American Psycho character] Patrick Bateman? Nothing."
In his new book Steps to the Future, Britain's church attendance specialist, Peter Brierley, says that if trends continue, only one-half of one percent of Britain's population will be attending Sunday services of any Christian denomination in 2040. A spokesman for the Church of England called Brierley's conclusions foolish, though he acknowledged the denomination faces challenges in attracting and keeping worshipers.
New Jersey rabbis are worried that "Jewish Christians, Hebrew Christians or Jews for Jesus" (the article does not use the term "messianic Jews") are gaining more converts. They're warning their congregants and communities about the organization, though an American Jewish Congress leader notes that "those most vulnerable to conversion are Jews who do not attend synagogue." The Chicago Tribune article reads somewhat matter-of-factly, but it's clear that the Tribune's matter of fact is that such conversions are a very bad thing.
Sarah Namusoke Kiying, Uganda's Minister of State for Internal Affairs, is defending police-run 'churches' at police training schools, which have come under attack since the recent murders of several hundred cult members in that country. Critics say that such religious action by police makes them soft on cults. But Namusoke says the spiritual fellowship is fine.
As noted in an earlier ChristianityToday.com Weblog, Congress has barred the Census Bureau from asking Americans about their religion. "As a result, America's religious landscape remains surprisingly ill-defined," says Teresa Watanabe, religion writer for the Los Angeles Times. "Some of the most fundamental presumptions are based on educated guesswork, suspect science or leaps of faith." Most notably, statistics on how many Muslims there are in the U.S. vary by millions. The religious research undertaken by social scientists and funded by private foundations are doing okay, Watanabe says, but nothing beats a census.
Though the Anglican Primates met several weeks ago, an article on the meeting's effect on the Singapore consecrations of two American missionary bishops is worth reading. In summary, one of the bishops is "pleased that recent high-level Anglican and Episcopal meetings did not declare his consecration invalid. But neither did they approve it."
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