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Caviezel as Jesus leads stellar cast on audio Bible

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Jim Caviezel reads the words of Jesus during taping.

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When you think of the words movie and Jesus, who first comes to mind?

For many people today it will be Jim Caviezel, the actor who starred as Jesus in Mel Gibson s 2004 blockbuster, The Passion of The Christ.

Well, Caviezel is reprising his role as Jesus in a different format, a 20-hour, 20-disc dramatic reading of the Bible titled The Word of Promise: New Testament Audio Bible, produced by Carl Amari for Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The stellar cast of 120 features a number of familiar voices including Michael York as narrator; Richard Dreyfuss as Moses; Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdalene; John Heard as Matthew; Lou Gossett, Jr., as John; Lou Diamond Phillips as Mark, and Terence Stamp as the Voice of God. Two Christian music stars have minor parts: Michael W. Smith is Cleopas (one of the two men who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus) and Rebecca St. James plays a servant girl.

A one-disc sampler from the project was impressive, with the actors reading their lines with dramatic flair while sticking verbatim to the unabridged New King James Version of the New Testament. Sound effects and background music added depth to the presentation.

The 20-disc set, plus a behind-the-scenes DVD, is listed at $49.99 but discounts are available, including Wal-Mart stores selling the package for $29.99. More information is available online at www.thomasnelson.com. A sample can be heard over the phone by calling the toll-free number 1-866-WORD-CDS.

CASH VALUE: Another new audio version of the New Testament from Thomas Nelson features the late great Johnny Cash reading the New King James Version. It took 20 years of encouragement (read: nagging) by his mother, Carrie Rivers Cash, before the country superstar decided to do it.

Thomas Nelson reports that Cash, who in addition to being an artist was also an ordained minister, approached the project with fear, respect, awe, and reverence for the subject matter.

The 16-disc set carries a retail list price of $49.99.

HAPPY FEET: The only physical exercise offered by most video games involves the furious twiddling of thumbs, with perhaps a few quick body-english leans to either side. That s not the case with Dance Praise 2 The Remix, the latest Christian version of the smash hit by Konami, Dance Dance Revolution.

Players get a real workout by stepping on a dance pad that is plugged into a computer s USB port, obeying Dance Praise 2 s cues to step on designated squares in time with the music.

Unlike most video games, this one is not just fun to play but enjoyable to watch others try to score points almost like a home version of Dancing with the Stars but you can be the judge.

New features of The Remix, which follows the successful introduction of last year s original Dance Praise, include four levels of custom-made steps, a random-step feature that can generate infinite variations for every dance, and a dance-pad controlled Tetris game.

It s the music that separates Dance Praise 2 The Remix from the mainstream varieties of the game, however, and the song selections feature many of the top artists in contemporary Christian music. The more than 50 tracks include songs by two Toledo bands, Sanctus Real, which has six tracks, and This Beautiful Republic, which has one song included the set. Other artists featured include Third Day, Jeremy Camp, Pillar, Day of Fire, Michael W. Smith, Hawk Nelson, and Casting Crowns.

The list price for Dance Praise 2 The Remix, is $49.95 including game and dance pad. The pad sells separately for $34.95 and the game alone is $29.95. Information: www.DigitalPraise.com or 510-770-0244.

OY GEVALT! Are you feeling like a shayna maidel (pretty girl), maybe with an urge to kvell (beam with pride)? Or perhaps you ve dabbed on a bit too much makeup and now you re ongepatchket (gaudy, overly done)?

These Yiddish words and phrases are included in a compilation of 70 terms in author Janet Perr s amusing new book, Yiddish for Dogs (Hyperion, $14.95). Not really for dogs but for humans who don t necessarily have to own or love dogs, the book pairs the phrases with photos of canines who appear to have enjoyed hamming it up for the camera.

Dog owners might even pick up a few useful new commands, like sha! (quiet) or fress! (eat heartily).

Along with some of the more obscure terms, Yiddish for Dogs includes many commonly used terms that have earned a place in the English dictionary, including klutz, shlock, oy gevalt, nudnick, and chutzpah.

HEAVENLY RERUNS: 7th Heaven, the drama about a Protestant minister and his family, ended May 8 after 11 seasons on the WB Television Network. But in the spirit of satellite and cable TV, the show must go on in reruns.

The Hallmark Channel recently acquired the rights to the program and will begin airing the series next month. This was one of the few TV shows that my family actually watched together, at least for the first several years.

Starring Stephen Collins as the Rev. Eric Camden and Catherine Hicks as his wife Annie, 7th Heaven made more references to God and prayer than any other show on television, and did not avoid some difficult social issues.

According to the Hallmark Channel was the longest-running family drama in the history of American television. Now in syndication, it s likely to be running forever.

CARMAN REVS IT UP: Remember Carman? The Jersey boy was one of the top draws in Christian music in the 80s and 90s, filling Savage Hall for his concerts and topping the charts with hits such as The Champion, Addicted to Jesus, Satan, Bite the Dust, and Radically Saved.

(For some reason I am always reminded of the YES-FM radio DJ who jokingly called him Carman half car, half man. )

Carman was more of a storyteller with a flair for entertainment than a singer, with a strong evangelical message told through narration, drama, a touch of hip-hop, and a little bit of singing. He played off pop culture and even danced on stage radical! For most of his concerts, which were fairly large productions with massive lighting and stage gear, the admission was free and he passed a plate around for donations.

Carman has been off the radar for most of the 21st century, but is back with a new CD, Instrument of Praise, on the Tyscot Records. It s a fun and inspiring album that features plenty of R&B-style gospel soul and Carman s distinctive storytelling talents.

Joining Carman are such gospel greats as Andrae Crouch (on the stirring This Blood/This Power), and Lucinda Moore, Vashawn Mitchel, and Deitrick Haddon. Ernest and Ericka Jackson are featured on the opening track, The Overflow, which is a musical creed for the prosperity gospel.

Good to have Carman back in gear. You can check him out online at www.carman.org.

BAD IMPRESSIONS: A recent groundbreaking survey by the Barna Group found that many young Americans have a negative image of Christians. The research found that generations known as Busters, born between 1965 and 1983, and Mosaics, born between 1984 and 2002, generally consider Christians to be judgmental, insincere, hypocritical, too political, and sheltered, among other things.

David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, along with Gabe Lyons, founder of the Fermi Project, take a deeper look at the survey in their new book unChristian: What a New Generation Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters (Baker Books, $17.99).

Although Barna s data are meticulously gathered and presented objectively, the mission of the company is to help church leaders analyze and deal with social trends and issues. In keeping with that goal, Mr. Kinnaman and Mr. Lyons don t just report the numbers but offer ways to reverse young people s poor impressions of Christianity.

They consult nearly 30 nationally known religious leaders to get their insights and recommendations, including Chuck Colson, Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, and Andy Stanley.

More information on this intriguing new book is available online at www.unchristian.com.

David Yonke is The Blade s religion editor. Contact him at dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.

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