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This Week in God, 4.12.14

A group of folks who say the Bible puts the Earth is at the center of the universe are releasing a "documentary." It's problematic in more ways than one.
First up from the God Machine this week is an unexpected controversy involving a group of folks who believe in something called "geocentrism."
For the last several centuries, people have generally understood that the Earth orbits our sun, along with several other planets that make up a solar system. This, in turn, is part of a larger galaxy, which is part of a vast universe with lots of galaxies. It's known as the heliocentric model.
But there's a group of religious activists for whom this doesn't sit well -- they believe the Bible puts the Earth as the center of the universe and argue that our sun orbits us. It is, to be sure, a small, fringe group of folks, but my friend Rob Boston reported this week that the "geocentrists" are making a movie, which caused a larger-than-expected stir this week.

[The geocentric] movement, led by an ultra-conservative Roman Catholic named Robert Sungenis, is making a play for the big time with a "documentary" they claim will soon appear in U.S. theaters. The film is titled "The Principle," and you can watch a trailer here. You'll note that actual scientists like Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku -- both of whom I'm sure accept the heliocentric model -- appear in this film. I don't know how it happened, but I'm guessing that the producers didn't tell them upfront that it was a geocentricity film. (You'll note that the trailer doesn't either; very sneaky of them.)

By all appearances, the film is a pretty slick production, narrated by Kate Mulgrew (yes, Captain Janeway from "Star Trek: Voyager"). It wasn't long before lots of confused people started asking why notable figures from the worlds of science and entertainment would want anything to do with this fringe "documentary."
The answer, it turns out, is that they didn't do so knowingly. Krauss, for example, wrote a Slate piece this week explaining, "I have no recollection of being interviewed for such a film, and of course had I known of its premise I would have refused. So, either the producers used clips of me that were in the public domain, or they bought them from other production companies that I may have given some rights to distribute my interviews to, or they may have interviewed me under false pretenses, in which case I probably signed some release. I simply don't know."
Several other actual scientists featured in the film soon followed, saying they had been misled into participating in the project. For her part, Mulgrew this week issued a statement through Facebook, forcefully rejecting geocentrism and explaining that she'd been "misinformed" about the true nature of the film. The actor added that she "would most certainly have avoided" the project if she knew the truth about the filmmakers' intended agenda.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Pastor Bob Coy, pastor of a Fort Lauderdale mega-church called Calvary Chapel, resigned unexpectedly this week, citing a "moral failing in his life." The mega-church leader did not elaborate.
* Pope Francis delivered off-the-cuff remarks yesterday, asking forgiveness for victims of the church's sexual abuses. "The church is aware of this damage," he was quoted as saying by Vatican Radio. "We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don't play around with the lives of children."
* The Republican National Committee is in the process of choosing the location of its 2016 convention, and by all accounts, Las Vegas is considered the frontrunner. A group of leaders fro the religious right movement wrote this week to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, urging him to choose a different location. The leaders, including the representatives from the American Family Association, Eagle Forum, and the Traditional Values Coalition, described the Nevada city as a "trap waiting to ensnare."
* And sometimes, the jokes write themselves: "The Vue Cinema in the English city Exeter confirmed to the newspaper Exeter Express & Echo that its first showing of Noah on opening day April 4 had to be canceled because 'there was flooding' due to 'a fault with an ice machine'" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).