Concerning those British battles about 'Star Wars' and the Lord's Prayer

Imagine this scene in a London movie theater, moments before the archetypal fanfare signaling the Dec. 18 arrival of the new "Star Wars" epic.

Imagine a beautiful, dignified advertisement appearing onscreen in which Muslims -- workers, refugees, artists and imams -- each recite one of the opening phrases of the Quran.

"In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek."

How would this be received in modern England, a tense land rocked by decades of debate about multiculturalism and whether it remains "Christian," in any meaningful sense of the word?

That's an intriguing question, after the decision by the dominant managers of British theaters to reject a Church of England advertisement -- targeting throngs at "Star Wars" rites -- in which Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and others recite phrases from The Lord's Prayer. It's important to ponder this comparison, argued theologian Andrew Perriman of London, at a website called "An Evangelical Theology for the Post-Christendom Age."

"Context is everything. It seems to me that the assumption that the Lord's Prayer is culturally and religiously innocuous points to some complacency on the part of the church," wrote Perriman, author of "The Coming of the Son of Man: New Testament Eschatology for an Emerging Church."

The decision to use this symbolic New Testament prayer in this public-square context, he argued, suggests that, "we have not let go of the Christendom mentality that expects everyone in this country to be, deep-down, innately, whether-they-like-it-or-not Christian."

Warnings to believers in a consumer culture

Since the goal was to explore the cultural ties that bind, Father John Kavanaugh asked the young Catholics in a St. Louis classroom a basic civics question: How many national and world leaders could they name? The Jesuit didn’t allow the seventh graders to include celebrities and entertainers, which meant that actor Tom Cruise didn’t make the list. In the end, they ended up with 12 names.

"You started off with the pope and the president, of course. Then things got harder after that," said the St. Louis University philosophy professor, describing this scene during a 1990 Denver lecture that I covered for The Rocky Mountain News.

The questions got easier, for youngsters baptized in untold hours of commercials on cable television. When asked to name brands of beer, the list on the chalkboard topped 40. How about designer jeans? The seventh graders came up with more than 50 different brands. They were experts when it came to the shopping-mall facts of life.

The Regis University crowd laughed, but it was nervous laughter, as the author of "Following Christ in a Consumer Society: The Spirituality of Cultural Resistance" walked them through a slideshow demonstrating the power of advertising in shaping the minds of materialistic modern Americans.

Yes, it was funny when the priest offered Freudian interpretations of popular cigarette ads. But no one wanted to laugh at the images demonstrating how professionals were using bleak, depressing, yet erotic images of children in advertising aimed at adults.

Is this, the philosopher asked, what our culture's powers that be think real life is all about? If that is the case, he said, "then let's be freaks. Let's be tourists. ... We must remember this is not our home."

Kavanaugh died on Nov. 5 at age 71, after a career in service and scholarship that took him from St. Louis to India and then back home again. His perspectives on suffering and poverty were shaped by his early work with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta and then with the Jean Vanier communities for those with disabilities in Bangalore.

In addition to his work as a professor and spiritual director for seminarians, Kavanaugh was known for his columns in America magazine, film criticism in The St. Louis Review and numerous books. "Following Christ in a Consumer Society" was reissued twice in new editions, to keep its cultural criticism up to date.

Kavanaugh pleaded guilty to tilting at his share of conservative windmills, but anyone who was paying close attention knew that he was trying to prod the consciences of Catholics on the left as well as the right.

The priest raised eyebrows with a 2002 column entitled "Goodbye, Democrats" in which he argued that America's political culture had collapsed to the point that it would be wise for believers to cut their partisan political ties by registering as independent voters. He stressed that he thought Catholics in the Republican Party needed to bail out, as well.

Writing to his fellow progressives, Kavanaugh proclaimed: "One thing the Democrats really stand for, however, is abortion -- abortion on demand, abortion without restraint, abortion paid for by all of us, abortion for the poor of the earth. I am not a one-issue voter, but they have become a one-issue party. … If traditional Democrats who are disillusioned with the selling out of the working poor and the unborn simply became registered Independent voters, would not more attention be paid?"

The problem, of course, is that it’s sinfully easy for ministers -- once again, on the left or the right -- to keep preaching easy sermons that they know their flocks want to hear, said Kavanaugh, when I interviewed him once again in 2008. It's easy to keep lashing away at the same familiar straw men, while avoiding topics that could offend the faithful in the home pews.

The Jesuit summed up his message with a quote that rings as true today as it did the final time that I talked with him.

"Whether you are preaching to liberals or conservatives, it's hard to tell people truths that they don't want to hear," he said, in that telephone interview. "It's hard to tell people to love their enemies. It's hard to tell people to repent of their sins and to forgive others. ... It's hard, but this is what good preachers have to do."

Billy Graham & Co. push the values voters

The television talking heads all agreed that the election was over, which ignited celebrations among the staff and supporters of winner Richard Nixon -- including the world's most famous evangelist. "We did it," proclaimed the Rev. Billy Graham, according to iconoclastic journalist Joe McGinniss in "The Selling of the President 1968." Graham, he added, went "directly into Nixon's room, without explaining whether 'we' meant Billy Graham and Richard Nixon or Billy Graham and God or perhaps all three together."

Years later, a repentant Graham said he wept and became ill when he heard Nixon's paranoid, profanity-laced chatter on the Watergate tapes. While "America's pastor" kept meeting with presidents -- as he has with every Oval Office occupant since Harry Truman -- he vowed never again to become that attached to a candidate.

The question, for Graham's critics and even some supporters, is whether the national advertising campaign launched on Oct. 18th by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association -- now led by son Franklin Graham -- has crossed that line. The target audience: Readers of USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, key swing-state newspapers and church bulletins nationwide.

"The legacy we leave behind for our children, grandchildren and this great nation is crucial," proclaims one ad. "As I approach my 94th birthday, I realize this election could be my last. I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.

"I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman."

It's easy to read between those lines, noted sociologist William Martin, author of "A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story."

"Billy Graham representatives note that the ads do not mention a specific candidate or party -- an observation intended more for the IRS than for the target audience," wrote Martin, at Christianity Today online. "Given that former Gov. Mitt Romney opposes same-sex marriage and President Barack Obama supports it (and by doing so, has -- to use Franklin Graham's words -- "shaken his fist" at God), the ads leave no doubt about their intent."

There's more. Romney aides claim that, at the end of a recent meeting with the candidate, the evangelist promised: "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."

Months earlier, the Graham organization also released statements urging North Carolina voters to back a state constitutional amendment on marriage and an appeal for support of "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," after the company's president drew fire for defending traditional Christian doctrines on sex and marriage.

Meanwhile, former Graham-organization webmaster Steve Knight has said -- in a much-circulated Huffington Post essay -- that enough is enough. It's significant that Knight now works with a denomination on the religious left, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

"My concern is that here's how things like this continue to work," warned Knight. "Franklin Graham (or Franklin and his sister Anne Graham Lotz) have an agenda (in all ... of these cases, "traditional marriage"), they get a BGEA copywriter to draft the text, ... Franklin approves the copy and-or design, then Franklin drives out to Little Piney Cove (Billy's cabin home outside of Asheville, N.C.) and holds the piece of paper in front of Billy and asks, 'Daddy, can we publish this?' And Billy nods (or whatever he's capable of doing at this point in his life), and Franklin goes back and publishes this stuff with his good father's name all over it."

Veteran Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross has vehemently denied this and other claims that Graham has, in effect, become a puppet used and abused by Franklin Graham and others.

"In the years since his last public crusade, Billy Graham has been increasingly burdened by society's moral decline and the need for renewal in our culture and revival in the church," noted Ross, in the Christianity Today forum. "Because he considers the institution of marriage as the cornerstone of society, he is opposed to any redefinition of marriage -- which he sees not as a political issue but rather a matter of religious freedom."

Thus, Ross added, Graham personally approved the use of these quotations in which he is heard "challenging citizens -- particularly the faith community -- on how to vote, rather than for whom to vote."

Faith in that Barack Obama brand

Here's good news for President Barack Obama: The slice of Americans who believe he is a Muslim is down to 11 percent, according to a new Gallup Poll. That number was up to 18 percent two years ago, in a Pew Research Center survey, after hitting 11 percent in 2009.

This time around, 52 percent of Democrats knew the president is a Protestant Christian, as opposed to 24 percent of Republicans. Only 3 percent of Democrats said Obama is a Muslim, while 18 percent of Republicans thought so. The number of Gallup respondents who answered "none/no religion" was fairly even -- 10 percent of independents, 7 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats.

In many ways, the most remarkable number in these polls is that -- after years of public professions by Obama -- nearly 137 million Americans answer "don't know" when asked to name his faith. That's 44 percent of those polled in this recent Gallup effort.

"It's clear most Democrats recognize that he is a liberal Christian or they just don't care," said Mark Edward Taylor, author of "Branding Obama: The Rise of an American Idol." Meanwhile, on the other side, Republicans are "much more likely to say that they are confused about his faith or that they doubt he is really a Christian.

"That could be what some people really mean when they say they don't know Obama's religion."

Meanwhile, there are liberals who think Obama is lying when he says he is a believer. HBO comedian Bill Maher spoke for this flock when he said: "If you woke him up in the middle of the night, or if you gave him sodium pentothal, I think (Obama would say) he's a centrist the way he is a Christian -- not really."

From this perspective, it's crucial that the president's father was a skeptical Muslim and that Obama has, at various times, described his mother as "an agnostic" and "a lonely witness for secular humanism," as well as "a Christian from Kansas," noted Taylor. Young Obama grew up with Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth," as well as the Bible and the Koran.

Still, there's plenty of evidence the rising politico paid attention during his years at Trinity United Church of Christ.

One thing's for sure: Obama didn't learn his call-and-response pulpit skills at Harvard Law School. He plugged into a liberal African-American congregation in order to build his South Chicago credibility, while hitting the golf links to learn how to reach into executive suites.

By the time he went national, these lessons had been fused into a powerful advertising formula driven by the words "change," "hope" and "believe." In his book, Taylor says the key is that the "believe" component centered on Obama's image, talent and personal story -- not a creed. The candidate offered "himself to America," rather than political or religious specifics.

"At no time did Obama declare, 'I am the Messiah.' Every time he stepped into the spotlight, though, he talked and acted like one," argued Taylor. "Obama created a messianic personality by being messianic. ... He preached justice, righteousness and compassion. He proclaimed the end of war and peace among nations. He prophesied the healing of the planet. Obama never told the American people that he was their Savior. He showed them his plan for redemption."

This take on faith rings true for millions of Americans. Yet millions of other Americans balk at Obama's privatized definition of "sin" as "being out of alignment with my values." In that same 2004 interview with journalist Cathleen Falsani, Obama said he was unsure about heaven and hell, but that "whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing."

Taylor is convinced this division -- between two very different views of faith -- is what keeps showing up in poll results about Obama and religion.

"All I know is that Obama recently played his 100th round of golf on a Sunday morning. I don't know if he went to church that Sunday morning or not," he said. "When we look at these poll numbers, perhaps what we are really seeing is the result of what these Americans think about religious faith. What they say about Obama may tell us as much or more about them as it does about Obama."

Whatever happened to Advent?

The Rev. Timothy Paul Jones kept hearing one thing when -- four weeks before Christmas -- he brought a wreath and some purple and pink candles into his Southern Baptist church near Tulsa, Okla. And all the people said: "Advent? Don't Catholics do that?"

This prickly response wasn't all that unusual, in light of the history of Christmas in America, said Jones, who now teaches leadership and church ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

"In the dominant American, Protestant traditions of this country, we've never had a Christian calendar that told us anything about Advent and the 12 days of Christmas," explained Jones, author of "Church History Made Easy."

"We went from the Puritans, and they hardly celebrated Christmas at all, to this privatized, individualized approach to the season that you see all around us. ... If you mention the church calendar many people think you've gone Papist or something. They really don't care what Christians did through the centuries."

The history of Christmas has always been complicated, he noted, with religious rites colliding with traditions defined by family, community and commerce. However, the basic structure of the Advent and Christmas seasons has -- until recently, historically speaking -- remained the same.

In a short essay for laypeople, Jones noted that "Advent ... comes to us from a Latin term that means 'toward the coming.' The purpose of this season was to look toward the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting. As early as the 4th century A.D., Christians fasted during this season. ... By the late Middle Ages, Advent preceded Christmas by 40 days in the Eastern Orthodox Church and by four weeks in western congregations." Advent was then followed by the 12-day Christmas season.

For centuries, these seasons were shaped by traditions in extended families and small communities, patterns of rural and village life that endured from generation to generation, century after century, until the upheavals of the industrial revolution. During the 18th and 19th centuries, millions of people in Europe and then America pulled up their roots and moved into major cities.

Christmas evolved into a "gigantic party that ended up in the streets" to celebrate that legions of urban laborers were given a day off from work, noted Jones. It was a day for revelry, drinking, carousing and feasting, a holiday best observed in taverns and public houses instead of churches.

This was not a lovely Christmas tableau complete with candle-lit processions, prayers and carols. Something needed to be done.

Thus, Christmas began to change again. The goal was to create a kinder, gentler season, one centered in individual family homes. What emerged, with a big assist from advertising and other forms of mass media, was a "radically new and almost completely secular Christmas myth," explained Jones. This was Christmas as pictured in the famous poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," popular songs, advertisements and scores of Thomas Nast cartoons.

Santa Claus replaced St. Nicholas and Advent vanished altogether, which was fine with most Americans because they never knew the season existed in the first place.

"What you had then was a holiday that was very appealing and positive, from an American, Protestant perspective," said Jones. "It was very individualistic and centered on events in the family home, with all of that decorating, cooking, gift-giving and people traveling to be home for Christmas.

"This left you one step away from the full-blown commercialization of Christmas that took over in the 20th Century."

Jones stressed that he isn't naive enough to think that churches can turn this around by printing some Advent brochures to help families add another wrinkle to an already complex season. Still, it wouldn't hurt for pastors and parents to stop and think about ways to let Advent be Advent and then to let Christmas be Christmas.

"Americans don't like to wait," he said. "We want what we want and we want it now. ... That's the way that we do Christmas. We mix and we match, taking a little bit of this and a whole lot of that. We rush around trying to create the Christmas we think is going to work for us.

"But Advent asks us to slow down and wait -- to wait for Christmas. Most people don't think that approach will work very well at all."

Church signs along the road

Donald Seitz had suffered through a long day during a bad week at his office on Nashville's famous Music Row.

On his way home from a business call, he drove past the Greater Pleasant View Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tenn. As usual, the no-tech sign out front offered a folksy thought for the week. This one caught his eye.

"He who kneels before God can stand before anyone," it said, in black, movable letters inserted by hand into slots on a plain white background.

Seitz pulled over and got out of his car to study the sign.

"It's all about timing," he said. "I've driven past thousands of church signs in my life, but this was the right sign on the right day. It got me. That's the thing about these signs. They grab you when you least expect it. They move you, somehow."

Before long, the president of Redbird Music crossed the line between intrigued and somewhat obsessed.

Along with his wife and their young son, he packed their car full of camera equipment and "lots of sippy cups" and hit the road. His goal was to find as many of these old-fashioned signs as possible -- the kind that say things like "Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous," "Exercise daily, walk with the Lord," "God answers knee mail" and "Give God what is right, not what is left."

They spread their trips over three years and Seitz stopped keeping track of the miles after they passed the 20,000 mark. The result was "The Great American Book of Church Signs," which contains 100 photographs taken in nearly 40 states. The pilgrimage, he said, was like reading "one long American sermon."

Seitz did have questions. He wondered if these signs are still common at rural churches, but rarely used by city megachurches. Also, do some denominations embrace them, while others they are too simplistic? Would he find a red-church vs. blue-church pattern?

Many of his preconceptions were based on his experiences living and driving in the Bible Belt, especially two-lane roads in the Southeast.

"This book could have been done in Tennessee, alone. In fact, I think I could have done a whole book in Nashville," said Seitz, laughing. "In this part of the world, you can throw a rock in just about any direction and hit four or five churches that have these signs. ...

"Church signs are more common in some places than others, but if you keep looking you'll find them at all kinds of churches all over the country."

Thus, the Harmony Hill Church of God in Fayetteville, Tenn., proclaimed, "Faith is a journey, not a destination." But Seitz also found a sign that said, "Love God with all of your heart, then do whatever you want" in front of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, New York.

The Tompkinsville (Ken.) Church of Christ's sign warned rural drivers that, "A dam holds water back. It's not my last name. God." On the other side of the doctrinal aisle, the sign at the South Church Unitarian Universalist sanctuary in Portsmouth, N.H., announced -- with typically broad-minded sentiments -- that, "True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess."

Seitz said he was surprised that he saw very few signs that included political themes, although it was easy to read between the lines of one that said, "The Ten Commandments are still posted here." It was

also easy to interpret another marquee that stressed, "God is not a Republican or a Democrat."

This is not advanced theology. The message on a typical sign is only eight words long and is the product of a volunteer's clever imagination, research in old church bulletins or, in the digital age, a quick search on the World Wide Web. Most combine a chuckle with a moral message that strives to appeal to strangers as well as members.

After all of his travels, Seitz decided that the archetypal church-sign message was this one: "Life is fragile. Handle with prayer."

"It's succinct, it has that little pun in there and it's powerful, if you think about it for a minute," he said. "That's the essence of a good church sign message. That's what you're trying to do -- get people to stop and think for a minute."

That Salvation Army brand

'Tis the season for Salvation Army bells, which means that Major George Hood's telephone has started ringing and it isn't going to stop until Christmas.

People want to know how many dollars are coming in and where they are going and why. Hood is the man with the numbers, since he is the Salvation Army's community relations officer. In the past year, about 3.5 million Army volunteers and about 70,000 employees have helped more than 34 million needy people.

"If you look at those numbers, we're in good shape and it certainly seems like we're going to keep getting stronger," said Hood, hours before being buried in kick-off events for the 2005 red-kettle campaign. "We're thankful for that."

But there is another side of the equation, admitted Hood. As a charity, the Salvation Army is rolling with the punches -- political, cultural and, in recent years, meteorological. But as a church, and as an evangelistic movement, the recent numbers are sobering.

The Army has about 3,500 ordained officers and 113,000 soldiers who have signed the statement of faith called "A Soldier's Covenant," with roughly 35,000 of those being "junior soldiers" under the age of 14.

On a typical Sunday, about 130,000 people attend services in 1316 corps community centers. Three decades ago the Army's four seminaries were full. Today, there are active attempts to find more adults who are willing to serve and the average age of officers -- old and new -- is rising.

"Those numbers have been flat for a number of years and, frankly, that has people talking about our future," said Hood. "Of course, it's still a mystery to a lot of people that we are a church, so we have to keep reminding people of that. People say, 'I had no idea that you're a church, too.' ...

"Are we a church or are we a charity? People have been asking that for ages. The answer, of course, is that we're both."

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army's status as a church has been linked to some nasty headlines in recent years. According to the conservative National Clergy Council, a boycott of the red kettles by gay-rights groups may have contributed to the decision by Target executives to enforce their ban on solicitations outside their stores. Army leaders have insisted that, as a church, they have a right to let their traditional Christian doctrines on sex and marriage shape some employee policies and benefits.

Of course, it's also newsworthy that those bell-ringing volunteers keep greeting shoppers with the controversial words, "Merry Christmas!"

This year, stressed Hood, the Salvation Army has worked out a compromise with Target in which online customers can make some holiday purchases for the needy. However, a few conservative religious groups are targeting Target by reminding their members that the red kettles are alive and well at many other stores.

Hood confirmed that the two-year controversy has not hurt donations. The kettles took in $93 million in 2003, including $9 million at Target stores. After the 2004 Target ban, the kettles took in $103 million, including $17 million at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations.

It does appear, said Hood, that the Salvation Army is maintaining its niche in the American imagination. The public has responded well to its pledge to keep "doing the most good to the most people in the most need." The question is whether people understand why the Salvation Army is doing the work that it does. After all, the word "salvation" is still in the brand name.

Army officers are trying new things. Some are working with Harley-Davidson motorcycle clubs to reach out to bikers. Some corps centers are starting "church on wheels" programs with buses that take worship services directly to needy neighborhoods. Others are trying to make Sunday services "more charismatic and more contemporary."

Can the Salvation Army replace brass bands with rock bands?

"People admire what we do, but they would prefer to worship at a Baptist church or a Presbyterian church or that megachurch that's in their neighborhood," said Hood. "They'll donate money to us and volunteer to help, but they don't want to worship with us on Sunday mornings. ...

"We still have people who think that all of our soldiers are off living in a barracks somewhere. People don't understand who we are."

Free Bibles, free speech

As a rule, newspaper readers do not protest when the Sunday edition includes free soap, toothpaste, shampoo, detergent, AOL software or a razor.

Then again, these products do not include pronouncements on sin, sex, money, marriage, heaven, hell and a host of spiritual issues -- including the belief that salvation comes through faith in a messiah named Jesus.

So International Bible Society leaders were not surprised that some people were upset by their decision to distribute 91,000 New Testaments in a pre-Christmas edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette. They were surprised when the project made national headlines, inspiring debate about free speech, religious tolerance and the role of newspapers in the marketplace of ideas.

"Whenever we try to put the word of God into people's hands there are going to be negative reactions. We have to accept that as a given," said Bob Jackson, head of this national project. "You're going to hear from atheists and agnostics. You're going to hear from people in other faiths and Christians who disagree with what you're doing. ... We know that this stirs up emotions that you just don't see when you are giving away packets of oatmeal."

Right now, the Colorado Springs-based Bible society is evaluating the results of this New Testament project, which was funded by 125 nearby churches, businesses and evangelical ministries, such as Focus on the Family and Youth for Christ. Jackson said it cost $125,000 to print and distribute the 200-page volume, with its cover photo of Pikes Peak and testimonies by local believers.

Some Jewish and Muslim readers protested, arguing that the "Our City" title implied that Colorado Springs was an all-Christian community. Other critics said it was wrong for a mainstream newspaper -- which was paid its standard fee for such an insert -- to distribute material that was unapologetically evangelistic.

After all, the back cover said: "The heart and soul of the Bible is its account of God's intention to bring all things back to Himself. That includes this great place. And that includes you. This New Testament is being given to you to help you find your place in this drama of restoration."

The New York Times reported that the Gazette received 195 positive reactions and 69 negative, with five readers canceling their subscriptions.

While declining to discuss the future, Jackson said he has received calls from supporters for possible efforts to distribute customized New Testaments in the mainstream newspapers in at least 20 U.S. cities. He would not confirm or deny press reports about Denver, Nashville, Seattle and Santa Rosa, Calif.

Meanwhile, the International Bible Society has been involved in another tussle in the mass-media marketplace -- Rolling Stone's refusal to advertise its new youth-oriented Today's New International Version of the Bible. While Modern Bride, The Onion, MTV and some other outlets cooperated, Rolling Stone cited an unwritten policy against religious messages in ads.

While avoiding obvious God-talk, the Zondervan ad did carry this blunt slogan: "Timeless truth; Today's language."

Rolling Stone balked and then, this week, quietly relented.

The bottom line, said Jackson, is that it's hard for religious organizations to take their messages into the public square without stepping on some toes.

The Bible society freely admits that its goal is to get New Testaments into the hands of people who are not already Christian believers. The goal is to reach "seekers" or even active opponents of the faith, said Jackson. Some may decide to read some of it, simply to "see what all of the fuss is about." Others may throw it in a drawer and then, weeks or months later, pull it out in the midst of some personal trial.

This is the hard truth. From the "Our City" team's evangelical perspective, the people who need to be reached are almost certainly the same people who are most likely to be offended.

"We really believe that we are trying to share the powerful word of God. We believe it can change lives," he said. "So we believe that we're doing what God has commanded us to do. We can't stop trying, because we sincerely believe that lives will be changed -- even among those who oppose us. You just can't reach the searchers without offending people."