Mark I. Pinsky

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Tim Chey's 'Final: The Rapture' Adapts 'Horror Movie' Label

by Mark I. Pinsky 02-21-2014

A scene from “Final: The Rapture,” a Christian horror movie. Photo courtesy of Final: The Rapture. Via RNS

The words “Christian” and “horror movie” rarely appear in the same sentence, much less in the same film’s promotional material.

Yet that’s exactly what Tim Chey, writer and director of “Final: The Rapture,” does to promote his picture in its city-by-city rollout.

As the movie’s poster promises: “When the Rapture strikes … all of hell will break loose.”

In an interview outside the Orlando, Fla., multiplex where his film is playing on a Sunday afternoon, Chey said he’s comfortable with the Christian horror movie label, or even “Christian disaster movie.”

War on Poverty Anniversary Recalls Religion's Role in Appalachia

by Mark I. Pinsky 01-08-2014
RNS photo by Don Rutledge

A mountain home with teenagers involved in work at the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board. RNS photo by Don Rutledge

HOT SPRINGS, N.C. — The 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s launch of the War on Poverty, which falls today, reminds us how intractable that effort can be, despite the hope and determined idealism when the legislation was signed.

Appalachia was one of the targets for the newly established Office of Economic Opportunity, utilizing programs such as Head Start and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). The anniversary also recalls how religion has motivated, shaped and sustained this effort, in many ways prefiguring the campaign, in both its successes and failures.

For more than two centuries, these Southern mountains have been a magnet for missionaries, both religious and secular, all determined to wipe out poverty, hunger, and ignorance — whether the region’s benighted folk wanted them to or not. Their too-common failing, local people say, is that the erstwhile do-gooders have not respected the strong beliefs and culture that already existed.

With the best intentions, altruists and uninvited agents of uplift have come with their social gospel of “fixing” local people. That is to wean them from violence and the debilitating use of alcohol, while bringing their brand of faith, along with education, nutrition, and improved living standards. Invariably well-meaning, these efforts have typically ended in disappointment and failure in places such as Madison County, N.C.

U.S. Nuns Strike a Positive Note on Vatican Investigation

by Mark I. Pinsky 08-19-2013
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, LCWR’s apostolic delegate, is seen at the g

Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, LCWR’s apostolic delegate, is seen at the group’s annual assembly Aug. 13. Photo via RNS.

U.S. Catholic nuns — accused by Rome of “radical feminism” for advocating social justice at the expense of issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia — responded to a Vatican knuckle rapping with a brief, conciliatory statement on Monday.

After its four-day annual assembly, the board of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80 percent of the nation’s 57,000 sisters, emphasized the positive, and remained tight-lipped about negotiations to resolve the investigation.

Assemblies of God Dodges Trend of Denominational Decline

by Mark I. Pinsky 08-12-2013
Unlike many other denominations, the Assemblies of God is a fast-growing denomin

Unlike many other denominations, the Assemblies of God is a fast-growing denomination. Photo courtesy RNS/Assemblies of God

The Assemblies of God, a denomination rooted in rural and small town America, appears to have leaped into the 21st century with dramatic results.

At its General Council meeting last week, the denomination touted its formula for defying the seemingly irreversible decline of other religious groups: contemporary music, arts and high-tech quality communication, outreach to young people, immigrants and ethnic minorities.

The denomination reported a 1.8 percent increase in U.S. membership to 3 million adherents. Globally, the gain was 1.5 percent, to 66 million, making it the largest Pentecostal group in the world.

Why are the Assemblies of God defying the odds?

Joel Hunter Pays a Price for Political Activism

by Mark I. Pinsky 07-09-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Trial pastors: (Left to right) Rev Robert K. Gregory, Jr., Rev. Lowman J. Oliver, III; Rev. Joel Hunter. Photo courtesy RNS.

There’s a price to pay for becoming the voice of moderate conservatism and coalition politics. Even more so for refusing to march in lockstep with the Republican Party.

Ask the Rev. Joel Hunter of Northland Church, Florida’s largest evangelical congregation. Hunter, 65, says his suburban megachurch may have lost as many as 1,500 members, or 10 percent of its membership, as a result of his ecumenical and political activism.

But the compact, upbeat, Midwesterner is sanguine — likening membership departures to separating the wheat from the chaff.

COMMENTARY: NBC’s ‘Save Me’ May Need Rescuing

by Mark I. Pinsky 06-13-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Anne Heche plays Beth Harper, a woman who can talk to and receive messages from God, in NBC’s 'Save Me'. Photo courtesy RNS.

Mixing religion and entertainment, as NBC has tried to do with its new prime time TV sitcom Save Me, starring Anne Heche, can be a tricky business.

Sometimes the combination works spectacularly, marrying a religious base with a significant crossover audience. When the chemistry is right, shows built around faith and divine intervention land in the ratings Top Ten year after year, and earn numerous Emmys.

CBS had mainstream hits with Highway to Heaven in the 1980s and Touched by an Angel in the late 1990s. The WB/CW’s 7th Heaven ran for a decade.

Learning From (Dis)ability

by Mark I. Pinsky 07-12-2012

As someone outside the disability community, I thought myself an unlikely choice to write a book about the faith dimension of disability. Over two decades as a religion writer for daily newspapers, I had written just a handful of stories about the subject.

But the Alban Institute, a religion think tank, explained that in many ways I represented exactly the kind of reader they sought – people of faith without expertise or personal experience with disability. In the main, these were the congregation members and clergy who make the accessibility and inclusion decisions about their houses of worship. While plenty of valuable resource manuals exist, there was a need for stories that grip hearts and minds, showing struggles and solutions.

What I didn’t realize was how much writing this book – eventually titled Amazing Gifts: Stories of Faith, Disability and Inclusion– would change my own life and the way I see and interact with people with disabilities.  I learned many things, most of them simple, which in retrospect should have been obvious.

The Gospel According to the Simpsons

by Mark I. Pinsky 09-01-2001

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