I'm not sure this is quite the direction I want to see religion coverage veer in mainstream media, but I have to admit that I enjoyed The Dallas Morning News' "Take our 'Faith of the Famous' quiz" feature this weekend. I also learned a few things and, I have to admit, this funny little celebrity feature does show how wacky the modern religious marketplace has become in what I call the age of Oprah America. The piece, such as it is, was written by Los Angeles freelance writer Sarah Price Brown, who confesses -- in writing -- that the celebrity quiz idea was lifted from religion writer Tom Schaefer of The Wichita Eagle in Kansas.
Here is the setup:
From Hollywood stars to politicians to pro athletes, the rich and famous live their lives in plain view. But the public usually knows more about what an actress wore to the Emmys, what speaking gaffe an elected official made, or how many points a superstar scored in a game than it knows about what the prominent and powerful really think.
The famous are cultural icons, after all. They're symbols that stand for something larger than themselves. But they're also human, with their own thoughts and beliefs about religion, spirituality and the meaning of life. How much do you know about the faith of the famous?
The problem, of course, is that the list is full of silly but famous people and a fair share of serious but famous people, and it is very hard to read the quotations featured in the test and then figure out who said or did not say what. Consider this frightening example:
"I don't have to worry about what people think of me, whether they hate me or not. People hated on Jesus. They threw stones at him and tried to kill him, so how can I complain or worry about what people think?"
Karl Rove Tom Cruise Terrell Owens Snoop Dogg
And all the people said: "Whoa."
Or how about this one?
"Probably because of my failings and mistakes in life I'm a much bigger believer in redemption. ... I'm much more of a believer in a loving God, a personal God. I'm much less inclined in every way to believe in a vengeful God."
Robert Downey Jr. Willie Nelson John McCain Bill Clinton
Check it out. Has anyone seen any other novelty features of this kind featued in the news pages of a major newspaper or magazine?
Personal note: No way that I'm telling anyone my score on this confounded thing.
Personal No. 2: I will happily change the photo, if it offends. It is interesting that the old St. Bill image drew such a strong response, since I think we have run it in the past. I found it with a simple Google search for "Clinton" and "saint."