We’ve written quite a bit about the Religious Right’s conviction that conservative Christians in the U.S. are facing religious persecution through things like gay rights and the expansion of contraception access. Well, in case we needed a confirmation that this is in fact the direction of the right-wing zeitgeist, it turns out that are several movies coming out this year about the supposed oppression of Christians in America. And two of them have the same title: “Persecuted.”
The much higher-budget, star-studded production is directed by 30-year-old Daniel Lusco, whose previous films have included collaborations with End Times alarmist Joel Rosenberg and a fawning documentary about former general and current Family Research Council vice president Jerry Boykin’s anti-Muslim activism.
Lusco's "Persecuted" stars James Remar and Dean Stockwell and includes guest appearances by Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson (in her film debut!) and former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson.
A press release outlines the plot:
PERSECUTED tells the story of a modern-day evangelist named John Luther, played by SAG Award-nominated and Saturn Award winning actor James Remar ( X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, "Dexter", DJANGO: UNCHAINED, WHAT LIES BENEATH, RED). Luther is the last hold out for a national endorsement to make sweeping reform in freedom of speech. As the government is mandating political correctness while covertly waging a war against religious organizations, a U.S. Senator, portrayed by Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Davison (X-MEN, "Lost", "Castle"), and his political allies create a sinister plan of denial and scandal to frame John Luther for murder. Suddenly his once normal life is turned upside down as he becomes a fugitive vowing to expose those responsible. It is a mission that brings him face-to-face with the coming storm of persecution that will threaten the moral ethics and freedoms of America.
American Center for Law and Justice director Jordan Sekulow, who also has a cameo in the film, explained today to the Christian Post that he doesn’t think the premise of the movie is that far-fetched:
On the surface, "Persecuted" plays out like many government thrillers. Similar to movies based upon Tom Clancy novels, it has a hero with limited resources faced off against corrupt politicians and government officials. Central to the plot, though, is an effort by the president and his cronies to pass the "Faith and Fairness Act," which would be similar to a "fairness doctrine" for religious groups. If this law were passed, religious broadcasters would be required to present all religious points of view when presenting their own point of view.
The notion that such a law could actually be passed in the United States is not out of the realm of possibility, Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, explained to The Christian Post. The law is similar to a resolution that was passed at the United Nations about the defamation of religion.
"It's backed predominantly by Islamic countries, but in the name of tolerance, so that they can criminalize defamation or defamatory speech so that you effectively become a criminal if you say Jesus is the only way, that becomes criminal. So it's real," Sekulow said.
Carlson apparently agrees. She told Charisma in December, “There’s a Christian message here, a political message here and I think that it is very timely in regard to what some politicians might do in some cases to get things done.”
The star-studded “Persecuted” will be released this spring and had a pre-screening this week that was reportedly attended by several members of Congress. The competing “Persecuted” hasn’t been so lucky. First-time director Benjamin Bondar apparently originally intended his “Persecuted” to be a feature film but after a Kickstarter funding campaign failed is now editing it into a short film to submit to Cannes.
Bondar’s film is set in the Soviet Union, but is clearly meant to be an allegorical tale about the United States today. Describing the film as “a romantic thriller about socialism, atheism, & the ultimate corruption of BIG GOVERNMENT,” its Facebook page outlines the plot:
After several failed attempts to capture four Evangelists who have been effectively supporting Christianity throughout the Soviet Union, the Soviet government orders its best trained undercover KGB officer to infiltrate the Christian Church and stop the growing number of believers through whatever means possible. While attempting to help his government abolish Christianity and find the elusive criminals, KGB officer Vavilov falls in love with Julia, a beautiful Christian girl. For the first time, he questions his government’s agenda, the meaning of life, and his own need for salvation.
In a Facebook comment in response to a skeptical viewer, Bondar wrote, “The unfortunate reality in the U.S. is that both socialist policies and atheist propaganda are actively trying to marginalize and demonize the practice of established religions such as Christianity. I feel that watching this movie with an open and attentive mind will help prove this point by providing a historical context with which to view current events happening in the U.S. right now.”
These two films are by no means the only ones coming out this year pushing the Christian persecution narrative. Liberty Counsel’s film “Uncommon” will take on the supposed crisis of “religious liberty in public school.”