July 2014

Daniel Lusko’s ‘Persecuted’: A freedom film to awaken America

July 2 2014 by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column

Daniel Lusko, the writer, producer and director of “Persecuted,” hopes to “wake up a world that takes freedom and truth for granted.” That’s quite a task for a 30-year-old. But Lusko, who directed five feature-length documentaries including Tyndale Distribution’s top-selling DVD, “Epicenter,” and was inducted into the Director’s Guild of America as a feature film director, means business. His newest release is a live action, political thriller produced in collaboration with Gray Frederickson (Oscar-winning producer of “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”), that is guaranteed to wake a sleeping giant – Christians in America.
 
Lusko’s goal is to reinstill and reintroduce freedom to all generations – especially his own. Gretchen Carlson of Fox News, who plays her first role in the film, called it “Timely, in regard to what some politicians might do in some cases to get things done.” She plays the journalist that assists Luther in proving his innocence.
 
Former Senator Fred Thompson, who stars as Catholic priest, deemed it “A wonderful ‘House of Cards’ type political thriller that imagines what would happen if the country’s most famous religious leader refused to go along with the politicians in Washington.”

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Contributed photo
Daniel Lusko, seen here at the Directors Guild of America Awards, is the writer, producer and director of “Persecuted,” a film set to hit theaters July 18.

 

Scheduled for nationwide release July 18, the film begins with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and shows one man can make a difference: “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
 
“Persecuted” tells the story of evangelist John Luther (James Remar of “X-MEN”), whose ministry reaches more people than the evening news. Luther is the last hold out for a national endorsement to make sweeping reform in freedom of speech.
 
This man of God is framed by a U.S. Senator (Bruce Davison, “Lost”) and his allies for his refusal to support these radical restrictions. The film also stars comedian Brad Stine, Dean Stockwell, James Higgins and singer Natalie Grant.
 
This film reminded me of the film, “The Fugitive,” where a man must stay on the run while trying to prove his innocence. But this plot involves the government and the church.
 
Luther must expose those responsible, which brings him face-to-face with a storm of persecution that threatens the morals and freedoms of America. Although not an easy story to tell, Lusko admits, “God chooses the unlikely to do his work, and He sent Oscar-winning consultants to advise me. I knew God was in this story, and I could sense He was telling me to ‘keep going’ even when things were difficult.”
 
“Persecuted” has received Dove’s Family Seal of Approval with a Caution for Violence. Lusko felt he must realistically include violence which gave this film a PG-13 rating, but he made an effort not to glorify it. After seeing “Persecuted,” you will be faced with hard questions. How far are you willing to go to defend your beliefs? Will Americans trade our First Amendment rights for political correctness?
 
Lusko is burdened for Christians like Pastor Saeed Abedini who is being imprisoned in Iran. He used the proceeds from a recent Los Angeles screening of “Persecuted” to aid Abedini’s family. The screening was sold out.
 
Lusko said to The Christian Post, “We’re honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with such a courageous family … I hope the news of our standing with him reaches him in his prison cell and gives him the strength and courage to keep fighting for truth and freedom.”
 
At the recent National Religious Broadcaster’s convention I interviewed Lusko.
 
Q: What’s the story behind “Persecuted”?
 
A: When a government acts as if it is above God and the law and is acting on ideologies, then the end justifies the means. We are facing this in America today. “Persecuted” asks the question, “Is it in God we trust or the government that we trust?” If we trust in God, the Bible tells us to humble ourselves before the government and that can cause the government to humble themselves before God and serve the people. This movie is not for the right or the left, but for all people. The bottom line is our current government is not serving the interests of the people, and they are acting as if they are above the law.
 
Q: How did the idea for the film come to you?
 
A: I woke up one morning and the entire story was there with chills running down my spine. I saw a vision of a man running through the forest trying to prove the truth.
 
This man had chosen to stand up for the gospel at a time when his ministry was hooked by the government using its non-profit status. That government wants to reel them and other mega-churches in by pressuring them to support a bill [that] will give equal status to all religions and promote national security.
 
When this man says no, he is framed for a murder and pays a significant price. He has a choice like we all have a choice. Do we really believe what we say we believe in? If there is a real cost for the gospel and for freedom, are we willing to pay that price?
 
Q: There is persecution against Christians in many countries. Why do you believe this is an urgent issue for Christians in America?
 
A: My generation (Millennials) is totally hijacked by this entitlement idea that we will always have freedom … without paying a price.
 
Our Founding Fathers established the First Amendment to the Constitution so we could have freedom of speech and religion and our consciences could be clear. Yet, we are slowly losing our freedoms as evidenced in the IRS scandal, government health care, and the government’s constant removal of God from every part of our lives. This is an issue for anyone including an atheist who holds a belief to be sacred. Do you want to give that belief over the government in exchange for national security and material wealth? Beware! It’s a trap because in the end; the government can have control over it.
 
Q: In addition to abuse of government power, this film clearly hits on corruption of the church and the desire of some mega churches for wealth and power. Is this another theme you see in America today?
 
A: Yes, I’ve grown up in the mega-church culture and although no church is perfect, when people walk down that aisle some feel they are coming forward to “the good life.” But what if a pastor said, “If you come forward to profess Christ, there will be a cost. You may lose your life, be put in prison, or forfeit your job. Your name will be on the list now.”
 
How many people would come down that aisle? Franklin Graham told me, “There will be a winnowing of the church because there’s a price to be paid for the gospel.” Those people who are doing it for the comfort or pastors who are doing it for celebrity status will be weeded out. Fifty percent of pastors tell me they will not speak of persecution because it does not increase their flock. That bubble is going to burst. We have the opportunity to get inside that bubble through this film and ask this question, “If you had to speak the truth or lose your securities, what would you do?”
 
Visit www.persecutedmovie.com.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ginny Dent Brant is an author, speaker, counselor and soloist. She is editor-at-large for Sonoma Christian Home Magazine. Visit www.ginnybrant.com.)

7/2/2014 11:41:41 AM by Ginny Dent Brant, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Independence predicated upon dependence

July 1 2014 by Mark Creech, Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.

“Sloboda!” “Libertad!” “Emanzipation!” “Independenza!” “Freedom!” It doesn’t matter whether the language is Croatian, Spanish, German, Italian or just stateside English, the cry is the same all over the world – people want to be free. They want to be liberated from the chains that bind them – whether it’s an oppressive government, whether it’s a self-destructive addiction, no matter the tyranny, to be free is universal and the deepest of human longings.
 
But what constitutes real freedom?
 
Is it what W. E. Henly wrote in his poem “Invictus”?
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

 
Some would argue that liberty is what Frank Sinatra sang about in his legendary hit, “My Way”:
 
“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes, it was my way.”
 
This is what we like to think makes for true freedom in life. We went the distance alone. We faced the hardships independently and overcame. We made our own decisions and were subject to no one.
 
The Bible, however, describes the concept of liberty quite differently. It describes an independence predicated on dependence.
 
For the Christian, there is no question of ownership. The apostle Paul admonished believers, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
 
Many decades ago when slavery was still legal, a young mulatto girl was being sold at an auction. The young woman was tall and slender and quite beautiful. So the bidding was fast and furious, and quickly mounted higher and higher until there were only two men left bidding for her ownership.
 
One man was a low, uncouth fellow who would curse profanely each time he raised his bid. The other gentleman was a quiet man of refinement who persistently competed until his bid prevailed. Afterward, the auctioneer brought the necessary papers of ownership to the graceful gent.
 
With a shove, the auctioneer presented the woman to her new master.
 
Proudly yet defiantly, she stood before him, hating him with every fiber of her being. Suddenly, an unexpected change came over her face; first there was a look of pure amazement closely followed by one of incredible incredulity. Right before her very eyes, her owner was tearing up the papers of possession, and with a smile of kindness, said to the now trembling woman, “My dear, you are free. I bought you that I might liberate you.”
 
Too stunned for speech, the young woman simply stared for the longest time at her benefactor, until finally with a cry of profound joy too deep for words, she cast herself at the man’s feet and with tears streaming down her face exclaimed, “Oh master, I will love you and serve you for life!”
 
This is the kind of freedom described in the gospel message. We are liberated by God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross - not to leave Him or to go our own way, but astonished by His mercy and goodness we stay and serve by choice.
 
Is it any wonder that it was those who had experienced the internal freedom they had come to know in Christ that first established a civil liberty that would spread around the world?
 
This Christian concept of freedom was the spark, the flame of the American idea.
 
George Washington said no nation was bound to acknowledge more the invisible hand, the providential goodness of God in the advancement of liberty than the United States.
 
In 1851, when reviewing the history of our great nation, Daniel Webster referenced the Christian religion while also affirming its connection between the spiritual and the civil, saying:
 
“Let the religious element in man’s nature be neglected … let him be influenced by no higher motives than low self-interest, and subjected to no stronger restraint than the limits of civil authority, and he becomes the creature of selfish passions or blind fanaticism … On the other hand, the cultivation of the religious sentiment represses licentiousness … inspires respect for law and order, and gives strength to the whole social fabric, at the same time that it conducts the human soul upward to the Author of its being.”
 
Charles Malik, one-time Lebanese ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, declared:
 
“The good in the United States would have never come into being without the blessing and the power of Jesus Christ … I know how embarrassing this matter is to politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and cynics: but, whatever these honored men may think, the irrefutable truth is that the soul of America is at its best and highest Christian.”
 
True freedom, whether internal or external, is not given that we might spend it carelessly upon our own lusts. But the liberty that comes from God, the liberty that sustains the heart, as well as a nation, is a gift from God that we might choose the measure and depth of our devotion to His purposes.
 
Our independence is predicated upon our commitment to dependence – dependence on God.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.; www.christianactionleague.org.)

7/1/2014 10:48:28 AM by Mark Creech, Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. | with 0 comments



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