Last summer, I posted about the Restoring Unity event held in Birmingham, Alabama in August. At that time, it was announced by conservative commentator Glenn Beck that the humanitarian division of his company Mercury One would begin raising funds to evacuate thousands of Christian and Yazidi families who had been displaced from their homes in the Middle East by ISIS terrorists. The ambitious fundraising goal to raise $10 million by Christmas is called The Nazarene Fund, after the mark (see below) that ISIS paints on the homes and property of Christians living in their path to mark them for death.
Though Beck at the time realized this was a huge goal, that goal was met in about 3 months, and now stands at more than $12 million. Just a week ago, the radio and internet TV mogul traveled with a team to evacuate the first group of 149 families to Slovakia. These Christians originally lived in areas of Iraq and Syria that lost everything they had when ISIS swept through in mid-2014. Most had been professionals with families, homes and businesses. Beck said that when he arrived, he found them living in refugee camps in deplorable conditions—but even so, he told his radio audience earlier this week how full of joy these refugees were and grateful to still be alive.
The Blaze reported donations to The Nazarene Fund came from Beck’s millions of listeners and viewers of his internet programs, with average donations being around $100. The refugees were heavily screened by Peregrine Consultants, in a process that “exceeded present international standards.” Yes, they are being asked questions about their religious beliefs in order to screen out any potential jihadists that seek to infiltrate the refugee population in order to get into western nations. Beck said they are working with parish priests and pastors on the ground to verify identities and level of commitment to Christianity (i.e. how they came to Christ, how long ago, have they been baptized into the faith).
These families will be resettled in and around Nitra in central Europe, which is often referred to as the Cradle of Christianity. That seems fitting for them, since the areas they were driven from by ISIS had some of the longest-running Christian churches in the world—churches that were begun by the Apostles themselves.
Johnnie Moore, an author and advocate for these oppressed people, assisted in the evacuation. Moore spoke in Birmingham last summer and at that time shared stories of the atrocities being committed by ISIS against these people. He told The Blaze this rescue mission is just the first of many being planned in the months to come because Christians in the Middle East are “facing an ongoing genocide”.
As these families look forward to a new future in a new country, they won’t be left alone to make the adjustment. Mercury One has agreed to assist the Slovakian government to fund a three-year integration program to include education and training to learn the new language and other services needed as they assimilate into Slovakian society. Needless to say, this chance to begin again without having to live in fear is something the refugees were thankful for. One said, ““It’s something that makes me tremble and makes me very, very thankful, so thank you so very much for doing that.”
Beck has mentioned a number of times over the past few months that he had the names of 12,000 families here in the United States that were committed to taking in families from these areas of the Middle East if and when our government decides to allow them in. As of this writing, the Obama Administration refuses to acknowledge that there is, in fact, genocide of Christians happening right now.
The next time you hear some liberal pundit drone on about how bigoted and insensitive conservatives are, keep in mind the work being done through The Nazarene Fund…and it’s being done by people just like you and me, with lots of help from Above.
On the heels of the very successful faith-based film “War Room”, produced by the Kendrick Brothers (“Courageous”, “Fireproof”), another duo of filmmaking siblings is bringing the story of “Woodlawn” * to theaters in two weeks.
Jon and Andrew Erwin wrote, directed and produced the story of Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama during the tumultuous early 70’s when the school was becoming integrated. In a city torn apart by racial strife, the high school becomes the focal point of tension in a time of major change. Based on a true story, Woodlawn High School was on the verge of closing until a different kind of movement began. Against the backdrop of competition, racism and violence, a spiritual revival took place… and it started with the football team.
Jon Erwin was on hand recently when a very-nearly-done version of the film premiered at Legacy Arena in Birmingham at the conclusion of the Restoring Unity event (which was also produced by the Erwins). Prior to the showing, radio and TV host Glenn Beck interviewed Jon Erwin, producer and actor Kevin Downes, and cast members Jon Voight, Nic Bishop, Kevin Sizemore and Caleb Castille.
To say that the release of “Woodlawn” at this time is a miracle in itself would be an understatement. According to Downes, just a year prior to the Birmingham premiere, there wasn’t much to work with, given the length of time it normally takes for a film to go from an idea to the big screen. He said, “Twelve months ago, Jon and I were sitting in a parking lot going, should we shoot this movie this fall so that it could be out for our culture to witness it next fall?… we didn’t have a script, we didn’t have a story, we didn’t have money, we didn’t have a cast. I mean how all these gentlemen came into our cast is nothing short of miraculous and to me, God gets all the credit.”
That may explain how a little independent film of the Christian genre managed to attract the attention of an Academy Award-winning actor to play an iconic football coach. Jon Voight, who plays famed University of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, was drawn to the character and work ethic of the Erwins. As he told the crowd in Birmingham, “I looked them up and they had a little video of their work together, and I looked at these guys, and I saw the way that they worked, the kindness to the people that they worked with, they joy they took in their work and Jon said, he said, “here’s how we make film…the best idea wins. So that meant he was collaborative and he was going to engage everyone in the process, which is what you have to have for the very best kind of film.”
It was more Divine Intervention that brought Caleb Castille into the cast. Castille plays Tony Nathan, a young African-American man who is integrated into Woodlawn High School. He goes on to become a star athlete who is recruited by Bear Bryant to play for Alabama. In an odd case of art imitating life, Castille was a football player at the University of Alabama. In fact, it could be said that playing for the Crimson Tide is sort of the Castille family business since both of his older brothers and his father played there. But in early 2013, in spite of his success on the field, Castille said he felt God was leading him away from football towards acting. As he put it, ‘Football was so comfortable to me, right, and through just being sick and tired of being sick and tired, I took the time to grow closer to the Lord, which in essence brought .. a better knowledge of why He put me on the earth.” Castille said he wants to reach people, and believes there’s no better way to do that than to work in films. For this film, Castille was hired to be the stunt double for the original actor, until a last-minute casting decision placed the young athlete-turned-actor into his first starring role.
Jon Erwin and his brother Andrew direct and produce “Woodlawn”, and Jon co-wrote the script with Quinton Peeples. Another of the main characters, Hank Erwin, played by Sean Astin, was inspired by the patriarch of the Erwin family. Hank Erwin was an evangelist, broadcaster and later, an Alabama state senator. The elder Erwin was in attendance at the premiere and later closed with a prayer. His son Jon praised him as a “great dad” and told the audience he’s had a great opportunity to honor him in this film and bring such a compelling story as “Woodlawn” to film-goers. He believes it has a relevant message for today. “It’s a story of an impossible situation…love, the love of Christ conquering hatred and if it happened then, it can happen now.”
“Woodlawn” opens in theaters around the country on October 16th. A review of the movie will be posted here next week.
***For behind-the-scenes geeks only: Check out the new Liberty Belle Blog TV channel on Vimeo for more audio from these on-stage interviews at the Birmingham premiere. There are 2: an un-edited one with a little more audio from Kevin Downes & Jon Erwin who both comment on the “War Room” /“Woodlawn” connection; The edited audio has sound bites from Erwin, Downes, Castille & Voight, who talks about playing Bear Bryant. Both include my own pics from the premiere, as well as photos from various websites, including www.woodlawnmovie.com.
St. Paul, Minnesota is about 1,000 miles from Birmingham, Alabama geographically. Both cities had gatherings this past weekend that, when looked at side by side, shows that perhaps more than miles separate them.
In St. Paul, police estimated between 350 and 500 people showed up at the Minnesota state fair on Saturday to support the “Black Lives Matter” march. Why pick the state fair to stage such an event? To make a point about economic disparities, of course. Organizer Rashad Turner said, “”There are going to be thousands of people, low-income people, in St. Paul who are going to smell that food, but they’re not going to be able to have any…a lot of people want to put the (Black Lives Matter) in a box and say, ‘You should focus on police brutality,’ but it’s also about the economic and social justices and how they’re interrelated.”
Turner encouraged the marchers to be peaceful; however, peace starts in the heart and comes out the mouth. According to Newsmax, the Black Lives Matter marchers chanted, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon.” This derogatory reference to police came less than 24 hours after a Texas officer was gunned down in Houston Friday night while in uniform…while he was pumping gas.
In Birmingham, the Restoring Unity event (#NeverAgainIsNow) began with a march of anywhere from 20-30 thousand people through the Civil Rights district Saturday morning. At this time, I’ve found no national media coverage of this march, which Birmingham police had estimated numbers closer to 30,000 and said it was likely the largest march in the city since the 1963 Civil Rights marches.
Led by conservative radio commentator Glenn Beck, Bishop Jim Lowe of the Guiding Light Church, and Alveda King, niece of slain Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., the march began at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church. That church was the site of a deadly KKK attack in 1963 that killed 4 young girls.
Carrying signs that stated such things as “All Lives Matter”, “Courage”(under a photo of Frederick Douglass) and “God is the Answer”, the march moved through downtown Birmingham and crossed racial, generational and denominational barriers. Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight was there, as was his friend Chuck Norris…and yours truly.
Ending at the Legacy Arena, the march began a day of speaking, singing, and praying. It’s hard to know how to describe the arena show. It was a little bit of a history lesson as historian David Barton of Wallbuilders spoke about how the youth of the Founding Generation took their places in history to forge independence.
It was a lot of a revival…having church on a Saturday afternoon and listening to the amazing voices of the gospel choir of the Guiding Light Church, powerful messages and prayers from Bishop Lowe, Alveda King, Pastor Rafael Cruz (father of Ted Cruz), and Johnnie Moore. Moore, an author and humanitarian, is an advocate for the Christians in the Middle East who are being marked for extinction in areas being overtaken by ISIS. He told stories of people there who have been executed by the terrorist group for refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ; of women and young girls being sold as slaves, children being crucified and men burned alive in cages. He said the Christians there feel forgotten by their American brothers and sisters.
Then there was the call to action by Glenn Beck. Less than 2 weeks ago when he interviewed Johnnie Moore on his radio show, he vowed to raise a million dollars to help get some of these Christians and Yazidis into any safe country that will take them. He said a family of 5 can be sustained for one year for $25,000, giving them time to get on their feet to build a new life free from the threat of ISIS. As of Saturday, close to $3 million had been raised. He announced a new fundraising campaign called The Nazarene Fund, which will raise $10 million dollars by the end of the year in order to help these persecuted Christians get away from ISIS. He compared it to a modern day Schindler’s List, referring to Oskar Schindler, who saved about 1200 Jewish lives during WWII. Incidentally, Beck is an avid collector of historic artifacts and held up Schindler’s actual hand-written list of names of people that were saved from Nazi death camps.
Beck’s humanitarian organization Mercury One is the donation point for those who wish to help this cause.
There’s much more I could write about Saturday’s event that ended that night with the premier of “Woodlawn”, a faith-based film about the true story of a revival in Birmingham that began with a high school football team in a school on the verge of closing due to racial strife. Jon Voight, who plays Paul “Bear” Bryant in the movie, was at Restoring Unity all day, and appeared on stage with other cast members for an interview with Beck prior to the movie screening. More will be coming about that soon. More pictures and video of Restoring Unity will be posted on the Liberty Belle Blog Facebook page.
In yet another example of fixing something until it’s broke, the Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission is set to vote today on new rules for the internet. The last truly free place to express yourself without having to go through some agency of the government is set to become the next messy bureaucracy.
The plan, in short, is to classify the internet as a utility under the Communications Act of 1934. Progressives are so forward-thinking, aren’t they? Who else could conceive of regulating 21st century technology under the same provisions that began regulating telephone usage more than 80 years ago? The process could give federal regulators the power to impose “net neutrality” rules, which would prevent internet access providers from favoring some content and applications over others.
The details of the plan have not been made public, and are said to outline more than 330 pages of details on how best to regulate the internet to keep it “fair and open”. It seems to be that already, and the president and FCC appear to be trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist yet—and may never exist.
Right now, when someone gets an idea for an online business or a blog, they can just do it. There is no going to any government representative for licensing, paying taxes, etc. Imagine the possibility of there being an Internet Commission or Department of the Internet which would charge licensing fees for various internet activities. Citizen journalists sharing information and giving opinions on current events could have to go through licensing to be able to report on important topics that mainstream media refuse to cover. These are just a couple nightmare-ish possibilities that could be in our future if we don’t make our voices heard today.
Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban (who’s not known for being particularly conservative) explained in an interview with Glenn Beck this week why net neutrality needs to be defeated. (WATCH HERE).
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and chairman of the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler asking him to temporarily postpone the vote and release the plans to the public for 30 days to give people time to look at it. However, as of this writing, his request has fallen on deaf ears.
Because of the hasty and clandestine nature of the vote that’s taking place (by 5 un-elected FCC officials), many are comparing “net neutrality” to the passage of Obamacare in 2010. Do we really want to give the government more power over something that is this big, this important for making all voices heard? Do we really want to give control over the internet to the same people who couldn’t successfully launch a website themselves? (i.e. healthcare.gov). We need more talk—not less. This should be something liberals, conservatives and everyone in between should able to agree upon.
Remember…if you like your health insurance you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor…if you like your blog, you can keep your blog.
***UPDATE 2/26/15 4:55 pm CENTRAL TIME: THE FCC VOTED ALONG PARTY LINES TO APPROVE NET NEUTRALITY. LAWSUITS ARE EXPECTED***
IF YOU WANT TO SIGN THE PETITION AGAINST THE FCC’S NET NEUTRALITY GO HERE.