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First, there is the news that religious groups are feeling pressure about not pulling their support for “The Nativity Story” based on lead actress Keisha Castle-Hughes being pregnant out of wedlock. Then comes the news that Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Community Church, is receiving complaints from evangelicals for inviting Sen. Barack Obama to speak at his church.

There used to be a time when the spiritual journey and politics weren’t inexorably linked. And there was a time when acting was just acting, and actors had their own personal lives separate from their work.

I miss the clarity.

If a young woman gets the high honor of playing the part of Mary–and if the movie tells the wonderful story of “The Birth”–I don’t see why a church or religious groups should need to boycott the story of Jesus because of activities in the personal life of Castle-Hughes. Christian groups didn’t support the movie or pick the cast, but they sure should be allowed to support the story!

As for Rick Warren’s issue, I think evangelicals and others in the Christian Church should be careful: When they start criticizing the author of the best-selling religious book (aside from the Bible) in all of history for inviting a probable presidential candidate to discuss solutions to AIDS, they run the risk of becoming the very pharisees that missed the story of Jesus the first time around.

“Our goal has been to put people together who normally won’t even speak to each other,” said Saddleback in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “We do not expect all participants in the summit discussion to agree with all of our evangelical beliefs … the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by evangelicals alone [and] will take the cooperation of all–government, business, NGOs and the church.”

I’m going to order tapes of Obama, and I’m going to take my kids to see “The Nativity Story,” and hope that doesn’t get me in trouble with my church friends!

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