Yet another movie pandering to Christians?! Not exactly.
by Robin Parrish
John Luther is a mega-minister – millions of viewers and a global reach. Similar in reach to say a Joel Osteen or Rick Warren or Jerry Fallwell. None of these are exactly right for the character as Luther actually preaches the Bible, is way too politically divisive for Warren, and isn’t as fire-and-brimstone as Fallwell. But you get the gist.
There is a bill in Congress that Luther refuses to endorse because he believes it will hinder his free speech and freedom of religion. His public and strongly worded decision to decline to support the bill sets his life, ministry and the nation on a thrilling spiral ending in Luther being wanted for murder.
[SPOILERS] When Luther comes out against the bill, a powerful senator hires shady thugs to set his “friend” Luther up by drugging him and taking pictures of him with an underage girl and then killing the girl in a staged auto accident. Luther then goes on the run until he can prove his innocence. [END SPOILERS].
Once Luther goes on the run the story is similar to, and as enjoyable as, many thrillers. For me it was reminiscent of Will Smith’s Enemy of the State or Harrison Ford’s The Fugitive. You know: innocent man runs trying to prove his innocence while taking out his persecutor. When Luther goes on the run the story picks up and as far as reads or movies go it was standard, enjoyable fare. Where there unexpected and inexplicable coincidences? Sure, but it would be nit picking to say that those were exclusive to mostly tidy Christian themed stories.
Where the book and movie go wrong is in the motivation of the senator and the tenuous ties to persecution. For some reason – that we never fully understand – the senator is pushing a bill through Congress that would (and here it gets murky) somehow combine all faith traditions into a single united faith by giving equal time to each perspective. This is straight out of Left Behind’s pre-tribulational rapture theology and clearly panders to those readers who firmly believe this is coming down the prophetic pipeline and who don’t need an explanation for why. How would such a bill work? Would it even be constitutional? Would people even go for it? Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists would certainly not go for this simply because of a bill passing Congress so the believability of the main point of the story is cast in to immediate doubt. And why the senator is so invested in passing the bill isn’t fleshed out well either.
Furthermore, the claims that this “persecution” is due to Luther’s faith is also indirect. Sure the bill would, if it were enforceable, make some religious distinctives illegal. But Luther wouldn’t support a bill and was attacked for that. Not for anything specific in the Gospel. No matter the bill, this was persecution more for a lack of political support than a religious motivation. With a better understanding of the bill and the motivation behind the bill and its purpose we may see a more clear link between the Gospel and the persecution. Since we don’t have that all we really have is a TV show where Luther tells the host that he doesn’t believe in giving up his freedom of speech.
Bottom line: this is a passable thriller with plug and play Christian themes inserted for more secular choices in other books that ultimately is weakened by a tenuous connection between the faith of the believer and the persecution and also the nebulous and undefined nature of the threatening bill. Fans of Bill O’Reilly, Jay Sekulow and TBN will enjoy the film because it fits their worldview of constant persecution. Those who are looking for a good thriller or those with a less patriotic but more biblical theology may ultimately be disappointed.
Like God’s Not Dead, Persecuted may ultimately be undone by the unbelievability of the scenario and the weakness of the script rather than anything to do with Christianity. If people don’t like this film and book it will be because the story just wasn’t that good. It will not be “another example of Christianity being persecuted by the world.”
@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.