Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith and media: 9/28/20

Then Came You is releasing via Fathom for one night only screenings in select theaters nationwide on September 30th and will be available on-demand and digital on October 2nd.

Then Came Kathie Lee Gifford. In her new movie Then Came You, the legendary talk show host stars as a recent widow who embarks on a trip around the world with her late husband’s ashes and a plan to visit locations immortalized in the movies they loved watching together. That plan takes some unplanned twists and turns during her first stop thanks to a rather quirky Scottish innkeeper (played by fellow talk show great Craig Ferguson). Besides playing the female lead, Kathie Lee wrote the screenplay and co-wrote (with Brett James) the six (!) songs featured in the film’s soundtrack.

The last time I spoke with this multi-talented and very down-to-earth woman was in 2012 when she was promoting her Broadway musical Scandalous, The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson for which she wrote both the book and lyrics (with music by avid Friedman and David Pomeranz). I just had the opportunity to chat with her about Then Came You.  Given the fact that her character in the movie is such a movie buff, I felt I just had to ask her what her favorite film is and why.

She told me that Funny Girl (the 1968 Barbra Streisand classic cited by her character) is one her all-time favorite, adding that “It came at a time in my life when I really, really was trying to figure out what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do professionally. Barbra Streisand has one of the most glorious voices God ever gives a human being and so I’ve always loved that story of a young Jewish girl, Fannie Bryce, who becomes a super-big Broadway star but deals with personal issues and heartbreak in her romantic life. I always like movies like that.”

As for more recent movies she admires, she cites Mel Gibson’s 2016 faith-themed war epic Heartbreak Ridge that told the true story Desmond Doss (portrayed in the movie by Andrew Garfield),  an American pacifist combat medic and Seventh-day Adventist Christian who refused to ever carry or firearm or weapon of any kind, including onto the battlefield. For his extraordinary heroism in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, he became the nation’s first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

“I thought that was an absolutely brilliant film,” she lauded. “That’s the one in the last few years that has stood out to me as one of the most powerful (movies).” She also noted that “It’s very hard to do a faith-based movie (that is) true to life without it becoming clichéd or saccharin-ish. I just thought Mel did an incredible job and (Andrew Garfield” was brilliant. So, that was my favorite ones from the last few years.”

Whether it be a faith-themed film or not, she declares “I’m not a big froth fan.  I like a little bit of it on my latte but that’s all. I don’t like it in my movies.

Then Came You,” she forthrightly says, at least strictly speaking, not a “faith-based film.” Having seen the movie, I would say that’s correct – but I think it’s also fair to say that it is faith friendly, particularly for those who believe in a God of gentle, non-judgmental gentle love – and who has a genuine sense of humor. Anyway, I’ll be posting my review of the film on Wednesday.

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Can an African-American priest and a traditional Jewish rabbi share a talk show without driving each other crazy? The world will learn the answer to that burning questions tomorrow (9/29) at 3:00 PM (ET). That’s when Father Alonzo Cox and Rabbi Brad Hirschfield (aka The God Couple) host their very first special on SiriusXM’s Catholic Channel/129.

Through lots of humor, reliance on eternal wisdom, mutual respect and a commitment to honestly talk through differences and find common ground, Rabbi Brad and Fr. Alonzo will spend an hour sharing their personal stories regarding their diverse backgrounds and tradition while also tackling the significant political and cultural stories of the week. Their guests will include St. John’s University Political Science Professor Brian Browne (talking about tomorrow night’s presidential debate) and legendary high wire artist/acrobat Nik Wallenda (discussing his new book Facing Fear: Step Out in Faith and Rise Above What’s Holding You Back).

About Father Alonzo Cox
In 2014, Father Alonzo became the youngest pastor in the Diocese of Brooklyn, serving St. Martin DePorres Parish (consisting of Our Lady of Victory, Holy Rosary and St. Peter Claver churches) in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He’s also coordinator of the Dioceses’ African-American Apostolate and Ministry to African-American Catholics. While The Bible is his favorite book, Father Alonzo is also a huge fan of all things Star Trek. He also loves The Godfather movies and has collected every Christmas Hess Truck since he was seven. His musical tastes run from classical to hip hop to Gregorian chant.

About Rabbi Brad Hirschfield
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield is president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), a training institute, think tank and resource center nurturing religious pluralism within the Jewish community and beyond. His numerous books include You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (Crown Publishing, 2008). He has been recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis and as one the nation’s most significant Preachers and Teachers by Beliefnet. Thus far, his life’s journey has brought him to every continent (except Antarctica) and meet three US presidents (George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama), three kings (of Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Spain) and one Pope (Benedict XVI). For all the honors he has received, he considers his greatest accomplishments to be his successful 31-year marriage to his wife Rebecca and raising their three “incredible” daughters. As for music, he considers himself to be a classic rock kind of guy.

A Personal Note

As the creator of this humble little concept, my hope is that, at a time when discussions of social change and cultural pluralism are on everyone’s lips and minds, The God Couple will celebrate diverse backgrounds and perspectives while offering a way forward toward the Promised Land of common ground. It’s a path that is paved with the eternal wisdom and values of positive faith. Both cutting-edge and healing, The God Couple is intended to reach beyond the boundaries of churches and synagogues to connect with an audience that is thirsty for constructive dialogue. So, do me a favor and tune in.

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

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