Filmmaking | Reports

Losing Our Religion

1 Dec , 2005  

Written by Andrea Maxwell | Posted by:

Connecticut filmmaker and Pastor J. Stan McCauley explores the future of religion in the third part of the series 'Contending for the Faith,' which screens in Hartford this month and will air on PAX this spring.

It is the not-too-distant future in the United States. Christianity is illegal and its followers hunted down. Like many stories of religious persecution, this may be based more on reality than one may like to admit. What if it were against the law to talk about faith? "Public Enemy Number One" is the third film in a series called "Contending for the Faith." It premieres at the Theater of the Performing Art in Hartford, Connecticut on December 3 at 7 pm and can be seen this next Easter Sunday on PAX at 9 am. Pastor J. Stan McCauley is the executive director of Hartford Public Access Television and writer and producer of the series of "gospel films." His actors were chosen mostly from talent found on NewEnglandFilm.com.

The "genesis of the film," McCauley says, "came from the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. I began to wonder if the allegations against Justice Thomas had more of an impact than whatever the facts may have been." He cites the more recent example of the accusations made against President Bill Clinton. "If a Supreme Court justice and the president are guilty until proven innocent, we’re all in deep trouble," he says, "particularly in a country where you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. People ought to be tried through the system, such as at the voting polls."

This idea grew into the main theme for "Public Enemy Number One." "What if there is enough evidence to convict you of being Christian? Would you plead guilty? Would you continue to tell others if it was against the law and you were persecuted?" McCauley asks. Speeding is just one example of a law that is broken without any thought at all. "People are selective as to which laws they break," says McCauley. The question in "Public Enemy" becomes, would practicing your own religion be a law easily broken or would people decide not to stand up for their faith?

Forcing people to examine their faith is the premise of the entire series. "Public Enemy" is the third of seven, and Light Source Productions is about to begin number four. The first, "The Gospel According to Lenny" and the second, "Resistance is Not Futile," were also premiered with red carpet and spotlights as "Public Enemy" will be. "We like to give the people who spent so much of their precious time acting for us something in return," says McCauley. "The Gospel According to Lenny" focuses on the title character, an anti-hero of sorts, who struggles to decide whether to continue on his destructive path or begin anew by looking toward Jesus. McCauley has also written the stage play "The Door" and hosts an hour-long teaching program on Hartford Public Access Television.

As for religious freedom, McCauley believes that we do have it in this country. But socially it has become a taboo subject. "I’m not so sure it’s politically correct to discuss one’s religion in an open atmosphere." There is a fear that those who express faith will be lumped in with fanatics, those who take their beliefs to the extreme. "People are guarded, more apt to talk about politics than faith or religion, although they are the things that matter most to the majority of people." McCauley’s fear is that people are unable to have a casual conversation. "Discussion doesn’t mean we can’t agree to disagree. But without talking, the pink elephant starts to take over the room."

McCauley linked filmmaking and his religious interests because he felt film was the easiest way to make a complex story simple. "Making parables into a motion picture is a great teaching tool." One goal of his is, "to make Christianity more than something people talk about but something people live." By using film he hopes to, "show people there are not limits to what you can do other than your own imagination" and to "make the Bible something people can understand using real world analogies." He wants to help people view the Bible as, "something practical and not just spiritual." Then the debates can begin, whatever the conclusions for each person may be.

McCauley is not unlike most other filmmakers who want to open the lines of communication. "You don’t necessarily have to have a gospel foundation to enjoy the films," he says. "Otherwise we’re just preaching to the choir. These films are gritty and very real." After all, a controversy today may be mainstream tomorrow and questioning the status quo is what keeps the filmmaking industry afloat.

For more information on ‘Contending the Faith’ visit www.jstan1.net or call 860-757-3688.


For more information on 'Contending the Faith' visit www.jstan1.net or call 860-757-3688.