Mark Wahlberg Teams up with Mel Gibson for Faith-based Film ‘Stu’

Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson are starring in an upcoming faith-based movie titled “Stu,” a biopic on the life of a man who was a boxer, actor, museum manager, and ultimately an ordained Catholic priest.

The main character in the film, Father Stuart Long, was affectionately known as “Father Stu,” hence the movie title.

Wahlberg began working on the project two years following the passing of Father Stu in 2014. The upcoming feature was financed in part by Wahlberg himself and is currently in post production.

Wahlberg plays the lead role, and Gibson plays the part of Father Stu’s dad, Bill Long.

It makes all the sense in the world for Wahlberg to pursue a faith-oriented project. He once told Parade Magazine that faith was “the most important part” of his life.

In reference to this faith, he stated, “I don’t try to push it on anybody and I don’t try to hide it.”

Father Stu’s real life story is an awe-inspiring one.

Although he himself was not Catholic, but rather an agnostic, he nevertheless attended a Catholic institution called Carroll College.

At one point he took up the sport of boxing and was adept enough at it to win the Montana Golden Gloves championship. However, as a result of a jaw injury that he suffered, he was forced to abandon the sport.

He ended up moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career and was able to secure work as a movie extra and also did some advertisement spots.

It wasn’t long before he became disenchanted with the entertainment industry and decided to change direction. He began working at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where he eventually rose to managerial level.

His chosen mode of transportation to and from work happened to be a motorcycle. One day while traveling home he collided with a car and was thrown headfirst into another vehicle in an adjacent lane.

It was there at the hospital that he would have a deeply profound religious experience, which would alter the course of his life forever.

Although at one point in life he had fallen in love with a Catholic Christian woman, as so frequently happens things would turn out quite differently than expected.

Once baptized in the Catholic faith, he began to feel a strong spiritual pull that would ultimately lead him to a priestly vocation. He took the necessary steps to pursue this calling.

While studying at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, he was forced to undergo surgery to remove a tumor in his hip region. It was determined that he had a rare autoimmune disease called “inclusion body myositis,” which is an inflammatory degenerative muscle condition that causes weakening of the body’s musculature, similar to ALS.

Sadly, there is no effective course of treatment for the disease. By the time of his ordination in December 2007, due to the severity of his symptoms, he was already reliant on crutches to assist him in walking.

The cross he was carrying would become the blessing that would end up enhancing his pastoral capabilities.

As a cleric, Father Stu was simply remarkable.

He served as a priest for six short years, but the impression left on all those who were fortunate enough to be shepherded by him would be an indelible one.

Bishop George Thomas, now at the Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada, was the bishop of Helena, Montana at the time, where Father Stu was serving as a priest.

Bishop Thomas recalls that Father Stu’s liturgy services were “deeply moving.”

The bishop describes the progression of the disease as well as the toll it took on Father Stu’s health and ability to perform his priestly duties.

He shares the story of a Mass for the students at Carroll College at which Father Stu presided, where the good father “was so weak at this stage that as he reads the Words of Institution [or Consecration] during the Mass, one of the students would take his hand and help lift up the Host.”

While in a rehabilitation facility, Father Stu took it upon himself to become a sort of in-house pastor. People would line up outside his room, waiting for the opportunity to seek his counsel or to receive the sacrament of absolution.

Participating in what would be the last Easter Vigil of his life, his condition was so weakened that attendance was only possible via a gurney. But there was no way he was going to miss the high holy day.

It turns out that Father Stu had another reason for being there, though – his most fervent prayers were about to be answered.

With tears running down his face, he watched as his own mother and father were baptized into his beloved faith.

Six years ago Wahlberg contacted Bishop Thomas to learn about Father Stu’s life and obtain the bishop’s approval for the project.

Bishop Thomas recounts the moment.

The actor’s words were short and sweet: “The Church has been through so much; I would like to do something beautiful for the Church.”

Lecrae: A Bright Light in the Hip Hop Music World

Lecrae Devaughn Moore, publicly known as Lecrae, is a pioneer and leading figure in the growing genre of gospel-hip hop. He is also well known for having secured a great degree of fame in the fields of singing, songwriting, record producing, acting, and filmmaking.

He has sold millions of albums and mixtapes and received numerous awards, including four Dove Awards and two Grammys. His third solo album, titled “Rebel,” was released in 2008 and quickly became the first Christian hip hop album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel chart.

He has plenty of titles attached to his name, including president, co-owner, and co-founder of Reach Records, an independent record label, and co-founder of 3 Strand Films, a film production company.

Most refreshingly, he openly states that he views his music as an art that reflects his Christian faith.

He told the Houston Chronicle, “I try to be authentic… I know my roots are in hip hop, but faith is the bedrock that I stand on, and it’d be difficult for faith to not bleed through my music.”

Interestingly, in 2014 he was one of a number of plaintiffs who sued pop singer Katy Perry, claiming that she had pilfered their intellectual property for her hit tune “Dark Horse.”

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants, including Perry, had used Lecrae’s song “Joyful Noise” without having had permission to do so.

The suit further alleged that Perry had “irreparably tarnished” the devoutly religious message of the original song by associating it with “witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery.”

When the case went to trial in 2019, a jury came to a verdict that Perry and the other defendants were liable, and the amount of damages were determined to be nearly $2.8 million. However, Perry appealed, and in 2020 a judge overruled the jury’s verdict.

Lecrae is an advocate for personal responsibility in general, and fatherhood in particular. He even partnered with NBA star Dwayne Wade in a multimedia initiative called “This is Fatherhood.”

He recounts his own conversion story in his autobiographical book titled “I Am Restored: How I lost my religion but found my faith.” It hit the shelves in October 2020.

He shares how he did not know his own father as a youngster. Rather, he was raised by a single mother in South Houston. And although he attended church with his Christian grandmother, he failed to embrace her religious faith.

He told Christianity Today that his father “fell victim to…incarceration and drugs and different issues in his life.”

He also shared that his uncles “were all 10 years older…and were gang members and drug dealers…were some of my role models…”

He suffered “physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse. And so I just had a lot of dysfunction in my childhood.”

Lecrae sank to the depths of dealing drugs for a living. His loving grandmother had given him a Bible, and despite his disbelief in the Holy Scripture he brought it along with him for good luck.

This fortuitous practice ended up playing a pivotal role the day he was arrested on drug charges. After the police officer noticed the Bible, he let Lecrae go free on the condition that the young man would promise to live by the Good Book.

His mother had encouraged him to read his Bible, but he had expressed antipathy for the Word, even ripping out pages and defiantly tossing the book on the floor.

At the age of 17, a cloud of darkness hung over his life, which led him to feel as though he had reached a dead end.

As a result of his grandmother’s influence, he began attending church. A young woman with whom he had attended high school happened to be present. She invited him to a Bible study.

It was here that he would meet his future bride Darragh, who would also go on to become the mother of his three children.

It was also here that he would meet his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Pastor James White was talking about how Christians are purchased through the suffering of Christ. As Lecrae recalls it, White posed the question, “Do you know you have been bought with a price?”

It made him think, “Somebody thinks I’m significant enough to die for me. Someone thinks I’m significant enough to climb up this mountain with a cross on his back, to take nails in his wrists and his feet…for me.”

He sent up a prayer. “God get me out of this, don’t kill me; do whatever you have to do to get me out of this, just don’t kill me,” he pleaded.

As so often is the case, his prayer was answered in a most unexpected manner. While driving on a highway, he took a turn too fast and his car went into a roll. He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

The roof and windshield of the car were crushed, and his glasses were pressed into the frame of the car. Miraculously, he not only survived, he was able to walk away unharmed.

The incident convinced him that it was time to commit his life to the one who had paid the price.

Lecrae’s most recent project is the launching of a web series called “Protect The Bag,” the goal of which is to teach financial literacy and provide education to a younger generation of individuals, enabling them to learn how to build and protect their own financial assets.

With regard to the project, he shared the following in a statement: “I am on a mission to spread the word on financial education because when I was growing up, I wasn’t educated about money or budgeting and had to learn a lot about it the hard way.”

The internet series features celebrities such as Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Locket, Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., and former NBA player Kyle Korver.

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Conversion on Stage and at the Cineplex

Iconic British writer and theologian Clive Staples Lewis, a.k.a. C.S. Lewis, is best known for his literary works of fiction, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” which have been adapted for radio, television, stage, and cinema. However, he is also greatly revered in the academic world, having taught at Oxford and Cambridge.

For Christians and other faith-filled people, though, he is highly regarded as being one of the most influential Christian thinkers and writers on record, particularly for his non-fiction masterpieces “Mere Christianity” and “The Problem of Pain.”

Remarkably, in his early days, and for a sizable segment of his adult life, he was a committed atheist, a belittler of religion in general, and a denigrator of Christianity in particular.

His personal story of how he went from atheist to skeptic to believer is so compelling that a new film, “The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis,” has made its debut, and the movie has been so successful that both the number of screens and showings have been expanded to meet the demand.

The new C.S. Lewis movie is produced by the Fellowship for Performing Arts and distributed by Trafalgar Releasing, a specialist in event-oriented films. In what was originally scheduled to be a one-night only showing, the biopic brought in $2,863 per-screen, which quickly prompted the expansion.

The film is based upon the one-person play “C.S. Lewis on Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert,” which stars Max McLean. The brilliant stage presence has been honing his portrayal of Lewis’s persona for years with performances in 64 cities, on numerous college campuses, and in an extended run in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

McLean is the lead character and narrator of the movie version of Lewis’s story, a film project in which the skillfully written screen adaptation penned by McLean transforms the play into a fully cast cinematic production.

The real life Lewis was no doubt a strong willed individual. When he was four-years-old, his dog Jacksie was hit by a car and killed. In his grief, Lewis took his dog’s name as his own and refused to answer to any other name, including his given one, Clive. The Jacksie nickname eventually contracted to Jack, and it stuck with Lewis for the rest of his life.

After the untimely loss of his mother at the age of nine, he had to endure a strained relationship with his father. Lewis went on to attend a prep school during adolescence, where he fell away from his faith, became an atheist, and developed a fascination with European mythology and, most unfortunately, the occult.

At the impressionable age of 19, he, like many of his peers, would find himself thrust into the brutal trenches of World War I. He served in France, where atheism would sadly be firmly planted in his susceptible mind.

He himself was wounded during the war, and two of his colleagues were killed by a British shell that fell short of its target.

As he later wrote, and as his character gives testimony to in the film, he came to believe that there was either “no god behind the universe, a god who is indifferent to good and evil, or worse, an evil god.”

He nevertheless continued to be haunted by deficiencies within the philosophical reasoning of pure materialism since, within this ideological framework, free will, rational thought, and/or intelligibility must be merely haphazard processes of “random atoms bouncing together in a skull.”

He also vividly recalled a book that he had read at age 16, penned by the Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister George MacDonald. MacDonald’s “Phantastes” is a work that Lewis mystically characterized as having “baptized my imagination.”

He developed a providential friendship with fellow Oxford faculty member and novelist J. R. R. Tolkien of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” fame. They were both part of the informal Oxford literary group known as the “Inklings.”

Inklings founder, philosopher, author, poet, and critic Owen Barfield also had a profound influence on Lewis, so much so that Lewis dedicated his book, “Allegory of Love,” to his friend. He also dedicated his first “Narnia” chronicle to Barfield’s adopted daughter Lucy, and additionally dedicated “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” to Barfield’s son Geoffrey.

It was Barfield, Tolkien, and fellow Inkling Hugo Dyson who slowly nudged Lewis toward a theistic belief system, despite Lewis’s “kicking, struggling, … darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.”

After a fateful late night walk and conversation with Tolkien and Dyson, Lewis finally surrendered, humbling himself before the Creator.

As Lewis wrote in his book “Surprised by Joy,” “That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

Three years later Lewis moved beyond mere theism, rediscovered the Christianity of his childhood, and completely committed himself to Christ. This took place while he and his brother were on their way to the zoo, Lewis seated in the sidecar of his brother’s motorbike.

“When we set out I did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and when we reached the zoo I did.” Lewis says in the play and the film.

The extraordinary and inspiring story of this powerful pilgrimage to God is tenderly told in “The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis.”

Tickets to the big-screen release are available at, and the play can be streamed on the Internet.

Well worth the investment of mind, heart, and soul.

Tim Allen No Longer Buzz Lightyear’s Voice

Tim Allen is an actor-comedian who has taken his fame to stratospheric heights with successful roles in the “Toy Story” franchise, the “Santa Clause” movie series, and numerous other films, including “Galaxy Quest,” “Wild Hogs,” and “The Shaggy Dog.”

He made the scene on the small screen as well with roles that include Tim “The Toolman” Taylor on the ABC sitcom “Home Improvement” and Mike Baxter on the ABC (and more recently Fox) sitcom “Last Man Standing.”

Tim sort of began his career when he accepted a dare from a friend. He took to the stage at a suburban Detroit comedy club.

In the late 1970s, his life trajectory would take a dark and devastating turn, though. He got arrested on drug charges, and after agreeing to a plea deal ended up serving two years and four months in a federal prison.

Following his release from prison in 1981, he moved to Los Angeles. It was here that he became a regular performer at the legendary Comedy Store and began pursuing what would eventually blossom into an extraordinary career in the entertainment business.

Tim’s success really reached a pinnacle in 1994, when he starred in what at the time turned out to be the highest-grossing film for Disney, “The Santa Clause.” He simultaneously topped the New York Times bestseller list with his book “Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man” and additionally held the lead role in the top-rated TV sitcom “Home Improvement.”

What makes it all truly remarkable is that these once in a lifetime successes took place within the span of a single week.

Fast forward to the present and devoted “Toy Story” fans can be seen seriously trying to cope with the recent decision on Disney’s part to exclude Tim from its upcoming “Toy Story” spinoff.

Fittingly titled “Lightyear,” the upcoming movie delves into the origins of Tim’s beloved Buzz Lightyear character.

In all of the previous “Toy Story” films, Tim plays the voice of Buzz Lightyear, most recently starring in 2019’s “Toy Story 4.” He is without a doubt the voice most associated with the endearing character and as such has been an integral part of the “Toy Story” brand for almost three decades.

So from a business perspective, it makes no sense for entertainment executives to avoid using the actor who helped place the “Toy Story” franchise in a position where a spinoff could actually be a feasible option.

Disney’s move to replace Tim’s voice with that of “Captain America” actor Chris Evans has prompted tons of discussion on social media, questioning whether Tim’s removal was politically motivated.

Tim, who is known to have taken right-of-center positions on a number of occasions, may be experiencing a severe déjà vu, because it sure seems like this drama has played out before.

After six successful seasons, his sitcom “Last Man Standing” was inexplicably canceled in 2017 by the Disney owned ABC television network, despite it having been one of the most popular shows on air at the time. It consistently brought in strong ratings in a very difficult time slot, too.

On the show, Tim plays the role of a dad with conservative leanings who retains his manhood in a household filled with females of the wife and daughters kind. The lead character is apparently loosely based on Tim’s own real life experiences as a father of three girls.

Even though questions were raised publicly about the motivation behind ABC’s abrupt cancellation, the network brass was unable to come up with a reasonable explanation for its decision.

As if to underscore what appeared to be an absurd cancellation, Fox television network saw fit to pick up the show and allow it to continue to be aired.

This time around, though, it is Disney division Pixar that seems to once again be making a bizarre business decision, leaving the public to assume it may have been made for the wrong reasons.

Why would an individual with an instantly recognizable voice, who had helped to establish a franchise that had brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, be removed from the spinoff? It truly makes no sense.

In an attempt to explain away the snub, Tim’s detractors have concocted an excuse that the reason Disney has given Tim the cold shoulder is because the film is actually the origin story about the “real” Buzz Lightyear.

Trade magazine Variety explains away the miscasting with the narrative that the spinoff “doesn’t follow the toy-sized, space-faring exploits of Tim Allen’s iconic character. Rather, the 2022 film introduces the ‘real-life’ human astronaut whose adventures inspired the toy line seen in the ‘Toy Story’ franchise.”

Tim has the unique ability to deal with the entertainment industry’s erratic ups and downs, due to something that developed during his maturing process – his faith.

Like so many others, he revealed that he was a reluctant convert.

“For years, I just did not like this idea of God, church,” he said. “(I was) still a churchgoer, but constantly a cynic.”

He discovered a unique manner in which he could approach and actually acknowledge the existence of the Creator. He refers to God as “The Builder.”

He came to the realization that his own existence, and that of the world, wasn’t happenstance.

“Whoever built me, this is too much, too weird that it happened by accident,” Tim said.

He continues to seek guidance from above to determine his life’s direction.

“I always do ask… The Builder, what did you want me to do?” Tim explains. “And I do ask…”

Wise words from a man who keeps on building.

Joe Rogan Verbally Spars with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta

Actor, comedian, TV personality, UFC color commentator, and podcast host Joe Rogan has achieved a level of success in life to which very few can lay claim.

His entertainment industry profile reads like a Hollywood dream sheet. He has been a comedy specials creator and host of the popular reality series “Fear Factor.” Most currently, he has put together what may arguably be deemed the most successful podcast in the world.

Back in his early teens Rogan developed an interest in martial arts. His first martial art was Taekwondo. He would go on to earn the title of Massachusetts full-contact state champion for four consecutive years.

At one time he thought he might become a professional kickboxer. Instead he took on the role of stand-up comic, which eventually propelled him to the stage at The Comedy Store in Hollywood.

Rogan had some acting roles too, including being part of the NBC sitcom “NewsRadio” cast. It was here that he would become friends with fellow “NewsRadio” cast member Phil Hartman.

During a discussion between the two, Hartman shared with Rogan that he was experiencing some difficulties in his marriage. On numerous occasions, Rogan tried to convince the SNL standout that it might be better for him if he left his wife.

Hartman failed to accept Rogan’s advice, saying that he wanted to remain in the marriage for the sake of the children. No one could have known about the tragedy that awaited. In 1998 Hartman’s life would end at the hands of his wife.

The loss of his friend deeply impacted Rogan, and he canceled a series of performances that had been scheduled. But time heals and spirits are renewed.

He would later secure the role of backstage and post-fight interviewer for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). An eventual friendship with UFC president Dana White afforded him the opportunity to earn the post of color commentator for the fights. Four times he would be named MMA Personality of the Year by the World MMA Awards.

Rogan started hosting the NBC show “Fear Factor” in 2001. He continued to do stand-up performances even as he carried out his host duties on “Fear Factor,” which went on for six straight seasons, with a seventh season airing years later in 2011.

A very busy man, he would become co-host of Comedy Central’s “The Man Show” in 2003.

At the end of 2009, he ventured into the podcasting world with a fellow comedian named Brian Redban. The title of the podcast would later be whittled down to a single host’s name. It rose to fame and lives on as “The Joe Rogan Experience.”

The podcast features an interview format on a wide variety of topics, with a special emphasis on politics, philosophy, and news. It was first picked up by SiriusXM Satellite Radio and later by Spotify in a record breaking $100 million deal.

Most recently, Rogan became the unfortunate target of the cancel culture crowd.

His crime? Asking questions about vaccine mandates and COVID therapies. And having the gall to have expert guests appear on his show to explain their positions.

After Rogan himself tested positive for COVID-19, he chose to use Ivermectin as part of a therapy to regain his health. CNN anchors, including Jim Acosta, Brian Stelter, Erin Burnett, and Jim Sciutto, went on the attack and attempted to smear and denigrate him.

CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta made an appearance on Rogan’s podcast. It was here that Rogan took the opportunity to confront the guest regarding the network’s false characterization of Ivermectin, which Rogan had used to facilitate his recovery. CNN had labeled the medication a “horse dewormer.”

“It’s a lie,” Rogan said during the interview. “It’s a lie on a news network … and it’s a lie that they’re conscious of. It’s not a mistake. They’re unfavorably framing it as veterinary medicine.”

He asserted that CNN mischaracterized a drug that has been “given out to billions and billions of people.”

Part of Rogan’s appeal is just this – people love his blunt approach.

Gupta quickly found out that Rogan was not going to mince words during the interview.

“Why would they lie and say that’s horse dewormer?” Rogan asked Gupta. “Don’t you think that a lie like that is dangerous on a news network when you know that they know they’re lying? … Do you think that that’s a problem that your news network lies?”

Like a fighter who out-maneuvers his opponent, Rogan further drove his point home, emphasizing that CNN is Gupta’s employer.

“Does it bother you that the network you work for out and out lied, just outright lied about me taking horse dewormer?” Rogan grilled Gupta.

Finally Gupta conceded, using the phrase “they shouldn’t have said that.”

As for Rogan, the round continued with him landing some additional verbal punches.

“Why did they do that?” Rogan asked.

“I don’t know,” Gupta responded.

“You didn’t ask [CNN management]? You’re the medical guy over there!” Rogan pointed out.

The now very uncomfortable Gupta admitted that he should have asked.

It was then that Rogan, having transformed into a media critic, moved the focus to the central issue; that is, the responsibility and credibility of Gupta’s network.

“My point is you’re working for a news organization,” he said.

Rogan added the following flurry: “If they’re lying about a comedian taking horse medication, what are they telling us about Russia? What are they telling us about Syria? Do you understand that that’s why people get concerned about the veracity of the news?”

With that, the interview effectively ended with what in Rogan’s former profession is called – a technical knockout.

Sly Stallone’s Lost and Found Faith

Sylvester “Sly” Stallone is an action megastar like no other.

He has the distinction of being the only actor in the history of cinema to have starred in movies that have hit number one at the box office across six consecutive decades.

In addition to acting, he has also had great success in the fields of screenwriting, producing, and directing.

It was back in 1976 that the spotlight first shone so brightly on Sly for his portrayal of the underdog archetype boxing character Rocky Balboa.

He penned the screenplay for the blockbuster “Rocky” film and played the starring role. It went on to receive ten Academy Award nominations and took home three Oscars, including Best Picture.

The movie established Sly as a legitimate writer and highly bankable actor. It also made him a household name. Multiple franchises would follow.

“Rocky” items that were used in the filming of the movie actually made their way into the Smithsonian. And the scene that features the staircase leading to the front entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art got the famed structure nicknamed the “Rocky Steps,” with a statue of the “Rocky” character located nearby.

In the 1980s, he would create a new action character, the reluctant soldier-warrior John Rambo. It would lead to a series of “Rambo” films being developed, the latest of which was released in 2019.

One of Sly’s trademarks is that he has always done his own stunts, which oftentimes have unfortunately resulted in injuries.

In one instance during the making of Rocky IV, he told fellow actor Dolph Lundgren to not just fake hit him, but to actually hit him for real.

On the day of the fight scene, he told Lundgren, “Just go out there and try to clock me.”

Sly wound up being hospitalized and even spent nine days in the intensive care unit.

Consistent with his worldview, many of the plots of the “Rambo” films contain communist characters that are portrayed as the villains they really are. Rocky IV was particularly critical of the old totalitarian Soviet Union.

In the 2010s, Sly launched yet another movie franchise: “The Expendables” series.

“Expendables 3” was released in 2014. Now seven years later Sly is filming an additional installment.

He recently shared some photos on Instagram of himself working on the set of the fourth in the series alongside co-star Jason Statham.

Sly and Statham will be joined by some cast members who are new to the series: Megan Fox and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson.

Sly posted, “Having a great time at work with my great friend Jason on the new EXPENDABLES !!!”

It turns out that the movie plot of the initial “Rocky” film is a kind of allegory for Sly’s personal life.

He was born in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City from a dad of Italian heritage who worked as a cosmetologist and a mom of French and Jewish heritage who was a dancer and promoter of female wrestling.

Nerve damage that occurred during the birthing process caused paralysis to a portion of his face. A blessing in disguise, it would ultimately gift him with a signature facial expression and style of speaking that would become a part of his unique Hollywood brand.

He was bullied as a child, but fortunately his faith-filled home would be a saving grace.

Interestingly, the early positive religious influence made its way into the plotline of the “Rambo” series fourth installment.

Rambo, the atheist main title character, escorts Christians through a hostile territory so that they can minister to the native people. The Christians in turn help to facilitate Rambo’s change-of-heart journey.

Sly talked about his faith during a conference call that was hosted by Central Christian Church of Las Vegas’s Pastor Jud Wilhite.

“I was raised in a Catholic home, a Christian home, and I went to Catholic schools. I was taught the faith and went as far as I could with it until one day I got out into the so-called real world. I was presented with temptation and I lost my way and made a lot of bad choices,” Sly shared.

It would be the “bad choices” that would cause Sly to endure a dozen dark years away from his Christian roots. But he would eventually find his way back to the light.

Quoted by the Catholic News Agency, Sly explained that his baby girl’s medical condition is what caused him to turn to a higher power for assistance.

“When my daughter was born sick, and I realized I really needed some help here, I started putting everything in God’s hands, his omnipotence, his all-forgivingness,” he stated.

He used an action star example to illustrate a point. He compared the process of keeping one’s body fit by using a gym to keeping one’s soul in shape by frequenting a church.

“…[A]ll my life I’ve been involved with exercise but no matter how much—and I know a great deal about the body—you need help. You need a trainer. You need to go to a gym and you need to have the expertise and the guidance of someone else. You cannot train yourself,” he stated, noting that he feels the same way about Christianity.

In the words of one who was lost and then found, “The church is the gym of the soul.”

The Jesus Music’ Film and the Preacher Men Who Paved the Way

Chuck Smith and Billy Graham are two giants of the Christian world who have already gone to their eternal reward.

Interestingly, these prominent pastors play starring background roles in the tale about the origin of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), a story that is deftly told in the newly released film “The Jesus Music.”

The movie takes viewers back to the birthplace of the CCM genre, from its humble origins to the multi-billion-dollar phenomenon that it is today.

CCM is currently tracked by multiple Billboard music charts, and top-selling CCM artists appear on the Billboard 200 as well.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, numerous leaders of the Christian community had an earnest desire to keep contemporary musicians and their attendant gear away from Christian houses of worship, despite the fact that the songs routinely contained inspirational lyrics.

The actions of Chuck and Billy changed the minds, and ultimately the policies, of many church officials, which ended up opening doors for CCM’s growth.

All things worked together to assist in the creation of styles of worship music that were friendly and familiar to church-goers of all types, but particularly to a younger demographic on a quest to satisfy the soul.

It didn’t take long for new Christian artists to be given radio play on stations across the nation.

Flower children who had been alienated by the dead-end drug scene of the 1960s set out on a search to find life’s meaning.

While on the time-honored journey, some found their way to the then-newly formed Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, which was located in Orange County, California.

It was here that they met Chuck, the founder and pastor, who in his inimitable way would teach them about the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Those who have had their own chance meetings with Pastor Chuck know quite well about his love for surfing, which sprang from his unabashed love of God’s creation.

He had an exquisitely simple and direct way of teaching the Bible to the thirsty, a verse-by-verse approach that appealed to truth seekers.

As Calvary Chapel grew, so did the budding “Jesus Movement.”

Rock, folk, and pop instrumentation became a distinctive part of the Christian revival that was going on.

The famed Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in Orange County, California would be the site of the first Christian music festival to take place.

Pastor Chuck also launched a record label in 1971 called Maranatha! Music. It featured hymns, worship songs, and a variety of Christian compositions that helped propel the CCM genre.

In 1972 a game-changing music festival called the “Dallas Explo” (meaning spiritual explosion) took place at the Cotton Bowl, with 85,000 young people in attendance.

The festival, which became known as “Godstock,” had on its bill country music superstars Johnny Cash, Rita Coolidge, and Kris Kristofferson.

Billy was the featured preacher for the event, which conferred an aura of legitimacy to the CCM amalgam of rock, folk, and pop music that had previously been ostracized by pastors.

When asked his opinion of the use of CCM in the church, the pastor to presidents noted that when his ministry first began using CCM music at some of his famous Crusades, it received a fair amount of criticism.

“Our goal was to make young people feel welcome so they would come and hear the Gospel—and over the years countless thousands came to Christ,” Billy said.

“As long as the music’s message was clear and biblical, God used it to help open the door to the preaching of the Gospel,” the evangelist added.

“The Jesus Music” film is directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin. The two are the filmmakers who had previously brought the faith-based blockbuster “I Can Only Imagine” to the screen.

The Erwin brothers are also behind the release of “I Still Believe,” as well as the upcoming “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story.”

“The Jesus Music” features interviews with scores of the genre’s most popular artists, including MercyMe’s Bart Millard, Newsboys’ Russ Taff, CeCe Winans, Rebecca St. James, James’s brother Luke Smallbone of For King & Country, Bill Gaither, Steven Curtis Chapman, Eddie DeGarmo, Michael Tait, LeCrae, Amy Grant, Mandisa, Michael W. Smith, TobyMac, Kirk Franklin, and Lauren Daigle.

[Michael W.] Smith told Forbes. “I think you’re going to have 95-percent of people go, oh my gosh, I had no idea this was the catalyst that spurred the movement in the late 1960s. Vietnam, the drug evolution, civil unrest.”

Throughout the film, artists discuss the life-changing qualities that faith-based music can bring to those who make it, as well as those who hear it.

“This music offers people a sense of hope and a sense of togetherness and a sense of joy, maybe that they’ve not experienced,” musician Joel Smallbone (of the band For King & Country) says in the opening line of the trailer.

[Michael W.] Smith was surprised by the willingness of CCM artists who were interviewed to share personal feelings and experiences.

“Hearing the backstory of other artists … the struggle, the fight. What people have gone through, adversity, how they survived and how they came out on the other side of it,” he said to CBN.

At the Nashville premiere, TobyMac told Billboard, “Whenever you pull back the curtain on anything, things can be exposed — and because I know what’s behind this curtain, I’m happy for it to be pulled back.”

“The Jesus Music” was released this past weekend and is available only in select theaters.