“Keep surfing the Wave… the Tsunami is the Spirit at work!” bid Anthony Palmer from his ministry’s home in Wiltshire, England, last week via e-mail before he left for Rome to meet again with Pope Francis.
Oh yeah! “You’re not kidding!” I responded.
You may know Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer for his famous iPhone video — the one with Pope Francis speaking to Christian Charismatics back in January. The video was leaked onto You Tube and it started a tsunami wave of God’s Spirit, now moving across the world, picking up anyone whose heart is ready to ride with its overwhelming swell of love, reason and inspiration for uniting Christian believers in ways we thought were impossible.
“That’s it!” I thought to myself. “It’s the Tsunami’s fault!” Nine months ago, I was inspired to start a film festival for Christian Unity. Today, I am in communication with world leaders, church bishops, Hollywood film producers, screenwriters and so on and so forth, all in between potty-training my son and getting my daughters to and from school.
I remember the day I had to pull over to “SHH” my rowdy kids in order to hear the call from Pure Flix Entertainment. “We definitely want to come to your event!” said Brittany Lefebvre, speaking for the entire production of “God’s Not Dead.”
I remember sitting at my breakfast table with the kids when I got the call from one of the writers of the film, Cary Solomon. After talking an hour he said, “Jennifer, we know that this hope for Christian Unity has been prophesied for centuries. It’s coming and it’s needed, and don’t be surprised if this thing gets bigger than you ever imagined.”
Weeks later, I responded to Cary: “Yeah! You weren’t kidding!”
I recently was grilled in a publicist’s phone interview. “What is it you are trying to say about Christian film? Why do you think one faith-based film does well and another, of better quality with an equally important message, flops?” Among these were 20 more questions I was kind of prepared to answer. “Why do you think ‘God’s Not Dead’ has made over $60 million on a $2 million budget?”
It was at that moment I realized that as the executive producer for the Arcángel Film Festival, I was speaking for our entire partnership. I was expected to speak on behalf of Christian Hollywood and as the voice of the Christian audience.
Holy Baby in a manger! “Please help me Lord Jesus!” my spirit cried to heaven. This publicist did not know that for the last six restless months I prayed: “Lord, are you sure that you want me to do this?” The answer was always the same: The Lord wants voices for Christian Unity and to use the love in my heart for my Christian brothers and sisters.
So I answered the publicist, “Look, I can’t speak for the financial success or lack thereof for every Christian film out there and why some like ‘Fireproof’ made it big and some did not. But, did you know that the writers of ‘God’s Not Dead’ are Catholic and their production company is Evangelical?
I had asked Cary Solomon what it was like for him and co-writer Chuck Konzelman, as Catholics, collaborating with Evangelical Christians. Cary shared that in the original script for “God’s Not Dead,” when the atheist professor (Kevin Sorbo) accepts Jesus, he is baptized from a water bottle at the scene of a life-altering accident.
For Catholics the baptism is important. However, the producers were not crazy about the water bottle idea, yet in the movie scene, it is pouring rain. The man in the story is “born of water and spirit” (John 3:5). No one in this artistic endeavor had to compromise their understanding of salvation through Jesus Christ. The film has been widely received by the faith audience across the board; it is now one of the greatest faith-film success stories ever.
“‘God’s Not Dead’ is a story is about Christian persecution,” said Cary, “which is here and now and coming — something all Christians can relate to.”
“I believe that a Christian film’s success comes from a powerful message that people of faith can get behind,” I told the publicist. “They have a reason to use the film for the sake of the message. It is about the message and the production that God chooses to bless for His purposes, and use to inspire people to action.”
So what problem am I solving for Hollywood? you ask.
Cary Solomon told me that, right now in Christian Hollywood, it is like there are two different railroad tracks and they are heading the same direction, producing films that inspire for Godly reasons. They are separate railroads with trains carrying talents and resources from different groups, yet all supplied by the same Lord.
I told the inquisitive publicist, “What we are doing is grassroots; no believer has to check their individual understanding of Christian Truth at the door. We are building a bridge so that we can work together in unity with our diversity and the many talents that we have to share in the greater Body of Christ. It is about sharing our gifts.
“Right now the Body of Christ is like a body in repose. Just think of what we can do if we bring our divided parts together so that we can actually stand up and fight the darkness… just think!”
When we support one another’s films, we are going to be an unstoppable network. That is the message of the Arcángel Film Festival. We need to work together as one, influential voice in the Hollywood film industry.
This is what I believe God wants — us working together — and yes, Mr. Inquisitive Publicist, I am prepared to say it again and again.
Last October at a pro-life event, while wearing my hat as a Catholic journalist, I posed this question to Christian filmmaker/actor Kirk Cameron: “How do we work better together to support one another across denominational lines for the purpose of important Christian mission such as Pro-life?”
He replied, “I’ll say this first part to my Christian brothers who worry a lot about defending truth or making theological compromise when we discuss important Christian doctrine. I’m all for carefully dividing the Word of God in order to discern His intended truth. But I have matured as a Christian and with that I’ve matured the way I search for and discuss God’s Truth.
“So, I am willing to work with anyone for saving babies. I’d also like to sit down and have dinner with them to discuss theology, because that is just one of my favorite things to do.”
Kirk also looked me right in the eye when he said, “I’ve also learned that God likes to use nobodies from nowhere.”
Well, this “nobody from nowhere” is still hoping to take him up on his offer. Because we have some work to do.
© Copyright 2014 by Jennifer Wing Atencio, all rights reserved.
This article was featured in The Tidings/ Angelus News of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese.