Monday, August 13, 2007

Can a New Wizard Capture Our Hearts?

Samantha Tillich, Staff Writer

The Harry Potter saga has just ended with the release of the final book, and already there is a new wizard in town. And this time, he’s a Christian.

Perry Blotter is his name, and he uses the power of “Jesus magick” in his struggle against the forces of Satan and others who hate the American way of life. Like the Harry Potter series created by J. K. Rowling, Perry Blotter and his young friends are students in the famous wizard seminary called Blogsnorts.

“I give kids an appropriate alternative to the occult witches and magicians that have become so popular in our culture,” says author K. B. Conger. “Perry points to the one true Magician.”

Twelve-year-old Darva Ellis was dressed as a church elf outside her local bookstore yesterday, waiting for midnight when Perry Blotter and the Magician’s Marble could first be sold to the public. “I can’t wait,” she bubbled. “I’m gonna stay up all night reading this. Jesus rocks!” Ellis, it should be noted, is Conger’s niece, and the bookstore in question was closed and would not reopen until 10:00 the next morning.

Early reviews of the book have leaked out, and some are accusing Conger of stealing Rowling’s ideas. For example, in the first Harry Potter book, the young wizard must sneak by a three-headed dog and play a game of life-sized chess in order to retrieve the sorcerer’s stone which can grant immortality. In the Perry Blotter book, Perry must get by a giant two-headed cat and play a game of life-sized checkers in order to obtain the magician’s marble. Inside the marble is etched the words to John 3:16. “Only Jesus,” Perry says in the book, “can give immortality.”

Conger strongly denies the allegations of plagiarism. “I was working on the Perry Blotter concept long before the first Harry Potter book was ever published.” How much had Conger completed? “I was working it through in my head. It was still in the idea stage.”

The controversy is unlikely to go away soon. The second Harry Potter book was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Conger’s second book has a working title of Perry Blotter and the Sacristy of Mysteries.

Youth minister Randy Davies of Reaching Higher Christian Fellowship in Boulder, Colorado, sees the work of the devil in the charges against Conger. “Isn’t it odd that just when the Christians get a wizard hero that people are attacking [Conger]? Satan’s behind it. It has been that way from the beginning, people saying that Christians stole ideas from others, like how people say that Jesus didn’t invent the Ten Commandments.”

Some Christians don’t like the idea of mixing Jesus and the occult. Annie Belfast, a professor at Gonkley Bible College in Missouri, thinks Conger is passing on the wrong message. “We should be telling people to stay away from magic and witches, not to embrace them.”

Conger says the magic in her book is not bad. “It’s a different kind of magic. First of all, it is spelled with a ‘k.’ That’s different right there. Also, it’s not regular magic, but ‘Jesus magick.’

How is that different? “Jesus is the one doing it,” she said.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Pastor Denies Persistent Steroid Rumors

SAN FRANCISCO--The accusations echo in his brain. “He must be taking something. No ordinary human being could do those things.” “He wasn’t that big earlier in his career.” “He won’t talk about it; that proves he’s guilty.”

He knows that for some people, none of his accomplishments will ever matter. They will always be tainted by the suspicion that he used steroids or other illegal performance enhancing drugs.

Now, for the first time, John Moody, senior pastor at Bayside Presbyterian Church in downtown San Francisco, addresses all the questions, all the accusations, in a candid interview with The Aldersgate Gazette.

AG: Let us begin by remembering some of your more remarkable accomplishments: you performed 4 weddings and a funeral in one weekend; one Christmas Eve you preached 3 different sermons at 5 different candlelight services; you shattered the old record for sermons preached in one year; you are approaching the career record for sermons in a lifetime. Those are amazing statistics, and precisely because they are so astounding, you can understand why there would be questions.

Moody: Of course. God has given me the strength to do some wonderful things in ministry. I don’t deny that, but I have always been clear that it is the power of the Holy Spirit--not steroids or anything else--that has enabled me to be so successful for so long.

AG: People have said that you are much bigger now than you were in your early years. We’ve gone back through old photographs, and that seems to be correct. Your vocal cords are huge now, but in your first church you had a rather svelte neck. How do you explain that?

Moody: First of all, it’s too many potlucks. [laughs] Seriously, though, I have a trainer. He has got me working hard on speaking exercises, especially in the off season. Plus, I’m eating better, too. I’m eating leaner protein and more vegetables. I haven’t had a beer for 6 years.

AG: Other people have remarked about how suddenly your productivity increased. For example, in 1996, you preached 48 sermons, but the very next year, you preached 112. How do you explain such an extreme jump?

Moody: That’s pretty simple. We added a second worship service that year, and I also accepted a volunteer position preaching at a nursing home once a month.

AG: A reporter for Christianity Today wrote that you had already been preaching 3 times each Sunday before you added the second service.

Moody: That’s ridiculous.

AG: So you deny that.

Moody: Yes, of course.

AG: Tell us a little about what it is like to chase the great Harry Emerson Fosdick and his career sermon record. The media frenzy would be tremendous even without the accusations of steroid use, but now it must be unbearable. How do you crowd out all the distractions?

Moody: I wish I had a big secret, but I simply take a few moments before I step into the pulpit to focus my energy, to concentrate on the task at hand. It was hard at first, especially with all the flash bulbs popping in my face, but I have learned to take it all in stride. It feels almost normal. I think after I break the record, the sudden lack of attention will seem odd, too quiet.

AG: Let’s turn to the grand jury testimony now. I know that must be an uncomfortable subject for you. When you were on the stand, you absolutely denied that you ever received the substance called “preacher’s coffee” from the Jesus Seminar, a substance, by the way, that has been categorically banned by the National Council of Churches. But later, a member of the Seminar contradicted your testimony. How do you explain that?

Moody: It’s the age-old story. When you’re in the public eye, when you’re near the top, everybody wants to tear you down. The media always has to feed off of some rumor, regardless of truth. Unfortunately, I’ve been the Rumor of the Day for the last several years. Eventually, it will be someone else.

AG: What do you want people to know about you that they don’t know now? What would help them understand John Moody better?

Moody: First of all, I’m just a regular guy. Yes, I have been called by God for a unique task, and I have a wonderful gift. I’ve never said it was anything else than a gift from God. But I am just a simple, ordinary human being. I like taking my Jaguar out on long drives up the coast like your Average Joe. I love to fly with my kids out to the south of France for the weekend, just like everybody who sits in the pews in front of me. Just because I can preach more sermons than any other human being in history doesn’t mean I’m anything more than an ordinary man.

AG: And finally, what about your legacy? What will people think of you and your records in 50 years?

Moody: It won’t be long before the accusations die down. The media will have another pastor to attack, and people will see only the record. They will no longer be biased by the ridiculous statements made about me. In time, people will truly respect me for what I’ve accomplished. And, of course, I hope my work will be seen for what it really is--a monument to Jesus Christ.

AG: Thank you for answering some very difficult questions. Thank you for your candor.

Moody: You’re welcome.

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