Archive for the ‘Pop-Culture’ Category

After much of the reaction against the macabre violence of The Hunger Games, Winston Smith here offers what I think Christian interaction with pop culture should look like.  Rather than denouncing immorality that exists in the storyline (if that’s your aim, the book of Judges needs some critics), Smith looks at what in the popular book and movie appeals to us as humans, created in the image of God and fallen.

Recently, as I approached the breakfast table I caught the tail end of a conversation my teenagers were having that ended with my son explaining to one of his younger sisters, “I would definitely kill you first if we were selected as tribute.” I was only mildly relieved to find that they were talking about The Hunger Games, the novel by Suzanne Collins and recent blockbuster movie. I’d heard mention of it, but given the way it had ruined my breakfast, I thought I should investigate further…  Enjoy the rest here

10 Redeeming movies from ’10

Posted: February 9, 2011 by doulos tou Theou in Christianity, Current Issues, Pop-Culture

Link is to Christianity Today list of Ten most redeeming movies of 2010.

Have you seen any of them? What was your take?



Off topic: What will become of the bookstore?

Posted: August 14, 2010 by limabean03 in Pop-Culture

From the New York Times.  This article caught my interest for three reasons.  I’m an avid reader (click here to see my 09 reading list).  I love going to the bookstore.  I just bought an IPad.  With the advent of the E-Reader (Kindle, IPad, etc.) I’m left wondering about the future of book stores and home libraries.  Your thoughts?

For readers, e-books have meant a transformation not just of the reading experience, but of the book-buying tradition of strolling aisles, perusing covers and being able to hold books in their hands. Many publishers have been astounded by the pace of the e-book popularity and the threat to print book sales that it represents. If the number of brick-and-mortar stores drops, publishers fear that sales will go along with it. Some worry that large bookstores will go the way of the record stores that shut down when the music business went digital.

“The shift from the physical to the digital book can pick up some of the economic slack, but it can’t pick up the loss that is created when you don’t have the customers browsing the displays,” said Laurence J. Kirshbaum, a literary agent. “We need people going into stores and seeing a book they didn’t know existed and buying it.”

read the whole thing here

Are cartoons more mature than movies aimed at adults?

Posted: November 30, 2009 by limabean03 in Current Issues, Film

One of my favorite memories growing up is heading off to the movies with my Dad on Saturday’s.  I recently tried to do this with my son David and was trying to figure out what movie we might go see.  I really wanted to see “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” a Roald Dahl children’s novel set to the big screen by the very talented director Wes Anderson.  I was unsure if “Mr. Fox” would be a film suitable for David.  I was more concerned about any scary scenes frightening him than anything else.  I typed in “Is the Fantastic Mr. Fox suitable for children,” in the Google search bar and came up with this review.  Long story short, we didn’t go see the film, although I still want to.  But I did find this interesting quote in the review that I thought I’d share with you:

“A colleague remarked to me, as we were leaving the theater, that what we’d just seen isn’t a children’s movie—not so much because it’s crass but because its themes and humor aren’t on a kid’s level. If you remember, I opened this review with an allusion to midlife crises. And that’s something no 8-year-old can begin to understand. (Or care about.)

Which brings me to an interesting trend I’ve been seeing in movies of late: Children’s movies are often more mature, more thoughtful and more responsible than some of the adult-targeted flicks I see.

What I mean is that R-rated romps are often infantile in their composition and lack of intelligent nuance, trumpeting only perpetual (and irresponsible) adolescence. The likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox, meanwhile, laud moral compunctions, responsibility, cooperation and familial unity.”

I enjoy movies so I see quite a few of them and I have to agree with the writer’s point.  I recently saw a film called “Up”, which was probably one of the finest movies I’ve seen in years.  It is a children’s cartoon from Pixar, however the film dealt with incredibly complex material such as infertility, growing old, broken families, friendship and responsibility.  It was escapist on one hand (it is a cartoon after all!), but rather than remaining in escapist territory it actually caused you to return and reassess the complexities and confusion of life.  Contrast that with say, the recent string of comic book films that are marketed not to teenagers but to adult men.  In a well documented phenomenon called “delayed adolescence,” it seems as if Hollywood and a great deal of other commercial forces are helping to prolong a man’s teenage years well into his thirties.  Ironic isn’t it, that a theatre will be full of grown men watching the latest Spiderman as they engage the unfulfilled vigilante fantasies of their teenage years while eight year olds will be watching cartoons learning how to be responsible men and raise families.  Seems kind of backwards to me.  Oh well. 

For a preview of “Up” click below. 

This is just a short sketch of something that requires much fuller treatment. On top of that, this is a statement about just one aspect of this problem, and not an attempt to minimize the other problems that might be in play.

Pastors are usually husbands as well, and this means that when a pastor has a wandering eye, he is insulting his wife in exactly the same way that other husbands are insulting their wives through the same behavior. Every Christian husband is the head of his wife in a way analagous to the way that Christ is the head of the church (1 Cor. 11:3Eph. 5:23). This means that every husband is constantly speaking about Jesus, whether he wants to be or not. He does not have the option of being silent about Jesus. His behavior is a statement about his theology of headship. He is saying that “this is an appropriate way for a head to act.” And because Christ is the ultimate Head, the behavior of lesser heads are statements about the nature of His headship. Just as abusive fathers are lying statements about God the Father, so unfaithful heads are a lying statement about the fidelity of Christ to His bride.

So of course a pastor needs to be faithful for that reason alone. He took his marriage vows independently of his ordination vows. But is there any additional level to this? I believe so.

When worship is being conducted in a fully biblical way, the minister and the congregation enact (in a liturgical way) a dialogue between Christ and His bride. The minister is standing in for Christ as His herald, His ambassador, His representative. This means that a pastor who has a problem with porn is lying about Christ in two ways. The first is in the way that every husband would be lying, because every husband represents Christ in some way. But the second way is at a much higher level — the minister is set apart in another unique way, and he has been set apart in this way in order to represent Christ in a more heightened way than all husbands do.

Working from the other direction, what will a secret porn problem do to the preaching and teaching? The minister who has a radical inconsistency between his enactment of Christ in his private life and his enactment of Christ in his official capacity is aware (as others are not) of the inconsistency. But people are not built to live with such inconsistencies. We don’t like walking with rocks in our shoes. So the two ways to remove the inconsistency would be 1. to repent of the porn use and deal with it appropriately or, 2. begin to teach and preach in ways that create more and more wiggle room for everybody.

read the whole thing here

GOSPEL-CENTERED – Acts 15: This is the next strategic principle for ministry in the 21st (and the 1st!) century. I do not simply mean by ‘gospel-centered’ that ministry is to be doctrinally orthodox. Of course it must certainly be that. I am speaking more specifically. (1.) The gospel is “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey” while every other religion operates on the principle of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” (2.) Martin Luther’s fundamental insight was that this latter principle, the principle of ‘religion’ is the deep default mode of the human heart. The heart continues to work in that way even after conversion to Christ. Though we recognize and embrace the principle of the gospel, our hearts will always be trying to return to the mode of self-salvation, which leads to much spiritual deadness, pride and strife, and ministry ineffectiveness. (3.) We must communicate the gospel clearly–not a click toward legalism and not a click toward license. Legalism/moralism is truth without grace (which is not real truth); relativism is grace without truth (which is not real grace). To the degree a ministry fails to do justice to both, it simply loses life-changing power.

Text: 15:1-25 Here we see Paul, in the middle of a church-planting career, going to Jerusalem for a big theological debate. Now, why do that? Surely we ministers need to be about the work of evangelism, not going in for theological discussions! But Paul makes no bifurcation here. Chapter 15 is down the middle of Paul’s mission! It’s clarifying the gospel itself. (1) The cause of the debate is that the earliest Gentile converts to Christianity had already become Jewish culturally. That is, many of them were “God-fearers” who had been circumcised and/or abided by the clean laws and the Mosaic legislation. (2) Then Paul began bringing in real pagans or God-fearers who had not become culturally Jewish. And he was not demanding that, when they became Christians, that they had to adopt Jewish cultural patterns. (3) Then a group arose (15:1) saying, “unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved”. They had taken cultural norms and promoted them to be matters of virtue and spiritual merit. When they did that, they lost grasp on the gospel of grace and slid into ‘religion’. (4) The Council on the one hand in Peter, got hold of one end of the stick: v.6-11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we [Jews] are saved, just as they are.” (5) But, wouldn’t you know it- -James gets a hold of the other end of the stick. He agrees with Peter, but rightly asserts that Gentile Christians, though free from any requirements as to salvation, are not free to live as they like as members of a Christian community. They are obliged to live in love and to respect the scruples of culturally different Jewish brethren. So they are ordered (we tend to miss this) to live in such a way that does not offend or distress their brethren who are culturally different. (They are not to eat raw meat, they are to abide by Levitical marriage laws, and so on.) There could hardly be a better case study of the old Luther-proverb that expresses the balance of the gospel. We are “saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” We are not saved by how we behave, but once we are saved we behave in love.

So “religion” just drains the spiritual life out of a church. But you can “fall off the horse” on the other side too. You can miss the gospel not only through legalism but through relativism. When God is whoever you want to make him, and right and wrong are whatever you want to make them–you have also drained the spiritual life out of a church. If God is preached as simply a demanding, angry God or if he is preached as simply an all-loving God who never demands anything–in either case the listeners will not be transformed. They may be frightened or inspired or soothed, but they will not have their lives changed at the root, because they are not hearing the gospel. The gospel shows us that God is far more holy and absolute than the moralists’ god, because he could not be satisfied by our moral efforts, even the best! On the other hand the gospel shows us that God is far more loving and gracious than the relativists’ god. They say that God (if he exists) just loves everyone no matter what they do. The true God of the gospel had to suffer and die to save us, while the god of the relativist pays no price to love us.

The gospel produces a unique blend of humility and boldness/joy in the convert. If you preach just a demanding God, the listener will have “low self-esteem”; if you preach just an all-loving God, the listener will have higher self-esteem. But the gospel produces something beyond both of those. The gospel says: I am so lost Jesus had to die to save me. But I am so loved that Jesus was glad to die to save me. That changes the very basis of my identity- -it transforms me from the root.

read the whole thing here

Found this article courtesy of DesiringGod. I have emboldened what I believe to be the most significant part of Piper’s critique of Russel.  I have read Russel extensively, and “bleak” is a charitable description of his worldview.  But was Russel really courageous enough to apply that worldview to his children?  A good question indeed.

One great benefit of going to a good Christian college is that you read important bad books with the help of wise Christian scholars. Most 19-year-olds are not ready to navigate the sophisticated arguments of seasoned skeptics. But with the guidance of a seasoned Christian thinker, the navigation can be profitable. It was for me.

Russell stressed the absoluteness of physical matter. In other words, if you trace the origin of everything all the way back, you arrive at impersonal matter, not personal spirit: Matter, not God, is absolute. This meant, for Russell, that there is only material existence.

This produced one of the bleakest views of human life imaginable. Here, he says, is “the world which science built for our belief.”

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of the universe in ruins. . . . Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built (Why I Am Not a Christian, editor Paul Edwards [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957], p. 107).

It doesn’t take too much assistance from a wise teacher to help a 19-year-old see something odd in this. Tragically odd. Triply odd.
First the language he uses seems borrowed from another worldview: “loves,” “beliefs,” “devotion,” “inspiration,” “genius,” “despair,” and strangest of all, “soul.” To be sure, he insists that these are all “but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms.” Really? Why would material atoms collide to create a language affirming realities beyond matter? It is an odd creation of Russell’s world.
Second, did Russell really say to his crying children (he had three) that their sorrows were the unfortunate collocation of atoms? Did he say to any of his three wives, in the best of their affections, “This is only the collocation of atoms?” In other words, did he live his philosophy? Or was he playing 20th-century academic games?

read the whole thing here

Over the past year popular atheist writer Christopher Hitchens (my personal fav of all the “new” atheists) has been debating Christian theologian Doug Wilson. This latest exchange, from the Huffington Post is one of Wilson’s best efforts. My apologies for the title but those are his words, not mine. I found them provocative enough to make me willing to take the heat from angry parents!

From the perspective of a Christian, the refusal of an atheist to be a Christian is dismaying but it is at least intelligible.  But what is really disconcerting is the failure of atheists to be atheists.  That is the thing that cries out for further exploration.

We can understand a cook who sets out to prepare a reduction sauce, having it simmer on the stove for three days.  But what we shouldn’t get is the announcement afterwards that he has prepared us a souffle.  The atheistic worldview is nothing if not inherently reductionistic, whether this is admitted or not.  Everything that happens is a chance-driven rattle-jattle jumble in the great concourse of atoms that we call time.  Time and chance acting on matter have brought about, in equally aimless fashion, the 1972 New York Yankees, yesterday’s foam on a New Jersey beach, Princess Di, the arrangement of pebbles on the back side of the moon, the music of John Cage, the Fourth Crusade, and the current gaggle representing us all in Congress.

If the universe actually is what the materialistic atheist claims it is, then certain things follow from that presupposition.  The argument is simple to follow, and is frequently accepted by the sophomore presidents of atheist/ agnostic clubs at a university near you, but it is rare for a well-published atheistic leader to acknowledge the force of the argument.  To acknowledge openly the corrosive relativism that atheism necessarily entails would do nothing bet get the chimps jumping in the red states.  To swallow the reduction would present serious public relations problems, and drive Fox News ratings up even further.  Who needs that?

So if the universe is what the atheist maintains it is, then this determines what sort of account we must give for the nature of everything–and this includes the atheist’s thought processes, ethical convictions, and aesthetic appreciations.  If you were to shake up two bottles of pop and place them on  a table to fizz over, you could not fill up an auditorium with people who came to watch them debate.  This is because they are not debating; they are just fizzing.  If you were to shake up one bottle of pop, and show it film footage of some genocidal atrocity, the reaction you would get is not moral outrage, but rather more fizzing.  And if you were to shake it really hard by means of an art school, and place it in front of Michelangelo’s David, or the Rose Window of Chartres Cathedral, the results would not be atheistic appreciation, but more fizzing still.

If the atheist is right, then I am not a Christian because I have mistaken beliefs, but am rather a Christian because that is what these chemicals would always do in this arrangement and at this temperature.  The problem is that this atheistic assumption does the very same thing to the atheist’s cause for atheism.  The atheist gives us an account of all things which makes it impossible for us to believe that any account of all things could possibly be true.  But no account of things can be tenable unless it provides us with the preconditions that make it possible for our “accounting” to represent genuine insight.  Atheism fails to do this, and this failure is a spectacular one.  Nor does atheism allow us to have any fixed ethical standard, or the possibility of beauty.

read it all here

Great time at our first Awakenings meeting!  We had a good turnout, with about 130 people attending and we are expecting many more next week.  It’s definitely not too late to invite a friend.  Below is a list of the remaining sessions.  Pray that God will work and move in people’s hearts and that he will draw even more people to explore these deep and important issues with us next Wednesday at 5:45 at Trinity Church, 3000 North Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach S.C.

5:45 Dinner

6:15 Talk

6:50 Small Group Discussion

Session II (9-30-09): Can I discover God on my own?

Session III (10-07-09): What is a Savior and why do I need one?

Session IV (10-14-09): Who is Jesus?

Session V (10-21-09): Could Jesus really change my life?

Session VI (10-28-09): Why do people go to church?

Session VII (11-04-09): How can I grow spiritually?

Session VIII (11-11-09): How can my life be meaningful?

truckstopA great story from CNN. I saw one of these trucker chapels on my way to Alabama a few weeks ago. Now I know what it was!

JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) — “I gave up smoking, women and drinkin’ last night,” the singer shouts, “and it was the worst 15 minutes of mah life!”

The music blaring from the radio tonight is country. The dessert special is peach cobbler. And the customers are wide-bodied truck drivers, lumbering into a Georgia truck stop at suppertime.

But another group of truckers nearby is singing a new song. They amble into a truck stop trailer adorned with pictures of Jesus and sing the hymn “O Happy Day” in wobbly bass voices.

“I’ve been back and forth between God and Satan over the years,” trucker Harold “Jumper” McBride says as he stands to share his story. “It was a rough life, but I finally found that saving grace to make life a whole lot better.”

It’s the Wednesday night service at “Chaplain Joe’s” truck stop chapel service. The chaplain himself, a lanky, bearded man with tan cowboy boots, sits in the back of his narrow chapel, saying the loudest amens.

For 28 years, the Rev. Joe Hunter has been a chaplain to the truckers. Though most ministers preach to people in the pews, he takes God to people on the go. He reaches out to truckers at fuel stops, in parking lots, on the CB and through a radio show called “Heaven’s Road.”

He hears all sorts of stories: tales of loneliness, thoughts of suicide, struggles with guilt. A Vietnam veteran, he’s even lived a little of what he’s heard.

Yet Hunter says most truckers reaffirm his faith in human nature.

“Every snowflake is different, and God created us that way to be unique,” he says. “I’ve learned to appreciate the goodness of people. I believe there’s some good in everybody, and I love to try to find it.”

read the whole thing here

I have long wondered how internet video chat, anonymous blogging, online video gaming, role playing and a whole host of other modern innovations would contribute to a subconscious feeling of disembodiment. Once you and I separate ourselves from the notion that we were made by a creator which invests us with transcendent meaning and purpose, what intellectual resources do we have left to draw on to preserve our sense of self, mentally, physically and spiritually? It seems that’s what Bruce Willis’ new film “Surrogates” is clicking into. I’ll be interested to see what they make of it. Check out the official preview below.

Rosemary Port, a formally anonymous blogger was recently unmasked by Google when the internet search company was forced to reveal her real name during a defamation lawsuit.  Port’s blog “Skanks in NYC” was responsible for maliciously slandering model Liskula Cohen among others.  Port is currently planning to sue Google for “outing” her.  What is interesting about this case is Port’s assumption that since the internet can mask her identity, she should not be held responsible for her speech.  Irresponsible speech posted on the internet anonymously is nothing new.  In fact it is becoming increasinlgy common (see cyberbullying).  But what is so interesting about the internet is that it provides a loss of inhibition that was previously reserved only for those under the influence of alcohol.  At least when someone drank too much they can blame their irresponsible behavior on the alcohol.  But apparently we fallen human beings don’t need alcohol to prompt us to be malicious.  All we need is anonymity.

hat tip: kendall

Google is to be sued for $15 million (£9 million) by an anonymous blogger who was unmasked by the internet search company.

Rosemary Port said that Google had failed to protect her right to privacy when the company obeyed a court order to reveal her name after she used her blog to accuse a former Vogue model of being a “psychotic, lying, whoring … skank”.

Liskula Cohen, 36, won a landmark case in a New York court last week, forcing Google to disclose the online identity of Ms Port, 29, a Fashion Institute of Technology student, who created her “Skanks in NYC” blog a year ago using Google’s program.

Legal experts said that the ruling stripped away some of the anonymity provided by the web, making people who post offensive blogs, videos or tweets more responsible for their anonymous statements.

read it all here

This article, written by Beth Spraul was featured on the Capital Hill Baptist website. Because I’m a guy and watch a lot of action movies, I would never event think of deconstructing a chick flick. However, Beth does and her insights are quite provoking. The excerpt posted believe boldly and powerfully explains that the source of joy and happiness in a marriage is actually not the spouse, but Jesus Christ. Really good stuff. Enjoy!

It is good and right for women to desire marriage and a godly husband, but we must realize that all husbands will hurt us in some way eventually and that marriage is hard work as two sinners rely on Christ in the work of dying to their selfishness and growing their relationship.

Consider this last but most important point in contrast with this lie. Although marriage will certainly provide tremendous joy in your life, it will fall significantly short of making all things right. There are parts of this life in a fallen world that will remain difficult and broken, simply because of the presence of sin, regardless of when or whom you marry. Even the commitment, love and romance between a faithful husband and wife cannot answer all of this life’s longings. We need to remember that there is someone who will make all things right, but he isn’t your husband or husband-to-be, but rather Jesus Christ, the One who was crushed for your transgressions (Isa. 53) and bridged the infinite gap between you and your Creator by his death on the cross (Col 2:13-14). Being united to him in his death and resurrection will ultimately make all things right not in this life, but in the life to come.

If we as women approach our husbands with expectations that he will be the primary source that takes away all our loneliness, insecurities, fears and longings for love, we hold him to a standard no human being is able to meet in this life. We set ourselves up for great disappointment through these unreasonable expectations. When our husband doesn’t deliver such total sweeping happiness to our lives, we can be tempted to blame him when it is our own worldly and idolatrous expectations that are to blame! Such expectations can even lead us to be discontented wives who are unsatisfied with the day to day realities of life and responsibility in marriage. We
can become unsatisfied with our husband’s love.

read it all here

About every other week, I confront popular pluralist notions that have become a large part of the way Americans think. For example, pluralists contend that no one religion can know the fullness of spiritual truth, therefore all religions are valid. But while it is good to acknowledge our limitations, this statement is itself a strong assertion about the nature of spiritual truth. A common analogy is often cited to get the point across which I am sure you have heard — several blind men trying to describe an elephant. One feels the tail and reports that an elephant is thin like a snake. Another feels a leg and claims it is thick like a tree. Another touches its side and reports the elephant is a wall. This is supposed to represent how the various religions only understand part of God, while no one can truly see the whole picture. To claim full knowledge of God, pluralists contend, is arrogance. When I occasionally describe this parable, and I can almost see the people nodding their heads in agreement.

But then I remind the hearers that the only way this parable makes any sense, however, is if the person telling the story has seen the whole elephant. Therefore, the minute one says, ‘All religions only see part of the truth,’ you are claiming the very knowledge you say no one else has. And they are demonstrating the same spiritual arrogance they so often accuse Christians of. In other words, to say all is relative, is itself a truth statement but dangerous because it uses smoke and mirrors to make itself sound more tolerant than the rest. Most folks who hold this view think they are more enlightened than those who hold to absolutes when in fact they are really just as strong in their belief system as everyone else. I do not think most of these folks are purposefully using trickery or bad motives. This is because they seem to have even convinced themselves of the “truth” of their position, even though they claim “truth” does not exist or at least can’t be known. Ironic isn’t it? The position is intellectually inconsistent. (Tim Keller)

In its pure form Pluralism is a fact. It’s not an opinion or a belief or a religion. In other words, not every one believes the same things. We live in a society that’s very diverse, not just ethnically, but also religiously. But when pluralism starts to become a philosophy, when it starts to become a religious dogma, then it becomes a different animal. And that’s what I want to call relativism — or religious relativism, philosophical pluralism. It goes by different names but that is the dogmatic religious assertion that all religions are basically the same, that no one knows the truth about God. And no one can know the ultimate truth about God in a way that invalidates other peoples’ religious opinions and the belief that it’s arrogant to say that you have the truth religiously and it is arrogant to try to persuade other people to believe what you believe religiously. That’s relativism, philosophical pluralism. And I would say that’s the default belief of most people you run into in our city.– whether they’re religious or not, most people think about religion that way.

Here is what I want to urge on you and try to unpack in several ways. And that is that relativism is itself a religious belief. It is a dogma. Relativism is. It has affirmations and denials and a missionary force. One of the affirmations of relativism is that God is ultimately unknowable. No one can know the truth about God. But how do one know that to be true? This assumes an ultimate understanding of spiritual reality. All religions are ultimately the same. All religions are following a path to God. It doesn’t matter how you believe, it matters how you live. Do you see this? Those are religious statements. Those are matters of religious beliefs, dogma. Doctrines! If people say, “No, I’m not religious. I’m saying you can’t know. I’m saying, Nobody can know the truth about God. I’m not claiming that I’ve got a corner on it.” But if you look at it closely, the statements of religious relativism are every bit as dogmatic as the statements of the Koran or the Bible. It’s a religious dogma.

read it all here

The Summer of Astroturf

Posted: August 21, 2009 by limabean03 in Current Issues, Pop-Culture


The summer of Astroturf – and of accusations of Astroturf – hasn’t been limited to health care. In the single most egregious incident, the Bonner Group, a lobbying firm, forged the signatures of local ethnic and senior citizens organizations under letters opposing a bill to regulate greenhouse gases. In another, the chairman of the American Conservative Union appeared to ask for cash in exchange for taking sides in a dispute between FedEx and UPS carriers. And the New York Times reported this week that the oil industry has taken to busing its employees, on company time, to raucous rallies against the climate legislation.

So what exactly is “Astroturf?”

The Public Relations Society of America equates it with the use of “front groups,” which the above organizations accuse one another of being. (The trade organization eschews the more popular term “because Astroturf is a registered trademark.”) The society, noted its Chairman and CEO Michael Cherenson, bans the practice – to no evident effect.

“There’s all these groups making claims and you don’t really know who is standing behind those claims –we’re seeing it more and more in the health care debate,” Cherenson said. “This combination of front groups and propaganda is making for a pretty dangerous environment out there.”

read the whole thing here