Now I’m Really Irritated by the Makers of “Left Behind”

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They did this.  They seriously did this.

When Left Behind was being released, they had the nerve to post this picture.

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And then they go and pull the Ebola card?

All in the hope of selling more tickets?  Trying  to freak people out?

I’m sorry, but any hope that I would respect the people who have made and produced “Left Behind” has been left behind.  To take something like Ebola – to publish a picture of a guy in protective clothing WHEN THE PICTURE ISN’T EVEN FROM YOUR MOVIE to try and freak people out and get them to see your movie, is just pathetic.

And I say this as a Christian that is really hoping that Christian filmmaking finds its way – and becomes a cultural force to be reckoned with.

Paul Lalonde, this is not the way.

Either your movie is really good, and actually convinces the critics (look at the reviews for Believe Me) or your movie stinks and the critics call you on it.

You made a big movie, and for that – well done.

But you made a big movie that is universally considered as a dud.  For that – do better next time.

Rather than pulling the Ebola card, and the persecution card, just MAKE BETTER MOVIES.

Just make better movies.

Please.

 

Fear, Reason, and The Ebola Virus

What is the most frightening word in America right now?

Depending on your level of media coverage, it might just be a word that rhymes with Coca-Cola.

Not Ayatollah.  That’s so 1980’s.

The word we’re looking for is Ebola, and I’m joking about it because it frightens me.

This is a new fear for the lexicon.  For years,  Ebola was just a device in a movie or a novel.  Like the fictional virus in the film starring Dustin Hoffman, the film that had something to do with monkeys and people dying horribly and Donald Sutherland wanting to drop a nuke on a small town in California.

Or maybe Steven Soderbergh’s film where Gwynth Paltrow cheats on Matt Damon and winds up spreading a hybrid bat/pig virus that wipes out a bunch of people.

It’s really odd, how fascinated we are with fictional doomsday movies and books, but when one is teased as actually being on the horizon, we freak out as if we are the hysterical characters in a fictional doomsday movie or book – the panicked crowd running from the monster, or being crushed under the falling building as the superheroes duke it out in the sky.

Could it be that we’re afraid with good reason?  What scares us about something like this current outbreak of Ebola?

That’s easy enough to answer – the possibility of a potential nightmare scenario becoming a living nightmare reality – as it is doing in three countries in West Africa – with devastating effects.

But for those of us not in those countries – why are we afraid?

It’s because of the fear of what might be.  It’s terrifying to imagine that one of those nurses from Dallas may have passed Ebola on – somehow – to someone who is carrying the disease and doesn’t know it.  Yet.  And that those ignorant carriers might somehow pass it on to someone else until the growth becomes exponential and we have a 21st Century global plague that decimates the world population.

It could happen.  Right?

Nevermind the odds.  Nevermind statistics.  Nevermind healthcare professionals and precautions and the CDC and the WHO and the government.

Nevermind God.

It might happen, and the possibility is terrifying.

That’s how fear works.  It’s based on things that could happen in the future.  It’s based on the unknown.

And fear misused can be one of the most dangerous and paralyzing things on the planet.

Fear itself isn’t bad, of course.  God gave us fear to keep us from harm, and that makes it a wonderful thing.  A gift.  For example, fear of falling keeps us from approaching the edge of a cliff, and this saves us from falling.  Fear of getting bitten keeps us from approaching a strange dog, and that keeps us from getting bitten.

God also gave us the ability to reason, to help us understand what we should fear and what we needn’t fear, and when we have the two in balance, we’re fine, operating the way we’re supposed to operate.  We can decide what is deserving of our fear, what isn’t deserving, and what things we need to keep our eyes on – just in case.

Where we get in trouble is when we let fear get the upper hand.

It could be that our fear of Ebola needs to be balanced with a bit of reason.

So, if you are fearful about the potential for an Ebola disaster of summer blockbuster proportions, I’d suggest you ask yourself the following important question:

As of October 17, 2014, what does reason tells us?

1.  Ebola has mostly affected Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea in West Africa.

2.  It has not spread substantially to neighboring countries, largely because of the active intervention of those other countries.

3.  There has been one death caused by Ebola in the United States: a man who travelled to West Africa and had direct contact with an infected person.

4.  Two healthcare professionals in the United States have been identified as having contracted Ebola as a result of caring for that man, and they are currently being cared for by teams of medical personnel.

5.  The people who had contact with the three individuals above are being tracked down and closely monitored – a situation where our Big Brother world is actually coming in handy.

6.  The virus is not airborne, so being in the same room (or airplane) as an infected person does not mean you will become infected.

7.  Ebola is transmitted by having direct contact with the bodily fluids of a person who has been infected, or possibly by having contact with things that have been infected by having contact with fluids from an the infected person – such as soiled clothing or linens.

8.  Ebola isn’t passed on during the 21 day incubation period, only after the person has become symptomatic.

9.  The virus cannot go through skin.  It is transmitted when a person touches someone or something infected and then touches their own eye, nose, or mouth – or through an open cut in the skin.

10.  There is no known cure for Ebola, so when a person contracts the disease, he or she will fight it off on their own.  The things that seem to have an impact on the person successfully fighting the disease include the following:  age, access to modern medical support, nutrition, and prior health.

You can read more facts about Ebola here and here.

What will happen tomorrow?  I have no idea.  None of us do.

But tomorrow isn’t my concern, because right now I can’t do anything about it.

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I’m an elementary school teacher, a want-to-be writer, a dad, a husband, and ultimately, I’m just riding the same wave you’re riding, hopeful that we’ll all make it to shore.

And here’s the big thing:  I can’t control the wave.  None of us can.

I can only control my response to the wave.

Using reason, I will ask myself what I can do to prepare.  I will educate myself on the disease and how to recognize it.  I will be careful to wash my hands as often as possible, especially after being in public.  I will be vigilant to do what I can, but I will not be afraid.

Using reason, I will ask myself just who stands to make the most out of an increased amount of fear in the population as a whole.

I wonder who?  Who stands to profit off increased newspaper and magazine sales?  Who gets more ad revenue when we desperately click on their links to find out the latest bit of news?  Who thrives off sensationalism and agitation and unrest?  Who – like a Dementor in a Harry Potter book – loves to suck out all our joy and peace and replace it with fear and panic so that we keep coming back for more?

Who, indeed?

I will make the choice to not permit fear to outweigh reason.

I will make the choice to be wary and careful today, but to let tomorrow worry about itself.

And finally, I will make the choice to continue trusting God, regardless of what happens tomorrow.

An outbreak of Ebola in West Africa or the United States or anywhere doesn’t make God any less God, and doesn’t make Him in any less good, or any less trustworthy – just like cancer doesn’t change who God is, or a job promotion, or meeting the love of your life, or losing a baby in a miscarriage, or any number of the other good and bad things that happen in our lives.

God is still God, even in the face of everything that life throws our way.  And He’s still good.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Fear balanced with reason, held up by faith.

I can live with that.

 

Star Wars Episode VII Concept Art

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Warning!!!

Spoiler images ahead!!!

If you wish to walk into the theater on December 18, 2015 with absolutely no knowledge about anything to do with Episode VII, then click away to another page.

Maybe here?

Or, you can read my open letter to J.J. Abrams: Please keep the sex out of Star Wars!

Otherwise…

These images just hit the internet today, and they are fantastic.  They look like classic Star Wars, but with new elements thrown in.  Exactly what an old fan hopes for.

The images were first found here, but you can see them by just looking down the page here.

I can’t wait to see how these all piece together!

 

It’s October… NaNoWriMo’s Coming! Are you ready?

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It’s nearly the middle of October, which means one thing for thousands of people around the internet: almost time for Nanowrimo!

Nanowrimo stands for the National Novel Writing Month, and it is a free, non-competitive opportunity for writers all over the globe to go from zero words to 50,000 over the course of the month of November.

In short, it is the opportunity to write the first draft of a novel.

Started in 1999 in the San Fransisco bay area with a modest number of writers (21), Nanowrimo has grown to over 400,000 in 2013.  It is a serious occasion in the writing world, because it gives everyone – from first time wannabe writers to established and published writers – that most-needed phenomenon: a deadline.

But you don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder, no editors breathing down your neck, no teachers looking to see if you would meet your goal.  It’s just the writer and the computer and the imagination going wild.

And it’s a fantastic thing to do.

I first found out about Nanowrimo because of its now-defunct sister program, the Script Frenzy, where screenwriters worked on first drafts of film scripts over the month of April.  Unfortunately, that program was retired, but participating in the Frenzy led me to Nanowrimo.

Thimblerig's Ark Cover Art copyI’ve enjoyed Nanowrimo in two ways.  First, I was able to finally complete my novel, Thimblerig’s Ark, because a draft was written and edited during subsequent Nanowrimos.  Second, as an upper elementary teacher specializing in reading and writing, I’ve taken two classes of fifth graders through Nanowrimo through the Young Writers Program, and I’m currently preparing a class of 6th graders to go through the month of insane writing.  I’ve done this in international schools in Kazakhstan and China, and it’s been a huge success as I’ve watched ten and eleven year old children blossom as writers.

This is the wonderful thing about Nanowrimo – it gives us an excuse to do the thing that we could be doing at any time, but which we have a hard time actually sitting down and doing – writing without abandon.  In November, anyone (with understanding family members) can excuse themselves from the bulk of other responsibilities for thirty days while they get their story out of their head and onto the page.

And writing the first draft is the biggest challenge, isn’t it?

So if you are one of those people sitting around thinking that you would like to write The Next Great Novel, but you don’t have the time, consider taking part in Nanowrimo.  It won’t cost you a penny, but it might just be the thing that helps you to achieve that particular dream.

And you still have half a month to get yourself ready.  What are you waiting for?

Thimblerig’s Top Five Favorite Podcasts

Crowded_Nanjing_Road_in_ShanghaiI’m always on my feet living in China; walking to the bus stop, walking to the store, walking to the school where I teach, walking, walking, walking.  And riding on buses.  And subways.  And not understanding what’s going on around me most of the time.

The result?   I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts.  Over the years, living in China and Kazakhstan, I’ve found that podcasts have become my primary source of entertainment and information, replacing talk radio, the news, late-night television, and talk shows.  It’s like the people hosting the podcasts have become a part of my expat community and my overseas experience.  They’ve become one of my important connections back home.

Hasn’t the internet made everything weird?

Be that as it may, I’m particularly interested in podcasts that are somehow connected to the American entertainment industry, to screenwriting, to storytelling, to the culture, and how they all connect to the Christian faith.  You’ll find these things reflected in my podcasts of choice, some moreso than others, depending on the podcasts.

And so, I’d like to introduce you – my faithful readers – to my top five favorite podcasts, for your consideration, and in no particular order.

Thimblerig Podcast B

1.  The Phil Vischer Podcast

MV5BMTM5MzA4NTkxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzY5NTAyNw@@._V1_SX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_You might know Phil Vischer as the man who created Veggietales, and provided several of the voices of the characters, including Bob the Tomato.  Phil has an amazing story, which you can read about in his book, Me, Myself, and Bob: A True Story About God, Dreams, and Talking Vegetables

In a nutshell, Phil created the wildly popular kid’s videos featuring talking veggies, and he had lofty aspirations to become the next Walt Disney – but in a God-honoring way – and then lost it all.  Phil’s story is a real-life example of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, as he went through a very dark place but has come through a better man as a result, with an incredible perspective on life, success, faith, and culture.

I just discovered Phil’s podcast a few months ago, and have grown to really enjoy it.  I appreciate that Phil has a great sense of humor (how could you create Veggietales and not have a great sense of humor?), but he can also come through with some really profound perspectives on faith and modern American culture.  maxresdefault

Each week, Phil – along with co-host Skye Jethani and the occasional guest host – discuss cultural issues, the entertainment industry, and current events from a Christian point of view with a refreshing and healthy mixture of seriousness and silliness.

Now, if we could just get Phil to ditch that darned ukulele…

2.  On The Page

Pilar-AlessandraPilar Alessandra‘s podcast about “the craft and business of screenwriting” was one of the first podcasts I started listening to, and is the one I’ve been listening to for the longest time.  I found On The Page while living in Kazakhstan sometime around 2006 (give or take) when I first became interested in screenwriting.  I remember digging in my garden in Almaty while listening to Pilar talking about loglines and treatments, amazed that it felt like I was taking part in an online screenwriting class – with all the fantastic quality content I was receiving.  For free! Actually, I feel like Pilar has been my unofficial online instructor for many years. I even took one of her online courses a few years ago, and enjoyed what I learned. I’m grateful for all that she’s taught me these past few years!

Pilar invites guests from all walks of life in the entertainment world to her podcast, but most commonly writers.  She researches her guests well enough to tailor her interviews and bring out the most teachable moments from the lives and work of her guests, all with goal of helping her listeners to improve in their own writing.  This is what I appreciate the most about On The Page – that I always get important new concepts and information that help me in my writing.  If writing is your thing, particularly screenplays, then you should be listening to On The Page.

3.  Steve Brown, Etc

stevebrownwebWhile I’ve been listening to Pilar’s podcast for the longest time, I’ve actually been listening to Steve Brown for over 20 years, just not in podcast form!

In the late 1980’s, I attended King College with Steve’s daughter, and – as the audio technician in the college chapel – I had the pleasure to run his microphones during the chapel service when Steve visited and spoke.  I was so taken by his focus on God’s grace that it led to me ordering cassette tapes (!) of his talks from Key Life, and always trying to find him on local Christian radio stations when I went from town to town.  I also often subscribed to the Key Life newsletter, where I was encouraged and challenged by Steve’s written outlook on life and the Gospel.

I don’t know when I actually found out that the old white guy had a podcast but I was thrilled when I found out that he did, and even moreso that it wasn’t your typical Christian podcast.  Thanks to the offbeat humor of producer Eric Guzman, and the wonderful variety of guests from all backgrounds, Steve’s focus on the grace of God really resonates.  Steve Brown, Etc can be joyfully irreverent while diving into some very deep waters at the same time, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

You think about that.

4.  Wretched Radio

frielMy family was home for the summer, and we were driving across the south in a rented car that had SiriusXM radio.

Usually, we had to listen to the Disney station (thanks, kids) but every now and then – when everyone was sleeping – I would scan around until I found something interesting.  I remember when I found Wretched Radio, and heard the voice of Todd Friel.

He was brusque, loud, and arrogant.

And the more I listened to him, the more I liked him.

When we returned to Kazakhstan, I immediately went and found Wretched Radio‘s podcast, and began to binge listen to past episodes.  I couldn’t get enough, and considering that he uploads new episodes five days a week, I had plenty to listen to!

Typically, Todd unpacks events of the day, examining issues from a Christian point of view, also with his somewhat warped sense of humor (Todd was formerly a stand up comedian).  But what I really enjoy are the Wednesday episodes, called “Witness Wednesdays”.  In these episodes, Todd goes out into some public place with a microphone and talks to people about spiritual things.  He will often go to a university campus and talk to students, and sometimes a state fair, and sometimes just out on the street.  The more I listened, the more I realized that Todd is not actually brusque or arrogant, he’s just willing to say what he believes with conviction, and he challenges others to think logically about what they believe.

Todd and Wretched Radio have some sort of connection to Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master ministry (although you don’t hear as much about that these days), and so he is quite serious about challenging people to examine their Christian faith critically to see if they really understand what it means to be a Christian.  It’s challenging stuff, and usually pretty entertaining.

5.  Never Not Funny

imgresSome people enjoy Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.  Others spend hours watching grown men chasing balls all over a field.  My guilty pleasure?  A podcast.  A podcast that is true to it’s name – Never Not Funny.

Hello, everybody, indeed.

Hosted by stand up comedian Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny is – by far – the most rated R podcast of the group, and it is also the most consistently laugh-out-loud funny.

Pardo and producer Matt Belknap (who used to also produce On The Page – which is how I found NNF), who have been doing this since 2006, have guests from all over entertainment, including comics such as Weird Al, Conan O’Brien, Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser, Sinbad, and many others who I met through the podcast.  He typically has stand up comedians on the show, but not always, and the reason I like it so much is because I feel like I’m sitting around a table with some of the funniest people on the planet, just listening to them riff off of each other, tell stories, and bust each other’s balloons.

Ideologically, Pardo and I couldn’t be more different, but I would love the chance to get to know the man, and actually sit down and talk to him, because he’s just an incredibly interesting guy.  In fact, with his wit and style, I’ve often thought Pardo’d be the perfect performer to voice the main character in my book, Thimblerig’s Ark, if it were ever made into an animated feature.

Let me make this clear:  unlike the other podcasts I’ve mentioned, you don’t want to listen to NNF with the kids around.  But if you can handle the occasional sailor-like outburst, and if you think it would be fun to hang out with some very funny people for an hour and a half, you should give it a try.

Well, that’s my five.  What podcasts do you like, and why?

 

Persecuted • Thimblerig’s Review

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Continuing my series of reviews on 2014’s films made by Christians (the so-called “faith-based” films), last night I watched Persecuted, which was released theatrically this summer.  I want to get right to the point about this film.

What I liked about Persecuted:

Christians are finally become more technically proficient in the way we shoot our films, or at least in hiring people who know how to shoot a film.  Persecuted looks pretty good – being shot, framed, and edited well.  The cinematography was by Richard Vialet, and editing by Brian Brinkman.  I’m glad films made by Christians are finally starting to look as professional as secular films.

Christians are also finally finding the funds to shell out on quality performers.  In this case, the film has some familiar faces – including veteran actors James Remar in the title role, Fred Thompson as Luther’s Father father, Bruce Davison as the sinister senator, and Dean Stockwell as Luther’s ministry accountant.  [Sidenote - as a fan of Quantum Leap, I sure hope Stockwell was well paid for taking what was such a minor role.]  I’m also glad that Christian films are finally starting to be more professionally acted.  We must be learning something about the production side of things, which is good.

Finally, Persecuted is not a bad thriller.   It’s not necessarily a good thriller, but it’s not bad – certainly not bad enough to deserve the ridiculous 0% ranking that the film has gotten on Rotten Tomatoes.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t put the film much higher.

Why wouldn’t I go very high with my own RT score?

There are several reasons, and they mostly fall on the shoulders of writer/director, Daniel Lusko.

Technically, while the film was shot well, there was entirely too much darkness in this film.  This – coupled with the dark soundtrack – made it irritating to watch.  Perhaps – since the film ends in the light of day – the darkness was an attempt at symbolism?  If so, it didn’t work.  Not at all.  Honestly, it came across as an attempt to cover a low budget (which I can’t really say, since I curiously can’t find the budget of the movie reported anywhere.)  Regardless of the reasons, it was just unpleasant to watch – the speeches given in darkness with a single spot on the speaker;  just about every interior shot was in darkness, again with very focused lighting; it could have potentially been more powerful to have dark deeds being done in the light of day.

Second, the casting.  As much as I appreciate the career of James Remar, he was simply not the right actor for the role of John Luther.  Not even close.  Here’s why:

First, he’s supposed to be the son of Fred Thompson?  Really?  How old was Fred when he had him?  Ten?

Second, Luther’s wife appears to be about forty, and according to his IMDB page, Remar is nearly sixty.  Yes, older guys can marry younger gals and have children at an older age, but it just seemed too much of a stretch.

Third, considering the mistakes Luther makes in misguidedly trusting the people around him, he should have been a much younger man.  It would have made a lot more sense to have him as a very forty-something successful evangelist who is in over his head, thus trusting the counsel of the sinister senator, buying the accolades and weird backstage pep-talks of his second-in-command, and being stubborn about his faith to a fault, so that the experience teaches him humility.  As it is, I’m not sure what Luther learns over the course of the movie.

But I can forgive miscasting.  The thing I have a hard time forgiving is more philosophical.

I’m so incredibly bothered that someone would have the nerve to make a fictionalized movie with the title “Persecuted”, imagining possible future persecution of a fictional evangelist in America, while Christians are actually being persecuted in Iraq, North Korea, Central Asia, and many other places around the globe, right now.

I’m amazed that the filmmakers decided they needed to create a fictional story about John Luther, an American pastor, being hunted down by the U.S. government for refusing to support “The Faith and Fairness Act”, a multi-cultural religion law, when there is an actual American pastor who has been held in prison in Iran for the past two years for the crime of sharing his Christian faith, a person whose story is much more compelling and heart-breaking, because it’s true.

The more I think about it, the more bothered I am by the film’s fictionalized storyline, and not for the reasons the filmmakers hoped.  On the film’s website, we’re asked to be challenged by Persecuted “to consider how (we) would react if—and when—attempts are made to limit (our) own religious freedom.”

But the film doesn’t really do that at all.

Rather, the film looks at one man who – standing up for his faith – refuses to support a pluralistic religion bill that his senator friend (apparent friend) is proposing, and has his life and ministry torn apart as a result.  It seems to me that the film is more a lesson on being wise about the people in whom we put our trust, and not so much about limits on our religious freedom.

So, to back off the philosophical problems I had with this film, I’d like to go back to the writing.  I really, really had a problem with the writing in this film, and it was mainly because the film made several promises it didn’t keep.

First, there were the flashbacks to Luther’s conversations with his granddaughter daughter.  In those flashbacks, a relationship was set up between Luther and the girl, but we never saw her again.  Why make this relationship a big deal, but never give the audience the payoff?  You mean to tell me that in the end it’s more important that we see Luther surrounded by his ministry’s board than his family?  What that tells me is that the characters didn’t matter – just the Point the filmmakers were trying to make.  It was a setup with a disappointing lack of payoff.

Another promise that wasn’t kept was with the senator.  Here he was – the big scheming senator – the guy who was putting Luther through all this hell – the main antagonist – and he’s offed in a heartbeat by order of the president, and Luther’s nowhere nearby when it happens.  Are you kidding me?  This is the guy that arranged Luther’s whole predicament, and he doesn’t even get to be a part of the climax?  It should have been the senator, deciding to get his hands dirty, chasing Luther up the mountain.  It should have been the senator that Luther is FORCED to kill to protect the FBI agent.  But no, it’s this nameless strange assassin – the dog on the senator’s leash – who is in the climax for some inexplicable reason.  What a misfire on the filmmaker’s part.

This brings me to ANOTHER set up lacking a payoff… when the FBI agent was talking to Brad Stine’s character – asking him suspicious questions about the senator, it seemed like the FBI was quietly investigating the senator,but it was dropped, never discussed again.  Why?  What was the point?

The lady in the ministry van, who loans Luther a phone, and then she’s gone?

The drug addicts who witnessed Luther being set up.  We see them for a moment, and then they’re gone?

The young priest who drives Luther away from the bad guys, uploads the incriminating video, and then he’s gone?

Luther’s shot in the friggin’ back – with a hole in his spine – but he still drives away and fights to the bitter end?

The man's shot in the middle of the back, and he's still going on?  Is this Rambo?

The man’s shot in the middle of the back, and he’s still going on? Is this Rambo?

I could go on, but the longer I’m thinking about this movie, the sloppier it seems.  So, rather than continuing to nitpick the problems, let me look at my five standards for filmmaking by Christians, as written about here, to see how Persecuted stands up.

Films made by Christians should take risks.  

Considering that Christian filmmakers haven’t tackled the political thriller genre that much – unless you include the end-times movies – I’d have to give props to the makers of Persecuted for trying a unique mashup of genres.  However, it’s unfortunate that the film was rather paint-by-numbers political thriller, with no genuine surprises or twists to surprise or shake the viewer.  This was unfortunate, and meant that ultimately, the film was not very risky.

Films made by Christians should challenge the audience.

If the audience was the “faith-based” audience, there was no challenge here.  Yes, the filmmakers stated that they wanted to challenge the audience to imagine a time when we’re losing our religious freedoms, but it didn’t succeed.  Perhaps because it was so focused on one man’s story, and he was put there by his own lack of judgment in the character of those around him, it just didn’t feel prophetic or even relevant.  If anything, the core audience who saw this film were probably the folks who already think that politicians are sitting in Washington trying to figure out how to bring about the destruction of all Christendom.

And the character of John Luther is supposed to challenge us in our faith, but with all he’s going through, Luther remains robotically steadfast – which is admirable in real life, but disappointingly uninteresting in a character in a film.  After discovering his father’s unfortunate death, the only crisis of faith Luther appears to have is standing on the cabin porch and screaming, “Are you not true to your name?” and then he’s back to the business of surviving, with nary a tear shed.  His father was executed, for heaven’s sake!  Because of the choices that Luther made!  The man should have a moment of brokenness at some point, but he never seems to arrive at that point.

Art is Art, the Pulpit is the Pulpit

This film preaches all over the place, with a disturbing mixture of Christianity and conservatism.  It would have been more appropriate to call the movie Didactic: The Movie.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Films made by Christians should raise important questions

On the one hand, it could be argued that Persecuted raises the question – what will happen if your government turns against you?  But is that really an important question to raise?  Our country is so polarized that the question is a hot button question, feeding the paranoia of the kind of Christian who think Left Behind and God’s Not Dead are brilliant movies just because they talked about God in a nice way.

But for those Christians, I don’t think it’s the kind of question that really needs to be raised.  Ragamuffin came a lot closer to asking the right questions – looking unapologetically at the personal struggles of a Christian icon.  Believe Me – using self-depreciating humor – made Christians look at themselves and ask important questions about how well we think things through.  Mom’s Night Out, asks Christian moms at the end of their rope to consider what really matters.

These “faith-based” films all asked more important questions than this Persecuted, a film which wants to be a lot more important and relevant than it really it is.

Christian films should tell good stories

I think I’ve already shown that Persecuted falls woefully short of this.  If the filmmakers had cast a younger lead, if they’d followed through with the promises they made, and if they’d filmed a few more scenes in the light, it might have been a stronger story.  Unfortunately, it failed.

A test I always put to a faith-based film is to ask this question – would I be happy to show this film to friends who don’t attend church?  Showing Persecuted?  Nope.  I wouldn’t do it.

jonah_a_veggietales_movieAnd in conclusion – while I don’t put a lot of stock in the RT rating system when it comes to “faith-based” films – I think we, as Christians, should pay attention to what the secular reviewers say – since we should desire our films to reach beyond our Christian subculture.  I find it fascinating that the highest rated “faith-based” film I could find at Rotten Tomatoes was Phil Vischer’s 65% scoring, “Jonah: A Veggietales Movie.

The lesson I take from that?  Christians need to make more movies with talking vegetables.

And by the way, if you don’t, you should really listen to the Phil Vischer Podcast.  It’s the most intelligent, reasonable, and entertaining culture-examining podcast by Christians that you’ll find.

Even if Phil does insist on playing that annoying ukelele.