Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture

Dr. Gilda Carle uses country music to help heal emotional wounds of homeless female vets.

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Fighting the good fight. Dr. Gilda Carle is a noted relationship expert and author of 15 books (including Don’t Bet on the Prince!, How to WIN When Your Mate Cheats) who is known to TV viewers for her frequent appearances on NBC’s Today Show  and elsewhere.  She’s also president 501(c)(3) charity Country Cures, a unique organization that uses country music to train homeless female veterans in pre-employment skills.

According to Carle, homeless female vets comprise the fastest growing homeless population in America. She further notes that many are of them are  mothers and that the suicide rate of military children tops that of non-military kids. Additionally, female Vets comprise almost 15% of the military and are more likely to be unemployed than male vets.  Like their male counterparts, after the trauma of war, female vets need help sharpening their self-esteem, conflict management, and interpersonal communications.


The program utilizes country songs to help the female vets open up about various issue. For example, Miranda Lambert’s Baggage Claim) helps open a discussion on domestic violence.

Carle, who has been affectionately called “The Country Music Doctor,” says country music is well-suited to the mission of helping women soldiers deal with tough emotional issues because the songs tell relationship stories with which Female Vets identify. ŸIts string harmonics are even said to match the energy of the heart, small intestine, pericardium, thyroid, and adrenal glands. Also, country music artists often support the military and their music is familiar to female vets seeking connections based on truth, trust and love.


“I watched once-hopeless women happily complete self-assessments in Dr. Gilda’s book, Don’t Bet on the Prince!, while being touched deeply by Country Music’s stories,” says Learning Curve Career Center President Leslie Class-Hernandez whose company has affiliated with Country Cures to prep female vets for certification in the health industry, a particularly hot career sector where they often attain secure employment.

Here Dr. Carle herself talks about the program on the Country Cures website (where you can also donate to the cause):

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11


Celebrating positive media: 2016 Christopher Award winners announced

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

The good stuff. Country music legend Dolly Parton, movie icon legend Sylvester Stallone and popular comedian/sitcom star Jim Gaffigan are among those whose work is being honored at the 67th annual Christopher Awards, to be presented in New York City on May 19th, 2016. The awards, which were created in 1949, celebrate media that “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Christophers’ Director of Communications Tony Rossi says, “The world around us can seem like a dark place in light of all the violence and hatred we hear about in the news. But the stories we honor with Christopher Awards remind us that we can shine a light that illuminates the darkness by choosing to practice faith, love, compassion, courage, teamwork, and determination.”


And the honorees are:

TV & Cable

ABC News 20/20: Escaping ISIS  (ABC)

The documentary follows 189 Iraqi Christians as they find safe haven from terrorists in a Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq, before two Americans help them escape the country.

America ReFramed: If You Build It (World Channel/PBS)

Two architectural designers move to North Carolina’s poorest county and use creative educational techniques to teach high school students how to transform their lives and community.


Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors (NBC)

Parton’s classic song is brought to life in a story that addresses working through grief, bullying, and the riches beyond money that are found in a loving home. Asked to commenting on the Christopher honor, the legendary singer/songwriter/actress replied “I love the Christopher Award slogan, ‘Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.’ I personally believe that with all my heart. I think the movie, ‘Coat of Many Colors,’ a true story from my childhood, does throw a light on a lot of things like family, hope, love, kindness, understanding, and acceptance. It really spoke to the issue of bullying. I am very proud at how God works through me to shine a light, and to help heal a lot of hurt in a lot of people, and I am very proud of this award.”


The Jim Gaffigan Show: My Friend the Priest (TV Land)

The episode finds the Catholic comedian feeling comically uncomfortable because his friendly parish priest tags along with him wherever he goes—even an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Tashi and the Monk (HBO)

The documentary takes us to the Himalayas where a Buddhist monk has created a home for abused, neglected and orphaned children, teaching them to move beyond their violent pasts and find healing through love and compassion.


Feature Films

Creed (Warner Bros.)

The Rocky movie series comes full circle as Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) mentors aspiring boxer Adonis Creed, the son of his opponent in the original 1976 classic. Together, the unlikely pair face self-doubt, loneliness and even cancer as they pursue victory in the ring and in life.

The Drop Box (Arbella Studios)


A documentary about a pastor in South Korea who gives abandoned, disabled babies a loving home. The film highlights the inherent dignity of society’s most vulnerable.

The Martian (20th Century Fox)

Stranded on Mars because his fellow astronauts believe he’s dead, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) uses science and determination to keep himself alive until he can be rescued.

Room (A24 Films)


The powerful love between a mother (Brie Larson and son (Jacob Tremblay) sustain them through the years they’re held in captivity by a kidnapper and the hardships that arise after they escape and return home.


Books for Adults (Movie Producers Take Note!)

Five Years in Heaven (Image Books/Crown Publishing)
John Schlimm chronicles his friendship with an 87-year-old nun whose kindness and wisdom led him to renewed hope, faith, and purpose in life.

The Gift of Caring (Taylor Trade Publishing/Rowan and Littlefield)
Marcy Cottrell Houle, MS and Elizabeth Eckstrom, MD, MPH join forces for  a heartfelt memoir of a daughter supporting her aging parents through their medical problems—and an empowering handbook on navigating the perils of the healthcare system.


One Righteous Man (Beacon Press)
New York City’s first African-American police officer, Samuel Battle, maintains his dignity and Christian principles in the face of racism to help integrate the department in Arthur Browne’s revealing biography.

Tough As They Come (Convergent Books/Crown Publishing)

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, who lost all his limbs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, fights through a painful rehabilitation to live a full life as a husband, father and veterans advocate.. Written with Marcus Brotherton.


Under the Same Sky (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Joseph Kim documents his journey from starvation and homelessness in North Korea, to his new life in the United States, made possible by activists and Christian missionaries. Written with Stephan Talty.

The Wind in the Reeds (Riverhead Books/Random House)
Wendell Pierce’s memoir about the family values and community atmosphere in which he was raised in Pontchartrain Park, New Orleans, and his efforts to rebuild that community after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.


Books for Young People (Again, movie producers take note)


One Good Deed (Preschool and up, Kar-Ben Publishing)
In a community where neighbors don’t smile or talk to each other, a child’s act of kindness sets off a chain of events that transforms strangers into friends. Written by Terri Fields. Illustrated by Deborah Melmon.

An Invisible Thread Christmas Story (Kindergarten and up, Little Simon/Simon & Schuster)
A fact-based story about a young woman opens her heart and home to a boy who’s never celebrated Christmas, teaching them both lessons about family and giving. Written by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. Illustrated by Barry Root.

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (ages 6 and up, Peachtree Publishers)
Written and illustrated by Don Tate, the story presents the inspiring biography of a slave who taught himself to read and eventually became the first southern African-Ameri man to be published.


Katie’s Cabbage (ages 8 and up, Young Palmetto Books/University of South Carolina Press) 


A third-grader donates the 40-pound cabbage she grew in her backyard to a local soup kitchen, and launches a national youth movement called Katie’s Krops to end hunger one vegetable garden at a time in the true story by Katie Stagliano (now a high school student) with Michelle H. Martin. Illustrated by Karen Heid.

Firefly Hollow (Ages 10 and up, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
A tale of adventure, friendship and courage about a lonely boy who befriends a firefly that wants to touch the moon and a cricket that wants to be a baseball catcher like his hero Yogi Berra. Written by Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Christopher Denise.


Paper Hearts (Young Adult, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster)
A birthday card for a fellow Auschwitz inmate becomes an act of defiance and statement of hope for two Jewish young women with the determination to survive in Meg Wiviott’s “based on a true story novel in verse.”

Note: The 2016 special Christopher Awards (given to individuals or groups) that personify the Christopher motto that “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness” will be announced soon.

The Christophers, a nonprofit organization founded in 1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. More information about The Christophers is available at

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11


Producer James Younger finds meaning in “The Story of God” (this Sunday on NatGeo)

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

The six-part event series The Story of God with Morgan Freeman premieres Sunday, April 3 @ 9:00 PM ET on National Geographic Channel.

NatGeo’s ambitious series will look at such perpetual questions as Who is God? Where did we come from? Why does evil happen? What happens when we die? The show, produced by Freeman, Lori McCreary and James Younger, seeks to provide understanding and context regarding how religion has evolved throughout the course of civilization and, in turn, how religion has shaped the evolution of society.


I asked producer James Younger about the mission of the series.

JWK: What do you hope people take away from viewing The Story of God?JAMES YOUNGER: I hope people take away that the various beliefs that exist around the world are less different than they appear. And I hope that people who have their own faith will learn something new about other faiths – most people know so little about them. Do you know more than two things about Islam or Buddhism? Most people don’t. In learning more about other religions, we hope that people will find that they are less different from their personal beliefs than they think.


JWK: What questions do you tackle in the series?

JY: The series has 6 episodes that will discuss life beyond death, the apocalypse, creation, evil – the big mystery of why does evil exist, miracles – the idea that someone is watching over us and does God intervene in the world and control our lives, who is god – this addresses the question if there is one god, many gods, gods that are invisible, gods that have a human face – how are all these gods connected.

JWK: What did you personally learn from making The Story of God?

JY: I gained a greater understanding of why people need faith in their lives. I think that I have always been a very spiritual person but I didn’t really gravitate towards ritual – I didn’t go to church; I didn’t perform or participate in ritual ceremonies. My personal feeling was that faith is a completely internal, spiritual, meditative practice and watching all of these amazing religious ceremonies and festivals around the world – going to the Aarti in India, experiencing Buddhist chants, going to Joel Osteen’s mega church in Texas, seeing all those people worshiping together – I realized that there is power that comes out of these group religious moments. And I felt it myself both in India and in Texas and I realized how good that is for people.


JWK: What faith ideas tend to be common across religious lines?

JY: Almost every faith has this idea that God is this energy that infuses the world. Even if you’re Hindu and there are many gods that you may see statues of, or if you’re a Buddhist where there is no actual physical god, and obviously for Christians, Jews, and Muslims, there is one God – god is this omnipresent force that we can tap into.

Most religions have an idea of the after life in some form. And almost all religions deal with the idea of good and evil.

The one thing that’s very different is this idea of the apocalypse. The apocalypse is very specific to Abrahamic religions, and there are ideas of endings in Buddhism and Hinduism – but they don’t have an idea of judgment day.


JWK: How has the perception of God changed over the centuries?

JY: I think about the earliest idea of God – it might be a mountain or an ancestry or a force of nature. Religious scholars say that the God of the Hebrews, Yahweh, was the god of the wind. A long time ago, there were many gods and most cultures, I think, had many gods – because they looked at the various forces they encountered in their world – the sun, water, plants growing, the animals. I think at some point in history this idea of one God emerged and it emerged suddenly with Moses, but also it probably happened in places like Stonehenge – people started to focus on one force which was the sun. Pharaoh Akhenaten in Egypt around the time of Moses declared that there was one god and it was the sun. So there was a historical shift from many gods to just one-ism


Christianity added this other aspect of God, Jesus, as a person – God becoming more powerful and in the same ways more distant, perhaps could be thought of as being harder to connect to. But Christianity has this unique approach to God and that God is also a person you can really talk to – another human.

JWK: In your view, do science and faith support or contradict one another?

JY: I’d say that they really support one another. There’s a long held idea that they are in opposition, but look at how the Vatican has adapted to science with what we’ve learned from the Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences there at the Vatican. The Bible is not a scientific view of creation, it’s a theological view. If you focus on the details on the Bible – like the 6 days of creation – if you’re a literalist, then you might see science and faith being in conflict. But if you understand the Bible as a philosophical view – a book of ideas, of the mysteries of existence – then science and faith are not in contradiction. Science shares many of the same questions that faith does – why are we here? What does it all mean? Those are questions we try to answer with science too and you might say, “Oh eventually science will try and answer everything,” but I think that’s impossible – that science may discover there was a big bang, but then you have to say, what caused the big bang? There’s always going to be another question you can’t answer. A great expression I once heard is, “There’s always going to be gaps in what we know and God can always live in the gaps.”

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11


UP TV’s “Small Town, Big Mayor” shows that, even in 2016, politicians can be nice

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Small Town, Big Mayor airs Thursday (3/31) @ 9:30 PM (ET) on UP TV.
The small town of D’Lo, Mississippi has one town hall, one masonic lodge, 240 cows, three swimming holes, 74 rocking chairs, three churches and 456 big-hearted residents, including Mayor John Henry Berry who is absolutely passionate about his ambitious 95-point plan to revitalize his beloved-but-struggling town.  At the mayor’s side is Ruth Griffin, who, like Berry, was born and raised in D’Lo. She is also powerful institution in local politics and was the first town board member to endorse John Henry when he announced he was running for mayor.
In addition to his official duties as Mayor, Berry is also a loving husband and father, a 4H gun instructor, Sunday school teacher, a parish drummer, a volunteer fireman, as well as the unofficial town landscaper, plumber, critter catcher, lifeguard and maintenance man. You can also add the voice of the Simpson High Cougars to the list.
As Mayor, Berry earns $480 a month, so he also works full-time as an air conditioning service manager at Climate Masters in the nearby town of Pearl. He was elected Mayor with all but 18 votes, however, he knows that he’ll only be able to stay in office if he can make his dreams of a revitalized D’Lo a reality. 
TV series have been built on less — and I’d kinda like to see this friendly reality show elected as a full-fledged series. In fact, if UP really wanted to get ambitious about it, I could this concept being developed into charming scripted series — a sort of Mayberry for a new generation.
I recently had the opportunity to put some questions to the mayor — who sort of has me thinking that he just may be worth considering should a certain political party find itself hosting a contested, deadlocked convention. Just kidding, sorta.

JWK: How did the idea for Small Town, Big Mayor come about?


MAYOR JOHN HENRY BERRY: A good friend of mine, Russell Knight, starred in a show called Mounted in Alaska. Russell said that most mayors aren’t willing to put their hands on everything in town, and he really thinks there isn’t another mayor like me. So he wanted to introduce me to some guys that were filming him at the time. He connected me with American Chainsaw and the idea of the show took shape from there.

JWK: How has your family and the people of D’Lo reacted to having a TV crew following you around? 
JHB: At first, everyone was not too sure about having “Hollywood” and their cameras out and about in D’Lo. But after meeting the owners, producers and crew members from American Chainsaw, the citizens of D’Lo were behind me 100%.  My family has officially adopted the crew.  We’ve introduced them to sweet tea and fried catfish.  This is a great group to work with.

JWK: How did the town get its name? 

JHB: There are many theories on how the name “D’lo” came about. The most widely accepted is derived from the French word “de l’eau” which means “water.” The actual origin of the name is unknown, but many believe that D’lo is a shortened version of the French word.

JWK: What would you like people to know about D’Lo? 
JHB: This is the friendliest town in the United States of America, and you can take that to the bank!

JWK: How did you become the mayor?

JHB: I grew up in D’lo and have always wanted to be a leader in my town.  I started out on the board of alderman under a great mayor, Emory Veazey, who inspired me to eventually run for mayor after his retirement.  I have a passion for the town and the people of D’lo.  My family has been in D’lo for 5 generations.  I grew up hearing stories of D’lo’s glory days when the population was over 6,000.  Now we have 456 when everyone is home, and we desperately need grants to help maintain our infrastructure because we no longer have the tax base to support the town.  I fight for the future of my town every day.
JWK: The show is something like a cross between Duck Dynasty and Mayberry — with lots of colorful characters, including yourself. Can you tell me something about some of the characters and relationships?  

JHB: Mrs. Ruth Griffin and I have worked together for 12 years for the town of D’lo.  She is always supportive of my endeavors.  She also knows how to reign me in and keep me focused on the task at hand.  Tony and B-baby are my lifelong friends.  I can always depend on them for help.  We always have a good time together.  My family understands that my job as mayor requires a lot of my time and attention which in turn, requires their time and attention on my various projects.  I have 5 kids and view them as my free labor pool.  My wife just takes it all in and never hesitates to give me her opinion.  And me, well, I’m just a hands-on kind of guy.  If it needs fixing and I can figure it out, then why would I need to pay someone else?  My job is not behind a desk. My job is out in the community making sure my citizens have what they need.  I fix water lines, change light bulbs, catch dogs, fix sewer pumps, program remotes, and just about anything else you can think of.  I’m always just a call away.

JWK: Did you watch The Andy Griffith Show as a kid? 
JHB: Absolutely!  D’lo really is a modern day Mayberry.
JWK: What happens if the show is a success? Do you think it will change your town? 

JHB: We thank the Lord Jesus Christ every day for the chance to introduce D’lo to the world, and I think the same Savior that gave us that chance will keep us humble. I hope the show is successful and that it will generate tourism and create revenue to revitalize my town.  That’s my goal.  I think any changes the town will undergo will be good, positive changes.  I would never want the people to change, though. They are all so genuine and caring.
JWK: What do you see in your future?
JHB: I’d like to give tours of D’lo from my golf cart.  D’lo had more men and women per capita serving in WWII than any other town or hamlet in America.  I would like to reopen the museum and showcase our WWII veterans.  I want to see Main Street full of shops and maybe a restaurant or two.  I want to show America that D’lo is not the biggest, but it is the BEST!

John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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posted 12:54:33pm Apr. 18, 2016 | read full post »

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