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The Morning Five

Jesse Carey is the Interactive Media Producer for CBN.com . With a background in entertainment and pop-culture writing, he offers his insight on music, movies, TV, trends and current events from a unique perspective that examines what implications the latest news has on Christians.

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Read recent articles from Jesse Carey:

Johnny Cash's Last Words

When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned

Review: Invictus

The Business of Redeeming

Fame's Fleeting Promise

Part of a Bigger Plan

The God of Second Chances

The Soloist: Love Conquers All

Angels and Demons: A Sublime Detective Story

Kings: Can NBC Do the Bible?

The Twitter Manifestation

No Country for 'Slumdog Millionaire'

Michael Phelps and Ted Haggard: The Connection

Kurt Warner: Beyond the Field

24: Jack Bauer's Moral Dilemma

Godless Advertising Rolls On

The "Mean" Side of Jesus

John Lennon: One of Jesus' "Biggest Fans"

Vigilance Through the Fire

John Lasseter: Stories that Live Forever

Confessions of a Swing Voter

When Hollywood Attacks

A Non-Religulous Response

Unshaken Faith in Shaky Times

The Hope of the Olympics

Church Conflict: Can We Agree to Disagree

Back to School: You've Been Left Behind

Saved by a Basic Instinct

Don't Be Religulous!

Bolt's Retreat to Simple Truths

WALL*E-Mart: What Are We Teaching Kids?

House: Hollywood's R-Rated Faith

5 Favorite Inspirational Films

Movie Review: Disney's Bolt

Kirk Cameron Talks Fireproof

The War on Christmas: Sound Off!

The Secret of the Magi

Batman: This Present Darkness

The Tipping Point of Faith 2.0

The Emerging Church Explained

The Evangelical Identity Crisis

Grace for This American Life

Hollywood Heroics and Blockbuster Faith

Grand Theft Auto: Choose Your Battles

Brian Williams' Unintentional Theology

Five Books of Great Spiritual Journeys

A New Kind of American Idol

The Enlightenment of Ted Turner

The Unlikely Success of Tyler Perry

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pitching a Reality Show

This week, I came across a really thought-provoking column by a philosophy professor and writer named Tom Morris. Morris, who has written several popular books that combine classic philosophical ideas to cultural reference points (If Aristotle Ran General Motors, Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way), wrote the column for Huffington Post (the piece itself is pretty apolitical).

Titled, “Keeping Up With the Kierkegaardians”, the column poses the question, what would a reality show about philosophers look like? Ultimately, Morris admits “there's a good reason why there aren't any reality shows about philosophers”; that’s because, well, they’d be pretty boring. As much fun as it would be to see a room full of professors pondering life’s big questions, what American TV viewers would much rather watch (if you judge by Nielson ratings) are reality shows about gossipy housewives, ill-behaved celebrities and crazy twenty-something springbreakers.

There are no shortage of writers and thinkers who could fill hours of primetime TV with deep thoughts about the Leap of Faith and the meaning of life, but instead, our culture seems much more content with the former.

Why is this? Morris writes, “One of Søren Kiekegaard's spiritual predecessors, the seventeenth century scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal, wrote in his personal notes, ‘How hollow and full of trash is the heart of man!’"

This reminded me of the verse in Jeremiah, that tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

As Morris points out, there’s something about the human condition that draws us to trashy TV and the unpleasant behavior of others. Despite all of the alternatives in entertainment we have, we’re all—to some degree—drawn to the unsavory. The trashy. The outrageous. The sinful.

In his column, Morris doesn’t suggest abandoning reality television. Rather, he says. “So my recommendation is this: Feel free to become a bit more philosophical about the shows you watch on TV, the movies you see, the music you listen to, the things you read, and what you see in the world around you as you move through the day.”

Though I don’t think it’s necessarily beneficial (or very healthy) to fill your time with trashy reality shows, I do agree that as we experience culture, people—particularly Christians—should be more introspective and analytical with the world around them.

For Christians, understanding culture doesn’t just offer us spiritual insight (like comparing the popularity of reality shows to Jeremiah’s thoughts on sin), but also evangelistic ones.

A few months ago, I wrote an article about Paul’s interaction with the pop-culture of his day:

In the book of Acts, we read about the story of Paul visiting the city of Athens. “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). Paul was eventually invited to explain the good news of Christ to the philosophers of the city. But, unlike what some Christians tend to do at times, Paul did not start by condemning the people of Athens for their practice—he actually commends them, because he saw that they were searching for truth!

 

“Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23).

 

Later, Paul does ask them to repent for worshiping false gods, but he first uses what they already understand as a cultural entry point to help them understand the truth. Later, he even quotes one of their own poets to point back to God. “As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

 

Paul saw that though many of the things that the people of Athens did were based on their own false understandings of god and life, God wanted to redeem that desire to find the greater truth. Paul realized that though idolatry was wrong, by examining why they worshipped the way they did, he could reveal to them the truth they had been looking for.

 

You don’t have to watch The Real Housewives or Dog the Bounty Hunter to gain a deeper understanding of cultural worldviews; but, when you do see a movie, watch a television show, read a magazine, or hear the latest top-40 song, don’t just pay attention to what it says—look at what it is saying. What's behind the trends? Understanding where people are at, can ultimately, help you communicate where they should be going.

posted @ Tuesday, March 30, 2010 9:33 AM | Feedback (0)

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Vatican's Top Ten Albums of All Time

Recently, The Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano named the top 10 rock/pop albums of all-time. According to the paper, the list is only "semi-serious", but either way, it's stirred quite the controversy (which also happens to be only semi-serious).

Some Catholic officials have posted objections to the content of list, in some cases jokingly criticizing the merits of some of the albums.

Here's their picks in order:

The Beatles' "Revolver"
Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon"
Oasis' "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?"
Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
U2's "Achtung Baby"
Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours"
Donald Fagen's "The Nightfly"
Carlos Santana's "Supernatural"
Paul Simon's "Graceland"
David Crosby's "If I Could Only Remember My Name."

Many bloggers have pointed out the snubbing of Bob Dylan, whom the paper said inspired too many other moaning singer/songwriters (though they did applaud his poetic achievements).

Obviously, The Vatican's list has had its desired intent—to stir up conversation. Recently, through L'Osservatore Romano, the Catholic Church has posted thoughts about other cultural talking points, including the film Avatar, the Harry Potter books and the resurgence of The Lord of the Rings.

Aside from my own thoughts about the critical merits of The Vatican's list, I do think it's a good thing when Christians can find common ground to engage with culture. Sure, not everyone will agree with a list like this (which is understandable), but by approaching a topic like pop-music with a "semi" serious attitude, it can help to disarm conversations with people who don't see-eye-to on more personal issues.

What do you think? Do you think a list like this is appropriate? Do you think it's all in good fun, or do you think a list of artists with such different social and religious leanings can cause confusion? 

posted @ Monday, March 01, 2010 2:24 PM | Feedback (0)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Super Controversy



In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, the Drew Brees/Peyton Manning match-up isn’t only football topic being debate—both players seem to be overshadowed by another story involving a different quarterback.

University of Florida superstar QB Tim Tebow (who enters the NFL draft this year), is at the center of a controversy stemming from an ad that will reportedly be shown during next weekend’s big game. According to The New York Times, “Tebow helped film a Super Bowl ad for a conservative Christian group, Focus on the Family. The details of the ad have not been released. But reports say that he and his mother will talk about how his birth was threatened by disease while in the Philippines and how she ignored medical advice to have an abortion.”

Some pro-choice advocacy groups have complained that CBS should not allow the ad during the Super Bowl, and the controversy surrounding the spot (which, at this point, no one has even seen yet) has set off a firestorm of debate on the Internet. Adding to the debate is that fact that it has also been reported that CBS rejected an ad by a gay dating site.

So what do you think? Do you think a network should have the right to choose the ads it plays? Do you think ads about politically sensitive issues should not be shown during the Super Bowl? Or, considering no one has actually seen the spot, that it could all be an over reaction? Sound off on myCBN.

posted @ Tuesday, February 02, 2010 10:16 AM | Feedback (1)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Hollywood Gets More Religious

The Washington Post has an interesting story about how religious Hollywood has gotten in the last year. The story notes how many movies openly discuss issues of faith—some praising religious values others questioning, or even openly mocking, aspects of religion.

In the article, HollywoodJesus.com editor Greg Wright is interviewed and says, “Hollywood gives audiences what audiences want to see. If people don't want to see movies with certain messages, they won't buy tickets.”

To a degree, I think he’s right; film studios are businesses. Sure, there are producers and filmmakers that have their own agendas and messages they want to convey, but at the end of the day, their goal is to make money. And, most of the time, this means making films that appeal of large audiences.

But, as far the openly religious content in many of today’s films (like The Road, The Blind Side, The Invention of Lying, and Avatar, as noted by The Washington Post), I don’t think it is as much of an indication of American values, as it is the evolving standard of social correctness.

Talking about religion publically used to be taboo. But, in era where politicians, musicians and public figures regularly cite their faith, openly discussing issues faith isn’t uncommon.

And, whether directly or indirectly, religious values and faith have always been a part of films—even if they weren’t openly discussed. Great films always showcase a deeper truth; and often, what makes great movies stand out, is their ability to show it a way that reveals the deeper consequences of truth.

There’s a pastor I like who said, “All truth is God’s truth.” In other words, God is the author of all things that are good—as creative as they may be filmmakers, actors or screenwriters didn’t invent the truth they sometimes portray. Justice, love, forgiveness, family and consequences are regular themes in many movies. These truths may not be openly “religious”, but they are deeply spiritual.

You can go here to read the story from The Washington Post

posted @ Tuesday, January 05, 2010 9:15 AM | Feedback (0)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Response to Poverty and Injustice

This morning on The 700 Club, Gordon interviewed American Bible Society President Lamar Vest. (The interview is embedded below). Vest discusses a new project ABS has partnered with World Vision to produce, called “The Poverty and Justice Bible”. The idea behind this Bible is to highlight every verse that deals poverty and justice. Scholars combed through the scriptures and found that there are almost 2,100 verses dealing with those issues—almost 10 percent of the Bible.

It's easy, especially in tumultuous economic times, to become focused on what God promises to us as individuals. But to see the huge emphasis the Bible places on living outwardly—serving those in need, and those suffering from injustice—is both inspiring and challenging.

In the interview, Gordon mentions how this idea relates to ideas found in the book of James. There are a few verses that stuck out to me in James as well: James 2:14-18: What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well"—but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

As we approach the holidays—particularly in a year when many families are in need—this should be a challenge to us as Christians to do what James encourages, and put our faith into action. Seek out those that have need; come beside to those who have been unjustly treated by others; pray that God gives you opportunities to give of yourself and share his love.

This is more than just an act of obedience; it’s an act of love and an expression of faith in a God who cares deeply for the poor and the victims of injustice.

James 2:26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

 

posted @ Friday, November 20, 2009 4:45 PM | Feedback (1)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fox Goes Biblical

While there’s been much talk in recent months about the recession hitting Hollywood, Twentieth Century Fox doesn’t appear to be shying away from the big-budget epic. According to this story from Variety, the movie giant will produce a large-scale retelling of the story of Moses.

The film was reportedly pitched as a “300-like” visual epic with lots of action. Executives are wanting to create a film in the vein of Mel Gibson’s Academy Award Winning Braveheart that will follow the story of Moses from his birth to his leading of the Israelites out of Egypt.

No word yet on who will play Moses.

posted @ Monday, October 12, 2009 11:08 AM | Feedback (0)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A CCM Controversy, the Return of Eduardo and More ...

Eduardo Returns
Eduardo Verastegui, the actor who gained mainstream notoriety for his role in the 2007 breakout indie film Bella, is returning to the screen. His latest is for the Doorpost Film Project, a short film competition with a mission to "to encourage truth-seeking visionaries by honoring their creativity as filmmakers, serving them in the context of building community and sharing their discoveries with the world so that others may have hope."

Verastegui is the lead in a film called the The Butterfly Circus—one of the competition’s top-10 finalists. Also among the finalists is a the film debut of evangelist Nick Vujicic, whose resent interview on The 700 Club in which he tells about living with no arms or legs, became a YouTube sensation.

CNN on Larry Norman
CNN has posted an article about the life, legacy and influence of rocker Larry Norman. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Norman’s provocative take on Christianity, combined with his rock ‘n roll style, made him a favorite among fans and drew criticism from some leaders. A documentary about Norman’s life is scheduled to be released in early 2010. 


Speaking of Controversial Artists …
Christianity Today has posted an interesting feature about singer/songwriter Derek Webb, whose latest album Stockholm Syndrome is being released with two different versions. One version contains the song “Fin”, which also happens to contain an expletive.

The former Caedmon’s Call singer is no stranger to controversy. His previous solo efforts also ruffled some feathers with subtle political commentary and lyrics that aren’t exactly traditional CCM fair. One Christian retailer even refused to sell his 2003 debut because of its “strong language”.

The CT article talks to both Webb and executives at his label about the controversy, the compromise and the context of Webb’s latest album.

posted @ Monday, September 14, 2009 3:42 PM | Feedback (0)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Blair and Bono speak, Cliff gets spiritual, a blogger's last letter and more ....

Rock ‘n Roll Leadership
U2 frontman and AIDS relief activist Bono and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair are among the speakers who will be featured at the leadership summit this weekend being organized by the Willow Creek Association. Willow Creek Church, which is one of the most influential evangelical churches in America, will broadcast the summit to affiliated churches across the country.
 
What If …
Jenkins Entertainment (the movie production house from father and son team Dallas and Jerry Jenkins—one of the authors of the “Left Behind” series) is reportedly working on a new film starring Kevin Sorbo and John Ratzenberger. In “What If …” Sorbo, who is best known for his roll as TV’s Hercules, plays Ben, a high-powered businessman who abandoned his calling and the love of his life years ago in favor of wealth and status. According to a press release, “Ben is visited by a mysterious (divine, perhaps?) tow truck driver (Ratzenberger) who knocks Ben into an alternative reality--the life he should have had. Ben awakens on a Sunday with his wife Wendy and two daughters getting ready for church, where Ben is scheduled to give his first sermon as the new pastor. If Ben wants to escape this "What If..." scenario, he must first learn the value of faith and family.”

You may recognize Ratzenberger—he played Cliff on "Cheers" and voices characters in all of the Pixar films. The film kind of sounds reminiscent of the Nicolas Cage Christmas movie “The Family Man”, but it sounds like an interesting project. You can check out the filmmaker’s blog to learn more about the movie: http://whatifmovie.wordpress.com


God of this City
A church in Michigan has responded to the recession by setting up a booth at city hall and offering a unique service—prayer. The prayer station has become so popular (they say they’re averaging about 125 prayers a week), that word is spreading around town. Even the manager of a local 7-Eleven and a the owner of a gas station in town want prayer stations set up at their businesses. The church volunteers (who take turns manning the prayer booth) say that residents, who have been hit hard after the loss of so many auto-industry jobs, appreciate the opportunity receive ministry.


A Blogger’s Last Letter
Blogger Ed Stetzer has posted the result of an interesting and solemn exercise called “The Last Letter.” The idea is based on the tradition of soldiers and missionaries to write letters to their families before embarking on dangerous journeys in case they do not return. Obviously, it’s an incredibly vulnerable and introspective writing exercise, but, as you can read from the couple examples on Stetzer’s blog, it can yield powerful results.

posted @ Friday, August 07, 2009 5:22 PM | Feedback (0)

Monday, June 29, 2009

What we've been up to ...

You may have noticed the lack of activity on the blog recently. First off, I apologize for the inconsistent updates lately. But you may have also noticed a new feature that launched—my.CBN.com. For the last several months, the CBN.com team has been working to create our very own social network; a place where users can create profiles, connect with others, help sponsor fundraising goals and grow in their faith together. So even though the blog has been a little stagnate, we have been staying busy! (Thanks for your patience by the way!)

The launch of our own social network has come at an interesting time for social media. When the mainstream media had their access restricted in Iran during protest following disputed election results, the world turned to another medium to see what was happening. Citizen journalists, activists and protestors armed only with cell phone cameras, lap tops and internet connects posted images and updates about the oppressive crackdown on social networking sites. Even the United States government attested to the power of this new medium. During the heights of the upheaval in Iran, the State Department requested that the micro-blogging site Twitter post-pone pre-scheduled site maintenance because “tweets” from the protests had become so vital to allowing the world to see what was happening on the streets of Iran.

In a later press briefing, an official from the State Department said, "I think, as I was following this … I began to recognize the importance of new social media as a vital tool for citizens' empowerment and as a way for people to get their messages out.”

And though the social media concept of “citizen empowerment” has captured the world’s attention for its ability showcase political oppression and social unrest, it is just one of the reasons why traditional media is giving way to a new kind of mass communications—one that is relational.

The example of what happened in Iran is just one of the signs of a shifting tide in the way people communicate. In the last year, thousands of CBN.com users have received ministry through live chat rooms during our Spiritual Gifts webcasts. Now, connection can happen around the clock as users create profiles, invite friends and post their own content to the community.

To learn more about the new community, you can read my recent article, “What Is My.CBN.com?” and of course, join the community and try it out for yourself. We can’t wait to connect with you.

posted @ Monday, June 29, 2009 4:43 PM | Feedback (0)

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Few Quick Links

Sorry for the lack of new posts lately. As you can see from poking around the site, we've been pretty busy with some changes and new features (CBN Radio, CBN TV, the new CBN News). Thanks for your patience! Here's a few stories from around the web that caught may attention this week:

Marketing the Church
With the numbers of Americans who call themselves “unaffiliated” from a religious denomination on the rise, what are churches doing to re-present themselves to the public? Advertising Age has posted a new story called “Churches Get Religion on Marketing” that looks at new, media-centered initiatives some churches are undergoing to each the masses.


Brewing up Discussion
A recent article in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal magazine about the growing role of alcohol (and positions on drinking) is causing quit the stir. The feature story “Trouble Brewing”, which was published early this month, has become a hot source of discuss on some Christian message boards and among some church leaders.


Life-Saving Faith
Stephen McEveety, one of the producers of The Passion of the Christ, has acquired the rights to the autobiography “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust." The book is the tells the story of a women who survived the genocide while clinging to her faith in God.


Baseball's Salvation.
Baseball star Darryl Strawberry was a guest on The Club this week. During his interview he recounts his powerful testimony of going from a sports superstar to hitting bottom after a battle with addiction. His story of faith and redemption reminded me of another ball player whose testimony has also been getting a lot of attention lately—Josh Hamilton.

posted @ Friday, May 15, 2009 10:34 AM | Feedback (0)