Monday, March 31, 2014

Stay Away From "Faith Films" !!!

I still remember the first time a movie was shown for free at my church, and I went. It was called "Facing the Giants," and I was surprised to see a movie actually present people choosing to believe in the Gospel. I didn't have as strong of a theological grasp way back in (2004?5?) as I do now, but it was definitely the only movie I'd ever seen that approached faith from a Christian perspective, and for that matter featured it as a portion of the plot for the movie. It being shown in the church led me to think that it was not widely viewed, an independent production that didn't have a wide impact. That was a very wrong impression, but it took me many years before I modified my perception of that film.

Another film shown at my church was "The Passion of the Christ." While it was understandable from a position of being acquainted with the Gospel narrative, I later came to realize that there's no theology in it. It simply shows Jesus dying--and suffering. Lots and lots of physical suffering, which wasn't even the real sacrifice according to the Bible: how He really suffered was in the separation He experienced from the Father--that point, "when every sin on Him was laid," and the infinite God experiencing a temporally finite separation within Himself became the substitution for finite men to evade an temporally infinite separation from God, by trading places. This fails to be a true Gospel movie as a result. Sure, it can be called a "Faith" movie, since it is inspired by stories from the source of the Christian faith--the Bible. But it doesn't include the content of that faith--the Gospel of Jesus Christ--and therefore is no more than a detached biopic.

I later encountered an expose' of sorts by Tim Challies (found here) that reveals all the subtle ways in which scenes from that movie were directly inspired by Catholic mysticism, which even superseded the Biblical narrative at certain points. Red flag.
"Gibson drew heavily from Sister Anne Emmerich’s devotional book entitled The Dolorous Passion of Christ. Emmerich is known as being a Mystic, Stigmatist, Visionary, and Prophet."
Well, this suddenly doesn't seem too positive any more. At least the movie 'harmlessly' merely portrays the events (well, if you ignore the added scenes from Emmerich) and doesn't blatantly come out and say "serve Satan" or something. But it opened the door for movies which disregard the Biblical narrative in favor of human ideas to proliferate.
As my wife left the theatre last night she heard a member of a Protestant church say “I didn’t remember the part in the Bible where Mary wipes up Jesus’ blood. That was so beautiful.”

But why didn't Bible-inspired (Bible-based would be giving them too much credit) movies come rushing out into theaters then? What took them until 2014 to finally get there?

I read a blog by a woman, Elizabeth Prata, who has a very keen eye on 'creeping heresy,' as I'll simply call it--the encroachment of nonChristian and even antiChristian elements in culture on the Church sphere. In a recent post where she warns against several upcoming "Faith films," she makes this comment:
The year 2014 has been dubbed "The Year of the Christian Movie." Ten years ago Mel Gibson's "The Passion of Christ" was released and it became a blockbuster by any standard but especially for a Christian movie. Then...nothing. Crickets. No mainstream Hollywood movies with a Christian theme have been released. Until now.
She isn't totally wrong. Hollywood has been very hesitant to pour much money into "Faith films," but that doesn't mean they've been doing nothing for ten years. I recently came across the March 31 edition of TIME magazine (online link here: it's temporarily unavailable in full because it's the current issue). In it, there is an article that focuses on a key player whom I wouldn't be surprised if Elizabeth chooses to keep tabs on from this point forward, Jonathan Bock. He's presented in the article as Hollywood's go-to guy for reaching out to 'religious' moviegoers and basically test-running and marketing movies to 'the faithful,' which Hollywood has long considered a desirable, but inscrutable, source of potential income.

The TIME article states, to my memory (since the paper copy is not with me and I don't have a subscription) that Bock worked on Passion and served as an advisor on The Bible Miniseries which was released last year. [If any of my information is wrong, I'll correct it, but it may be later in the month since I don't have frequent internet access]. What's also interesting is that Rick Warren was in some way a sponsor, producer, consultant or recipient of profit from Passion and The Bible, a bit of information which serves to imply that the 'powers' behind the recent release of Son of God have been working together since Passion to determine their next steps. We're now seeing whatever plans they may have concocted being unfolded and put on display.

The TIME article says that, rather than doing nothing for 10 years, Hollywood
"..did what any self-respecting investor might. They toe-dipped."
Jonathan Bock heads a marketing firm called Grace Hill Media. If I had the article in front of me, I would post some interesting quotes of statements he makes therein. This article may undergo a considerable revision later on. But suffice it to say, he is presented (but doesn't come across) as an educated believer, but instead the impression I got from reading was that it's basically his job to break down religious people's resistance to the poorly-produced movies Hollywood produces to "in their greed make merchandise of you (exploit you)" (2 Peter 2:3).

That struck me as creepy. It reminded me of the False Prophet figure in Revelation. Whereas the Antichrist is the enemy of believers, the False Prophet is a figure of religious influence who attempts to bolster the authority/credibility of the Antichrist among religious people, through various impressive displays of 'miracles' etc, to convince people to follow the Beast. 1 John 2:18 says that there are and have been many little antichrists throughout history who prefigure the future final Antichrist. Scripture also shows that false prophets have long been a staple of the religious scene. So it is not surprising then, that as the secular anti-Christ (which really is as simple as being opposed to the Gospel) movie producers seek to "make merchandise" of believers, false prophets will go to their aid to break down the believers' resistance, if at all possible, to fool them into swallowing a poison pill.

Bock worked on the Noah movie by Darren Aronofsky to market it to Christian audiences. He's a dangerous man. The reason for this is simply that Noah is perhaps the most blasphemous and unChristian movie in many years, and he is trying to get Christian audiences to go see it. I don't profess to know anything about Bock's faith, but he's serving evil ends. Worse than that, though, are the supposed Christian leaders, such as the NRB, National Religious Broadcasters, who released a statement that they think  "While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide."  This is a quote taken from a disclaimer NRB requested Paramount to place on advertisements. In other words, NRB agrees with the statement. 

Among others. I can wonder, were they paid off? Or are they really so undiscerning?

Lest you think I'm making assumptions about the film, I have a source I trust who has exposed the film for its ...filth. Let's just use that word for now.

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has had a good deal to say about the film.

First, he revealed a leaked script by Christian allies who had seen a prescreened version of the film. No one who reads the details thereof can conclude that the movie in any way honors the Bible.

Next, Ken and Ray Comfort jointly released a free film to counteract the message of Noah and explain the Biblical truth. (Produced by Ray, advertised by both ministries and made available as a purchase prior to the free release)

Then, Ken posted his very visceral reaction to seeing the film in theaters himself.

Most recently, Answers in Genesis posted a thorough review of the film. Please read.

Even without the weird details of the movie, the fundamentally wrong premise of it is that
a. Humanity was punished for crimes against the earth, not for sins against God
b. The purpose of the Ark was to preserve the animals, not to preserve Noah and thereby mankind.
This is where the movie conflicts with the Biblical message the most fundamentally. You get this wrong, you get the whole basis of the Flood record's purpose wrong. The Ark is supposed to be a representation of Jesus Christ, through which those who believe can be saved from coming destruction (John 10:9). By undermining the whole point of the Flood, the movie undermines the Gospel message that is base on the true history of the Flood account. That's why this matters. The New Testament is not firmly planted in mid-air. It is based in the Old Testament being a truthful historical document of what actually happened. If you throw out the history, then the salvation based in that history loses its connection to reality. It becomes a mere story with no relevance--and logically, then, can be left out of any movie without consequence. And that's the bottom line. The conclusion and goal of movies like Noah is the elimination of a foundation for the Gospel message in our culture, to make the dismissal/non-inclusion of that message all the more easy in future films, and in all forms of art and media. It's subtle. But not accidental.

Darren Aronofsky called his movie "the most unbiblical biblical movie ever made."

And to that, a hearty "Amen!" Why would you go see this movie, with that in mind?

Following from this line of thought, I want to briefly address the other films out there and then do the "religious Bible-thumper" thing and warn you to avoid them all. Almost all.

Elizabeth has another recent article, actually on the topic of heretical religious movements being aimed at or spearheaded by women: . But I'm linking it because it's the most recent one where she exposes the producers of one of these "Faith Films."

Son of God, as well as the Bible miniseries it was taken from, are produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, a husband and wife pair. Here's the quote of interest:
"Mrs Downey has a spiritual degree from a New Age teaching institution, practices mysticism, Catholicism, and necromancy (seeking communication with the dead). On live television, Downey communicated with her dead mother through a medium on live TV."
And her husband affirms her and they work together on these "Faith Films." So here you have two non-Christians, working with prominent religious leaders (Rick Warren, Joel Osteen), who themselves are associated with lukewarm error-ridden self-help prosperity theology, and working hand-in-hand with guys like Jonathan Bock to help Hollywood market unBiblical films to Christians in order to make money off of them. It's a scheme. It's a marriage of greed with idolatry. Idols of gold in the image of men.

The Son of God film is not nearly as blasphemous as Noah, but the problem with it is the same: there is no Gospel element. Its effect is to remove the Gospel from its Biblical foundation. Hollywood is now engaged in retelling all the stories of the Bible that it can, WITHOUT the Gospel anywhere to be found. It's a spiritual war, and the powers and principalities are seeking to actually take the Bible accounts and to secularize them. Paganize them, even. To take them and make them into something not only not-Christian, but anti-Christian.

There are tons of movies in the pipeline, several of which Elizabeth Prata lists in the first link to her I made. Here is a link of even more from TIME. What I find interesting here is that there's a retelling of Esther in the works. Esther is the Biblical history of the Jewish holiday known as Purim. I predict there will be a lot more vocal Orthodox Jewish opposition to these films when this comes out. With the way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised if the movie turns out blatantly anti-semitic.

There's so much to say and I've really been rambling in this post a lot, but I abandoned finesse and let myself be motivated by the desire to just get the information out there.

Don't see Noah, it's utterly pagan and promotes hyper-radical environmentalism.

Don't see Left Behind, it's got Nic Cage playing a Christian. Good enough for me to avoid.

God's Not Dead is probably the only movie that isn't blasphemous, and I wouldn't urge people to avoid, but it falls short in terms of one-dimensional characters and an implausible script which could give weak believers false faith. See's review.

Be wary of Cain and Abel, for which there isn't much information to make a judgment off of yet.

Don't see Sodom and Gomorrah, Quentin Tarantino's directing it.

Don't see Jacob's Wedding, it's directed by Judd Apatow and is supposed to be a "raunchy rom-com."

Don't see Witch of Endor, an obsession with the unknown history of dark figures in the Bible can't be good. What's next, "Lucifer's Descension," a biopic of Satan to paint him as an antihero figure? Wouldn't be surprised.

Don't see Heaven is for Real, it's based on an alleged vision a child had that is part of an ongoing lucrative book-selling business called "Heaven and Hell Tourism."

Don't see Exodus, it's directed by Ridley Scott, who called religion "the source of evil," is an avowed atheist, and what's more, Ben Kingsley is in it. This man once appeared in a strange short film I ran into on Youtube where he proclaims that Islamic culture invented various major technological discoveries, to a group of young children. Creepy indoctrination.

Don't see Mary Mother of Christ, which I guarantee is going to promote Mariolatry, the worship of Mary as a co-redemptrix with Christ--that Catholics believe Mary saves them from sin.

Don't see of Gods and Kings, it's directed by Ang Lee who also directed Life of Pi, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Brokeback Mountain.

Be wary of Pontius Pilate; whereas this guy is a figure of secular history and might ironically therefore be portrayed more accurately, since little theology depends on him, if I've learned anything from recent films I've seen, it's that wicked people will always surprise you. They "invent new ways of doing evil." (Romans 1:30)

That's the current list as far as I'm aware. Please watch out and stay away. Don't give these people your money. Don't let them exploit you and then turn and use your financial resources to undermine the Bible and make it even harder to reach a culture that is ever more disassociated from and ignorant of Christianity.

I apologize deeply for the rambling, unrefined nature of this post. But I'm pressed for time and I desperately wanted to put out a warning and link to Christian watchdogs who can help you stay aware of deception inside and outside the Church.

A final note on profit. Recall that I mentioned Facing the Giants. Little did I know that it earned $10 million at the box office alone. On a $100,000 budget. In other words, its profit margin was 100 to 1.

I found this interesting:
"Son of God" has performed well at the box office after two weeks, earning $41 million, which is almost double its budget, source
Oh, really? A budget of $20 million, give or take, and they doubled their investment.

The sequel to Facing the Giants was Fireproof, perhaps the best Gospel-focused movie to date. It was the highest-grossing independent film that year, and on a $500,000 budget, made $33 million. A profit margin of 66 to 1.

Son of God made $41 million? *Yawn*

Courageous, the most recent production of Sherwood Pictures, headquartered at Sherwood Baptist Church, GA, made $34 million on a $2 million budget.

Diminishing returns on an increased investment, funny enough. What I take away from all these figures is that it doesn't take a large investment to make a good movie. And it doesn't take a large investment to see phenomenal spiritual returns. Consider how many people are reached with a coherent Gospel message by these films, with how comparatively little cost. Independent films can compete with Hollywood on the "Faith" stage.

And I'm thinking that maybe they should. I don't know if Sherwood donated all the money they made, but imagine if $10 million of their profits were dispersed to 10 other conservative churches like theirs, with budgets of $1 million. 10 good quality Gospel movies would result, eschewing the watered-down and heretical messages of Hollywood, allowing millions of people to hear the Words of Life. Would that it were so!

My source for these figures:

I don't know if the Sherwood folks would ever come across this blog, much less this hastily-thrown-together article, but if anyone's listening, I have a suggestion for the focus of your next film: one of the settings should be a college campus, feature a street preacher (perhaps Ray Comfort at UCSD can make a cameo?), and confront the subject of creation versus evolution. And please, for the sake of truth, consult Answers in Genesis for the scientific details. No mega-church bigshot nonsense, not that I would suspect the Kendricks of giving ear to that.

"Faith Films" are a brazen attempt by an unchristian culture's elites to profit off of Christians and at the same time undermine their faith, and their faith's influence in culture. The vast majority of films having anything at all to do with Christianity or the Bible are nothing to see. But if you want to see a real Christian film, check out Fireproof.

If I ramble more than this, I doubt the most patient reader would finish the article. Thanks for giving it a try. I hope this serves some good use and doesn't come across as an emotional backlash only.

~ Rak Chazak

PS Does anyone know how to place page breaks so they work? I've tried but this blog doesn't seem to want to follow the rules.

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