Monday, February 27, 2012

Interview with Shroud of Turin Expert, Russ Breault

Russ Breault is one of the leading experts on the Shroud of Turin. He has appeared on several nationally televised documentaries airing on History Channel, Discovery Channel and the CBS News.

He has participated in nearly every international research symposium since the first Shroud of Turin Research Project in 1981. He is the President and Founder of the Shroud of Turin Education Project which functions to raise general awareness of the Shroud with a specific focus on colleges and universities.

He will be hosting a forum at Marytown in Libertyville, Illinois (see review of Marytown on this site) on Saturday, March 17 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. Contact if you are interested in attending the forum. Mr. Breault’s presentation unfolds like a CSI episode featuring 150 images. The audience watches the investigation and this mystery is explored in an entertaining and educational way.  

How did you originally get involved with the Shroud of Turin

I have been intrigued with the Shroud ever since I learned that a team of scientists was going to analyze it in 1978. As a student, I was a writer for the college newspaper so I spent several months preparing for an article series that ran in the fall of 1980. That same summer, National Geographic published a major story on it.  I called several scientists for quotes and by the time the articles went to press I was hooked. In 1981, I gave over 60 lectures at churches all around the southeast. Since that time I have participated in nearly every international conference on the subject.

 What inspired you to make this a major part of your life?  

I have always been intrigued the fusion of faith and science.  I don’t believe we leave our brains at the door of the church.  One of the most significant aspects of both the Jewish and Christian faith is their historical validity.  With every scoop of the shovel archaeologists are finding more evidence in the Holy Land that confirms the truth and accuracy of Scripture. Could the Shroud be an actual artifact of the crucifixion of Jesus?  That possibility is so enormous, that it trumps anything else we may ever find.  Recently fragments of the Gospel of Mark have been discovered that may date back to the First Century.  It is a huge find, yet it pales compared to the potential represented by the Shroud of Turin. 

Watching "The Real Face of Jesus" on the History Channel was an eye opener.  Why are we so fascinated by the Shroud?

The Shroud speaks to the world on many levels. When Leah, my two-year old granddaughter looks at the Shroud, she points and says, “Jesus.”  Whether the Shroud is authentic or not, the whole world can look upon that iconic face image and know it either is or represents Jesus. For those of faith or perhaps searching, the Shroud represents the hope offered through Christianity.  Did God really send his only Son into the world to suffer and die in our place?  Did he really rise from the dead and defeat the power of death?  Does he really offer that same victory to those who believe?  The hope conveyed by the Shroud is that very hope that jumps off the pages of the New Testament.

Whenever people that don't believe ask me what is the one reason why I believe in God I always say the same thing.  Israel still exists.  There is no human reason for Israel's continued existence.  Why do you believe in God?

The answer is both objective and subjective.  Much like Saint Thomas Aquinas, I am gripped by both natural and supernatural revelation. God is known first of all through his creation.  Whether one looks through the eyes of Hubble to the vast expanse of the universe or through the lens of an electron microscope to see the complexity and design of life, the hand of God is plainly evident. Despite the onslaught of evolutionary thought, which is largely atheistic, I know intuitively that complexity, order and design inherent in all organisms did not arise spontaneously by nothing more than random chance and natural selection.  These processes by definition are unguided, undirected and emerge out of randomness rather than purpose.  Yet nothing exists in my house without purpose or intent.  From a pencil to a sheet of paper, it exists on purpose.  The object did not define its own purpose; it was designed, engineered and manufactured to fulfill a pre-determined purpose by an outside intelligence.  This is true of all life forms as well. 

The great question of our existence is; do we exist by purpose or by accident?  I reject the cosmic accident theory therefore I must accept and embrace that I am created and designed on purpose to fulfill a purpose. Nothing can exemplify this more than God sending his Son to redeem a fallen race.  It is the singular and most profound event in human history that tells us we have value, we have meaning and we have purpose given not by the government or ourselves but by God. This is a long way of saying that creation itself is why I believe in God.

Breault On The History Channel's "The Real Face of Jesus"

What is the single biggest scientific evidence that this Shroud is from the body of Jesus of Nazareth (or from another man during this time period)?

The forensic pathologists who have carefully examined the Shroud image say it is the image of a real human being who died from the wounds seen on the cloth.  The blood chemists say it is real blood from actual wounds.  This would suggest that the cloth wrapped a corpse at some point in history. Yet if the cloth contained a body, it wasn’t in there for very long as there are no stains of decomposition.  When it comes identifying the body, we must compare it with scripture. Is it Jesus or just someone else who got crucified?  The distinctive features of the Crucifixion as revealed in Scripture are all plainly evident on the Shroud:
·        The Crown of Thorns was a mockery for being called King of the Jews. Scrapes and blood flows are seen all around the head.

·        A severe scourging (120 scourge marks from the base of the neck down to the ankles)--this happened because Pontius Pilate did not think he was guilty of a crime worthy of capital punishment, therefore he hoped the scourging would be sufficient—it wasn’t.

·        A wound in the side to make sure he was dead before the body was given to Joseph of Arimathea for burial. Most times the legs are broken to bring about a speedy death so the bodies could be removed from the cross. Jesus was already dead so his legs were not broken.

There are more similarities but these three alone are sufficient to reasonably identify the man as Jesus.

You speak to both Christian and non-Christian groups?  What are the biggest changes in your presentation from a largely Christian audience to a largely secular one?

They are 80% the same.  In both cases I treat the Shroud as a great mystery to be explored--comparable to the Pyramids or Stonehenge.  It is a valid comparison--we are still trying to figure how they were built and by who?  The same goes with the Shroud as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the world.  Is it authentic or nothing more than a medieval hoax?  Shroud Encounter peels back the layers of mystery like a CSI investigation.  I make no claim of authenticity. The audience must act like a jury in a trial. Whether it is fact or fiction—the audience must come to their own conclusions. The difference between the secular and Christian versions relates to the resurrection.  No reputable scholar debates the historical existence of Jesus.  A discussion of the Crucifixion as a historical event as revealed through the Shroud is perfectly legitimate for a secular audience.  As to the cause of the image, the resurrection is offered as one of several alternatives.  However, for a Christian audience, I will use the Shroud to explore in detail the resurrection as revealed both in Scripture and the Shroud.  Was the image caused by the resurrection?  It is a mystery and no one really knows—I simply explore the possibility.

Who originally discovered the Shroud? 

Legend tells us that a cloth was taken from Jerusalem to Edessa, an ancient city in southern Turkey, sometime in the first century. The Apostle Jude Thaddeus is said to have taken it there.  King Abgar is healed of leprosy as a result of seeing it.  This is known as the “Legend of Abgar.” The cloth was later hidden away because of the Roman persecutions.  It was rediscovered centuries later in 525 AD.  It was two hundred years after Constantine and it was safe to be a Christian. The cloth was heralded as the “True Likeness of Christ—Not Made by Human Hands.”  It remained in Edessa until 944 when it was taken by force to Constantinople and stayed there until 1204 when the French stole it during the 4th Crusade.  It eventually arrives in Turin, Italy in 1578 and has been there ever since. 

It's huge at 14 feet in length? What is the historical and forensic documentation leading us to this Shroud coming from this era?

The Shroud appears to be a genuine Jewish burial shroud and consistent with burial practices of a man who died by violent death. In the event of death where there is a significant loss of blood, the body would not be washed and would be wrapped in a single linen shroud.

The cloth is manufactured with a 3:1 herringbone pattern, which is rare but possible during the first century.  Comparable examples have been found in wool and silk but thus far have not been found in linen.  Everything about the Shroud suggests it was a very expensive cloth.  The scripture says that Joseph of Arimathea was rich man and purchased a “fine linen cloth.” Some speculate since Joseph was a Pharisee and a secret believer in Jesus, he might have purchased a cloth made with “fine twisted linen” which is what the high priests were supposed to wear when they made the annual sacrifice in the Holy of Holies. Such linen represented the “holiness of God.”  Is that what Joseph was trying to convey? 

Jesus Christ was beaten, tortured, scourged, lanced and crucified.  We say the words, but to contemplate the agony and pain is incomprehensible. We know of the agony and stress that Christ went through prior to the physical persecution and death, but how did Jesus die?  Explain the physical process to us.

Jesus probably died by hypovolemic shock, which is essentially death from extreme dehydration.  Asphyxia may also have played a part since breathing on the cross is difficult.  Jesus was already brutally scourged before he was crucified.  The scourging, over 120 whip marks can be counted on the Shroud, would have caused a severe loss of blood resulting in severe dehydration.  Add to this the loss of blood from the crown of thorns and the nail wounds, such loss of blood would have ensued bringing about hypovolemic shock and death.

Christians are basically the only people you can mock and have no protection from hate speech guidelines. Obviously, Paul talks about believers being persecuted and believers have been ridiculed and scorned through the ages, but it seems like the attacks are all around us now in ways we never even dreamed of previously. 

The Shroud shows a man who has been beaten, mocked, whipped, nailed and killed.  Jesus said, “In this world ye shall suffer persecution, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”  As the world grows increasingly hostile towards Christianity, we must remember that Jesus suffered far worse. Perhaps the Shroud is meant to give us strength to persevere with hope that darkened hearts might one day change. 

Young people are falling further and further away from the church. 

I am incorporated as The Shroud of Turin Education Project, Inc. with a stated mission: “To advance the knowledge of the Shroud to a new generation.”  This is exactly why I make every effort to bring Shroud Encounter to colleges and universities across the country.  The Shroud may or may not be authentic, but there is no question that Jesus is a historical person.  Exploring the Shroud creates a unique visual vehicle to experience what happened to Jesus on his way to the cross.  Perhaps the Shroud can help make Christianity real again to a generation so influenced by popular culture. 

The most important question regarding the Shroud is “what if?”  What if it is authentic?  What would be the purpose?  The only miracle Jesus performed not witnessed by others was the resurrection.  Could the Shroud be a silent witness to the one miracle that had no eyewitnesses? 

We live in an age when we communicate more with images than we do with words. Jesus is described in Scripture as “the image of the invisible God.”  Is it possible that God allowed an image of his crucified Son to remain for this very age? 

Does the Shroud express the very love of God who speaks to us as he spoke to Doubting Thomas, “Be not faithless, but believe.”  Thomas went on to say, “My Lord and my God”—the strongest profession of faith in the New Testament. Perhaps the Shroud gives doubters of the 21st century the same opportunity he gave to Thomas. for more information on the Shroud Encounter

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Debby Boone Interview - Still Lighting Up Lives

Debby Boone Interview - I conducted this interiew with Debby Boone shortly after her last visit to Chicago. She is going out on tour (and I wanted to give the tour an extra boost).

Boone has been singing and performing most of her life. She is the daughter of legendary Pat Boone and she is the daughter-in-law of another legend, the late, Rosemary Clooney. She is best known for recording the single biggest selling single of the 1970’s, “You Light Up My Life,” (the song spent a then-record breaking ten weeks in the number one position on the Billboard chart) but she has been recording and performing for the last 37 years.

She has won multiple Grammys and has recorded several top ten contemporary Christian albums. She has also performed in musical theater during her career, including extended runs of “The King & I” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

She is married to Gabriel Ferrer and is a devoted mom. She and her husband have also co-authored several children’s books.

She performs all around the nation and does an annaul Christmas show in Branson, Missouri. For more information on Debby's tour schedule, please visit .

J: You were raised in a show business family and you lived your life in Hollywood's back yard. How did your youth, your coming of age period in that environment, influence your life and career? What was your childhood like?

D: I think probably more than most kids of celebrities that have talked about their upbringings, I think mine was more normal. Our lives were what most people would experience across the country. My parents wanted it to be that way and worked very hard to give us a normal, not show-biz-y kind of life. It was definitely a privileged life. I'm not kidding myself about that. They put us in high-end private schools and that kind of thing, but we had a real strong sense of family and the importance of family and spending time with family. We had the spiritual side of my upbringing where we were in church and had morning devotionals around a table. I mean this was back in the 50's and 60's when people actually sat at the table and ate together. My parents didn't shower us with whatever we wanted, because they could afford it. It was quite the opposite. I was able to see how hard my dad worked and how he handled his popularity and how he dealt with the people who really gave him his career in terms of buying his records and supporting his career. He was always incredibly gracious and grateful and I think that has been tremendous preparation for my own handling of my career.

J: I've been around you personally and I'm always impressed with you. You're sort of an exercise in humility by show business standards. Having been in the business a long time it's always a delight when I'm in your presence.

D: Thank you. I had a good role model.

J: One of my brother Chris' favorite songs of all time is your father's recording of "Friendly Persuasion."

D: It is a beautiful record. If it didn't have such a strong male lyric, I would definitely put that in my show. It's a gorgeous song.

J: Coming from a musical family, when did you know you had the gift for music?

D: Obviously, you know you have these gifts. Everybody has different gifts that they discover as they grow up and I think one of the ways that I discovered what I could do was also kind of a competitive, trying to find out who I was in the midst of four daughters who were dressed alike with the same exact hair cuts and marched around town looking indistinguishable except for maybe height. I was pleased that I was the only one with blond hair and blue eyes. That set me apart. I also found out that I had a bigger voice, so I then knew I could sing. That was another way that I could say this is what I do that's different than my siblings. So it was a little bit of a search for identity and a need to stand out in some way.

The Boone Family

J: I just read about the Beatles going up on iTunes for the first time. I say that because I remember being a little kid and my older siblings loved the Beatles, and of course, I ended up loving them. What was the first record you bought?

D: You know I wish I had that good of a memory. I really don't remember what the first record I bought was. I really don't. I mean, a lot of my choices, again I don't know what this says about me, but a lot of times I just wanted so much to be different that I would choose groups that my sisters didn't like or weren't really drawn to. Also, a rebellious streak made me want to sort of like groups that I didn't think my parents would necessarily like, like the Rolling Stones and Cream. I remember loving the band Cream.

J: Oh, Eric Clapton on guitar, please!

D: Yes! My parents liked the cleaner cut bands, but I had very eclectic tastes. I would put up album covers and posters of Sly and the Family Stone, who I love to this day. Those are great recordings, but you know it was the beginning of a drug culture and I think my parents were really nervous about the kind of messages being sent in the music from that time. At the same time, as I got a little bit older, I was really drawn to Barbra Streisand, and that was out of character. I loved the Carpenters. I just remember getting really caught up listening to great vocals by Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra.

J: Well, if you could take just one album with you on that proverbial island, which one would it be?

D: That is so hard, because it just often times depends on what I'm obsessing over at the moment. One album, it might be and it's sort of blue, but it's really something that holds up, every single cut, the arrangements, the vocals and all of that. It might be because of where I'm at in my own musical career, but very possibly "In the Wee Small Hours," by Frank Sinatra. Though, it might make me really sad while alone on an island.

J: That's a great album. I love Sinatra. I heard you hosting a celebrity segment on Siriously Sinatra on XM/Sirius radio one day. I loved your recollections. I loved when you were talking about Sinatra. I particularly couldn't get over the comment about when you were pregnant, and at his home in Palm Springs. It was a great story!

Rosemary Clooney with Frank Sinatra

D: I still have to pinch myself. I often will talk about how I got to open for him and he kind of took me under his wing to a certain degree. He invited me to appear on one of those big variety shows to raise money for children's hospitals, and that's when I stayed on the compound in Palm Springs with my husband. To be on the personal property and in the presence of Frank Sinatra -and then having dinner with Frank Sinatra, it just almost sounds like a dream rather than something that's part of my history.

J: Even fourteen years after his death he's still tremendously popular. Talent will win out. You had the biggest hit of your career, "You Light Up My Life" back in the 1970's. It clearly was a gigantic hit staying in the number one position for ten weeks. When you look back on that period, was there any one moment above all moments that stand out for you?

D: Certainly the Grammy's. To grow up watching shows like that and fantasizing that it might be you one day, but never really thinking that it would be. To be standing on the stage singing your big hit record, and what even stands out more than the actual show itself, because it was something I didn't even know they did until then, was going to the sound check and rehearsal and seeing big blown up pictures of people that I idolized in chairs where they were sitting because that's how the director got the camera crew kind of acclimated to where they would take audience reaction shots. So, I knew before I was going to walk out on stage that I was going to be looking at Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt. I could see their pictures in the chairs where they would soon be sitting, and having the rehearsal and thinking, "I don't know if I can possibly come out and sing in front of those people." I was excited and nervous. Overall, it was a pretty amazing evening.

Debby with her dad, Pat Boone - the night of her multiple Grammy Award triumphs

J: All of those women are talented. I came of age in the seventies so I love Linda Ronstadt. Her voice, of course is remarkable. She can do anything with that voice. Rock, pop, country, standards, opera.

D: Absolutely, and I've gotten to meet her and talk with her. She came to a play that I was doing in Arizona. I was doing "The King and I" and she came to the show with her mom.

J: She does a version of "Sisters" from White Christmas with Bette Midler. It's on Midler's tribute album to Rosemary Clooney. It's a fun version. I enjoy listening to it. Great interpretation of the song.

D: I should go back and give that a listen.

J: You seem comfortable with yourself. You've handled your life and your success well, and you've been married to the same man for three decades plus, which is an accomplishment in today's day and age. I know your family was an influence, but was there any one thing that you felt you did in your life that made you stay grounded. A marriage tip, something that you and your husband decided to make sure you always did to have a successful marriage?

D: I think I give him more credit than I can give myself, because his temperament is so wonderful. He's very even keeled, which I think makes him the perfect guy for me to be drawn to. Even people I know really well are surprised when I say that I see myself as volatile and up and down. I swing high and low, and my husband doesn't, but I only do that in front of the people I'm most secure with. My kids certainly know. He doesn't fly off the handle. He's not a guy who would ever raise his voice - even when we argue. When somebody has that kind of integrity you learn really quickly that if you say something that's sort of below the belt, you're the one who's going to pay for it down the road in feeling really horrible about yourself. I learned quickly that it would be counterproductive. I carefully choose my words when I'm upset, because of the way he is. I think one of the real keys to our relationship, and I hear so many people say this about their long-term relationships, is there is so much humor in our lives. My husband is always good for a laugh. He'll come down almost every morning to the breakfast table with our kids and do some crazy thing that would make everybody laugh. He has a great sense of humor and a real positive, optimistic style about him that keeps a real happy atmosphere around the house.

J: When picking up celebrity magazines today, I think most of us are stunned at the problems we see that so many young stars are having. Many of them seem disconnected, isolated, and even lonely, even though they are never alone. Is there any advice that you would want to offer some of these young women who are coming up and suddenly they just seem messed up? They seem troubled.

D: Well, you know, I really think I have to give my parents some real credit for me, and then quickly acknowledge that it is so different now than it was when I achieved success. Everything is magnified a hundred times now. When you're the next big thing, big is so much bigger, and paparazzi, and money and all of that is so amplified. So I think already out of the gate, it's harder for any young person that achieves a huge degree of success, because it has changed so much. I think if you don't have the gift of an already strong foundation you may feel entitled or better than someone else. Whereas you should realize you're a human being like everyone else and that your first attitude should be gratitude for what has come your way, not an entitlement. I was always raised with a sense of real responsibility that If I was going to have a voice to influence anyone that I'd better be prepared and take it very seriously. I could affect somebody else's life and choices. It is the truth that little girls look up to these stars and those girls may not have strong parental guidance and family foundations.

J: Are your children interested in following in the family footsteps into the entertainment world?

D: It looks like there's one of the four who has that entertainment gene. My youngest daughter, Tessa, was always the one of the four who loved to be around it in any way, shape or form. She loved to travel with me on the road and be back stage. She would so much rather be backstage than sitting out in an audience. Although, she loved to see people sing, and dance and act, she always wanted to be in the mix, right in the middle of it all, and also loved to be on the stage from the time she was three when we put her in our Christmas show with Rosemary Clooney (Debbie's mother-in-law). She was the one that just loved every bit of it: the dressing up, the attention, she wanted a new song every year in the concert tour. My other kids could have cared less about changing a number or even being onstage. They liked the adventure of traveling and hotel rooms, but they didn't really like being onstage in front of people like Tessa did, and does. Now she's studying and is a very gifted actress. I think people will definitely hear from her.

J: You are a beautiful woman, and you've aged well. I know how old you are. Is there some beauty secret you want to share?

D: You know what, I think that the real truth of it is, I lucked out and I got some pretty impressive genes. Look at my dad. He looks young and fit. A lot of that is genetic, but I also think that my dad instilled in us early on a kind of real responsibility to our bodies. He was always a guy that exercised, and he demanded that we eat leafy green vegetables every night with dinner.

J: With all the travel you do, do you read much? And if so, is there a book you treasure more than anything else?

D: A book? Oh my, that's like picking a favorite album. I do read a lot and I love to read, and my new obsession is audio books because I'm a slow reader. If I sit down to read, I have a metabolism, I think that's what it is, that if I sit still for any length of time no matter how much sleep I've had, I fall asleep. I just have to either be moving and doing something or I get really sleepy. So, I've discovered audio books, and I often say to people I've read so many more books now that I listen to them. I read all kinds of books. Obviously the Bible is one that I would not want to be deprived of. I read a lot of spiritual books of all different kinds. I love fiction too. I'm always working on a couple of books. My husband is an avid reader and I never understood when we were newly married how anybody could have so many books with bookmarks in them all around. How do you divide your attention among so many books? And now I do the same thing where I'll have devotional books with bookmarks in them. I have an audio book, or a couple of them that I'm listening to at the same time, and then some hard copy books. I always have about six books going at once.

J: I do that. I enjoy reading very much. My favorite devotional is Oswald Chambers' "Utmost for His Highest." That is my favorite. It's my go to no matter where I am in life; I just go there daily.

D: Yes, I have several different daily devotionals that I read through.

J: When we were talking about Sinatra before, I couldn't help thinking of an obscure recording of "Some Enchanted Evening" with Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. I don't know if you've ever heard this recording.

D: I don't think so.

J: It's pretty obscure. As a matter of fact, I tried to download it. I worked with a guy at ABC, and we both loved the Great American Song Book songs. Even though we were younger we both loved the standards. He heard the song one time and then he couldn't find it. I then found it. If you ever get your hands on it, it's just stunningly beautiful.

D: Wow, it sounds like a wonderful song to hear the two of them sing.

J: My family watches "White Christmas" faithfully every Christmas. We wouldn't go a year without viewing it. It's a true classic. Any thoughts on the film?

D: It sets the stage for the whole season. That and Charlie Brown's Christmas are the holiday favorites.

J: You perform on the road and you have lengthy stays in Branson Missouri. How did the long association with Branson come into your life?

D: I found out about Branson for the first time when my dad was working in Branson doing a musical. He was having a wonderful time in an extended run there and my parents decided to celebrate their sixtieth birthdays and their fortieth anniversary and have a family reunion all while he was there. Aunts, uncles, cousins and all my sisters and all of our kids and everybody converged on Branson to see the show and celebrate these momentous occasions. That's when we got our first taste of Branson. Of course, my manager Susan Munao was also right in the glory days of Branson. She and Tony Orlando were working together and Tony built his theater there, so I was hearing about it from Susan. The first time I performed in Branson was when Andy Williams had uncharacteristic trouble with his vocal chords and he needed to have some rest and my dad and I filled in for his Christmas season and that was the beginning of my coming to perform in Branson. That was over ten years ago and I've been here for the last couple of years during their Christmas season and I'll be there again next year.

One of the best Christmas shows in Branson

J: Hopefully I'll be able to make it there this year. I saw you last year and it was a wonderful show.
I want to thank you so much for all the great years of music and live performances and thank you for taking the time to chat with me today

D: Thank you Judith.

Debby on an Oprah Winfrey episode from Oprah's last season