Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Monday, July 31, 2006

Batter up!

Focus on the Family is taking its message to the ballpark this summer, sponsoring a number of "Faith Nights" and "Faith Days" at major- and minor-league baseball games.

Focus' debut Faith Night -- done in partnership with Third Coast Sports -- was July 27 during an Atlanta Braves-Florida Marlins game in Atlanta. Focus will sponsor seven such events before the year is out, distributing gift packages that include products and contact info for a host of Focus ministries. Foam fingers are not part of the package.

Don't be looking for a Focus-sponsored Faith Night nearby ... the Springs-based ministry is concentrating on Bible-belt baseball fans, with six of its seven events taking place in Georgia, Alabama and Texas. The seventh will be in Fresno, Calif.

Monday, July 24, 2006


The Christian Coalition of Colorado, which sent out a mailing this month accusing congressional candidates Jeff Crank and Lionel Rivera of "supporting the homosexual lobby," is catching flak from the very constituency it hoped to rally: conservative Christians.

At least two major evangelical churches made mention of the Christian Coalition's mailing this weekend. The Rev. Ted Haggard, senior pastor for the 14,000-member New Life Church, mentioned the mailing during New Life's Sunday services.

At Mountain Springs Church, a 3,000-member church on the east side of town, the Rev. Steve Holt - on sabbatical - issued a statement read during the church's services. It called the mailing "yellow journalism" and the information it contained "a blatant lie."

"If any of you are involved in the Christian Coalition," the statement read, "I would encourage you to let the leadership of this group know that this type of underhanded journalism is not acceptable of being under the name 'Christian.'"

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Inspired insults

Get in arguments a lot? Often at a loss for a witty retort? Help is here, courtesy the Ship of Fools satirical Web site. One of their many features, along with a virtual church and a "Blessed Sacrament" Webcam, is the Biblical Curse Generator, designed to create Old Testament-style curses with the click of a button.

"Take heed, oh ye breaker of the commandments, for you will be thrown into a den of hyperactive lions!"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dog days for Focus

Some folks at Focus on the Family must be putting in overtime these days.

Yesterday, Focus unveiled a counterpoint to the Gill Foundation's eye-catching "mooing dog" campaign, which argues that Norman, the mooing dogs (and, by extension, gays and lesbians) are born that way. In retaliation, Focus rolled out a dog of its own (Sherman), who barks. Norman, Focus argues, must've been taught to moo, because dogs just don't do those sorts of things on their own.

Other eyes at Focus have been turned toward Capital Hill.

James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus, blasted the U.S. House of Representatives for failing to pass the Marriage Protection Amendment -- a bill the Senate also rejected.

"We are seeing increasing signs that many ... voters are fed up with Washington," Dobson said in a written statement through the ministry's political action arm, Focus on the Family Action. "We certainly intend to tell them how their senators and congressmen voted on the Marriage Protection Amendment. We believe many of them will 'remember in November.'"

Carrie Gordon Earll, Focus' senior analyst for bioethics, also took Congress to task -- this time for opening the door for federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research. Bush vetoed the bill today, as expected, but that did nothing to quell Focus' ire.

" ... some members of the Senate who should know better voted to destroy human lives -- and that goes beyond cowardice," Gordon Earll wrote. "Pro-life voters should take special note of these lawmakers' votes today."

And then, of course, there's the impending Soulforce protest, expected to culminate July 22 with a vigil and concert. Soulforce participants are, as you read this, marching down to Focus headquarters from Denver, covering the distance in four-mile patches.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One God, many bombs?

The conflict in Israel and Lebanon has some pretty serious religious underpinnings. When the Islamic militant group Hezbollah and the Jewish state of Israel tangle, religion is bound to be a big part of the story.

Overlooked, perhaps, is the plight of the Baha'is caught in the crossfire in the northern Israeli cities of Haifa and Akka.

Baha'i, founded about 150 years ago by a Persian nobleman, teaches that there is one God and that all religions are "stages" in our understanding of the divine. The twin cities of Haifa and Akka are home to the Baha'i World Center, loaded with administrative buildings, libraries and three holy shrines. Local Baha'i Peter Bruss says Haifa is the "spiritual and administrative center for the Baha'i world community."

Now, with Haifa being the subject of some pretty intense bombing, Bruss and other Baha'is are worried about the preservation of their holiest sites and the safety of their fellow believers. To make matters even more difficult for Bruss, his parents-in-law (and three brothers-in-law) live in or near Beirut, Lebanon.

Bruss' family tells him that the fighting is far worse than it was during 15 years of civil war. They are safe, but the family keeps close tabs on one another -- just to make sure.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wandering Jews

A pair of Hasidic Jews is traveling across Colorado using Colorado Springs as their home base.

Rabbis Berel Zaklikofsky and Yossi Goodman adhere to what Zaklikofsky calls an "ultra-orthodox" form of Judaism. They've spent several days hopping from town to town, connecting with fellow Jews and, in some cases, reintroducing them to their traditional faith. They are, in some ways, Jewish evangelists -- only they're evangelizing fellow believers. Rabbi Moishe Liberow, a local Hasidic Jew who's coordinating the Colorado tour, called them "spiritual spark plugs."

Their visit is part of a globe-trotting Jewish outreach, with 280 young, orthodox rabbis touring the world. It's an annual rite for some of these rabbis: The Jewish organization Chabad-Lubavitch (to which the rabbis belong) encourages such trips every summer.

"Every opportunity that we have, every chance that we have to inspire a Jew to become connected with God, we need to (take advantage) of that opportunity right away," said Zaklikofsky.

He and Goodman have traveled to Alamosa, Durango, Trinidad and Pueblo so far, and will head farther afield next week: They're scheduled to visit Jewish inmates in prisons in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

End of the March

Soulforce, a faith-based gay and lesbian activist group, will literally march back into town July 22 -- led by an actor who starred in one of the most evangelical-friendly movies of the year.

Chad Allen played Nate and Steve Saint in "End of the Spear," a true story about the brittle interaction between Christian missionaries and an Ecuadorian tribe called the Waodani. Missionary Nate Saint was speared to death by the Waodani in 1956 -- one of several to be killed by the tribe -- but his son, Steve, returned decades later and converted tribe members to Christians. The film earned just $11 million since its March release, but since its DVD release, it's been making the church circuit. Woodmen Valley Chapel's middle-schoolers watched the film during a screening a couple weeks ago.

Allen is gay and an outspoken advocate for gay rights. He's one of the star attractions of Soulforce's "1000 Watt March," which launches July 17 from the state capitol building in Denver and ends July 22 at Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs. It looks as though Allen will hook onto the march for its final two miles -- a little celebrity oomph to encourage additional interest. But it doesn't look like many will make the full 65-mile trek: It's portrayed as a "relay" march by organizers, with participants marching in four-mile segments. The march will culminate with an 8:30 p.m. concert by Broadway musician Billy Porter.

Soulforce organizers love Colorado Springs. This May, Soulforce-organized "equality riders" picketed the United States Air Force Academy, protesting the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. And last May the organization held a vigil outside Focus on the Family, protesting what it calls the organization's anti-gay rhetoric.

Allen's involvement adds a new twist. "End of the Spear," I'd wager, did better locally than nationally, what with our large population of former/current missionaries. I wonder ... is there a conflict among conservative Christians between the movie's message and the movie's messenger?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On spec

I spent most of yesterday prowling around the International Christian Retail Show in Denver, a snazzy, circus-like affair that, before it closes its doors July 13, may attract around 10,000 attendees.

You'll read more about the show in Saturday's paper. The newest in spiritual flotsam: Cardboard glasses (think those cheap 3-D things) that, when you look at points of light through them, transform light beams into crosses or Christian fish.

It's part of American Paper Optics "Eye Witness" line -- so new it's not even on the company Web site.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pushing petitions

Focus on the Family has been sending letters to its Colorado constituents, asking them to circulate a pair of petitions to further a traditional view of marriage.

Neither of the petition drives was initiatied by Focus, based in Colorado Springs. Coloradans for Marriage is circulating a petition asking for a state constitutional amendment, defining marriage as between a man and woman. Another petition, this one spearheaded by Protecting Colorado Children, seeks to outlaw civil unions. Focus is a vocal opponent of gay marriage, and has its hand in several such initiatives in states across the country.

"As you're undoubtedly aware, this battle is intensifying almost daily, and the opposition is extremely formidible," writes Focus Vice President Tom Minnery in his letter. "Nonetheless, the stakes are simply too high for us to back down."

Both petition drives require 68,000 signatures by July 31 for these measures to get on the November ballot, and Minnery cautions people that they can't sign a petition they themselves are circulating.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Spiritual gift o' the day

Catching up from a long July 4 holiday, I found this in my stack of press releases:
"The Da Vinci Code, in blurring the lines between fact and fiction, popularizes the speculations and contentions of a new brand of fiction. In response to such hypocrisy, stand true to your Lord and light the path of your faith ...."

And what will light that path of faith? A seven-inch Glow-in-the-dark Crucifix, which "provides the pious with a serene jade-like luminescence" if it soaks up artificial light for a few minutes. "Better yet," the release reads, "place your "Glow-in-the-dark Crucifix under direct sunlight and bask in the force of brilliant energy that eminates."

Hmmm. As a child, the best prize I ever got from a cereal box was a set of extendo grab-claws that glowed in the dark, made out of (and I'm guessing here) the same sort of material. As cool as it was, I don't think I ever "basked in its force." But maybe I just never left it out in the sun long enough.

It's $10.95, by the way, available here.