Spirited debate. A spirited debate has emerged over the FoxNews.com program Spirited Debate. The show’s host, Lauren Green, was interviewing author Reza Aslan about his new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. She began the interview with what was, in my view, a perfectly reasonable question: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Since Aslan’s book undermines some of the core tenets of Christianity, Green’s question about his worldview and motive are valid. Aslan responds: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.” Critics say Green attacked Reza Aslan. The interview goes on for 10 minutes, and was streamed live, so there are a few awkward moments for both interviewer and interviewee, but I would argue that she was mostly just doing her job. You be the judge.
Brazil’s economy. In recent years, Brazil has had one of the best economies in South America. But last month, during the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil more than a million Brazilians protested crime, corruption and—most especially—high prices on everything from food to automobiles. Simon Romero of The New York Times said a baby crib in Brazil costs six times what a comparable item would cost in the U.S. at Ikea. A Samsung Galaxy S4 phone that costs about $600 in the U.S. costs twice that in Brazil. A cheese pizza: $30. After more than a decade of boom, lots of economists think the country is now on the verge of a bust. That could be a big deal globally, as Brazil is now the seventh largest economy in the world, the second largest in the Western Hemisphere (after the U.S.) and for the past decade has been—by some measures—the world’s fastest growing. It is easy to imagine economic problems in Brazil spreading throughout Latin America.
Movies going global. This weekend, the Hugh Jackman vehicle The Wolverine won the box office battle, opening with $55 million in North America. But the real story was that it earned another $86 million overseas. International box office revenue has long been an important part of a movie’s financial model. Now, though, it’s often the dominant part and movies are made with a global audience in mind, especially action movies whose stories don’t depend much on dialogue. The Wolverine, for example, is set in Japan and features an international cast. In some countries, movie marketing will feature that country’s actors, even if they are in relatively minor roles. Also this weekend: The Conjuring, which made an intentional effort to target evangelical Christians, took in another $22 million. The movie has now done $84 million in just two weeks, dramatically exceeding its $20-million budget.
Rick Warren returns. Megachurch Pastor Rick Warren returned to the pulpit of his Saddleback Church yesterday for the first time since his son Matthew’s suicide in April. His sermon explained how he and his family had struggled to help his son through mental illness, and how they have dealt with their loss. It’s the first sermon in a series Warren calls “How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.” Warren said the purpose of this series will show how the “Bible can bring you comfort and encouragement.” During his sermon, Warren said he hoped he could help to de-stigmatize mental illness within the church. He called his son Matthew a young man with a “tender heart and tortured mind.”