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Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture

Joel Osteen in prime time? + Anne Rice’s novel “Christ the Lord” gets Hollywood’s attention

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

1. Pastor Joel Osteen and producer Mark Burnett team up for new reality TV project. From Entertainment Weekly: The working title for the project is Pack Your Bags. In each episode, the popular Houston megachurch pastor will lead volunteers to a surprise destination to try and make a difference in other people’s lives… Burnett says our current economic climate makes this an ideal time to launch a show like Pack Your BagsThe Survivor producer points to the success of his NBC hit The Voice, which eschewed mocking contestants like American Idol and instead had a more supportive judging panel. “There has been a shift, I’m sure of it,” Burnett says. “People are genuinely hurting. The last thing the audience wants to see is people ripped apart.”
Comment: I plan on learning more about this one and telling you about it.

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The knock on Joel Osteen is that he preaches a so-called “prosperity gospel” that promises believers earthly riches and good fortune. I’m a Catholic but I also am a regular viewer of his televised service and I must say most of the criticism he receives seems to me to be unfair.  Anyone who takes the time to really listen to what the guy says I believe will find that’s more of an easy label than a true representation of what he’s talking about.

It’s true he preaches optimism, that every person has the right and duty to reach toward their individual potential and doesn’t hold up suffering for its own sake as a virtue. But if his message was really “Be a Christian and get rich quick” it wouldn’t hold much appeal for me or, I don’t think, the millions of other people who tune him in and buy his books.

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The fact is his message goes beyond that shallow and simplistic summation.  Anyone who actually listens to him I think will find a preacher who actually does quote the Bible while going on at  great length about the importance of things like expressing gratitude, mercy, forgiveness and simple kindness toward others.  He doesn’t promise that Christians will never suffer hardship but he does preach optimism and a belief that God will see us through our adversities and bring us out stronger than we were before.

He also talks about the important of smiling and certainly, as far as I can see, practices what he preaches on that score.  He actually has a good sense of humor — one which proves that you can be as funny building people up as you can tearing them down. And, besides that, the aftertaste is better.

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He makes a point of not venturing into politics and not picking fights over things like gays in the military or what have you.  He seems to view his role as one of promoting a kind, optimistic faith in God — one that equips people to apply it in their own lives and to make up their own minds on matters of public policy.

Anyway, his proposed new show sounds refreshing. And I agree with Burnett. People are ready for television that nurtures and promotes kindness.

2. Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord novel being developed for the big screen. From ComingSoon.net: Christopher Columbus’ 1492 Pictures and CJ Entertainment have acquired the film rights to Anne Rice’s novel “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” reports Variety…Cyrus Nowrasteh will direct from a screenplay he wrote with Betsy Nowrasteh. Columbus will produce along with Michael Barnathan and Mark Radcliffe through 1492 Pictures with Sean Lee, Patricia Chun and Keo Lee producing through CJ Entertainment.
Note: Christ the Lord was named the Beliefnet Book of the Year in 2005. You can read that tribute here.

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

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