CULTURE DIGEST: ‘Rocky Balboa’ takes on Christian theme; president-elect of Christian Coalition steps down

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Believe it or not, Sylvester Stallone says the infamous movie character Rocky was meant to reflect the nature of Jesus, and the sixth film in the series, “Rocky Balboa,” scheduled to hit theaters Dec. 22, carries an intentionally Christian theme.

“It’s like he was being chosen, Jesus was over him, and he was going to be the fella that would live through the example of Christ,” Stallone said of Rocky in a conference call with pastors and religious leaders. “He’s very, very forgiving. There’s no bitterness in him. He always turns the other cheek. And it’s like his whole life was about service.”

Stuart Shepard, managing editor of Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink, took part in the teleconference and reported in a Nov. 15 commentary that Stallone considers himself reborn.

“I was raised in a Catholic home, a Christian home, and I went to Catholic schools and I was taught the faith and went as far as I could with it,” Stallone said. “Until one day, you know, I got out in the so-called real world and I was presented with temptation. I kinda like lost my way and made a lot of bad choices.”

Somewhere along the way, Stallone realized his fame was not the most important part of his life. Now he says God can help a person overcome his past.

“The more I go to church,” he said, according to CitizenLink, “and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to His Word and having Him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now.”

Stallone, in the conference call, compared the need for church to the need for a physical trainer.

“You need to have the expertise and the guidance of someone else. You cannot train yourself,” he said. “I feel the same way about Christianity and about what the church is: The church is the gym of the soul.”

With that, the culmination of the Rocky film series is another story about redemption. And Stallone said he couldn’t have written it without the personal journey he has endured.

“I needed to actually go through my trials and tribulations,” he said, “before I could be man enough to know how to write that kind of story that ‘Rocky Balboa’ is.”

‘TWEENS’ ARE THE NEW TEENAGERS, EXPERTS SAY -- Parents who think their children are growing up too fast may not be simply lamenting the passage of time.

Child development experts agree that physical and emotional changes that would have happened to teenagers years ago are now common among children age 8 to 12, or “tweens,” according to the Associated Press.

Children have easier access to contemporary influences that parents don’t approve of, such as images of sex, violence and adult humor in movies, music, video games, television shows and websites. Some kids start dating at earlier ages and carry cell phones, AP said, and girls wear makeup and clothing that is well beyond their years. Many tweens are increasingly disrespectful of their parents.

“The shift that’s turning tweens into the new teens is complex -- and worrisome to parents and some professionals who deal with children,” AP said Nov. 26. “They wonder whether children are equipped to handle the thorny issues that come with the adolescent world.”

Along with the article was a list of tips for parents of tweens, which began with advising parents to set limits such as “You can’t go to an R-rated movie.” Also, parents must recognize teachable moments when they’ll be able to convey to their kids their own family values. Parents might want to seek a support system through a circle of likeminded parents facing the same tween challenges, AP said.

And parents are advised to keep a close relationship with their children because such relationships often offer alternatives to violent and sexual messages.

CHRISTIAN COALITION PRES-ELECT STEPS DOWN -- The mega-church pastor elected as the next president of the Christian Coalition in July has stepped down after learning the moral advocacy organization is not open to expanding its platform into realms like global warming and poverty.

Joel C. Hunter of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., decided Nov. 21 to part ways with the group after first believing they were interested in such change. He was expected to take over as president in January.

“When we really got down to it, they said: ‘This just isn’t for us. It won’t speak to our base, so we just can’t go there,’” Hunter told The New York Times.

Televangelist Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition in 1989 to represent the religious right in politics, and it has grown to more than 2 million members.

Hunter is the author of a book titled “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians,” in which he argues that a good portion of conservative Christians believe the religious groups that are supposed to represent them focus too much on moral issues and not enough on the environment and economy, The Times said.

Roberta Combs, chairwoman of the Christian Coalition’s board, will continue as the organization’s president.

SCIENTISTS BASH RELIGION AT FORUM -- A select group of renowned scientists gathered at a recent forum in California called “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival,” and they ended up lambasting people of faith for what they consider the ridiculous and harmful notion of God as Creator.

“Anything that we as scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization,” Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, said.

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Colorado, called for the establishment of an alternative church in which the success of the religious formula is the guide and the power of science is the subject matter.

“Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty,” Porco said half in jest, according to The New York Times Nov. 21. “It is already so much more glorious and awesome -- and even comforting -- than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”

Richard Dawkins, an Oxford evolutionary biologist who wrote “The God Delusion,” chimed in to express his disgust with some scientists’ attitudes toward religion and its possible relevance to science.

“I am utterly fed up with the respect that we -- all of us, including the secular among us -- are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” Dawkins said. “Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted on his blog Nov. 21 that the forum indicates scientists have done their share of causing friction with Christians.

“We are often scolded with the argument that it is Christianity that has declared war on secular science -- not science that has declared war on Christianity,” Mohler wrote at albertmohler.com. “If nothing else, these statements show that argument to be profoundly false.”


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