Archives For movies

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_Briefing

A bill to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood failed to get the 60 votes it needed in the U.S. Senate Monday, but the issue likely to be back in the fall, USA Today reports.

The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission announced last week its endorsement the bill, which was introduced following the release of several videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies.

And in this interview, Christianity Today senior news editor Bob Smietana talks to David Daleiden, the executive director of the pro-life organization behind the recent Planned Parenthood videos.


IRS address tax-exempt status in light of marriage ruling
The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service testified last week that Christian schools will not lose their tax-exempt status if they opposed same-sex marriages. But at least one U.S. Senator is skeptical of Commissioner John Koskinen’s use of the phrase “at this time.” Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.


Kasich’s faith rooted in tragedy
As the field for U.S. President grows more and more crowded, Americans are getting a look at the candidates’ personal faiths. Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service has compiled “5 Faith Facts” about several of those in the running, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, who told religious conservatives meeting in June that his faith was a “rabbit’s foot,” until his parents were killed by a drunk driver in 1987.

“I tore it all apart,” he said, according to the Columbus Dispatch, and re-built his faith. Kasich belongs to a congregation affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America.


Missionary doc details Ebola fight in book
Kent Brantly
, the doctor who contracted the Ebola virus last year while working as a missionary in Liberia, said he and his wife “didn’t have regrets” about serving overseas. “That’s what God called us to,” Brantly told The Christian Post. He and his wife, Amber, tell their story in the new book “Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.”


LifeWay relocation moves forward
While finalizing the sale of its facility, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is purchasing land to build a smaller building in downtown Nashville, Tenn. The organization’s offer to buy 1.5 acres one mile from its current location was accepted last month, Baptist Press reported. President Thom Rainer said the organization hopes to close on the new property early this fall, and complete the new building by late 2017.

When the organization began mulling the sale last year, spokesman Marty King said nearly one-third of the current facility was vacant or leased.


Christian critic picks 2015’s worthiest films (so far)
While there hasn’t yet been much to celebrate, movie-wise, says critic Phil Boatwright, he picks four relative bright spots (including recent Pixar blockbuster “Inside Out”).

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

‘Unequally yoked’ couples may be more common in 21st century
Most married people–almost 70%–still share the same faith, Pew Research reports in its Religious Landscape Study. But the last few decades have seen an increase in interfaith marriages. 39% of those who have gotten married since 2010 have married someone of another faith–or no faith at all. 18% of the interfaith marriages since 2010 are between a Christian and someone not affiliated with a religion.

The_BriefingOf people who got married prior to 1960 (and are still married), only 19% are interfaith marriages. But Pew is careful to note the rise in interfaith marriages “may not be as pronounced as it appears,” if in fact marriages between people of the same religious group are more likely to last. Because the study only measures intact marriages, it’s possible that there were more interfaith unions prior to 1960 that ended in divorce.


What’s in a (church) name?
The presence of a denomination in a church’s name doesn’t necessarily deter even non-religious people, LifeWay Research reports. In a new survey, Americans were asked to respond to several denominations based on the statement, “When I see a church named the following, I assume it is not for me.” Pentecostal had the highest percentage of yes responses, with 45%, followed by Catholic (42%) and Lutheran (41%). Southern Baptist fell toward the end of the list, with 39%, and Baptist came in last (or first?) with only 36% of respondents saying they assume Baptist churches aren’t for them when they see the label.


Pro-choice views outgaining pro-life position
For the first time since 2008, pro-choice “has a statistically significant lead in Americans’ abortion views,” over pro-life views, Gallup reports. 50% of Americans now say they are pro-choice, compared to 44% who identify as pro-life.


One more poll: Measuring presidents’ popularity
CNN/ORC reports more Americans think favorably about former President George W. Bush (52%) than do current President Barack Obama (45%). Besting them both: Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who both have a 64% approval rating.


Campolo announces new view on same-sex marriage
Christian author and speaker Tony Campolo said via a statement on his website June 8 that he is “finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” Campolo, author of many books including 2012’s “Red Letter Revolution,” said his decision was influenced by same-sex couples he and his wife have come to know “whose relationships work in much the same way as our own.”


Seminary President films video for ‘Openly Secular’ website
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin appears in a new video on the website of Openly Secular, an organization dedicated to eliminate discrimination against atheists, agnostics, and other non-religious people. We disagree on some very important issues, Akin says in the video, but we also agree on some important things, like that no one should be coerced when it comes to their religious beliefs.

Akin told Christianity Today, “I’m not going to endorse the organization [Openly Secular], but I’m happy to do a video as an evangelical who believes we all have the right to religious liberty. That’s all I endorsed.”


New movie tells how ‘Purpose Driven Life’ helped resolve hostage situation
A film scheduled for release this fall will tell the true story of Ashley Smith, an Atlanta woman who read Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life” to a man holding her hostage in her home. Smith’s captor, Brian Nichols, eventually surrendered to authorities. “Captive” stars Kata Mara as Smith and David Oyelowo, who recently played Martin Luther King, Jr., in the film “Selma,” as Nichols.

COMMENTARY | Nick Rynerson

“Pop culture” is often treated like a dirty word in the church—thought to consist of mostly irredeemable entertainment produced to make money off the masses. A common approach is to avoid secular music, films, art, and television, or at least to not admit to consuming it all that much.

But that isn’t often what our real lives look like. Most of us are at least closet pop culture consumers—we indulge in one or two sitcoms, a favorite secular radio station, or a superhero movie every now and then.

And maybe that’s okay.

Nick_Rynerson_March15Popular culture is not the enemy; first and foremost, pop culture is a place for storytellers to, well, tell stories. Moral discretion is important. (And biblical! See 1 Corinthians 8:7-9.) But we miss a wealth of spiritual and theological depth if we chalk up all entertainment created by non-Christians as irredeemable and misguided; we also miss out on the opportunity to identify and empathize from a distinctly Christian perspective (Acts 17:28).

Stories offer us insights into our culture’s longings, revealing God’s truth in the world around us. In his excellent book “The Stories We Tell,” Kentucky pastor Mike Cosper reminds us that a story is never just a story—it’s a window into our culture’s imagination and longings (see Romans 2:12-15).

“Storytelling—be it literature, theater, opera, film, or reality TV—doesn’t aim at our rational mind . . . It aims at the imagination, a much more mysterious and sneaky part of us, ruled by love, desire, and hope,” Cosper writes. “When people, against their better judgment, find themselves hooked on a show, we can trace the line back to find the hook in their imagination.”

Stories, according to Cosper, can reveal much more about a person, people group, or culture than a strictly informative presentation or a list of facts. Stories communicate what people truly desire.

Take, for example, a certain Best Picture nominee from last year. The movie contains some strong language, an ambiguous ending, and other elements that might lead some Christians to believe that it has nothing to offer spiritually (and for some to wisely not engage the film). However, if we look closer, we can clearly see some distinct things the storytellers—the director, writer, characters, etc.—believe about God, life, and themselves.

Without spoiling the film, which centers on the relationship between a talented young jazz drummer and his demanding/abusive instructor, the characters have a very human desire: to be great. The devotion of the characters to the pursuit of greatness, and its sway over their future happiness, is deeply identifiable. Like the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the characters sacrifice their life for the pursuit of self-glory, predictably leaving themselves and others miserable.

Ever since the Fall, man has been trying to claw his way back to perfection. Everybody longs for his or her flaws to be taken away, and many of us think that if we just work hard enough, we will reach the promised land of perfection.

As Christians, we know this is vanity (Romans 3:23), but the characters in the film sacrifice their lives and their sanity to meet every iota of their own personal law. This pursuit is hardwired into us and until we find personal and entire perfection in Christ, we will always fall short.

That’s serious, biblical truth, communicated (probably unknowingly) in a 2-hour movie produced with a secular audience in mind. The next time a movie, song, or TV show comes on that you are tempted to write off as irredeemable, consider if it might have something to teach us about God, the creator of all things.

In Acts 17:22-27, Paul not only quotes Greek poetry, but also alludes to the radical truth that we’re put where we were (i.e., in our cultural context) to speak eternal truth into subjective cultural contexts. In his book, Cosper uses this example to illustrate a distinctly Christian way of story-listening.

“As Christians living in the midst of these stories, we have an opportunity to both learn and bear witness. Stories teach us a lot about ourselves and our neighbors, and they provide windows into how our world is wrestling with the effects of the fall.

“They also present opportunities to respond with the truth.”

Nick Rynerson is a staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture and works for Crossway in Wheaton.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Washington florist found to be in violation of her state’s non-discrimination law rejected a settlement that could have mitigated some of the damage to her financial well-being, The Christian Post reports.

The_BriefingWhen Baronelle Stutzman refused to provide florist services for a same-sex wedding, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against her. Following the Feb. 18 verdict, Ferguson offered to let Stutzman pay $2,001 in penalties and fees, as long as she committed “not to discriminate in the future.” Stutzman said no.

“Washington’s constitution guarantees us ‘freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.’ I cannot sell that precious freedom,” she wrote in a letter. “You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do.”


Controversial author and former pastor Rob Bell told Oprah Winfrey that church culture is turning toward acceptance of same-sex marriage. “Lots of people are already there,” he said on the Feb. 15 episode of Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday.”

“We think it’s inevitable and we’re moments away from the church accepting it.”


Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this June will vote on a key change to the ministry statement of the North American Mission Board. If approved, according to Baptist Press, NAMB personnel could provide assistance to the International Mission Board in planting churches overseas.


“War Room” is the newest movie from the Georgia brothers who created “Facing the Giants,” “Fireproof,” and “Courageous.”

“This film is about the power of prayer, and the necessity of prayer in our lives,” Alex Kendrick says in a video on warroomthemovie.com. He and his brother, Stephen, produced their earlier films with Sherwood Pictures, based in their Baptist church. “War Room” will be distributed by Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures, Baptist Press reported. Bible teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore both appear in the film.

THE BRIEFING | A Baptist professor who once taught at the convention’s most historic seminary is poised to publicly announce his shift on homosexuality at a national conference in November. Mercer University professor David Gushee, who taught at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1993-96, will reportedly tell the audience at a conference hosted by The Reformation Project that, “I will seek to stand in solidarity with you who have suffered the lash of countless Christian rejections.”

The_BriefingHis proposed remarks, reported by Religious News Service, do not come as a surprise to Baptist leaders who have known Gushee and watched his theological path over the years, Baptist Press reports. “Gushee is not the future of evangelicalism,” blogged Boyce College professor Denny Burk. “He is the future of ex-evangelicalism. He joins a chorus of others who have left the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) and who no longer represent what evangelical Christianity is all about.”


A week after Houston pastors were subpoenaed amid their involvement in a campaign to defeat a city ordinance, Southern Baptists leaders and others in Arkansas are working toward the repeal of a similar ordinance in Fayetteville. Adopted by the city council in August, the ordinance is part of an effort by the Human Rights Campaign to expand equality for the LGBT community in southern states, Baptist Press reports. But some pastors and Christian leaders say their religious liberty is at stake.


Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd will take part in a Nov. 2 simulcast designed to show support for the five subpoenaed ministers in Houston. Sponsored in part by Family Research Council, “I Stand Sunday” also will feature former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Alan and Phil Robertson from TV’s “Duck Dynasty.”


“Life does not end when tragedy comes into your life,” says Travis Freeman, a one-time high school football player whose life changed drastically when an illness cost him his eyesight. The two-time graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the subject of “23 Blast,” a new film released in Oct. 24. Read more about Freeman and the movie at BPNews.net.


In other movie news, Christian Bale says Moses was “barbaric” and “likely schizophrenic.” Bale portrays the biblical hero in the upcoming Ridley Scott film “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”


Having their credit card information stolen tops the list of crimes Americans worry about most, according to a poll by Gallup. 69% of people said they frequently or occasionally worry about computer hackers stealing the credit card info they use at stores, followed by 62% of Americans who worry about their computer or cell phone being hacked. Farther down the list: having your car stolen or broken into (42%), getting mugged (31%), and being a victim of terrorism (28%).


Winning baseball games isn’t the top priority for San Francisco Giants assistant general manager Bobby Evans. “You want your life to point people to Christ,” he told Baptist Press. “It starts for me with my own relationship with Christ. That’s going to direct and dictate what influence I have for Christ in my family, in my marriage and in the workplace.”

THE BRIEFING | You’re not the only one to ask God for a good parking spot, according to a new report from LifeWay Research. In partnership with author Max Lucado, LifeWay asked 1,137 Americans about how often they pray and what for, and got some interesting answers:

  • 7% of Americans who pray have prayed before to find a good parking spot. The same percentage have prayed they won’t get caught speeding.
  • 13% have prayed for their favorite team will win a game.
  • 21% have prayed to win the lottery.

whatpeopleprayforThe survey found Americans’ prayers are largely personal, according to a LifeWay report on the reseach. “Family and friends” tops the list of things typically prayed for (82%), followed by “my own problems and difficulties” (74%) and “good things that have recently occurred” (54%). Toward the bottom of the list:

  • People of other faiths or no faith – 20%
  • Government leaders – 12%
  • Celebrities or people in the public eye – 5%

For more findings, go to LifeWayResearch.com.

SCOTUS won’t review marriage petitions
The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to let stand lower court rulings on same-sex marriage “means an immediate expansion of gay marriage,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The Supreme Court surprised many Monday by deciding not to review appeals from states where bans on same-sex marriage have been overturned. Their move to “decide gay marriage by not deciding,” reported USA Today, could quickly make same-sex marriage legal for 60% of the U.S. population. Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said the decision “means an immediate expansion of gay marriage,” and posted on his blog about what the Court’s action means for the church.

Helping churches navigate the rapidly changing marriage culture also is the purpose of “Elevate Marriage,” an Oct. 16 conference for pastors and church leaders at the Illinois Baptist State Association in Springfield. Featured speakers include Kevin Smith, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew Walker, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; and Jill Finley, Bethel Baptist Church, Troy, Ill. Lunch is included, and registration is required; go to www.IBSA.org/Marriage.

Warrens to host 24-hour mental health event
Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, will host a 24-hour online broadcast focused on mental health on Oct. 10, designated as World Mental Health Day. According to the web page for “24 Hours of Hope,” the free event is “designed to encourage individuals living with a mental illness, educate and support their families, and equip church leaders for compassionate and effective mental health ministry.

The Warrens, who lost a son to suicide last year, hosted the “Gathering on Mental Health and the Church” at their Lake Forest, Ca., church in March. The Oct. 10 broadcast will feature material from that meeting, as well as new interviews and messages.

Annual list reports largest, fastest-growing churches
Twenty-two Southern Baptist churches are on Outreach’s new list of the 100 largest churches in America. The SBC congregation at number two on the list, NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., is also the second fastest-growing church in America. North Point Ministries, a network of churches pastored by Andy Stanley, topped the list as the country’s largest church, Outreach reported.

‘Left Behind’ misses with critics and audiences
The most recent big-screen version of “Left Behind” didn’t score well with most critics, and grossed only $6.9 million in its opening weekend (it was made for $16 million). While Variety’s review deemed the Nicolas Cage project exemplary of the bleak landscape of faith-centric movies, Christianity Today critic Jackson Cuidon said it’s not a Christian movie at all.

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | A new survey shows 21% of same-sex couples in Illinois have opted to wed since it became legal in the state June 1, but a second survey asks how long those marriages will last. And two more new polls cast doubt on the percentage of homosexuals in the U.S.

Equality Illinois, a group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in Illinois, surveyed the state’s 102 counties and found at least 3,274 marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples and 1,694 civil unions have been converted to marriages. According to the most recent U.S. Census, 23,409 same-sex couples reside in Illinois. Using this data, 21.2% of same-sex couples in the state have married or plan to marry.

The group stated the exact number of licenses issued or civil union conversions is difficult to determine because not all of the state’s county clerks recorded whether licenses were issued to same-sex couples, while others recorded conversions together with licenses, not separately.

Nine counties reported no licenses issued to same-sex couples or civil union conversions and five counties did not respond to the survey.

What might the future hold for these couples? The National Review’s online blog, The Corner, reported this month in a new Scandinavian study of civil unions (more heavily equated to marriage than in the U.S.) over the nearly two decades that they have been legal in that region of the world. The study reported male couples were 35% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples, and female couples were over 200% more likely to divorce. It also found, whether or not the couples had children made little difference in the divorce rate.

Gay, more or less

In related news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported July 15 that less than 3% of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. It’s the first time the government has measured American’s sexual orientation through the National Health Interview Survey.

According to the 2013 survey just out, 1.6% of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7% consider themselves bisexual.

And these findings conflict with a new Pew Research Center survey that says there are more homosexuals in the United States than previously reported. The figure cited for years was 10%, based mostly on the Kinsey Report of 1948. Critics called Kinsey’s methods flawed, and said the number was more like 4% to 8%.

Pew used two survey methods, allowing for indirect responses. While the “direct report” method shows 11% of U.S. adults “do not consider themselves heterosexual,” the “veiled report” showed considerably higher numbers: 19% of U.S. adults said they “do not consider themselves heterosexual.” That’s 15% of men and 22% of women.

Using the “veiled method,” Pew also found that 27% of U.S. adults admitted having a sexual experience with someone of the same sex.

Overall, the public perception of the number of homosexuals in the U.S. has grown as same-sex marriage has dominated the news. A 2013 Gallup poll that found Americans believe 25% of the population is gay, lesbian or transgendered.

-Reported by Lisa Sergent for the Illinois Baptist

Other stories:

SBC leaders tour Texas border shelters
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and ethicist Russell Moore will today visit two border facilities tending to the needs of children detained after attempting to cross into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security reports 57,000 such kids have been detained in the last nine months. The children “need immediate attention that elevates their health and safety above all,” Floyd wrote for Baptist Press last week. “From my point of view, the children must become our number one priority.” Read more at BPNews.net

Research guages ‘religious temperatures’
Americans view Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians warmly, according to a new study from Pew Research that measures perceptions about different religious groups. Respondents ranked groups on a “feeling thermometer” of 0 to 100. The “warm” groups all received average rankings in the low 60s, while atheists (41) and Muslims (40) received the lowest numbers. Read more at PewForum.org.

Baptist school gets partial win in court
A California Superior Court ruled in July that a Southern Baptist university had the right to expel a transgender student for violating its code of conduct. Domaine Javier, a former California Baptist University nursing student who identifies as a female, sued the school for gender discrimination after being expelled for claiming to be female on his application.

Judge Gloria Connor Trask ruled the school didn’t violate the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act because its on-campus activities do not constitute a “business enterprise.” But Trask did award attorney’s fees and $4,000 in damages to Javier because he was excluded from off-campus enterprises open to the public. Read more at BPNews.net.

Movies to explore Tolkien/Lewis friendship
Christianity Today reports on two upcoming movies that will look at the relationship between beloved Christian authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The films “Tolkien and Lewis” and “Jack and Tollers” are expected in 2015, and another movie about Tolkien’s life also is in the works.