Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Christian Music Artists Chris Tomlin and Skillet Win At Billboard Music Awards

By Josephine Vivaldo | Christian Post Contributor

Chris Tomlin and Skillet shined at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, hosted by "The Hangover" star Ken Jeong in Las Vegas.

omlin took home two awards for Top Christian Artist and Top Christian Song for “Our God” from his 2010 album And If Our God Is For Us… , beating out such artists as Casting Crowns, MercyMe, tobyMac and Kris Allen.

Skillet nabbed the award for Top Christian Album, for Awake, released in 2009.

One of the country’s most recognized worship leaders, Tomlin is currently preparing for his “And If Our God Is For Us…” tour, which will kick off on May 28 in Europe.

Tomlin’s latest album was released last November.

He said of the title, “The dot dot dot is pretty important to me because it kind of leaves the sentence open ended. What I want people to see [is] that if that's true, then everything is possible. Those aren't my words. It's Scripture. Scripture tells us that God is for you and nothing can stop you.”

Skillet’s Awake, meanwhile, has topped the Rock, Alternative and Christian charts and has sold more than 700,000 copies worldwide.

Awake is currently holding the No. 2 spot on the Rock Album chart, No. 1 spot on the Christian Album chart, No. 3 slots for top Digital Copy and the No. 1 slot for Alternative Album.

While the band has been criticized for not being Christian, the band’s drummer, Jen Ledger, recently clarified in an interview during the Avalanche tour, “I love controversy because a lot of Christians assume that we are not really Christian because we tour as mainstream. However, we are still very passionate about our faith and that’s what we live for. “

Read More From Christian Post

"Survivor" TV Show Producer To Make Bible-Based Scripted Drama For History Channel

In the beginning, Mark Burnett made a name as the most prominent producer of reality television. Now he’s moving from Omarosa to Moses.

In what Mr. Burnett is calling the “most important project I have ever undertaken,” he has made a deal with the History Channel to mount a 10-hour series based on the stories of the Bible. The project, which History will announce on Tuesday, is expected to be on a similar scale to its most ambitious work, “America: The Story of Us.”

That 12-part series, covering the 400-year history of America and broadcast last year, was closer to the fare typically seen on the History Channel. But Nancy Dubuc, the president of History, said the historical importance of the Bible is beyond dispute.

“This is the most discussed, debated book in the history of mankind,” said Ms. Dubuc, whose channel has tackled other religious projects, like “Jesus: The Lost 40 Days” and “The Real Face of Jesus?”

She added, “What the book has come to represent, and the power of it and the importance of it is itself history.”

“The Bible” will not be a documentary representation; it will be a scripted, acted drama. That represents a departure for Mr. Burnett, the man behind hit shows like “Survivor,” “The Apprentice” (where Omarosa Manigault Stallworth appeared as a contestant) and “The Voice.”

“This is definitely a new area for Mark,” Ms. Dubuc said. “But he is such a powerful visual storyteller. This is a producer you can put any editorial or visual challenge in front of and he rises to it.”

The series will have five two-hour parts, Mr. Burnett said, and each will probably contain two or three biblical stories. He and his team are selecting the stories for the series, he said, which will be in production through next year and shown in 2013.

“Some of the stories are obvious,” Mr. Burnett said, like Noah’s Ark, Exodus and accounts of the birth and death of Jesus. But the project will also cover stories that Mr. Burnett said he was unfamiliar with.

Mr. Burnett, who conceived the project with his wife, the actress Roma Downey (“Touched by an Angel”), said he had been inspired by rewatching, for the first time since childhood, the classic Cecil B. DeMille version of “The Ten Commandments.”

He said that sort of epic production, backed by location shoots and special effects, “used to be the purview of major motion pictures.” Now, he said, “that kind of quality is within the parameters of television.”

Mr. Burnett and Ms. Downey saw an opportunity to make a different mark. “Once in a generation someone gets to breathe new visual life into that book,” Mr. Burnett said.

Neither Mr. Burnett nor Ms. Dubuc would disclose the budget, though Mr. Burnett said it was not his most expensive series. He cited History Channel’s experience with “The Story of Us” and its coming project on Gettysburg.

History’s most recent experience with a scripted drama based on fact was “The Kennedys,” which it dropped in January, saying the mini-series did not live up to its standards of accuracy.

The Bible has its own layers of interpretation, of course, but Ms. Dubuc said the series would not try to impose any kind of historical context to events like the Flood. “It is just the magnitude of the book itself,” she said. “We’re not stepping back to examine anything that could be called a controversy. We are just telling the stories that are in it.”

Read More from New York Times

Graduating Seniors Say Prayer Despite Atheist Complaints

Seniors at Louisiana's Bastrop High School went on with prayer during their graduation ceremony May 20, despite threats of a possible lawsuit, plans to cancel the prayer, and contrary advice from a school attorney.

Openly atheist graduate Damon Fowler complained to the superintendent about the traditional prayer and threatened to contact the American Civil Liberties Union if it wasn't removed from the ceremony.

At the recommendation of an attorney, school administrators reprinted all the graduation announcements to rid any mention of prayer in the program. Instead, a "Moment of Silence" was listed.

But when graduating senior Laci Rae Mattice stood at the podium to lead the moment of silence, she instead recited the Lord's Prayer.

"I respect the beliefs of other people, but I feel that I can't go on without giving glory to my Lord today," she said. "I want to ask for the Lord's blessings upon us."

Laci Rae then asked fellow students to say the prayer with her "if they want to."

"The Constitution does not require that graduation be free of religious people or speech. Students have the right to express secular and religious viewpoints at graduation," said Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel.

"To censor only the religious viewpoints is intolerant and unconstitutional," he continued. "Students should not be bullied by the ACLU to give up their constitutional rights."

In an online forum, Damon's brother Jerrett said he is in contact with a lawyer at the Freedom From Religion Foundation about the case. The group has offered Damon a $1,000 "student activist" award for his courage to speak out.

Administrators say Bastrop has never had anyone protest the graduation prayer.

"[Atheist, agnostic, and non-Christian students] respected the majority of their classmates and didn't say anything," said longtime Bastrop staff member Mitzi Quinn. "We've never had this come up before. Never."

Damon attended the graduation ceremony. Before the event, he posted on his Facebook page, "I'm going to walk, no matter what they say or do."

The teen has since moved to Texas.

Read More From CBN

Explosion Hits Iran Refinery As Ahmadinejad Visits

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An explosion blamed on a gas leak rocked Iran's largest refinery on Tuesday around the time of a visit to the plant by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian media reported that up to two people were killed.

The blast occurred just before Ahmadinejad was to inaugurate and expansion project at the 400,000 barrel per day refinery in the southwestern city of Abadan, and injured 20 people, the semi-official Fars news agency said. The explosion was blamed on a "gas leakage," but no other details were provided. Ahmadinejad himself was not injured.

Conflicting reports over the toll and timing of the blast surfaced but officials at the plant were not reachable for comment.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said two people were killed in the explosion that took place while the president was visiting. Mehr said Ahmadinejad ordered a special plane to airlift those critically injured to Tehran. Meanwhile, state television said the explosion occurred after Ahmadinejad had left the site and the station broadcast a live feed showing the president speaking to officials at a local hall in Abadan.

The plant alone accounts for about 25 percent of Iran's fuel production, which is about 1.67 million barrel per day.

Fazel Kaebi, an Abadan resident, told The Associated Press over the phone that he saw ambulances and rescue teams rush to the site shortly after the explosion. He said the townspeople had noticed black smoke coming from the refinery in the past few days, which he speculated could have been from a fire.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, the reports said, but the extend of the damage was not immediately clear.

Read More From Associated Press

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's Full Address At AIPAC 2011