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San Jose Mercury News ^ | Sun, Feb. 22, 2004 | David L. Beck

Posted on 02/22/2004 11:23:14 AM PST by nickcarraway


If the passionate response to Mel Gibson's ``Passion'' takes you by surprise, consider that in 1954, Frankie Laine and the Four Lads sang:

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Front Page News; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: christian; gd; media; popculture; religion; religiousexpression

1 posted on 02/22/2004 11:23:15 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
This should finish the atheist pervert democrat party.
2 posted on 02/22/2004 11:30:12 AM PST by putupjob
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To: putupjob
Um, err, it's okay to post the entire sentence.
3 posted on 02/22/2004 11:31:02 AM PST by JennysCool
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To: JennysCool
It wouldn't let me. They list many lines from the song, it wasn't in regular paragraph form.
4 posted on 02/22/2004 11:32:17 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: putupjob

I demand equal time!

5 posted on 02/22/2004 11:34:10 AM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: nickcarraway
Oh. My bad. :-)
6 posted on 02/22/2004 11:36:06 AM PST by JennysCool
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To: nickcarraway
Feb. 22, 2004

A religious revelation
By David L. Beck
Mercury News

If the passionate response to Mel Gibson's ``Passion'' takes you by surprise, consider that in 1954, Frankie Laine and the Four Lads sang:

Well, rain, children
God's gonna send new orders from Zion
He's gonna raise his heaven up higher
It's gonna rain
And lo, it was a hit throughout the land.
More than 40 years later Jars of Clay sang:
Rain, rain on my face
It hasn't stopped raining for days
My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud

And it, too, was a hit, only then it was being called a ``crossover'' hit, meaning one that broke out of the contemporary-Christian genre and appealed to mainstream audiences. It was a revelation. Before ``Flood,'' said Deborah Evans Price, country and Christian music editor for Billboard magazine, ``their manager told me it just wasn't cool for rock stations to be playing a Christian song.''

What happened between Frankie Laine and Jars of Clay?

``I don't know,'' said Price. ``Tighter playlists? People looking for what they considered hip and appealing to a younger demographic? I just know that, there for a while, there was a lot of resistance to playing anything spiritual on mainstream radio.''

With Gibson's movie about the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, which opens Wednesday, the breakthrough may be complete. ``When's the last time an Aramaic movie got the cover of Entertainment Weekly?'' said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.

On television's ``Joan of Arcadia,'' a teenage girl talks to God regularly. In the movies, Jim Carrey becomes God in ``Bruce Almighty.'' In baseball stadiums, sluggers point to the heavens when they send one deep and run the bases with big gold crosses flapping around their necks. The apocalyptic ``Left Behind'' novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are ``the biggest phenomenon of the last decade,'' Thompson believes.

A Nashville songwriters' association gave its 2003 Song of the Year award to ``Three Wooden Crosses,'' a Randy Travis hit about a bloodstained Bible, a preacher and his mom. The Florida-based Lord's Gym chain, whose logo depicts Jesus carrying the cross, is expanding into Texas and Arizona.

And ``Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'' is poised to become the first fantasy movie ever to win a best-picture Oscar. It may take place in Middle-earth, but according to philosophy Professor James S. Spiegel, the ``Rings'' trilogy ``might be the most significant statement of a Christian world view ever to hit film.''

There was a time when religion, whether it was that old-time religion of Duke Ellington's ``Jump for Joy'' or the twinkly Catholicism of Bing ``Father O'Malley'' Crosby, was considered merely an aspect of everyday life and thus useful fodder for books, movies and music.

Nobody called in the American Civil Liberties Union when Cole Porter made ``Blow, Gabriel, Blow'' the showstopper of his 1934 shipboard romance, ``Anything Goes'' -- and nobody had to ask who Gabriel was, either. You didn't have to be a Christian to enjoy Hank Williams' ``Luke the Drifter'' recordings, or to find meaning in Patti Page's warning, ``Detour! There's a muddy road ahead.''

Elvis Presley changed the planet, helped invent rock 'n' roll and studied Eastern religion, but he sang gospel music until the day he died, and it's his gospel recordings that fans hear in the Memphis night as they carry candles past his grave each August.

TV leads the way

What happened to change all that, Thompson believes, was network television. What helped change it back, he says, was cable.

In the beginning, ``networks used to have vice presidents of religious programming,'' he said, and it wasn't just Sunday mornings that they supervised.

``The idea, of course, with network television . . . is that you didn't want to offend anybody,'' and that meant the old-fashioned talk-radio ban on politics and religion became network gospel.

When network television finally began to loosen up just a little, religion became ``the last frontier -- the one way you could do something completely different,'' said Thompson.

Some shows -- he mentioned ``Highway to Heaven'' and the later ``Touched by an Angel'' -- were ``entry-level religion'' and subscribed to what Thompson called the ``I can walk again!'' style. (He contrasts that with ``Joan of Arcadia,'' in which the heroine's brother uses a wheelchair. ``In `Highway to Heaven,' at the end of the episode, he'd have walked,'' said Thompson. ``Here, they put him in a wheelchair and by gosh, he's still there.'')

But there were also serious network shows like ``Picket Fences,'' in which writer/producer David E. Kelley took on ``incredibly complex'' subjects -- stigmata, Judaism, Mormons -- with ``more thoughtful and interesting insights than I would get from the pulpit on Sunday morning,'' Thompson said.

Then came cable, which had a business plan to die for, and whose multiplicity of channels, subjects and viewpoints mirrored the way in which U.S. culture, once a shared thing, has shattered. Cable shows tackle serious subjects, but they don't lecture -- they swear.

``We tend to be so concerned with lack of offense and political correctness that we tend not to bring up passionate subjects in daily conversations,'' said Laurie R. King, a novelist and biblical scholar. ``So that you wouldn't tend to ask the next person on the bus if they've found God. . . .

``But it is a thing that's in our daily life, and the huge popularity of things such as `The Da Vinci Code' '' and Gibson's ``The Passion of the Christ'' ``make it clear that although we don't talk about it on an hour-to-hour basis, it's very much there in the back of our minds.''

Instead, she said, we talk about it in terms of fiction -- mythology -- which makes it much easier to look at.

Thus, the grim HBO prison series ``Oz'' was ``like an open wound of religious questions,'' said Thompson, while the current ``Six Feet Under,'' a series about an undertaker family named Fisher (``come with me and I will make you fishers of men'') represents ``that whole Alan Ball kind of spiritual cosmology'' that we first saw in ``American Beauty,'' which he wrote.

Ugliness and `Beauty'

Spiegel, who teaches at the evangelical Taylor University in Indiana, has written a scholarly paper on ``The Theological Aesthetic of `American Beauty,' '' in which he says the movie teaches us ``that moral ugliness can be part of something that is beautiful on the whole.'' The movie, he writes, ``beckons us to see the entire cosmos as a work of art, continuously performed by God.''

Which is why he dislikes what he calls ``the Christian ghetto'' in music and culture. ``The whole `contemporary Christian' music industry seems to be pandering just to a certain subgroup of the Christian world which to my mind isn't necessarily . . . grappling with the harder issues,'' said Spiegel. ``Sometimes I wonder: `Where's the airplay for sane Christians these days?' ''

``Call my name and save me from the dark,'' sings Evanescence lyricist Amy Lee. The implied other of that line is a long way from, say, Paul Simon's 1964 ``The Sound of Silence,'' where darkness is the other. But it's well within the tradition, now apparently restored, of raising spiritual questions in popular media.

For many, though, art itself is the spiritual tradition. ``I'm a Beatles freak,'' said Spiegel. ``Dylan. The whole classic rock tradition. U2, Clash, Radiohead. I look for excellence and beauty.

``Of course,'' he added, ``I see God behind it all."

Contact David L. Beck at or at (831) 423-0960.
© 2004 Mercury News and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
7 posted on 02/22/2004 11:36:17 AM PST by GretchenEE
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To: JennysCool
It is annoying. It's an interesting article.
8 posted on 02/22/2004 11:38:02 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: nickcarraway
The media's old game plan for dealing with God seemed to be: "Let's totally ignore Him and maybe He'll fade away."

Now according to this article it's: "Let's bury Him in a pile of spiritual sounding, counterfeit nonsense."

This "god" of their's may be becoming popular, but the God of Jesus Christ, the God of "Deny yourselves, take up your cross and follow me", will never be popular in this age.

Now as to His popularity in the age to come... that's a different story.
9 posted on 02/22/2004 11:39:25 AM PST by PetroniusMaximus
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To: nickcarraway
It is amusing that the alphabet and news networks seem to all have their own "in depth" show about "Who is Jesus?" or other variants. It's reminiscent of the way fast food outlets glom on to toys for their kid movie tie-ins.
10 posted on 02/22/2004 11:57:38 AM PST by ProfoundMan (The owl flies far for a candy bar.)
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To: nickcarraway
Nothing will move the hearts and minds of people unless the people of God do two things, and both things must be accomplished....

1. Pray for their neighbors, neighborhood, state, country and world.

2. MOVE their bodies into action as witnesses: giving, participating and ministering to those same people.

God moved Mel Gibson's heart to tell one big part of the Gospel: God expects the rest of us to do what we can do to also tell others about Him. We are his hands and eyes and ears and feet on Earth now. Let us use them wisely.

11 posted on 02/22/2004 12:26:00 PM PST by Recovering_Democrat (I'm so glad to no longer be associated with the Party of Dependence on Government!)
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