Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media:

Currents News, a Catholic news program which airs on NET TV in New York City and for which I book guests, recently featured Craig Antico on the program. As the founder and chief operating officer of RIP Medical Debt ( co-author the book End Medical Debt, he makes some great points here about an issue that usually flies under the radar. Enjoy the interview and, particularly if you or a loved one are currently dealing with the issue, I’d recommend the book.

BTW, as proud as I am that Currents News dealt with the topic, John Oliver beat us to it on HBO.

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



From my in-box:

A modern-day ecclesiastical thriller, THE APPARITION is a startlingly original contemporary drama about faith and spirituality. Written and directed by lauded French filmmaker Xavier Giannoli (Marguerite, In The Beginning), THE APPARITION follows a respected journalist whose belief system is profoundly shaken when he’s recruited by the Vatican to investigate an apparition of the Virgin Mary, witnessed by a similarly beguiling young woman.

César Award-winning actor Vincent Lindon stars as Jacques Mayano, a writer with a large regional newspaper in France who is tapped by the Vatican to lead a committee to explore the legitimacy of saintly apparitions in a small French village. Traveling to the village for this canonical investigation, he meets the young and sensitive Anna (Galatéa Bellugi), who claims to have witnessed a vision of the Virgin Mary. Though she has gained a captive audience following her declaration, Anna is torn between her faith and the many solicitations she receives. Confronted with opposing views from clergy members and skeptics, Jacques finds his own ideologies and values challenged as he works to uncover the hidden mysteries, motivations, and pressures surrounding Anna’s vision.

Writer-director Xavier Giannoli, having read an article on “canonical investigations” into allegedly supernatural events such as miraculous healings or apparitions, was thus inspired to make THE APPARITION. One of the first insights he gleaned during his pre-production research was that the church’s investigative commissions didn’t solely involve religious people.

“I wanted to [approach the subject] without bias or dogmatism, from the point of view of an ordinary person, not a philosopher or a theologian (which I’m not), but of a filmmaker with a desire for human truth,” he said. “That’s how I had the idea of this journalist character not being holier-than-thou or a cynical atheist—just a free man who wants to sort out what is true and what isn’t. I needed to re-appropriate these issues far from the clichés of the media’s portrayal, debates on the clash of civilizations, the return of religion and the fundamentalist extremism, or the Church and its scandals.”

Following screenings at international festivals in Moscow, Edinburgh, and Lisbon, among others, as well as a release in the nation’s top theatrical markets, THE APPARITION will be available on DVD and VOD (iTunes, Amazon Instant, FandangoNow, Vudu, GooglePlay and YouTube) for the first time on January 22, 2019 (prebook December 18, 2018). The DVD, which includes interviews with director Xavier Giannoli and the cast among its bonus features, carries a suggested retail price of $29.95.

Featuring outstanding performances by stars Vincent Lindon and Galatéa Bellugi, and stunning photography by ace cinematographer Eric Gautier (On the Road, The Motorcycle Diaries), Xavier Giannoli’s THE APPARITION is a remarkable humanist exploration that sees the world through the eyes of its conflicted protagonists and taps into the faith that lies within us all.

Here is what Catholics are saying about THE APPARITION:

“‘The Apparition’ is a gripping and sobering look at the Catholic Church’s process of investigation and validation of an alleged supernatural occurrence and the emotions, complications and perils surrounding such an event.” – Michael O’Neill, host of “The Miracle Hunter” on Relevant Radio and “They Might Be Saints” on EWTN, author of “Exploring the Miraculous” and expert on Marian apparitions.

“A gripping plot, masterful performances and a stunning revelation combine to make ‘The Apparition’ a fantastic viewing experience.” – Lisa M. Hendey, founder of 

“A riveting reflection on the incredible grace of the ordinary in the midst of extraordinary supernatural experience and how faith is a gift offered to those who seek understanding with sincere hearts.” – Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP, Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies 

God Friended Me airs Sunday nights on CBS, right after 60 Minutes.

God Friended Me, CBS’ hit series about an atheist named Miles (Brandon Michael Hall) who is friended on Facebook by someone claiming to be God. Whoever is behind the so-called “God account” (could it actually be God?) links him up with people who, it turns out, need his help.  In the above scene, Miles confronts his minister father on the subject of forgiving the drunk driver who ran down Miles’ mother 17 years ago.

Three Questions for Brandon Michael Hall

JWK: Why do you think the audience is embracing this show?

BRANDON MICHAEL HALL: One, we’re a positive show.  People are always looking for something positive to sit down and watch with their family. We’re also raising questions that other shows are not doing. We’re talking about communication. We’re talking about atheism. We’re talking about different religions…It’s a show that’s also educational. You can take a lot away from it.

JWK: You play the son of a preacher and you grew up the son of a minister. Do you ever feel as if you were called to do this show?

BMH: Absolutely. For my sister, her call was music. She’s about to graduate school and she is a teacher for children who have dyslexia and autism. And so that’s her calling. My mom’s calling is ministering through evangelism. Mine is ministering through the arts. It’s always been that way for me. I just knew I was going to take a different route. I was the rebel of the family. When this role came about, I was like this  is perfectly right up my alley.

JWK: What do you hope audience take from this show?

BMH: I hope audiences take away…a sense of hope, a sense of understanding — of someone else’s beliefs, of what they understand to be true. To see the world (through) a different lens, because it’s okay to question, it’s okay to try new things. That’s what we’re living life for. So, I hope that what people take away from it. And also the love aspect, having love for your family and other people. We definitely need that right now.



Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith and media:

20th Century Fox has released the trailer and official poster for Breakthrough, based on the inspirational true story of one mother’s unfaltering love in the face of impossible odds. When Joyce Smith’s adopted son John falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost, but Joyce refuses to give up and her steadfast belief inspires those around her to continue to pray for John’s recovery. From producer DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven) and adapted for the screen by Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds) from Joyce Smith’s own book, BREAKTHROUGH is described as an enthralling reminder that faith and love can create a mountain of hope, and sometimes even a miracle.

The “Breakthrough” trailer was launched less than 24 hours ago and already is up to 12.6 million views, total, across multiple platforms. There is significant buzz about the movie.