I'm not a Christian, but I play one on TV
The media is beginning to notice the Christians among them. On NPR's Morning Edition, Monique Parsons interviews devout Catholic Karen Hall, who "tries to weave credible religious characters" into the plots of Judging Amy, and Ralph Winter, whose faith impelled him to change a scene from Planet of the Apes (which he executive produced) that originally included the shooting of a police officer. Popular culture is full of "themes of redemption and hope," and battles over media immorality are perennial, but how does Hollywood portray faith? Christy producer Ken Wales complains that 7th Heaven, a television show about a pastor's family, rarely shows the pastor involved in ministry or even praying. And Touched by an Angel, for all of its "spiritual" value, has few depictions of religious devotion. Still, at least 16 support groups of Christians meet around Hollywood, Parsons reports. The oldest and largest, Inter-Mission, is going national "to let Christians know that God does have a foothold in Tinseltown." Christianity Today will also be letting folks know that in our next issue. (The report can be heard in 14.4 or 28.8 kbps if you have the RealPlayer.)

The New York Times, meanwhile, was more interested in the portrayal of Christians than the beliefs of those who portray them. In an article Sunday, Celia Wren focused on actresses trying "to win audience sympathy when portraying outspoken spirituality." "Most dramatic literature gives you great wide wings, but the language of the religious fanatic, more often than not, is crafted with clay and is very much earthbound, devoid of any irony and terribly earnest," says Cherry Jones, who plays a Salvation Army trooper in George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara." Wren wonders if the difficulty in portraying earnest religious characters helped to kill off NBC's Kristin, cancelled after only six episodes. "There's a lot of discomfort that surrounds the character that I play right now by the press and maybe by viewers," the series' star, Kristin Chenoweth, said shortly before the cancellation. "It took [the writers] a while to figure it out. They're not used to writing about this subject."

State Department will release Peru report, including video, today
This afternoon (2 p.m. EDT), the U.S. State Department will release its report on why a missionary plane was shot down over northern Peru in April. Don't expect too many surprises; many members of Congress and others who've seen the report have been talking about it to the media all week. Still, one item that should be particularly interesting is a 50-minute video shot from the CIA-contracted plane that assisted in the Peruvian military. Reportedly, both Peru and the U.S. take a pretty big hit in the report, although the State Department is being careful to say that this joint investigation between U.S. and Peru centers solely on "the facts" and does not assign blame. Culpability and suggestions on whether the U.S. should resume its assistance of drug interdiction flights in Peru and Colombia will come in a separate, later report. Still, there's plenty of finger-pointing going around in Washington right now. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) tells The Miami Herald that CIA contractors "got sloppy on the list" of safeguards created to avoid shootings like this one. He tells the paper that authorities "claim they haven't been following these [rigorous procedures] for a couple of years. … I think probably somewhat of a negligence developed. … Everybody is to blame." Meanwhile, American Baptists for World Evangelization (ABWE) is wondering what the report is going to say about its missionary pilot, Kevin Donaldson, who was wounded in the attack (missionary Veronica "Roni" Bowers and her daughter, Charity, were killed). The Washington Post reports that the State Department and ABWE "still disagree on whether Donaldson … had filed an acceptable flight plan," but early buzz seems to be that the report doesn't make a big deal of it. We'll all find out later today.

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