Religion Returns to Hollywood

March 31 2023

Based on the true story of two preachers who in the 1970s sought to evangelize members of the counterculture, the film Jesus Revolution has proved a box-office success, making profits on par with recent major releases. This is despite the fact that it was produced by a Christian movie studio and targeted to an audience of believing Christians. While much has changed about Hollywood, and America, since the days of Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, Olivia Reingold observes that films such as Jesus Revolution are experiencing an efflorescence:

Jesus Revolution marks the sixth—and most successful—movie from Kingdom Story Company, a partnership between the producers Kevin Downes and Tony Young and the brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin to make Christian entertainment exclusively for Lionsgate. The Erwin brothers, whose stated mission on their website is “spreading the message of the Gospel through film,” first got Hollywood’s attention when their $7 million-budget drama, I Can Only Imagine, grossed over $85 million in 2018.

A-list actors now routinely star in films with religious storylines—like Mark Wahlberg, who played [a] boxer-turned-priest in the 2022 film Father Stu, and Hilary Swank, who’s set to headline Kingdom Story Company’s next project this fall, Ordinary Angels—a film about a Kentucky hairdresser who helps cobble together money for a young girl’s liver transplant. Jesus Revolution undoubtedly got a boost from its star, Kelsey Grammer, famous for TV hits like Cheers and Frasier, and his costar Joel Courtney—a teen heartthrob who previously starred in The Kissing Booth, a successful mainstream teenage comedy on Netflix.

That doesn’t mean that Hollywood has entirely made its peace with Christianity. On March 11, the actor Rainn Wilson, most famous for his role as the dweeby Dwight in The Office, tweeted about “an anti-Christian bias in Hollywood,” referencing the arc of a cult-like preacher on HBO’s zombie series The Last of Us.

“As soon as the David character in The Last of Us started reading from the Bible I knew that he was going to be a horrific villain,” Wilson tweeted. “Could there be a Bible-reading preacher on a show who is actually loving and kind?”

Read more at Free Press

More about: American Religion, Christianity, Hollywood, Popular culture

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan