This blog is maintained on behalf of the Amy Foundation for the purpose of tracking the best Christian journalism we find on the Web. Our posts regularly identify those news articles or opinions in the mainstream media that represent good faith-based writing and example them for other Christian journalists.

Friday, October 27, 2006

New Age Movie Rife for Writing

The movie "Conversations with God," based on the life and times of Neale Donald Walsch, is opening in theaters around the country, and it provides an excellent opportunity to talk about the real God of the Bible.

I looked through several movie reviews and found the one in The Seattle Times written by Jeff Shannon to treat the movie from a constructively critical perspective.

His moive review titled , "Conversations" to conversions: Messages from new-agey God," starts this way:
"Conversations with God" is a bad film about good things that many people will find enlightening. Its message is admirable, its filmmaking as bland as a communion wafer.

This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the bestselling books by Neale Donald Walsch, who wrote "Conversations with God" after hitting rock-bottom and experiencing a life-altering epiphany. For better or worse, Walsch stripped away the strictures of organized religion and delivered a safe, secular, new-agey God who would appeal to the "spiritual but not religious" masses. Walsch created a talkative God in the image that best suited him, and made a profitable wager that a lot of people would want to hear those "conversations." ...
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While Jeff gives the movie two stars, I give the movie two thumbs up in terms of opportunity to debate the real character of the Living God. I suggest people see the movie/read the book before intelligently commenting, but don't miss this opportunity.

Submitted by,
Bruce Umpstead

Okay, so it is the NY Times

[Editor's note: we use Google News to find outstanding news articles and opinions on the Christian faith. It should be no surprise that New York Times articles meeting our search criteria rise to the top (i.e., faith, God, Christian). We are both amazed and appreciative of the coverage our faith gets in such a widely-read, well-regarded mainstream newspaper. We will redouble our efforts to find news and opinions outside the NY Times, but first ...]

I cannot pass over the excellent article in the NY Times on October 26, 2006, written by an anonymous Associated Press writer, titled, “U.S. Evangelicals on Mission in Israel.”

The story recounts the perilous journey of 35 American Christians, labeled Evangelicals, as they attempted to deliver humanitarian relief supplies to Israel. It’s an amazing trip. The AP writes:

ASHDOD, Israel (AP) -- After 35 days at sea, a group of American evangelicals traveling on a creaky World War II-era cargo ship landed in Israel on a solidarity mission only to run aground in red tape, with long delays in unloading their cargo of clothes, toys and medical supplies.

Still, the crew was unfazed Thursday, keeping a positive attitude in a demonstration of the growing alliance between evangelical Christians and the Jewish state.

''The Bible says, 'Who blesses Israel will be blessed,''' said Don Tipton, the group's leader. ''We believe that.''

The Spirit of Grace steamed into the Israeli port of Ashdod in early October from Louisiana, flying an American flag and a huge banner reading ''Jehovah'' in Hebrew letters. Three weeks later, the ship is still docked, its 900-ton load of goods bound for local charities stuck on board as the gears of Israeli bureaucracy slowly turn. …

Not only is this a story of perseverance, this excellently written news article qualifies for the Amy Writing Awards. Notice how the author quoted the group’s leader quoting identifiable scripture. Thanks to the source, the author was able to attribute it directly to the Bible, leaving no question of its source.

I plan to write the AP and encourage the anonymous author to submit the NY Times tear sheet and enter this year’s contest. It’s never too late. You have until January 31, 2007 to enter any article published in 2006, and each author can submit up to 10 articles per year.

Submitted by,
Bruce Umpstead

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Timely Article on Christian v. Atheistic Worldview

I found this engaging article that tackles an important debate in our society, that being “why is faith thriving in an age of science and reason.”

Dinesh D'Souza’s article, titled “God knows why faith is thriving” was published on October 22, 2006 in the San Francisco Chronicle, promoting his forthcoming book entitled “The Enemy at Home,” to be publish in January 2007 by Doubleday Books.

In the article, D'Souza challenges Darwinism and the effects of evolutionary-based social policy on secular society. Counter to this, he posits the views of Christians who value life as a gift from God.

D'Souza writes:
A group of leading atheists is puzzled by the continued xistence and vitality of religion.

As biologist Richard Dawkins puts it in his new book "The God Delusion," faith is a form of irrationality, what he terms a "virus of the mind." Philosopher Daniel Dennett compares belief in God to belief in the Easter Bunny. Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith" and now "Letter to a Christian Nation," professes amazement that hundreds of millions of people worldwide profess religious beliefs when there is no rational evidence for any of those beliefs. Biologist E.O. Wilson says there must be some evolutionary explanation for the universality and pervasiveness of religious belief.

Actually, there is. The Rev. Ron Carlson, a popular author and lecturer, sometimes presents his audience with two stories and asks them whether it matters which one is true.

In the secular account, "You are the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm washed up on an empty beach 3 1/2 billion years ago. You are a mere grab bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. You exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe. You came from nothing and are going nowhere."

In the Christian view, by contrast, "You are the special creation of a good and all-powerful God. You are the climax of His creation. Not only is your kind unique, but you are unique among your kind. Your Creator loves you so much and so intensely desires your companionship and affection that He gave the life of His only son that you might spend eternity with him." …
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This article addresses an important issue that most Christians are either unwilling or unprepared to discuss. D'Souza uses a engaging introduction to capture the reader and pull him/her into a reasoned discussion of the outcomes of atheistic vs. faith-based world views.

There is some question as to whether D'Souza’s article qualifies for the Amy Writing Awards, although it did quote scripture (i.e., “The old principle was, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”). There would be no dispute if D'Souza used “the biblical principle is …,” but we will leave it up to the qualifying judge to decide and encourage D'Souza to enter the contest.

Overall, this an excellently written opinion dealing with a critical and timely article. I encourage Dinesh to keep up the good work!

Written by,
Gina Umpstead

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Solid Journalism about Iraqi Christian Plight

Here is an article in the New York Times about the plight of Iraqi Christians, titled, “Iraq’s Christians Flee as Extremist Threat Worsens,” written by Wisam H. Habeeb and Khalid al-Ansary in Mosul, Iraq.

It is a well-written and compelling story about how Iraqi Christians are suffering attacks because of ill-fated comments of Pop Benedict’s XVI’s regarding Muslim extremism.

Habeeb and al-Ansary write:

“After the pope’s statement, people began to fear much more than before,” said the Rev. Zayya Edward Khossaba, the pastor of the Church of the Virgin Mary. “The actions by fanatics have increased against Christians.”

Christianity took root here near the dawn of the faith 2,000 years ago, making Iraq home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities. The country is rich in biblical significance: scholars believe the Garden of Eden described in Genesis was in Iraq; Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees, a city in Iraq; the city of Nineveh that the prophet Jonah visited after being spit out by a giant fish was in Iraq.

Both Chaldean Catholics and Assyrian Christians, the country’s largest Christian sects, still pray in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

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Although it lacks an identifiable quotation of scripture to qualify for the Amy Writing Awards, the piece shares the significance, faith, and struggle of Christians in Iraq and makes the larger world aware of the suffering of Iraqi’s religious minority, a fact we see overlooked and rarely considered in public discourse.

Great job, Wisam and Khalid.

Submitted by,
Bruce Umpstead