Paul: Apostle of Christ – The Profound Victory of the Gospel in the Midst of Persecution and Suffering.

 

The true story of the apostle Paul’s last year of life before martyrdom in Rome. Luke the physician visits him as Christians in Rome struggle with secrecy and survival in the midst of great persecution.

I recorded a podcast on the movie with Nate Sala’s A Clear Lens here.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my notebook with me when I saw the movie. And I don’t have time right now to detail everything, but we touched on everything in the podcast.

Listen to the podcast here.

I wanted to write this for the headline: This persecution of Christians is what we have to fear coming true again, NOT the ridiculous delusion of The Handmaid’s Tale that will never happen.

This is a must-see film for Christian believers. Well-written and well-acted profound wrestling with the issues of persecution and retribution, violence and non-violence, in the context of the Neronic persecution of the first century.

Realistically biblical dialogue that captures the language of the Pauline epistles and makes it come alive in a way that I have not seen done before. Paul’s most theologically rich phrases, like, “to live is Christ, to die is gain,” and “Christ in me,” etc. are woven into the dialogue in a way that are satisfyingly realistic and illuminating. It gives flesh to abstract theological concepts.

This is not a feel-good movie. This is a profound spiritual exploration of suffering. Its theme is about finding the victory of faith in Christ in the midst of suffering and persecution; an ironic paradox that unbelievers cannot grasp, and even most believers have a hard time living out. That’s why this story is so valuable.

It is a low budget movie, and though it deals with the Neronic persecution, we don’t get to see the full brutality of the arena, which would have hit home the visceral depth of evil done against Christians. But it does a great job of capturing the internal and spiritual struggles faced by those under assault, and how faith in Christ carries one through to the end.

Paul: Apostle of Christ is an excellent example of how Christians can make better movies with better quality and integrity. Support it, so we’ll get more of them.

 

To get the big picture of the first century suffering of the early church, you can read the novel Tyrant: Rise of the Beast, which chronicles the details of Nero’s persecution of the Christians in a way that speaks the Gospel to Power. It’s the big budget version I wished these filmmakers would have been able to afford.

 

A Wrinkle in Time: Why Does Hollywood Keep Raping Christian Stories?

I guess A Wrinkle in Time can now officially be a part of the #MeToo movement of Hollywood victims.

And before you start “outraging” about the metaphor, I want to say that it actually fits perfectly. Rape is the forced penetration, and often insemination, of an unwilling person.

So too is the act of taking a Christian classic and deliberately eviscerating it of its meaning, and then inseminating it with the seed of a hostile alien worldview.

It’s an act of narrative violence.

But that’s how many secular and pagan storytellers roll. This has been a problem for a long time. In my book, Hollywood Worldviews, I list movies that were made through the years where the original stories were rooted in a Christian worldview (many of them, true stories), but were either completely secularized and shorn of their Christian elements or were so minimalized as to undermine the Christian meaning with a humanistic spin.

That’s called subversion. You retell your opponent’s story through your own view and thereby take control of the story. It’s one of those few things that postmodernism is correct about. If you control the narrative, you control the meaning.

Here are some movies through the years that subvert the Christian faith through suppression or elimination of it: The Pursuit of Happyness, Pocahontas, The New World, Hotel Rwanda, Becoming Jane, Anna and the King, Hard Ball, Walk the Line, Unbroken, The Vow, The Finest Hours, Hidden Figures.

And that’s not to mention movies, like Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Last Days in the Desert, where atheists completely subvert Biblical stories and the Biblical God with an idol of nature or atheist demythologizing.

Most of these movies above are true stories, whose characters are driven by their faith to such an extent that the deletion or suppression of that motivation is a violation, not just of the story, but of the human being.

Now Madeleine L’Engle can join those ranks.

And if her estate was willing, well then, they are complicit in the crime. Continue reading

The 15:17 to Paris: How God Prepares the Heroes We Need Right Now

The true story of how three American friends stopped a terrorist attack on a train to France and saved 500 lives. Directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Dorothy Blyskal from the book.

Clint Eastwood is one of the most courageous and bold filmmakers in Hollywood. He defies the hegemony, goes against the grain, speaks truth to power.

The 15:17 to Paris is no exception. This is a story of American exceptionalism, positive Christianity, pro-military and salvific masculinity.

Like Owen Wilson would say, “Wow.”

It follows the ordinary lives of three boys from grade school up to adulthood and how the simple and sometimes frustrating obstacles of life are providentially used by God to create ordinary heroes. I use that ironic term “ordinary heroes” deliberately because, not only is this a true story, but it is one that shows us being a hero is not something for comic books and movies, but is part and parcel of a life of traditional American Christian values that have been lost in our culture.

The Gimmick

All right, I have to say this right up front, the acting is not Oscar-worthy. It’s mediocre, and a bit of a weakness of the film. But I am totally okay with it because Eastwood cast the actual three men to play themselves in the movie.

It’s a gimmick that works because it carries with it a certain sense of authenticity that A-list actors would not carry. Of course, I love what A-list actors can bring to true stories as well. But in this case, it’s okay that they don’t. And the reason is because the whole point of the story is that ordinary average citizens without privilege can be real heroes.

So, you’ll have to have a little patience with these first time thespians. But trust me, it will be worth it.

Salvific Masculinity in an Emasculated World

Leftists and America-haters will hate this movie with all the hatred in their black little hearts.

Patriots and reasonable Christians will love this movie because it showcases God’s providential control in our lives and defies the political correctness of cultural Marxism that is destroying our society.

Here’s how it does that… Continue reading

Oscar Win: The Shape of Water Reveals the Soul of Hollywood — Bestiality.

A sci-fi interspecies romance. A mute female janitor working in a 1960s top-secret government facility falls in love with an amphibious fish-man that looks like a modern Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Okay, so I have to give the Academy kudos for not giving the Oscar to the movie that celebrates adult sexual exploitation of teens. Instead, they opted for the movie that celebrates sex with animals.

That’s like kicking out Harvey Weinstein, but keeping Roman Polanski.

And it is entirely predictable.

A theater full of moral hypocrites, sexual predators and their enablers joke about how depraved they are, and avoid speaking truth to their power, while they award best picture to a Christophobic fantasy about sex with animals.

Please. Stop the madness.

Yes, I know they hinted at “the problem” by virtue signaling, but the Pharisees did not address it explicitly like they do with “other people’s sins.” Now, all of a sudden, they are sensitive and subtle. They were like a government agency that assures us they are investigating their crimes, “So don’t worry, we’ll clean up our mess.”

Yeah, right. While they arbitrarily destroy other men’s lives with mere accusations and think the fascist race for the guillotine is “justice”.

Their moral confusion is apparent in everything they do. It’s time for real change.

Social Justice for Animals

But back to the movie, an abominable SJW hate-fest against another caricature of Christianity, and an elevation of the very paganism that leads to the sexual predation that Hollywood is consumed with, while mocking Christian men, like Mike Pence, for their honorable chivalric actions toward women.

Remember, the director, Guillermo del Toro, made the very pagan Pan’s Labyrinth that was a fantasaical glorification of pagan blood sacrifice.

Well, he does it again in The Shape of Water.

The janitor is a lonely mute woman, Elisa, who works as a janitor at a government facility in the 1960s, a symbolic choice for the Cold War as a metaphor for “American paranoia” that supposedly leads to violent oppression of rights.

This is the stereotypical “Red Scare” narrative that worldwide panic was created by the vast right wing conspiracy about an ideology called Communism that didn’t murder over 100 million people and certainly didn’t threaten us with all those big scary nuclear weapons. And uncle Joe was a great guy too! Because we now know that 100 million weren’t murdered by Communism, but rather the paranoid fear of America!

So, the storytellers try to paint a theme about “civil rights” by making the protagonist a marginalized victim, who only has two friends, who just happen to be other marginalized victims in the social justice pantheon: Zelda, a black woman at work and Giles, a gay artist next door.

So, the set-up is to equate her story with one of oppression and forbidden love. You know those evils that only Christian patriarchy create.

Which comes to the villain, another vile caricature of Christianity… Continue reading

12 Strong: Salvific Masculinity Destroys Islamic Imperialism & the War on Men

The true story of the first deployment of a special forces team in Afghanistan after 9/11. A mere 12 American soldiers, led by a captain without field experience, join local forces to take down a major Taliban target.

War Movies and the Zeitgeist

I wrote a post on war movies a decade ago, wherein I argued that their themes often reflect current political attitudes of the era — or at least of Hollywood in that era. This isn’t absolute. There is some diversity of views, but there are also clear patterns.

In the 1940s and 50s, war movies tended to support the narrative that war is glory. Killing Nazis after all is a glorious good thing. World War II was indisputably righteous war. There were some “war is hell” themes, but it was a hell worth fighting.

Then in the 60s and 70s the Hollywood slogan became, “war is insanity,” because of the politics of Vietnam. Movies from Dr. Strangelove to Apocalypse Now reinforced that anti-establishment narrative. Sure, there were always some exceptions, but it wasn’t until Saving Private Ryan that war movies could be heroic and patriotic again.

But Ryan started a new kind of diluted patriotism, with a shift away from the higher cause of one’s country to the individualistic commitment to one’s fighting buddies, the man next to you, became your purpose, not the flag. The patriotic value of a higher cause faded into the background of relativistic rejection of transcendent causes. It was a movie version of being against war, but “supporting the soldiers.” Even good war movies like We Were Soldiers and Blackhawk Down suffered from this myopic individualism.

In recent years, Hollywood has tried to cast the American military as a tool of a nationalistic imperialistic military industrial complex of sadistic corrupt leaders and poor sucker soldier pawns destroyed by PTSD. Witness movies like Redacted, Lions for Lambs, War Machine, In the Valley of Elah, all failures because Americans don’t believe the Lie.

Return to a Higher Cause

But recently, with American Sniper, Hacksaw Ridge, Dunkirk, 13 Hours, and now 12 Strong, we have a resurgence of a more nuanced balance of just war theory. These movies deal honestly with the imperfections of humanity, but focus on a return to an understanding of righteous violence and the transcendence of a higher cause of fighting for freedom and one’s country again.

They do not shy from showing the truth that even though we are morally obligated to kill evil men and evil communities bent on destruction and murder, it is not without collateral damage on the human psyche of those involved. But these movies affirm that the noble cause of one’s country, the higher purpose of freedom and justice, is a price worth paying to protect the innocent.

Of course, these were all elementary ideas of yesteryear. But in today’s climate of American self-hating War on Masculinity, and left wing postcolonial Marxist university theories indoctrinating the youth from high school on, those elementary truths are now a sort of profound divine revelation into a world of darkness.

Not to mention how the notion of confronting widespread Islamic imperialism and oppression around the world has become a No-No for Left Wing Hollywood, bent as it is on hating Judeo-Christian western civilization.

Justice is Masculine

But there are exceptions. Thank God. Hollywood may be dominated by Anti-American regressives, but it is not monolithic. There is a resistance within. Truth does get released at times. There are individuals who do not follow the herd off the cliff of left wing delusion.

12 Strong is a rare example of that unleashed truth.

It is a return to masculine righteousness in the face of worldwide Islamic evil.

And boy, do we need this right now. Not just because of the war on masculinity that wants to turn all men into women because of the evil excess of the Harvey Weinsteins of the world, but because of our culture’s cowering to Islamic supremacy. You know, criticism of Islam is “Islamophobia,” and Feminist submission to Islamic oppression of women.

12 Strong is a battle movie, plain and simple. Lots of gun battles, soldiers’ comaraderie, and strategy meetings of generals over maps discussing the odds. And cool action sequences of modern soldiers on horseback in rugged terrain shooting automatic rifles. In other words, a classic war movie about a small unit of American soldiers fighting the real enemy that exists in this world, with grit, honor and duty.

We see the captain taking the lead in battle, men considering it an honor to do a mission that they will most likely not survive, and all of them doing it for their loved ones and their country. Yeah, that’s right, the country that too much of Hollywood considers a shithole.

Well, not this time. Thanks, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Nicolai Fuglsig, writers Ted Tally, Peter Craig, and the cast for your courage.

The heart and soul of this story is justice, as embodied in the simple talisman of a piece of twisted melted metal from the Twin Towers that a general gives the captain of the unit, played brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth.

At the end of the story, after conquering the enemy, the captain buries that piece of metal into the dirt of Afghanistan as a spiritual homing beacon for justice.

But as one of the soldiers says at the end, “We won the battle. We still gotta win the war.” And that is a near impossible war to win in the Afghan “graveyard of empires.” A land where the Afghan warrior tells them, “There is no right choice. Today, you are my ally, tomorrow, you are my enemy.” It is a complex world that illustrates just how difficult it is to win over entrenched evil. Just how impossible are the odds.

But impossible odds are precisely what are overcome in this true story of 12 Strong men, exemplars of the masculine righteousness that is needed to save the world. The impossible can be done when you fight evil for a just cause.

And yes, the price is worth it.

It’s something left wingers and feminist man-haters completely miss with their propaganda of how “white male privilege” is the root of all evil.  When they try to deconstruct masculinity into toxicity, when they try to argue that it is men who cause the wars and violence in the world, they suppress the truth that it is also men who stop all the wars and violence in the world. Righteous, masculine men of strength.

And that is what we need more of. 12 Strong is an antidote to the toxic anti-masculinity of the left wing social engineering that is seeking to sissify our culture.

Watch it. Be strong.

Blade Runner 2049: Boring Soulless Mediocre Atheist Christ Story

Decades after the original, a new blade runner is tasked to hunt down a replicant that was “miraculously” born. Such a birth would justify giving replicants “human dignity,” and thereby stop their slavery to humans.

The original cool movie concept of a hunter of A.I. robots becoming the hunted has turned into another sophomoric attempt to philosophize that bleeds contempt for the audience by delivering no real action and long boring 1980s camerawork that lasts a sleep-inducing 2 hours and 44 minutes.

I don’t even want to waste my time blogging on this, but if I do, then you don’t have to waste your time regretting watching it.

I had originally assumed Ridley Scott directed this, but he only exec produced it. So…

My God, when are these Hollywood “artistes” going to stop trying to subvert the Bible with atheist Christ stories and God hatred? I’m praying that Denis Villeneuve, the director, is doing this because he’s being bothered in his conscience as he faces his own mortality. But I fear a more cynical reality that he is just another filmmaker who thinks he’s being “deep” by adding religious themes he doesn’t even believe in to a story he’s trying to make profound.

What is the line between machine and humanity? Do our dreams constitute our reality?

It seems that this is the era where atheist propaganda movies have achieved the preachy mediocrity of Christian propaganda movies. Now, when they throw out “God’s Not Dead” and “Fireproof,” we can say, “Oh, yeah? What about Alien Covenant and Blade Runner 2049?” And Exodus: God’s and Kings? And Noah?

Give me the hearty paganism of Gladiator any day over this heartless soulless atheism. (It’s paganism is not ultimately satisfying either, but it connects more deeply with our universal hunger for transcendence in a way that BR 2048 cannot.)

Soullessness is Boring

First off, the very premise upon which the entire movie rests is the atheistic evolutionary fairy tale that “souls” or consciousness arises or grows out of material complexity. This is all the rage now in some brain science circles etc. They have no actual explanatory mechanism for this “miracle” of matter sprouting “soul,” they just believe it happens. It “self-organizes.” This is what’s called in science, “just so” stories, or “magical thinking.”

And they laugh at Christians?

Ironically, the movie still operates within a modernist paradigm of Greek dualism that argues that humans are “ghosts in machines.” The Gnostic version says it this way: “the body is a prisonhouse of the soul.” Be that as it may, it’s the same delusion of A.I. movies all over. There is some point at which machines and/or their programming become so complex that they sprout souls.

This is actually a reductionism that reduces spirit to properties of matter. They try to deny that and craft clever ways of “transcending” materiality, but they cannot do so. And we humans know this when we watch these stories. Which means that when such atheist premises are engaged in the course of “love stories” between robots and other such “dignifying” activities, the audience knows as they watch that it’s a contradiction. Even if they don’t know it intellectually, or they can’t put their finger on it, they can sense it as they watch. Robots and programs are not humans, and no amount of verisimilitude can change that. Verisimilitude is a means of deception. And I think the audience can sense that truth.

Now, here’s how the deception tries to mimic truth… Continue reading

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Delusionary Hysterical Fear of Christian Theocracy

Hulu series about a dystopian world where infertility has become widespread, threatening the survival of the human race. A Christian theocracy has taken over and has enslaved the few fertile women as concubines for birthing children to the leaders—and to oppress women everywhere, because, well, that’s what Christianity is all about, don’t you know. Or something.

This won an Emmy for Drama Series. So I tried to watch it. I couldn’t get very far. It was an unending parade of Christophobic stereotypes, cliches and demonizations of Christianity. A litany of the fevered delusions and projections of left wing paranoia. But even worse: It was just bad storytelling.

It’s clear why this series is getting critical accolades. Not because it’s good. It’s terrible. But because it reflects the collective intolerance and bigotry of the Hollywood elite.

The storytelling here was more preachy, more juvenile in it’s exaggeration, more ridiculously melodramatic than any Christian movie I have ever seen. And if you know me, you know I do not like preachy Christian movies.

It was like watching a sincere yet laughable horror movie from the 1950s with every shot a “scary” melodramatic exaggeration of ugly lighting, ominous music, dour acting and extreme dialogue. And more ominously ominous music. Dr. Evil has nothing on this.

The Christian leaders in this story are of course fascists with Nazi-like traits, rituals and decorations. Their barren wives are begrudging enablers of the evil patriarchy who abuse the handmaidens out of their resentment, thus damning Christian women as traitors to their gender.

The heroine is a newly enslaved handmaiden who is taught that pollution caused the worldwide infertility, which is God’s punishment. In the first episode we see that the Christians execute Catholic priests, abortionists and gays. So, it is Evangelical Christianity who is the real villain here.

Or at least Atwood’s bizarre twisted misinterpretation of what Evangelical Christianity is. Continue reading

Because of Gracia: Standing up for Your Faith Against Anti-Christian Bigots

Timid undercover Christian, Chase Morgan, hides his faith at his high school, you know, like it’s supposed to be in our brave new world of secular regressive politics. When beautiful and bold Christian, Grace Davis, arrives as a new student, Chase becomes close friends and falls for her. But their experience of faith being suppressed by a double standard at their school, finds Grace standing up for God in her debate class, which challenges Chase to stand up, speak out and find his voice.

Okay, I have a love/hate relationship with the Christian movie genre. I don’t really care for them. But unlike cynical Hollywood “Christians” who condemn all Christian movies because of their own self-loathing “faith,” I actually see a place for the genre.

But to be honest, it takes a lot to get me to watch one. Because, usually they’re just so poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly acted, that I can’t get through the first ten minutes. My bias is that I was raised on Hollywood quality production values. So yes, the first hurdle you must overcome before you can be considered respect-worthy is the basics of good filmmaking.

But this I will say. Christian movies are getting better. And Because of Gracia is one of the best I’ve seen. This is not saying much, I will admit. Yes, there still needs to be work on the writing, directing and acting. But this movie was very watchable, and emotionally connective in a way others I have seen have not been.

Because of Gracia rang true to the human experience, especially for Christians.

Here’s how it does… Continue reading

War for the Planet of the Apes: Cultural Appropriation and the Battle for the Social Narrative

In this fourth installment of the Planet of the Apes series we watch the next episode in how earth humans became overcome and enslaved by intelligent speaking apes.

This is a perfectly crafted well told epic that focuses on the personal journey of revenge for the leader of apekind, Caesar, played with understated brilliance by Andy Serkis. It is a moving and complex portrait of a leader who seeks peace, is pushed to revenge, but discovers mercy when he faces his own hatred. It’s what makes epics so… well, epic. War has ape characters that you can do nothing but root for, which makes you think twice, since they represent the creatures who will ultimately overthrow humanity on earth.

Are our enemies more like us than we would like to admit? Not always. But is it moral relativism to humanize the enemy? Not always.

Steven Zahn plays a comic relief chimpanzee who almost upstages Serkis with his lovably selfish personality (I’m telling you, Zahn rivals Serkis’ “good” Gollum paws down). The apes who join Caesar are loyal men—whoops—I mean apes of honor. The “humanization” of the apes is smartly captured by having Caesar’s band of assassins end up caring for a little mute human girl who steals your heart with every gesture she makes.

The visual effects are stupendous. Not one moment in the entire film did I ever think I was watching CGI. That is a compliment not only to the quality of the technology, but to the acting. War exemplifies the best of Hollywood visual effects, not in drawing attention to it, but in making it invisible. Bravo!

Unfortunately, War for the Planet of the Apes is also another example of bigoted Christophobia that seems to spill from the talented yet depraved souls of many Hollywood storytellers.

(Though, thank God, not all of them)

Human Exceptionalism: The Image of God

Continue reading

American Gods: Secular Man Still Worships & the Gods are Crazy

The Starz network series, American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s horror novel is a supernatural story of the “old gods” who immigrated to America with various people groups rising up in war against the new gods of technology and culture that now rule our society.

It’s a great creative idea that in some ways reflects what I have been doing in my own universe of fictional writing. So I was naturally fascinated by the premise.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be a great idea gone bad. A mixed bag of profound spiritual wisdom and depraved humanist blasphemy.

Disenchantment

American Gods focuses on a convict, Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), just released from prison only to discover his wife, Laura (Emily Browning), and his best friend died in a car accident while in an adulterous affair. On his way to the funeral, Shadow meets a peculiar old man, named Wednesday (Ian McShane), who hires him as a bodyguard of sorts. Shadow soon discovers that Wednesday claims to be a chief of the old gods who once laid claim to America through those who found their way here in the past, willingly or not. And we see vignettes in each episode of these gods arriving on America’s virgin shores—or really, raped shores. Odin with the Vikings, Bilquis and Anubis with some of the slaves, a Leprechaun with the Irish, Jinn with Muslims and others. In the story, these are real beings with real, though limited supernatural powers.

It’s a common fantasy theme about the “disenchantment” of the natural world that science and technology creates in modernity. The “old gods” represent the sense of wonder that the ancients had of the life in a world interpreted as containing a goddess of spring, a god of storm, a goddess of sex, and so on. In modernity, and in this story, these gods have become like neglected elderly homeless who scrounge around in lives of squalor as the new gods of technology, like “Media,” “Technical Boy,” and others occupy us with obsessive entertainment and electronic diversion that amounts to sacred devotion to the profane. We’ve lost the “magic” and “wonder” of life. We think we’ve become enlightened and put behind us the ignorance of religion, but we remain decidedly religious creatures who worship new gods under the guise of secularism. The goddess Media sometimes appears as Lucille Ball, sometimes as Marilyn Monroe, icons of worship no less religious than Bilquis the old god of sexuality who calls upon her sexual partners to verbalize worship to her as they engage in sex with her.

Spiritual Profundity

And that is the brilliance of the story, as in the original book by the same title (Although in this case, the show is better than the book). It brings alive a profound truth that modern secular man seeks to deny, namely that secular modernity is just as much a culture of religious worship as the old world. We humans are homo religicus, worshipping beings. And the world of media that traffics in narrative imagination is just as much an artificial creation of the human craving for the transcendent as are the religions of old. We have replaced one mythology with another mythology and mistaken the latter as progress.

Ah, but therein lies the rub… Continue reading