August 28, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,

     A funny thing happened on the way from the past to the present...

     I'm a 20th Century holdout, being held hostage in a new century. The residents of this new era don't wear a watch (they have the time - digitally - on their cell phone). They don't send thank-you notes (they peck out a non-spellchecked "ThankU" on their Blackberry). They don't read newspapers (they may click on the "top story" icon on their ISP homepage, if it seems interesting).

     I still read the rags. Most days, I read three. USA Today is at my hotel room door (or, out-of-the-country, it's the New York Times Int'l Edition, by fax); Wall Street Journal is my Platinum bonus; the local paper - from wherever - is the icing on the cake.

     Section 1: National and International news. Section 2: Local news. Section 3: Sports (toss it; I never read it). Section 4: Fuzzy stuff (entertainment, Dear Abby, comics, crosswords, horoscopes, obituaries). The local paper is always good for some color...

     Back in the 20th Century, most local papers would devote some space to "Religion," once a week. These days, "Religion" is no longer a feature. Does that mean that you can no longer find "spiritual stuff" in the daily news? Hardly...

     It's everywhere, once you know how to look. Examples?

     Today, there was great news - in Section 1 - about the release of two Fox News journalists who had been released unharmed from kidnap captivity by their Holy Jihad Brigade abductors, in the Gaza Strip. Who is the "Holy Jihad Brigade?"

     Previously unknown group, just another terrorist enterprise, but - in Muslim terms - apparently, a missionary organization. How so? Two hours before their release, a video had been passed to the media in which correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wilg spoke to the world. According to the article written after their return, they were "forced at gunpoint to declare on videotape that they had converted to Islam." I guess our Christian missionaries have been employing strategies that are way too unpersuasive; instead of Bibles, we ought to be sending them out with AK-47's...

     Then, in today's Entertainment news (Section 4), reports from the Holy City (Hollywood) about the High Holy Day (Prime Time Emmys) captured last night's highlights. Among the things I missed in the live broadcast was a "reunion" of Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett on stage, behind the mikes... for the first time since the late '70's. Charlie's Angels were prime-time babes, 30 years ago. Why were they up there?

     Aaron Spelling - executive producer, creator of the Angels - died recently. Their "tribute" brought them together. Their profound insights? "I'm sure he's looking down and smiling, knowing that he brought us together as only he could" (Smith). Fawcett choked up as she noted that Spelling had "changed her life." "'And,' she added, with signature Angel prayer-hand head bow, 'I'll be forever grateful'"

     Spelling, who built and lived in the biggest house in town, died with a pile (and a wife and daughter who are still not speaking). Is he really "looking down and smiling?" That's not an entertainment question; it's a religious one.

     According to Jesus, a rich man who died without saving faith didn't go "up;" he landed in "hell," where he was in torment. What did he want to communicate to his still-on-earth family and friends, from his place of agony? "...warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment." (Luke 16:28).

     They may be Hollywood's Angels, but they aren't safe sources of spiritual truth. Eternal insights don't come from gunpoint-induced conversions; afterlife certainties don't find their way into Emmy broadcasts. The newspaper will never compete with the Scriptures for eternal life-changing insights.

     Give Aaron Spelling the floor; what would he say? Unless an unreported surrender to the Son of God was on his private resume, he would say, "Do anything you can to avoid this place." That's good input...

Bob Shank

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