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Christians Rock Tonight’s Tube: Amy Grant and Jennifer Knapp

posted by Paul O'Donnell

What a bonanza tonight should be for Christian music fans. Late night, Amy Grant will be talking about her first album in six years on ABC’s “Nightline,” while on CNN at 9 p.m., Larry King interviews Jennifer Knapp, the Christian […]

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USA Rugby and NCAA Deal Faith Losses on the Field

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Religion took a double hit on the sporting field in recent days.First the NCAA banned messages embedded in eye-black–those stripes of glare-killing grease football players wear on their cheeks, and that Florida quaterback Tim Tebow imprinted with biblical verses.

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Odd Man Out: The Rocket Summer’s Bryce Avary Hits the Road

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Bryce Avary is The Rocket Summer: a multi-instrumentalist who has played almost every note of his four albums full of unapologetically spiritual, upbeat pop. His latest, “Of Men and Angels,” shows an darker side to Avary, where he depends on […]

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Amy Grant’s New Album Clears Space for a New Road

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Touted as her first new music in seven years, Amy Grant’s new album, “Somewhere Down the Road,” is something less and something more: only six of the record’s tracks are new songs, mixed in with previously unreleased tracks, old songs […]

‘The Family Guy’ Takes On the Brain-Damaged

posted by Paul O'Donnell

You have to hand it to “Family Guy” for topicality. Fresh off last month’s run-in with Sarah Palin about her son with Down syndrome, animated sitcom “The Family Guy” opened Sunday night with a skit about Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged […]

Whose God Won the Oscar?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Hollywood and evangelical Christians don’t agree on much, but last night they shared a deep conviction that only God could have put an Oscar in Sandra Bullock’s hand. Often dismissed as the actress with the least star quality since the […]

Megan Fox Confesses to Loving Two Men–Ever

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s often said that celebrities are America’s royalty, and nowhere is that more obvious in the way we treat their bodies as public property. In the days of absolute monarchs, as historian Helen Castor puts it, “privacy was relative and […]

Say It Ain’t So, Mark Buehrle

posted by Paul O'Donnell

My favorite White Sox fan is an 12-year-old from the far South Side of Chicago, who summers at his family’s beach house in Massachusetts, where news of the outside world comes but slowly. So as I watched Mark Buehrle, the […]

Brandon T. Jackson: A Divine Career So Far

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Playing the best friend of a teen demigod in the blockbuster “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” Brandon T. Jackson, at 25, is an veteran among a cast of new faces, with more than a dozen movies under […]

Percy Jackson, ADHD Action Hero

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The good thing about being a demigod–the half-human offspring of a Greek god and one of the god’s earthly romantic dalliances–is that you have a natural propensity for swordplay and a couple of nifty superpowers. The downside is that you […]

What Do You Do with a Problem Like Tim Tebow?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Somewhere in academia, a grad student in cultural anthropology is already writing his or her dissertation using Super Bowls ads to deconstruct the history of modern America, a job that got easier last week when CBS reversed its policy against […]

Enigmatic, Cinematic: The 50 Most Important Religion Films Ever

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Am I alone in feeling a little empty after reading all the obligatory year-end and decade-end “best of” lists in the past couple of weeks? Accompanying the articles declaring the “Aughts” to be “a lost decade” and bidding the recession-fallout […]

Death and the Scientist in ‘Avatar’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s hard to quibble with the majesty of the imagined world of “Avatar,” James Cameron’s lushly animated science-fiction pic that, according to recent reports, is on track to ring up the second highest box-office receipts in history, after Cameron’s own […]

Armageddon Now: Updating the End Times

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Jerusalem has been rocked by an earthquake. New York is under biological attack. It’s up to Lt. John Corbin, a hulking American army officer wielding a Gatling gun, to secure the perimeter. At least until Jesus gets here. Yes, the […]

One Man’s ‘Sacred Books’ Is Another Man’s Sacrilege

posted by Paul O'Donnell

David Michael Slater’s first book, “Cheese Louise,” was about a piece of Swiss cheese who doesn’t like her holes. You’d think the cheese lobby would get up in arms about that calumny, but no, it wasn’t until the Oregon public-school […]

Dream a Dream: YouTube’s Top Videos of 2009

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s been a tough year. if you had any doubt about it, look at what the world watched on YouTube. If future historians want to know what recession, terrorist threats, environmental worries and partisan strife did to the public mood […]

A Rapture-Ready Yule on ‘American Dad’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

This year the Charlie Brown Christmas special was pre-empted by President Obama’s Afghanistan speech, leaving the holidays to be celebrated by the likes of “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy,” which, it must be said, have their own way of keeping […]

The Real War on Christmas

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Beginning its article with “Attention, culture warriors,” Time magazine briefly recounts the history of the War on Christmas in this week’s issue, noting that while the Puritans were not so big on celebrating the coming of the Christ child, their […]

How to Switch Markets Like Switchfoot

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The first story I was assigned on the topic of Christian music, back in the early ’90s, was an investigation into whether Christian bands used religious talk shows the way mainstream bands boosted their records on the “Tonight” show or […]

Turn the Other Neck: ‘Twilight,’ Vampires and Christianity

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Last week Donna blogged about the new novel “Thirsty,” by Tracey Bateman, a Christian take on the vampire vogue spurred by the success of the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer. Bateman’s vampire, like Meyer’s Edward, is a sympathetic fiend: a […]

‘The Road’ Takes a Bend into Christian Marketing

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Entertainment Weekly and the usually astute, if crabby, Get Religion blog did their best to raise a kerfuffle last week about news that Dimension Films is hoping to market “The Road,” the new apocalyptic movie thriller, to conservative Christians. Dimension […]

Jared and Jerusha Hess: Your Typical Mormon Filmmakers

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Let’s out with it: Jared and Jerusha Hess, who wrote (both of them) and directed (Jared) the 2004 independent film “Napoleon Dynamite” are Mormons. Can we move on now? We cannot. The Hess family religious affiliation gets brought up in […]

Hi, My Name’s Jon Gosselin. (Hi, Jon!) And I’m a Fame-aholic.

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Here are three reasons to suspect that you’re a fame-a-holic. One, your life is a disaster. Two, even when you come to terms with your mistakes and apologize to those you’ve hurt, you have a microphone clipped to your lapel. […]

After Near-Octomom Experience, Jon Gosselin Gets Faith

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Marriage, the death of a parent, the birth of a child: we here at Beliefnet pride ourselves on knowing what brings people back to a faith they’ve long ignored or to discover one they never had. But Jon Gosselin has […]

Catholic League President Positively Peeved at Larry David

posted by Paul O'Donnell

You can’t watch as much offensive television as Catholic League president Bill Donahue does without becoming a bit of a connoisseur. But a TV critic? Faced with the latest provocation from Larry David–in Sunday’s episode of the “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” […]

Horror Movies Not Halal?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Are gore and ghosts ungodly? For years Hollywood has been eyeing the huge audiences in two of the most populous Muslim nations in the world. But now legislators in neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia–both densely populated, with moderate Muslim majorities are […]

Letterman Takes the Truthy Way Out

posted by Paul O'Donnell

David Letterman performed a ten-minute comedy routine last evening about how he’d been blackmailed. The punchline was that he had indeed had sex with female employees, the scuttlebutt that his blackmailer, reportedly a producer for the CBS show “48 Hours,” […]

The Polanski Puzzle: One for the Ages

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The case of Roman Polanski continues to evolve–not in its legal particulars, which have only become more complicated with Polanski’s hiring of the politically influential D.C. lawyer Reid Weingarten–but in the public perception of Polanski’s arrest, which says a lot […]

The Dude, the Lord, and the Coen Brothers

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Cathleen Falsani’s latest book, “The Dude Abides: the Gospel According to the Coen Brothers,” caused me to notice something strange about Joel and Ethan Coen’s movies. Though I admire every one of their films–almost (what, the Alec Guinness version of […]

Jim Carroll: Death of a Catholic Boy

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Solitary, spare in his poetry and his person, the writer and musician Jim Carroll, who died last week at age 60, was never easy to take as an artist. His songs were punk rants, his poems drug-scorched versions of Frank […]

Class Conflict: ‘American Idol’ Adds Ellen DeGeneres

posted by Paul O'Donnell

You can’t argue that Ellen DeGeneres is everything my fellow blogger Joanne Brokaw says she is: funny, encouraging, warm–and I’ll add forthright, wholesome and brimming with common sense. All of which makes her selection to replace Paula Abdul as a […]

No ‘Stairway': Heaven’s Reign Has Ended

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Last year I wrote about the predictability of rock radio’s holiday countdowns of the best songs ever, which, seemingly by an Act of Congress, year after year anointed Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” the Greatest Tune Ever Played. This Labor […]

The Subversive Faith of Stephen Colbert

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s not news that Stephen Colbert is a Catholic. He’s admitted as much on his Comedy Channel show, “The Colbert Report.” (Besides, even with the best hairstylists in television at your disposal, you can’t fake that precisely parted, altar-boy-grown-up hair-do.) […]

The United States of Qur’an?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Can the Qur’an, a book that is indelibly, even necessarily, Arabic, have a place in American culture? Sandow Birk, a “vaguely Presbyterian” American artist from Southern California presents that question in “American Qur’an.” In an exhibit of works on paper […]

Moms Who Grieve Find a Place in ‘Motherland’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Losing a parent is a life phase, something we’re conditioned mentally and perhaps biologically to endure. Losing a child so reverses the pattern that parents grieving for children feel they’ve entered a strange and solitary new world. That world is […]

Ted Haggard’s Fall: Gayle’s Story

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Gayle Haggard, wife of disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard, will publish a book “Why I Stayed” early next year.

Rock’s Founding Father Les Paul Dies

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Where did rock ‘n roll come from? Campfire hootinannies down south in the 1940s, sure. From Elvis’s hips. From the Beatles’ insanely inventive recording sessions. But most of all, it came from a guitar player and electronic tinkerer named Les […]

The Practical Passion of ‘A Greater Yes’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Filmmaker Bradley Dorsey looks more like he should be helping you find a movie down at the video store than making one himself. The 29-year-old Texan, who directed, co-wrote and co-produced the recently released “A Greater Yes: The Story of Amy Newhouse.”

Ross Douthat: Judd Apatow Too Subtle for Right-Wing Audience?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The New York Times’s token conservative columnist, Ross Douthat, bemoans the state of his cause in today’s paper. The latest blow to social conservatism? The supposed unpopularity of Judd Apatow’s latest movie, “Funny People.”

DVD Pick of the Week: ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

For years movie critics have been trying to figure out why we haven’t had a great Iraq War picture. After six years, the Iraq War is still too “hot”–politically divisive and emotionally unresolved–for filmmakers to distill the experience of overextended […]

Stone Cold Michael Jackson?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Okay, we know it feels like Michael Jackson’s face is everywhere these days, but officials at the Field Museum in Chicago weren’t seeing things when they noticed that a 3,000-year-old bust of an Egyptian pharoah bears an uncanny resemblance to […]

Pope Benedict XVI: The Christmas Album

posted by Paul O'Donnell

If you can’t do, teach. And if you can’t sing, make a Christmas album. The latter adage has been proven again by the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will join Regis Philbin, Colonel Sanders, and The Brady Bunch in releasing […]

Todd Agnew Speaks About Joy

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Christian singer Todd Agnew speaks about joy and his new single, “Joy Unspeakable” off of the album “Need.”

Derek Webb: ‘I Can No Longer Make Apologies’ for How Christians Behave

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Derek Webb talks to Idol Chatter’s Paul O’Donnell about his album “Stockholm Syndrome” and the controversy around his song “What Matters More,” a scathing critique of how evangelical Christians approach homosexuality.

It’s National Junk Food Day: Will It Survive?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Nobody seems to know where it came from, or when it started. But today, like every July 21st, is National Junk Food Day, a chance, according to tradition, to gorge on foods that are bad for you without a bit […]

Bob Dylan: Too Christian for Jimmy Carter?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Jimmy Carter, it seems, believes in the separation between church and rock. The former president, whose 1976 White House campaign saw both performances by the Allman Brothers Band and the introduction of the term “born again” to the Washington media’s […]

Hostage to Nobody: Derek Webb’s ‘Stockholm Syndrome’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

A few minutes of footage from the making of Derek Webb’s new, stunningly successful album, “Stockholm Syndrome” explains a lot about what Webb, the consciously controversial Christian singer-songwriter, is up to with his latest release. In the docu-video released last […]

Ken Mansfield’s Many Journeys

posted by Paul O'Donnell

What do the Beatles, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Whitney Houston all have in common? Ken Mansfield. A former record executive who raced through the ’60s and ’70s on big expense accounts and marijuana-scented tour buses, Mansfield worked for them […]

Carrie Prejean Loses Her Crown (And Gains a Career)

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Donald Trump and his Miss USA pageant may not have chosen their battle wisely when they finally decided to take away Carrie Prejean’s Miss California crown yesterday. Fox News is reporting that Prejean, the devout Christian who spoke out against […]

Pope Goes Online with ‘Pope2You’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The oldest social network–after all, who but the early Christians invented the idea of “friending” even your enemies?–made a first tentative move onto the latest social network when the Vatican announced their new papal Facebook app yesterday. Part of a […]

The Christian Secular Culture Disclaimer

posted by Paul O'Donnell

On the “Stuff Christians Like” blog website the other day, “Prodigal” Jon Acuff tries to come up with a “Christian Secular Culture Disclaimer“–a boilerplate excuse-me phrase like “Spoiler Alert!” or NSFW (“Not safe for work”) that appears to warn Christians […]

‘Me So Holy’ App Too Much for Apple

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Christians are supposed to see Jesus in everyone, but might not appreciate seeing everyone in Jesus. Or so say the iPhone gatekeepers at Apple. This week Apple rejected a new application that allowed users to crop a picture of their […]

‘Angels & Demons’ Gives Physicists Their 15 Minutes

posted by Paul O'Donnell

After the firestorm of Vatican opprobrium for “The Da Vinci Code” three years ago, the producers of “Angels & Demons” may have counted on further ecclesial disapproval to help publicize today’s opening of the “Code” sequel. The official Roman Catholic […]

The Jolly, ‘South Park’ Loving Side of the Catholic League’s Bill Donahue

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The New York Times likes to profile William Donahue, president of the Catholic League, as much as it likes to quote his bombastic attacks on perceived enemies of the church. The ex-marine and one-man Defender of the Faith makes for […]

To All You ‘SonSeed’ Doubters: Zap!

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Another shoe has dropped in the controversy over SonSeed, the band whose song “Jesus Is My Friend” inspired as many doubters as fans when it debuted on the blog “Dougsploitation” last year. Arena Rock Records announced Tuesday that it would […]

Miss California Appears at the Dove Awards

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, may have lost the Miss USA title for explaining her opposition to same-sex marriage, but it looks like she’s gained a new gig as Christian idol. After appearing on Fox News, NBC’s “Today” and other talk […]

Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci’ Sequel Due in September

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Word is out from Random House yesterday that Dan Brown’s sequel to “The Da Vinci Code,” titled “The Lost Symbol” and featuring “The Code’s” main character Robert Langdon, will be released in September. Five million copies are planned. The new […]

Kevin Roose’s Excellent Evangelical Adventure

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Kevin Roose was a junior at the Ivy League’s Brown University when he convinced his parents and his college dean to let him take his semester “abroad” at Liberty University, the conservative Christian school founded by the late Rev. Jerry […]

From Veggie to Jelly: A Interview with Phil Vischer

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Phil Vischer, the madcap mind that brought you VeggieTales, talks like a man who’s been, well, reborn. After surviving the bankruptcy and sale of a Christian entertainment empire that came to include Bible-based feature films, morning cartoon shows and children’s […]

Liberty Liberal: Kevin Roose’s Year in Christian College

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In the past few years journalists have developed a strain of religion reportage that centers on a stunt, one patterned after George Plimpton’s turn as a major-league pitcher or maybe John Howard Griffin’s “Black Like Me.” The latest version, by […]

Ted Haggard and Wife to Appear on ‘Divorce Court’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

As the death of his career continues, Ted Haggard just keeps moving toward the light–the television light. Since he admitted to homosexual acts and stepped down as pastor of a Colorado megachurch and as president of the National Association of […]

Bluetree: You Two Can Be a Worship Band

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Did you know that the Beatles named themselves after Buddy Holly’s band, the Crickets and that several of the early Beatlemania hits are essentially skiffled-up versions of Holly songs? Keep this in mind, anyway, when you encounter “God of This […]

The Fray: Nothing Lost in Their Second Album

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It makes sense that, when young Christian rockers began to struggle free of the mannered CCM format, they would gravitate toward emo, the brooding, melodic rock genre that trades punk’s teenage angst for teenage “issues.” Exhibit A: The Fray, a […]

Last Word on the Grammys: The Scandal of the Christian Categories

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Who would get your Grammy for best rock song: L’il Wayne, Springsteen, Beck, Brad Paisley or Mary J. Blige? What, you say these artists have nothing to do with one another in terms of genre, audience, or even sales? Why […]

David Byrne’s Spiritual, Not Riveting Albums

posted by Paul O'Donnell

I’m betraying myself as incorrigibly uncool by mentioning this, but David Byrne has a couple of new albums out. “Everything That Happens Will Happen Today,” made with Brian Eno, slunk onto the web last August with the lack of fanfare […]

God and Sinners at the Grammys

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Still in the early going, the Grammys telecast has a savvy mix of blasphemy and gospel going. Notice how Kid Rock dressed as a parson and sang “Rock and Roll Jesus,” followed (after a palate cleanser of pure spun sugar […]

The Future of Christian Rock

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Christian rock/rapper Toby Mac’s “Alive and Transported” was not to be denied this year, at the Dove Awards this Spring or at the Grammys last night, when he took home the award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album. Toby’s […]

Your Kids’ Daily Minimum Requirement of Scripture

posted by Paul O'Donnell

There are some great books out there to introduce your kids to Christian Bible stories. But how to get your kids to make the leap from books of Bible stories or children’s Bibles to the real thing? You won’t be […]

The Last Confederate of ‘Dunces’ Dies

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Les Phillabaum, the former editorial director at Louisiana State University Press, who took a chance to publish the unknown, deceased author John Kennedy Toole’s novel, “A Confederacy of Dunces” died on January 14th. With Phillabaum’s passing, the players who pulled […]

A Lesson in Patience: VeggieTales’ ‘Abe and the Amazing Promise’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Lately VeggieTales releases come in two kinds, the inspired and the merely inspiring. The latest VeggieTales release, “Abe and the Amazing Promise,” due out February 10, fulfills the promise of every VT production: to get some Bible knowledge into your […]

Disney: The Narnia Thing Gets Old

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Before pulling out of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” just before Christmas, Walt Disney Pictures seemed the perfect partner for Walden Media in producing the Chronicles of Narnia series of movies. Family-oriented, fantasy-ready and unembarrassed by Walden’s Christian values, Disney […]

Muslim Punks Grow from a Novel Inspiration

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The New York Times has a story about Muslim punk rockers, the amazing life-imitates-art phenomenon of “The Taqwacores,” a novel by Michael Muhammad Knight.  They didn’t exist until Knight’s novel started circulating in the Muslim teen community. “This book helped me […]

Amy Grant’s Favorite Christmas Albums

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Discussing her own recent Christmas compilation with Amy Grant the other day, I asked the Christian rock diva about her favorite Christmas albums of all time. The classic Nat King Cole disc is a given, and we’re going to give […]

Singing with Sarah and Writing With Vince: A Christmas Chat with Amy Grant

posted by Paul O'Donnell

“The Christmas Collection,” Amy Grant’s second album with her new label, EMI, is mostly re-released holiday hits from the past, but it has a few surprises, including a cover of a Barbra Streisand arrangement of “Jingle Bells” and a new […]

Does ‘Milk’ Have It Both Ways on Bigotry?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

My review of “Milk,” the new bio-pic about gay-rights activist Harvey Milk starring Sean Penn, pointed out that the movie was like one of those nesting dolls, showing in theaters just as the Prop 8 vote in California sparked actual […]

‘Milk’ Celebrates a Gay Martyr, Maybe Too Soon

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In “Milk,” Gus Van Sant’s new political bio-pic starring Sean Penn, there are frames within frames, some of them intended by the filmmaker, some the accidents of history. There is Harvey Milk, played by Penn, talking into a tape deck […]

Advice for Saudi Arabia’s Rockers

posted by Paul O'Donnell

When rock goes up against religion, why does it always start with heavy metal? The New York Times recently reported on an all-girl rock band in Saudi Arabia that has a hit with their song “Pinocchio,” a wail about love […]

The Bible in Six ‘Violent, Mysterious’ Acts

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Actors in Goth costume pantomiming stories of cannibalism, rape, empassioned beheadings, wild scenes fueled by throbbing rock… Not another Biblical musical?At Northwestern College, a Christian institution in Orange City, Iowa (and not to be confused with the Chicago-area university), drama […]

Have a Happy Weekend?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

University of Maryland researchers have concluded that unhappy people watch more TV than happy people. What do happy people do instead? Visit friends, have (a little bit) more sex–and go to church, of course.

A New Poll Shows: Hollywood ‘Attacks’ Religion!

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Hollywood is a conspiracy, all right. Movies tell the same stories over and over again, Hollywood thinking that we won’t notice if the movies show ogres or animals fall in love and live happily ever after, or that the planet […]

Hugh Jackman Walks the Line

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Revealing to reporters the other day that he once considered becoming a man of the cloth, Hugh Jackman told of watching a preacher on stage when he was about 13 years old, and having “a very clear feeling that one […]

Victoria Osteen Says ‘Love Your Life’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Victoria Osteen, a young woman from Houston, Texas, is a devout Christian and mother of two who, by virtue of being married to one of the country’s most successful preachers, Joel Osteen, has access to an audience mind-bogglingly vaster than […]

The Surprising Tony Hillerman

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Tony Hillerman, the crime novelist whose books helped reignite interest in the Southwest and Native American culture, died Sunday at the age of 83, and even for many of his fans, his obituaries–of which there will be many–will present some […]

Britney Now, Then, Virtually Forever

posted by Paul O'Donnell

October has been a banner month for Britney Spears fans. Her new single, “Womanizer,” set an arcane record of the kind that baseball stat geeks love to cite–the song was the first to go from no. 96 to no. 1 […]

Early Billy Graham, the Album

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Remember when the Second Coming was imagined as an awesome but beautiful moment? What’s been lost in the rise of the Rapture Right in the past two decades is the yearning for the hope that ordinary Christians–the meek, say–have traditionally […]

Bill Maher Gets ‘Religulous’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

If you’re going to see one movie that prowls the religious landscape, asking difficult questions and taking potshots at crackpots, see Bill Maher’s “Religulous.” Maher is no theologian, and even his grasp of international relations isn’t always firm, but this […]

Can Noah’s Ark Save New Orleans?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

An art festival called Prospect 1 New Orleans promoters call the largest exhibition ever held in the United States opens November 1st in New Orleans, and one of the largest exhibits, naturally, will be Noah’s Ark. Los Angeles-based artist Mark […]

Oprah Liberates Saudi Women

posted by Paul O'Donnell

“I have my coffee, and I sit and watch Oprah,” a woman tells The New York Times in a story today. “It’s my favorite time of day.” Not exactly front-page news you say? The woman in question is a Saudi, […]

David Foster Wallace’s Religion

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The New York Times’s site has reposted a 2006 article about tennis star Roger Federer, not because of Federer’s resurgence at last month’s U.S. Open, but because the piece is by David Foster Wallace, the beloved and very funny writer […]

What Would Johnny Cash Do?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Johnny Cash died five years ago today, and every day he becomes more religious. Or rather, each day you can find another Christian praising Cash’s sorrowfully guilty, sin-prone faith and calling for today’s Christians to be more like him. It’s […]

‘El Father’ Finds the Father, Wraps his Rap Career

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Before you read this item, reggaeton fans, remember: what’s the use of gaining the world if you lose your soul? Hector Delgado, a pioneering practitioner of the Latin rap genre reggaeton, announced yesterday that he’s devoting himself and his musical […]

Andres Serrano’s Dropping Stock

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Not long ago we blogged that Andres Serrano, the artist whose photograph, “P–s Christ”–a hazy shot of a crucifix dunked in the artist’s urine–raised Cain with social conservatives back in 1989, was planning a new exhibit at a Manhattan gallery, […]

Richard Dutcher’s ‘Very Frustrating Enlightenment’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

When Richard Dutcher wrote and directed “God’s Army,” a 2001 movie about the struggles of idealistic LDS missionaries negotiating the reality of Los Angeles, he instantly became a Mormon hero. Dubbed “the father of modern Latter-day Saint cinema” after the […]

Dave Freeman: A Life, and Death, That Reminds to Make the Most of Our Days

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In a bit of irony that one only hopes he’s enjoying in his latest destination somewhere beyond the stars, Dave Freeman, co-author of the groundbreaking 1999 travel book “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” passed away on Aug. 17 […]

Home Makeover: Faith Edition

posted by Paul O'Donnell

If Jesus came back today, which television show would be his favorite? A clue comes from Mike Zak, youth director at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in St. Charles, Ill. According to the Chicago Tribune, Zak, a fan of “Home […]

Prayer Puts Olympic Commentator in a Twist

posted by Paul O'Donnell

I can forgive NBC’s commentators at the Olympic gymnastics competition, Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel, their complaints about the judging, and nagging negativity; they are, after a fashion, journalists and they have to call it like they see it. But […]

David Byrne Talks Godhead

posted by Paul O'Donnell

You don’t think of former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne as an evangelist, except for those crazy Brazilian, African and Afro-Caribbean beats that practically broke poor drummer Chris Frantz’s wrists and led Byrne off to a solo career of promoting […]

Grant 2.0?: Amy Grant’s Daughter’s Debut

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Earlier this week I ran into a huge Christian music fan in a coffeeshop in Hanover, N.H. (clue: his “Amy Grant & Friends” T-shirt) who had just returned from the second annual Smitty Cruise, Michael W. Smith’s waterborne jamboree that […]

Save the Date for Billy Graham: The Movie

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s cause for wonder that a biopic of Billy Graham, “America’s pastor,” hasn’t been made before. And perhaps it’s a blessing too. As the national release date for “Billy: The Early Years” nears (Oct. 10, according to a press release), […]

Andy Dick, Now and Then

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The news that comedian Andy Dick had been arrested for groping a female fan while apparently blind drunk and carrying pot sent us back to the interview he gave us five years ago, when he was starring on the sitcom […]

Catholics in the Movies: Rent ‘Em, Read About ‘Em

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Every generation has its signature Catholic movie: Bing and Barry Fitzgerald in “Going My Way,” Julie Andrews nose-wrinkling her way through “The Sound of Music,” the ambivalent faith and flawed priests of 1984’s “Mass Appeal,” Mel’s militant metaphysics in “The […]

Been There, Dung That

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The art of Andres Serrano has been derided in the crudest ways. Now it seems those comments, at least the most potty-mouthed, are all true. The artist, who has long experimented with bodily fluids in his photographs, will display his […]

Selling Out ‘Give Peace a Chance’? Give Us a Break

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Okay, there’s some cynicism brewing out there about today’s sale at a London auction house of John Lennon’s scrawled lyrics to “Give Peace a Chance.” Gail Renard, a Canadian television writer who lives in London, parted with the scrap of […]

Those Ol’ Devil Rays

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The devil has a place in American baseball lore, thanks to the classic 1955 musical “Damn Yankees,” in which a beleaguered baseball fan named Joe Boyd sells his soul to Satan in return for the batting chops that help his […]

Catholics Not Ready for Their ‘DaVinci Code’ Closeup

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Next to the eternity of the afterlife, does screen immortality really count for much? Not in the view of the Roman Catholic Church, apparently. Approached by director Ron Howard and his Sony Pictures production team, the church refused to allow […]

Mel’s Dad Friends Ron Paul

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Don’t you hate when your parents try to be cool and get on MySpace? Mel Gibson’s father, Hutton Gibson, famous for his crackpot Catholicism and his doubts about the historicity of the Holocaust, has reportedly erected his own page on […]

Popcorn vs. Faith in Shyamalan’s ‘Happening’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

M. Night Shyamalan’s movies—”The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” “Signs”—have been touted to me as spiritual explorations posing as standard supernatural thrillers. I’ve always seen them the other way around: the aliens banging on the roof, the spooked-up kids, the “Twilight Zone” […]

Stephen Baldwin Attends Wrong Kind of Rehab

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Actor Stephen Baldwin lives on the skinniest edge in Hollywood. Though he has a recognizably significant movie to his credit (“The Usual Suspects“), these days he’s more often associated with the slacker classic “BioDome.” He’s even more famous, however, for […]

Sharon Stone: Karma Chameleon

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Sharon Stone was caught by reporters on a Cannes red carpet and asked what she thought of the earthquake in China. (Funny, but do they ever ask George Bush or U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon what they thought of “If […]

Twin Peaks: An Interview with tobyMac

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Since he released his third solo album, “Portable Sounds,” a year ago, Christian music veteran tobyMac has been, well, reborn. The hip-hop heavy collection entered the Billboard 200 at #10— tobyMac’s highest showing ever—and this year, with his Diverse City […]

Narnia See Him, Narnia Don’t

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Used to be, any main character who had a rough day had critics crying “Christ figure”: Billy Budd, Charlie Brown–Harry Potter, for the Lord’s sake! But Richard Corliss, writing in this week’s Time magazine, says that Aslan’s similarity to Christ […]

Faith-Based Flacks Can’t Save Flunking Films

posted by Paul O'Donnell

This just in: churchgoers know a bad movie when they see it. After furiously pandering to evangelical Christians in recent years, the major Hollywood studios are backing away from faith-based marketing schemes that offer churches private screenings and Bible study […]

‘Prince Caspian': Christian Movies for Everyone?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Don’t get me wrong, “Prince Caspian,” the second of Disney’s movie remakes of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia novels is pure fun, an old-fashioned tale of a wicked uncle who usurps a throne, only to be overthrown by his goodly […]

Without a Prayer: Muslims in ‘The Visitor’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Laila Lalami, a novelist and literary blogger, has a review of the new indie film “The Visitor” in The Nation that serves as a mini-compendium of Muslim film, and how Hollywood has represented Islam since 9/11.

Obama’s Church Not the (Rev.) Wright Stuff for Oprah

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Newsweek reports this week that Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama share more than a wish to see him be president: Oprah attended Obama’s church when she first moved to Chicago, and both called the troublesome Rev. Jeremiah Wright their pastor. […]

Celebrity Spiritual Diagnosis: Gwyneth is a Trascendentalist

posted by Paul O'Donnell

We know the convictions of Travolta and Tom, Madonna and Val Kilmer, but rank-and-file celebrities are so vague about their spiritual leanings it’s hard to know which faith we’d put them into, but comments by Gwyneth Paltrow to the British […]

Top 10 Songs About Heaven

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Heaven, along with heart, may be the most overused word in the pop lexicon. What I’m after here is not the tunes that insist that kisses are heaven or that heaven only knows what’s going to happen to our love. […]

Lewis Black: He of Funny Faith

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Lewis Black has founded his comedy career on his eruptions of screaming: the irrational outbursts of a rational man in a world gone mad. Religion is rich territory for his kind of humor, and as the title of his Comedy […]

‘Jesus People’ Lacks Love for Its Subject

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Someday someone will make the Christian “Spinal Tap,” a brilliant satire of the Christian rock world. Until then, it’s worth checking out “Jesus People,” airing on the web-based Independent Comedy Channel. The mockumentary, about the founding of a Christian dance […]

Stephenie Meyer: A Latter-Day J.K. Rowling?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Time magazine profiles Stephenie Meyer, author of the vampire-ridden Twilight series whose first non-“Twilight” book, “The Host’ will be out next month. Citing her unlikely rise to best-sellerdom (Meyer was a Phoenix, Ariz. housewife when she penned the first “Twilight” […]

‘Expelled’ vs. Yoko Ono: It’s Not All Business

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The movie “Expelled” dropped out of the box-office top 10 this week, but is back in the news thanks to Yoko Ono, who has sued Premise Media, the production company behind “Expelled,” for using a 10-second clip of “Imagine,” by […]

Christians Curiously Silent on Gay Music-Show Host

posted by Paul O'Donnell

We’re no longer shocked when a popular Christian figure does something to invite the scorn of his or her faithful (so to speak) fans. But when Azariah Southworth, host of “The Remix,” a popular Christian version of MTV’s “Cribs” told […]

Review: Ben Stein’s ‘Expelled’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

There’s a wonderful moment toward the end of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Ben Stein’s new documentary on the intelligent design controversy, where Oxford zoologist and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins speculates on how life came to be. Beings from somewhere else […]

Moses, er, Charlton Heston, Dead at 84

posted by Paul O'Donnell

If many Americans actually pull up Charlton Heston’s face-wigged visage when they think of Moses, it’s worth noting that Time magazine considered Heston “ludicrously miscast” as the biblical patriach in Cecil B. DeMille’s epic “Ten Commandments.” The hammy, melodramatic style […]

A House That Wards Off Death

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The New York Times House & Home section yesterday took an oddly spiritual leap with a feature about a house they bill as “death-defying.” The house, being built for a mysterious set of owners in the Hamptons, on Long Island, […]

The Night the Rabbi Went 10 Rounds?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Which is more draining, world-class athletic training or rigorous spiritual and intellectual learning? Ask Yuri Foreman, a fighter who will defend his light middleweight boxing title tonight, and who is studying to become an Orthodox rabbi. The 27-year-old was born […]

Monks Rock YouTube, Score Record Deal

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Their music is ancient, their lifestyle medieval, but a group of Cistercian monks from Holy Cross Monastery near Vienna secured a recording contract with Universal Music using the latest craze on the Internet: YouTube. Their video audition came in response […]

Paul Scofield’s Big Screen Sainthood

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Paul Scofield’s passing today shows the depth of Britain’s classical acting squad: he’s perhaps one of the top actors of the 20th century, with enough gravitas, impeccable diction and nuance to rank with Sirs Gielgud, Olivier, or Richardson. Yet he […]

The Obsessions of Anthony Minghella

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Britain’s tightly-knit theater and film community has had a tough few days, with the deaths of actor Paul Scofield and film director and screenwriter Anthony Minghella in the same week. Scofield, who had suffered from leukemia and was 86, represented […]

Brad Avery Leaves Third Day

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The reverb from their 10th anniversary DVD/compilation album hasn’t completely died down (in my car at least) when Third Day, one of the most successful Christian bands to come out of Nashville, announced that rhythm guitarist Brad Avery was quitting […]

‘I’m Not Blind, I Just Can’t See': A Chat with the Blind Boys’ Ricky McKinnie

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Ricky McKinnie has been playing with the gospel legends The Blind Boys of Alabama for more than three decades, and that makes him one of the new guys. First recorded in the 1940s, the Blind Boys were known mostly to […]

The Outrageous Idea of William F. Buckley

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The name of his first book, “God and Man at Yale,” sounds so hidebound and culturally clueless, even for the early ’50s, that it’s hard to imagine that William F. Buckley, who died this morning, made his reputation on it. […]

Larry Norman: Don’t Believe What You Hear

posted by Paul O'Donnell

You may hear today about Larry Norman, who died last night at age 60. You’ll hear that he was the “Father of Christian Rock,” or that he was the genre’s Bob Dylan, or that with his death a chapter in […]

Blind Boys of Alabama Go Down to New Orleans

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Spending five decades on the black gospel circuit is called paying your dues, but now that mainstream success has come for the Blind Boys of Alabama, they aren’t thinking about paying themselves back. As they sing in their new CD […]

Britney, the Media, and McCarthyism

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Portfolio magazine blogger Jeff Bercovici calls the current state of Britney Spears a “Joseph Welch moment,” referring to the U.S. Army attorney who effectively put an end to McCarthyism in the 1950s by publicly shaming anti-Communist crusader Sen. Joe McCarthy. […]

Science Takes Another Hit in ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics gnash their teeth a lot about how Hollywood corrupts youth and demoralizes the faithful. But if it’s true that the enemy of your enemy is your friend, Hollywood and conservative Christians, who’ve both been putting […]

Amy Winehouse: The Spirit of the Grammys

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Amy Winehouse was not only the big winner at The Grammys last night, she was kind of a mascot for a broadcast that, as The New York Times pointed out today, were oddly haunted by loss. Video-ported in from London […]

“Eat, Pray, Duck!”

posted by Paul O'Donnell

I bought my wife “Eat, Pray, Love” thinking the spiritual travelogue (and runaway bestseller) by Elizabeth Gilbert would match well with my beloved’s belief that travel to exotic climes is essentially a spiritual endeavor: hers is the Church of the […]

Something Completely Different: “Life of Brian” on DVD

posted by Paul O'Donnell

I go beyond a cliché when I say that Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” finally out on DVD, couldn’t be made today: not because the theocrats have won, but because the anti-Christians take themselves so seriously it’s hard to imagine […]

In the Political Blogs, It’s “Juno” vs. “4 Months”

posted by Paul O'Donnell

When is a Romanian movie about abortion in the dark days under Communism not about Romania or Communism? When it opens in the United States, where abortion and childbirth is not only a political issue, but a hot topic in […]

Ben Stein: The Michael Moore of Darwinism?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The culture wars have officially gotten too complicated for me. Ben Stein, a Nixon Republican–as well as a game-show host and financial columnist–has made “Expelled,” a documentary defending the rights of neo-Creationist scientists to question the arguments of neo-Darwinians. Roger […]

The Britney Beat Goes On

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Everybody, sitting down? Britney was taken to the hospital again in the wee hours. TMZ was running exclusives all night long. You can hardly blame them though–their business model relies on this kind of gossip–for running the story, and proudly, […]

ABC’s Eli Stone Makes Faith Look Easy

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In 2001’s “Joan of Arcadia” God appeared to a small-town teen disguised as a cute boy, a cafeteria lady and other random citizens. In “Saving Grace,” a beer-sipping angel with a Nashville twang pops in on an Oklahoma City detective. […]

Oscar Noms: It’s the Morality, Stupid

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Or more accurately, it’s the recession, stupid. Just as the major presidential candidates have rewritten their scripts from “change agent” to “steady at the helm,” the Oscar nominations, announced this morning, are asking us to take a second look at […]

Iraq Film Flim-Flam

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s become a truism that Americans don’t want to hear about the Iraq war, especially not in their entertainment. Last week Noah Feldman led off the New York Times Magazine with a piece bemoaning the lack of Iraq discussion among […]

Welcome to the Ice Floe, on HBO

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Assisted living sounds like a rational, caring way to tend to our old folks while giving them their independence. I won’t hear the phrase the same way after watching “Andrew Jenks, Room 335,” a new documentary that debuted on HBO […]

VeggieTales Founder Attempts to Serve God, Bring the Funny

posted by Paul O'Donnell

A New York Times News Service piece on VeggieTales founder Phil Vischer tells the tale of how his zeal to build a world-beating Christian media company overwhelmed both his connection to God and his management skills. “I had made the […]

Is Suri the Test Tube Baby of L. Ron Hubbard? No, But Wouldn’t That Be Cool?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Andrew Morton, author of two biographies of Princess Di, is used to getting blowback from his subjects’ defenders. And he expected his new book on Tom Cruise to raise the considerable ire of both Scientology and Cruise himself. (His publisher, […]

This Just In: Scientology Uses Celebs to Draw Recruits

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The New Yorker magazine this week takes a peek inside the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre, the hulking but elegance Hollywood palace that serves as the church’s clubhouse for the likes of Tom Cruise, John Travolta and other Sci-celebs. Built […]

VeggieTales’ “Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” Does Just Enough

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The folks who bring you the Saturday morning Christian cartoon series VeggieTales make movies that appeal not just kids but, as the old Hebrew National kosher hotdog commercials used to say, “a higher authority.” They offer themselves as an alternative […]

Don’t Sell Denzel’s Faith Short

posted by Paul O'Donnell

You hardly need to be told that Denzel Washington is the son of a minister—it’s in the booming authority of his voice, and in the sense we have, from his complete absence in the tabs, that he’s a bit of […]

The New Kissing Babies: Playing with the Band

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Planting one on the forehead of mama’s darling used to be the surest route to public office. These days, it may be playing with a talk-show’s house band. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee appeared on Leno last night, and though his […]

Whom Would Jesus Hang With?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

When the Chicago Daily Herald recently asked random celebs’ “Which person, living or dead, would you most like to spend the day with?” the no. 1 answer was “Jesus,” though, frankly, the Good Lord has spent time in better company […]

You Tube’s Jewish Christmas Carol

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Christmas has so powerfully shaped Western culture that it has created yuletide rituals even among non-Christians. Jews, for instance, avail themselves of the only entertainments open on Christmas Day in most parts: eating Chinese food and going to the movies. […]

“Hard As Nails”: Hard to Watch (But Worth a Look)

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In the venerable tradition of the Roman Catholic church, firebrand preachers have not been received well. Case in point is Justin Fatica, the Catholic youth minister whose Hard As Nails organization is the subject of a documentary playing this month […]

“Saving Grace”: Paying It Forward

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s an odd idea that we have hopes for TV characters–they’re cartoon characters after all, their lives flattened into two dimensions and squished into half-hour segments with a piquant point or a hastily arranged outcome, the way life doesn’t. After […]

Knocked Out at the Golden Globes

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The folks who award the Golden Globes aren’t as uptight as the Oscar crowd—good box office and pretty faces carry more weight at the Globes than political correctness and dignified careers. So when the nominations come out, as they did […]

“Saving Grace”: Tall, Dark, and Non-Believing

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Most of its first season, “Saving Grace” was a police procedural with a little “It’s a Wonderful Life” mixed in: Somewhere down the line, Grace Hanadarko, the hard-drankin’, rough-lovin’ detective was going to come to terms with the angel, Earl, […]

LA Times Notes Faith Groups Take Offense at Flicks: What’s the Beef?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

To accompany their review of “The Golden Compass,” the movie made from Philip Pullman novel that Roman Catholics are calling offensive, The Los Angeles Times has a slide show of recent flicks that offended people of various faiths. Along with […]

‘Saving Grace,’ If She’ll Save Herself

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Remember those M*A*S*H* episodes where Hawkeye or Radar turned over his jeep or sits out a bombing raid in a hut with an old Korean couple, and the character spits out a monologue of self-revelation? I loved those stunts, and […]

The Songs, Mostly, Remain the Same

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Ah, the holidays, time for family feasts, parties, and rock-radio countdowns of the greatest songs of all time. At Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, classic-rock stations traditionally turn to these listener-driven stunts (“You picked ‘em, we’re playing ‘em”) to salvage […]

‘Saving Grace': Holly Hunter Finds an Angel, Has a Drink

posted by Paul O'Donnell

I’ve been catching up recently with “Saving Grace,” Holly Hunter’s vehicle on TNT, in which she plays an Oklahoma City police detective who, “Joan of Arcadia”-like, gets regular visits from a messenger of God. Her communication with the Higher Power […]

Britney’s Meaningless Catholic Scandal

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Madonna has been a constant presence in Britney Spears’ life at least since Madge gave Britney her very first kiss from a girl back in 2003, the year Madonna appeared on the Brit-hit “Me Against the Music.” Now it looks […]

We See Dead People

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Halloween is a hell of a way to deal with our fear of life beyond the grave. Funerals are the opposite: our attempt to grasp the enormity of death by making it serene and beautiful. In either case, death is […]

Martin and Omartian: A Wild and Crazy Couple

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Pick the two celebrities, any two, you’d consider least likely to have had a youthful romantic hookup. Got ‘em? I can beat that. This week’s New Yorker magazine excerpts Steve Martin’s memoir of his early days in comedy, “Born Standing […]

A Walk with Democracy: “Run, Granny, Run”

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Anyone wanting to see America’s religion at work might tune into HBO tomorrow evening for the documentary “Run, Granny, Run,” chronicling the unlikely 2004 campaign of a 94-year-old New Hampshire woman named Doris Haddock for a seat in the U.S. […]

Unforgiven: Don Imus Returns

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s especially cruel to hear that Imus is back in the middle of my local public radio station’s pledge drive. After being hounded off his morning radio and cable TV slot for referring to Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team in […]

Ghosts in the Outfield?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

October is for Halloween, and playoff baseball. Yesterday, the AP told a tale that suits both. This Spring, an old bronze plaque turned up in a storage room at Jacobs Field, the Cleveland Indians’ home stadium, commemorating former Indians shortstop […]

Leaving “Left Behind” Behind?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The New York Times reported Sunday on the upstart Asylum Films, which has been churning out films it calls “mockbusters”—though schlockbusters might be a better word. Their low-budget movies imitate box-office hits, mostly in their titles. Their “Transmorphers” made a […]

Jars’ ‘Monsters': Better Than the Real Thing

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The last time I saw Jars of Clay live the highlight of the show was lead singer Dan Haseltine’s obstreperously slurping impression of a coffeehouse barista steaming milk—the bane of the moody, acoustically inclined band’s existence and, at that time, […]

How to Tell Islam’s Story? 1001 Short Films

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s great that we now have a teen sitcom about a Pakistani Muslim exchange student who changes the lives of his host family in small-town Wisconsin. Now all we need to finish the job of promoting understanding about the Muslim […]

Joni Mitchell’s Back…and She’s Ticked

posted by Paul O'Donnell

American Catholics who want to register offense at Joni Mitchell’s new album, “Shine,” had better take a number. Mitchell takes aim at Wall Street, Las Vegas, people who talk on cell phones while driving, polluters, bridezillas, and a clergyman named […]

TV’s Sexy Fall Lineup: That’s Not a Wrap

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Sex is hitting an all-time high on television, according to Advertising Age magazine, but responsibility seems to be at an all-time low. Ad Age has no problem with sexuality (in fact, beware: their story is racily arted with a couple […]

Advanced Medicine: David Crowder Band’s ‘Remedy’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Even for a Godrocker, David Crowder is unvarnished. His guitar lives for blaring anthems–”Amazing Grace” is his idea of an encore number–and his electric-socket hairstyle makes Matisyahu look metrosexual. By this measure, his latest album, “Remedy,” his first in two […]

Patricia Heaton, Put Your Money Where Your Potty-Mouth Is

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Speaking of sex (and I was), you have to go pretty low to disgust the trashy New York Post. But Patricia Heaton’s new sitcom, “Back to You” has the tabloid’s TV critic Adam Buckman taking the high ground: “If the […]

Survey: Jerry Lewis Is Hotter Than Angelina Jolie

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Flipping channels amid the vast wastes of Labor Day weekend, I happened on Jerry Lewis’s telethon: The bad lighting, the second-rate stars screeching out a cheesy Andrew Lloyd Webber tune, and there, on a stool waiting for it all to […]

For O.J., Too Much Purpose Can Be a Bad Thing

posted by Paul O'Donnell

When the chaplain at in Las Vegas’s Clark County Detention Center gave his celebrity prisoner, O.J. Simpson, some form of “The Purpose Driven Life” (news reports didn’t specify if it was the Daily Inspiration, “The PDL Journal,” “The PDL for […]

TV Must Get Back to Its ‘Roots’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

While Fox scrambled to keep Ray Romano’s and Katherine Heigl’s bleepable words off the air at last night’s Primetime Emmy Awards Show, Ed Asner sneaked this stray comment in the tribute to “Roots”: “Turned out better than I thought,” mumbled […]

Christian Prayer Vs. Football

posted by Paul O'Donnell

With all the high-fiving of heaven after touchdowns, post-game testimonials, and mid-field prayer meetings, football fans might not have noticed that the NFL is mildly hostile to open displays of Christianity. As this Christianity Today piece points out, the league […]

Top 5 Books by Modern Women on Faith

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The new book documenting Mother Teresa’s lifelong struggle with her faith is either a testimony to the power of belief or a fascinating portrait of self-denial. What is faith and how does it behave in the world? Here are my […]

What Kills Rockers? Sex, Drugs and Reunion Tours

posted by Paul O'Donnell

More than 30 years after the song told us “If there’s a rock ‘n roll heaven, you know they have a hell of a band,” British scientists have ploughed through a half-century’s worth of statistics–and, no doubt, several thousand pounds […]

Saint Diana: On the 10th Anniversary of Her Death

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Some Britons may have come to regret their queen-bashing, flower-tossing, and mile-long queues to sign her “Book of Remembrance,” but for many, Peter Singer points out in a recent column, Diana has become something akin to a saint. “Some had […]

Amy Winehouse’s Parent Trap

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Back when the problems of the pop-tart phenoms were mostly restricted to their over-revealing fashion choices, my then Beliefnet colleague and now co-blogger Ellen Leventry and I had the same question for every new outrage: “Where’s her mother?” Britney, Christina […]

Billy Bob’s ‘Beautiful Door’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

You have to admire Billy Bob Thornton’s consistency. A dozen years ago, when he was up for an Oscar for his self-directed performance in “Sling Blade,” he told the Washington Post, “I think religion is a good thing. The problem […]

‘In Her Shoes': My DVD Pick of the Week

posted by Paul O'Donnell

I ought to know not to judge a flick by its trailer. It’s the cheap pick-up line, the carnival barker, the radio hit that makes you think the whole album is pop schlock. And so, when I saw the trailer […]

Third Day Wears Success Comfortably

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Christian rock insiders have found a lot to criticize about the second volume of Third Day’s retrospective, “Chronology”—it omits some of the southern rockers’ hits in favor of covers and to some, comes off more adult contemporary that Christian Skynard. […]

In Defense of Scientology

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Mark Oppenheimer, writing in The Washington Post, suggests Germany’s ban on Scientologists (including Tom Cruise) is an overreaction, and one we’re all a little guilty of. He says it’s Scientology’s similarities to mainstream religion that embarrasses us, not it’s strangeness. […]

Christian Rock’s Evolution

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In yesterday’s Slate, Erik Davis (whose own site TechGnosis sits at the corner of sci-fi fantasy and visionary spirituality) has a review of “Frisbee,” the soundtrack to last year’s Emmy-winning documentary on founding Jesus Freak Larry Frisbee. Davis is enthusiastic […]

Harry Potter: Christian Opposition Over?

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Did the double whammy of the latest Harry Potter movie (“Order of the Phoenix”) and the last Harry Potter book being released in the same 10-day span crush Christian opposition to J.K. Rowling’s wizardry? With the final installment of the […]

Mister Rogers: Jesus Loves You

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Did Mister Rogers create a generation of slackers? Fred Rogers spent his life telling kids they were special. By telling children that he liked them, the theory goes, he freed them to like themselves. But a recent column in the […]

Bergman: Avenging a Religious Upbringing

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Like many artists born to oppressively religious parents, Ingmar Bergman ran away from his upbringing, only to devote his work to questions of faith, eternity, and redemption. The great Swedish film director, who died over the weekend, broke with his […]

Lindsay’s Pastor Problem

posted by Paul O'Donnell

It’s difficult to tell who is more self-indulgently indifferent to Lindsay Lohan’s problem: the tabloids that denigrate her as a pop tart while devoting their front pages or kindly pastors who publicly urge her to turn to Jesus–strike that, turn […]

The ‘Faith-Based’ Christian Gap

posted by Paul O'Donnell

The autopsy on “Evan Almighty” continues, as Hollywood suits and evangelical media mavens all try to figure out why the modern day Noah story was not the faith-based box-office monster everyone expected it to be. In a recent Fox News […]

Bill Maher’s Spiritual, But Anti-Religious Movie

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Liberal pundits in need of a boost seem to have found a surefire way to rev up the base: by bashing religion. Christopher Hitchens, suffering a rough patch for his support for the Iraq War, countered with his crowd-pleasing book, […]

God is Harry Potter’s Latest Victim

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Time, the newsweekly that caused a stir in the mid-60’s by asking “Is God Dead?”, opens this week’s issue with an essay tracing reports of the Deity’s most recent demise to Harry Potter. As the world awaits the release of […]

Barry’s Cross to Bear

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Barry Bonds waits in full uniform in a hallway at PacBell park, waiting for a man to drop by with an item Bonds has told the guy to rush because he just can’t play without it. Steroids? No, an earring […]

The Case for ‘An MTV View of God’

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Despite its mediocre reviews, many Christian media types are ecstatic about “Evan Almighty,” the big-release Hollywood movie that updates the Noah and the Ark story to modern-day Washington. But not Dick Staub. “If it is just a fun, uplifting night […]

‘The Secret': New Age Vs. Old Testatament

posted by Paul O'Donnell

In the spiritual system of the money-minting hit book and DVD “The Secret,” negative thoughts are a no-no. Freak out about your bike being stolen, and you can kiss it goodbye. Think “fat thoughts,” and you put on pounds. Some […]

I Want My Muslims on TV!

posted by Paul O'Donnell

Have you ever noticed how many South Asian doctors there are in the United States these days, but none on “Gray’s Anatomy”? So has Labid Aziz. The filmmaker and aspiring television producer, profiled in the Boston Globe yesterday, is hoping […]

VeggieTales Gets on the ‘Evan Almighty’ Bandwagon

posted by Paul O'Donnell

When Hollywood releases a faith-based movie these days, the marketing plan is sure to include sermon outlines, church-basement screenings and other come-ons for evangelicals. But at this weekend’s debut of “Evan Almighty,” evangelicals will be buddying up to the mainstream. […]

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Debbie Gibson Still Amazes
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6tHwESBFPA Debbie Gibson stars as Jessica in an inspiring drama about a woman who gives up her singing career to take care of her aging parents. Sweeping her dreams aside Jessica discovers that her dreams of becoming a singer and songwriter are not dead after bein

posted 10:14:01am Mar. 31, 2015 | read full post »

James is Back
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvQJbF2CXLQ Daniel Craig returns as James Bond for the 24th Bond film that is due for release on Nov. 6 in "SPECTRE."  The story will pick up where the "SkyFall" chapter left when Bond receives a case found by forensics at the "Skyfall" house. "You got a s

posted 2:02:26pm Mar. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Meet Rose Arvale of "The Messengers"
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posted 9:27:07am Mar. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Academy Award Nominated Film Unbroken Releases on DVD
The highly acclaimed film Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie that tells the inspirational story of Louis Zamperini hits DVD on March 24, 2015. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Louis Zamperini won a personal meeting with Adolf Hitler, who complimented his fast finish. In 1941, Zamperini enlisted in

posted 9:19:32am Mar. 23, 2015 | read full post »

Self/Less: 'God Created Man, Man Created Immortality'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71fWtJXEI0Q What would it really feel like to feel immortal and you know longer had to worry about failing health? Phoenix Biogenic offers this once in a lifetime offer where the new body will be genetically mastered to perfection. Only a select few are chosen to

posted 10:57:15am Mar. 13, 2015 | read full post »

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