Archive | March 2012

Celebrities of the Christian World

Mega churches mean big business

January 21, 2010

Mega churches across the United States are becoming increasingly popular which is not only bringing thousands of worshippers together, but also billions of dollars in profit.

From self-help books to CDs and DVDs, mega churches are becoming big money makers for the pastors and ministries they are a part of.

Mega churches are extra-large churches that can accommodate upwards of 15,000 people and are common among members of the evangelical Christian faith.

Scott Thumma, professor of sociology and religion at Hartford Seminary told CNN that “the mega church on average has about $6.5 million in income a year.”

“If you put together all the mega churches in the United States, that’s easily several billion dollars.”

Many ministers in the evangelical faith have become superstars in their own right — Joel Osteen is one in particular.

Osteen is a pastor at the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas and his televised service reaches over seven million people each week across the United States and around the world.

The Lakewood Church which Osteen is in charge of has a yearly budget of more than $80 million, but church officials deny that it’s about money.

“We hear the criticism a bit, but we don’t hear it as much as you think we would,” Donald Iloff Junior, advisor for Lakewood Church said.

“One thing you find very absent is the asking of money and never once have we asked for money or donations on television.”

However, some critics argue that it’s hard to be both a pastor and someone in charge of a yearly budget in the tens of millions.

“When you have pastors thinking of themselves as CEOs, it’s hard to tell the difference between a pastor and P-Diddy,” Jonathan Walton, Assistant Professor of religious studies at the University of California Riverside told CNN.

The way the sermon is told at these mega churches has also completely changed.

“The plasma screen TVs have replaced crosses, Power Point-like presentations of the words of songs and liturgical practices have replaced the hymnals,” Walton said.

“This really resonates with a younger generation.”

The average age of a mega church worshipper is 40 years old — 13 years younger than at a traditional church.

Mega church worshippers tend to not only be younger, but also more diverse.

“One thinks of them as a homogeneous group of white suburban American, but in fact when you go to most of the mega churches, you’re going to find diversity of age, income and education levels,” Thumma said.

“You can also find racial diversity because in almost 30 percent of these mega churches across the country, you have 20 percent or more integration of ethnic groups so it really is quite staggering.”

via CNN


Jessica Lynch

I’m Jessica Lynch and Here’s My Real Story

In a Glamour exclusive, America’s most famous female soldier straightens out the “war hero” controversy once and for all.

As told to Abigail Pesta

In April, I did something I never imagined I would need to do. I spoke before Congress about how the military creates myths exaggerating the heroics of its soldiers. It was a difficult choice—I knew I could be portrayed as unpatriotic, un-American or worse. But my reasons were personal, and profound. My capture and rescue in Iraq had been transformed into one of those myths.

There’s so much confusion about what happened to me. Here’s what I know: At the start of the war, in March 2003, my convoy was attacked in the city of An Nasiriyah. My Humvee crashed, and a few hours later I woke up behind enemy lines in an Iraqi hospital, badly injured and unable to move my legs. I was a prisoner of war.

Nobody likes to believe our military would mislead people—but they wanted a war hero so badly that they portrayed me as one. They didn’t get their facts straight before talking about what happened, and neither did the media. They said I went down guns blazing, like Rambo—but I never fired a shot, because my rifle had jammed. They later corrected the story, but I’m still paying the price. People write to me and say, “You don’t deserve all the attention.” I’ve received thousands of letters and calls like that. People think I lied or helped create the Rambo myth—that I wanted it.

But I’ve always told the truth. I could have chosen not to. It would have been so easy to say, “Yes, I did those things”— except I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself. Honesty has always been very important to me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that this is my life and I have to stand up for myself.

I remember the first time I put on the Army uniform. I just felt like a totally different person—I felt proud. I knew I was doing something important for my country. I’d signed up after high school, in July 2001, so I could pay for college and see the world. My dream was to go to Hawaii.

I don’t come from a rich family—it’s not like we lived in a cardboard box, but we didn’t have a ton of money. I grew up in Palestine, West Virginia, which is mostly a farming community; there aren’t a lot of jobs. My older brother, Greg, joined the Army at the same time I did. We enlisted before September 11, and that’s important to note. Everyone’s life completely changed after that day. I started basic training in South Carolina a week after the attacks, and I was petrified. But there was no backing out.

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Kony 2012 – Get past the Misgivings for the Charity & support the Cause, if not Kony there are plenty of Bad guys out there to oppose

Kony 2012: what’s the real story?

A 28-minute film about the plight of children in Africa has been watched more than 21m times on YouTube. But the charity behind it is facing criticism for its Hollywood-style campaigning on the issue. Are the criticisms fair? Polly Curtis and John Vidal, with your help, finds out. Get in touch below the line, Tweet @pollycurtis or email

The Lord's Resistance army leader, Joseph Kony, pictured in 2006. Photograph: Stuart Price/AP

The Lord’s Resistance army leader, Joseph Kony, pictured in 2006. Photograph: Stuart Price/AP

Since Monday, more than 21m people have viewed this film – made by an American charity called Invisible Children – about the plight of children in Uganda at the hands of the warlord Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) guerilla group. His group is said to have abducted 60,000 children.

With its slick Hollywood production values, the film has been an almost instant viral success, dominating Twitter worldwide and having one of the fastest ever take-offs on You Tube. The hashtag #stopkony has had hundreds of thousands of tweets, and millions of people now know something about Uganda and what is happening to children there. Support for the campaign to end the conflict in the country this year is spreading.

We’ve reported on the video here:

Kony stands accused of overseeing the systematic kidnapping of countless African children, brainwashing the boys into fighting for him, turning the girls into sex slaves and killing those who don’t comply.

His forces are believed to have slaughtered tens of thousands of people and are known for hacking the lips off their victims. Kony has been wanted by the international criminal court since 2005 on charges that include crimes against humanity. He has been living in the bush outside Uganda since that time.

The US designated the LRA a terrorist group after September 11, and in 2008 began actively supporting the Ugandan military. In October, the president deployed 100 combat-equipped troops – mostly special operations forces – to Uganda to advise regional military units in capturing or killing Kony.

But it has also attracted criticism: there are questions about the charity’s funding, its targeting of US leaders instead of African leaders to instigate change, and accusations that it is failing to criticise the Ugandan government, with its poor human rights record.

This Tumblr page is collecting criticism of the project and this blog sums up a lot of the questions.

This morning, Invisible Children issued a detailed response to the criticism here.

We want, with your help, to investigate this further. Our principle approach is to attempt to gather views from Uganda about whether this film is the right way to go about campaigning on the issue. I’m going to be working with John Vidal, our environment editor, who has travelled extensively in the region and is on the phone now to his contacts there.

Do you have any relevant information? Get in touch below the line, tweet @pollycurtis or email me at

11.30am: This excellent post by Michael Wilkerson, a journalist who has worked extensively in Uganda, starts busting some of the myths around Kony and the situation in Uganda. He writes:

It would be great to get rid of Kony.  He and his forces have left abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years.

But let’s get two things straight:

1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been for six years;

2) The LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

It makes the following points:

• The LRA is not in Uganda but now operates in the DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic

• In October last year, Obama authorised the deployment of 100 US army advisers to help the Ugandan military track down Kony, with no results disclosed to date.

• The LRA is much smaller than previously thought. It does not have have 30,000 or 60,000 child soldiers. The figure of 30,000 refers to the total number of children abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years.

It also makes the point that there is currently no threat to remove the US advisers who are working with the Uganda government to track down the army – Invisible Children’s key aim is to force the US government to keep them there.

We’re contacting Michael to ask him to write more about the background to this for us.

11.43am: Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian’s film critic, has just filed his verdict on the Kony 2012, which will be up on the site soon.

I’m posting a taster below, partly in response to the reader who has just emailed me saying: “I am a mum in Devon with three kids, just about to run six miles for Sports Relief, please get behind this. Hollywood slick, who cares, support the kids – raise awareness and then start the criticism. It is a simple message which my 15-year-old son sent to me – Hollywood or not, it works!”

Peter Bradshaw writes:

Maybe Jason Russell’s web-based film Kony 2012, calling for international action to stop the Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony, can’t be considered great documentary-making. But as a piece of digital polemic and digital activism, it is quite simply brilliant.

It’s a slick, high-gloss piece of work, distributed on the Vimeo site, the upscale version of YouTube for serious film-makers. And its sensational, exponential popularity growth on the web is already achieving one of its stated objectives: to make Kony famous, to publicise this psychopathic warlord’s grotesque crimes – kidnapping thousands of children and turning them into mercenaries, butchers and rapists.

It does not stick to the conventions of impartial journalism in the BBC style. It is partisan, tactless and very bold. But it could be seen as insufferably condescending, a way of making US college kids feel good about themselves. And is Jason Russell scared to come out and admit that effective action entails an old-fashioned boots-on-soil invasion of a landlocked African country, with all the collateral damage that this implies?

12.32pm: I’ve just been speaking with Arthur Larok, Action Aid’s director in Uganda.

He was previously the director of programmes at the Uganda National NGO Forum for nine years. He describes the NGO forum as independent of the government. We had a long conversation but, to be clear, he hasn’t at this point seen the film though he does know about Invisible Children and its work in Uganda.

It was quite a bad line from Nairobi airport, but this is what he told me:

From what I know about Invisible Children, it’s an international NGO, and it documents the lives of children living in conflict for international campaigning to draw attention to the lives of children in the north.

Six or 10 years ago, this would have been a really effective campaign strategy to get international campaigning. But today, years after Kony has moved away from Uganda, I think campaigning that appeals to these emotions … I’m not sure that’s effective for now. The circumstances in the north have changed.

Many NGOs and the government, especially local government in the north, are about rebuilding and securing lives for children, in education, sanitation, health and livelihoods. International campaigning that doesn’t support this agenda is not so useful at this point. We have moved beyond that.

There are conflicts in the north – several small conflicts over natural resources. Land is the major issue: after many years of displacement, there is quite a bit of land-related conflict.

But many organisations and governments are focusing on this. We need to secure social stability, health and education. These are the priorities. This is what we’re trying to focus on. Poverty is high compared to the rest of the country. That’s the practical issue that needs to be addressed.

I don’t think this is the best way. It might be an appeal that makes sense in America. But there are more fundamental challenges. Kony has been around for 25 years and over. I don’t think in the north at the moment that is really what is most important. It might be best on the internet and the like but, at the end of the day, there are more pressing things to deal with. If the Americans had wanted to arrest him, they would have done that a long time ago.

They [Invisible Children] are not a member of our forum. Many international organisations prefer to work and have direct contact with their quarters. They don’t work so much within the structures we have in the country. There is nothing dramatic about them. They are like any other organisation trying to make a difference. At the moment I think the work of Invisible Children is about appealing to people’s emotions. I think that time has passed. Their reputation in the country is something that can be debatable. There is a strong argument generally about NGOs and their work in the north.

It doesn’t sound like a fair representation of Uganda. We have challenges within the country, but certainly the perception of a country at war is not accurate at all. There are political, economic and social challenges, but they are complex. Being dramatic about a country at war is not accurate.

If the international media want to be helpful especially for the conflict situation, they should exert more time and effort understanding practically what the needs are. It is fast-changing.

The video would have been appealing in the last decade. Now we just need support for the recovery rather than all this international attention on this one point. Getting the facts right is most important for the international media. That would help the situation as it is.

12.54pm: The Invisible Children film has now been viewed more than 26m times. These stats from YouTube show how it has taken off since Monday, where it’s being watched and the age profile of those watching.

Invisible Children statsInvisible Children stats 

12.59pm: The Ugandan journalist Angelo Opi-aiya Izama has written this blog, which makes a similar point to that of Larok about the Invisible Children campaign being outdated. He’s been talking to our foreign desk and has just sent this as an addition:

One salient issue the film totally misses is that the actual geography of today’s LRA operations is related to a potentially troubling “resource war”.

Since 2006, Uganda discovered world class oil fields along its border with DRC. The location of the oil fields has raised the stakes for the Ugandan military and its regional partners, including the US.

While LRA is seen as a mindless evil force, its deceased deputy leader, Vincent Otii, told me once that their fight with President Yoweri Museveni was about “money and oil”. This context is relevant because it allows for outsiders to view the LRA issue more objectively within the recent history of violence in the wider region that includes the great Central Africa wars of the 90s, in which groups like LRA were pawns for proxy wars between countries.

In LRA’s case, its main support came from the Sudanese government in Khartoum and many suspect it still maintains the patronage of Omar el-Bashir, the country’s president, himself indicted for war crimes by the ICC.

A reader has emailed in pointing us towards this Facebook page: PhonyKony 2012.

1.22pm: Recommended: this audio slideshow by our then Africa correspondent about the LRA related violence in the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It documents child abductions happening there as recently as 2009.


@Uglyflubb and others have been providing some information about the funding of Invisible Children below the line. John Vidal has been looking into this. He writes:

They call themselves “a movement” seeking to end the conflict in Uganda and stop the abduction of children for use as child soldiers, but behind the slick website and the touchy-feely talk about “changing the course of human history”, there’s a hard-nosed money-making operation led by US filmmakers and accountants, commuication experts, lobbyists and salespeople.

So far the organisation has released 11 films and run film tours across the US and other countries to raise awareness. In Uganda, it has given scholarships to 750 children, and helped to re-build schools there and in centralo Africa. The organisation’s accounts show it’s a cash rich operation, which more than tripled its income in 2011, with more than two thirds of its money coming from “general donations”.

The accounts suggest nearly 25% of its $8.8m income last year was spent on travel and film-making with only around 30% going toward programes on the ground. The great majority of the money raised has been spent in the US. $1.7 million went on US employee salaries, $357,000 in film costs, $850,000 in film production costs, $244,000 in “professional services” – thought to be Washington lobbyists – and $1.07 million in travel expenses . Nearly $400,000 was spent on office rent in San Diego.

Charity Navigator, a US charity evaluator, gives Invisible Children three out of four stars overall, four stars financially, but only two stars for “accountability and transparency”. This would seem to be a vote of no confidence, but it is explained by Noelle Jouglet, communication director of Invisible Children, like this:

“Our score is currently at 2 stars due to the fact that Invisible Children currently does not have five independent voting members on our board of directors. We are currently in the process of interviewing potential board members, and our goal is to add an additional independent member this year in order to regain our 4-star rating by 2013. We are aware of this and trying to fix it.”

The website suggests a staff of around 100 people, with the founders and senior staff mostly drawn from film-making and media industries. Jason Russell, the ceo and a co-founder, is described as Jason Radical Russell, “our grand storyteller and dreamer”. He is said to be “redefining the concept of humanitarian work” and to believe “wholeheartedly in magic and the impossible”. Laren Poole, another co-founder, is another filmmaker and the Ben Keesey, the chief finanacial officer, has been with Deloitte and Touche LLP, JP Morgan & Associates and Brentwood Associates Private Equity. He is described as “embracing the impossible and plots the course of our daring future”.

2.27pm: This is really interesting detail from a reader about the process of what would happen if Knoy is arrested.

Caroline Argyropulo-Palmer writes:

I did my masters at SOAS last year, focusing on transitional justice. One aspect of the IC campaign that I would like to highlight is that it is not a given that Kony would be tried at the ICC [International Criminal Court]. The court works on a system of complementarity – if Uganda can try him they will be given preference. There is also a lot of academic discussion about whether the in country trials would have to be criminal prosecutions or if alternative justice processes, such as truth commissions, would be acceptable to the ICC. It might seem like a minor point, but to me it demonstrates a lack of interest on the part of IC on the specifics. And emphasising bringing Kony to the ICC rather than to trial more generally takes the justice process away from Uganda, where complex discussions about what justice would mean about the conflict more generally have been taking place.

Does anyone know any more about this? Do get in touch.


One can only hope to be blessed with a family that fights for you like Pat Tillman’s

In 2002, Pat Tillman left a successful football career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. Army. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. The official story was that he was shot by enemy forces during an ambush, but it was later revealed that he may have been killed by friendly fire, and that Army commanders and members of the Bush administration covered up the truth of what had happened.

The Family Guy link below, in bad taste – check ….. is it true – check, check!

Horse Slaughter Ban Lifted: Horse Meat May Be Coming Soon | Petside

Published December 1, 2011

As a passionate horse lover, I can hardly contain my outrage after learning yesterday that, in line with a new bill signed by President Obama, our beloved American horses soon may be butchered legally in the United States to be used as meat for human consumption.

The most recent threat to American horses can be attributed to a new bill which resulted in the horse slaughter ban being lifted. In spite of President Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to protect horses from this outrage, our President has gone back on his word by signing the new bill passed by Congress on November 15. With the five-year-old ban on horse slaughter lifted, horse slaughterhouses may begin to crop up once again in the United States (although none currently exist). Supposedly, the bill was passed (as part of a funds allocation effort) to keep the Government open and funded until mid-December.

While horse meat may in theory could be coming to a store near you, the lawmakers, in their haste to pass the bill, did not include funds that would be allocated to pay for horse meat inspectors. As a result, the USDA is left trying to find a way to pick up the tab in this department. With no funds allocated for this ever-important inspection step in the slaughter process (without inspectors meat couldn’t be approved for sale), tax payers could find themselves picking up the bill, with annual costs of between three and five million dollars. So much for being cost effective!

Horse Slaughter Ban Lifted: A Long History of Debate

This most current bill marks yet another notch in the belt that is a long history of debate over horse slaughter.

In 2006, anti-horse slaughter proponents were able to successfully get legislation passed through Congress which effectively cut off all funding for horse meat inspections, even though legislation to ban all horse slaughter in general had previously failed. Without horse meat inspectors, the sale of horse meat for human consumption was banned, and without any way to profit the three remaining horse slaughterhouses in the United States were closed in 2007.

Pro-slaughter proponents, however, claim that the ban on horse slaughter inadvertently caused a huge rise in the number of abandoned and neglected horses.

Horse Slaughter Ban Lifted: The Aftermath

As a result of the ban being lifted, horse slaughter advocates are hurrying to get a plant opened within 30 to 90 days in either North Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri or Nebraska, if state approval is given.

Should this come to fruition, up to 200,000 horses a year could be slaughtered in the United States. While the majority of their meat would be shipped to foreign countries, including Europe, Asia and Japan, some of the horse meat could be served in the United States. Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Wyoming) is hoping that horse meat could be served in her state to prisoners and school children.

The Truth About Horse Slaughter, and the Horse Slaughter Ban Being Lifted

Horses have never been raised for meat; they have been raised as companion animals who perform countless services to mankind. And the initial preconceptions of horse slaughter, such as the idea that horses slaughtered for meat are being put down to end their suffering, are just not true.

According to Charmaine Jens, Public Relations Representative for Americans Against Horse Slaughter, the truth is that the majority of horses slaughtered for their meat are not the old, infirm, neglected horses that are no longer useful, a smoke-and-mirrors perception which has become one of the popular party-lines for those in support of horse slaughter.

These horses are purchased by “killer buyers” who work for the foreign-owned horse slaughter industry. Healthy horses bring the highest price per pound. Incredibly, The USDA Guidelines for Handling and Transporting Equines to Slaughter state that more than 92 percent of horses slaughtered are “in good to excellent condition.” Sadly, these slaughter victims are the horses that can be re-trained, re-homed and once again become a precious companion animal.

Horse Slaughter Ban Lifted: The Fight to End the Practice Continues

The fight to prevent this travesty from happening is far from over. Horse and animal lovers who abhor the idea of horses being slaughtered for meat for human consumption and want to help should contact their Congressman immediately, imploring them to co-sponsor Senate bill S.1176 and House bill 2966.

via Horse Slaughter Ban Lifted: Horse Meat May Be Coming Soon | Petside.

» Breitbart: “Wait ‘Til They See What Happens March 1st”

Breitbart died hours before planned release of damning Obama footage

Paul Joseph Watson
Friday, March 2, 2012

In a stunning coincidence, It appears Andrew Breitbart suffered his untimely death just hours before he was set to release damning video footage that could have sunk Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Around three weeks ago on February 9 during the ‘Blog Bash’ event in Washington DC, Breitbart made a prophetic comment that takes on a somewhat chilling nature given the fact that he died in the early hours of March 1st.

Speaking to Lawrence Sinclair of Sinclair News, Breitbart stated, “Wait til they see what happens March 1st.”

It’s almost certain that Breitbart was referring to his plan to release damning footage of President Obama that he had been promising to reveal throughout the month of February.

As we reported yesterday, Breitbart spoke of his intention to release the tape during his CPAC speech last month. The footage shows Obama in his college days appearing alongside former Weather Underground terrorists Bill and Bernardine Dohrn. Observers had speculated that the footage could have derailed Obama’s hopes for a second term.

“I’ve got video from his college days that show you why racial division and class warfare are central to what hope and change was sold in 2008 – the videos are going to come out,” said Breitbart, adding that Obama would be vetted.

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to appreciate the downright weirdness of Breitbart predicting a major event to occur on March 1st, only for him to end up dying on that very date. Breitbart was officially pronounced dead at 12:19am.

Although the cause of Breitbart’s death was hastily reported to be of “natural causes,” the Los Angeles County coroner’s office have refused to confirm anything until an autopsy has been performed.

According to marketing executive Arthur Sando, Breitbart spent his final hour in a bar near his home called the Brentwood sipping red wine and talking politics. After leaving the bar at around 11:30pm, Breitbart began to walk home before apparently suffering a fatal heart attack.

Although it is reported that Breitbart was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, when Lawrence Sinclair called the hospital, they denied that anyone by that name had been admitted within the previous 72 hours.

Watch the CPAC video below where Breitbart mentions the Obama footage he had seemingly planned to release just hours before his death.

via » Breitbart: “Wait ‘Til They See What Happens March 1st” Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!.

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