Box Office Success? Despite Prayers, Not Today.

The credits that run at the end of the new movie Not Today list an unusual job: prayer coordinator.

The film, about a wealthy young American who finds God when he travels to India and is affected by the plight of the poor, is an indie Christian endeavor whose $1.6 million budget was raised with collection-plate contributions from the members of Friends Church in Yorba Linda, California.


About the prayer coordinator, the church’s Creative Arts Pastor Brent Martz explains that the job was vital to the project.

“For us at the church, having people praying from the very beginning of this project and even up to today and this opening weekend has been a huge part of it,” Martz said. “We believe that God led us into making this film, and he’s ultimately responsible for it, and so every bit of this journey has been covered through this prayer team, and they’ve been so faithful to pray for all us during the writing and during the production and during the post-production and now during the marketing and PR.”

Whether all the earthly beseeching of the Creator of the Universe has been effective remains to be seen.

The plentiful praying certainly didn’t stop director Jon Van Dyke from filing a federal lawsuit, alleging fraud by church leaders. Van Dyke’s version of events involves a biblical deluge of internal bickering, cheating, and outright fraud. He was director of the Friends Church media department when he wrote the movie script. To hear him tell it, Martz, his boss, demanded a co-writer credit he wasn’t really entitled to, or he would fire Van Dyke. The young director says he was terminated when he raised concerns after the movie wrapped, including a claim that

the budget was “significantly inflated to include numerous illegitimate and improper expenses” in an effort to dilute profits.

According to Martz, the profits from the movie are intended to build hundreds of schools for children from India’s Dalit caste. But box office revenue this past Friday through Sunday — opening weekend, when the movie was shown on 41 screens — was only $96,347. Under a typical indie distribution deal, the producer (essentially, Friends Church) will get maybe 40-50 percent of that.

More revenue should come in from TV rights and rentals, presumably. Will it be enough to generate fat profits so that Dalit children may get an education? Let’s hope so, and let’s also hope that the lawyers don’t gobble up al the money.

If the project stays awash in red ink, I suppose the church could always hire additional prayer coordinators to get those schools built.

Priests’ Parking Brawl: One Bites Off Other’s Ear

I’ve known some clergymen who can chew your ear off, but here’s one who does it literally. And all it took for Father Thomas Byrne to go all Mike Tyson on a colleague was a contested parking space.

An 80-year-old retired priest allegedly bit an ear off another elderly clergyman during a fight over a parking space. The punch-up broke out outside an apartment block, which houses three retired Catholic priests, in Perth, Western Australia.


Father Thomas Henry Byrne [photo, left] has appeared in court charged with grievous bodily harm over the incident involving his neighbour, 81-year-old Father Thomas Joseph Cameron Smith.

If that’s not bizarre enough for you, try this on for size:

According to police, after the brawl Father Byrne told Father Smith to pick up an item up on the ground. It was not until Father Smith returned to his flat that he realised the item he had picked up and put in his pocket was his right ear. Father Smith wrapped his ear in a tea towel and drove to Dianella Medical Centre, where staff phoned for an ambulance and alerted police. He was taken to Perth’s Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital where he underwent surgery to save the ear.

Father Byrne eventually extended his apologies, while Father Smith offered forgiveness.

The ear-biter’s attorney used a temporary-insanity defense, telling the court that his client is a kindly old man whose flesh-ripping attack was “uncharacteristic” and brought on by dementia. The prosecutor downgraded the charges and the judge imposed only a $1,000 fine.

Wrathful God Is Bad For Believers’ Mental Health

If god is good, is he also good for you? It depends on whether you believe in a kind and benevolent superbeing, or in a compulsive rager who is a candidate for anger management.

Psychologists led by Nava Silton of Marymount Manhattan College tried to determine

…how one’s perception of God — as punitive, benevolent, or indifferent — was associated with five different psychiatric symptoms: general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion.

Respondents’ characterizations of God were gleaned from their opinions of how six adjectives — absolute, critical, just, punishing, severe, or wrathful — applied to God. A numbering system was used to gauge the degree to which the subject viewed the adjective as an accurate descriptor of God (very well = 4; somewhat well = 3, not very well = 2, etc.). In a similar fashion, respondents answered queries designed to measure the five aforementioned psychiatric symptoms.


The researchers found that belief in a punitive God was significantly associated with an increase in social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion. Conversely, belief in a benevolent God was associated with reductions in those four symptoms. Belief in an indifferent God was not linked to any symptoms.

It’s a nice-to-know conclusion that probably won’t surprise anyone. Or, as one snarky commenter noted,

It doesn’t take a scientific study to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with people who smile gleefully as they describe their rapture, when they’ll be whisked away in a blissful twinkle of an eye, and the rest of humanity will suffer all manner of death and torture for not heeding their proactive told-ya-so.

[image via flickriver]

In Iraq, Sunni Muslims Assassinate Their Own

Part political, part religious, all sectarian. Via the New York Times:

In the first Iraqi elections since the American troop withdrawal, Sunni candidates are being attacked and killed in greater numbers than in recent campaigns, raising concerns in Washington over Iraq’s political stability and the viability of a democratic system the United States has heavily invested in over years of war and diplomacy.

At least 15 candidates, all members of the minority Sunni community, have been assassinated — some apparently by political opponents, others by radical Sunni militants. Many others have been wounded or kidnapped or have received menacing text messages or phone calls demanding that they withdraw.

By going after members of their own sect, radical Sunnis aligned with Al Qaeda are effectively seeking to destabilize the Shiite-led government, making an already angry and alienated community fearful to participate in national governance. At the same time, it appears intra-Sunni rivalries are inadvertently aiding the radical cause, as Sunnis kill political adversaries in their quest for power.

[photo by Mohammed Ameen via the New York Times]

Devotees Beat Hindu Priest Over Idol Mix-Up

A Hindu priest in India was beaten bloody by angry devotees who accused him of trying to recreate a religious statue in wax. The crowd presumed he wanted to sell the original.

Enraged with the priest’s act of duplicating the idol of the presiding deity —  Lord Kurmanatha — with wax, the locals staged a protest at the temple. … Chamarla Murali Krishna received blows on his face, leaving him bleeding from the nose, and severe injury to his left eye. [It appears to be his right eye unless the image was flipped —TF]


Devotees felt that the priest was trying to create a duplicate idol hurting their sentiments and sanctity of the temple. They also alleged that the priest tried to sell the original idol to some Bangalore-based smuggler and install a duplicate one at the sanctum sanctorum. … Police had to swing into action after some agitated devotees pelted stones at the priest.

The accosted man claims it was a misunderstanding, explaining that a Hindu worshiper “wanted to gift silver armor to the idol and asked me to manufacture a wax copy and I did it. There are not any ill intentions behind it.”

[image via Deccan Chronicle]

Nigerian Christians Claim Their Piece of the Terrorism Pie, Threaten to Bomb Mosques

Fed up with the violence from Muslim terror groups like Boko Haram, Nigerian Christians aren’t exactly turning the other cheek. Their solution: kill Islamic clerics, and bomb mosques.

The latest terrorist threats to come out of Nigeria aren’t being propagated by Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group bent on eradicating Christianity (and other Western influences). Instead, the threats from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) are being made “in defense of Christianity.”


MEND, a militant group operating out of the country’s oil-rich Niger Delta, says it intends to attack Muslims in order to protect Nigeria’s “hapless Christian population.” The planned attacks, which MEND says will begin on May 31, will include mosque and hajj bombings and assassination attempts against Muslim clerics.

If it seems like just tough talk, look closer. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom noted in a response to the MEND statement that there have been “ongoing attacks and retaliations by Muslims and Christians” in Nigeriah, and that Boko Haram has used “Christian attacks on Muslims to justify its attacks on Christians.”

USCIRF also says Boko Haram has “killed more Muslims than Christians over the past few years.”

[image via Aaron Niequist]

Judge Lets Thieving Pastor Off Easy

In pastor Kyung Soon Kim’s defense, the 10 Commandments don’t get as specific as “Thou Shalt Not Defraud Thine Insurance Company.” From The Reporter:

NORRISTOWN – With a judge ordering him to spend a few days behind bars for his role in a car insurance scam, a Korean pastor from Montgomery Township [Pennsylvania] learned the hard way, “Thou shalt not steal.”

“It’s confounding to this court why he would do this,” Montgomery County Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy said Monday as she sentenced Kyung Soon Kim to two consecutive weekends in the county jail after Kim pleaded guilty to charges of theft by unlawful taking and conspiracy to commit theft in connection with a 2008 incident involving a Lexus vehicle.


The car belonged to a friend’s son. Kim and the woman conspired to file a false police report and bilked the insurance company out of $42,000.

The judge kept racking her brain over the motive.

Reading from a presentence report, the judge noted Kim’s commitment to his church dates back to 1986 when he was pastor at a Presbyterian church in Seoul, South Korea, and then a Presbyterian pastor upon arriving in the U.S. several years ago.

It’s a bit of a mystery to me why this is the slightest bit relevant to the judicial process. Anyone else smell a double standard?

I’m pretty sure that in the case of a non-clergy defendant, the presumed answer to the question of motive would be, “Because he is a greedy sonovabitch.”

I’m also pretty sure that if you or I stole 42 grand, we’d do some serious time.

The Reverend Kim, however, could count on the judge’s leniency, and received a jail term of only four days. He doesn’t even have to serve that puny sentence as one block of time: instead, he gets to do it in stretches of 48 hours during two consecutive weekends.

[photo by Shawn Wheat via Gwinnett Daily Post]

Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence?

The Eclectic Quill‘s got a point.

2U.S. Government Responses to Immortality Claims | The Eclectic Quill

Egyptian Activists: Scrub Religion From ID Cards

Other than for gathering anonymous census data, why would the government ever ask you what religion you are? And if the government issues national ID cards, as it does in many countries, why would your religious affiliation deserve a mandatory mention on that card? What purpose does it serve?

And what would happen if you told nosy bureaucrats to stay out of your business?

That’s the thinking of British-Egyptian journalist and blogger Sarah Carr, who teamed up with a friend, Mohamad Adam, to try to change the official Egyptian conflation of identity and religion. Via the New York Times:

Egyptian activists have begun an online campaign against sectarianism in the wake of a deadly attack on mourners at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral this month.


To begin the process of disentangling religion and citizenship, the “None of Your Business” campaign, driven by a Facebook group and a YouTube video, urges Egyptian citizens to cover up the section of their national identity cards that states their religion. The group’s Facebook page describes the initiative as “a campaign against interference in citizens’ private lives by the state, and by other citizens. We are for the removal of religion from official documents — the most important of which is the personal ID card — as a small but important step towards ending discrimination on the basis of religion.”

In response, supporters of the campaign have uploaded photographs of their ID cards to social networks with messages along the lines of “my faith is my own business,” obscuring their religions.

Says Carr:

“I couldn’t think of a single use for the religion field; the Egyptian state has a well-documented thirst for bureaucracy and collecting information about its citizens, but there is absolutely no need for it to have this information, which serves no purpose other than giving prejudiced state officials, and anyone else who sees the ID card, the opportunity to give [you] a hard time.”

She would ultimately like ID cards to be abolished altogether, calling them “unnecessary and sinister,” but concedes that’s still a ways off.

“Removing the religion field from ID cards is a symbolic first step towards this. If it ever did happen, it would be a message that the state need not and should not have a role in defining, controlling or exploiting religious identity.”

Breaking: Bombs Go Off at Boston Marathon; 3 Killed, 100 or More Injured; Perps Unknown

No known religious connection yet. “There were no credible threats before the race, a state government official said.” But if you were a betting man or woman, what would you bet?

2 killed, dozens injured in Boston Marathon bombing – This Just In - Blogs


Two bombs struck near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, turning a celebration into a bloody scene of destruction. The blasts threw people to the ground, killing two and injuring dozens. The Boston Globe reported that at least 90 people were being treated at area hospital.

They were about 50 to 100 yards apart, officials said. “It felt like a huge cannon,” a witness told CNN about one of the

Photos from the scene showed people being carried away on stretchers. One man in a wheelchair had blood all over his face and legs. The bombs shook buildings, sending people to seek shelter under tables, witnesses said.

The Atlantic has large photos, including one very graphic one of a man with his leg or legs blown of. Proceed at your own risk.

ABC News describes

a terrifying scene of shattered glass, billowing smoke, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, authorities said. A senior U.S. intelligence official said two other explosive devices were found near the end of the 26.2-mile course. At the White House, President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will “feel the full weight of justice.”

Also: Westboro Baptist Church has already expressed its glee over the deaths, and is promising to picket the funerals.

[image via CNN blogs]

Hyperbole Watch: ‘Homo-Fascists’ Will Pin ‘Yellow Stars’ on Anti-Gay Christians

Bryan Fischer is the nominally Christian clown ex-pastor who, just weeks ago, compared being gay to robbing banks. While the Westboro Baptist Church is being taking seriously by absolutely no one beyond its few dozen crackpot members, Fischer has adopted a sheen of mass-media respectability by dint of his job as the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association. He also has his own radio show, Focal Point, on American Family Radio.

Over the weekend, on the airwaves, Fischer told his followers that “homo-fascists” were going to take over and force anti-gay Christians to wear badges — just like the Jews during World War II.


Watch the video here. Homo-fascism allegations start at 1:50; yellow-star comparison starts at 9:03.

Partial transcript:

“If you don’t believe in sodomy-based marriage, if you’re not prepared to endorse and sanction sodomy-based marriage, then … Remember when the Jews in Nazi Germany, they had to wear a yellow Star of David on their sleeve? We’re getting to the point now, that’s what they’re going to make us do. We’re getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeves some kind of identifying marker so that the people can know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are.”

The tiresome Christian persecution complex is being driven to new nadirs here.

Dear Mr. Fischer: Three out of four Americans are Christians. More than 90 percent of our members of Congress self-identify as followers of Christ. There is a church on just about every other street corner. Are you really going to tell me that you are being “oppressed” — and now, targeted for genocide! — by a small minority (8 to 10 percent of the population) who are gay?

And do you think perhaps your hyperbole might run counter to recent history when you consider that, like Jews, gay people were actually made to wear “identifying markers” — pink triangles — so that the Nazis could more easily arrest, imprison, starve, and murder them by the tens of thousands?


Just as anti-porn feminists can barely conceal their disappointment every time new rumors about the production of a snuff film turn out to be untrue, evangelical Christians secretly desire nothing so much as for their brethren to be persecuted to within an inch of their lives. I think it’s because that way, they can claim some of the suffering for which they admire their Savior, and prove themselves worthy of him.

In other words (those of PsiCop over at Agnostic Library),

A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is part and parcel of their religion, and it has been almost since its inception. This persecutorial delusion is embedded deep in the psychopathology of Christianity. …

It’s one thing to fantasize about being a martyr because one’s religion is founded on a martyr. It’s quite another to invent persecution that’s not even happening, and to accuse others of doing things they haven’t done.

Quite so.

[top image via; bottom image via]

False-Identity Judge Kicked Off Rabbi Court

Breaking news, via JTA:

Rabbi Michael Broyde, a prominent Orthodox rabbi who admitted to creating a fake alternate identity, was suspended from the Beth Din of America.

Broyde, who admitted last week that he had used a false name to gain access to a rabbinic email list and to write letters to various journals, was placed on “an indefinite leave of absence” from the rabbinical court, Tablet magazine reported.


“Rabbi Broyde has admitted to behavior that the Rabbinical Council finds extremely disturbing,” said Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, the president of the Rabbinical Council of America, the court’s parent body. “We have determined and announced by the Beth Din of America, our affiliated rabbinical court, that he has ceased to serve as a dayan [judge] immediately and indefinitely.”

A law professor at Emory University and a senior fellow at the Atlanta school’s Center for Law and Religion, Broyde is considered one of the Orthodox world’s leading judicial authorities and an expert on the intersection of religious and secular law.

See here for more on how Broyde got into hot water.

[image via]