Persecuted Movie Review: Thanksgiving Turkey Comes Early

Back when my wife and I would often go to movies with other couples, I would tell a joke that “if I were a movie producer, what I would do is read Variety and keep track of the next blockbuster movie being made. Then I would make a similar movie, with a similar name, but extremely low budget. That way, when the blockbuster movie comes out and the ticket-buyers circle the block for it, maybe some of them will settle for my movie instead of waiting in line for the blockbuster. Or maybe some people will just get confused and go to my movie instead of the blockbuster. Either way, this plan is a sure-fire moneymaker!”

Jurassic Plaza and Supraman were some names suggested. This joke usually got a few cynical laughs.

I have since retired that joke, but you would think that with the other Christian or religious-themed movies out there, this might have been what motivated the promoters of the movie Persecuted. After all, religious movies Noah, Son Of God, and Heaven Is For Real, have just recently appeared in the theaters, so one could easily confuse the movie Persecuted with being in the same genre as the others. But no.

And that is a shame, because there is so much actual Christian persecution going on in the world. Like the Christians being killed in Nigeria, Egypt and Iraq, Meriam Ibrahim and her children held in Sudan, Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, and many, many others.

Or even the softer forms of Christian persecution going on everyday in the United States. For example, the Christian-run businesses like wedding cake-bakers or photographers who now must participate in gay weddings or shut down. Or the Mozilla CEO who was fired because he had supported a ballot measure, California’s Proposition 8, which passed with a majority of California voters in 2008.

Unfortunately, the movie Persecuted is a cheesy political thriller that involves a television evangelist pastor who opposes some legislation and gets framed for murder by the corrupt senator promoting the legislation. After faked photos turn up that show the drugged pastor and the girl later found murdered, the pastor goes on the run and becomes a fugitive. To clear his name, you know.

But the “persecution” for which the movie gets its name is not the widespread persecution of Christians. It refers to the persecution of an individual who happens to be Christian. Christianity is only tangentially related. The movie might have been more appropriately named “Frame-Up,” except it wouldn’t sell movie tickets to Christians like me, who want to see a movie addressing the issue of Christian persecution, and didn’t fully research the movie before putting our money down.

So the title “Persecuted” is misleading.

The movie is not even a good political frame-up movie. Loose threads abound. At one point the pastor’s wife was shown having a glass of champagne with her husband’s replacement pastor. The two of them make comments that give the impression that they were both in on the plot to frame her husband. But yet the wife looked stressed and guilty, and when her fugitive husband called her on the phone, she fills him in on the evidence against him, and advised him to lay low.

Here is an image from the movie Persecuted, showing the pastor, who is on the run from the law.  Notice the gun he is aiming at someone (!), and the rosary beads he carried, both of which drove me crazy in this movie.

Here is an image from the movie Persecuted, showing the pastor, who is on the run from the law. Notice the gun he is aiming at someone (!), and the rosary beads he carried, both of which drove me crazy in this movie.

And how did the fugitive pastor make a phone call to his wife without his cell phone being traced?

And why did the pastor, while on the run, begin carrying rosary beads? Someone should pull the movie director aside and explain to him that an evangelical pastor, like the protagonist here, would not carry rosary beads. Unless he converted to Catholicism while on the run.

And the fugitive pastor became less of a pastor and more like any other run of the mill fugitive when he carried a gun into his meetings with various players in the scheme. I’m pretty sure it is written in a pastor rule-book somewhere that you lose your moral authority as a pastor being framed when you bring a pistol to talk with someone.

And at another point in the movie the fugitive pastor calls a sympathetic priest “Dad.” Excuse me? Not “Father,” but “Dad.” “Dad” is a pretty loaded nickname to call a priest. It requires some explanation.

What about the involvement of Jesus or Scripture in this film? A couple of Bible verses, like John 14:6, were recited, but not explained or made relevant. Almost window-dressing.

And while he was on the run, the fugitive pastor prayed to God, but nothing changed as a result of the prayer. The plot didn’t change and the pastor didn’t change any of his strategy. The pastor didn’t even feel any more at peace.

What I would like to know is this: how did this movie get such a cast of respectable actors? Not Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, mind you, but Persecuted include some experienced actors like James Remar, Dean Stockwell, and former senator Fred Thompson. I am sure each of them have had lousy scripts suggested to them before, so they probably know the difference between a good movie and a bad one.

I have a theory, and here goes: the script that got these actors on board was far from what survived the editing process. The final product may have taken four hours, but there were no loose ends and everything made sense. Who knows, maybe the fugitive pastor did convert to Catholicism while on the run, got confirmed and was handed some rosary beads. That’s possible.

And then the film’s editor went to work and shortened the movie to two hours.

And speaking of the production process, at times the sound effects in Persecuted were just too loud. It gave the movie the feeling of a Spaghetti Western from the 1970’s. I almost expected a long list of Italians in the closing credits.

In the end, Persecuted is a flop of a movie — a real turkey — either as a movie of Christian persecution or as a political thriller. Save your money and wait for the movies Exodus or Mary, which come out later this year. Or with any luck the Kendrick brothers will come out with another movie soon.


This column was originally published in Caffeinated Thoughts

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Football Player Shoots Off Mouth, Unites Previously-Ambivalent Fans Behind Opposing Team

There I was, minding my own business, watching the after-game show on TV after the Seattle Seahawks had just narrowly defeated my team, the San Francisco 49’ers, in the playoffs.  Now I had to decide which team to root for in the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos.

There were pros and cons to each team.  I have close family living near both Denver and Seattle.  On political matters, Colorado voters had recently recalled some of their legislators who had passed some gun control laws, and this made me like Colorado.  But Washington state is one of the few states without a state income tax.  I like that.

Regarding the mascots of the two teams, the “Bronco” is the same mascot as my law school, so this doesn’t sit well with me, but the “Seahawk” is a fictional creature.  No such thing exists in nature.  Maybe I am a stickler for details, but I have a hard time rooting for a team with a totally fictional mascot.  True, I once advocated voting for a fictional person, George Bailey, for president, but this is important.  Which Super Bowl team to root for is a very important issue for the average American guy.

The mascots, the cities, the players, the local political issues; all were important considerations, but no single issue had yet made up my mind as to which team to root for.  Then I saw the following interview between Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews and Richard Sherman, a pass defender for the Seattle Seahawks:

Andrews: Alright, Richard, let me ask you the final play, take me through it.

Sherman: Well I’m the best corner in the game!  When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get!  Don’t you ever talk about me!

Andrews: Who was talking about you?

Sherman: Crabtree.  Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!  L.O.B.!

Andrews: Alright before … and … Joe, back over to you!

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman shoots his mouth off

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman shoots his mouth off

Richard Sherman sounded like a total thug; a graceless winner!  What an incredible jerk!  True, football is an aggressive, physical game, but when a player is interviewed, especially after a close win like this, they are supposed to thank their teammates and show a little sportsmanship.  For a moment there Sherman even looked like he was a danger to anyone nearby, especially the unfortunate reporter who quickly ended the interview.

What is it with celebrities nowadays?  Why is there so little class and respectability among those famous sports players and entertainers?  It’s pretty frustrating.

Even more frustrating is the way some people are defending Sherman’s thuggish rant.

One commentator said, “Sherman was in the zone, give him a break.”

But the game was already over.  If that was Sherman’s mindset, he needs to learn to shut it off after the game is over, so that he can act like a normal person and not a thug.

Then there was this: “Sherman graduated from Stanford, you know.”

Like I care!  Stanford, like any other university is perfectly capable of graduating jerks.

Kids nowadays look up to sports figures like Richard Sherman.  Any time a sport figure or celebrity accomplishes anything immediately tangible, like a football game, they gain the admiration of countless American kids.  It would be nice if a celebrity in the spotlight would realize this and act accordingly.

Instead we are treated with television spectacles of Sherman’s rant, or basketball star Dennis Rodman yucking it up with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, or formerly-wholesome Mylie Cyrus sexually-dancing, or “twerking” with other singers on a stage.  I could go on.

Of course there have been exceptions.  Not every American celebrity is a jerk.   Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken, Jr., Tim Tebow, and Joe DiMaggio are some names that come to mind.

I once met a celebrity with class.  A few years ago, through a series of family connections and events, I found myself having lunch with country-western singer Brad Paisley.  Just a few handlers, friends, Brad Paisley and me.  Paisley’s career had just begun, but you could already tell that he had class.

I relayed to him that I had recently seen a movie about the rock group R.E.M., and the lead singer refused a fan’s request for an autograph.  The R.E.M. singer just couldn’t be bothered.

Paisley couldn’t believe it.  “Ah reckon ah will always give an autograph to anyone who asks f’r it,” he said.  He might not have used the word ‘reckon,’ but he did have a country accent.  Paisley also said that signing autographs was important.

But the point is that despite his success, Paisley showed respect for someone besides himself.  Maybe not DiMaggio-esque, but good enough.  We fans don’t expect perfection, just some respect for the fans and a semblance of humility.

And we fans certainly don’t like it when what should be a pretty routine interview turns into a thuggish proclamation of superiority over some rival, a threat of “shutting your mouth real quick,” and a reporter who feels unsafe standing nearby.

Yes, for this Super Bowl I am now officially a Broncos fan.  And I am sure there are many formerly-ambivalent fans, just like me, now rooting for the Broncos.

And I hope that the Broncos score the winning touchdown by a pass that is caught in spite of Richard Sherman’s pass defense!  That would be nice.



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Was The “Ship Of Fools” Incident A Set-Up? And If Not, Why Not?

The last several weeks have witnessed a delicious spectacle, at least for us global-warming “deniers,” as a ship filled with eco-tourists and global warming scientists boarded a ship to sail to Antarctica and record the melted ice there.  The so-called “Ship Of Fools” got stuck there, and another ship sent to rescue them also got stuck in what is now known to be record ice in an area that was supposed to be ice-free or at least mostly un-frozen.  It is summer in Antarctica, you know.

Stuck in ice that was supposed to be melted by global warming

Stuck in ice that was supposed to be melted by global warming

You had to know that this would happen.  In 2008, former Vice President Al Gore famously predicted that “the entire north polar ice cap will be completely gone in five years.”  Gore is really on a roll.  The “Gore Effect,” as it is now known, has become a pretty reliable reverse indicator of regional weather following a specific Gore prediction or even a local appearance by Mr. Gore.  The believers who got stuck in Antarctica were a repeat of similarly-intentioned activists who last year got stuck sailing in Arctic ice in the Northwest Passage.

My question is this: was the Antarctica trip a set-up?  It seems almost too good to be true.  This expedition would seem to confirm the “denier” side of the global warming debate.  Global warming theories and computer models are one thing, but when a ship of warming scientists travels to Antarctica to record melting ice there, and instead gets stuck in record ice, it is a little difficult to argue around that.

If this was a set-up, it would be a change in tactics.  On the op-ed pages, our side’s argument is practically lost before it even begins.  Here is how it works.  A hypothetical debate in 2008:

Warmist: “Carbon emissions in the atmosphere are so bad that within five years the polar ice caps will be entirely melted.”

Denier:  “That is crazy.  It won’t happen.  There is no scientific basis for that.”

Fast forward five years, and with the ice caps still there, the 2008 prediction is long forgotten or ignored  by the mainstream media.  And instead of a reply by the Denier, above, the entire conversation is now swept under the rug by the media.  It’s as if the prediction never happened.  No need to discuss anything about “how the prediction turned out.”  Pesky details that are universally ignored.

Ed Driscoll at PJ Media has pointed out that the original video clip of Al Gore making his prediction has been scrubbed from the Internet, and the only remaining video clip is from a German publication of some sort.  Despite the German interpreter speaking, the viewer can still see and barely hear the famous Gore 5-year prediction.

If this was not a set-up by some global warming deniers, maybe it should have been.  And there should be more like this in the future.  Our side needs to counter prevalent arguments with media stunts, because scientific logic is just not working with the general public.

A few months ago a book was released by James O’Keefe, a guy who makes fools of liberals, not by arguing with them, but by video-taping the proof of conservative sides of various arguments and sending the videos out into the Internet, where the videos promptly go viral.

Was the group ACORN corrupt?  Of course not, replied the mainstream media.  “ACORN is a virtuous organization.  Pure as the wind-driven snow.  Everyone knows that.”  An undercover O’Keefe video showing O’Keefe and a friend posing as a pimp and a prostitute, being advised by ACORN workers, begged to differ, and quickly won the argument.  Following this video Congress decided to stop funding ACORN.

Same for the potential for abuse in voting without identification.  Another undercover O’Keefe video showed an O’Keefe assistant going to a Washington DC voting station and claiming to be (Attorney General) Eric Holder.  Without asking for any identification, the poll worker quickly offers Holder’s ballot.

There are other examples, but the point is that in a world where 95% of the media dismisses or ignores conservative arguments, making an argument is simply not enough.  Our side has to do media stunts that show, instead of argue, the righteousness of conservative principles.  And the media stunts need to be big enough to be a media story.

So the next time a global warming scientist proposes to hire a ship to travel to Antarctica and study changes in the ice there, the ship should not be allowed to just sail from New Zealand to Cape Denison in Antarctica for two weeks in December and January.  No.  Additional ports of call in several world coastal cities should be funded, with media events and lots of fanfare along the way.  There should be parties with local celebrities, corporate sponsorships, telethons to pay for more travelers, parades; the possibilities are endless!

And when the inevitable – global warming discredited — happens, the media spotlight will be more and more drawn to the reality of what was not predicted.



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Healthcare Prison Blues

Last week, country-western stars Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood sang a little tribute to the on-going disaster that is Obamacare. We thought we would check in with Johnny Cash and see if he had any song to sing on the subject.  He said there was in fact a certain song that had been creeping and crawling around his head, and it goes like this:

(To the tune of Folsom Prison Blues)



The Man In Black sings a ditty to Obamacare

I hear the train wreck coming

it’s rollin’ round the bend,

and I don’t see it workin’ ‘til I don’t know when.

I’m stuck in Healthcare website,

and time keeps draggin’ on.

But that train wreck keeps a rollin’

on down to San Antone


When I was just a baby, my momma told me “Son,

always have insurance, don’t ever go it alone.”

But when I got that cancellation letter,

I just wanted to die.

And now I get that error message,

I hang my head and cry.


I bet there’s politicians gettin’ fancy insurance plans.

They’re probably gettin’ covered for everything they need.

Well I know I had it comin’ …

no insurance for free.

But those pols get their exemptions,

and that’s what tortures me.


Well if they freed me from healthcare prison

and my old health plan was mine

I bet I’d move it on a little further down the line,

far from healthcare prison.

That’s where I want to stay.

And I’d let my old healthcare plan

blow my blues away


Sing along here:


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Meanwhile, On Al Jazeera America …

It has been almost two months since Al Jazeera America (AJA), the American outlet of Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera, debuted in the U.S. Viewers of the network note its impressive graphics and lack of commercials, a welcomed change of pace compared to most cable news in the States. The network also employs a host of familiar faces that help bolster AJA’s image as just another news network. It remains to be seen just how radical AJA will let its coverage becomes once it grows more assured of its acceptance into the mainstream. Already AJA’s Sunni sponsors have let the mask slip.

AJA LogoDespite a petition drive to exclude AJA from cable distribution, AJA’s coverage is definitely on the rise.  Last spring and summer, AJA went on a hiring spree, hiring producers, writers, technicians, and hundreds of other staffers.  AJA also snapped up big news names like Joie Chen, David Shuster and Soledad O’Brien, and then opened 12 American bureau offices.  Broadcasting began August 20.

Of course, AJA is not just another news network.  AJA’s parent company, Al Jazeera, is owned by the government of Qatar, the tiny, oil-rich, Sunni Muslim state in the Persian Gulf, bordering Saudi Arabia.  Qatar is ruled by Shiekh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who, despite his personal business dealings with Israel, is pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Israel.  Al Jazeera’s news coverage has reflected those views.

In fact, Al Jazeera is so pro-Muslim Brotherhood it recently got kicked out of Egypt for instigating Muslim Brotherhood protests there.  In 2008, Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau chief threw an on-air birthday party for Samir Kuntar, convicted killer of an Israeli family.

Americans learned to hate Al Jazeera in the days after 9-11, when Al Jazeera first repeated the charge that American Jews were warned beforehand of the attacks in New York, then repeatedly broadcast interviews of Osama bin Laden.  Al Jazeera has even described the War on Terror as “so-called,” and suicide bombings as “paradise operations.”

Through the years Al Jazeera has had on-air personalities who were blatantly anti-Semitic.  One popular Al Jazeera show, “Shari’a and Life,” features a host who regularly criticizes Shiites, Americans and Jews.

During the height of the Iraqi war years, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described Al Jazeera as “the mouthpiece of Al Qaeda,” while President George W. Bush referred to Al Jazeera as “a terrorist organization.” Upon the initial invasion of Afghanistan and later in Iraq, US military forces bombed local Al Jazeera offices because of the support they had given terrorists.

Now that AJA is on the air in the US, Americans will get to judge for themselves if AJA will be an independent news network covering news items important to Americans, or if AJA possesses the dispositions of its parent company.

While the network’s foreign news coverage is acceptable, the viewer gets the feeling that AJA is “up to something” whenever the news involves Israel, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Mideast in general.

Take for example the network’s coverage of the civil war in Syria.  A Pew studyrevealed that most of the Syrian coverage by AJA was similar to most other American networks, but AJA spent much more time covering the humanitarian aspects of the story and the hardships of the rebels.  And no wonder – Qatar has funded the rebels.

In its domestic news coverage, AJA is clearly left-leaning.  Typical of a pattern, in a recent day’s news broadcast, President Obama is shown speaking and blaming Republicans for the government shut-down, then the GOP response was only paraphrased in passing by the show’s anchor.

Strictly as a marketing issue, this liberal domestic news slant puts AJA in the same crowded category as most other American news channels, like ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR and MSNBC, leaving Fox News alone in the right-of-center TV news coverage.  Granted, AJA is only weeks old, but so far it is positioning its domestic news coverage in a pretty crowded field.

One recent episode of an in-depth news talk show on AJA, “The Stream,” revealed a definite anti-Israeli bias.  The episode addressed the issue of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and how to get Israel to discuss peace.  Special guests included members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which is a scandal in and of itself. The ISM is an organization, not of peace activists, but of para-militants who actively work with Palestinian terrorists and who call for armed force against Israel. ISM activists protect weapons-smuggling tunnels and have been photographed with assault weapons. Another group on the show calling itself Combatants For Peace (CFP) equates Israeli soldiers with Palestinian “combatants” (i.e. terrorists).  Neither the CFP nor ISM’s websites acknowledges Israel’s right to exist, even with defensible borders.  The Stream even included a former Israeli soldier, who complained of Israeli aggression against Palestinians.  He was probably trying to be Israel’s version of John Kerry, circa 1971.

The show featured furrowed brows and hand-wringing about how to get “both sides to stop talking past each other,” and how to “open a dialogue.”  A stream of viewer tweets across the bottom of the screen confirmed that the viewers were of the same mindset.  There was also some talk of “Israel’s occupation” and the need to boycott Israel’s products in order to foster peace talks.

AJA also maintains a website to supplement its on-air overage.  Recently, the website reported on a study that calculated the number of deaths from the Iraqi war to be over 500,000, dramatically higher than estimates from most other studies.  The website also included a letter from an inmate and hunger-striker at Guantanamo, complaining of the force-feeding he has to endure to keep him alive.  Poor guy!

So what is a news-watcher to do?  When it comes to foreign news coverage, most of the important news involves Middle East matters, a subject where AJA is pretty biased. For domestic news, so far AJA’s coverage is similar to the coverage of several other networks.

But beyond these questions, what is the point of Al Jazeera even coming to America?  Why would the Emir of Qatar go through the hassle and expense?  One theory could be that AJA is some sort of pan-Arab pride project.  And it is true that most significant regions of the world have at least one major news network.  Some have also speculated that AJA is just a vanity project on the part of the Emir of Qatar, which is possible.

One other theory, and it is speculative but worth pondering, is that AJA may be getting into the American mainstream, slowly getting accepted, so that if there is another 9-11, a war involving Israel, or some other mass terrorist event, AJA will be there to share its pro-Al Qaeda or anti-Israel side to American viewers.  Kind of an “embedded news network,” ready to propagandize at a moment’s notice. Given Al Jazeera’s past loyalties to Al Qaeda and positions against the US and Israel, it is certainly possible.

When Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, he is reported to have said that Al Jazeera “gives a voice to those who are not typically heard,” and “speaks truth to power.” Actually, in the event of a war involving Israel or another large-scale terrorist attack against Americans, AJA will be a vehicle for arguing against speaking truth to terrorist powers. It may in fact be terrorized Americans.


This column was originally published in Front Page Magazine

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