“Heaven is for Real” Hits Theaters Today

Posted by Amy on April 16, 2014, 8:43 am

Movies aimed at Christian audiences have crowded theaters this year, with mixed results (just take a look at our post about “Noah” to see what I mean). The latest movie is “Heaven Is For Real,” which premieres this Wednesday during Holy Week.

The real story behind the movie is fascinating. In 2003, a little boy named Connor Corum underwent emergency surgery, and he says that, during the surgery, he went to heaven and met Jesus, his deceased grandfather, and even his miscarried sister (whom no one had ever told him about). Connor relayed other details to his parents that are seemingly impossible for him to know.

Continue reading “Heaven is for Real” Hits Theaters Today...

Holy Week Is Here: Let’s Make the Last Week of Lent Count!

Posted by Amy on April 15, 2014, 7:40 pm

Have you gotten a little lax with your Lenten goals? You’re not alone.

At the start of Lent, I so optimistically proclaimed that I was going to make this “the best Lent ever.” I made lists of all the character flaws I wanted to work on and all the things that were hindering my relationship with Christ. I set goals. I made plans. And I failed.

Continue reading Holy Week Is Here: Let’s Make the Last Week of Lent Count!...

“Noah” Movie Timeline of Troubles

Posted by Amy on March 26, 2014, 2:02 pm

“Noah,” starring Russell Crowe, premieres this Friday, March 28th. Few movies have made so many headlines before they’ve even been released.

Let’s take a stroll through the timeline of troubles that have preceded the release of “Noah."

Misleading Survey Says 98% of Faith Consumers Aren’t Satisfied with “Noah” (Though They Haven’t Seen It)

Variety ran an article entitled “Survey: Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied with ‘Noah,’ Hollywood Religious Pics,” in which it stated that a religious organization conducted a survey that found “98% of its supporters were not ‘satisfied’ with Hollywood’s take on religious stories such as “Noah...”

So what was this survey, exactly? It was just one misleading question posted on Faith Driven Consumer’s website. It wasn’t even a requirement to actually see the movie to respond to the survey. The question read:

“As a Faith Driven Consumer, are you satisfied with a Biblically themed movie–designed to appeal to you–which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood?”

Um...how do you think people are going to answer a question worded like that?

Russell Crowe Tweets to Pope Francis, Has Two Meetings With the Pontiff Canceled, Then Finally Meets Him (Briefly)

Crowe sent a tweet to Pope Francis asking him to screen “Noah”. He managed to get a meeting scheduled with the pontiff--but it got canceled. Not one to quit, Crowe did end up meeting Pope Francis briefly during a general audience at the Vatican. So will Pope Francis be viewing “Noah”? Highly unlikely, as a Vatican spokesperson has already said the pope does not screen movies.

Paramount is Pressured to Include a Disclaimer About “Noah”

Then there was the backlash from the National Religious Broadcasters, a group that threatened to boycott “Noah” unless Paramount issued a statement clarifying that the film is not a literal interpretation of Genesis. You can see the disclaimer in the image below:

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 6.23.10 PM.png

Indonesia Bans “Noah”

“Noah” has been banned in Indonesia for what film censors say is material that contradicts Islam and could mislead people.

Rick Warren Blasts “Noah” on Twitter

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, blasted the film on Twitter. In his tweet, he used a quote out of context from “Noah” director Darren Aronofsky, a self-proclaimed atheist. Details here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/rick-warren-blasts-noah-misquotes-films-director-on-twitter-116319/

So should Christians watch “Noah” or not?

It’s really up to you. Even though it is a biblical story, it is, at the end of the day, a Hollywood film, and it’s main goal is to make money. To do that, it has to be engaging, entertaining, and it has to make sense to the masses. “Noah” has received a lot of criticism from people who say the film takes too much artistic license. But isn’t that what makes movies, well, movies?

Whatever you decide, don’t place too many expectations on the film to improve your spiritual life. A movie can’t do what it isn’t designed to do.

More Resources to Help You Decide

  1. The Noah Movie: How To Watch the Movie with Wisdom and Discernment

  2. Why I’m Recommending Christians See the Movie “Noah”

Will you be watching “Noah”?

Weekly Roundup: Russell Crowe Finally Meets Pope, Nun Wows on “The Voice,” and “Divergent” Debuts

Posted by Amy on March 21, 2014, 3:54 pm

Russell Crowe Finally Meets the Pope (Sort of)

It all started with a tweet. Russell Crowe sent a tweet to Pope Francis, hoping to get him to watch his new movie “Noah.”

Though the pontiff doesn’t usually screen movies, Crowe was at least hoping to meet Pope Francis in person. They had plans to, but then those plans were canceled.

Crowe finally got his wish though (sort of) when he met the pope briefly at a general audience at the Vatican.

More details: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/russell-crowe-noah-team-briefly-689572

25-Year-Old Nun Wows Judges on Italy’s “The Voice”

You’ve got to see this to believe it. A 25-year-old nun rocks out to “No One” by Alicia Keys on Italy’s “The Voice”--and the judges’ reactions were priceless!

Learn more about the singing nun here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/youthful-nun-wows-panel-on-italian-reality-singing-competition/

New Movie “Divergent” Debuts to $4.9 Million

The hit young adult novel turned movie “Divergent” hits theaters today. In late Thursday night showings, it already raked in $4.9 million! The storyline is rich with Christian allegory.

Will you be watching “Divergent”?

More details: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/film-reviews/divergent-here-comes-another-film-franchise-about-teens-in-a-dark-dystopia/article17576282/

Weekly Roundup: Pope Francis’ 1-Year Anniversary, Farming Manga, and ABC’s “Resurrection”

Posted by Amy on March 14, 2014, 11:53 am

Pope Francis Celebrates One-Year Anniversary as Pontiff

Thursday was Pope Francis’ one-year anniversary, and many people celebrated in different ways. We celebrated with a post highlighting seven touching moments from his first year. One monk in the Bronx actually wrote a rap song about the pope. But just how did Pope Francis himself celebrate? In true humble fashion, he simply asked people to pray for him.

Manga About Farming Takes Off in Japan

Just when we think we’ve seen it all, manga has a new genre about...farming. It’s actually a huge hit in Japan; one series sold 15 million copies three years!

Read more here: http://on.wsj.com/1qDw4XR

ABC’s New “Resurrection” TV Show

It’s nearly impossible to hear a name like “Resurrection” and not have Christianity called to mind. But does ABC’s new show really have anything to do with religion? It premiered just last Sunday, so it’s probably too early to tell. But Let’s take a look at the storyline: an 8-year-old boy comes back to life 32 years later, but he still looks the same as he did the day he died. On top of that, other deceased residents of his town are also inexplicably coming back to life. .

“Resurrection” airs on ABC on Sundays at 9pm/8pm Central. 

Read more here: http://bit.ly/1cGgE18

Pope Francis One-Year Anniversary: 7 Moments That Made You Go “Aww”

Posted by Amy on March 13, 2014, 9:22 am

Today is Pope Francis’ one year anniversary as the Bishop of Rome. During his first year of papacy, he’s become somewhat of a media darling, making headlines daily for his impressively personable and humble approach. He was even named the most talked about person on the Internet in 2013! And why wouldn’t he be? He’s just so darn likeable!

Let’s take a look back at seven Pope Francis moments from the past year that made you go “aww”:

Continue reading Pope Francis One-Year Anniversary: 7 Moments That Made You Go “Aww”...

Weekly Roundup: Ashtag Selfies, McConaughey’s Oscars Speech, and “Saint George”

Posted by Amy on March 07, 2014, 1:53 pm

Happy Friday, everyone! We're starting a new series here on the Manga Hero Blog: the Weekly Roundup. Every Friday, I'll post links to stories at the intersection of faith, culture and social media. It was an interesting week regarding all three of those! Let’s take a look at this past week...

Ash Wednesday #Ashtag Selfies

Christians took social media by storm on Ash Wednesday with #ashtag “selfies.” The concept? Receive the cross of ashes on your forehead, take a picture of yourself, and post on social media. At first, I thought it was a neat idea, since it made people more aware of Ash Wednesday and was a way to show you’re proud of your faith. But then it made me feel weird because the ashes are a symbol of piety, and selfies are inherently narcissistic. I thought of what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew: “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them…” and “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret.”

Continue reading Weekly Roundup: Ashtag Selfies, McConaughey’s Oscars Speech, and “Saint George”...

4 Ways to Have a More Meaningful Lent

Posted by Amy on March 04, 2014, 9:59 am

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, which means Lent begins!

Before you resolve to give up chocolate for the tenth time, I invite you to take a step back and reflect on the purpose for the season, and reflect on how you can make it more meaningful for you. We’ll get to that, but first, the basics:

What Is Lent?

Lent is the 40-day period (not including Sundays) before Easter Sunday during which we focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. What is almsgiving? It’s basically giving to the needy, with a special intent to do it for Christ.

Dates for the Lenten season:

  • Ash Wednesday - March 5, 2014
  • Palm Sunday - April 13, 2014
  • Good Friday - April 18, 2014
  • Easter Sunday - April 20, 2014

Why Do We Participate in Lent?

We are preparing ourselves for the joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. To do that, we need to reflect on our own sinfulness, repent from our old ways, and do things that will bring us closer to God.

Is There Any Scriptural Basis for Lent?

In the New Testament, Jesus fasts and prays in the desert for 40 days in preparation for his public ministry and subsequent Passion (Matthew 4:1-11). During Lent, which is 40 days, we imitate Christ.

Why Do We Give Things Up for Lent?

By sacrificing, we recall the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us on the cross, and we realize how small our sufferings are in comparison. More important than merely “giving something up” for Lent is doing something with the intention of growing closer to God. This can even mean adding something, like praying the rosary every day, volunteering at a soup kitchen once a week, reading the scripture readings before each mass, or donating to a charity.

How Can I Make This Lenten Season More Meaningful?

1.   Remember the reason for the season.
It’s easy to start thinking of Lent as a season of rules governing when you can (or can’t) eat, when you should abstain from meat, and so forth. But don’t fall into this trap! What good would that be? Remember the why behind everything you’re doing. Remember we are imitating Christ, purifying our hearts, and moving closer to God.  Just as in any relationship, you are telling God that you love Him so much, you are willing to give up these things in order to spend more time with Him. When you see the beauty in sacrifice in the name of love, and when you remember Who you are doing this for, the Lenten season becomes much more meaningful.

2.   Be creative!
I love when people think outside of the box when they’re planning their Lenten goals. I had one friend in college who gave up her bed! She slept on the floor during Lent as a form of penance, and to keep in mind those around the world who go without beds every night.

Growth happens when we move outside of our comfort zone--so if you’re giving up the same thing every Lent, ask yourself how much you’re really growing spiritually.

3.   Don’t go it alone.
It’s much easier to get somewhere when you are walking the path with someone who’s trying to get to the same place. Ask a friend to be your accountability partner this Lent. You can check in on each other, pray together, and hold each other accountable for your Lenten goals.

4.   Set concrete and achievable goals.
Instead of saying, “This Lent, I’m going to pray more,” take it a step further and say something like, “This Lent, I’m going to pray the rosary every day.” Be careful not to get so ambitious that you make a goal that will set you up for failure (or, at best, exhaustion). Yes, praying for two hours every day is a noble goal--but is that really the best way for you to grow in your spiritual life, or do you think you’ll burn out by day three?

All right--now you have some basic guidelines! (Believe me, I’ve just barely scratched the surface.) So what are you doing for Lent? 

Photo credit: jezobeljones

“Son of God” Movie Hits Theaters Feb. 28

Posted by Amy on February 24, 2014, 9:09 am

For the first time since Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ,” Jesus will be back on the big screen. “Son of God,” directed by Christopher Spencer, will portray the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

Building upon the hit History Channel miniseries “The Bible,” “Son of God” is based on John’s Gospel account. It stars Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado as Jesus, and Roma Downey, of “Touched by an Angel,” as Mary.

So how are Christians responding to this movie? With wholehearted enthusiasm it seems. “Son of God” is being praised by church leaders such as Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles and mega-church pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. Some churches are even buying out theaters to watch screenings of the movie.

This is just the first in a lineup of biblical movies coming to theaters this year, such as “Noah” (release date: March 28), “Exodus” (December 12), and “Mary, Mother of Christ.”

It’s exciting to see faith being integrated into mainstream movies, and it will be even more exciting to see how youth respond to it.

Check out the official movie trailer for “Son of God” below:

Also, here’s a review of the movie by Cardinal Donald Wuerl:

So will you be watching “Son of God” when it comes to theaters on Feb. 28?

Love Is Not a Fairytale

Posted by Amy on February 13, 2014, 7:00 am

I admit it: I’m a hopeless romantic. Years ago, nothing delighted me more than watching romantic comedies, listening to sappy love songs, and sighing over cute guys, dreaming that maybe--just maybe--one day a gallant stranger would waltz into my life and sweep me off my feet the way it happens in Disney movies.

Older and wiser, I now know that’s not what happens.

Does that sound depressing? It’s actually the opposite! I’m here to tell you love is much more than what society often tells us. That’s encouraging news!

What Disney movies, rom coms, TV shows, and other media often perpetuate is harmful because it gives us unrealistic expectations of love, expectations including, but not limited to: it will be “love at first sight” and you’ll “just know”; it will be sheer bliss, without any problems; there’s “The One” out there who is meant for you (as if your love is predestined and completely out of your control!). They also tend to promote objectification of people, lack of commitment, and decisions based purely on emotion. That’s not love at all--that’s infatuation. What’s the difference? Love lasts; infatuation burns out. Love heals; infatuation hurts.

So where are we to look for an example of what love truly is and how we should handle relationships? We should look to God’s love for us. He loved us into being. He sent His Son to die for us and save us, even when we were unworthy. In light of this, I offer the following statements about love:

1. Love is sacrifice.
   “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Wait--sacrifice? That doesn’t sound very appealing, does it? But think about it. When you love someone, it’s not about you. You want what’s best for them. You are committed to doing what will
bring about their ultimate good. That often entails doing something that maybe isn’t so pleasant for you; it may even be dreadfully painful. But just look at the unfathomable beauty and gifts that can come from such a sacrifice.

2. Love is not a feeling.
Ah yes, the proverbial butterflies in your stomach. Let me tell you, they don’t last. Does that sound unromantic? It’s actually not. If love were purely an emotion, that would mean someone has no choice but to love you--they just couldn’t “help but feel that way.” But since love is not a feeling, it means someone is actively choosing to love you. I can’t think of anything more romantic than that.

3. Love is unconditional.
This means love is given freely, without expecting anything in return. You can’t earn it. True love looks upon you and sees your flaws, frailty, and wickedness and says, “I love you anyway.”

Alright, enough talk. Let’s see this sacrificial love in action in a real couple today. (You might want to have some tissues ready. It’s a tearjerker--in a good way!)

Love isn’t the handsome stranger on a white horse whose kiss will bring you back to life; it’s the one who consistently puts your needs above their own, especially when times get tough.

Love isn’t the surge of excitement or the butterflies in your stomach; it’s the daily choice to commit yourself to serving another long after those emotions have faded.

Love can’t be reduced to saccharine songs, syrupy words and candy hearts--it must be elevated to the One from whom it came.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Photo credit: Kumar Appaiah

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