Tag: Movies

The Jesus Revolution’s Frisbee Problem

Let’s face it… for fans of The Chosen, Jonathan Roumie sold The Jesus Revolution. Roumie’s portrayal of Jesus in The Chosen has earned him a following, a ministry, and has contributed to a national conversation about Jesus, leading many to seek the truth about Jesus, and many have professed faith in Christ as a result.

So, it comes with a bit of irony that in The Jesus Revolution, Roumie portrays a young Lonnie Frisbee, whose emotionally compassionate outreach and charismatic preaching sparked The Jesus Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, thus sparking a national conversation about Jesus which led to many salvations.

Neither man (Roumie or Frisbee) is without controversy, as is neither character portrayed. Jesus was controversial in His day, and remains so to this day. And with a resurgence of post-morten fame on the heels of Jesus Revolution, Frisbee finds himself in the middle of controversy as well.

At the center of Frisbee’s controversy are his theatrical antics, and his struggles with homosexuality. Critics point to the former to discredit his ministry, and they point out the latter to discredit Christianity in general.

To their credit, the filmmakers of The Jesus Revolution were open about the character flaws of each of the leaders of the movement. Smith was a bit opportunistic and judgmental, and struggled with seeing the church blossom under someone else’s leadership. Laurie struggled with drugs early on and struggled with faith toward the end of the movie.

Frisbee demanded the spotlight, neglected his wife, and stormed out in a hissy fit when the spotlight was taken away. Yes, his struggles with homosexuality were omitted from the movie, but were not an issue during the time portrayed in the movie.

Frisbee was raped as a child, and as many who endure that atrocity do, experimented with homosexuality during his adolescence and early adulthood. Frisbee reported coming out of that lifestyle when he came to know Jesus, but relapsed in the 1980s. Frisbee confessed that his behaviors were sin, and were as sinful (but no more than) other sins.

When confronted, Frisbee confessed. He prayed for forgiveness. He tried to help others find forgiveness. He did not cling to the lifestyle, and did not advocate that others live the lifestyle.

It would be sinful and unproductive to try to determine Frisbee’s salvation status, or whether his faith was real, and his ministry motivated by faith and a genuine heart for the Lord. We leave the judging of the living and the dead to God.

However, a quick internet search into Frisbee’s life reveals a struggle with sin which is not unlike the struggle with pornography, addiction, anger, gluttony (I confess that!), hate, covetousness or dishonesty.

As Christians, we often find ourselves easily ensnared in sin that rapidly gets out of hand and gruesome pretty quickly. Sometimes we deceive ourselves into thinking that our sin isn’t that big of a deal, but it is.

And we can usually find a worse sinner to point out to make ourselves feel better about our sin. And in this case, that worse sinner is Frisbee.

However, the political fireball surrounding his sin neither discredits the Bible, the Gospel, nor the film, because all three uphold the fact that God works through the broken, and through weakness we are made strong.

Frisbee struggled with homosexuality, but Abraham committed adultery, Jacob was a crook, Judah hired a prostitute, King David committed adultery and murder, and Solomon dabbled in idolatry. Yet, Scripture holds those men up as patriarchs of the faith, and some even wrote scripture.

Scripture does not affirm their behavior, but God used them in spite of their brokenness, and God uses us in spite of our brokenness.

Why would God do that? He does that because the premise of the Gospel is that the broken can be healed, the sinner can be cleansed, and the condemned can be redeemed. Further, this all happens not because of how great the person is, but because of how graceful and powerful God is.

And that’s the power of the Gospel, that the death and condemnation of our sins was placed on Christ when He hung on that cross, and when He died, that death and condemnation were sent to Hell instead of us.

And because of that redemption, because Jesus took it all on our behalf, we can go free. We can place our faith in Him and make ourselves available for God to use to do big things… or maybe small and simple things. Either way, it’s a blessing.

So I’m not offended that one of my favorite actors portrayed a man who struggled in homosexuality, and I’m not discouraged that such a man was a key figure in a national revival, because I have routinely seen God use broken people, including myself, to lead others to redemption and healing.

God uses the broken to advance the Gospel, and He is glorified in it. Or as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3, “For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?”

So let’s review. God is good. Redemption is real. The Gospel saves. The Jesus Revolution is a good movie. And God has used the broken to spark a national conversation about Jesus. Let’s have that conversation, and point people to the redemption in Christ Jesus that is found at the cross, and not let ourselves be distracted by one man’s sin from 40 years ago.

The Jesus Revolution

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Seriously, listen to any Billy Graham sermon from the 1970s, or any J. Vernon McGee sermon from the 1960s, and you will find the same issues being addressed from the pulpit.

The breakdown of the family, the rise in sin and immorality, an up and coming generation that seems unreachable, with a lifestyle and value system that seems incomprehensible, a deeply divided country, civil unrest, economic uncertainty, and foreign threats… these are all issues that plagued our country back then, and they are issues that haunt us now.

The upcoming film, Jesus Revolution, depicts how the ministries of Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie were revolutionized by the introduction of Lonnie Frisbee. Smith is depicted as struggling to establish Calvary Chapel in California as a Biblical-centered congregation, who struggles to understand the hippie movement of the 1960s. Smith then meets Frisbee, who encourages him to engage the marginalized youth and preach the Gospel to them.

History records what followed as The Jesus Movement, recorded by Greg Laurie in his book Jesus Revolution. There was a revival among the Hippie communities of California, which sparked a new wave of evangelism and worship music. The result was countless converts, the rise of Calvary Chapel as we know it today, and contemporary Christian worship music.

Jesus Revolution is a film based on a true story, it is not a documentary. How the film will tackle the controversies surrounding Smith’s ministry, Calvary Chapel, and Frisbee’s issues with sin have yet to be seen. All are worthy of discussion as we come to a fuller understanding of God’s grace and redemption.

However, the theme of the movie appears to be how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what our dark and deeply divided nation needs to hear, and if we are willing to reach out to those whom we fear or don’t understand with the Gospel, souls will be saved and lives will be changed.

In essence, if the church of God will re-center itself on the Gospel and return to the mission of God, which is the preaching of that Gospel throughout the world, who knows what kind of revival we may see in our day.

Like our forerunners in the 1960s, we face a rise in sin and immorality, a rise in Godlessness, a rise in darkness and division, with an up and coming generation with a lifestyle and values system that scares the very generation that brought us the hippie movement.

Our options are simple. We can, like Kelsey Grammer’s depiction of Chuck Smith early in the film, sit back on our couches and complain about the direction of society. Or, we can, like Jonathan Roumie’s depiction of Lonnie Frisbee, reach out into that darkness with the light of the Gospel and show a lost generation that God’s door is open to those who repent and believe.

My prayer is that we do the latter, which is why I am excited about this film. I hope it inspires our current generation of churches, and a new generation of churches to truly commit to, and do, the Great Commission.

Scars, stars, bazaar: The Greatest Showman rocks our imaginations

Forget everything you know about P.T. Barnum. The Connecticut-born son of a tailor who so coveted high society that he swindled and cheated his way into mass fortune died 126 years ago. All that remains of him is the name of a circus.

The P.T. Barnum depicted in “The Greatest Showman” is a fictitious character, an energetic, benevolent man whose blind ambition led him to make occasional mistakes in his relationships.

Portrayed by Hugh Jackman, P.T. Barnum whisks his love, Charity, away by imploring her to use her imagination, adding that the world is what they make of it. A running theme throughout the musical is how they can change their stars, and create their own world, being limited only by their own imaginations. His love, dreams and enthusiasm lights the hearts of his wife and daughters, and inspires his followers, a rag-tag group of misfits including the bearded lady, the world’s smallest man, a theatre director and even a world-renown opera singer.

The movie maintains a happy tone, even when the characters deal with very difficult situations, ranging from rejection, personal pain, and hopelessness. The darkest of times are quickly abandoned for the next adventure, and the next song.

The ongoing theme of “The Greatest Showman” is that of acceptance. P.T. Barnum struggled to gain the acceptance of high society, while his cast of odd characters struggled to accept themselves, and struggled to gain acceptance of mainstream society.

Having gone from pauper to prince with the financial success of Barnum’s Circus, Barnum enlisted the help of a popular theatre director to “win the high brows.” This resulted in an audience with the queen of England, which connected Barnum to the famous opera singer Jenny Lind, with whom Barnum strikes up a partnership for a North American tour.

Regardless of all that happened, Barnum never really gains the acceptance of high society. He is then reminded of the true value of the friends he has, and learns to quit living to impress people that he doesn’t really like in the first place.

The cast of odd-characters struggle throughout the movie. Rejected not only by their own mothers, many had trouble accepting themselves. Throughout the course of the movie, they learn to accept themselves, and to see their oddity as a gift. They also find comfort in each other.

I came away from this movie inspired and happy. I was reminded to dream big, to be myself, and to love those around me. And for that reminder, I give the movie a thumbs up!

Not because it’s right, but because it’s trending

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Photo: Bob Beecher

I was on the phone with a publicist for a movie production taking place in Texas.

“This is big,” she said. “Oprah has reviewed our script, decided she likes it, so the film will be produced by The Weinstein Company.”

Back when this conversation took place, The Weinstein Company was nothing more than a “W” logo that flashed on the screen at the beginning of a movie trailer or at the end of the movie credits. I didn’t know who they were or what they did. I did know who Oprah was, and I thought it was really cool that she had taken on this particular project.

There’s a lot with which I disagree with Oprah. I think her daytime TV talk show is overly emotional. Her politics lean left, mine lean way right. I still haven’t forgiven her for thrusting Dr. Phil upon us. Then again, I can blame the Texas beef industry for that. Had they never sued her over her show on “Mad Cow” disease, she’d have never gone to court in Amarillo, and would have never met Dr. Phil.

On the other hand, I have to respect a woman who went from absolute poverty to the billionaire she is today. She accomplished her success through hard work, good decisions, and by creating a product that, even if I don’t like it, is adored by millions.

Still, her speech at the Golden Globes the other night went all over me. While I agree with the message she spoke, I wondered how she must have felt delivering the message.

I don’t think Oprah engaged in inappropriate behavior with Harvey Weinstein. She has too much dignity and class. I don’t think she knowingly helped him, or was complicit in any specific encounter he had. She has a moral compass.

Yet, everyone in Hollywood, Oprah included, knew what Harvey Weinstein was. Go back and look at the Seth McFarlane joke on YouTube. Read or watch the jokes about the entertainment industry, and how Hollywood execs, including Weinstein, behaved themselves. What was going on was common knowledge, and had even become the punchline of a twisted cultural joke.

So, when she stood on stage and proclaimed that a new day was coming when powerful men would no longer be able to prey on young ladies, I couldn’t help but think, “Why haven’t you said anything before now?”

As long as getting along with Harvey Weinstein was good business, Oprah did it. Now that Weinstein has been revealed to be the pervert that he is, good business dictates criticism of him and the entertainment industry that allowed him to thrive.

But that’s all it is. Good business. Oprah’s speech, and the “Time’s Up” pins worn to the Golden Globes amount to nothing more than a social media post designed to get page views because the right hashtag was used. And therein lies the problem.

Our culture has become one of “hashtag activism.” You don’t actually do anything, you just post about it, and people congratulate you on your compassion for being able to type 140-280 characters.

When you log onto Facebook, look in the right-hand margin. You’ll notice a few topics that Facebook says is trending. On Twitter, that list is to the left. Make any post, add a hashtag that aligns with the word or phrase that is trending, and presto! Page views, comments, likes and shares.

When Weinstein’s accusers came out, the #MeToo hashtag began to trend. When that happened, accusations came out against multiple Hollywood celebrities and executives. Justice for sexual harassment victims trended, which is why Hollywood added the #TimesUp pins, and Oprah gave her speech. They are merely following the social trend.

Next year, this will all be forgotten, and another social cause, environmental cause, or political cause will take its place. Hopefully, more will have been accomplished than a few elite personalities going viral on social media.

In the meantime, Oprah can bring about a lot of healing, to her industry and reputation, by apologizing for her associations with Weinstein and vowing to create an entertainment industry where young ladies will be able to sell their talents, not their bodies.