Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Culturally Acceptable Prayers?

posted by doug howe

It was a tragedy that coal miners were trapped in Tallmansville, West Virginia, and an even greater tragedy that news spread of 12 survivors when in fact there was only one. Whenever hard things happen, it is heartwrenching and I join with all those who pray for the families and for better safety for miners in the future.

One of the postscripts of the reporting of this tragedy should be a discussion about prayer. CNN and ABC were among the many media outlets who reported that many were praying for the trapped miners and their families.

Why it it that reactive prayers in time of crisis seem acceptable in our culture, but proactive prayers seem to offend, divide and bring controversy? Why–in seasons like these–do the news networks suddely omit any talk of the need for separation between faith and government, religion and leadership, church and state? If we accept that prayer is a significant part of our nation’s health and heritage, then we could expose our kids to the practice openly and practice it in every area of culture and society.

I pray for the day when prayers for our kids, for education, for our legal system, for our leaders and for every detail of life are as culturally acceptable as those offered in times of national mourning and tragedy such as this–when prayer is a regular part of our mass media and pop-culture, not relegated to just those moments when the worst happens. Until then, I’ll continue to pray for all the families of the men trapped in that mine… and for more of us to pray for God’s power in every part of our culture long before the next tragedy stikes.

ABC Rights the Wrongs of the Justice System

posted by

I caught the preview episode on Sunday night of ABC’s new “In Justice,” which will be airing on Friday nights, starting this week. If you like court shows, it’s worth a look-see. The series focuses on the lawyers of the National Justice Project, a take-off on the real-life Innocence Project. Both the factual and fictional versions of this group revisit old criminal cases in an attempt to free prisoners who were, in their eyes, wrongly convicted.

The real-life Innocence Project, co-founded by Barry Scheck 0f O.J. Simpson Trial fame, focuses specifically on using DNA techniques that were unavailable when its cases were originally tried. The fictional National Justice Project employees on more general, and TV-generic, gumshoe detective techniques–which is another way of saying it relies on a heavy dose of faith in deciding which convicts’ stories to believe and how doggedly to pursue their case, even when the evidence continues pointing to their guilt. Their decision-making process–whom to believe? which stories grab a lawyer’s attention? how much of that is based on pure facts and how much on emotion or personal interest?–is a good reminder that there is always a large dose of the fallible human element in the justice system.

Bonus for those interested in pop-culture and religion: “In Justice” has an extraneous subplot in which two lawyers, already divorced, are seeking an annulment from the Catholic Church, but are told they must first undergo eight months of counseling. The story they concocted to get their annulment involved the husband falsely admitting to years of infidelity. Not sure where that’s going, but it ought to be fun to watch.

“Lost” in Faith

posted by ellen leventry

Rabid fans of ABC’s “Lost” have many suspicions about the meaning of the show, fueled by their examination of myriad clues in exruciating detail. And while I was just as curious about things like where those numbers came from, I was more interested in knowing about the minds behind this hit show, which tells the story of the survivors of an airplane crash on what seems to be a deserted island.

From its very beginning, ABC’s hit has been awash in a sea of faith. Early theories speculated that the mysterious island setting was actually purgatory. The first season introduced us to John Locke, who had been confined to a wheelchair until he miraculously regained the use of his legs following the plane crash. Even the name of the nefarious Dharma Initiative–a project of the Hanso Foundation, which seems to be conducting some form of experiment on the island–and the foundation’s logo–a variant on the bagua, a series of eight trigrams often surrounding a yin-yang sign and commonly associated with Taoism–have spiritual connotations.

As fans know, before Season 2 ramped up the collision between Locke, the man of faith, and Jack, the man of science, the show’s fundamental spiritual disputes really hadn’t crystalized. (And I’m not even going to get into Locke’s faith in fate vs. Mr. Eko’s biblically-based faith.) That’s where executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse come in. Creator J.J. Abrams may have given “Lost” its body, but Lindelof and Cuse have given the show a soul.

According to Entertainment Weekly’s “Best of 2005″ Issue, the Jack vs. Locke storyline was inspired “by the worldviews of Lindelof (Jewish and empirical-minded) and Cuse (Catholic and willing to leap beyond logic).” EW continues:

“The collision of our perspectives plays out on the show,” says Cuse, who cites [C.S. Lewis' "Narnia"] as one touchstone for the kind of fantastical otherworld “Lost” is trying to create. “Both of us are searching for the answers to the bigger questions of how you lead a meaningful life, and we’ve chosen to use the show to explorethose questions.”

Narnia? So that’s where the polar bear came from…. (Yes, yes. I know all about Walt’s comic book.)

“Book of Daniel”: The Protests Start Early

posted by

You’ll have to wait for next week to see our full coverage of NBC’s “The Book of Daniel,” a drama premiering Jan. 6 about Daniel, an Epsicopal priest dealing with life at home and at his parish. But the inevitable barrage of attacks has begun–the American Family Association is urging the faithful to email NBC to protest the show, saying it “mocks” and “demeans” Christianity–so I figured I’d weigh in now.

After watching a couple of preview episodes, I can say definitively that many people will be offended by “Book of Daniel.” Which is not the same as saying the show is insensitive, mean, or inherently offensive. There’s no way around offending some people, whenever religion is portrayed in pop-culture. And “Book of Daniel” clearly isn’t going for the “Seventh Heaven” or “Touched by an Angel” audience. Its characters–just about all of them, including the clergy members–engage in activities that are decidedly un-Christian. But what seems to have the AFA most riled up is that Christ himself appears as a character; depicted as the cliched long-haired, bearded man in robes, Jesus appears only to Daniel, providing counsel and cracking jokes.

So is “Book of Daniel” insensitive? Does it mock religion? I’m not a Christian, so you can take my opinions with whatever grain of salt you’d like, but I am a person of faith whose job, and passion, focuses on faith and pop-culture. That said, onto “Daniel”: I liked it much more than I expected. If you go into it thinking, “Oh good, a show about Christians and a church,” than yes, you will be offended. But that’s not what the show is; the series may focus on a church community, but it’s a soap opera, with all the raunchiness that entails. And as such, it has characters whose problems and behavior are over the top: adultery, drug use, premarital sex, addiction… it’s all there in droves.

We all know that even priests are fallible humans, and some of them do bad things (to put it mildly). So simply depicting members of the clergy misbehaving should not be considered inherently offensive. You may say, “In reality, most people of faith are fine, spiritually pure people, but this show implies that all of them are up to no good.” Sure, but it’s a soap opera. Does Wisteria Lane (of “Desperate Housewives” fame) accurately depict your block? If so, I’d recommend you relocate, quickly, before the murder, adultery, and violence infect you. What sets “Book of Daniel” apart, in my mind, is that these characters strive to do better and to be better. Amidst the absurd soap-opera dramas, they discuss theology, faith, God, relationships, and self-improvement. The world they live in is one of responsibility and consequences, even if they don’t live up to their own ideals so much of the time. Who among us does?

As for Jesus, he is intended to be Daniel’s image of Christ. The conversations are in his head, and this is his personal relationship with Jesus. You can call it simplistic, even theologically questionable, but isn’t every Christian supposed to have a personal relationship with Christ? Daniel’s is unabashed, unapologetic, and so real as to be visible to him.

Lastly, to the show’s credit, it’s not focusing on some unspecified type of Christian community. It’s Episcopalian. You can’t fault Daniel for welcoming gay parishioners, or even for tacitly endorsing premarital sex in a committed relationship (though it’s not yet clear from the show where he really stands on this). Like so many faith communities, the Episcopal Church has seen intense debate over social issues, and Daniel stands squarely within his denomination, or at least one major part of it. And–again, to its credit–the show depicts internal debate and opposition on these issues.

I’m not trying to say it’s a great or sophisticated show, though I do think it’s a cut above most of what’s out there. But mocking of Christianity? Hardly. “Book of Daniel” takes religion very seriously and treats it respectfully, in the context of soap opera conventions, at least. Its depiction of faith may not reflect how we all see ourselves in the mirror, and setting a soap-opera at a church may be too big of a hurdle for some people. So don’t watch it. But let the rest of us enjoy.

Previous Posts

Behind The Scenes of THE IDENTICAL
There's one more week left to check out the IDENTITY SERIES, a half-hour television show featuring prominent Christian leaders encouraging viewers about the importance of following God call's on their life. Among those appearing in the series are best-selling author and pastor Max Lucado;  Lifec

posted 9:39:35pm Aug. 30, 2014 | read full post »

D'oh for ALS
Yay! Even Homer Simpson joined the popular “Ice Bucket Challenge” to support the ALS Associations research efforts. The marketing has more than worked it created a phenomenon. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS affects the nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, and muscles through the bod

posted 11:19:33am Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »

Horror Flick Details Biblical End Times
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3pyDaNoY6s[/youtube] Faith based films have become a buzzword in Hollywood lately said writer and director Casey La Scala of “Donnie Darko,” and “A Walk to Remember.” La Scala new film is a horror flick based on biblical accounts of end times c

posted 4:26:27pm Aug. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Identity Series: Embrace Your Place
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dyst6VUv2iY [/youtube] Director of Equip and Empower Ministries, Christine Caine, pushes believers to embrace the place that God designed especially for them in this episode of the IDENTITY series sponsored by the upcoming film THE IDENTICAL. "There's a div

posted 9:42:59am Aug. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Rocking New Exclusive Clip from "The Identical"
Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd star in The Identical as the adoptive parents of a young man who dreams of a singing career -- not a life as a pastor like his father. What young Ryan Wade doesn't know, though, is that he has a twin brother who is the biggest rock-and-roll star in the world -- a fact his

posted 3:54:42pm Aug. 25, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.