Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Kelly Clarkson’s Jesus Juice

posted by ellen leventry

Biblical exegesis meets the Billboard Hot 100 in the January/February issue of Blender magazine. Kelly Clarkson–Blender’s Woman of the Year, winner of the first “American Idol,” and singer of the ubiquitous and insidiously infectious “Since U Been Gone”–considers herself a Christian, but is no “holy roller,” notes Blender. Having a couple of drinks at an after-concert party she says, “I don’t sweat it. Jesus drank. It came straight from the Bible that he had a glass of wine. Actually, I don’t know if it says he actually drank it, but whatever.”

After all, the Bible is a little bit ambiguous about Jesus’ highly-debated drinking habits, though he does say to his Disciples at the Last Supper, “Drink this in rememberance of me, or whatever.”

How to Get to Heaven, Without Being Evangelized

posted by doug howe

A thorough and wide-ranging presentation of information regarding how to get to heaven is on your TV screen tonight. It’s not led by Billy Graham or Rick Warren or the pope’s representatives. Nope, it’s Barbara Walters. That’s right, the newswoman and interviewer of the stars has become the High Priestess of the Question of Eternity, at least according to the build-up to tonight’s “Heaven” on ABC.

In my look at an advance copy, she seems to be fair, constrained by her journalistic neutrality. She says little of her own Jewishness, except to acknowledge that her family didn’t practice it much. Because of that fact, this may be one of the most neutral presentations of the different views about heaven that you’ll see. If you’d like information without evangelization, this is the show for you.

The show includes traditional religious views and their explanations as well as the near-death experiences described by individuals whose stories transcend religious description. Or you can have both, as in the case of a respected Baptist pastor who claims to have talked with his grandmother from beyond the grave. The Dalai Lama describes reincarnation (an alternative view that doesn’t involve heaven) while Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., articulates the Catholic Church’s position. You can also learn about Protestants and Muslims, who believe there’ll be sex in heaven.

Walters also interviews celebrities, such as Richard Gere, who are associated with this or that faith. Maria Shriver discusses how we ought to talk to our kids about heaven, and it’s interesting to hear her talk of a family that has certainly known death but not talked often about where their loved ones went after that.

There’s also talk of “the other side,” including a failed suicide bomber who believes Barbara (and all of us!) will go to hell for not believing as he does. You may also be surprised at the realistic presentation of an evangelical worldview, which may be more realistic and easy to subscribe to than you’d think.

Barbara Walters told Beliefnet in an interview that her interest in heaven has increased because of doing this show. Even a media-saavy cynic must admit there may be some truth to that statement. For each of us, it stands to reason that if heaven–or anything–exists after we’re done here in this world, it’s pretty much in our best interest to learn what we can about that and what, if anything, we can do to prepare.

CBS Tries to Solve the “Mystery of Christmas”

posted by kris rasmussen

Last month NBC’s “Dateline” did a special attempting to answer questions about the birth of Christ, and tonight another newsmagazine, CBS’s “48 Hours Mysteries” will also examine the veracity of the Christmas story. After taking a sneak peak at tonight’s show, I have to say that CBS’s treatment is a little more controversial than NBC’s, which I’d felt was even-handed if not extremely cautious. As a result, tonight’s primetime analysis of Christ’s birth is destined to raise the hackles of many conservative Christians. While “48 Hours” does touch on some of the same questions “Dateline” did–the discrepancies between the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, where Jesus was actually born, etc.–the show devotes most of its coverage, to my surprise, to questioning the virgin birth of Jesus. Regardless of the fact that this aspect of the birth of Christ is a critical tenet of Christianity, I found this news approach odd simply because it is a question that obviously can never be answered factually approximately 2,000 years later.

The show presents several theories about Jesus’ conception. Articulated by scholars, these range from Mary committing adultery to the Gospel writers borrowing from Greek mythology and Old Testament accounts of the life of Moses to create their own version of a miraculous birth. The only dissenting opinion presented in the program is the voice of Professor Ben Witherington, who makes the point that it would be ridiculous to create an implausible story such as an immaculate conception if you were trying to establish an evangelistic religion in which you hoped to convert large numbers of people.

Another scholar, when pressed in an interview, admits that of course there is no way to know for sure what the circumstances of Jesus’ birth were but that obviously “there was something embarrassing or troubling about the birth of Jesus that caused a lot of questions.” For me, as well as many other Christians, this is exactly the point. From a biblical perspective, Jesus’ life from beginning to end was designed to be troubling and surprising, and to bring forth questions from all who encountered him.

In the words of one of my favorite writers, Flannery O’Conner, religious dogma “is not a set of rules” but something that can affect us “by guaranteeing a respect for mystery.” So while I certainly don’t agree with many of the points made in the “48 Hours” program, I would still encourage people of all faiths, especially conservative Christians, to watch the show and allow their perceptions to be challenged–and then to come up with their own questions, as they reflect on the mystery of Christ’s birth.

“King Kong” and the Communal Movie-Going Experience

posted by donna freitas

I remember going to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater as a kid. As Indiana Jones makes his way through a tunnel of giant tarantulas, outruns a boulder, endures a snake pit, and smartly avoids having his face melt into goo, I was not alone in my white-knuckled, eye-covered screams of “eeww” and “yuck,” which I shrieked as much out of solidarity with my fellow movie-goers as a response to whatever fun-filled horrors and suspenseful situations graced the screen. Communing over shared disgust and surprise in a packed theater is, to me, one of the joys of seeing movies at on the big screen and not in the comfort of my own home.

It’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of fun at the cineplex. Then I saw the new “King Kong.”

Peter Jackson’s homage to the orignal 1933 “King Kong”–which was directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack and is the film that apparently inspired Jackson’s interest to get into the movie business in the first place–provides audiences with the ultimate in communal movie-going experiences. (And thank God for Cooper and Schoedsack providing Peter Jackson his muse, as Jackson is proving himself one of the great directors of our time.)

This generation’s “King Kong” stars Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Naomi Watts (as Ann Darrow, the woman that works her way into the monster’s heart), and, interestingly, Andy Serkis as the man behind the giant gorilla. (He’s also the actor who brought Jackson’s amazing on-screen interpretation of Gollum to life in his “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.) All of these actors are wonderful in their roles (in particular Naomi Watts) and manage to convincingly move audiences from an initial horror at the beast to tremendous sympathy and even sadness when King Kong is inevitably defeated in that famous seen atop NYC’s Empire State Building.

But aside from Jackson delivering a wonderfully acted three-hour adventure film with spectacular special effects, he offers audiences one of those ever rarer “Raiders of the Lost Ark” communal moments. As I, and everyone around me, got deeper and deeper into the story, and as our first glimpse of King Kong became imminent, I found myself “eewwing” and “ohhing” and “yucking” in unison with everyone around me in the packed theater. I covered my eyes when giant worm-like creatures rose up from the waters to suck down humans, and giant cockroaches descended from above, and what looked like the most giant centipedes you’ve ever seen crawled over human flesh (notice the emphasis here on giant). And as I looked sideways I noticed I was not alone in my gleeful shrinking from the horrors before me. By the middle of the film and onward to the end and the final sad groan of “awww,” when King Kong gives his last, mournful look at the love of his life, we, the audience had our own adventure of togetherness as we reacted to the screen in unison.

This is a movie not to be missed on the big screen in a packed theater–so go, and go soon. But one word of advice: As I left the theater, heart racing, feeling like I’d just had a major workout, I thought to myself that if only I had better mindfulness skills, I might have managed to remember to breath regularly during the movie. Steady breathing is truly a skill with that much action going on, both in the audience and on screen.

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