Idol Chatter

As the new Star Wars movie Solo makes its debut, the American Bible Society decided to survey people to find out if they could tell the difference between a quote from Jesus and a quote from Han Solo and the results were astonishing.

As part of the American Bible’s Society’s annual State of the Bible Survey, participants of the survey were asked whether Jesus or Hands Solo said, “You are from this world, but I am not.” While 48 percent knew these were Jess’ words, as found in the Gospel of John, nearly the same number did not know who said it or thought it was neither Jesus nor Han Solo.

Founded in 1816, American Bible Society works to make the Bible available to every person in various formats and languages that people can understand and afford so that all may receive the message of Jesus Christ.

The survey the American Bible Study conducted showed that higher Bible engagement – as measured by frequency of Bible reading as well as the impact of the Bible on choices, relationships and lives – equated with the correct identification of Jesus – 78 percent of Bible Centered and 71 percent of Bible Engaged, knew these words were spoken by Jesus.

Recent studies show that most Americans, even Evangelicals who love and quote Scripture have little understanding of the Bible. According to a report by Barna Group and American Bible Society, majority of U.S. adults said they considered themselves “highly, moderately or somewhat knowledgeable of the Bible,” but less than half of the group were able to name the first five books of the Bible, and in previous reports even fewer knew that John the Baptist was not one of the 12. When you ask many Christians how often they engage with the Bible, they will say often but engage with it very little outside of the context of church, and daily emailed Scripture. We can’t deny that many Christians have trouble reading the Bible.

Some experts believe that the decline in Biblical literacy is because of the changing ways Americans view the Bible. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There was a time when Christians were known as ‘people of the book’. They were often engulfed in the Bible, memorizing it, meditating on it, and sharing that Scripture with others. In today’s age, our world is so fast-paced, and our attention spans are so short that many Christians don’t spend time engaging in the Bible like we used to. This is so common that many Christians don’t know basic facts about the Bible or even Jesus’ teachings. Another reason is because many Christians don’t think of the Bible as an authoritative voice but more as a book filled with one-liner wisdom.

Statistics show that just a little over a third of Americans read the Bible once a week or more and over a quarter of Americans never read the Bible. But there is hope. Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society believes the findings of this survey point to an opportunity for increased Bible’s literacy.

“It’s encouraging to see that many Americans recognized this quote from Jesus,” said Peterson. “However, with roughly 50 percent unclear as to who said it, it is evident there is a wonderful opportunity for American’s knowledge for the Bible to increase.”

Joe Seer/

Joe Seer/

Actor, writer, director and producer are a just a few of Tyler Perry’s titles and accolades. Hi smost successful movies have grossed more than $600 million at the box office. He also created and produced several successful television shows. While many people are familiar with his work on screen, many people don’t know how big a role faith has influenced his work.

Perry’s childhood was horrific. He was physically abused by his father and a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of several adults inside and outside the home.

There was one particular beating that he still lives with. It was the time his father brutally whipped him with a vacuum cord.

“To this day, I don’t know why he did it. But I remember him cornering me in a room and hitting me with this vacuum cleaner cord. He would just not stop. There are all these welts on me, the flesh that’s coming from my bone, and I had to wait for him to go to sleep,” Perry told Oprah. “When he fell asleep, I ran to my aunt’s house, and she was mortified when she saw it.”

There was another vicious beating from his father that Perry recounts. It was so bad that he blacked out for three days.

“He played mind games with me,” Perry said.

In this particular situation, his father asked him to change a tire. As he tried to loosen the bolts, his father screamed and cursed at him. Even his mother and uncle tried to help him, but they couldn’t stop the inevitable from happening.

“My father couldn’t get the bolts off either because they were rusted,” Perry said. “He looked up at me and there was a smirk on my face. All I remember is him tackling me, and I remember holding onto a chain-link fence so tight, my hands are bloody and he’s hitting me.”

Perry was dying inside. He lived in such fear of his father as a child that he attempted suicide.

“I thought, ‘What is the point of living,’” he said in an interview with Oprah. “My mother was truly my saving grace, because she would take me to church with her. I would see my mother smiling in the choir, and I wanted to know this God that made her so happy. If I had not had that faith in my life, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”

Perry turned to God at an early age and made faith his refuge.

“I am a Christian, I am a believer, and I know had I not been a person of faith, I couldn’t be here in this place, and I wouldn’t be walking the path I’m on now,” Perry shared with Beliefnet. “And I think the greater good of the path I’m on now is to teach people to learn to forgive and move on, in a way that’s done through the healing power of humor.”

Perry is a devout Christian and faith shows in all his work. Whether it’s his popular character “Madea” dropping lessons of faith in movies and plays, or scenes that show characters come forward publicly to make their commitment to Christ, he always finds a way to bring faith into his work.  Perry has also said that he’s “not afraid to have a character say, “I am Christian,” or “I believe in God,” which really speaks to his strong faith.

Many of Perry’s characters on stage and in film touch on faith in some way. His character, Madea is one of them. She knows nothing about Salvation, but because she is so funny she’s been able to draw so many people in to listen to what she has to say, Perry said.

“What I’ve been able to do with my character, Madea, and the other characters, with the jokes, is use it as an aesthetic to get to the heart and soul of real issues. And what I’ve found on stage over the years is that, while making people laugh, I can drop in pearls of wisdom. That’s like tilling the soil for the weeds to be planted. And that’s what I’ve tried to do, to plant seeds that will grow into good situations, seeds that will grow into abundant life for many people.”

Today, Perry is a media powerhouse, building an entertainment empire that consists of successful films, plays and a best-selling book. But even in his success, he never lost sight of God and his faith.  Faith continues to be a recurring theme in his work.

“Family and faith are both very important to me, and forgiveness,” Perry said. “I think that with everything I’ve done, in the end, whoever the central character is, they would find a way to forgive, because that’s really important to me. Forgiveness is important in families, especially when there are so many secrets that need to be healed – for the most part, every family’s got them.”

Forgiveness is a central tenant in Christianity and also in Perry’s life.

“[Forgiveness] is very important to me because I grew up the first 28 years of my life, very unhappy….” Perry said. “It was at that time that I forgave my father for a lot of the things that had been done, and my life changed, and I learned how powerful it is, and how, in order to be forgiven, you have to forgive others.”

Paul_Schrader_Montclair_Film_Festival_(cropped)Paul Schrader is no stranger to battling movie financiers over the final cuts of his films. He has lost that battle before, including when it surrounded the 2014 film “Dying of the Light.” The difference between the final cut of the film and Schrader’s cut were wildly different and evoked a very different reaction from the 71 year old writer and director than final cuts had in the past.

“I never cared that much for the final cut in the past, because you were always dealing with studio heads who were movie people–they all liked movies. But now I was dealing with financial people,” Schrader said. “That was a very, very bad experience. I spiraled into alcoholism and depression, and I thought that was it: The last film in my career was going to be a fiasco.”

Schrader, however, was not through yet. He created “First Reformed,” a film that was greeted as Schrader’s masterpiece and snapped up by A24 when it made its festival rounds in Toronto. The film deals with a pregnant woman named Mary who is being pushed by her radical environmentalist husband to get an abortion as he feels that the world is on the brink of an ecological collapse. Mary seeks council from Reverend Toller, a despondent minister who is at a bit of a loss for how to help her.

Like many other films, “First Reformed” touches on tricky issues, including the nature of faith, the role of capitalism in modern day organized religion and the responsibility of mankind toward nature. Unlike many movies, however, “First Reformed” does not leave these questions rhetorical but plays out the confrontation between the two sides throughout the movie.

“Most contemporary movies don’t ask you to think; they don’t ask unanswerable questions,” said Ethan Hawke, the actor who plays Reverend Toller. “A lot of filmmakers have an agenda: They’re trying to convince you to think the way that they think. What [Schrader] is doing is my favorite thing a filmmaker can do, which is present life to you so that you ask yourself these questions.”

“First Reformed” appears to have been well-received so far, and Schrader is hopeful that the film will continue to do well. “That same feeling I had about ‘Dying of the Light’–is this going to be the end?—I’m having that feeling again,” Schrader said. “Only now it feels good instead of bad.”

Lionsgate-I_Can_Only_ImagineFaith based films normally get a lukewarm reception at best outside of purely Christian festivals and venues, but that may be changing in France. The 2018 Cannes film festival featured a number of films with Christian themes and narratives. Among them were “An Interview With God,” “Samson,” “God Bless the Broken Road” and the Wim Wenders’ documentary “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.” These films would typically have been more or less ignored by international buyers, but they have received a surprisingly warm welcome this year.

“An Interview With God” stars David Strathairn and Brenton Thwaites and follows “an up-and-coming journalist [who] finds his world and faith increasingly challenged when he’s granted the interview of a lifetime–with someone who claims to be God.” The film has found surprising traction with international buyers. Ellen Wander from Film Bridge International is selling the film, and she is in the process of closing deals for the U.K., Australia, the Philippines, German and Latin America. She said that she was skeptical when she was first approached to take on the movie. “I felt reluctant because I thought, ‘Oh, my god, there really isn’t an evangelical community outside of the United States,’” Wander said. “But we’ve been getting interest from places like China – I never would have thought that – Japan, the U.K., spots that typically don’t respond to these kinds of films.”

“An Interview With God” is not the only film to receive unexpected international interest. The film “I Can Only Imagine” enjoyed incredible success in the U.S., and Lionsgate has scooped up the rights for China, a country that was once an impossible place for a faith-based film to succeed. Prior to Cannes, the film had made deals to show in Latin America, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa, Korea, Russia and the Middle East. At Cannes, the Lighthouse Alliance secured the rights for the U.K., and Kino Swiat won the bid for rights in Poland. The film is currently in negotiations in Scandinavia and Benelux.

“Broken Road,” which focuses on a young mother who is widowed after her husband is killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan, has received interest at Cannes. “Samson,” the action-adventure story of the titular Biblical hero, is also doing brisk business. Ron Gell of Pure Flix/Quality Flix thinks that the genre of “Samson” is part of the reason it has garnered more interest than his previous hit, “God Is Not Dead.” “[‘Samson’] definitely has a wider global appeal [than ‘God Is Not Dead’] because [‘Samson’] is seen not just as a Biblical or faith-based story, or a mainly American story, but as an action-adventure film.”

The festival brass at Cannes is still hesitant when it comes to faith-based films, but the success of this year’s offerings may mean that there will be an increasing number of Christian offerings on the table in coming years. Only time will tell.