Five-hour stopover and warm welcome at Oklahoma megachurch

May 21, 2007 21:35 UTC

church3.jpgOn Sunday, we visited First Baptist Church in Moore, Oklahoma. Moore, located a few miles south of Oklahoma City, is perhaps best known for its tornadoes; indeed, the one that ripped through here on May 3, 1999, was one of the strongest ever recorded and was part of a system twisters that killed 40 people in central Oklahoma.

First Baptist is a megachurch. The congregation is counted in the thousands and the 250,000-square-foot church building itself, located on 75 acres, includes a spectacular two-story sanctuary as well as gymnasium with two basketball courts and an events annex that can seat 1,000.  

Walking around the facility, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that Moore is a wealthy suburban enclave. Yet the median family income here was about $47,000  in 2000 , according to the U.S. Census, below the national median of $50,046. This is not Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, the affluent home of Rick Warren, the author of “The Purpose Driven Life.”

The worshippers who call First Baptist home are average Americans. Like so many Americans they don’t believe the mainstream media is in their corner. They say modern television shows undermine the lessons they try to teach their children and they complain that news organizations like Reuters don’t report fairly on the issues they hold dear. 

Yet when we asked to spend the day visiting the church, First Baptist gave us the run of the place. During a five-hour visit, we watched two services, interviewed dozens of worshippers, sat in on a variety of classes and groups, and came away with a greater understanding of the central role faith plays in the lives of Americans like the ones here at the First Baptist Church. Hear the Church band here

Undecided in Oklahoma City, but an interest in Sen. Brownback

May 21, 2007 21:07 UTC

loafman_web.JPGA key part of First Baptist’s community outreach program is its weeknight English as a Second Language program and its Sunday Bible study class for Spanish speakers. Doug Loafman, 49, and his wife, Lucinda (left), 48, public school teachers, are the volunteer coordinators for both.
The Loafman’s joined First Baptist when they moved to Oklahoma City from Texas a few years back. Like most of their fellow congregants at First Baptist, the Loafmans lean heavily toward the Republican Party. They put a high value on what they call “character” — something they say they see in President George W. Bush but see less of in the current crop of presidential candidates, both Democrat and Republican.
The notable exception? The couple expressed an interest in Senator Sam Brownback, a longshot Republican candidate from Kansas, who opposes abortion and same-sex marriages and said, when announcing his candidacy earlier this year, that “we need to embrace our nation’s motto, ‘In God we trust,’ and not be ashamed of it.”
As a result of the work they do with non-natives, the Loafman’s are supporter of immigrant rights.  “We’re more liberal on the immigration issue. We know them as people and they’re honest people. Yes, many of them are illegal. But we have to find a way to make them legal … We’re 12 million people too late.”
According to the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma, Hispanics are the fastest-growing group in the church.

Church goers: Bush’s ‘heart in the right place’

May 21, 2007 20:45 UTC

Clarkson3.jpgPresident George W. Bush’s popularity ratings among voters are languishing at low levels nationwide, but in a series of interviews, people from large congregation and staff of the First Baptist Church in this southern neighbourhood of Oklahoma City said that they think the current president is doing what he believes is right, as Pastor Kevin Clarkson put it.

For the members of this Baptist Church – in the heart of the U.S. Bible Belt – Bushs pronounced faith is what matters. Some of the memberHarve-Allen.jpgs of this church we talked to say they are guided more by President Bushs faith than his political affiliation.

Kathy Metcalf, a retired congregation member, said “hes a praying president and that hes seeking Gods will. And its a gigantic responsibility and a burden on his shoulders.”

You should get out more

May 21, 2007 20:41 UTC

“You should get out more.” That was the advice my wife gave me a few days ago when I was whingeing to her about how frazzled I got rushing from breakfast to screening to press conference to interview to screening to press conference to bed at the Cannes Film Festival. Not for the first time, she was right.

When covering the moviCannes7.jpge marathon, the temptation is to get so lost in cinema that you forget Cannes has much more to offer. A walk along the palm-lined Croisette boulevard at night shows a different side of the Riviera resort. The place is abuzz with tourists and locals soaking up the glamour and atmosphere of the festival, movies are shown on a giant screen on the beach and the thump of music from parties by the sea lasts into the early hours.

The other night I popped along to an event held for Finnish band Lordi, where the rockers dressed as monsters gave an ear-splitting rendition of ”They Only Come Out At Night” and “Who’s Your Daddy?” The only drawback was a packed bar and small bottles of beer costing 10 euros each. On the walk back to the hotel, I joined hundreds of onlookers to watch U2 sing a couple of hits on the red carpet outside the main festival cinema. It’s the kind of starry showmanship that Cannes thrives on.

Audio: Seinfeld on his flight as a bumble bee, golden age comedians

Reuters Staff
May 21, 2007 20:32 UTC

So how did comedian Jerry Seinfeld take to hurtling down a wire from a great height at the Cannes Film Festival, where he’s promoting his animated film, “Bee Movie”? It wasn’t so bad in practice, but… here Seinfeld’s reaction here. You can find the flight of Seinfeld the bumble bee on video here.

Correspondent Bob Tourtellotte, covering the festival, joined reporters interviewing Seinfeld after the flight. Here are some of his comments.

Seinfeld on Seinfeld; he was asked whether he’d come back to television here

Two very different Route 66 museums only a few miles apart

May 21, 2007 17:02 UTC

Elk-City5.jpgHow many museums does Oklahoma need to celebrate Route 66?

The answer, it seems, is two. There is the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City in western Oklahoma, with a rustic, old fashioned feel to it, even though some of the exhibits are clearly new.

These include half a pink Cadillac placed in front of a screen showing film taken from the front of a car travelling along old RoElk-City1.jpgute 66. The film starts rolling when you hit the gas and it’s as shaky as youd imagine a handheld film shot from a moving vehicle would be.

There is a also a firemans pole you can slide down, though there seems little to connect this with Route 66.

European Jaguar Club in Elk City, Oklahoma

May 21, 2007 16:22 UTC

jaguar_club.JPGThe pull that Route 66 exerts on the popular imagination isn’t felt only in the United States. Far from it. According to the staff at the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, Oklahoma, most of the visitors they see coming through their doors hail from abroad. 
On Saturday, it was a stopping point for a cross-country rally sponsored by a Jaguar Club from Europe. 

In all, 66 cars — all shipped to the United States by boat — had entered the rally. The two-person teams in each car had paid 6,000 euros each (about $8,000) for the excursion, which began in May 9 in New York, where their cars arrived by boat, and will end on May 30 in Los Angeles.

Jean Van Der Elt, 60, and his wife Isabella, 43, from Ghent, Belgium, were making the coast-to-coast trek in in their red 1956 Jaguar 140 XK — one of three Jaguars the Van Der Elt’s own. 
So far, the 66 cars in the rally hadn’t had suffered any serious mechanical breakdowns during the jaunt — “just the kind of things you expect with an old car,” Jean said.
“There’s always something,” Jean said. “Overheating. Carburetion.It’s a little warmer here than in Belgium.”

Snapshots from Oklahoma

May 21, 2007 16:14 UTC

texas.jpgSnapshots, clockwise from upper left: Oklahoma’s soil is strikingly red and provides an interesting background for wild flowers; Jean Van Der Elst and his wife Isabella were tracing Route 66 west, along with 65 other vintage car owners from Europe; a crucial moment in the the Team’s trip: Getting Route 66 hats!; Giant windmills outside Weatherford — the self-described “wind energy capital of Oklahoma”; At some point as the Route 66 Team headed east, rivers started having water in them again. This is the Canadian River in central Oklahoma; Lee French, his wife Vicki and granddaughter Dai, in a 1955, two-door Bel-Air sport coupe, in Clinton, Oklahoma. French owns 15 vintage cars, most of them Bel-Airs.
Nick Carey/James Kelleher, May 19 ,2007

Visiting Erick, home of the Purple People Eater

May 21, 2007 15:56 UTC

Erick2.JPGOnly a handful of shops are still open in the downtown in Erick, Oklahoma, including an antique store that brags the little town is “The Redneck Capital of the World — Yee Haw!”
Erick’s best-know son is probably Roger Miller, the songwriter best known for “King of the Road,” a tune the Route 66 Team sang as they approached the town. One of the few other open businesses on the town’s main street is a museum dedicated to Miller. 
But Erick was also the hometown of Sheb Wooley, a rodeo cowboy turned singer turned actor who appeared in the movie “High Noon” and the television show “Rawhide” and wrote and performed the hit novelty song “The Purple People Eater.” A street in Erick is named for him.

Worth the detour to Texline

May 21, 2007 15:50 UTC

The RoutDalhart1.jpge 66 Team decided to take another detour from the old highway’s route in Texas in order to experience something surprisingly elusive in that state these days: real cowboys.  

The team knew it would find them up in this part of the state, which was once part of the X.I.T. Ranch, a 3 million-acre spread that in the late 19th century was the largest ranch in the world. The X.I.T. ranch was sold and broken up years ago. But the 10 counties that it encompassed in its heyday are still very much cattle country, home to dozens of feedlots and hundreds of thousands of heads of cattle. Dalhart9.jpg

We filled the 912 all the way up, putting nearly 12 gallons into the car’s tank and running up thDalhart8.jpge largest gasoline bill — $43.60 — ever for it.