CULTURE DIGEST: What is 'Jesus Walks' all about?; Phelps' granddaughter loses race; Christian group sides with Hollywood

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--With Kanye West's recent Grammy win for "Jesus Walks" as Rap Song of the Year, and the buzz surrounding the rapper’s 10 Grammy nominations, some Christians have wondered whether the song conveys a positive message.

In his "High Voltage" segment in Focus on the Family's Brio magazine for teens, Bob Smithouser answered a reader's inquiry last fall about the song which raps about Jesus walking with sinners.

"To reach a certain audience, West uses dicey language in certain places," Smithouser wrote. "Still, I respect the point he's trying to make: The culture is in dire need of Christ, the only one who can save us. West asks God for help battling Satan. He tells hustlers, killers, drug dealers and strippers there's a better way. He reminds rappers they are role models. He even criticizes urban radio stations that censor songs about God."

But Smithouser said other lines in the song “expose spiritual immaturity and confusion,” with West admitting he hasn't spoken to God in a long time and he's not out to convert atheists into believers.

"West also misunderstands the completeness of Christ's sacrifice,” Smithouser wrote. “He hopes 'Jesus Walks' will score him points with God and 'take away my sins' -- as if he could do anything to add to what Jesus did on the Cross," he noted. "Good intentions, but the result is a mixed bag. The rest of [West’s] ‘College Dropout’ CD goes downhill from there.”

PHELPS GRANDDAUGHTER LOSES COUNCIL BID -- Jael Phelps, the 20-year-old granddaughter of picketer Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church, an independent congregation in Topeka, Kan., came in fourth in a four-person race for a seat on Topeka's City Council March 1. Her main opponent in the race was 26-year-old Tiffany Muller, the incumbent and the first openly homosexual officeholder in Kansas.

"The main reason why I got into the race is so that the people of District 9 would know who the incumbent is," Phelps told The New York Times. "We have someone whose goal in life is to make it so the governmental stamp of approval is put on sin, and an abomination at that."

Just after Muller was appointed to the city council last fall, she sponsored an ordinance that prohibits Topeka from discriminating against homosexuals in hiring. Voters rejected a move to repeal the ordinance March 1 by a 6 percent margin, handing a victory to homosexual activists in the community.

Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist -- which is not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention -- have developed a reputation for extremist tactics in opposing homosexuality. For 14 years, Phelps has led pickets and sent hate-filled faxes to various parties he views as either supporting or being too soft on homosexual issues.

Muller had told The Times, "If I lose the primary, it'll be because I'm gay." She came in second place to a lesser-known candidate but will proceed to the general election April 5.

CHRISTIAN COALITION SIDES WITH HOLLYWOOD -- After years of speaking out against movies and music it considers harmful to the American culture, the Christian Coalition has found itself on the same side as the entertainment industry in a current Supreme Court case.

The high court is expected to hear arguments March 29 in an Internet file-sharing case stemming from a lawsuit filed by Hollywood movie studios and recording companies against two peer-to-peer software companies. Hollywood blames such software for the decline in revenue from its products, while social conservatives like the Christian Coalition maintain that file-sharing services make pornography more accessible to minors, according to the Associated Press.

"Hollywood is definitely a strange bedfellow to most of us," Jim Backlin, vice president of legislative affairs for the Christian Coalition of America, told the Associated Press. "Our goal was to cut down child pornography and other kinds of pornography, and if for some reason we were allied with the Hollywood types this time, so be it."

File sharing allows computer users to download movies and music without purchasing the actual DVD or CD. Several artists and movie industry leaders have been outspoken about movie and music piracy through public service announcements and other means. If one person buys a DVD, copies it and distributes it to others, billions of dollars of lost revenue for the entertainment industry can mount quickly.

But the technology sector fears that a ruling against file-sharing services will leave them vulnerable to future lawsuits if they develop devices that are not approved by the entertainment industry, the AP said.

"This is the Hail Mary pass on the part of the content industry to try to put the entire technology sector under their thumb," Fred von Lohmann, an attorney representing one of the defendants, told the AP.

HERE AND THERE -- Doug Wead, the author who taped phone conversations he had with President Bush when Bush was governor of Texas, has handed over the tapes to the president's private attorney and said he will give all future proceeds from his book based partly on the tapes to a tsunami relief charity called Convoy of Hope.

Wead had secretly taped Bush and then caused a stir by making the tapes public last month, which, he said, was done only in the interest of history. The author has since said in a statement on his website that he knows "very well that personal relationships are more important than history," according to The New York Times.

"It's a matter that we consider closed at this point," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of the tapes.

-- Despite the introduction of comedian Chris Rock as host of this year's Oscars, the 77th edition marked the least-watched Academy Awards show since 1997, according to USA Today. The 41.5 million viewers who tuned in marked a 5 percent drop from last year. Observers say the low turnout could be due in part to a nomination list of unfamiliar films, whose combined box-office revenue was the lowest in years.


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