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Entertainment Weekly magazine has announced its list of the 25 most controversial movies of all time, and at the top is Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” chosen for “igniting a culture-war firestorm unrivaled in Hollywood history.” Other films with religious themes that made the list include “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Last Temptation of Christ.” The list also includes “United 93,” “Basic Instinct,” and, in the number 2 slot, “A Clockwork Orange.”

Are there other films that you think should have earned this (dubious) honor?

While most recently associated with a certain couch-jumping movie star, Scientology has had a long history of recruiting celebrities. But now the L.A.-based religion is turning its sights to the massive demographics of NASCAR, which has, as of a 2004 estimate, 75 million religiously fervent followers. The Associated Press reports that “Kenton Gray, a 35-year-old Californian, will attempt to make the field for a late model race Saturday night at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway” in a Ford Taurus sponsored by Bridge Publications, publishers of “Dianetics.”

But Gray’s car is not just a blank billboard–he’s a believer and success story and hopes to spread the word to those at the motorway. “Dianetics is a book that helped me in many ways since I first read it many years ago,” Gray said in a statement released to the AP. “It helped me get better control over the obstacles I had to get through to reach goals I was passionate about. It’s a great honor to have a sponsor relationship that’s so directly related to my making it this far.”

Having religious imagery on a NASCAR vehicle isn’t something new. Driver Bobby Labonte plastered an advert for “The Passion of the Christ” on his car, but Lord only knows how many bad jokes will be made if a Viagra-sponsored auto and the “Dianetics” car–with it’s exploding volcano–ever take the same track.

In other Scientology-related news, it seems that outspoken liberal comedienne and Air America radio host Janeane Garofalo has alienated her co-host of “Majority Report,” Sam Seder. Often cynical and subversive in her stand-up routine, the star of “The Truth about Cats and Dogs” and “Mystery Men” has in the past few months been seemingly endorsing, on her show, a controversial Scientology detox program for NYC firefighters who were involved in 9/11 cleanup. According to MSNBC.com’s “The Scoop,” Garofalo and Seder recently “had a heated argument over her continued promotion of [the program], that ended with Seder storming off the set.”

Perhaps, Janeane should take the motto of her political-action group to heart and just Move On before she losses her comic cred.

Are you salivating in anticipation of watching the great Ronaldinho of Brazil in action? Can’t wait to see Germany’s Michael Ballack use the home-turf advantage to chew up his opponents? Or perhaps it’s the thought of the Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba out to prove that African teams have the discipline and ability to win big that gets you fired up. What? You mean you don’t know who I’m talking about? It’s the World Cup, baby! Soccer’s crowning glory is back again after four agonizing years to unite the world under the banner of gamesmanship, excitement, nail-biting matches, crazy fans, mesmerizing players, and passionate faith.

Soccer is truly the universal sport, the one athletic game that nearly every youth dabbles in at some point. And the World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport, an event that has fans all over taking off work and dropping all other activities to gather around the television at homes, restaurants, and pubs and root for their favorite teams.

It’s a time when sports prayers reach their feverish climax, when the most non-religious people will throw their hands up in a passionate plea to God at some crucial moment, praying for that player to make (or block) that goal. And that’s what I love about it.

Did you ever get scolded for wasting a prayer on something trivial, like—oh, say—the outcome of a game? I remember a time when my then teen-aged brother was watching his beloved San Francisco 49ers play in the Superbowl (in the late 1980s), and saw some fan cross himself at a crucial moment. My brother was inspired. He dropped to his knees, lifted up his hands, and began reciting all the Islamic prayers he could remember, beseeching Allah to help his 49ers win. My mom lit into him: “Don’t waste your prayers; don’t waste Allah’s time on a football game!”

I turned to her (I must’ve been about 10 or 12 at the time) and said, “Mummy, prayers are infinite. You can’t ever waste a prayer, no matter what you’re praying for! And don’t you think God likes to have a little fun too?” She just laughed and acquiesced to my beliefs. (By the way, the 49ers won that day!)

And so, bring on the World Cup and all its passionate fans. Bring on the hopes and dreams of legions of soccer fans in countries around the world, praying for Ronaldinho to make magic or for the United States to gain some respect in the soccer world. Let the fun and faith begin.

Ole, ole, ole, ole!

My wife couldn’t believe I was interested in attending a screening of “The Omen.” Perhaps being invited to a June 5 screening (as opposed to the 6-6-06 opening date) made me feel better about it. But I think I’d do just about anything to urge people to take spiritual matters more seriously in their lives and to get reliable information to guide their decision-making. For that reason alone, I’m glad for the hype and buzz that “The Omen” has created, because simply the mention and references to demons, Satan, the anti-Christ, 666, etc., have their roots in biblical truth.

But the movie itself stays in the safe zone, suggesting that just about anything can be the cause of evil, including our personal choices, our current government, societal forces, as well as the angel fallen from heaven. And that is a problem.

Either Satan is the sworn enemy of God and is currently engaged in a heavenly battle that none of us can relate to and in which the outcome is not future but present, or he/it is a myth created to explain bad things that happen in the world. The same Bible that introduces us to Christmas, Easter, and heaven is the source of information regarding Lucifer. Either it’s true or it’s not, regardless of how much we want to say our spiritual journey is personal. Satan’s present activity in the unseen realm either exists or does not exist.

The drama of determining our belief about that is far greater, deeper and longer-lasting than this latest horror flick. And more meaningful.

— Posted by Doug Howe

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