Stephen Spielberg has been awarded this year’s Genesis Prize, recognizing his accomplishments, contributions to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw have matched the $1 million prize money to create grants totaling $2 million to non-profit organizations addressing issues of social justice. The Genesis Prize is awarded annually to Jewish people who have achieved significant professional success. The prize was founded in 2012 with a $100 million endowment from five Russian philanthropists.
Popular country singer Carrie Underwood has released her first totally religious album, entitled “My Savior”. It contains 13 songs, drawn mainly from her heritage growing up in an Evangelical Christian home in Oklahoma and familiar to many of us: songs such as “How Great Thou Art”, “Because He Lives”, Jesus Loves Me,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” and “Softly and Tenderly.” Underwood rose to fame as the winner of the 2005 competition American Idol and has sustained a successful singing career since then. She is worth an estimated $200 million.
Brunswick and points north
Keep your eye out for Kenn Neyland. He might be dragging a cross down the main street of your town, like he did in mine this week. He started the current trek in Key West and is headed for New York City. He hopes to be there by July. At age 81, Kenn had lived a life full of adventure before a conversion to Roman Catholic Christianity seven years ago: professional baseball playing, bank robbing, book writing among them. Now this. His first walk was from Savannah, Georgia to San Francisco. What is your message? A reporter asked—“Love one another” he said.
The Gallop research organization reports that, for the first time, membership in a worshipping community has dropped below 50% of the American population. That includes people connected with a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other form of assembly. For most of the 20th century, that number stayed right around 70% but in the 1990s began to decline. This means that because three quarters of the population claim a religious preference, fully a third of these believers are not connected to a worshipping community.
It is festival time. Last week, Jews celebrated Passover. This week Christians observe Holy Week, with Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good, Friday, and Easter Sunday. About a week later, Muslims will begin their annual celebration of Ramadan, scheduled for the month beginning April 12 and ending May 11. All of these are coming just as the global pandemic is winding down. As for me, I will be celebrating Easter in Carlisle, Kentucky, with family and friends. In fact, I will be preaching Easter Sunday at the First Baptist Church of that fair city. My gospel sidekick, Samuel Wyatt Curson, will be reading the gospel story.