Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture

Why filmmaker/human rights advocate Jason Scott Jones takes abortion and other life issues personally

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Life matters. Jason Scott Jones was the emcee of a Students for Live of America event in association with the recent March for Life in Washington D.C.* Though the event was largely ignored by the mainstream media, it reportedly drew about 200,000 in support of protecting the rights of the unborn. The filmmaker/human rights activist is the founder of Movie to Movement, an organization dedicated to producing and promoting movies that promote a respect for life in all its stages, and is co-author (with John Zmirak) of The Race to Save Our Century Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and a Culture of LifeHe has helped to raise more than $6 million for women-in-crisis pregnancies through a short film he helped produce called Crescendo and was also co-executive producer of the hit pro-life drama Bella. In a newly-published article for National Review Online, he talks about how a painful personal experience led him to dedicate his life to fighting abortion and other threats to the dignity of human beings in America and around the world. 

* An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that Jones was the Master of Ceremonies at the March for Life. I apologize for the error.

JWK: You were at the March for Life in DC last week. Thousands turned out — yet we heard hardly anything about it in the media, even on Fox News. What are your thoughts on the media’s relative lack of interest in the issue?

 JASON SCOTT JONES: The mainstream media are dying, precisely because they squirm away from massive stories like this. The pro-life movement is the largest social phenomenon among millennials and other young people. I’d rather be trending on Facebook and Twitter than be on the front page of the NY Times. Images from the March and pro-life statements from young people were flooding social media for days. That’s thousands of energetic young activists, documenting an event that shaped their lives. I would prefer to be present in venues like The Blaze, Breitbart.com, Worldnetdaily, talk radio, and social media.

You know what the TV networks and remaining newspapers are? They’re Bobby Vinton records—which outsold Bob Dylan and the Beatles in the 1960s, because middle-aged people still bought most of the music. But which one shaped the future, changed the culture? It wasn’t Beer Barrel Polka, but Let It Be and The Times They are a Changin’. The pro-life movement now is where the Beatles were in 1965—on an unstoppable upswing.

One of the funniest things I’ve seen in my entire life happened at Walk for Life in San Francisco: A bunch of out-of-shape, middle-aged men in pro-choice t-shirts trying to stop hundreds of college-age women from walking on a public street with pro-life signs. The men were shoving the students, yelling, “We will smash your patriarchy!” Do I expect the San Francisco Chronicle to cover that? The reporter’s head would explode.

JWK: Your pro-life film Crescendo has been utilized to help has been utilized to raise over $6 million dollars for women in crisis pregnancy situations. You also were one of the producers of the successful pro-life film Bella. Why does the issue touch you so deeply?

JSJ: I told this story recently in National Review: “My unborn daughter was aborted without my knowledge or consent. (Or her mother’s consent — my teenage girlfriend’s father dragged her to the clinic.)….This person, who had been carelessly, recklessly murdered, had all the same dignity, grandeur, and significance that I had seen only in myself. Her death opened up for me a whole new moral world, one where every human being shone with radiance. And demanded protection. So I dived into human-rights work. I would avenge her death by promoting life — in every form.”

JWK: You’re the founder of Movie to Movement, an organization which seeks to promote life-affirming storytelling. What current and upcoming films is the group supporting and how important is the art of storytelling — as opposed to political argument — in swaying hearts and minds on an issue like abortion?

JSJ: Beethoven said that “what comes from the heart goes to the heart.” He was profoundly right: Syllogisms don’t change culture, stories do. With that in mind, we’re really excited about Sing a Little Louder, a short film about a real incident in the Holocaust, which will premiere on Youtube in March or April.

Another powerful project is Where Hope Grows, a beautiful new movie that celebrates the life of a young man with Down Syndrome—and questions the murderous myth of “quality of life,” which is used to justify aborting up to 90 percent of children diagnosed with this condition.

Our new documentary 40 reveals the effects of abortion on America in the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. It lets post-abortive women tell their stories, and shows you how the destruction of unborn life is breaking America’s heart. 40 is now available on DVD. See it, and show it to your pro-choice friends.

JWK: I think entertainment creates our language. Which bring me to the word “abortion.” It sounds so sterile and impersonal. You abort a rocket launch. What do you think of replacing it with the term “fetus-cide” which would, at least, get across the agreed-upon idea that something — or someone — is being killed?

JSJ: Did you know that as late as 1960, the word “abortion” was almost an obscenity? If you said it out loud at a cocktail party, people would back away from you. It was like the “n-word” (rightly) is today. People used to understand what a sick, appalling thing abortion is. So rather than change the word, we want to give it back its power. Even today, when a reviewer wants to say that a movie is worthless, disgusting, and never should have been made, he might call it an “abortion.” People know. That’s why our culture has built an elaborate mechanism of denial, which centers on the myth of “choice,” instead of the facts, which are flesh and blood.

JWK: You were also involved with the making of the film The Stoning of Soraya M. which took on another issue that the media seems to prefer to avoid — that being the brutal treatment of women in countries where extreme interpretations of Islam are enforced.  Why do you think the same media voices that have no problem portraying abortion opponents as anti-woman will at the same time label those who call attention to these situations with epithets like “racist” and “Islamophobic.”

JSJ: My work with that project was ancillary—I was just an associate producer, but it’s a privilege to be associated with it. There’s something very beautiful in our culture, which is a fear of painting innocent people with a broad brush, and a desire not to offend someone else’s religion or culture—especially if they are seen as weak. But that impulse can be exploited to cover up real abuses, to enable corrupt institutions and evil people, even terrorists. In the case of honor killing, people are ignoring the systematic persecution of women, and pretending that the men who are murdering them are somehow victims of “Islamophobia.” It’s sick, and it needs to be exposed.

JWK: How dangerous is political correctness to free thought and the future of democracy?

JSJ: Political correctness used to indicate the fear of offending someone weaker than yourself. Now it means something entirely different: The fear of speaking truth to power, the excuse you make for yourself so you don’t stand up for the vulnerable or speak out against injustice. It’s always easy to cut yourself slack—as some actors did in the 1950s for not speaking out against segregation. (It might hurt their films’ ticket sales in the South.) That’s why I consider Charlton Heston a hero, for speaking out against racism long before most of his colleagues. Today, Patricia Heaton and Eduardo Verástegui are heroes for bucking the industry and being honest about abortion.

JWK: In The Race to Save Our Century, the book you wrote with John Zmirak, you talk about the “Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom and the Culture of Life.” Briefly, what are they — and how well are we as a society doing in upholding them?

JSJ: We drew those principles from looking at the cruelties, abuses, and genocides of the 20th century—and asking, “What could have stopped them?” Our study of history suggested these:

  • A reverence for every human life as the image of God.
  • Acceptance that there is a transcendent moral order, higher than any nation’s law (which might allow slavery or abortion).
  • The need for a humane, free economy that protects property rights while offering a safety net for the truly needy.
  • The importance of small, decentralized, responsive government that protects civil society instead of trying to replace it.
  • The solidarity that should make us care about the rights of every fellow human—including civilians in “enemy” countries, and workers in foreign sweatshops who make our stuff.

Our record on living up to these principles is mixed, of course—although America offers more hope than most countries, because our founding was based on these very principles.

JWK: Are there any political leaders you see on the scene right now who really stands for those principles?

JSJ: There are quite a few. A non-exhaustive list would include Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Mia Love, Chris Smith, Dan Lapinski, Rand Paul, Dave Brat, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Sam Brownback.

JWK: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

JSJ: Optimism and pessimism are for stock analysts. We have hope, which is a gift from God, Who promised us “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt. 28:20)

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Exodus” encore + Would Jesus have been politically correct?

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Exodus success. Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, the one-night documentary theater event I told you about last week played to packed houses across the country Monday night — leading Fathom Events to schedule an encore showing Thursday night (1/29) at 7:00 PM local time. Check here to find a theater near you. 

The Politically Incorrect Jesus. That’s the provocative name of  a new book from Renaissance Communications founder Joe Battaglia. The Broadstreet Publishing paperback, due out Monday (2/2) consists of 24 penetrating essays in which the author argues against the moral hazards presented by meekly and mindlessly succumbing to the demands of the PC police.

“Political correctness,” Battaglia writes, “is intellectual suicide.” He warns that Christians, in the name of sensitivity or tolerance, are giving into PC pressure at great moral risk. In his book,  Battaglia calls on Christians to boldly make the case for the principles we believe in, asserting that “(Jesus) calls believers to be salt and light–not chameleons.”

Battaglia contends “American censorship is societal—an unwritten list of you-can’t-say-that.” And how does he suggest Christians respond? “Embrace who God Almighty designed you to be, men and women of counter-culture faith making a difference in a counterfeit world.”

Personally, I’m looking forward to reading The Politically Incorrect Jesus — and not just because Joe’s a friend of mine. I just think its high time that we, as a society, stop feeding the whoever-is-most-offended-wins beast. Real discussions of life-and-death issues are too often shut down because people are afraid that, if they bring up legitimate points or raise fair questions, they’ll be labeled a racist, a sexist, a hater or something-phobic. The result is public policy by name calling which is downright dangerous because it pits group against group and places group sensitivities over what should be the common quest for truth.

As Joe says “Truth flies in the face of fear and false sensitivities.”

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

From ring to screen: Champion boxer Manny Pacquiao’s faith-filled story told in new documentary

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Larger than life. Manny Pacquiao may be just over 5’6″ inches tall but anyone familiar the champion fighter (the first and only boxer to win world titles in eight different weight divisions) and his life story realizes that his physical size belies his actual power — both physically and in force of personality. In 64 pro fights that include 57 wins, 38 KO’s, 2 draws and only 5 losses (aka temporary setbacks), he has taken down many a larger fighter. But it is his personal determination and charisma that really set him apart as perhaps biggest name in boxing since Muhammad Ali.  Sure, it was his fists that catapulted him from abject poverty in the Philippines (where he was raised in the Catholic faith before, later, becoming an Evangelical Protestant) but it’s been that spark of something extra that has propelled him to a seat in the Philippine Parliament (to which he was elected at age 32) and even a short-but-successful singing career.
This week, Pacquiao, who is currently in tense negotiations to fight undefeated American boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr. , is busy promoting Manny, a new documentary about his struggles and accomplishments (which he credits to his faith in God). Manny debuts in theaters and On Demand tomorrow (1/23).
I recently had to the opportunity to go a round with Pacquiao — and by that I mean I got to ask him a few questions.  I then put some questions to producer Ryan Moore  who also co-directed the film (with Leon Gast). Moore, as you will read, had a personal reason for wanting to make this particular movie.

JWK: How does it feel to be the subject of a major documentary — to have this kind of worldwide interest in your life?

MANNY PACQUIAO: I feel so excited and happy for God to give me the opportunity for the movie Manny and I believe that I can inspire people of this life story.
JWK: How were you approached about the project?

MP: The director Ryan Moore called me and introduced an idea I couldn’t refuse.

JWK: What is it that the film reveals about you that people may not already know?MP: I wanted people to see what I have been through and to allow audiences and fans to see my life and journey that has led me to where I am today.JWK: I understand that you were raised Christian and are now a practicing Evangelical Christian. Can you tell me how and why you made the change?MP: I was raised Catholic and now I am a Christian and follow of the Lord Jesus Christ. I made the change because the Holy Spirit revealed a truth to me.

JWK: You grew up in incredible poverty and, through your success in the ring, now enjoy great wealth. How has your faith helped ground you and affected the way you handle fame and fortune?

MP: For me, It’s not about the wealth and fame. I am most concerned with my relationship to God, which is the most important.JWK: What role does faith play in the ring?MP: Faith is my motivation to win.

JWK: How are things looking for your fight with Floyd Mayweather? Are you feeling good about it?

MP: I have agreed to all of the negotiated terms and the only thing I’m waiting for is for Floyd to sign the contract. 

Update (from Inquisitr.com): Prospects for a Floyd Mayweather, Jr., vs. Manny Pacquiao fight happening in 2015, which appeared highly positive just days ago when Pacquiao said he had agreed to all of Mayweather’s terms, now suddenly look bleak, as Mayweather and his camp appear to be waging a campaign to push Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, out of the talks for the fight.

As I alluded to above, for producer/director Ryan Moore Manny’s story is one that touches him personally.
JWK: Can you tell me about your own background?RYAN MOORE: I was born and raised in California until my family moved to the Philippines when I was 14. While living there, I learned that my mom, like Manny, grew up very poor. Seeing that kind of abject poverty firsthand during my travels deeply shaped my life. Seeing those living conditions motivated me to want to tell inspiring stories of struggle and triumph. Manny became the first story I knew I had to tell.

JWK: Can you elaborate?

RM: I wanted to make a film about Manny because he overcame extraordinary obstacles in order to become a world champion boxer. From fighting as a child to feed his family to fighting opponents almost 20 pounds heavier than him, Manny defies the odds. He is a real life David (vs Goliath) story.

Manny believes that he is where he is because of God. He credits all of his success to his faith and I admire that. Despite the fact that he’s small in size, he’s holds the Guinness World Record for most world titles in weight divisions. To top it all off, he’s the biggest thing to ever come out of the Philippines, so as a Filipino American I had to tell his story.

JWK: What surprised you most about Manny?

RM: For a small guy, I was surprised at how much he eats! In a single day while he’s training for a fight, Manny eats 7,000 calories and burns 5,000 of them. I guess when you run 8 miles, do 2,000 sit ups and box for 3 hours that’s kind of necessary.
JWK: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?RM: I want people to feel inspired by Manny’s story. I hope after audiences see the film, they are able to see the fighter in their own lives – that no matter how many times they get knocked down, they’ll get back up.JWK: What do you intend to tackle next?

RM: After I’m done working on Manny,  I’m really looking forward to directing my first scripted feature film.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

DVD review: “Welcome to Inspiration” delivers a great sermon in a mediocre movie

posted by John W. Kennedy

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Out on DVD today (1/20): Welcome to Inspiration

Synopsis: After their car breaks down, a freelance journalist (Britt George) and his wife (Whitney Goin) spend time in a small town where a simple street sweeper (Jackie Stewart)  imparts the “Seven Revelations of Irrefutable Success” as revealed in The Bible. Directed by Erick Henson and Ryan Ramos, both of whom co-wrote the script with Scott Brooks. Inspired by the book The Street Sweeper by Tim Enochs. The movie features performances from a diverse line-up of artists including Larry Gatlin,  Jason Crabb, Christy Sutherland,  Regina McCrary (The McCrary Sisters), Andrew Greer, Andrea Thomas, Kaitlyn King, Terri Sharp and a score by Mike Viola (That Thing You Do, Walk Hard).

Foundational verse of the Story (per the film’s website):

The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.
– Deut. 29:29 NLT

Review: Those principles are timeless and great.  Who can argue with Biblical truths like “Seek and you shall find” and “It is better to give than to receive.” They definitely warrant reinforcement via good storytelling. And a movie in which the sophisticated-but-lost journalist sits down for a long and deep conversation with the lowly-but-wises street sweeper might have made for a good faith-driven take on My Dinner down with Andre.  Conversations about simple-yet-cosmic idea can be amazingly compelling.

But, unfortunately, the street sweeper and the journalist nearly disappear in a Crash-like collection of stories in which the seemingly-endless residents of the small town confront various crises while each receiving Biblically-based wisdom from those they happen across (i.e. a nurse, a prisoner in a jail or Larry Gatlin for some reason playing guitar in a dark alley).  Unfortunately, it all doesn’t come together in a way that is very interesting. As the Street Sweeper might agree, sometimes simpler is better.  And, BTW, I personally think The Street Sweeper would have made for a better film title.

Bottom line: In the end, Welcome to Inspiration offers a very good inspirational sermon wrapped up in a fairly dull movie.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Previous Posts

Why filmmaker/human rights advocate Jason Scott Jones takes abortion and other life issues personally
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture. Life matters. Jason Scott Jones was the emcee of a Students for Live of America event in association with the recent March for Life in Washington D.C.* Though the event was largely ignored by the mainstream media, it rep

posted 5:51:54am Jan. 30, 2015 | read full post »

"Exodus" encore + Would Jesus have been politically correct?
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture. Exodus success. Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, the one-night documentary theater event I told you about last week played to packed houses across the country Monday night -- leading Fathom Events to schedule an encore

posted 11:07:18am Jan. 27, 2015 | read full post »

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posted 6:07:50am Jan. 22, 2015 | read full post »

DVD review: "Welcome to Inspiration" delivers a great sermon in a mediocre movie
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture. Out on DVD today (1/20): Welcome to Inspiration https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQiGm6bR0KI Synopsis: After their car breaks down, a freelance journalist (Britt George) and his wife (Whitney Goin) spend time in a small t

posted 3:01:01pm Jan. 20, 2015 | read full post »

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