Thursday, January 31, 2008

What is a Christian? - 5

Getting back to our discussion of "What is a Christian?"...

As the Presidential election dominates the news, I've been reminded of images, video clips from the past, showing politicians walking out of churches, smiling, shaking hands with the Pastor...a Bible tucked under their arms.

Some people think that going to church makes a person a Christian. Others think joining a church--becoming a member--makes a person a Christian. Wrong on both counts.

While attending a church and joining a Christian church is great, neither one of those acts makes a person a Christian.

A person has to make a conscious choice to become a Christian--he or she must come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the One sent by God to be a sacrifice for his or her own personal sins. And he or she must accept that sacrifice on his/her behalf. This is what a Christian is. No one becomes a Christian by default.

(For those of you worried about infants or unborn children who die, or children who perish when they are too young to understand the Gospel, or those too mentally disabled to understand, don't worry. God is loving and kind and holds them securely in His hands. They will be, or are, with Him in heaven.)

When a person believes this about Jesus and accepts it, they have become a Christian in that moment.

However, this means it is possible to attend a church, and even to be a member of a church, and not truly be a Christian. As a matter of fact, I'm sure every Christian church, and every Christian denomination, has people sitting in their pews who are not truly Christians. It is good that they are there. And we hope they will come to true belief in Christ sometime (soon). But just because someone goes to church or is a member of a church does not mean they are a Christian.

While Christians are definitely not perfect, it is also true that sometimes Christians are blamed for problems in the world and for wrong and violent things that are done when, in fact, the people who did those things are not Christians at all.

Just because someone sits in a pew...just because someone attends or joins a church...just because someone tucks a Bible under his or her arm...just because someone calls themself a Christian...does not mean he or she actually is a Christian.

To recognize who is truly a Christian and who is not takes way more discernment than that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Schedule of Final Week of Blog Tour with Carole Whang Schutter

Here's the schedule for the remaining days of the blog book tour with Carole Whang Schutter, which concludes this week:

Jan 28 Part 8 of 9

Jan 29 Part 9 of 9 and (review)

Jan 30 (interview)

Jan 31 (interview with Christopher Cain)

It has been my privilege to interview Carole and to be a part of this blog tour. My thanks to Carole for granting me the interview and to Cheryl Malandrinos of and for including my blog in the tour!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Opportunity for Wannabe Screenwriters

Here’s a rare opportunity for wannabe screenwriters:

Carole Whang Schutter, the author and screenwriter of the book and movie September Dawn is offering to give a copy of her screenplay by e-mail to anyone who buys the book. She told me, “All they have to do is send me a copy of the shipping receipt, or if it is a store like Borders, a receipt for the book, and I will email them a copy.”

She is also offering as a bonus the double blue one line schedule.

As Carole said to those interested in screenwriting in her blog tour interview with Marilyn Peake on January 17:

If you want to learn your craft, you have to watch different ways of doing it. In January, through Pump Up Your Book promotion, I am offering a free e-book of the screenplay, and as a bonus, a double blue one line schedule that is a day-to-day journal of the shooting schedule to anyone who buys my book on Amazon, but we are working to have it available on other websites as well. It really is an opportunity for anyone curious about or wanting to learn the craft. In fact, I suggest, if you’re serious, buy the book, read it, watch the movie, follow it with the screenplay and read the dbl blue one line. It is a terrific way to be immersed in the industry and how it all magically comes together on the big screen. Whether you like the movie or not isn't even the point, it is an invaluable learning experience and glimpse into the industry that is rarely, if ever offered to the public.

To take advantage of this offer, contact Carole at

I've already obtained both documents and have learned what a "double blue one line" is! I can't wait to study this and the script in depth to learn from it. I saw the movie in a theater, but it's now available on DVD. Last I heard it was the fourth on the DVD rental list nationwide.

The entertainment industry needs Christians to develop screenplays that can impact our society and our world for good. Learning to write for Hollywood is one way we can speak out and voice our views. For those Christians interested in screenwriting, there is more help here:

Here's Carole's blog tour schedule for this week:

Jan 21 Part 3 of 9 and (interview)

Jan 22 Part 4 of 9 (Internet radio interview)

Jan 23 Part 5 of 9 and (spotlight)

Jan 24 Part 6 of 9 and (guest post)

Jan 25 Part 7 of 9 and (interview)

Monday, January 21, 2008

What is a Christian? - 4 "Atonement" episode of ER

Did anyone watch ER last week? This episode, titled “Atonement,” included a subplot about a patient (played by Jonathan Banks) who came into the ER after saving a drowning boy out of frigid water. Turns out, the character was not only a physician himself, but he was the executioner at a penitentiary, the one who gave lethal injections to death row inmates. He was only hanging around the single mom and her son because he desperately wanted to make amends for putting that boy’s father to death. After putting 17 men to death, he was no longer sure it was the right thing to do. And his guilt was eating him up. (Whether doing this job to put these inmates to death was wrong or was “sin” is debatable, but we’ll go with it for the sake of this discussion.)

Add to that, he had terminal cancer. He knew he had a limited time to find forgiveness…if that were possible.

Enter the hospital Chaplain.

Now, if you've been watching the show recently, you know this lady who gives patients spiritual guidance also sleeps around unabashedly. After sleeping with one of the doctors, he apparently thought this was the beginning of a relationship, but she made it clear it was not. She wanted to be free to…um…sleep around with anybody with no ties, I guess.

They call her a Chaplain, but this character is not a Christian. I don’t know what faith she claims to be, if any. She just seems to be a mishmash smorgasbord of spiritual stuff.

So as she sits beside this dying man’s bed trying to bring him comfort, he wants some answers. Answers to questions like, Is there any forgiveness for me?

She can’t give him any clear answers. About three times she starts in with, “Well I believe—”

And he angrily cuts her off. Finally he explodes, telling her he doesn't need her New Age crap (not an exact quote—I can’t remember the exact quote. Wish I could. It was good!). He wanted real answers…and she didn't have any. He told her to get out. Get out! “Get out!” (That’s an exact quote.)

In a later scene, this Chaplain sat talking about the situation with a doctor. He’s trying to comfort her and she says when she became a Chaplain, she thought “being inclusive” was the way to go. He assures her that it is, but you can tell she’s not so sure anymore.

He’s wrong. She’s right…on this point. Being “inclusive” is not the right way to go.

Being inclusive means having a bunch of really nice thoughts about God and religion, but none that offends or excludes anyone. Being inclusive can’t be anything other than a mishmash smorgasbord of ideas. It might look good. It might feel good. But it’s lacking something critical: Truth.

This dying character didn't want religious platitudes that sound nice but mean nothing. He didn't want a bunch of spiritual crap. He wanted the Truth. She didn't have it. He knew it. He threw her out. And I was cheering him on!

Christianity is Truth. That makes people mad because they think Christianity is not “inclusive.” Christianity states very clearly that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the only way to God the Father. The only way to heaven. If you believe and accept that, you’re included. If you don’t, you’re excluded.

Some well-meaning Christians try to make Christianity inclusive so they don’t offend or exclude anyone. But that’s impossible. Can’t be done. If you try, you end up with a watered-down bunch of spiritual mishmash smorgasbord crap. You don’t end up with Truth.

What that character in ER was asking was, “Since I have killed 17 people and now I think this was wrong, what can I do to make up for it? I've gone to their families and tried to make amends, but it doesn't seem like enough. Is it enough? How do I find forgiveness? Is there forgiveness for a man like me after what I've done?” After the mother of the boy he saved found out who he was, he sought forgiveness from her and she angrily refused. He was devastated.

But he didn't need her forgiveness. He only needed God’s forgiveness for all of his sin.

If a Christian Chaplain had been there to give him real answers, this Chaplain would have told him that there is no way to make up for our sin. We can do all kinds of good deeds until the day we die, and it still won’t undo the wrong we have done. Because we can’t undo our sin, we can’t do enough good deeds to earn our way to heaven.

How then, can any of us have any hope at all? Jesus came and took the penalty for all the wrong we have done. He traded places with us. He took our death and gave us life. This doesn't sound inclusive to some because they think if they don’t “believe in Jesus” they are excluded from heaven. That is absolutely correct. But Christianity—true Christianity, not the watered-down crap—is totally inclusive because anyone…ANYONE…who chooses to put their faith in Jesus Christ is saved from the penalty of their sins (death) and given life for all eternity.

I love the way ER portrayed this man’s desire to know the truth and that the writers of this episode allowed this character to recognize the Chaplain didn't have it but only had a bunch of spiritual hooey. That rocks!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Blog Tour Schedule - Carole Whang Schutter

The virtual book tour with Carole Whang Schutter, screenwriter/author of September Dawn, visited my blog for the first time last Thursday, January 17th. Here is the schedule for the past few days through next Monday. I'll post more of the schedule as the week progresses. (The entire schedule is on my January 1 post.)

If you have any interest in screenwriting, I found special interest in the interview with Marilyn Peake on Jan. 17 (link below). Carole is offering a free download of her screenplay and other documents which are great learning tools for wanna-be screenwriters (like me!). I haven't checked into getting my copy yet, but when I do I'll let you know any more information I find out about this.

Jan 17: Part 1 of 9 (interview) and (Golden Goblet newsletter interview)

Jan 18: Part 2 of 9 and (review)

Jan 21: Part 3 of 9 and (interview)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What is a Christian? - 3

While I was talking with my friend who lived in Pakistan for several years back in the '90s, she also told me that since the Muslim people in Muslim countries understand the United States to be a Christian nation, they think the things that come out of the United States reflect Christian values.

She was talking about what comes out of Hollywood--American movies and TV shows. They see the sex and violence and filthy language and think that's what Christianity is, she said.

Hollywood so often seems to have a huge amount of disdain for Christians and Christianity. Often movies and TV shows portray Christians as idiots, hypocrites, and guilty of the worst crimes. And people in other parts of the world think what comes out of Hollywood is Christian and is put out by Christians.


I wonder how the non-Christians in Hollywood, especially those who buck against anything truly Christian, would feel if they knew what they are doing represents "Christianity" to others around the world.

And after all that, many people in the United States, in Hollywood and elsewhere, turn around and blame Christians for the problems in the world...and the trouble that has come to our own country.

Could this get any more ironic?

Again, being a Christian is something a person chooses to become, making a conscious choice based on an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah God promised to send to save that person, individually, from his or her sin.

A Christian is not something a person automatically is because he or she was born in the United States of America.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What is a Christian? - 2

It's not just people in America who misunderstand what a Christian is, as I talked about in my last post. People in other parts of the world also have misunderstandings about what a Christian is.

I know a family who lived in Pakistan for several years back in the 90's. When they came home, I learned a lot from the wife and Mom.

She explained to me that in predominantly Muslim countries, there is a close association with where you're born to what religion you are. People born in a Muslim country are automatically assumed to be of the Muslim religion (Islam)...I supposed until they act affirmatively to change that. But you can't do that.

When I made a comment to my friend about it being "illegal" to be a Christian there, she corrected me and said it was not illegal to be a Christian in Pakistan. What is illegal, however, (as I understand it) is to change religions. If you're a Muslim, it is not legal to change to Christianity. The punishment for such a change is pretty severe--threat of death. Actual death.

She also told me that the Christians in that country get the lowliest jobs, the jobs nobody else wants. The dirty jobs. So Christians are looked down upon, considered lower than "good" Muslim people. There's a lot of societal pressure to be Muslim.

At the same time, because these people associate a person's religion with where a person is born, and because the United States is known (or at least has been known in the past--some would argue this now) as a "Christian" country, they automatically place the label of "Christian" on Americans.

I have to wonder how this strikes people like those I mentioned in my last post--those like Matthew Murray and Rosie O'Donnell, or all the people in the United States who are from other faiths or are atheist or agnostic. I can imagine it might tick them off to be assumed to be a Christian simply because they are an American. That gives many another great reason to hate America being seen as a Christian country. Which splashes over to not wanting American to be seen as a Christian country any longer. Which drips into blaming Christians for all the problems in the world. Which oozes into a hatred toward Christians.

Being born in America does not automatically make a person a Christian. To become a Christian, you have to choose it. You can't be included automatically. You must opt-in.

Actually, this assumption that every American is a Christian is part of what gives the Muslim people a very dim view of Christianity. This understanding spills over into the entertainment industry...and politics...and more. I'll talk more about that next time.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What is a Christian?

At times, what I hear people say about Christians amazes me. There seems to be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about Christians. Some people say America is no longer a Christian nation, but whether or not that's true, America is still the most Christian nation in the world, and growing up here it's easy to assume most people understand what a Christian is. But recently, it sure seems like some people have some crazy ideas about us.

Matthew Murray, the shooter at New Life Church and the YWAM campus near Denver, reportedly posted to a web site a message that blamed Christians for all of the problems in the world. Authorities also reported that he had a lot of anger toward his own Christian family, not to mention the YWAM Christian ministry. Obviously I don't know what went on in his home or what angered him so. But whatever happened to him along with however he interpreted those events in his mind, he apparently came to the conclusion that "this is how Christians act" or "this is what Christians are." Therefore he hated Christians.

Remember when Rosie O'Donnell said radical Christianity is just as threatening to America as radical Islam? I'm not sure what Rosie meant by radical Christianity, but I have to wonder. Is she thinking of those few misguided individuals who tried to express their fervency for pro-life issues by bombing abortion clinics or killing abortion doctors? Is she thinking of those mean folks from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas who protest at the funerals of military people holding signs that say "God hates gays" (or worse) and say that the deaths of our military service people are God's payment for America allowing gays in the military? Does Rosie see these folks and think, "There. Those are Christians. That's what Christians are like."

Please, Rosie...that group of people (mostly one family) is neither Baptist nor a church. These people are not Christians. Christians don't act like that. Not true Christians. And no mainstream Christian denomination or organization sanctions their behavior.

Occasionally, I hear other things said publicly about Christians, clues about what some people think Christians are. It's not very complimentary. I get the impression some (it's hard to tell how many) think Christians are mean. Dishonest. Simple-minded. Ignorant. Whiners. Overbearing. Wanting to force their faith on everyone else (as if that were possible). People who will convert you or kill you.

It's scary.

On a recent episode of Saving Grace, the incarcerated character was converting to Islam. He told Earl the angel that his parents were forced at the point of a sword (if I remember right) to convert to Christianity. (Um, they had that backwards. I've heard of Muslims making such threats and forcing such conversions--never Christians.)

No Christian would ever do that. Not a true Christian. That "conversion" would be absolutely meaningless. A forced conversion to Christianity is no conversion at all, because a true conversion is about what you truly believe about Jesus Christ--not what you profess under threat of death.

A Christian--a true Christian--believes Jesus is the Christ, the person God promised to send to save us from our sin. That's it. If you believe Jesus is that promised Messiah, you're a Christian. If you don't, you're not.

God doesn't force anyone to become a Christian. Rather, He works hard to capture our hearts and minds.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Cross is some - Hating Christianity

I'm sure you heard about the shootings at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last month on December 9th, and the related shootings at the Youth With A Mission campus in a Denver suburb earlier that morning. In the following days, authorities let us know the shooter's name was Matthew Murray and that someone, possibly Murray, had posted rantings about Christianity and threats against Christians on a web site in the hours between the shootings.

According to an MSNBC article (, Murry wrote on a web site (which was not identified), "All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world."

The week before that I was checking out some blog directories in order to register this blog with them. I remember seeing on one of those directories a blog titled something like "Ex-Christian." The brief description described the blog as for those who had come out from under the lies of Christianity.


Are any of you as perplexed by that as I am?

It shouldn't surprise us, I guess. Jesus told his followers they (we) would be hated on account of Him. I just hadn't encountered web sites and blogs spewing such hatred and rantings toward Christians and Christianity until that week.

Call me naive if you want, but I am still of the opinion that any individual who truly gets to know Jesus Christ, His message, and the work He did while here on earth and why He did it, will come to love Him. But then there are those who don't want to know the truth and so call the truth lies.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV

Friday, January 4, 2008

Politics Future and Past...And Events in Pakistan and Kenya

December 27th, 2007. Two things happened on that day...and are still happening.
  • Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan and current candidate for Parliament, was assassinated.
  • Mwai Kibaki claimed victory in Kenya's presidential election setting off rioting by opponents who say he didn't legitimately win that election.

Does the world seem to be exploding? Or imploding?

Yesterday. The Iowa Caucuses. I don't know how important Iowa's caucuses really are in the grand scheme of things. They are, of course, important to those involved--Iowans and the Presidential candidates. But we still have a long time to go before our Presidential election and, frankly, anything can happen.

I'm amazed at people who already have Hillary Clinton as our next President. Have they not learned through previous elections that...anything can happen? Help me out here...I'm not recalling all the details. Do you remember:
  • John Kerry hounded by the swift boat servicemen who contradicted his claims about his military service? (He lost his bid for President.)
  • Dittos George Bush being hounded by those who questioned his service record? (He won his bid for President.)
  • Was it George Bush who had an unnamed reporter ask him to name the leader of some country...and he failed to answer or failed to get it right? That question came out of the blue and was nothing more than an attempt to make him look bad, and most people saw that, but remember how much press it got? The other day Hillary Clinton said Pakistan's elections would have to be postponed because after Ms. Bhutto's assassination there would be no one on the ballot to oppose current President Musharraf. Uhhhhhhh...excuse me? President Musharraf isn't on the ballot--this election in Pakistan is not a presidential election; it is a parliamentary election and there are others on the ballot. But will Mrs. Clinton's political faux pas get as much press as Mr. Bush's did?
Well, anyway, such things can change the course of an election literally overnight. So can events in other countries, like Pakistan and maybe even Kenya. And, heaven forbid, we are not immune to such things here in the U.S. We've also experienced assassinations in our past, terrorist's attacks (and terrorists may well be behind the Bhutto assassination), and disputes over who won our Presidential election. Please tell me you remember Florida and "hanging chads."

Election day is a long way off. And in the mean time, anything can happen.


If you would like to read more about the situation in Kenya and Pakistan, and how these situations are affecting Christians in those areas, here are two articles that will interest you:

January 3, 2008, article from Kenya:

January 2, 2008, article from Pakistan:

Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And the protection of our political candidates and our military personnel.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Virtual Book Tour for SEPTEMBER DAWN

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll remember my interview with Carole Whang Schutter, screenwriter and author of the motion picture and book about the "Mountain Meadows Massacre" titled September Dawn last September (2007). I was recently contacted by Ms. Schutter's publicist. She has put together a "Virtual Book Tour" for Carole and was asking permission to link to parts of my interview...which I thought was just totally cool!

Now, I know what you're thinking... "What's a 'Virtual Book Tour'?"

Good question. In my industry (publishing) it used to be that publishers would send big-name authors on book tours where they would travel from city to city signing their books at bookstores and making guest appearances on local TV and radio. A couple of problems with that: first, it was very expensive. Second, only the top authors got such expensive trips.

One solution? The "Virtual Book Tour" also known as the "Blog Book Tour." With the advent of the blogosphere and many people online these days, many authors are making the rounds to different blogs.

Each day during the tour a different blog hosts the author. What happens after that? Ya got me. I dunno. I've heard of 'em but I haven't done one of 'em. (Not that I'm doing one now...but my interview last September with Carole Whang Schutter will be included starting January 17th.)
  • Does each blog host ask a different question of the author?
  • Is a part of an interview posted on each blog?
  • Is this an interactive conversation with the author continuing from blog to blog through the month?

I'm not really sure how this works, but we can all find out together...starting tomorrow, January 2, 2008, because that's when the blog book tour with Carole Whang Schutter begins. I have received her schedule of appearances and I will post it below. I won't be having any new chats with Ms. Schutter, however you can see that the tour will link to each part of my interview with her!

So...if you want to follow this book tour as I do, plan to log on to each of the following blogs on (or after) the date listed...and we'll all see how this thing works together.

Here's the schedule:

Jan 2 (interview)

Jan 3 (Internet radio interview)

Jan 4 (Q&A session)

Jan 7 (God Tube interview)

Jan 8 (interview)

Jan 9 (interview)

Jan 10 (interview)

Jan 11 (interview)

Jan 14 (review)

Jan 15 and (podcast)

Jan 16 (interview)

Jan 17 Part 1 of 9 (interview) and (Golden Goblet newsletter interview)

Jan 18 Part 2 of 9 and (review)

Jan 21 Part 3 of 9 and (interview)

Jan 22 Part 4 of 9 (Internet radio interview)

Jan 23 Part 5 of 9 and (spotlight)

Jan 24 Part 6 of 9 and (guest post)

Jan 25 Part 7 of 9 and (interview)

Jan 28 Part 8 of 9

Jan 29 Part 9 of 9 and (review)

Jan 30 (interview)

Jan 31 (interview with Christopher Cain)