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Published: Saturday, 12/25/2010

TV Christmas reports rarely mention Jesus

The Rev. Billy Graham, shown at 27 during a sweep across the country in 1947, is among several religious leaders profiled in 'God in America,' the PBS program which looks at the relationship between faith and democracy. He has advised the nation's presidents for decades. The Rev. Billy Graham, shown at 27 during a sweep across the country in 1947, is among several religious leaders profiled in 'God in America,' the PBS program which looks at the relationship between faith and democracy. He has advised the nation's presidents for decades.
COURTESY OF BILLY GRAHAM CENTER / NYT Enlarge

The evening news programs on the three major networks featured 527 stories about Christmas during the 2007 and 2008 holiday season, according to a study by the Culture and Media Institute. Of those, seven mentioned God or the birth of Jesus.

The CMI report, titled "Christmas Without Christ," asserts that most Christmas stories on ABC, NBC, and CBS spotlighted the holiday weather, travel, retail sales, or the impact on the economy, mentioning "God," "Jesus," or "Christ," only 312 times in 19 sentences over two years.

"Two thousand years ago, there was no room for Mary and Joseph at the inn in Bethlehem. Fittingly enough, in the past two years, there was no room for their baby at the network evening news shows," the CMI says in its report.

That the Alexandria, Va.-based Culture and Media Institute would keep such a tally and reach such conclusions will come as no surprise once one reads its mission statement: "To preserve and help restore America's culture, character, traditional values, and morals against the assault of the liberal media elite, and to promote fair portrayal of social conservatives and religious believers in the media."

More information on CMI's mission to keep tabs on the media is available online at www.cultureandmediainstitute.org.

GOD AND COUNTRY: The PBS program God in America, which takes a sweeping look at the complex relationship between faith and democracy, was recently released on DVD. Subjects in the six hours of programming include Pueblo leader Po'pay; Puritan leader John Winthrop; early American evangelist George Whitfield; Scopes trial court opponents William Jennings Bryan and Calrence Darrow; Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Rev. Billy Graham, and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The DVD, which sells for $34.99, is available by calling toll-free 800-752-9727 or online at shopPBS.org.

C.S. LEWIS, SUPERSTAR: Not only is Mr. Lewis, a 20th-century British author and Christian apologist, gaining fans with Hollywood's adaptations of his Narnia novels for the big screen, movies, but a theatrical version of his book The Screwtape Letters is going on tour.

The play, which the New York Post called "as entertaining as it is thought-provoking," has been performed 250 times in New York City since April and next month will head to theaters in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and several other cities (none in Ohio or the Midwest).

Set in an "eerily stylish office in hell," The Screwtape Letters stage version stars Max McLean as His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape and tells a tale of spiritual warfare from a demon's point of view. Read more online at ScrewtapeOnStage.com.

SMITTY SHARES: Michael W. Smith seems to be the model Christian music superstar: tremendously talented, with a winning personality, good looks, and a happy home life. But he wasn't always living the dream. Smitty talks about how he struggled with drugs early in his career in a video on the IAmSecond.com Web site.

"All I wanted to do was pick up the guitar and sing praise songs," Mr. Smith says. But after moving from West Virginia to Nashville, he talks about how he gave in to the temptation of drugs while performing at after-hours bars.

"I began to be enticed that I could play with fire and I wouldn't get burned," he said.

Over a period of three years, Smitty smoked marijuana, snorted cocaine, and dropped acid. His drug abuse came to an abrupt end when he nearly died after snorting what he thought was cocaine. Weeping, he cried out to God, he says. "[He] came and wept with me on that floor, and it all changed."

IAmSecond.org features videos with other celebrities, including race car driver Darrell Waltrip, baseball slugger Josh Hamilton, and football coach Tony Dungy, as well as ordinary folks with extraordinary stories.

INSPIRATIONAL SHOW: Michele Howe, a Toledo-area parenting columnist and author of nine books, will talk about women's health and inspirational topics in a weekly 15-minute program called "Prescription for Life," 1:45 p.m. Wednesdays on www.conversationaliveradio.com.

JEWISH ROCK: Jewish Rock Radio, featuring music that seeks to "strengthen Jewish identity and connection for youth through their love of music," is available online 24/7 at www.jewishrockradio.com.

The Internet station was started by Rick Recht, a leader of the Jewish rock movement who performed in Toledo in February, 2005.

The channel will spotlight talented new artists as well as offer a medium for young Jews to share their inspirational experiences," Mr. Recht said. It also will open musical doors that never existed.

"Young Jewish kids playing instruments can now dream about someday being a Jewish rock star," Mr. Recht said in a press release.

PAPAL BOOK: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a Web site dedicated to the book Pope Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy, published by the USCCB in conjunction with Sheed & Ward.

The flashy Web site, popebenedictbook.com, features excerpts from the Pope's essays, a photo gallery, and questions and answers with some of the books' contributors. You can order the book on the site for $17.99.

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



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