Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Time to Pray on ’24’

posted by doug howe

At this point in Season Five of “24,” The president of the United States has been brought to a place of asking his chief of staff to pray with him. The chief of staff balks, saying “This is a personal matter.”

“Please, just… please,” says the president, as they then both take a knee.

But while President Logan was praying, I couldn’t help but wonder why it is that our culture is so accepting of prayers in times of last resort, but not prayers as a first offense and primary resource toward whichever challenges we’re facing personally, professionally, or nationally? And if we’ll pray after a crisis hits, why not pray as a regular practice, applying the biblical principles upon which our nation was founded?

It’s as if “crisis” makes prayer authentic, but “peace time” makes prayer a violation of church and state. This week’s script on “24” was either art imitating life or life imitating, well, something less than art.

See “The McPassion” for Lent This Year?

posted by donna freitas

Two years ago this Ash Wednesday, Mel Gibson released his much-hyped “The Passion of the Christ” to adoring, and some not-so-adoring, audiences everywhere.

This Ash Wednesday brings a new “Passion” of sorts–“The McPassion.” This time, it’s a four minute long movie short. Co-produced by Benjamin Hershleder and Rik Swartzwelder, “The McPassion” is a comedy spoof inspired in honor of dear old Mel. And it’s already creating controversy and division (of course) among Christians.

On its official website, the only synopsis available says of “The McPassion”: “The greatest story ever told and a fast food giant unite to deliver the tie-in of tie-ins. While supplies last.” Viewers are greeted by a giant “McDonald’s” golden arches with a cross emerging from part of the M. And you can find a countdown until the movie short becomes available.

Tune in to a computer near you this Ash Wednesday. It’s only available for 40 days and 40 nights. (And I’m not kidding about that!)

Get the Lard Out!

posted by ellen leventry

“Pancakes make people happy,” goes the slogan of the Royal Canadian Pancake House. But those delectable breakfast treats do much more than that on Shrove Tuesday–they provide the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Traditionally, Christian households were supposed to use up the lard and dairy in their homes in preparation for the austere Lenten fasting period; hence the name “Fat Tuesday” (“Mardi Gras” in French). On Shrove Tuesday 1445, a curious thing happened in the town of Olney, England: The first pancake race was run.

There are several stories explaining the emergence of the race, but the most popular one holds that a local housewife, upon hearing the church bells ring, ran off to the service with frying pan and pancake still in hand.

However it got started, the contestants in Olney’s pancake race (and other such contests) must flip their pancakes in their frying pans before running the 415-yard course, then give them another toss at the finish line to prove the pancake is still present. Only women 18 or over may enter and they must wear “traditional” housewife’s garb–a skirt, an apron, and some form of head covering.

In 1950, it became a transatlantic event, when the town of Liberal, Kansas, challenged the flapjack flippers across the pond to see which country rules the sport of pancake racing. Times are compared via a long-distance phone call and ambassadors from the opposing country are often present.

Andrea Rawlings, a 32-year-old Olney saddler who came in second in 2005, brought the bacon, so to speak, back to Britain this year with a time of 63.76 seconds.

Colbert and Campolo

posted by doug howe

After reading about “The Colbert Report” and its penchant for luring distinguished public figures into making complete fools of themselves, I tuned in last night, and who was the guest? None other than a Beliefnet favorite, Tony Campolo, a nationally known Christian author and speaker.

What a delight to watch a seasoned pro (Colbert) try to stump and trap an evangelical (Campolo)–and instead be left speechless himself. And, in the process, I think he opened the door for a whole new audience to discover the radical words of Jesus. Here were Colbert’s best attempts at leading Dr. Campolo toward putting a foot in his mouth:

COLBERT: “You claim to be a member of the ‘Evangelical Left.’ Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”

CAMPOLO: “There are people who care about the poor, who take the words of Jesus literally, and if one would do both, then I think the two words belong together.”

COLBERT: “But you’re saying that Jesus hates America. Sean Hannity’s book said ‘deliver us from evil.’ Do you watch Hannity & Colmes?”

CAMPOLO. “Jesus loves the United States. Jesus loves Iraq. Jesus loves Afghanistan. He calls all people to love each other, get along with each other. He loved Afghanistan before the U.S. went there… before it was even Afghanistan.”

COLBERT: “You make Jesus sound like the U.N.”

CAMPOLO: “If the U.N. would listen to Jesus, the whole world would be in good shape.”

COLBERT: (speechless)

CAMPOLO: “Jesus transcends partisan politics.”

COLBERT: “So you’re saying Jesus doesn’t care who is President?”

CAMPOLO: “I’ve got a feeling that if Jesus went into the voting box, he’d be very confused, because there’s stuff on both sides to like and not to like. They’ve made Jesus into a Republican, and he’s not.”

COLBERT: “Do you get a frosty reception from the evangelical pancake breakfast?”

CAMPOLO: “I don’t get invited anymore.”

And finally…

COLBERT: “Has religion changed politics, or has politics changed religion?”

CAMPOLO: “It’s like mixing ice cream and horse manure. It doesn’t hurt the horse manure, but it hurts the ice cream. Politics has hurt religion, more than the opposite.”

COLBERT: (pause)

COLBERT: “Would you come back another time to sift the turds from the cream?!”

And then they shook hands, laughed, and shared a moment that—to this viewer—looked like an authentic connection. Campolo won this round, in my opinion, but the real winner was the audience. This frank and funny dialogue was one of the more civil, humorous, honest and challenging discussions two people could have about authentic spiritual searching and its connection to real-life decision-making–all while keeping us laughing. All in all, time well spent.

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