Christian movie revenue shocks Hollywood, blows past estimates — here’s why you need to see it


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NEW MOVIE ROCKS BOX OFFICE WITH CHRISTIAN MESSAGE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, so often on this podcast, we have to talk about situations that are in the news that aren’t overly pleasant or exciting and sometimes they can be downright depressing.

Today, I want to talk about something that, in fact, your church, Briarwood, has been involved in. It’s an outreach event but it’s also an entertainment event. It’s the new movie that’s just out, entitled “I Can Only Imagine.” It’s a faith-based film from Roadside Attractions. Friends who have been on this program before, directors Andrew and John Erwin, are the directors.

It surprised a lot of people this past weekend, Harry, as Variety reports “I Can Only Imagine” hauled in $17.1 million at 1,600 movie theaters across North America. The estimates put it originally at the $2 million to $8 million range, so it has exceeded everyone’s expectations.
FILMMAKERS BRING CHRISTIANITY TO THE THEATERS

HARRY REEDER: That’s been a real answer to prayer as we prayed for the Lord to bless the use of this. We do enjoy the Erwin brothers and have a great relationship with them with many, many conversations about “Christian world and life view” entertainment and their abilities and insights are so encouraging — what they’ve done.

If you’ve never seen the movie “Woodlawn” that they did, you need to do that. They’ve put out about three or four excellent movies. They came to us with this one and we began to talk about it. I immediately brought our staff to see it because I felt this would be a great outreach. It’s not a sermon put to a film; it is a story that brings the truth of the Gospel but told in terms of story form, which they did really, really well.

Three things about it when you go:

— Expect to enjoy it

— Take your spouse

— Be sure and bring a handkerchief.

But, by the way, I would encourage you not only to take your spouse, but do what we did where we reserved some venues for the showing of it, made the tickets available at a lower cost to our people if they would bring someone whom they were sharing the Gospel with, and then determined to afterward’s have an ice cream or have a cup of coffee and talk about what you have heard.

MOVIE TELLS STORY OF REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION

In a sense, I can sum it up this way: There is the very famous song that was triple platinum, “I Can Only Imagine.” It did all the crossover. Bart Miller was the writer and singer of the song. The movie tells the story behind the song, which is a story of — if I can put it in his words: “How did the man I hated the most become the man I wanted to be most like?”

And it was the conversion of his father and what God did in the life of his father and how that set him free in the things that he had dealt with his whole life under the abusive relationship with his dad.

Dennis Quaid, the actor of the father, turns in a masterful performance. By the way, you also get a look at Cloris Leachman. She’s still acting and, in fact, not to give away too much, it’s her comment that becomes a stimulation to the song that Bart Miller writes.

It’s just an amazing story. You’ve got to go see it, but please make use of it. Go enjoy it as a date night and then go take two or three people after you’ve seen it and prepare yourself to go back to see it.

STUNNING NUMBERS AS IT BEATS OUT HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTERS

Now, what’s interesting, Tom, it almost knocked off three other movies.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Yeah, in fact, Harry, it came in third place. “Black Panther” and “Tomb Raider” did a little bit better than “I Can Only Imagine,” but beat out the new Disney film, “A Wrinkle in Time.”

DR. REEDER: It beat out a number — a number — of films that Hollywood was utterly committed to. And they had pretty well dismissed this and here it is in a fraction of theaters — those other theaters were well over the 2,000 mark that they were available in — but, in 1,600 theater openings, it was able to do this well.

MAKING THE MOVIE AFFECTED FAITH OF THE ACTORS AND AUDIENCE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, faithit.com has reported that, apparently, being a part of this movie has rekindled in Dennis Quaid a desire to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, after this production was over, he went back and finished writing a song dedicated to his mom, which he started more than 25 years ago entitled, “On My Way to Heaven.”

DR. REEDER: If you go Google all that, you’ll find a link you can hear about his new song that he wrote. He sent it off to his brother, fellow actor Randy Quaid. Both had made a profession of faith earlier in life and he’d been on a search. And then he said the movie has rekindled the effects of that search, which is all about Jesus.

And, of course, that’s what I pray for, for not only this actor who portrayed the part of Bart’s father who was converted by the wonderful work of God’s grace in his life. Playing the part, Dennis Quaid has acknowledged his own relationship with Christ. The famous director, Sharon Stone — now, this isn’t the actress, but the famous Hollywood director, Sharon Stone — went to see it with her son and she acknowledged that when the movie was over, nobody moved. Everyone just sat there. In fact, you could hear the sobs and you could just sense the emotional impact of the moment.

However, when she did get up to leave with her son, a lady with tears running down her eyes said, “Do you know Jesus?” and this director of Hollywood said, “Yes, I do.” And then she said, “I think I’ve got to go and get a Bart Miller fix with Jesus,” and she said, “Well, let’s talk about it.” And so, they sat down and talked about it and, afterwards, she said the lady said, “God brought me here to hear this today and now we get to go home together.”

FILM OFFERS CHANCE TO “IMAGINE” OUR FUTURE IN HEAVEN

What an extraordinary statement and that’s, by the way, a good way that this can be used: Use the title, “I Can Only Imagine,” and say, “You know, you don’t have to imagine. You can actually know.” We don’t know everything that’s going to happen in the new heavens and the new earth, but we do know how to get there. You don’t have to imagine how to get there — in fact, one of the reasons the Bible was written was so that you can know how to get to Heaven and you can know what actually makes Heaven glorious.

Tom, one of the verses in the Bible explicitly said that this is a purpose of the writing of the Bible, 1 John 5:13. “These things have I written that you might know that you have eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.”

We also know what makes Heaven glorious. Jesus said this, “I go to prepare a place for you so that, where I am, there you may be also.” Oh, the glories of what makes Heaven glorious is we’ll be with the Savior, Who came from Heaven to go to a cross to save us from our sins. And, if you’ll come to Him by faith and repentance and receive the gift of eternal life, turning from your sins, then you can not only imagine, you can know for certain that you’re headed to Heaven and then we can begin to imagine what will that be like to be with Jesus and with each other for all eternity, not only without sin, but without even the ability to sin?

LOOK FOR AND SUPPORT QUALITY FILMS THAT EVANGELIZE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, as we close out, let me remind our listeners that if they would like more information on quality films that they can take friends and family to, we would recommend movieguide.org.

DR. REEDER: World Magazine does reviews of films, as well. In fact, World Magazine — as most of our listeners will recognize because we quote from it — it’s a magazine devoted to looking at culture from a Christian world and life view.

It’s so interesting how Hollywood looks at this and they can’t understand how the Neanderthal public could walk away from all these other films that they put out and move to this film that they thought was going to have a $2 million showing and they just can’t understand it. Tom, this is why we do this program: They can’t understand it because of their presuppositions.

TIME TO SHOW HOLLYWOOD AND THE WORLD WHY WE HAVE FAITH

They can’t understand it because of their faith-driven world and life view. In their world and life view, there is no redemption. In their world and life view, there’s nothing to repent of. In their world and life view, there’s “all about me,” instead of finding out that it’s all about the glory of God and a God that’s so glorious that He provides a way for us to be right with Him and that, when you get right with Him through Jesus Christ, then reconciliation with others becomes a glorious consequential blessing and they just cannot sense that. They just are absolutely convinced there has to be a material, a natural explanation.

No, here is the explanation: the reason that there’s such brokenness in this world is sin. The answer to sin is Jesus and, when you come to Jesus Christ, you not only get right with God, God comes right within your life. And when he gets right within your life, you start getting right with everyone around you, just as this wonderful story depicts.

I can’t wait for you to see it and I can’t wait for you to enjoy it. And I can’t wait for more Christians to get involved in this industry of storytelling through the performing arts and I can’t wait for you to use this as a platform to bring other people so that they can say, “I can only imagine what the new heavens and the new earth looks like but I don’t have to imagine about how to get there. I can know for certain. Here’s what Jesus says, ‘Truly, truly, he who believes in me has eternal life.’”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country. Her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

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7 hours ago

AUDIO: ‘The University of Alabama showed great courage in its defense of open debate and free speech’ — J. Pepper Bryars

Earlier this week J. Pepper Bryars, editor of Yellowhammer News, appeared on WYDE’s “The Ford Faction” to discuss a speech that was scheduled to be given by a “race realist” this Thursday at the University of Alabama.

“The University of Alabama showed great courage in its defense of open debate and free speech through its willingness to allow this speaker on campus,” Bryars said, adding that “the only cure for hate speech is more speech.”

The details:

— An obscure student group invited self-described “race realist” (aka: a racist) Jared Taylor to deliver a lecture on campus.

— The university initially approved the event because the group had followed the required process, although administration officials made clear Taylor’s message ran contrary to the school’s values.

— Eventually, however, the student group was found to be in violation of key requirements (having a faculty advisory, etc.), and after officials gave the students time to come into alignment, the group failed so the invitation was rescinded.

“Had the group met the requirements and followed the process like any other, Alabama was prepared to allow its students to hear the racist arguments this man makes, and that’s a great thing,” Bryars said. “Because the only way our society can refute such claims is to know of their existence and how to properly dispose of them … like the garbage they are.”

LISTEN NOW:

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

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8 hours ago

Alabama man charged after hunters find remains of missing woman

An Alabama man has been charged with murder after hunters found the skeletal remains of a missing woman.

News outlets report that 58-year-old Kenny Darity of Montgomery is charged in the strangling death of Christina Bloss.

Darity was arrested and charged Tuesday, and bond was set at $150,000. Jail records on Wednesday did not show whether he is represented by an attorney.

Bloss was reported missing Feb. 28, 2017, in Montgomery County. Authorities now think she had been killed 10 days earlier.
A Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department captain, George Beaudry, says Darity and Bloss were acquaintances.

Hunters found her remains Thursday in Lowndes County, which is just west of Montgomery County.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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9 hours ago

Michael Knowles featured at Alabama Policy Institute’s 19th annual dinner event in Mobile

On Tuesday, the Alabama Policy Institute held its 19th annual Mobile dinner event in the airplane hangar at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.

“I cannot think of a better place to discuss freedom and liberty than at the U.S.S. Battleship Memorial Park and Aircraft Pavilion, a place that holds so many reminders of the sacrifices that thousands of Americans have paid to guarantee our freedom and liberty,” Caleb Crosby, President and CEO of API, told Yellowhammer News.

The “Evening with the Alabama Policy Institute” included keynote speaker, Michael Knowles.

Knowles is a talk show host and former managing editor of The Daily Wire, who is most well-known for his best-selling (and blank) book Reasons To Vote For Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide.

Part of a generation of young-ish conservatives that includes the Wire’s, Ben Shapiro, Knowles spends much of his time traveling to universities and rebutting their brand of “illiberal liberalism,” as Frank Bruni of the New York Times has called it.

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“I feel that here we’re in a safe space,” Knowles opened his speech last night, mirroring Crosby’s sentiment by ironically appropriating the campus buzzword.

“We’re definitely in a safe space because there are lots of guns and battleships. This is the perfect safe space for conservatives to be on tax day.”

Knowles’s speech before API and guests was as much about making the case for conservatism and for President Trump as about rebutting progressivism.

He began by reminding everyone in the room of all the good that the Trump presidency has accomplished: tax cuts, deregulation, originalist judges.

“Now you might be having déjà vu,” he said, “because I could have given that exact same [list] in 1981.”

Pointing out similarities between Reagan was Knowles’s primary way of arguing that Trump has governed as a conservative. In some ways, it also seemed to be his way of coaxing those never-Trump conservatives to embrace the president, or at least to encourage those conservatives supportive of — but still apprehensive — about him.

“Take the victories that we can get today,” Knowles said.

His chief point was that politics is about the now.

“Politics changes all the time,” he said. “There are different circumstances. There are different public policy challenges. There are different public policy prescriptions. There are timeless principles. And of course the hope, is that we conservatives can maintain the bedrock of timeless principles that we can apply to new circumstances and new challenges and make America great again, again.”

“Political victories are never permanent,” Knowles continued. “Political successes are never permanent. That’s why you always need to be making America great again. It’s because otherwise, it’s going to revert to its natural state of decay and destruction.”

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

9 hours ago

Why the Alabama Legislature holds the power — and a breakdown of interesting open seats

Our antiquated 1901 Constitution was designed to give inordinate power to the Legislature. During the Wallace years, the King of Alabama politics, George Wallace, usurped this power and controlled the Legislature from the Executive Branch of Government. Over the last couple of decades the Legislature has wrestled this power back and pretty much excluded the Governor from their bailiwick. Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley were ostracized and pretty much ignored. Their proposed budgets were instantaneously tossed into the nearest trashcan.

Legislative power is derived from controlling the state’s purse strings. Thus the old adage, “Those who have the gold set the rules.” The Legislature has gotten like Congress in that incumbents are difficult to defeat. Therefore, the interest will be on the open Senate and House seats. Most of the Montgomery Special Interest money will be focused on these Legislative races.

Speaking of Montgomery, two open and most interesting Senate seats in the state will be in the Montgomery/River Region. One is currently in progress. Montgomery City Councilman, David Burkette, Representative John Knight and Councilman Fred Bell are pursuing the Democratic seat vacated by Senator Quinton Ross when he left to become President of Alabama State University. Burkette has already bested Knight and Bell in a Special Election last month. A rebound race is set for June 5.

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The Republican Senate seat in the River Region held by Senator Dick Brewbaker is up for grabs. This seat was expected to attract numerous well-known aspirants. However, when the dust settled at the qualifying deadline two relatively unknown candidates were the only ones to qualify. Will Barfoot and Ronda Walker are pitted against each other in a race that is considered a tossup.

The Etowah County/Gadsden area was considered one of the most Democratic areas of the state for generations. However, in recent years it has become one of the most Republican. State Representative, Mack Butler, should be favored as a Republican. Although, polling indicates that veteran Democratic Representative, Craig Ford, could make this a competitive race in the Fall. He is running as an Independent.  

Veteran State Senator Harri Ann Smith has represented the Wiregrass/Dothan area admirably for over two decades. She has been elected several times as an Independent. However, she has decided not to seek reelection. Her exit leaves State Representative Donnie Chesteen in the catbird seat to capture the seat.

Republican State Senator Paul Bussman, who represents Cullman and northwest Alabama, is a maverick and very independent. This independence makes him powerful. He will be reelected easily.

State Representative David Sessions is predicted to win the seat of Senator Bill Hightower who is running for Governor.

Most of the state Senate’s most powerful members are unopposed or have token opposition. Included in this list of incumbent State Senators are veteran Senate leader and Rules Chairman, Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, Senate President, Del Marsh, R-Calhoun, Senate Majority Leader, Greg Reed, R-Jasper, veteran Senator Jimmy Holley, R-Coffee, as well as Senate leaders Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Clay Scofield, R-Marshall, Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga, Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, Tom Whatley, R-Lee, and Shay Shelnutt, R-Gardendale. The Senate leadership will remain intact, as will the House leadership.

Almost all of the House leaders are unopposed or have token opposition. This prominent list includes: Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Madison, Budget Chairmen, Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, Speaker Pro-tem, Victor Gaston, R- Mobile, Rules Chairman, Mike Jones, R-Covington.

In addition, there are numerous Veteran lawmakers, who will be reelected, including Lynn Greer, Mike Ball, Jim Carnes, Howard Sanderford, Kerry Rich, and Jimmy Martin; as well as rising leaders: Nathaniel Ledbetter, Kyle South, Connie Rowe, Tim Wadsworth, April Weaver, Paul Lee, Terri Collins, Danny Garrett, Dickie Drake, Chris Pringle, Randall Shedd, Allen Farley, Becky Nordgren, Mike Holmes, David Standridge, Dimitri Polizos, Reed Ingram and Chris Sells.

Even though there are 22 open House seats and 10 open Senate Seats, the leadership of both Chambers will remain the same.

There are some competitive House seats that will be interesting. In the Pike/Dale County Seat 89, Pike Probate Judge Wes Allen is pitted against Troy City Council President Marcus Paramore. Tracy Estes is favored to replace retiring Mike Millican in Marion County. Alfa is going all out for Estes. David Wheeler is expected to capture the open House seat in Vestavia.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

 

9 hours ago

Alabama aging death row: Is executing old or infirm inmates cruel?

Vernon Madison has spent decades on Alabama’s death row. Now 67, Madison has suffered from strokes and dementia and his lawyers say he no longer recalls the crime that put him there: the 1985 killing of a police officer.

His speech is slurred, he suffers from confusion, and once thought he was near release and talked of moving to Florida, according to his lawyers. This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to review the claims by Madison’s defense team that executing someone in his condition would violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Killing a fragile man suffering from dementia is unnecessary and cruel,” Madison’s attorney, Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, said in January, when the justices stayed Madison’s execution the night he was to receive a lethal injection.

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The U.S. death row population is aging, and that leaves courts increasingly likely to grapple with questions of when it becomes unconstitutionally cruel to put someone to death who is mentally frail — or whose medical conditions could complicate the execution procedure.

“That is going to be an increasing issue in carrying out the American death penalty,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. “We are reaching a stage, as death row inmates age, we’ll see this more frequently.”

About 2,800 people are on death row in prisons nationwide, and about 1,200 of them over age 50, the non-profit group said. An Associated Press review of the group’s data shows the median age of an executed inmate in the U.S. rose from 34 to 46 between 1983 and 2017 — a fact observers attribute to appeals taking longer — sometimes decades.

One of the oldest, 83-year-old Walter Leroy Moody, is scheduled to be executed Thursday in Alabama for the 1989 package bomb killing of a federal judge. If the sentence is carried out, Moody would be the oldest person and the first octogenarian put to death since U.S. executions resumed in the 1970s, Dunham said.

“Many of these defendants have done terrible things. People are torn between wanting to punish severely and the belief it is beneath us as a nation to kill a frail person who is already dying. It’s a challenge to our morality and our sense of humanity,” Dunham said.

Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, supports steps to reduce the time between an inmate’s sentencing and execution.

“There is no constitutional issue from age alone, though dementia does, of course, become more common with age. The underlying question about what kind and degree of mental illness will prevent an execution is not new. It is ancient.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing in Madison’s case, noted the growing number of aging prisoners on death row and said, “Given this trend, we may face ever more instances of state efforts to execute prisoners suffering the diseases and infirmities of old age.”

Age by itself isn’t the issue, but rather the illnesses more common with old age.

Take Alva Campbell, 69. He died last month in an Ohio prison of natural causes after his 2017 lethal injection procedure was halted when a usable vein couldn’t be found. Alabama similarly aborted last month’s execution of Doyle Lee Hamm, 61, who has battled lymphoma. His lawyer said Hamm had at least 11 puncture wounds from attempts to find a vein.

“It was precisely Doyle’s old age and illness that raised all the problems. The state of Alabama was not prepared,” Hamm’s attorney, Bernard Harcourt, wrote in an email.

Yet 75-year-old Tommy Arthur, who had argued that his cardiovascular disease would complicate execution, was put to death without obvious incident last year in Alabama.

Madison was convicted of killing Mobile police officer Julius Schulte.

Schulte responded to a missing child report on April 18, 1985. Arriving at a home, he found the child had returned but Madison and his girlfriend were embroiled in a domestic dispute. According to court records, Schulte interacted briefly with Madison, telling him to “just to go on and let things cool down.” According to prosecutors, Madison left but then crept up behind Schulte as he sat in his police car, shooting him twice in the head.

The Supreme Court has ruled inmates must have a rational understanding of why they’re being executed, faculties which Madison’s lawyers say he doesn’t possess.

His attorneys argue strokes have left Madison frequently disoriented with no independent memory of his crime. They also say he is legally blind, cannot walk independently and has urinary incontinence from his brain damage.

The state’s lawyers counter that Madison was found competent at a 2016 hearing, hasn’t presented new evidence and is aware he received the death sentence — even if he doesn’t remember killing Schulte.

“What happened to my dad was cruel and unusual punishment,” said Schulte’s son, Michael. “He was shot twice in the head while he was trying to help somebody.”

Schulte, 59, has suffered health problems of his own, including a stroke and heart attack. Yet he said Madison’s protracted legal fight has been hard on his family and doesn’t “do my dad justice.”

Said Schulte: “Somebody needs to make a decision. Either we are going to have the death penalty or we’re not.”

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)