Category Archives: Entertainment

Does the spirituality or faith of our president matter?

By Rev. Jim CastroLang | SpokaneFAVS

A review of “The Presidents and their Faith:  From George Washington to Barack Obama” 

I came to this book with much ambivalence. Why does the faith perspective of our presidents matter? In my clearheaded thinking, it should not matter. The United States of America is not a theocracy. In fact many of the founders and first European residents of this land were fleeing the controls of religion upon their country. Of course, in typical human hypocritical fashion, many of the original colonies were set up as semi-theocracies requiring allegiance to one particular denomination.

Despite my doubts, I found myself strangely curious about the faith of our presidents. This book is not intended to go into great depth, instead it is a survey from what the public record shows about the religiosity of each president. All presidents’ have appealed to religious imagery sometime during their term especially in inauguration addresses and speeches in times of deep crisis. It seems all presidents have seen the power of appealing to the religious imagination of the American people. Authors Darrin Grinder and Steve Shaw try to access when this emanates from a sincere personal faith. They look to church attendance, reading the bible (and quoting it) and other signs that they took faith seriously before, during, and after their White House years.

There is a struggle in our American discourse about whether we were founded as a Christian nation. Our freedom of religion has boundaries of protection between state and religion but what of our presidents? Did they protect this separation or did they encourage us to deepen our Christian roots?

Read full post here.


AFRAID, The Gospel of Mark coming to CT

Frank RunyeonBLOOMFIELD — In February Old St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Bloomfield and South Congregational Church of Granby will be presenting “AFRAID The Gospel of Mark”, a one man play by Frank Runyeon. This is a spellbinding performance set in the catacombs of Rome, enlivened by flashes of humor and ending with a deeply moving passion, according to a press release. Acclaimed by critics and scholars for over 20 years.

Runyeon is known for his many roles on television. He has also done work in the film industry, stage and radio. He has won national acclaim for his work as a translator and performer of Biblical texts over the past 20 years..

Where: South Congregation Church
242 Salmon Brook Street

Date: Feb. 4

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Special Information: A dessert reception will follow the performance and there will be a chance to visit with the star.

Price: $18.00 (paid at the door)
$15.00 (paid in advance)
$12.00 (student tickets)

Tickets are available in advance or at the door. Advance tickets can be obtained by calling David Russell at 860-653-7441, or by email at

Book shows struggles of American Muslims

By Tracy Simmons
For many Americans, Islam didn’t enter the spotlight until after Sept. 11.

However, in Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad’s new book “Becoming American? The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America,” we are reminded of the overlooked struggles that Muslims have had to overcome to make a home here.

Haddad is a distinguished historian and a professor at Georgetown University. Her writing, though, isn’t overly academic. She presents her case clearly and captivatingly. Her argument is this: American Muslims are just as American as anyone else in this country.

Many Muslims immigrated here, just like my ancestors emigrated from Ireland years and years ago. And Muslims have a right to be here, just like the rest of us do.

But Haddad goes beyond simply sharing her opinion with us. Her book is filled with facts about Islam in America. For instance, she reports that about 80 percent of American Muslims are unmosqued.  And she presents us with a timeline where she explains, for instance, that in the 1980s Muslim Americans stopped questioning whether they could live in the U.S. or not, and began redefining what Muslim life in America actually meant. Since then new organizations came into existence, like the North American Association of Muslim Professionals and Scholars (in 1993).

The author also gives us an important reminder that Sept. 11 hasn’t been the only time Muslims have had to fight to show to their loyalty to the U.S. The Arab-Israeli conflict, the Salman Rushdie Affair and the Iranian Revolution were also instances that forced American Muslims to prove themselves.

“The goal of these reflections is not only to prove that Muslims living in the West are loyal citizens, but more importantly, that they share American values and are not associated with the teachings of those targeted in America’s declared war on terrorism, who have been variously labeled as extremist, fundamentalist, jihadist, terrorist, and proponents of an Islamo-fascist Islam,” Haddad writes.

It hasn’t just been everyday citizens that have given American Muslims a hard time. Haddad points out that the government hasn’t exactly been a cheerleader for Islam. The Bush Administration, she notes, once announced its intention to celebrate Eid-ul Adha with the Muslim community. Then the event was postponed. Then canceled. A statement was never made. Other acts by the administration made the country seem anti-Muslim, not anti-terrorism, Haddad writes.

Over the decades we have made progress, but in Hadad’s honesty she says that we still have a long way to go. Anyone interested in helping pave the way to a more understanding, intelligent, pluralistic and accepting nation can start by reading this book.

Bijou Theater presents screening of “Everyday Sunshine”

“Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone” – documentary trailer from Tilapia Film on Vimeo.

BRIDGEPORT — From the shifting fault lines of Hollywood  fantasies and the economic and racial tensions of Reagan’s America, Laurence Fishbone rose to become one of the most original bands of the last 25 years. With a blistering
combination of punk and funk they demolished the walls of genre and
challenged the racial stereotypes and political order of the music
industry and the nation. Everyday Sunshine is a story about music,
history, fear, courage and funking on the one.

At the heart of Fishbone’s story is lead singer Angelo Moore and
bassist Norwood Fisher who show how they keep the band rolling, out of
pride, desperation and love for their art. To overcome money woes,
family strife, and the strain of being aging Punk rockers on the road,
Norwood and Angelo are challenged to re-invent themselves in the face
of dysfunction and ghosts from a painful past.

Laurence Fishbone narrates Everyday Sunshine, an entertaining
cinematic journey into the personal lives of this unique Black rock
band, an untold story of fiercely individual artists in their quest to
reclaim their musical legacy while debunking the myths of young Black
men from urban America.  Highlighting the parallel journeys of a band
and their city, Everyday Sunshine explores the personal and cultural
forces that gave rise to California’s legendary Black punk sons that
continue to defy categories and expectations.

Nov. 15 at pm
Post Screening Q & A with the filmmaker, Chris Metzler

General Admission Ticket Price: $10

The Bijou Theatre, 275 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport

Who killed Jesus?

The death of Jesus of Nazareth remains controversial, even after almost 2000 years. Pope Benedict XVI revisits the debate in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, the second volume of his work on the figure of Jesus.

Some interpreters have identified the Jewish people as a whole as responsible for Jesus' death—a position often used to justify the persecution of Jews. Some modern scholars argue that the Roman authorities are to blame. Others claim that a group within the Jewish Temple establishment worked with the Roman authority to execute Jesus for insurrection, which is what the Gospel writers maintain.
Benedict XVI directly confronts the arguments and the evidence.

"Many readers will find this section of the book particularly interesting as the Pope reviews the historical positions taken about this," said Fr. Joseph Fessio, founder and publisher of Ignatius Press. "He discusses some very controversial claims that have been made, and draws on some contemporary scholarly resources to reach a conclusion that I am certain will generate a lot of discussion."

Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week—From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection became available March 10 from Ignatius Press. It is the follow-up to the Pope's best-selling first volume, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.

In Part Two, the Pope tackles many of history's most volatile questions about the final week of Jesus' earthly life :

Was Jesus a political revolutionary?
Was he the Messiah, the Son of God?
What did Jesus teach about the end of the world?
Did Jesus establish a community of disciples—the Church—to continue his work?
How did Jesus interpret his death?
What does the evidence tell us about Jesus' ultimate fate? Did he really rise from the dead?
Did the early Christians believe Jesus would return immediately?

Benedict answers those questions and more. The figure of Jesus that emerges from this study is of someone who is both divine and human; God's self-disclosure in his Son, who tells us about God but also about ourselves. "It's clear that what interests the Holy Father is helping people to know and love someone whom he knows and loves," Fr. Fessio said. "But he does this as a scholar. "This book," he added, "is a bright star in the constellation of books about Jesus."

Band promotes ethical living through music, recipes


SIMSBURY – Connecticut gypsie reggae band, HannaH’s Field, is sending good pulsations into the world with their third album, Music Magic Medicine.

The record is coupled with a vegetarian, gluten-free cookbook, which features 14 ethical eating recipes.

“We’ve been searching for a long time for a way to bring food and music together, because that is everything we’re about basically,” said HannaH, the band’s vocalist.

HannaH’s Field is a husband-wife duo from Simsbury. HannaH has performed in rock bands across Connecticut and Oregon and has been nominated as best female vocalist in the Hartford Advocate multiple times.

Music Producer John Bolduc described HannaH as, “The little girl that sings big; with a blues man’s warmth, a bad girl’s passion, and Buddha’s enlightenment.”

HannaH’s husband Andy, the group’s percussionist, is a trained pastry chef and a nutritional healer. The Hartford Courant described his food as “flavors ready to dance the night away.”

The couple formed the band four years ago and perfected their Earth beats sound while living in Oregon. They returned to Connecticut two years ago and have been busy performing across the state.

Music Magic Medicine is available online until the album is officially released in the spring. The 15-track CD is for anyone who wants to be uplifted “spiritually, mentally and physically,” HannaH said.

“Everything you take into your body food-wise creates who you are,” HannaH said. “When you eat meat, you carry the vibration of the animals being slaughtered. It’s the same with the music you listen to, the movies you see, the readings you’re taking in. We wanted to create a good, all-around for philosophy for people.”

Some of the songs on the album are coupled with recipes. Monkey Song, for instance, is paired with Chef Andy’s banana ice cream recipe. Recipes, which are mostly vegan, also include sunflower seed cookies, wheat free pizza, hummus and HannaH’s favorite, Coconut Squash Soup.

“We feel like (this album) isn’t just music, it’s almost a roadmap for living,” she said.

HannaH’s Field will be at Passiflora Tea in New Hartford on Feb. 20. For tour dates visit here.

Music Magic Medicineis available for $14 here.

Listen to a sample of HannaH's Field here.

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Film about shark attack victim tells story of faith

ContributedOn April 8 Soul Surfer will bring to the screen Bethany Hamilton's thrilling, true story of losing an arm to a tiger shark attack and, with her faith, determination, and family support, returning to champion-level surfing.

The film, rated PG, offers something for every audience member: stunning shots of competitive surfing, touching moments of faith from a family facing tragedy, and inspiring scenes of Hamilton learning that God can use her circumstances to help others.

It features an all-star cast, including AnnaSophia Robb and Helen Hunt, with Carrie Underwood in her film debut, and Dennis Quaid. Quaid, who had recently faced his own near tragedy with his infant twins, joined the project after hearing Hamilton tell her story on a national morning television show.

Behind-the-camera, veteran director Sean McNamara has 15 feature films to his credit, including extensive experience working with young actors including Shia LaBeouf and Hilary Duff. Soul Surfer is based on the book by Hamilton, Sheryl Berk and Rick Bundschuh. 

Rich Peluso, vice president of AFFIRM Films, a division of Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, worked with the writers, producers, and the Hamilton family to integrate the family's real story and faith into the film. AFFIRM Films will oversee marketing to the faith audience.

"It's been an absolute honor and thrill to get to know and work with Bethany, the Hamilton family, and our amazing group of producers," said Rich Peluso, vice president of AFFIRM Films. "Everyone's worked hard to faithfully tell this story in a way that is both completely accessible and entertaining to a wide mainstream audience, and also conveys in a natural way the love for God that pours out of the family."

"Through conversations with pastors and other leaders in the faith community, we know our audience today wants quality films with high production values, well-known talent, and a biblical worldview," Peluso said. "Soul Surfer delivers on all points. It is the story of a Christian family facing sudden tragedy . . . and triumphing through faith. The Hamiltons rely on God in forming their response to Bethany's new circumstance."


It was in 2003, only weeks after Hamilton and her mom, Cheri (portrayed by Helen Hunt in the film), prayed for God to reveal His purpose for Bethany's life, that the young surfing champion lost her arm in the shark attack. Prayer sustained her against the odds, and she found strength in her Christian faith, her family, and her church. In less than a month, she was back in the water and on the path to return to championship form.

"It was hard at first; I think that was a natural feeling," said Noah Hamilton, Bethany's oldest brother. "And there was definitely some questioning: 'God, why Bethany, she had such an amazing future, why?' But in the hospital, when we saw that joy of the Lord in Bethany, with no self pity and grateful to be alive, that really pulled me out of despair."

And it affected others the same way. Mail began to pour into the Hamilton's house, letters of encouragement and prayer from thousands of people worldwide. Without knowing it at first, Bethany had also become their encourager. Many of those who wrote began by telling of a seemingly insurmountable circumstance, but after hearing Bethany's story, they found renewed hope and courage to face it head on.

"We never know what life brings," Hamilton said. "Maybe there are some rough times for you now or in the future. I think that if you seek God first and focus on Him, you'll be able to endure those struggles and hardships."

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