Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rolling the Dice

Last night I waded into the world of the metaphysical. I attended a class on telekenesis (moving inanimate objects around using telepathy), where attendees tried to manipulate a set of dice: The idea was that if they concentrated on, say, the number six, they'd throw the dice and a six would pop up.

I was covering the class for a future story, but I took my turn at the dice, too. I got my number on occasion -- about one-sixth of the time when we were using just one die. When I rolled two, I discovered sevens were far easier to get than twelves. The woman teaching the class, whose name is Dove of Light, consoled me by saying this was really an intermediate discipline: It's hard to get into the groove the first time out.

She says everyone has the knack for this sort of thing: It's simply mind over matter, she believes. But there's a spiritual element to it, too. Ms. of Light says she's a big believer in the spirit world. She also teaches classes at the Celebration Conscious Living Store, 2211 W. Colorado Ave., on how to contact your guardian angel and other spiritual teachers.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

School and State

In this morning's Gazette, education reporter Brian Newsome wrote a story about home schooling. He points out that there are a gazillion reasons parents choose to home school their children. One of the biggest is religion.

If my e-mail in-box is any indication, pockets of this religious home-school movement across the country are getting more vocal -- and more political.

Earlier this year, a clutch of Southern Baptists pushed their national assembly to encourage parents to pull their students out of public schools. And this morning, I received a press release from a group called "Considering Homeschooling," calling for Christian parents in California to pull their children out of public schools en masse.

"'Heck no, our kids won't go!' should be the rallying cry of Christian parents this week as school starts, instead of following the broad road of perversion and destruction that California schools are offering," said Charles B. Lowers, executive director of Considering Homeschooling in a recent press release.

The trigger for this educational boycott is a bill passed by California lawmakers that would prohibit schools from teaching anything that "reflects adversely" on people because of their sexual orientation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back to the Bay

This March, I wrote about a youth group from Sunnyside Christian Church and its spring-break mission trip to Mississippi. They went to the Gulf Coast help heal the still lingering wounds inflicted by Hurricane Katrina -- taking with them power tools, toilet paper and gallons of bug spray.

Today's the first anniversary of Katrina, and the coastal regions of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are still recovering.

With so much work still to do, Sunnyside is going again. The church's high school youth group, along with a phalanx of adults, will head to Bay St. Louis, Miss., Nov. 18-25.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Promises, promises

There's nothing more frightening than watching a bunch of uncoordinated men dance with each other.

This was a conclusion I drew after going to Promise Keepers' Aug. 25-26 rally at the Colorado Springs World Arena on Friday night. About 7,000 men attended, according to PK officials -- and most of them were rockin' out to the worship band PK7.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. The men I saw were clearly fired up about the whole event. Some even started a chant across the arena: "We love PK yes we do! We love PK how 'bout you?!" I didn't stay for the whole event, but I'm sure a "wave" got started at some point.

I was there to put the last piece in place for a story about men's ministry, which will be published in Tuesday's paper. It seems that, while men flock to events like this, few show up for church. I tried to answer why. Look for it and tell me what you think: Not just about the story itself, but about the issue. Do you know of a church that does men's ministry particularly well? Particularly badly? I'd like to learn more.

But, if you're a man, please don't send a picture of yourself dancing. That's more than I can deal with.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hammering Plan B

The Federal Drug Administration approved the "Plan B" emergency contraceptive for over-the-counter sales yesterday, and the reaction of prominent local abortion opponents was -- well, predictable.

Carrie Gordon Earll, senior bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family, believes the decision could have big consequences for girls under age 18 -- even though it's still illegal for those girls to buy the so-called morning-after pill.

"There are no safeguards, legal or otherwise to prevent this powerful drug from falling into the hands of teen girls -- or, worse, into the hands of men bent on sexually exploiting teen girls by flashing a magic pill as a promise they won't have to worry about getting pregnant," Gordon Earll said in a recent press release.

The Rev. Bill Carmody, head of the Respect Life office for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, told the Colorado Catholic Herald (the diocesan newspaper) that he was "saddened and disappointed."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

No Pulp Fiction here

Zondervan, the massive Christian publishing company located in Grand Rapids, Mich., is planning to release a celebrity-stocked audio version of the New Testament this October. The voice of God: Samuel L. Jackson.

The "Snakes on a Plane" star is one of more than 100 celebrities lending their voices to the audio Bible, called "Inspired by ... the Bible Experience." Others lending their voices to the project include Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.

They'll use the more contemporary TNIV translation of the Bible -- the copyright to which is owned by Colorado Springs-based International Bible Society.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Morphing Committee

This morning's Gazette had a story about Focus on the Family's contributions to supporting Amendment 43 -- the so-called marriage protection amendment -- including more than $500,000 to the Colorado Family Action Issue Committee.

What the story didn't get into is the fact that the issue committee -- which will fold when the election's over -- may well rise from its own ashes to become a permanent advocacy group.

Officials stress that the issues committee is a stand-alone thing. But members of the group certainly would like to set up a Family Policy Council in Colorado, joining 32 other such state-based organizations scattered throughout the country.

Family Policy Councils are stand-alone organizations that advocate socially conservative policies. Many have been involved in passing marriage protection amendments in their home states. These councils have strong ties to Focus on the Family and its lobbying wing, Focus on the Family Action -- so much so that Focus Action employee Jim Pfaff's job is to coordinate with them. Though Focus says it just "comes alongside" these independent organizations, many receive significant help from the Springs-based ministry.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Their moral duty

CitizenLink, part of the Springs-based Focus on the Family, is telling churches exactly how involved they can -- and cannot -- get in the coming political elections.

In a story titled "Churches Can Do Plenty in Advance of Election Day," CitizenLink Associate Editor Steve Winn reports that churches are prohibited from endorsing (or opposing) a particular candidate. Talking about issues like gay marriage and abortion are fair game -- as is telling congregants how candidates stand on these issues.

And, of course, churches can encourage their congregants to vote.

Regular church-goers are more apt to vote Republican than non-church-goers, and evangelicals -- Focus' primary audience -- typically vote overwhelmingly for GOP candidates.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Onward and upward

Ellie Collinson, former director of the Colorado Springs-based religious watchdog Citizens Project, has taken a job for the People for the American Way in Washington, D.C.

"This is an ideal opportunity for me to put my experience from Colorado to use on behalf of a national organization working to provide positive alternatives to the initiatives of the radical right," she said in a recent press release.

Citizens Project has been a conservative Christian foil locally for more than a decade, and the People for the American Way does similar work nationally.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jesus Camp

I watched a preliminary version of the documentary "Jesus Camp" last night -- a fascinating and, to my eyes, fair look at a North Dakota children's camp that trains its guests to be soldiers of God.

It's the kind of film that will scare some people, most likely. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady follow three children around as they shout, weep and prostelytize, as the camp director leads them through a frenzy of religious (and some would argue political) fervor.

While there's a "wow, look at this weird subculture" vibe throughout the documentary, Ewing and Grady let these passionate pentacostals have their say. In fact, the story's told mainly through their eyes and their words, with only an Air America disk jockey inserted here and there to provide a more cynical context. The documentary shows these kids for what they are: Children passionate about their faith and fervent in the belief that they're called to change the world -- starting with abortion. Ewing and Grady have resisted having "Jesus Camp" labeled as a liberal documentary a la Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11": In fact, they pulled the film from Moore's Traverse City Film Festival, fearing the association would turn off the film's potential evangelical audience.

The film, which will premiere in a private screening next month, makes a handful of Colorado Springs references: Focus on the Family's James Dobson is heard at the beginning, and one of the children makes a pilgrimage of sorts to Colorado Springs' New Life Church, where he chats briefly with the Rev. Ted Haggard.

It's worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Summer Mooovie

The animated movie "Barnyard" has left a handful of Internet-savvy Christians a little ... disturbed ... that the male cows in the film all have udders.

The sentiments expressed by some are adequately outlined in this review. Though this is (I think) tongue-in-cheek, others take this sort of stuff very seriously. A few believe that the makers were lobbying for some sort of transgendered society. One online poster said that the movie's makers were playing God. Conservative Christians living in Colorado Springs may wonder whether the movie is a sneaky follow to the whole "Mooing Dog" diversity campaign.

That said, most Christian Web sites have given the film positive reviews: No cussing, a good message at the end, etc.

"Bovine gender reassignment notwithstanding," wrote a reviewer for Focus on the Family's PluggedIn Online Web site, "the kids got great lessons about accepting responsibility, defending others and the powerful bond between father and son."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Muy Bueno

I went to a Spanish-speaking Mass on Sunday at St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Briargate ... a fascinating experience. I've been to enough Catholic Masses to be able to follow the service pretty well, but the only Spanish I know I learned from Sesame Street.

I was quite comfortable there, though. There were about 100 parishioners, and almost all smiled at me at one time or another. Many of them, I understand, are recent immigrants who probably feel as out of place in suburban Briargate as I would in Juarez, Mexico. Because their Catholic faith is so much a part of their culture and lives, it's at Spanish-speaking Masses like these where many of these folks feel most at home.

One parishioner who spoke some English told me that she could attend an English-speaking Mass, but for her, it wouldn't be the same: It'd be like holding her faith at arm's length.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gibson and Dobson

I wrote last week that I was a little surprised that few evangelical leaders have spoken up about actor/director Mel Gibson's drunken, anti-Semitic tirade in late July. Gibson, a Catholic, became something of an evangelical darling for his "The Passion of the Christ" movie.

Now, James Dobson -- head of Focus on the Family -- has released a statement. In short, Dobson says that we should give the guy a break.

"Mel has apologized profusely for the incident and there the matter should rest," Dobson said. "Mel has also indicated his willingness to seek help to overcome his alcoholism, and has asked the Jewish community for forgiveness. What more can he do?"

Dobson also said Gibson's remarks weren't relevent to "The Passion," which some criticized as being anti-Semitic. Dobson called it "one of the finest films of this era," and said nothing has taken place that would alter the ministry's view on the matter.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hello Dalai!

The Dalai Lama -- Nobel Peace Prize winner, Buddhist leader and (let's just say it) cultural rock star -- will be in Colorado in September to take part in a peace rally and bless what is reputed to be the largest Buddhist monument in the United States.

The Dalai Lama, who leads the Tibetan strain of Buddhism, is one of 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners expected to take part in the Sept. 15-17 PeaceJam 10th Anniversary Youth Conference in Denver. The goal, according to a PeaceJam press release, is to coach a "new generation of peacemakers who transform their local communities, themselves and the world." The event is open to teens age 14-19.

On Sept. 17, the Dalai Lama will travel west to Red Feather, where he'll lead a two-hour blessing event over the 108-foot-high Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. The stupa, which was consecrated in 2001, is part of the Shambhala Mountain Center, a Buddhist retreat. The event is sold out.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Door-to-door witnesses

Colorado Jehovah's Witnesses want you to come to their convention. In fact, they may come to your door to invite you in person.

Jehova's Witnesses -- about 6.6 million of them worldwide -- are no strangers to door-to-door evangelism, of course. This Christian sect is behind the magazine "The Watchtower," which believers have doled out to countless Americans for decades.

Jehovah's Witnesses hope their Aug. 25-27 District Convention, titled "Deliverance at Hand!," will be a catalyst for spiritual renewal. According to a press release from the group, organizers hope to hand out invitations to people living in "selected parts" of Colorado Springs and other Colorado cities, including Denver, Aurora, Grand Junction, Lakewood and Commerce City. Pueblo, apparently, didn't make the cut.

The convention beginst at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 25 at 15290 Arena Circle in Loveland. It's free, and no collections will be taken.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hey diddly-o!

Ned Flanders, Homer's squeaky-clean neighbor from the Fox classic "The Simpsons," is being honored at a Christian festival in England.

Organizers of the Greenbelt Festival, Aug. 23-26 in Cheltenham, say that Flanders is more closely associated with Christianity these days than, say, Mother Teresa. Tribute band Ned Zepplin will be among those tipping their collective hat to the cartoon Christian.

"Although he has very strong beliefs, he's not thrusting them down anyone's throat and he's not being unpleasant about it," said organizer Simon Jenkins, who also runs the Christian satirical Web site

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mad Mel

Actor/director Mel Gibson's been the buzz lately, what with his drunken, anti-Semitic tirade several days ago and his subsequent apologies. Some Jewish groups remain outraged, though many were somewhat mollified with his latest mea culpa. The ever-sensitive Catholic League have asked that folks lay off poor Mel, who adheres to a very traditional form of Catholicism: He said he was sorry, OK?

Evangelical organizations have been silent. Perhaps they feel it's not their place.

Still, Gibson has become an evangelical darling. He screened an advance copy of his "The Passion of the Christ" to powerful evangelical leaders in Colorado Springs in June, 2003, and they responded in kind by helping make the movie a mammoth blockbuster. The film, of course, was also seen by some as being anti-Semitic -- a charge evangelicals hotly denied.

Evangelical groups embraced Gibson as one of their own. I think it's surprising that few leaders are condemning him OR supporting him ... they don't seem to be saying anything at all.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Veggies can make you rich! Maybe.

What are the qualifications for a CEO? Gumption? Innovation? A high school diploma?

Aspiring business execs don't necessarily need any of those things to become owner and CEO for the Web-based business Retiring founder Paul Wagner says his Seat O' Power is potentially open to all comers -- provided the applicants fork over $100 and write a 100-word essay on why they should become VeggieGear's next CEO.

"The next VeggieGear owner could be anyone!" Wagner gushed in his online press release.

The company hocks all manner of products based on the "VeggieTales" Christian video series, from T-shirts to real vegetable seeds (which don't sprout with googly eyes). Granted, it's not Microsoft, but Wagner insists the entire operation will be handed over to the new CEO -- Oompa Loompas and all.