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.

Denzel Washington’s Amazing Grace Journey

Denzel Washington is an actor, director, producer, and bonafide movie star.

He is well known for infusing his cinematic character portrayals with dignity and grace.

It turns out that these qualities actually emanate from a faith that dwells deep inside the man.

The double Academy Award winner has been forthright about his devotion to the Christian tenets.

His father, Denzel H. Washington Sr., was an ordained Pentecostal minister, who additionally worked at the New York City Water Department as well as at a department store. His mother operated a beauty parlor.

Denzel and his siblings were not allowed to go to movie theaters. Instead their film experience growing up was biblically based and included movie fare such as “The Ten Commandments” and “King of Kings.”

A daily Bible reader, he considered becoming a preacher himself.

“A part of me still says, ‘Maybe, Denzel, you’re supposed to preach. Maybe you’re still compromising.’ I’ve had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach,” he said back in 1999.

“I take what talent I’ve been given seriously, and I want to use it for good,” he added

In addition to the two Oscars that he was awarded, Denzel has three Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Tony in his trophy case.

He is starring in a new adaptation of the Shakespeare classic “Macbeth,” which is set to be released Christmas 2021. The upcoming film is titled “The Tragedy of Macbeth.”

For years he has been candid about his faith.

A rousing commencement address that was delivered a few years ago at Dillard University in New Orleans is titled “Put God First.” The speech has over 28 million views on YouTube.

In the address, Denzel notes that everything he has accomplished in this life has been the result of God’s grace. He encourages the graduates to put God first in everything that they do.

One notable quote from the speech made its way around the world.

“I have not always stuck with God, but he has always stuck with me,” Denzel says.

He is one of a handful of Hollywood actors that routinely go against the grain.

One sterling example is his 40 year marriage to wife Pauletta. The couple has four grown children.

Earlier this year he proudly displayed his support for those who risk life and limb to come to the aid of others in need. He openly praised our nation’s law enforcement and military.

“I have the utmost respect for what they do, for what our soldiers do, [people] that sacrifice their lives,” he said.

“I just don’t care for people who put those kind of people down. If it weren’t for them, we would not have the freedom to complain about what they do,” he added.

Denzel was a recent featured speaker at “The Better Man Event,” which was hosted by the First Baptist Church of Orlando. He was able to share the story of how God has led him by the hand along life’s path.

“At 66, getting ready to be 67, having just buried my mother, I made a promise to her and to God, not just to do good the right way, but to honor my mother and my father by the way I live my life, the rest of my days on this Earth. I’m here to serve, to help, to provide,” Denzel said.

He told his spiritual mentor, Pastor A.R. Bernard, senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, what God has been telling him when he prays: “In every prayer, all I hear is: ‘Feed my sheep.’ That’s what God wants me to do.”

Often his response is, “What’s that mean?”

But, as Denzel explained, “What I found out in the last couple of years is there are all kinds of sheep. So that’s why I talk to experienced shepherds to help guide me.”

Reaching out to men, Denzel explained that “the world has changed,” and asked, “What is our role as a man?”

According to Denzel, the answer to the question emanates from the qualities of “…strength, leadership, power, authority, guidance, patience…,” and he noted that these “are God’s gift to us as men. We have to cherish that, not abuse it.”

He confided that during “the whole 40-year process” of his career, an inner struggle was taking place “for my own soul.”

He spoke of the dangers of narcissism that are plaguing our society during these current unprecedented times.

“It [the Bible] says in the last days we’ll become lovers of ourselves,” he said.

Then he delved into the self-focus that is a peculiar hallmark of the social media phenomena.

“The number one photograph now is a selfie. So we all want to lead. We’re willing to do anything — ladies and young men — to be influential,” he said.

On the subject of celebrity, he explained, “… Fame is a monster and we all have these ladders and battles, roads we have to walk in our given lives. Be you famous or whoever’s out there listening, we all have our individual challenges. It’s cliché [but] money, don’t make it better. It doesn’t. Fame just magnifies the problems and the opportunities.”

According to Denzel, the formula for a successful life is to “stay on your knees.”

Quoting Psalm 19, he said, “I hope that the words in my mouth and the meditation of my heart are pleasing in God’s sight.”

“I’m just like you. What I have will not keep me on this Earth for one more day. Share what you know, inspire who you can, seek advice. If you want to talk to someone, talk to the One that can do something about it,” he advised.

Wise words from a preacher’s son.

Hollywood and the World at Large Mourn the Loss of Norm Macdonald

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…”

This is a line from Joni Mitchell’s hit song “Big Yellow Taxi,” which was written back in 1970.

Mitchell’s words perfectly capture the feelings that a lot of folks are having right now in trying to deal with the passing of Norm Macdonald – Hollywood actor, writer, and most notably, stand-up comic extraordinaire.

Many of his peers are remembering him as the funniest man they’d ever known.

A natural stand-up talent, he followed the universally relatable comedic tradition of observational humor, which has been practiced by so many iconic figures of the comedy world, including the greats Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Jerry Seinfeld.

His career arc took him in a rather novel direction that combined pivotal aspects of life with deadpan minimalism.

He managed to keep his stoic nine-year battle with cancer secret from the public, but on at least one occasion he was able to memorialize his angst in a joke that deals with the whole notion of a person somehow losing the battle with the disease.

“I’m pretty sure, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure if you die, the cancer dies at the same time. That’s not a loss, that’s a draw,” Norm said.

Developing his stand-up brand in Ottawa, Canada, he made a name for himself across his native land.

After appearing on the television series “Star Search,” he landed a job as a writer for Roseanne Barr’s smash TV series “Roseanne,” which started its run in the 1990’s and is still going strong in syndication.

Speaking of things that are still going, Macdonald was blessed with a stint on Saturday Night Live (SNL), where for a total of five seasons he served as part of the SNL cast.

He ultimately secured the coveted anchor throne on the “Weekend Update” segment of SNL, where he got to reign for three and a half seasons.

He guested on other TV shows, “The Drew Carey Show” and “NewsRadio” being a couple of them.

He appeared in movies too, and became a regular on the talk show circuit with hosts the likes of David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, and Howard Stern.

The time-honored joke structure was deftly modified by Norm and his unique form of comedy. He would stretch the set-up section of a joke to the point of audience impatience and would then abruptly spew out a minimalist punch line.

Comics many times serve as the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, sending out a warning to society that it better start paying attention to the critical issues that hover around.

Norm embraced the role. He was a truth teller and wasn’t timid about aiming his humor crossbow at some pretty powerful targets.

On one such occasion his venture into humor, rooted in truth, actually cost him his job.

An NBC executive had reportedly fired him because of a decline in the show’s ratings. But he and others claimed that the dismissal was due to some O. J. Simpson jokes that he had let loose with in the “Weekend Update” segment.

After his termination from the show, he returned to SNL as a host.

Sporting his trademark grin, he used his opening monologue to slam the network for firing him, quipping that the only reason he was asked to come back and host was because the show had “gotten really bad” since his departure.

He was the final stand-up comic to appear on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

Letterman had told a specific joke during a 1970s appearance on a Canadian talk show. In the studio audience was a 13-year-old comedy fan, Norm himself.

He loved Letterman’s joke and never forgot it. In tribute, he performed the bit during the last stand-up act of the final Letterman show.

Ending the set with tears rolling down his cheeks, he told Letterman that he loved him.

Interestingly, he exhibited an intellectual depth that is not typically associated with modern day comics – a Christian perspective with a desire to defend it.

A few years ago he used his Twitter account to question the value of the Enlightenment, bringing a predicable reaction from the liberals, who were upset at the prospect that Norm was Christian friendly.

He penned a post, which he later deleted.

“The Enlightenment turned us away from truth and toward a darkling weakening horizon, sad and gray to see. The afterglow of Christianity is near gone now, and a Stygian silence lurks in wait,” Norm wrote.

He was referring to the loss of artistic reverence for the sacred and a move toward human focused post-modernism, which paved the way for a variety of 19th-century movements, most unfortunately, communism.

Once while serving as one of the judges for the NBC reality show “Last Comic Standing,” he had to deal with a contestant who had mocked the Christian faith.

While other judges characterized the contestant’s jokes as “brave,” Norm stated, “I don’t think the Bible jokes are brave at all.”

He went on to tell the audience, “If you think you’re gonna take on an entire religion, you should maybe know what you’re talking about.”

He was later asked why the contestant’s material had bothered him.

“Oh, just the smugness. There are a lot more hack ‘smart’ comedians nowadays and atheist comedians. It’s so dull. To be talking about being an atheist living in West Hollywood is not the bravest stance to take,” he said.

He put out the following tweet in 2017: “Scripture. Faith. Grace. Christ, Glory of God. Smart man says nothing is a miracle. I say everything is.”

C.S. Lewis said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

Catch your act there, buddy.

Glenn Beck and Fellow Citizens to the Rescue in Afghanistan

On August 18, 2021, syndicated radio talk show host Glenn Beck launched an effort to raise tens of millions of dollars for a non-profit entity called the Nazarene Fund.

The purpose of the fundraising effort was to raise money, which was to be earmarked for an ambitious and highly dangerous task; that being, to try and rescue thousands of Christians and at-risk Afghans following the Biden administration’s abrupt withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan.

Within a few weeks Beck had reportedly raised more than $30 million. As of this writing, he and his organization have used the funds to save 5,200 people from the group that is holding the innocent captive, the Taliban.

Beck’s daring mission was given a major assist, which arrived in the form of a private jet that would help facilitate the venture to the Middle East. The owner of the aircraft is a familiar name to many of the Christian faithful, televangelist Kenneth Copeland.

Beck used the jet to travel to an undisclosed Middle East location that is serving as a base for the rescue effort.

In a video posted to his Twitter account, Beck shared how immensely grateful he is to the Kenneth Copeland Ministries for providing the airplane that assisted in making the rescue effort possible.

He also indicated that The Nazarene Fund is not being used to pay for his travel costs. Instead, he is paying for his own expenses.

In a Twitter video, Beck discussed the financing of the project.

“We view your money as sacred money. It’s like tithing to me,” he said.

“None of my travels or my team’s travels, none of it is paid for by the Nazarene Fund. I insisted it. Not a single meal, not a cupcake-and yes there will be cupcakes on this trip. Everything is paid personally by me,” Beck noted.

Those who have been saved through his efforts from the clutches of the ruthless have been relocated to a number of undisclosed countries.

In a post on Facebook, he explained that those who had been left behind in Afghanistan had experienced the freedom of “being able to say I’m a Christian” because of the protection provided by the United States.

Tragically, that very protection quickly evaporated prior to their delivery to safety.

“We will not forget those left behind,” Beck said. “Our mission there gets tougher and more dangerous.”

Lord David Alton, a British politician known for his humanitarian efforts, praised Beck for his rescue work.

“As the world abandons Afghan minorities to the Taliban,” Lord Alton wrote, “Glenn Beck — emulating Oscar Schindler — did something about it, putting into practice the injunction to ‘rescue those who are being taken away to death…and those stumbling to the slaughter.’”

Beck is part of a valiant effort, one, however, that sadly is not being conducted by our government but instead by private individuals and groups

An example of the type of non-governmental efforts that are taking place is an operation called “Pineapple Express,” in which a volunteer group of U.S. military veterans have been assisting hundreds of Afghan elite forces and their families to exit Afghanistan.

A leader of the effort, retired Green Beret commander Lt. Col. Scott Mann, provided an explanation to ABC News regarding the operation.

“Dozens of high-risk individuals, families with small children, orphans, and pregnant women, were secretly moved through the streets of Kabul throughout the night and up to just seconds before ISIS detonated a bomb into the huddled mass of Afghans seeking safety and freedom,” Lt. Col. Mann stated.

Rescue efforts have become even more urgent in light of the reports that the Taliban has been preventing planes containing American passengers from leaving the country.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has said that he received classified briefings indicating that American citizens and Afghan allies are stuck at an airport in northern Afghanistan and have been unable to leave, despite approval from the State Department.

“In fact we have six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif airport, six airplanes, with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now,” McCaul told Fox News.

As Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman recently told Newsmax’s “Wake Up America,” the U.S. citizens left behind by their own nation are “hostages by any definition.”

“Here’s the Taliban trying to shake down the United States,” Rep. Wittman said. “By any measure, you would say they’re being held as hostages. That needs to be addressed immediately.”

Unfortunately, the only hope for those left behind right now seems to be in the hands of private citizens who are willing to take matters into their own hands, just like Beck has done.

In a recent Instagram post, he criticized the Biden administration for its inaction.

“Biden will only take people [that] the cartels will charge, exploit and rape. Certainly, not those other people that are marked for death because of his policies,” Beck stated.

As his Afghanistan rescue efforts began to show real results, Beck posted a rallying cry on his Facebook page for those private citizens and organizations engaging in the difficult, but noble pursuit of delivering their fellow human beings from evil.

“America does care! America does not leave her own and the most vulnerable behind. WE CAN DO IT AS THE POWER IS WITH THE PEOPLE. We are America not our government. When they can’t do it, private citizens step to the plate,” the post read.

Larry Elder: From South Central to Sacramento?

When it comes to the recall election that is presently taking place in California, Larry Elder could beat the odds and actually unseat current Governor Gavin Newsom.

Analysts from both sides of the political aisle are expressing amazement at Elder’s rapid rise in the polls.

His emergence bears a remarkable similarity to another outsider candidate, who happened to have been a recipient of Elder’s ardent support at the time – number 45 himself, former President Donald J. Trump.

Like Trump back in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, Elder has managed to quickly eclipse his electoral competition, establishing his candidacy as the preferred choice of voters who are longing for a new occupant of the Golden State’s governor’s mansion.

Elder has something else in common with the former president, which may give him an edge over other candidates. It’s called star power.

The man is an accomplished attorney, bestselling author, newspaper columnist, nationally syndicated talk radio show host, and well known television personality.

His celebrity profile has continued to rise over the decades.

For years he enjoyed great In addition to being success as a talk radio show host who covered Hollywood, politics, and the culture. As many talk radio hosts do, Elder became the voice of the friend you count on to keep you updated, keep you entertained, and keep you company on your daily drive.

In addition to radio, television took a liking to him as well. In the late 1980s, he co-hosted a TV show that aired on Cleveland’s PBS member station WVIZ.

Then in the late 1990s, he hosted a PBS national telecast with well known news personalities Fred Barnes and Laura Ingraham.

Additionally, he hosted a TV court series, which aired in the 2000s.

He snagged an Emmy Award in 2000 for a KCAL-TV news special.

From 2000 to 2001, he hosted a syndicated television series called “Moral Court,” which was distributed by Warner Brothers Television as a sibling show to “The People’s Court.”

It was the only courtroom oriented show to deal with ethics and morality, as opposed to focusing on the law alone. Elder himself served as judge.

The series continued in syndication until 2006, and was also carried on ION Television in 2007.

Making the leap to the big screen arena in 2005, he produced and starred in a documentary film called “Michael & Me.” It was a powerful rebuttal to filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore’s documentary “Bowling for Columbine.”

In 2020, Elder became executive producer, co-writer, and star of the highly successful documentary “Uncle Tom.” Currently in post-production is the sequel “Uncle Tom Part II.”

If Elder were to become California’s next governor, he would join the ranks of those whose names appear on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: the late great former president Ronald Reagan and the Hollywood actor-turned-Golden State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After admiring his professionalism and talent as an entertainer, and simultaneously enjoying the radio ride, I got to appear as a guest on his talk radio show when it aired on KABC in Los Angeles. It furthered deepened my appreciation for him as a colleague and as an individual.

I later had the opportunity to introduce him when he spoke at the Nixon Library.

Much like others who have had the privilege to get to know the man better, I am of the opinion that he is a master when it comes to communicating ideas and a quintessential professional when it comes to preparedness, decisiveness, and judgment.

Elder is well known on the Left Coast as “The Sage from South Central.”

He grew up in a part of Los Angeles where most folks would be unfamiliar with restaurants the likes of the “French Laundry” and wholly uninterested in those who try to impress others by putting on airs.

Raised by a Marine sergeant father, who worked as a janitor and eventually ran his own café restaurant, as well as a mother who worked as a government clerk, Elder was instilled with the same work ethic that his parents had modeled for him.

In his youth, Elder excelled as an honor student at Crenshaw High School. Later in life he became a practicing attorney. He set up an attorney search firm and eventually ventured into multimedia.

He has recently managed to garner almost twice the Wikipedia traffic that Newsom is receiving, a sign that many people are interested in obtaining more information on the man who just might become Governor Sage from South Central.

He clearly caught the attention of the Democratic Party and of those who are involved in the anti-recall effort.

Plain and direct speaking on subjects such as soaring crime rates, widespread homelessness, and a growing economic chaos will do that.

But Elder is wise to the politics of personal destruction that are being deployed against him, and he is not deterred.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber kicked off the assault on him. His name was curiously omitted from the list of candidates that was supposed to appear on the ballot. The claim was that he had failed to submit complete tax return information as required by law.

Elder filed a lawsuit, which resulted in a Sacramento County judge determining that Weber had improperly disqualified him. The judge promptly ordered that Elder’s name be placed back on the ballot.

Ever since the announcement of his candidacy, many establishment media outlets have let loose with a barrage of negative hit pieces, some that even characterize the African-American man from South Central Los Angeles as a bigot.

Paradoxically, the attacks seem to be strengthening Elder’s already prominent name recognition and may ultimately even be improving his chances of gubernatorial victory.

Travis Tritt’s Quarter Notes

Travis Tritt has a brand to which very few musical artists can lay claim.

He’s one of the original country music singer-songwriters to combine country rock with urban soul.

For decades the double Grammy winner has been topping the charts, churning out hits that include “Country Club,” “Anymore,” “Can I Trust You With My Heart,” “Foolish Pride,” and “Best of Intentions.”

But his signature song, “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),” paints a bigger picture, one that speaks volumes about a man who values dignity over concession and principle over popularity.

Tritt’s musical talents were nurtured in his youth. He grew up listening to the Sunday school choir at his church and eventually joined the church band, performing at other nearby houses of worship.

Much like the lyrics in his songs, his verbal communication is simple and straightforward.

He recently shared his perspective on some of the current vaccination policies that are being implemented within the entertainment industry and in certain municipalities.

“In light of recently announced policies and mandates from some entertainment companies, promoters, and local municipalities which would discriminate against specific concert attendees who are not vaccinated, I feel compelled to make a statement,” Tritt said in a press release provided to the media.

Although not specifically singled out by Tritt, the largest concert promoters in the country recently announced some unprecedented medical mandate requirements for concert attendees.

Live Nation has placed conditions on those who wish to attend concerts. Beginning Oct.1, only those who are fully vaccinated, or those who are able to produce a negative test prior to an event, will be admitted.

And for all concertgoers and employees, AEG Presents is calling for full vaccinations, with no testing options, beginning Oct. 4.

Tritt is currently in the midst of a tour called the Brooks & Dunn Reboot Tour, which runs through Oct. 9 and is being promoted by Live Nation.

In his press release, Tritt chose to focus on the rights of individuals in making their own medical decisions.

“I have always been a huge defender of basic human rights and liberty for all. No government, employer, or private entity should ever be allowed to infringe on those rights and liberties,” he explained.

In response to the proliferation of inoculation mandates, he views unvaccinated persons as being discriminated against by the policies.

Tritt is fully supporting “anyone who is willing to publicly stand against discrimination and the squelching of any specific freedoms and basic human rights around the world.”

He concluded his statement with the following quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Although some fans may not be happy with the ideas that Tritt has expressed, this musical artist is no stranger to controversy.

On the night of the 2020 election, he blasted Fox News for the network’s early call of voting results in the state of Arizona prior to officials having tabulated all of the votes.

“No matter what the final results are tonight, one thing is extremely clear. @FoxNews can no longer claim to be the fair and balanced network they once were. There are a lot of biased hacks there now and a ton of folks are noticing. It’s now @newsmax for me for election results,” he tweeted.

Last May Tritt released his first studio album since 2007, titled “Set in Stone.”

In his recent single from the album, “Ghost Town Nation,” he sings about how “headlines are preaching impending doom.”

Then he prescribes a countrified remedy, with the following positive lyrics:

“Making the best of a bad situation

Getting by just fine in a ghost town nation.”

In a revealing recent appearance on the Jesus Calling podcast, Tritt opened up about his deeply held religious beliefs.

“My mother and sister and I were in church every single time the doors were open. … I grew up with the understanding of what God meant to my family’s life, to my life. We had Bible study on a regular basis. It was a great place to build the foundation for the rest of your life,” Tritt said.

He also noted in the podcast that when difficult situations arise (which incidentally are often the subject of his song lyrics), answers may be best received when we’re on our knees.

“The power of prayer is extremely strong. I believe in it 100 percent. I know what it’s capable of. I know what God’s capable of. And if we bring those things to Him in prayer, He will not leave us and He will not forsake us,” Tritt shared.

The Queen of Soul Credits the King of Kings in New Biopic

Aretha Franklin is recognized by multiple generations as the “Queen of Soul.”

Now there’s a biopic that immortalizes her title.

The newly released film “Respect” follows in the cinematic footsteps of other recent biopics that have been shining the spotlight on legendary Hollywood figures, including “Ray” (Ray Charles), “Rocket Man” (Elton John), and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Queen’s Freddie Mercury).

Moving from the young musical prodigy who grew up in Detroit to the seasoned soul singer who returns to her religious roots, the film beautifully conveys Aretha’s life and artistry.

Director Liesl Tommy explains that the film begins “with the church and ends with the church.”

The opening scene features a venue in Detroit in which Aretha first performs as a choir member. It is the same Baptist church where her father, C.L. Franklin, is recognized in his own right as a renowned pastor.

Much like his church, the doors of Pastor Franklin’s home are open. He is host to singers that include the legendary figures Dinah Washington and Sam Cooke. Young Aretha simply knows them as Aunt Dinah and Uncle Sam.

The African-American church where Aretha’s voice first takes to the heavens holds a unique place in American religious history. It is a holy place that provided sanctuary to an oppressed people as they went from slavery to freedom, and then from segregation to civil rights.

The gathering of a faith-filled people, who sought to express love to their Creator and to one another, produced a new genre of music, the joyous gospel style that ultimately made its way around the globe.

The gospel tradition also generated an amazing number of soul stars, who began their singing careers praising God in African-American churches. The church celebrity roster included Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, Dennis Edwards, Lou Rawls, Diana Ross, Curtis Mayfield, Donna Summer, Little Richard, John Legend, Usher, Otis Redding (who actually penned the title song “Respect”), and the Academy Award winning actress and Grammy winning singer (who was hand-picked by Aretha to portray her) Jennifer Hudson.

In the final years of her life, Aretha was a mentor to a young Hudson. Providentially, the two shared the same debut performance venue, both having begun their musical experiences in the church.

“Our biggest base and foundation as a people has been the church,” Hudson tells Refinery29.

“It’s every bit of my life,” she says. “It’s every bit of what has brought me through everything that I’ve been through. … It was so amazing to start in the church and end in the church.”

“It shows that that’s where the power lies, within those roots,” Hudson explains.

With respect to Aretha, Hudson notes, “It wasn’t until she trusted the gift that God instilled in her that we found our Queen of Soul. And it wasn’t until when she went back to her roots, that she gained her greatest success. It lies within us, you know?”

“Respect” was released theatrically this past weekend.

The studio had originally planned a three-phase release for the biopic, with a limited number of screens for Christmas of 2020 to be followed by an increase in screens on January 8, 2021, and a wide release a week later.

Like so many other Hollywood projects, plans for the debut had to be changed due to the pandemic. The film was re-scheduled to a single release date of January 15, 2021, but was delayed once again to August of 2021.

Some themes and complexities of Aretha’s life are explored in the film, including her support of the civil rights movement and of her family friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the difficulties experienced with her first two managers, i.e., her father (played by Forest Whitaker) and her first husband Ted White (played by Marlon Wayans).

Wayans understands how Aretha was able to overcome her problems.

“God gets you through,” Wayans tells The Christian Post. “There is nothing that you can go through that you cannot get through. If you have God on your heart and you’re in His hands, just know that He’s protecting you.”

Hudson remembers that Aretha influenced others to pray and to continue “holding on to their faith and trusting God through it all.”

Like her mentor, Hudson now encourages those around her to turn to prayer.

“As they say, if He’ll bring you to it, He’ll bring you through it because that’s what I do. So I would always encourage others to do the same for sure,” she says.

The film shows a redemptive turning point for Aretha, when she shocks her record label by deciding to record a live gospel album.

Aretha’s decision invokes a scene in the film that has her mother, Barbara Siggers Franklin, telling her daughter, “Your daddy doesn’t own your voice, God does.”

Hudson acknowledges that both she and Aretha do not have ownership of their talents.

“I learned at a very early age, growing up singing in church, that it’s beyond you, and who you are. I feel as though as long as I hold on to that, it keeps you grounded in a way,” she explains.

Hudson, like her mentor now from above, sees her singing ability as coming, not from herself, but from “a higher power.”