Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Monday, February 27, 2006

Focus on Missouri

Focus on the Family's controversial "Love Won Out" conference touched town in a St. Louis suburb this weekend, attracting a record 1,700 attendees and about 350 protesters.

These conferences are designed to encourage folks out of homosexual lifestyles, which makes them about the most controversial initiative in Focus' massive program cornucopia.

Oddly enough, I don't think Focus has ever hosted one of these conferences in Colorado Springs.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Other side of the fence

Focus on the Family is no stranger to controversy. They've lobbied hard against same-sex marriage across the country and happen to be a prime mover in Colorado's proposed amendment to define marriage as between a man and woman.

All of which makes Focus' latest gay-related controversy so curious.

See, Focus is supporting SB166, a bill which (among other things) would help make it easier for gay partners to share benefits like power of attorney or make medical or end-of-life decisions. Some conservative activists accuse Focus of 'selling out,' including Colorado Springs-based Dr. Paul Cameron, who heads the wildly controversial Family Research Institute. He's issued several releases slamming Focus and its founder, James Dobson, for supporting the bill -- but he's not the only one.

Focus is sticking to its guns: The bill, officials say, doesn't mention homosexuality at all. And just because Focus doesn't object to homosexual partners caring for one another in a hospital doesn't mean that it's softened its stance on gay marriage. But the criticism from within Focus' core constituency must've stung.

"You would think that people who would purport to be on our side would at least call us," said Tom Minnery, Focus' vice president of public policy in a recent CitizenLink press release. "We often get calls from hostile secular reporters; we often don't like what they write about us, but at least they call. (Our) friends, however, did not. They jumped to conclusions and went wild with it. This thing has crossed the Internet, and a lot of Focus on the Family listeners have read these things and are calling here."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Buried in books

It's been raining books around the religion desk lately -- so many, in fact, that it's becoming difficult to see my computer screen. A few come from local pastors.

Rob Brendle, who pastors Saturday Night services at New Life Church, recently published a book called "In the Meantime: The Practice of Proactive Waiting." J.R. Briggs, who heads Pierced worship services at Woodmen Valley, just released "When God Says Jump: Biblical Stories that Inspire You to Risk Big." And the Rev. James White, retired senior pastor at First Congregational Church-United Church of Christ, yesterday handed me a copy of his long-awaited book "Christianity 101: Tracing Basic Beliefs."

I can't wait to read them all.

But they'll have to wait until I've finished reading "A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat" by Joel Kilpatrick. It's a satirical look at the evangelical subculture and, though Kilpatrick isn't local, the book is still a must-read for any religion writer working in Colorado Springs. Which would include me.

I'll be writing a story on this book in a week or two, but if you're interested in getting a taste of the book, go to Kilpatrick's Web site at

Monday, February 20, 2006

I see dead people

On Feb. 19, The Gazette ran a story about an upcoming exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The exhibit is called "Body World 2: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies." Says it all, doesn't it?

In essence, the exhibit (which opens March 10) consists of a bunch of dead, skinless folks set in various action-packed poses. Kinda disgusting, maybe, but pretty fascinating, too. Heck, I've always been pretty fascinated by anatomy and, if these exhibits were just models, I'd be completely enraptured. The fact they once were walking around at one time, and had families and friends of their own, makes me feel a little more queasy ... I wonder if the exhibit will include personal information on each of the "exhibits," and what made them tick before they became the museum circuit's most underpaid employees.

It also brings up, I'd imagine, some serious religious issues, too. Cremation is often discouraged by certain faiths and some Christian demominations. Some believe the body should naturally decay, return to the dust from which it came. Others believe in bodily resurrection -- they'll need a physical body to take part in the afterlife.

So what can one make of these plasticized corpses, theologically speaking? Are they an abomination? Or, because they'll be so much better preserved than the rest of us, are they ahead of the curve? Or does it much matter?

Monday, February 06, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand (or more) protesters

And who says no-one reads the paper anymore?

In case you missed it, the Muslim world is, generally, in a state of uproar over a series of political cartoons published by a Danish paper. The cartoons showed the Islamic prophet Mohammed (a no-no in itself) in less-than-flattering terms, which upset many Muslims and culminated (at least for now) in the burning of the Danish embassy in Lebanon.

The newspaper (Jyllands Posten) apologized, sorta, to offended Muslims, but argued publishing such cartoons was protected as free speech -- an argument backed by the Danish government. Many Muslim leaders and even whole governments say the need to be sensitive to other religions is paramount, and is still demanding a more forthright apology and retraction. Many Muslims are also boycotting Danish goods.

So what trumps what? Are religious figures open for hard-core satire in political cartoons? How would you feel if, in a political cartoon, Jesus or Moses or Buddha (or the religious leader of your choice) was shown gleefully brandishing a nuclear weapon? Or entering a porn store? How would you react?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bono at Breakfast

Bono, lead singer for U2, addressed the President, politicians and a horde of straight-laced pastors at the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 2.

According to Ken Herman of the Cox News Service, Bono slapped organized religion around a bit, but praised it for helping African AIDS victims.

"The church was slow, but the church got busy on the leprosy of our age," he said. "Love was on the move. Mercy was on the move. God was on the move."

Britney strikes again

The American Family Association, the Mississippi-based Religious Right organization, reports that pop star Britney Spears will play a conservative Christian on the April 13 edition of NBC's comedy "Will and Grace." She, apparently, will host a Christian cooking segment on one of the character's fictional talk show.

The segment is titled, um, "Cruci-fixin's."

The American Family Association is quite cr -- I mean, angry.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Catholic Court?

With Judge Samuel Alito officially getting approval from the U.S. Senate yesterday, the Supreme Court now boasts five Roman Catholics on the bench: Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Fifty-six years ago, some people fretted that John F. Kennedy, also a Catholic, would wind up taking his orders from the Pope if he was elected president. A few conservative protestants sometimes said -- even publicly -- that the Catholic church was to be the instrument of the Anti-christ. Times have changed, and religious lines in public discourse are drawn along conservative/liberal axis, rather than denominational ones. In fact, while protestant evangelicals are arguably the muscle of modern conservatism, conservative Catholics often provide its intellectual backbone.

Like other U.S. religious groups, American Catholics are pretty darn diverse. Sure, Thomas and Scalia are conservative, but Kennedy tends to lean more liberal. Furthermore, big-time Alito critics like Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy are also Catholic. Most Catholics don't believe their religion requires them to follow the Vatican at every step.

But there's no question that folks like James Dobson's Focus on the Family are hopeful with Alito's move to the bench.