Tag Archives: fundamentalists

2015: The year Wisconsin lost itself

In 2015, Wisconsin completed a 180-degree turn away from the state’s lauded history as a model of good government. The year saw the fruition of a process set into motion in 2011, when conservative Republicans gerrymandered the state so they couldn’t lose. They stopped even pretending that we live in a democracy in which opposing viewpoints have the right to be heard. Instead they proved the axiom that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Their changes to the fundamental character of Wisconsin have occurred so fast and furiously the media and progressive groups haven’t been able to keep up with them. Stories that would have grabbed headlines in prior years were buried in the avalanche of game-changing laws tumbling out of the Capitol.

For every legislative travesty that’s been publicized in time to stop it through public outcry — such as the measure to abolish the state’s open records law, which was slipped quietly into the budget on a Friday afternoon — there have been dozens of other reckless laws enacted. Wisconsin citizens are likely to discover many transgressive laws on the books in the coming year that no one except Scott Walker, the Legislature’s Republican leadership and a few of their corporate backers are even aware of.

There’s not enough room in this editorial to enumerate all of the new measures that go against the grain of Wisconsin’s history. But we can say with certainty that few of them have spurred our economy, which is what our current leaders vowed to do when they were voted into office.

Walker did not create anywhere near the 250,000 jobs he promised. The state has hovered near the bottom of job producers for most of his time in office. Wisconsin has the fastest shrinking middle class is the nation; median household income here has fallen at the nation’s highest rate since Walker took office.

Walker has doled out $279 million of taxpayer money in the form of tax credits — many more millions than are allowable under the law — to businesses that failed to create jobs, partly because they weren’t even required to do so in exchange for their corporate welfare. Some of that money has disappeared into thin air, leaving no trace of where it went. This is money that, along with Walker‘s tax cuts to the wealthy, was supposed to create jobs. Instead it left Wisconsin with a budget shortfall and without any way to restore Walker’s draconian cuts to education, the worst in the nation. It left the state with no way to repair its crumbling infrastructure or maintain its natural splendor. It left no money to accomplish the myriad of things required for the state to really grow its economy and maintain its quality of life.

In truth, Walker and the Republicans have paid scant attention to the economy. The majority of their efforts have gone toward appeasing corporate and right-wing special interests in order to keep themselves in power. And they’ve abused that power by getting rid of a panoply of laws passed to ferret out and prosecute political corruption. It’s impossible to believe politicians who prioritize eliminating government watchdog groups and related prosecutorial officers have their sights set on good deeds.

Instead of jobs, Walker and his GOP colleagues have focused on issues such as expanding gun ownership, fighting same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive freedom, eliminating environmental protections, telling people getting food stamps what they can buy, packing state government with inexperienced cronies, repealing laws involving fair wages, such as the equal pay law for women … the list feels endless and hopeless.

Scott Walker promised last year during his re-election campaign that he would not seek the presidency in 2016. But he was the first to throw his hat in the ring. He went on to neglect his responsibilities here and the lunacy of his public behavior and remarks made a laughingstock of Wisconsin.

He seemed to return to his lesser job angry and dejected — more determined than ever to reshape the state according to his impenetrable and conflicted ideals.

How well he’s succeeded.

The only hope for the future is that Democratic and Republican voters alike get out next year and vote for candidates they can trust to focus on the issues that are important to our collective future — and not to candidates who are intent only on furthering their personal interests and those of their patrons.

Russell Crowe’s do-gooder Noah surfs to top of box office despite controversy

After weathering a sea of controversy among fundamentalist Christians, “Noah” arrived in first place at the weekend box office.

Paramount’s biblical epic starring Russell Crowe in the titular role opened with $44 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The imaginative take on the tale of Noah’s Ark from “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky led some religious groups to claim the story had been inaccurately depicted and prompted Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing materials noting that “artistic license has been taken” in telling the story. Evangelicals complained that the movie protrays Noah as a do-gooder seeking to heal the earth and save animals rather than an instrument for ridding the earth of “evil,” as they perceive him to be. There’s been scattered talk of boycotts among biblical literatists.

“Evil” in evangelical circles generally means gays, women who dress immodestly or have sex outside of marriage, gun-control advocates, environmentalists and people who oppose America’s corporate-right agenda. 

But the polarizing attention apparently paid off for “Noah,” which features such additions to the well-known Bible story as angelic rock creatures and chic wardrobes for Noah and his family.

“Noah,” which also stars Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson, also sailed smoothly in 22 international markets, such as Russia and Australia, earning $33.6 million abroad.

“It certainly feels like the film has really connected with both mainstream moviegoers who are looking for a really sophisticated film and those folks who really want to see a movie that honors their faith,” said Rob Moore, Paramount vice chairman. “It’s been a very interesting journey to get to this point, but it’s definitely a spectacular launch.”

“Noah” is the latest faith-centric film to win over audiences this year. Others include the independently released “God’s Not Dead,” which earned $9 million in its second outing this weekend, and “Son of God,” whose domestic total now stands at $57.9 million since opening last month.

“I think these biblical-themed movies are like the next frontier in Hollywood,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. “Hollywood hadn’t cracked the code on a biblical movie that would have mainstream appeal. Now, I think they’ve figured it out. We may see a flood — pun intended — coming down the pipeline. We already have ‘Heaven is for Real’ and ‘Exodus’ slated for later this year.”

Elsewhere at the box office, Lionsgate’s teen science-fiction thriller “Divergent” starring Shailene Woodley came in second place and earned $26.5 million in its second weekend, bringing its domestic total to $95.3 million.

“Muppets Most Wanted,” the globe-trotting Muppet sequel from Disney featuring Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais, captured third place with $11.4 million in its second weekend. The latest Muppet caper’s total domestic haul is now at $33.2 million.

The weekend’s other major new release, “Sabotage,” flopped in the seventh spot with $5.3 million. The Open Road action flick starring Arnold Schwarzenegger is the latest failure for the former California governor, whose “The Last Stand” and “Escape Plan” were box-office duds last year.

Disney’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which opens in the U.S. on Friday, dominated 32 international markets by capturing $75.2 million. The sequel stars Chris Evans as the patriotic Marvel super-soldier.

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Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, latest international numbers are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Noah,” $44 million ($33.6 million international).

2. “Divergent,” $26.5 million.

3. “Muppets Most Wanted,” $11.4 million.

4. “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” $9.5 million ($17.8 million international).

5. “God’s Not Dead,” $9 million.

6. “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” $8.9 million.

7. “Sabotage,” $5.3 million.

8. “Need for Speed,” $4.3 million ($13.3 million international).

9. “300: Rise of an Empire,” $4.3 million ($8.8 million international).

10. “Non-Stop,” $4.1 million.

Louis Weisberg contributed to this article.


Christians prepare for world to end in May

 If there had been time, Marie Exley would have liked to start a family. Instead, the 32-year-old Army veteran has less than six months left, which she’ll spend spreading a stark warning: Judgment Day is almost here.

Exley is part of a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin May 21, 2011.

To get the word out, they’re using billboards and bus stop benches, traveling caravans of RVs and volunteers passing out pamphlets on street corners. Cities from Bridgeport, Conn., to Little Rock, Ark., now have billboards with the ominous message, and mission groups are traveling through Latin America and Africa to spread the news outside the U.S.

“A lot of people might think, ‘The end’s coming, let’s go party,'” said Exley, a veteran of two deployments in Iraq. “But we’re commanded by God to warn people. I wish I could just be like everybody else, but it’s so much better to know that when the end comes, you’ll be safe.”

In August, Exley left her home in Colorado Springs, Colo., to work with Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio Worldwide, the independent Christian ministry whose leader, Harold Camping, has calculated the May 21 date based on his reading of the Bible.

She is organizing traveling columns of RVs carrying the message from city to city, a logistics challenge that her military experience has helped solve. The vehicles are scheduled to be in five North Carolina cities between now and the second week of January, but Exley will shortly be gone: overseas, where she hopes to eventually make it back to Iraq.

“I don’t really have plans to come back,” she said. “Time is short.”

Not everyone who’s heard Camping’s message is taking such a dramatic step. They’re remaining in their day-to-day lives, but helping publicize the prophecy in other ways. Allison Warden, of Raleigh, has been helping organize a campaign using billboards, post cards and other media in cities across the U.S. through a website, We Can Know.

The 29-year-old payroll clerk laughs when asked about reactions to the message, which is plastered all over her car.

“It’s definitely against the grain, I know that,” she said. “We’re hoping people won’t take our word for it, or Harold Camping’s word for it. We’re hoping that people will search the scriptures for themselves.”

Camping, 89, believes the Bible essentially functions as a cosmic calendar explaining exactly when various prophecies will be fulfilled.

The retired civil engineer said all his calculations come from close readings of the Bible, but that external events like the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 are signs confirming the date.

“Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment,” he said.

The doctrine known as the Rapture teaches that believers will be taken up to heaven, while everyone else will remain on earth for a period of torment, concluding with the end of time. Camping believes that will happen in October.

“If May 21 passes and I’m still here, that means I wasn’t saved. Does that mean God’s word is inaccurate or untrue? Not at all, Warden said.

The belief that Christ will return to earth and bring an end to history has been a basic element of Christian belief since the first century. The Book of Revelation, which comes last in the New Testament, describes this conclusion in vivid language that has inspired Christians for centuries.

But few churches are willing to set a date for the end of the world, heeding Jesus’ words in the gospels of Mark and Matthew that no one can know the day or hour it will happen. Predictions like Camping’s, though, aren’t new. One of the most famous in history was by the Baptist leader William Miller, who predicted the end for Oct. 22, 1844, which came to be known as the Great Disappointment among his followers, some of whom subsequently founded the Seventh Day Adventist church.

“In the U.S., there is still a significant population, mostly Protestant, who look at the Bible as kind of a puzzle, and the puzzle is God’s word and it’s predicting when the end times will come,” said Catherine Wessinger, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who studies millennialism, the belief in pending apocalypse.

“A lot of times these prophecies gain traction when difficulties are happening in society,” she said. “Right now, there’s a lot of insecurity, and this is a promise that says it’s not all random, it’s part of God’s plan.”

Past predictions that failed to come true don’t have any bearing on the current calculation, believers maintain.

“It would be like telling the Wright brothers that every other attempt to fly has failed, so you shouldn’t even try,” said Chris McCann, who works with eBible Fellowship, one of the groups spreading the message.

For believers like McCann, theirs is actually a message of hope and compassion: God’s compassion for people, and the hope that there’s still time to be saved.

That, ultimately, is what spurs on Exley, who said her beliefs have alienated her from most of her friends and family. Her hope is that not everyone who hears her message will mock it, and that even people who dismiss her now might still come to believe.

“If you still want to say we’re crazy, go ahead,” she said. “But it doesn’t hurt to look into it.”