Category Archives: Music
All about Music
Apple has launched a social network as part of the latest version of its iTunes software.
Ping, as it is known, allows users to build networks of friends and professional musicians, in a similar way to services such as Twitter.
The service also builds playlists based on what friends are listening to.
Analysts said it represents a challenge to existing music-based social networks such as MySpace.
“It’s a social network all about music,” said Mr Jobs, launching the application at an event in San Francisco.
“We think this will be really popular very fast because 160 million people can switch it on today,” he said.
Veteran artist returns after seven-year hiatus with a feisty new album, Letting Go, while also revealing that she’s gay
Seven years ago, while at the top of her game, Jennifer Knapp announced what seemed to many a sudden decision: She was stepping away from Christian music, taking an indefinite hiatus. Rumors began to swirl—she was burned out, she needed a rest, she was upset about something, she was gay. Turns out that all the rumors were true, as Knapp reveals in this rambling, exclusive interview withChristianity Today. The one-time Grammy nominee ended her hiatus in late 2009with a few small shows, an updated website, and an announcement that she was writing new songs. Many of those songs will be featured on Letting Go, releasing May 11, her first album since 2001′s The Way I Am.
In one of her first extensive interviews since announcing her comeback, Knapp, 36, talks to CT about why she quit music in the first place, her lifestyle choice, her rekindled passion for songwriting, her faith, her new album, and more.
You announced your “hiatus” in 2003. Was that a sudden decision, or was it boiling for a while?
Jennifer Knapp: It was boiling for me. I think people thought I just fell into a hole and disappeared, but I had been trying to get out of being on the road 250 days a year. Lay It Down was a 2000 release, andThe Way I Am was 2001; those records were literally back to back, and I was touring while recording The Way I Am. I was telling people “Man, I can’t keep up the schedule. This is just a little bit crazy.” I didn’t have any space to just be a normal human being. I finally realized nobody was going to make that decision for me, so I just said, “I’m not kidding. I need a break, and it starts now.”
That decision came mid-2001, but my schedule didn’t allow me to stop until September 2002, when I did my last show; I basically still had about a year and a half worth of contracted concerts and other things before I could stop.
A lot of people hit burnout, but I don’t think many think, I’m going to take seven years off. What were you thinking?
Knapp: At the time, I literally thought I was quitting. I needed such a break, and I needed the silence to be deafening. But in the back of my mind I thought, Maybe in a couple of years I’ll come back and give this another go. It was a huge risk to say I may never do this again. It was a real heart wrenching decision.
Once you fulfilled your last obligation, was there a big sigh of relief? Or what?
Knapp: I was scared to death. You just don’t leave something that everyone else says is extremely successful. Some people close to me said I was doing something wrong—that [quitting] was a denial of the gifts I had. I was like, Whoa, hold on a second. I’m just asking for a little bit of time. That was a lot to deal with. It took two or three years to get over the rollercoaster ride of emotions. One day I’d be completely angry; the next day completely heartbroken and devastated; the next raging jealous because somebody’s out there doing something that I love doing and I can’t do it. And some days I was in complete denial. It was almost like a psychological profile of grief. [It took a while] to let the dust settle and figure out what kind of human being was left.
There were rumors that you left music because you were gay.
Knapp: That was a straw [in my decision], but there were many straws on the camel’s back at the time. I’m certainly in a same-sex relationship now, but when I suspended my work, that wasn’t even really a factor. I had some difficult decisions to make and what that meant for my life and deciding to invest in a same-sex relationship, but it would be completely unfair to say that’s why I left music.
Were you involved in a relationship at that time you left?
Knapp: Around 2002, I was starting to contend with this new-found “issue” in my life. But I’d already decided to leave music before I knew I was going to contend with that. I don’t want anyone to think that I ran out of town with my tail between my legs because I had something to hide.
Or that you were run out of town.
Knapp: Or that I was run out of town. Neither is true.
When you wrote The Way I Am, was that a veiled statement about being gay?
Knapp: That record means a lot more to me now than it did at the time. That whole record for me was an exercise in the carnal body of Christ manifested. One of the biggest decisions I was wrestling with then was, If I don’t do Christian music, am I not a believer anymore?
Why come back now? What has changed?
Knapp: At some point [last year] when I started to write again, I realized that the process was rather organic. I started playing at home, and my friends are going, “Oh wow, that’s pretty good. What are you going to do with that?” I said, “What do you mean, what am I going to do with it? Nothing!” The return has been a lot like the way I started music in the first place. We’re doing a four-day run of concerts right now, I’m in a van, I just spent half my afternoon driving, and if I’m lucky I get dinner before I play tonight. There’s something about that process you’ve got to love. I just think it took me a lot longer to figure out if that passion was a safe one for me.
You spent about five of the last seven years in Australia, right?
Knapp: Yes. But I’ve been back in the States since September. During those seven years, I entertained myself for quite some time by traveling. I traveled all through Europe. I traveled through the U.S. for about a year. I was basically a transient for about four years.
Traveling alone or with your partner?
Knapp: With my partner.
Have you been with the same partner for a long time?
Knapp: About eight years, but I don’t want to get into that. For whatever reason the rumor mill [about me being gay] has persisted for so long, I wanted to acknowledge; I don’t want to come off as somebody who’s shirking the truth in my life. At the same time, I’m intensely private. Even if I were married to a man and had six children, it would be my personal choice to not get that kind of conversation rolling.
I understand. But I’m curious: Were you struggling with same-sex attraction when writing your first three albums? Those songs are so confessional, clearly coming from a place of a person who knows her need for grace and mercy.
Knapp: To be honest, it never occurred to me while writing those songs. I wasn’t seeking out a same-sex relationship during that time.
During my college years, I received some admonishment about some relationships I’d had with women. Some people said, “You might want to renegotiate that,” even though those relationships weren’t sexual. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess it makes sense. But if you remove the social problem that homosexuality brings to the church—and the debate as to whether or not it should be called a “struggle,” because there are proponents on both sides—you remove the notion that I am living my life with a great deal of joy. It never occurred to me that I was in something that should be labeled as a “struggle.” The struggle I’ve had has been with the church, acknowledging me as a human being, trying to live the spiritual life that I’ve been called to, in whatever ramshackled, broken, frustrated way that I’ve always approached my faith. I still consider my hope to be a whole human being, to be a person of love and grace. So it’s difficult for me to say that I’ve struggled within myself, because I haven’t. I’ve struggled with other people. I’ve struggled with what that means in my own faith. I have struggled with how that perception of me will affect the way I feel about myself.
Are you beyond those struggles?
Knapp: I don’t know. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. But now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m contending with the culture shock of moving back here. There’s some extremely volatile language and debate—on all sides—that just breaks my heart. Frankly, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be making any kind of public statement at all. But there are people I care about within the church community who would seek to throw me out simply because of who I’ve chosen to spend my life with.
So why come out of the closet, so to speak?
Knapp: I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.
Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your faith or your gay feelings?
Knapp: Yes. Absolutely.
Because you felt they were incompatible?
Knapp: Well, everyone around me made it absolutely clear that this is not an option for me, to invest in this other person—and for me to choose to do so would be a denial of my faith.
What about what Scripture says on the topic?
Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the “clobber verses” to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.
Some argue that the feelings of homosexuality are not sinful, but only the act. What would you say?
Knapp: I’m not capable of fully debating that well. But I’ve always struggled as a Christian with various forms of external evidence that we are obligated to show that we are Christians. I’ve found no law that commands me in any way other than to love my neighbor as myself, and that love is the greatest commandment. At a certain point I find myself so handcuffed in my own faith by trying to get it right—to try and look like a Christian, to try to do the things that Christians should do, to be all of these things externally—to fake it until I get myself all handcuffed and tied up in knots as to what I was supposed to be doing there in the first place.
If God expects me, in order to be a Christian, to be able to theologically justify every move that I make, I’m sorry. I’m going to be a miserable failure.
You’re living in Nashville. Are you in a church these days?
The Christian music industry can be fickle. Fans, radio, and retail were angry at Amy Grant for her divorce, at Michael English and Sandi Patty for adultery. But eventually, they were “welcomed” back. How do you think your fans and radio and Christian stores will react to the news that you’re gay? Or do you care?
Knapp: I do have a soul! (laughs) I care deeply. It’s a very heart-wrenching decision to come into a room knowing that there are many people who just won’t come with me. The Christian bookstore thing is probably not going to happen; this isn’t a Christian record, and it’s not going to be marketed to Christian radio.
K-LOVE won’t pick this one up?
Knapp: I doubt it, but there’s no reason they can’t play it. To me, my faith is fairly evident in what I’m writing, but it’s not a record for the sanctuary. That in itself is a huge risk for me—to be able to write without feeling like I’ve got to manufacture something that’s not entirely genuine, to take a song and feel like I have to make an obvious biblical reference. That’s not there anymore. I’ve actually buried it; for me, it’s an exercise in liberty. In a spiritual context, will God still be evident in me when I write songs? I sort of nervously wring my hands together and go, Please don’t leave me.
You’re saying Please don’t leave me to God, or fans, or whom?
Knapp: To me, and the divine experience of being a musician—that private world of where I integrate that into my life and where it comes out on a public level, as a song. I have a lot of fans who live in real-life scenarios, not just live within the walls of their church. They aren’t surrounded by Christians all day long; they don’t just listen to Christian music. I have a lot of critically thinking fans who are trying to sort out their lives as Christians as best they know how. I think as a result of that, a lot of them have been marginalized; they’re still seeking to be Christians but not always measuring up to the marketed idea of who they should be.
You’re playing live shows again …
Knapp: Yes. My concerts right now include the ultra-conservative hand raisers that are going to make this bar their worship zone. And there’s a guy over on the left having one too many, and there’s a gay couple over on the right. That’s my dream scenario. I love each and every one of them. At the end of the day, it’s music.
Are you still playing your old songs in concert?
Knapp: A bit, yeah.
Knapp: “Martyrs and Thieves” I’ll probably always play off of Kansas. “Fall Down” off of The Way I Am. The songs still have to speak to me. I had to go back and learn my old songs, but that’s been part of my process too—feeling like because I was gay that I couldn’t sing those songs anymore. I even said, “Don’t give me a [live] set longer than what I can play with this new music, because I just can’t play the old music.” I just flat out said I wouldn’t do it.
But you’re already rethinking that?
Knapp: I’m enjoying what I’m playing now. It’s been organic. Amy Courts, a gal who’s joined me on this tour, said she wanted to sing some of the old songs with me. I was like, Man, I don’t know. I swore I’d never play that song again. But we start playing it, and it just hits me right in my heart. It’s like somebody else wrote it. I realized that it comes from a very honest, genuine place. I’ve started to make those connections between the old songs and what I’m doing now. It was an extraordinarily helpful connect, because for a long time I thought it was old life vs. new life. But it’s not. It was a real comfort to me to realize I’m still the same person, that the baggage or new scenarios we pick up along the way are part of the long-term story.
The new record is called Letting Go. Is that a statement?
Knapp: Oh, I love record titles! (laughs) I suppose. There’s a song called “Letting Go,” and it’s basically just a struggle to hold onto the things that have been valuable to me. That was one of the last song I wrote going into this, when I started to have a panic attack going I can’t do this. People are going to chew me up and spit me out and tell me that I’m worthless. I think the process of writing that song was really helpful to realize that I really enjoy what I’m doing, and I’m not going to let go of my faith and I’m not going to let go of the passion to do music the way I want, in case there are other people telling me I can do neither because of personal decisions I’ve made.
In the lyrics to that song, who is the you when you sing, “Holding onto you is a menace to my soul”?
Knapp: It changes nightly. It seriously does. And it can change three or four times while I’m singing it. Some days it’s my faith. Some days I’m singing to God, like You’re a menace, man. It’s hard to keep my faith. Sometimes it’s music, and sometimes it’s being on the road. It’s a lot of those scenarios. That song is a bit of a chameleon, because it’s all of those fearful moments that want to handicap me from not moving forward, when I’d rather move forward with grace and as much kindness as I can—and make my mistakes and hope that grace will follow me.
So it turns out to be the title of the record. I think a lot of folks around this process have been excited about what it’s taken for me to get to this point—to be able to pull a trigger, to be able to go, Okay, really I want to play. A few years back, people were offering me five and six figures to come out and just do one show. I’m like, No, you cannot pay me enough. So that idea of letting go, and just the celebration that this record has felt like—finding music again, finding the passion to face up to a really challenging career but one that’s extraordinarily rewarding, that when you lay your head on the pillow at the end of the night you go, Man, I’m bone tired, but that was good. For me, that’s what it means.
I’m tired of spending hours and hours thinking about what if scenarios—what if nobody wants it, what if everybody is mad, what if I’m a complete disappointment. Now it’s, Here it is. I’ve got to let it go. That’s one of the frustrating parts of my Christian walk, the scenario that if I don’t get it right, that I’ve somehow failed God and failed my faith.
There are a few songs here that I would call angry songs. Is that fair?
Knapp: Which ones do you call angry songs?
Well, there’s “If It Made a Difference,” where you sing, “Sorry I ever gave a damn / Sorry I even tried to waste all the better parts of me / On not just anyone who came to mind.” And “Inside,” where you sing, “I know they’ll bury me before they hear the whole story … / Who the hell do you think you are?” Sounds angry to me!
Knapp: Okay. I’m okay if you call them angry. I prefer to think of them as, well …
Knapp: I’m just really enjoying the opportunity as a writer to be able to put a kinetic energy into what’s been welling up inside of me. It’s great to be able to not feel like I’ve got to turn that frustration into a happy, cheery …
But you’ve never been like that, Jennifer. I don’t listen to your old albums and think Oh, this is all happy, shiny music. I hate happy, shiny music!
Knapp: I think “angry” is probably … I’m not really an angry person. I’m passionate, and I’ve certainly been known to raise my voice and pound my fists, but in the heart of me it’s not a destructive thing. It’s more the type of energy of what it takes when a person’s being thwarted. I wrote “Inside” in complete and utter fear to voices in my head that told me that I couldn’t be a person of faith.
In the song’s third line, you sing, “God forbid they give me grace.” Do you really believe that no believers will show you grace?
Knapp: It’s a much larger picture than that. I don’t want anyone to think the song is targeted at the church, or at the ways we find judgment cast upon us. It’s a challenge to break free of that and to own who you really are. That’s my heart’s cry for anyone I’ve ever met. It’s not on my agenda to convert the world to a religion, but to convert the world to compassion and grace. I’ve experienced that in my life through Christianity.
“Inside” isn’t about the church. It’s about me, and how I struggle to be myself daily—honest and truthful to who I really am. It would break my heart if people got through this [album], especially the Christian audience, and found themselves with another artist that was just angry at the church. That’s not where I’m at. If there’s any anger or frustration on this record, it’s the desperation to hold onto what is honest and true, and let the rest of it just burn.
I would be really sad if people thought this was a sword trying to cut up something I’ve been deeply moved by. Christian music has been a great surprise for me, but I didn’t aspire to be a Christian music artist. I aspired to be a Christian in my private life, and I think it’s a wonderful side effect that can happen with music—that you can get a lot of people to share in that specific experience. So it would be a tragedy if people couldn’t see the forest for the trees, to see the connectivity between Kansasand Letting Go. It’s there for me, gratefully, with a big, huge, massive sigh of relief. It’s not like I left Christian music because Christian music was bad, or that I’m not participating in church because the church is evil. It’s none of those things. For me, it’s the journey that I’m on, trying to figure things about as best I can.
The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback says he stands up for what he believes. Even so, the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad against abortion threatens to politicize ‘Super Sunday’ and turn some fans and NFL coaches against him.
By Patrik Jonsson
In a historic career at the University of Florida, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow has kept his faith and his convictions confined mostly to a few square inches beneath his eyes: Every Saturday, he would write a Biblical citation on his eye black.
Now, at the very moment when his hope of becoming a pro football quarterback hangs in the balance, Tim Tebow is taking on perhaps the single most divisive topic in America – abortion – in an advertisement set to air during the single most-watched television program of the year: the Super Bowl.
For a handsome and humble young man, who has become revered throughout much of the South for his devoutness as well as his on-field skill, it is an astonishingly bold decision. In the 30-second ad against abortion, he will speak from his own experience of how his mother did not abort him despite medical advice to do so.
Abortion-rights groups are already calling for the ad’s removal, saying that the group behind the ad is “anti-woman” and “anti-equality.” Online chatter is expressing an unease about Tebow’s willingness to infuse Super Bowl Sunday – an apolitical American rite – with politics. And, perhaps most concerning for Tebow himself, pro football teams already skeptical of his ability to transition to the National Football League might see this as further reason to avoid him on draft day.
“I do stand up for what I believe,” Tebow told Sports Illustrated last summer. “And at least you can respect that.”
Raised on a farm outside Jacksonville, Fla., by the son of an evangelist preacher and a mom who home-schooled him, Tebow is an amalgam of charismatic leader, world-class athlete, and devout Christian Southern boy. His faith resonates among fans in the Deep South.
But by targeting the Super Bowl, his “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” ad ranges far beyond the familiar confines of the conservative South. Fans and coaches in the NFL might resent him for pushing a cultural message on a day usually reserved for quarterback matchups and halftime extravaganzas.
“We’re going down a road here that is filled with potholes, moral and otherwise,” writes Orlando Sentinel sports columnist George Diaz, suggesting that the ad could lead to more advocacy ads, which Super Bowl broadcaster CBS has said it will consider.
The ad, funded by the Focus on the Family organization, is expected to tell the story of Tebow and his mother, Pam. Ill while pregnant with Tim, Pam refused suggestions to abort her son. Those who have seen the ad describe it as “uplifting.”
“I asked God for a preacher, and he gave me a quarterback,” Tebow’s dad, Bob, has famously said about the trying pregnancy.
The appropriate venue?
But various groups, including the National Organization for Women, have called for CBS to withdraw the ad. They say that both the ad’s advocacy content, as well as the group behind it are unacceptable. So far, CBS has said it intends to run the ad.
“This un-American hate doesn’t have a place in this all-American pastime,” Kierra Johnson, executive director of Choice USA, told Fox News.
Tebow has for years had to walk the line between the conviction of his faith and open proselytizing. But the ad comes at a crossroads for Tebow. Professional scouts have said Tebow’s throwing motion and skill-set are poorly suited for the NFL, and his preparations for the upcoming Senior Bowl, which offers coaches a first up-close look at college prospects, haven’t gone well so far this week.
“The anti-abortion ad that he’s in that will possibly run during the Super Bowl will likely create an uproar for him as well that some teams might not want to get involved in,” writes Mark Miller on Yahoo! Sports.
Yet it is the timing of his ad – and not necessarily the content – that could knock Tebow down a few notches among NFL fans. Indeed, a May 2009 Gallup poll found that, for the first time since the poll began in 1995, more Americans are anti-abortion than pro-abortion rights. But timing is everything.
“There are going to be about 100 million of us who won’t be happy for 30 seconds of the Super Bowl,” writes CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel. “I’m not complaining about the ad because it’s anti-abortion and I’m not. I’m complaining about the ad because it’s pro-politics. And I’m not. Not on Super Sunday.”
Outspoken Christian Quarterback Kurt Warner announced his retirement from the National Football League on Friday, thanking God for the opportunities he received both on and off the field.
“As always, as it started in 1999 when I was up on the podium holding up a trophy, the first thing I want to do is give thanks to God,” Warner said during a press conference in Tempe, Ariz., referring to his widely-heard shot out to the Almighty following his Super Bowl win with the St. Louis Rams.
“My Lord Jesus brought me here. I know he brought me here for a purpose. And it’s been an amazing ride,” he added.
Though Hall of Fame-bound Warner stands out as one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history – with an impressive list of achievements that includes three MVP awards, a Super Bowl win, and the second-highest completion percentage in NFL history – Warner is most noted for his King David-esque rise to stardom, which was twice witnessed.
Not only did Warner go from stocking shelves at a grocery store in 1994 to a winning a Super Bowl in 2000, he also returned to the spotlight after his time appeared to be up, leading the Arizona Cardinals to the franchises’ first-ever Super Bowl in 2009.
“I don’t think I could have dreamt out that it would have played out as it had. But I’ve been humbled everyday that I’ve woke up for the last 12 years and amazed that God would choose to use me to do what He’s given me the opportunity to do over 12 years,” Warner said Friday.
But the one-time Super Bowl MVP made it clear that the opportunities he was given were not only on the football field. For him, it’s not just about the successes and the Super Bowls and the wins and the losses.
“[I]t’s also been the opportunities that He (God)’s given to me off the football field,” Warner stated.
Since his rise to stardom, Warner has been a featured speaker across the country for numerous churches, non-profit organizations, men’s conferences, and corporate events.
Warner’s work both on and off the field, meanwhile, resulted in him being awarded the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2008 and the Muhammad Ali Sports Leadership Award in 2009. Warner was also selected by USA Weekend as the winner of its annual Most Caring Athlete Award for 2009 and, just last month, topped a Sports Illustrated poll of NFL players to name the best role model on and off the field in the NFL.
First Things First Foundation, a non-profit public charity that he and his wife established in 2001, has been involved with numerous projects for causes such as children’s hospitals, people with developmental disabilities and assisting single parents.
“So I hope that when people think back over my career – maybe it’s just over the next couple of weeks as they reflect on it or maybe it’s years to come – that that’s what they remember more than anything else,” Warner said Friday.
“Not the way I threw the football, not particular games that I won. But that they remember that here’s a guy that believed, that worked hard, and – although things didn’t always go in his favor – he continued to press through. And with his faith in himself and with his faith in God, he was able to accomplish great things,” he concluded.
As for his future plans, Warner said earlier at the press conference that he’s just as excited about the next 12 years as he has the past “12 unbelievable years – 12 of the best years of my life.”
“I’m excited about what lies in front of me. I’m excited about spending more time with my family and seeing what God’s going to do next,” he reported.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Warner will keep his charitable foundation going, perhaps do some speaking, writing, ministry work, and maybe some football analyst work on TV or radio.
First Things First Foundation, which draws its name from Warner’s famed post-Super Bowl response in 2000, is dedicated to impacting lives by promoting Christian values, sharing experiences and providing opportunities “to encourage everyone that all things are possible when people seek to put first things first.”
The charity’s guiding principle is Matthew 6:33, which states “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
By James L. Lambert
During last month’s MTV music video awards ceremony, actor Jack Black urged the audience join hands and pray to “dear dark lord Satan.” In his prayer, the actor prayed that the musicians and nominees would have “continued success in the music industry.” The awards program was broadcasted on the MTV network (a subsidiary of the Viacom Corporation) throughout the country through cable and satellite television.
The Radio City Hall audience readily acquiesced to Black’s invitation to pray to the devil. In a video posted on YouTube, Black encouraged the large audience to join in by saying, “let me see those horns.” Black, dressed in a “muscle suit” continued by asking the awards ceremony audience to join hands during “the prayer.” He then held hands with actress Leighton Meester while he prayed aloud.
Black’s prayer went basically unnoticed among most conservative and Christian media circles — perhaps because they feel the comedian was simply joking as he displayed his contempt for Christianity with the prayer invocation. In fact, this would be in keeping with Black’s previous behavior.
In 2008 he participated in a video that mocked supporters of California’s marriage initiative, Proposition 8. In commenting on that video, the Culture and Media Institute (CMI) said Black “appears as Jesus rebuking the Proposition 8 supporters while munching on a shrimp cocktail and saying that the Bible condemns eating shellfish too. Then he [Black] reels off some scripture references without context to suggest that the Bible is self-contradictory and unreliable.” In their press release (December 4, 2008), CMI described Black as “an anti-Christian bigot.”
But regardless how one looks at Black’s actions, it sets a dangerous precedent. Author and King’s College professor Paul McGuire labels Black’s prayer to Satan as “just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in our nation and in the entertainment industry.” The conservative commentator contends that “although it is hidden, Satanism is one of the fastest growing religions in America.” He adds: “We can expect to see Satanists demanding and getting the same rights as any other religion.”
Former Hollywood actor Bob Turnbull says Black’s prayer to the “dark side” was “pathetic and sick,” which shows a “heartbreakingly sad” side of Hollywood’s culture. Turnbull, also known as the “Chaplain of Waikiki,” knows a little something about Hollywood. In the ’60s and ’70s, he appeared in a number of well-known movies (The Little People, Camelot, Tora Tora Tora) and television shows (Hawaii Five-0, Petticoat Junction, My Three Sons, Bob Hope Chrysler Theater, Another Life).
Phil Magnan, director of BFamilyAdvocates.com, chimes in, wondering if Black “really knows what he is invoking or has any idea how destructive Satanism really is.”
Radio talk-show host Jesse Lee Peterson has a different take on Black’s prayer. Peterson is instead at odds with MTV, the network that hosts the awards. He says it is “disturbing that MTV continues to promote the most degenerate and base programs on its network….[They] intentionally air programming designed to seduce and corrupt the minds and hearts of America’s youth” (like Sex…with Mom and Dad, among others).
Ultimately, McGuire believes there could be some encouraging signs to come. While he affirms his belief that the level of darkness will continue, the Christian author strongly believes that simultaneously Americans will “see a revival among the youth similar to the Jesus Movement in the ’70s.”
Evangelical author Josh McDowell takes on theology of media icon
DALLAS, Texas – “One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live, and we don’t accept that there are diverse ways to being in the world. There are many paths to what you call God.”
Oprah Winfrey said it. And when she did, many Americans who love Oprah believed it.
But one of the best-selling living evangelical authors, Josh McDowell, is not about to sit back and let that statement go unchallenged.
The result is a very unusual book – both in Christian publishing and in the world of secular literature.
It’s called “O God: A Dialogue on Truth and Oprah’s Spirituality” – and its official debut in bookstores nationwide comes tomorrow.
“As Christian apologists who believe that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, we wanted to create a fictional, almost Socratic dialogue that would cover many of the themes of Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual teaching in recent years,” explain McDowell and co-author Dave Sterrett in their preface.
Rather than pile on Oprah with Bible verses to contradict her casual New Age proclamations, McDowell and Sterrett use a fictional conversation – or series of conversations – between two female graduate students, both seeking spiritual truth.
The book comes out as Oprah is very much center stage in the news world.
Even in her bid with first lady Michelle Obama to land the Olympics in Chicago, her rhetoric took a markedly spiritual tone.
“I love this city, because this city has been so great to me and I know what this city has to offer,” Winfrey said. “My message is really about my love for Chicago and … the spirit that we know the games will bring and the spirit that the people of Chicago will bring to the Games.”
Oprah is also lending her name to a new movie about abusive relationships called “Push,” for which she serves as executive producer.
“Push” is about an abused, obese teenager in Harlem who is pregnant with her second child and how a teacher at an alternative school tries to pull her out of her situation. Winfrey was inspired by the message of hope that the book and film present.
“What struck me is that you can live in those circumstances and still find hope,” she said. “You can’t do that on your own. Somebody has to show it to you. For me it was teachers.”
It is Oprah’s compassion that lures millions to her TV show and her magazine and the persona that has become an industry. Yet, McDowell and Sterrett explore the possibility that misguided compassion, based on human emotions rather than divine revelation and God’s law, can lead people in dangerous directions.
“If you are a Christ follower who believes, as we do, that God’s salvation is only through Jesus Christ alone, perhaps this book, ‘O God,’ will inspire a conversation with friends who are asking you questions,” they write. “How do you respond when a friend at your work, school, book club, gym or family reunion brings up Oprah Winfrey’s teaching or a form of new spirituality? Do you know how to speak and live the truth in love? This book probably won’t provide every single answer to all your questions about God and spirituality, but we hope it will provide some. Our desire is that ‘O God’ will create friendly and perhaps robust spiritual conversation about the most important things in your life.”
McDowell has authored or co-authored more than 110 books with more than 35 million in print worldwide. His classic “More Than a Carpenter” alone sold more than 15 million copies.
America reacts to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize
By Drew Zahn
“It’s not April 1, is it?” a White House aide reportedly asked ABC’s Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos.
In an official statement, the president says he was “most surprised and deeply humbled.”
Others have expressed similar shock that Obama, in office for less than 10 months, had been awarded the prize. Underlying the shock is the fact that the deadline for filing nominations for the award is Feb. 1 of any given year, meaning the president was nominated after being in office for just 11 days.
“The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’” said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.”
A shocked Michael Savage further blasted the Nobel Prize committee for its choice:
“What has [Obama] done? Has he discovered a cure for brain cancer I don’t know about?” the talk radio host asked in a Newsweek interview. “We all know what the Nobel Prize committee is ever since Yasir Arafat won. It’s a radical leftist front group that hijacked Alfred Nobel’s prize.”
Fellow radio talker Rush Limbaugh also heaped on criticism, stating that awarding the prize to such an unaccomplished president is a “greater embarrassment” than Obama’s recent failed bid to bring the Olympic Games to Chicago.
“This fully exposes the illusion that is Barack Obama,” Limbaugh told POLITICO in an e-mail. “And with this ‘award’ the elites of the world are urging Obama, THE MAN OF PEACE, to not do the surge in Afghanistan, not take action against Iran and its nuclear program and to basically continue his intentions to emasculate the United States.”
Limbaugh continued, “They love a weakened, neutered U.S., and this is their way of promoting that concept.”
Other reactions, however, have been glowing:
“Obama got the prize not for doing, but for being. Not for making peace, but for exemplifying something new on the world stage – the politics of dignity,” wrote Robert Fuller, former president of Oberlin College, on the Huffington Post. “What is dignitarian politics? It is the recognition that people the world over actually want dignity more than they want either liberty or equality. In policy terms, it means ensuring dignity for all – within and among nations.”
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement, “We are pleased that our president has been awarded one of the highest honors for any world leader. Under president Obama’s leadership, our nation is beginning to restore its international image as a beacon of peace and justice.”
He continued, “CAIR and the American Muslim community stand ready to partner with President Obama in promoting the ‘mutual interest and mutual respect’ he mentioned in his inaugural address.”
WND readers have sent in their share of comments, too.
“To the best of my knowledge, no American President in modern history with no significant foreign policy experience, no major world-shaking legislation to his credit as a junior senator with two years of experience and only a few weeks in office as president before the deadline for nominations ended has won a Nobel Peace Prize,” writes WND reader Geoffrey Cox. “Surely this could only be accomplished either by a figure of deity, or by the voting of some incredibly stupid or corrupt Norwegians – I’m going with the latter.”
Obama is the third sitting U.S. president to win the award, after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, the former in the fifth year of his presidency for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese war and the latter in the sixth year of his administration, largely for his role in establishing the League of Nations.
Other WND readers have also taken exception to awarding the Nobel Prize to a president with few international accomplishments:
- “The Nobel Peace Prize nine months into his term for … what?” asks WND reader Henry Frickel. “That’s like giving me, a guy who barely knows how to cut-and-paste and thinks Excel is something you do with that pedal on the right, the Computer World ‘Techie of the Year Award.’”
- “Obama winning the Nobel, what a joke!” scoffed reader Sherry Perkins. “How do you win a Nobel Prize for peace when you have troops killing people in another country?”
- “Has President Obama reduced standing armies? Did he speak out for the peace process when thousands of Iranians were slaughtered in the streets? No,” writes reader Louis Frederick. “He managed to convince most the world that America is arrogant, uncaring and not worthy of the superpower status we once held. He stood with hands on hips while Russia rolled over the democratic state of Georgia, and the reward was the removal of a missile shield from Czechoslovakia. He flaps lips while Iran is feverishly working on nuclear weapons to bring ‘peace’ to the Middle East by destroying the democratic state of Israel. Ludicrous.”
- R.C. Rochte comments, “So, ‘The One’ has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (on credit for more surrenders of American sovereignty in the future, no doubt).”
Other reactions from around the country have challenged Obama’s merit for the award, not on his resume but on his politics. Judie Brown, president of American Life League, released the following statement:
“Bestowing the Nobel Prize on the most rabid pro-abortion president in history is a direct slap in the face to past recipient, Mother Teresa of Calcutta who said, upon receiving her Nobel Peace Prize: ‘the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself.’” Brown said. “In awarding the prize to Obama, the Nobel Committee is announcing that abortion is the cornerstone of a hellish ‘peace’ – the damning silence of 51 million aborted children in the United States alone.”
She concluded, “The Nobel Committee has bestowed the ‘Peace Prize’ on a man dedicated to war in the womb.”
Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, however, defended the choice – even stating the vote was unanimous – on ABC’s “Good Morning America”:
“President Obama has changed very dramatically international politics,” Lundestad said. “We feel he has emphasized multilateral diplomacy, he has addressed international institutions, dialogue negotiations. He has inspired the world with his vision of a world without nuclear arms. He has changed the U.S. policy dramatically. There’s a whole list.”
As for the president himself, Obama said from the White House Rose Garden, “I do not feel I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures who have been honored by this prize.”
“I also know this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women … want to build,” Obama said of the prize committee. “I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments but rather an affirmation of American leadership.”
He concluded, “I will accept this award as a call to action.”
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
President Obama and the organizers of the Chicago 2016 bid for the Summer Olympic Games announced that Mr. Obama will, after all, attend the Oct. 2 meeting of the International Olympic Committee at which the 2016 host city will be chosen.
The announcement is a tremendous boost for the Chicago but, perhaps saving it from what otherwise could have been likely failure.
The heads of state for the other three bid cities – Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Tokyo – had all announced their plans to be in Copenhagen for the Oct. 2 vote.
As a result, Obama’s initial decision not to attend could have been fatal for Chicago’s chances. It is likely that the IOC would not have looked favorably on Obama refusing to go the extra mile for a bid from his hometown, regardless of his hectic healthcare reform schedule in Washington.
Indeed, the potentially decisive role that heads of state can play in Olympic bids was underlined four years ago, when experts suggested Paris was a shoo-in as host city for the 2012 Summer Games.
The day before the vote, French President Jacques Chirac was mocking the competition, saying “the only worse food than British food is Finnish” and “the only thing the British have done for Europe’s agriculture is mad cow disease.” Meanwhile, British Prime Minister was at the IOC meeting in Singapore lobbying the IOC heavily on London’s behalf.
The combination of the two events turned the bidding in London’s favor. Mr. Blair’s lobbying effort was so aggressive, in fact, that French organizers complained to the IOC, saying it was illegal. The charges were dismissed.
This will be the first time that a US president has gone to the IOC vote. But London 2012 established a new bar for bid cities, and Obama initial unwillingness to commit to those obligations were a great concern to Chicago 2016 organizers.
At a press summit earlier this month, they made it clear that they were doing everything in their powerto persuade Obama to go, but that the decision was ultimately his.
“We could not be more pleased to welcome President Barack Obama to our delegation for the IOC selection of the host city for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the US Olympic Committee said in a statement.
Obama’s decision leaves Chicago well placed for the Oct. 2 vote. One of the top analysts of Olympic bids rates Chicago as the second favorite to win the IOC vote, just behind Rio.
“Rio has been able to deliver an emotional edge to its appeal that the other bids haven’t matched,” said Mr. Hula in a press release. “Chicago slips to second from the June index, but still scores three points higher, helped by the addition of financial guarantees and government support.”