Movie mania. This weekend was a record-setter at the box office. Frozen set a Thanksgiving weekend opening record by hauling in $67 million. But it wasn’t the biggest movie of the weekend. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is still a juggernaut, bringing in $75 million for the weekend and hitting nearly $300 million in worldwide box office returns after just two weeks. In other movie news, the actor Paul Walker died in a fiery car crash in California on Saturday. A key player in the Fast and Furious franchise, Walker, 40, was raised Mormon, but had recently been outspoken about his newfound Christian faith. His fans and the media have hyped his legacy and the circumstances of his death: an Internet hoax circulated about his death on Friday, and he was returning home from a charity fundraiser at the time of his death. But it’s important to remember that to the 15-year-old daughter he leaves behind, he was “Daddy.”
Weak responses. A pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) has been found not guilty of violating his ordination vows for marrying his same-gender partner in 2009. The Rev. John Merz married William Starowski in Connecticut, where gay marriage is legal. In related news, Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., said it would not fire professors in homosexual relationships during a six-month “listening period.” The incident at Eastern Mennonite University highlights the failures of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). For many years, membership in the CCCU indicated that a college took its Christian distinctives seriously. It’s not clear what Eastern Mennonite University will do, but if it allows openly homosexual faculty and is not booted out of the CCCU, you can be sure many current members will head for the exit door.
Crouch passes. Paul F. Crouch, whose controversial Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) takes in millions of dollars each year in donations and the sale of religious materials, died Saturday. He was 79. Crouch had been suffering from degenerative heart disease for a decade, according to a report in The New York Times. Crouch, his wife, Jan, and other senior TBN executives are often the subjects of investigative reports—including some in WORLD—for their lavish lifestyles that include mansions, private jets, and sexual improprieties. TBN often features prosperity gospel preachers including Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Kenneth Copeland.
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Website progress. A report released yesterday said HealthCare.gov is behaving better, but it is still not able to process the number of applicants necessary to meet its own self-imposed deadlines. The report said 50,000 people can now be on the site at one time, and more than 800,000 people per day can be on the site. However, people who can get on the site are still not able to purchase insurance. According to Larry Levitt, a senior advisor at the Kaiser Family Foundation, “There’s not really any way to verify from the outside that the vast majority of people who want to enroll can now do so.” The gains in access have come at a price, including delays in companion sites for small businesses and Spanish speakers. Security remains a huge issue. “The security of this site and the private information does not meet even the minimal standards of the private sector, and that concerns me,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who leads the House Intelligence Committee. “I don't care if you're for it or against it, Republican or Democrat, we should not tolerate the sheer level of incompetence securing this site.”