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"Saturation evangelism"

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Those of you in need of a little boost of faith this spring can look for it in your mailbox. That is, as long as your beliefs fall somewhere along the spectrum of Christianity.

Funded by churches, businesses and private donors, Jesus for the VCR and DVD player has arrived in nearly 20 million American homes (one in six!) already, including every single household in South Carolina, Alabama, and Hawaii. This Easter season, North Carolina organizers are making plans to deliver Him unto the rest of us, including all 100 North Carolina counties by Christmas 2004.

The Jesus Video Project began in 1992, aiming to send Christ's life story--based on biblical details, and, according to promoters, painstakingly validated by historians--to every American home.

"The ultimate goal of this is to strengthen the faith of those who are Christians and to tell others how they can become Christian," Ashe County organizer David Blackburn told The Mountain Times in January. Distribution across 21 western North Carolina counties began last year, with 250,000 videos delivered in time to celebrate Christ's birth in December. In February, students at Appalachian State University in Boone became the first college students in the nation to be mass-mailed the new digitally remastered version of the film on DVD, with special behind-the-scenes footage and a children's version included.

"The meticulously accurate, non-confrontational motion picture--translated into more than 800 languages and viewed more than 5 billion times worldwide--is the most watched film in history," the Jesus Video Project group boasts.

With a projected budget of $10 million, the Jesus Video Project of North Carolina (www.jesusvideoprojectnorthcarolina.org) plans to complete what organizers call "saturation evangelism" across one-third of the Tar Heel state by April 11, the day that Christian children everywhere will wake up to egg hunts and chocolate rabbits.

(A moment's digression about "Easter bunnies." If you're considering buying a live rabbit as a pet this holiday, please visit www.rabbit.org/easter first, and educate yourself about why Easter and rabbits don't mix.)

The amazing PR feat of mailing a video to every single home in America aside, the most striking thing about the movie itself is the introductory interviews with "American Heroes"--interviews with New York City firefighters and rescue workers talking about how Jesus' sacrifice on the cross changed their lives. The testimonials are set amid a backdrop of footage from the Sept. 11 scene at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the same gotcha by the heartstrings strategy that the president we're currently stuck with recently employed in his campaign not to get un-elected (again).

Between the hoopla around Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, reruns of The Ten Commandments and Noah's Ark: A True Story on television last weekend, and the flood of direct mailings from local churches recruiting new worshippers, it's hard not to feel inundated by Christianity this time of year.

It's a good thing this holiday also brings Cadbury eggs to store shelves. Now, if only some group would raise the funds to mail a video of the life of Buddha, or even a copy of Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, to every American household, for some counterbalancing views.

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