Pulpits and Pews

The fashionable thing to do in churches now is to remove the old wooden pulpits and pews and replace them with modern looking podiums and chairs. But should the church be concerned with what is fashionable or with proclaiming the truth? I have to wonder if we are losing more than pulpits and pews. Are we also forsaking the doctrines and traditions that for so long have been associated with them? Are we forgetting our godly heritage?

I can hear some say, “You’re being legalistic. After all, there are no commands in the Bible to use pulpits and pews.” That’s true, but it might be helpful to look back a few hundred years to when pews became commonplace in churches.

Pews are very much associated with the Protestant Reformation. Protestants emphasized the sermon in worship instead of the liturgy of the Catholic Church. Thus, there’s a symbolic link between the pulpit and pews and the authority of the Word. In fact in some churches, an absence of pews was seen as loyalty to Rome. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that so many Protestant churches currently seem to returning to the great harlot. However, it must be said that the use of pews in Catholic churches is now commonplace.

As churches abandon pews and pulpits, they often embrace worldly music and put less emphasis on the Word. The sanctuary’s main lights are dimmed, and stage lights and colored backdrops illuminate the stage. It becomes much more about performance and entertainment than worship and the Word. And churches that follow the world’s styles may soon follow the world’s doctrines.

In my experience, these modern changes to worship style and furnishings are often forced upon congregations for the sake of being hip and cool in order to appeal to the world. Bible believing Christians in these churches are not listened to by the leadership. They are often made to feel like they are in the wrong and that they are being selfish for desiring to keep their traditions.

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Cor. 14:40

These church leaders often frame worship style as a matter of taste when it should be framed as a matter of biblical fidelity. Hebrews 12:28 speaks about serving God “acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Instead, modern day church leaders often use marketing schemes and worldly business models to push these bad ideas about worship upon those who want to rightly keep their godly traditions.

Is it a coincidence that pulpits in America lack boldness in their preaching? It seems that preachers have surrendered their God-given authority to proclaim the Word and have allowed godless ideologies and diversions to take over the worship services. I was recently in a service where a guest preacher quoted Paul’s admonition in Ephesians for wives to submit to their husbands. When the preacher quoted the passage, he used the word support instead of submit. Now, we can discuss what it means for the wife to submit to her husband and how the husband is to love his wife like Christ loved the Church, but clearly the preacher should be using the Biblical word submit and not watering it down to be less offensive. In another example, an interim preacher whom I knew preached a sermon on homosexuality. He preached it from a Biblical perspective, but he didn’t want to put it on the church’s website because he knew it would be unpopular. We need bold pastors who are unafraid to preach the Word and won’t apologize for it.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Obviously, I’m not saying that pulpits and pews somehow automatically give authority to a preacher or guarantee a church’s orthodoxy. I’m simply commenting on the symbolic nature of the situation–that at the same time churches are watering their services down so as not to offend anyone, they are also adopting more worldly styles, music, and furnishings. The jettison of pews and pulpits is not the cause of the decline in gravitas of the services; it is the result of it.

“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”

‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I know a lot of Christians who feel alienated at church. In the past several years, there has been a disconnect in denominations between the people in the pew and the leaders at the national level, no pun intended. But now this is becoming more widespread and localized. Many leaders seem to be out of touch with their flocks. Some of them seem to be more concerned with what unbelievers want than what their own church members believe is scriptural. Congregants are sometimes made to feel like something is wrong with them for simply wanting to be faithful. It might be wise for pastors to recognize that during this time of great moral and societal upheaval, the members in their flocks earnestly long for churches to be the one place where reassuring traditions will remain in place.

Afghanistan Debacle is a Shameful Day for America

“The Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable. … The Taliban is not … the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.” –President Biden to reporters on July 8, 2021

I was sad for America and for the Afghan people as I heard reports of diplomats scrambling to leave the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan and as I watched the chaotic scene unfold at the airport in Kabul on Sunday. It’s hard to forget the images of Afghans running alongside and clinging to the outside of a C-17 cargo transport plane as it took off. They were desperately hoping to escape the brutal rule of the Taliban. The reason for the sudden panic, of course, was the fall of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to the Taliban on August 15, which was preceded by the complete collapse of the Afghan army, the flight of Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, and the Taliban’s lightning fast takeover of the rest of the country.

A little background on the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan might be helpful at this point. President George W. Bush had originally sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 after the terrorist attacks of 9-11 to prevent the Taliban from providing safe haven to terrorists, namely Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But Bush’s focus on Afghanistan was soon eclipsed by the war in Iraq. When President Obama took office, his administration ramped up operations in Afghanistan, until Osama bin Laden was killed, at which time it gradually drew down the number of troops.

President Trump, eager to end America’s longest war, made a deal with the Taliban for the U.S. to leave the country by May 1, 2021. There were conditions to the agreement such as:

The Taliban was not to “allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

When President Biden took office, he pushed back the withdrawal date to September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of 9-11, and then moved it up to August 31. The Taliban considered this to be a violation of the agreement.

We can debate whether it is wise policy for America to leave Afghanistan now after 20 years and whether nation-building is a futile endeavor, but there is no doubt that the manner in which we are leaving shows the utter incompetence and callousness of the Biden administration. To neglect the safety of our own citizens in the withdrawal process is shameful. After seeing the disaster that took place in Kabul over the weekend, one could be excused for thinking that this administration cares little about its own citizens and even less about its Afghan partners. This debacle is evidence of the failure of the Biden administration to fulfill its most basic duty–protecting American lives.

CBS News reported that Americans in Afghanistan received a message over the weekend from the State Department instructing them to make their way to the airport in Kabul but that the U.S. could not guarantee safe travel to the airport.

It seems that our government has also neglected the Afghan interpreters who helped the U.S. military for the past 20 years. Since they currently do not have visas to leave the country, they are stranded at the airport in Kabul. Obviously, they feel betrayed by an American government which they spent two decades helping.

“We are not withdrawing, we are staying, the embassy is staying, our programs are staying … If there is a significant deterioration in security … I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.” —Secretary of State Blinken on July 7

What do these failures indicate to our allies around the world? They show our friends that they can’t trust the United States government to keep its word. This loss of confidence in America’s ability to defend her allies won’t be easily repaired.

“I may be wrong, who knows, you can’t predict the future, but I don’t see Saigon 1975 in Afghanistan. The Taliban just aren’t the North Vietnamese Army. It’s not that kind of situation.”  –Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley

We need new leadership in the United States. We need a President who will protect our troops, diplomats, and citizens. We need a leader who will show concern for our allies and keep his word. We need a Commander-in-Chief who will uphold America’s role as leader of the free world.

We also need to make national security a priority again. Allowing the Taliban to take over Afghanistan in a week’s time after twenty years of American investment in lives and treasure is virtually inviting terrorists to attack us.

In the past, America has been a beacon of liberty, a city on a hill, and a land of hope. She has stood up against the enemies of freedom and helped out those who couldn’t help themselves. But sadly, this botched withdrawal from Afghanistan shows the world that America does not currently have the right leadership to fulfill these roles. And that realization is emboldening the enemies of freedom around the world–from the Taliban to Russia to China.

So say a prayer tonight for the Americans and Afghans who are stranded in a country which is now ruled by terrorists. And say a prayer for America–that she would once again be a country which fights for freedom and defends her allies.

Vicksburg, Destin, and Battleship Memorial Park: Road Trip Summer 2021

My family and I recently took a road trip to Destin, Florida. On the way down there, we stopped at the Civil War battlefield of Vicksburg.

The Siege of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4, 1863), in which Major General Ulysses S. Grant forced Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton to surrender, was a turning point for the Union in the Civil War. Notice the Fourth of July date as the end of the siege. The town did not celebrate Independence Day for many years after the battle as a result. The siege also ended just a day after the failed Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

This was only my second visit to a Civil War battlefield and my first trip to the site of a major battle. The nice thing about visiting Vicksburg is that you can see quite a bit in a short period of time. We only had about an hour to spend there, but I feel like we saw most of the park. There is a drive-through tour, and you can go at your own pace. It didn’t cost us any admission fees to get in.

We saw several cannon and memorial markers. We also went inside the Illinois State Memorial, which was modeled after the Roman Pantheon. The stairs and base are made of granite, while the columns and dome are made of marble.

The highlight of the visit was getting to see the ironclad ship, the USS Cairo. We got to go onto the boat and get up-close views. That alone was worth the trip. I took pictures of the ship, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

After Vicksburg, we got back on the road and headed toward Destin. We stayed in a condo within walking distance to the beach. The beach that we went to had a more family-friendly atmosphere than say Miami Beach, but not entirely so. The sand was very white, and the water was a greenish blue, thus the name, Emerald Coast. My favorite part of the ocean is just sitting in the sand and listening to the waves roll in. Few things are more relaxing than that sound.

U.S. Route 98 is the main thoroughfare for the beaches in and around Destin. Traffic is very congested, especially in the evenings. There is plenty to do along that strip including: other beaches, adventure parks, water parks, restaurants, and shopping centers. There are also pirate and dolphin cruises, as well as parasailing and other activities. The Buccaneer Pirate Cruise is terrific if you have kids. This was one of the highlights of the trip. The Baytowne Wharf area is also worth checking out.

It’s a good idea to bring your own chairs and umbrella for the beach or you will have to rent them. I’d also recommend taking an inter-tube, body board, and snorkeling mask if you plan to spend a lot of time in the ocean.

There are multiple stores along U.S. 98 where you can buy beach supplies. If you have kids with you, it’s a good idea to take shovels, pails, and other beach toys so they can play in the sand. We also took snacks and drinks as well. I saw some people with pop-up tents and canopies even though there was a sign which said that they weren’t allowed. Obviously, you’ll need plenty of sunscreen. And don’t forget life jackets if you have young kids.

At night, we went crab hunting on the beach. There were several other people that did the same. Be sure to take flashlights and a bucket. We also had headlamps for the kids. This is a unique experience.

On our way back, we stopped at Mobile, Alabama, to go to Battleship Memorial Park, where we toured a WWII battleship, the USS Alabama, and a WWII submarine, the USS Drum. In addition, the park had planes and helicopters on display, including an SR-71 Blackbird. Pictured below is an F-4 above the sign at the entrance of the park.

This stop was another highlight of the trip. If you enjoy history or military things, I’d highly recommend it. There are admission fees unless you are active duty military or 5 years old or under.

We spent about two hours here. We toured both the battleship and the submarine. Re-enactors in uniform answered questions that we had. We went below deck and saw the galley, the sleeping quarters, the ship store, as well as many other things.

If you get hungry or feel the need to buy a souvenir, the park also has a snack bar and a gift shop.

This was a fun vacation, and I think I enjoyed the unexpected stops along the way as much as I did the beach. That’s the great thing about road trips. You can stop and see whatever interests you along the way.

My Top 10 John Wayne Movies

Below are my ten favorite John Wayne movies. These are not necessarily John Wayne’s ten best critically acclaimed movies; they are simply my personal favorites. There are other John Wayne movies that I enjoy, but I tried to narrow it down as much as I could. You’ll notice that I didn’t include the only film for which Wayne won an Oscar–True Grit. I enjoy the movie, but it’s just not one of my favorites. Many feel that Wayne should also have been nominated for an Oscar for The Searchers, which did make my list.

According to Wikipedia, John Wayne starred in 169 feature length films. The best I can tell I’ve seen about 52 of these movies.

John Wayne is one of the most beloved and well-known movie stars in history. You’ve likely seen many of his movies as well, but if you haven’t I encourage you to start with these below:

10. Donovan’s Reef

This 1963 John Ford directed comedy is set in French Polynesia and stars Lee Marvin alongside the Duke. I like it for two reasons. One, I have a very distinct memory of when I watched it the first time. I was housesitting for someone, and I watched a mini-marathon of John Wayne movies and saw this one along with In Harm’s Way at the same time. Two, the tropical setting combined with a memorable Christmas scene make it somewhat unique within the John Wayne filmography. The movie is light-hearted and provides a nearly two hour escape with the chance to see John Wayne in a non-Western role.

9. McQ

Set in Seattle, McQ is one of Wayne’s two police thrillers (the other one being the London based Brannigan). Both movies provide an opportunity to see Wayne in a different kind of role and setting. If you’re a Trekkie or a Magnum fan, you might enjoy seeing Diana Muldaur and Roger E. Mosley in this film. There is a famous car chase scene on the beach at the end of the movie. The appeal of McQ for me is the Emerald City setting as well as seeing Wayne play a police officer in a modern day urban environment. If I remember correctly, I first saw this movie, as well as Brannigan, on Turner Classic Movies.

8. McLintock!

This is a classic John Wayne comedy with the usual group fight scenes, this time in the mud. Maureen O’Hara, Wayne’s son, Patrick, and Stefanie Powers co-star. The film is based on The Taming of the Shrew. The chemistry between O’Hara and Wayne help make the movie a hit. The first time I saw this movie I didn’t really like it, but the more I saw it the more it grew on me. I remember seeing the VHS tape of McLintock! at my Grandparents’ house growing up, and that piqued my interest in the movie.

7. Hatari!

This 1962 Howard Hawks adventure/romantic comedy is a charming and delightful movie. Set in Africa, it follows a group of big game hunters as they chase rhinos and other animals. Hilarious antics are interspersed throughout the film as well. Again, the setting adds a lot to this film. It’s a little odd to see John Wayne in this role, but somehow it works. I was talking with a friend about my fondness for John Wayne movies, and she asked me if I had seen Hatari! I hadn’t, so I checked it out; I wasn’t disappointed. This film is a fun ride.

6. Sons of Katie Elder

Dean Martin, George Kennedy, and a young Dennis Hopper star alongside Wayne in this western about four brothers who reunite after their saintly mother’s funeral. The brothers soon realize something is amiss when a gunsmith claims ownership of their family’s ranch. Look for a shootout between the Elders and the bad guys under a bridge. This is your typical John Wayne western. If you haven’t seen many John Wayne movies, this one might be a good place to start.

5. The Comancheros

Wayne plays a Texas Ranger in this film in which he has to transport and extradite a gambler (Stuart Whitman) who killed someone in a duel. But he soon finds himself joining forces with him to face a common enemy–the Comancheros, a criminal gang that is supplying the Comanches with guns. Directed by Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame, this film is an enjoyable adventure. Look for a memorable appearance by Lee Marvin as well as a quote from Whitman at a poker table about enjoying the game for its own rewards.

4. The Undefeated

This movie was on television the other night, and I was reminded of what a delightful movie it is. In our day of division, this film is a heartwarming story of how two Union and Confederate officers learn to overcome their differences to fight common enemies in Mexico after the United States Civil War. Rock Hudson co-stars as the Confederate colonel. If you like horses, there are also plenty of equine scenes to enjoy. The Mexican setting adds to the allure and beauty of the film. The revolutionary politics of the era also add an interesting backstory to the film. I still remember the Sunday afternoon that I made spaghetti and watched this film for the first time.

3. North to Alaska

This film is a pleasant departure from Wayne’s typical western roles. Stewart Granger co-stars along with Ernie Kovacs, Fabian, and the attractive French actress Capucine. The film takes place during the Nome Gold Rush. Some of the movie is also set in Seattle. This movie has romance, comedy, and adventure. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when John Wayne speed climbs a tree during a lumberjack competition at a picnic. One of the great things about John Wayne movies is that there are usually random scenes that you don’t expect which make the movies memorable. You truly feel like you’re on a ride, and you don’t know where it’s taking you.

2. The Searchers

This is one of my favorites, and I’m not alone in that assessment. This is considered a classic and one of Wayne’s best films. As mentioned above, he should have won an Oscar for it. This John Ford directed film was named the greatest American Western by the American Film Institute. It was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation for the National Film Registry.

Wayne plays Ethan Edwards, a Civil War veteran who fought on the side of the Confederacy. The story begins in Texas as Ethan arrives at his brother’s house. Comanches attack the homestead while Ethan is away, and his brother and family are killed with the exception of his niece Debbie. Ethan and his adopted nephew set out on a long search for Debbie, hence the name of the film.

The cast includes Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, and Natalie Wood. The cinematography is stunning. Look for the beautifully framed bookend shots at the beginning and end of the movie as well as a hilarious wedding fight scene. This is a movie that gets even better on successive viewings.

1. El Dorado

John Wayne afficionados are familiar with the fact that El Dorado is basically a remake of Rio Bravo with the same plot but with different actors around Wayne. You can also include Rio Lobo in this Howard Hawks trilogy, but the last installment was an inferior film to the other two.

El Dorado is my favorite of the three because it’s the most fun, but Rio Bravo is the one loved by the critics. Basically, El Dorado has everything you would want from a John Wayne movie–the Western setting, adventure, comedy, romance, zany antics, lots of gunfights, crazy characters, and memorable lines. Look for the scene where the Duke and Mississippi, played by a young James Caan, mix up a concoction to sober up the sheriff, played by a pitch-perfect Robert Mitchum. The cast also includes the sultry Charlene Holt as Wayne’s love interest, a young Ed Asner as the villain Bart Jason, Paul Fix as Dr. Miller, a hilarious Arthur Hunnicutt as Bull with a bugle, a spry Michele Carey, and Christopher George as the professional gunfighter, Nelse McLeod.

All three movies revolve around a sheriff and his deputies defending a town against outlaws. The good guys are holed up in the jail as they hold one of the bad guys as a prisoner. You know where the plot is headed, but it sure is entertaining getting there. I’ve watched this movie countless times, and I still enjoy it almost as much as the first time I saw it. I saw it in my last year of college during a difficult semester. It was a refreshing escape.

There are a lot of great lines in the film like when Wayne’s character, Cole Thornton, finds the sheriff, J.P. Harrah, drunk in bed. J.P. asks Thornton what he’s doing there, and Wayne delivers a line as only he can, “I’m looking at a tin star with a….drunk pinned on it.” In my opinion, this movie is John Wayne at his best.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this top ten list. If you haven’t seen these movies, you should check them out. Or maybe you disagree with my picks and have a different list that you’d like to share in the comments. Regardless, watching John Wayne movies can turn into a hobby in and of itself. After all, I’ve been watching them for 20 years, and I still haven’t seen 70% of them. I better get some popcorn and start tackling those other 117 films. Because….

“Sorry don’t get it done, Dude.” –Rio Bravo

Sources: IMDB and Wikipedia

My 25 Favorite Films

Below is a list of my 25 favorite movies. It was difficult to narrow it down to just a few. As in my blog post about my favorite John Wayne movies, this is not a film critic’s list of the best movies ever made. It is simply a list of my favorite films that I most enjoy watching.

You may notice that several directors and actors appear multiple times on the list such as Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Harrison Ford, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Alec Guinness, and Audrey Hepburn. Films from the 1960’s are also represented well on this list. You’ll notice several Christmas movies on the list, too. I’m always up for a good Christmas movie, in season of course. And you’ll find several classics on my list that also made AFI’s 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time list.

In junior high, I took a class entitled, The History of Great Movie Classics. I can probably trace my love of classic movies to two things–that class and Turner Classic Movies. There were several more classics that I wanted to squeeze on here, but there are only so many spots available.

25. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I first saw this film in my high-school Psychology class, and in the last few years I try to watch it every Christmas season (the cable channel AMC has shown it often). I also like the 1994 remake, but I think the original is better. The movie was filmed in black and white, but there is also a 1985 colorized version. I know a lot of people hate the colorized version, but on this movie I actually prefer it to the black and white.

This is a heartwarming classic about a department store Santa Claus who tries to help a single mother and her daughter believe in Santa, only to find himself on trial defending his sanity, with his lawyer friend trying to convince the judge that Kris Kringle is who he says he is.

The film stars Maureen O’Hara as the skeptical mother, John Payne as the attorney, Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus, Gene Lockhart as the judge and Natalie Wood as the daughter who helps her mom believe in Santa again. George Seaton directed and wrote the screenplay. The film won three Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture. It was also selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. If you want a feel-good movie to get you in the mood for Christmas, this is a great place to start.

24. The Birds (1963)

I saw this Hitchcock classic in junior high, I’ve loved it ever since. Starring Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, and Suzanne Pleshette, this thriller/horror film is about a seaside town in California which is plagued by mysterious bird attacks. Hitchcock does a good job of slowly building the tension as the viewer gets introduced to the various characters. You’ll never look at a flock of birds the same way after seeing this movie. This film was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

23. Vertigo (1958)

Another Hitchcock classic, this psychological thriller has been underrated for years, until recently. My first time to see it was on TCM. This is a movie that I enjoyed more on the second and third viewings. The film is a little long at 128 minutes, but it builds to a climactic conclusion. Set in beautiful San Francisco, the film stars Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. It is considered by critics to be among the best films ever made, and it is listed at 9th on AFI’s 100 Greatest American Films of All Time. The memorable score by Bernard Herrmann sets the mood for the film.

22. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

What can I say? Audrey Hepburn is exquisite in this film. Simply no one else could have played the role of Holly Golightly like her. Her charm and beauty are unmatched. From the opening credits when the song “Moon River” plays and Hepburn gets out of the taxi in that iconic dress, you know you’re in for a treat. The film also stars George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Mickey Rooney (in a controversial performance), and Buddy Ebsen. This romantic comedy has a unique appeal. It’s really unlike any other movie I’ve seen and is in a class of its own. The story is adapted from a Truman Capote novella. That may explain the eccentric nature of the film.

21. White Christmas (1954)

It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve watched this annual favorite. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen star in this Christmas classic with Michael Curtiz directing. It was filmed in beautiful Technicolor and the first to be released using the Vista Vision widescreen process. The famous song, “White Christmas” was originally introduced in the film, Holiday Inn. This movie is a light, feel good movie that promises to be a fun ride and get you in the mood for the holiday season. The music and dance numbers are exceptionally well-done. I was a latecomer to this one as I saw it for the first time in my thirties. I don’t know how I missed it.

20. Charade (1963)

Hepburn shows up again on the list, this time with the suave Cary Grant in a Stanley Donen directed romantic comedy/suspense thriller from the sixties. The cast also includes Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and George Kennedy. It was filmed on location in Paris and has been called “the best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made.” It has a complicated plot that includes the CIA, missing gold, and valuable stamps. I think I first discovered this one on TCM.

19. North by Northwest (1959)

You knew Cary Grant would have more than one movie on here. No one else on the big screen makes it look easier or more natural. This spy thriller is another Hitchcock classic; besides Grant, it also stars Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, and Martin Landau. It involves a case of mistaken identity, kidnapping, international intrigue, a chase scene including a crop duster (as seen in the above picture), and a climax scene at Mount Rushmore. This is a fun ride that you can enjoy again and again.

18. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

I grew up watching the Indiana Jones trilogy (the fourth movie came later). Obviously, the first one is a classic. The second installment was disturbing and disappointing. The third one is my favorite. The addition of Sean Connery as Indiana’s father was a genius move. The chemistry between Harrison Ford and Connery really came alive on the big screen. The film was directed by Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas had a hand in the story. River Phoenix even appears as a young Indiana Jones. The plot involves a race between the Jones’ and the Nazis to find the Holy Grail. The culmination of the film at Al-Khazneh in Petra is some of the most mesmerizing moments in cinematic history.

17. Inception (2010)

If you like movies that make you think, this film is for you. Christopher Nolan directed this brilliant sci-fi/action thriller. It has a great lineup: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger, Marion Cotillard, Elliot Page, Ken Watanabe, and Cillian Murphy. Inception displays some awesome, otherworldly visuals. The special effects are superb, but the strength of the movie is the exploration of the concept of implanting ideas into someone’s subconscious using dreams. The film concludes with an unforgettable on-the-edge-of-your-seat final 45 minute ending. I don’t think I have ever been so engrossed in a movie like I have with the final third of this movie. This is a film that will be rolling around in your head long after you watch it.

16. Braveheart (1995)

This is one of those landmark movies that became a cultural phenomenon. Whenever someone shouts, “Freedom!”, this film comes to mind. At 178 minutes, it is the epic story of the famous Scottish warrior and national hero, William Wallace. Mel Gibson directed and starred in the movie alongside Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, and Brendan Gleeson. The viewer will be treated to beautiful scenery and intense battle sequences in this historical drama and action film. While Braveheart contains plenty of historical inaccuracies, it still remains an inspirational film that captures the pathos of the struggle for Scottish independence against the English.

15. Crocodile Dundee (1986)

This very entertaining movie has it all–adventure, comedy, and romance. It has a great premise, likable characters and beautiful locations (the Australian Outback and New York City). In short, it’s a lot of fun. It stars Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski, who eventually married in real life and later divorced. The movie was based upon the experiences of Rod Ansell. This is one of the signature movies of the Eighties. The sequel is also worth seeing. It reverses the order of locations in the first movie by starting out in New York City and ending up in Australia.

14. Chariots of Fire (1981)

My dad showed us this movie when we were younger. As a child, I found it a little slow, but as an adult I really grew to appreciate it. It’s the true story of two British Olympians, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, who both ran in the 1924 Olympics. It’s a story of faith, principle, and purpose. The iconic opening and closing scenes with the athletes running on the beach are set to the beautiful and memorable score by Vangelis. This British film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture. The film stars Ian Charleson as Liddell, Ben Cross as Abrahams, as well as Nigel Havers, Nicholas Farrell, Ian Holm, and Alice Krige. There is a wonderful line in the film, spoken as Liddell competes in the Olympics, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

13. Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope (1977)

Obviously, this one is a classic. The franchise became so much more than just a movie. It changed cinematic history and became part of the culture. There are not many people who haven’t heard of Star Wars. I grew up watching the original trilogy (Episodes 4, 5, and 6). In my mind, these original movies are far superior to the later ones. The making of Star Wars is a story in itself. George Lucas wrote and directed the film, and he faced all kinds of obstacles during filming. Others couldn’t see his vision, and many didn’t take the film seriously before it was released. But that would soon change.

Star Wars is a space opera, which stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness. Containing adventure, comedy, romance, action, and drama, this film is extremely entertaining. The lovable characters make the movie as much as the plot and action do. The special effects were groundbreaking at the time. And the score by John Williams is one of the most recognized pieces of music ever. It is number one on AFI’s List of Best Film Scores. And, yes, I had many of the action figures and toys from the movie. In fact, my kids now play with them.

12. The Fugitive (1993)

I really love this movie. I saw it in the theater when it came out, and I’ve enjoyed it almost as much on subsequent viewings. I’m a Harrison Ford fan, so that probably has a lot to do with it. I also enjoy the Chicago setting, especially the Saint Patrick’s parade scene. This action thriller starts out fast and rarely slows down until the ending. Tommy Lee Jones, as Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard, is a great counterpart to Ford’s character of Dr. Richard Kimble. I think what makes this movie great, besides the suspense of the chase, is that even though you find yourself rooting for Dr. Kimble, you also sympathize with Gerard at the same time. This film was based upon a television series of the same name.

11. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

This is a movie that grew on me each time I watched it. When I saw it in the theater, it was my first exposure to J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy adventure. I had not read the novel, so I came to it completely fresh. Upon my first viewing, I found it long and slow, but I didn’t really appreciate what it was all about. As I watched it on repeated viewings, I really grew to love the film. A thought-provoking morality tale is created around a central theme–the dangers of absolute power.

Directed by Peter Jackson and filmed in New Zealand, The Fellowship’s ensemble cast includes Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, Dominic Monaghan, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, and Andy Serkis. Fellowship is the first installment in this film trilogy.

The scenery is awe-inspiring. One of the highlights of the film is the scene where the Fellowship travels through the Mines of Moria. It is one of the most unique and exciting sequences that I’ve ever seen in a movie. The score adds a lot of poignancy to the film. The movie is well cast; it is difficult to imagine anyone other than Elijah Wood as Frodo.

10. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) (TV version)

This popular movie is loved by many. It is based upon a Stephen King novella. It is the story of the friendship between two prisoners, Andy Dufresne and Red, and Dufresne’s journey to freedom after being falsely accused of the murder of his wife and her lover. Red serves as the narrator in the film. The story is uplifting and speaks to the common humanity of us all. The main theme of the movie is hope. One of the most memorable lines of the film is spoken by Andy Dufresne, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, and Bob Gunton star in the film. The chemistry of the friendship between Red and Dufresne make the film. The warmth of their friendship contrasts with the bleak atmosphere of the gray prison walls.

This movie gets shown a lot on cable television, and that is where I mostly remember seeing it. I watched the DVD version one time, and I was shocked by the amount of foul language in the film, so much so that I feel it detracted from the beauty of the story. That is why I recommended the “TV version” of the film above.

9. El Dorado (1966)

John Wayne afficionados are familiar with the fact that El Dorado is basically a remake of Rio Bravo with the same plot but with different actors around Wayne. You can also include Rio Lobo in this Howard Hawks trilogy, but the last installment was an inferior film to the other two.

El Dorado is my favorite of the three because it’s the most fun, but Rio Bravo is the one loved by the critics. Basically, El Dorado has everything you would want from a John Wayne movie–the Western setting, adventure, comedy, romance, zany antics, lots of gunfights, crazy characters, and memorable lines. Look for the scene where the Duke and Mississippi, played by a young James Caan, mix up a concoction to sober up the sheriff, played by Robert Mitchum. The cast also includes the sultry Charlene Holt as Wayne’s love interest, a young Ed Asner as the villain Bart Jason, Paul Fix as Dr. Miller, a hilarious Arthur Hunnicutt as Bull with a bugle, a spry Michele Carey, and Christopher George as the professional gunfighter, Nelse McLeod.

All three movies revolve around a sheriff and his deputies defending a town against outlaws. The good guys are holed up in the jail as they hold one of the bad guys as a prisoner. You know where the plot is headed, but it sure is entertaining getting there. I’ve watched this movie countless times, and I still enjoy it almost as much as the first time I saw it. I saw it in my last year of college during a difficult semester. It was a refreshing escape.

There are a lot of great lines in the film like when Wayne’s character, Cole Thornton, finds the sheriff, J.P. Harrah, drunk in bed. J.P. asks Thornton what he’s doing there, and Wayne delivers a line as only he can, “I’m looking at a tin star with a….drunk pinned on it.” In my opinion, this movie is John Wayne at his best.

(The above passage about El Dorado was taken from one of my previous blog posts entitled, “My Top 10 John Wayne Movies.”: https://wesleyprovine.com/2021/07/19/my-top-10-john-wayne-movies/)

8. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

David Lean, known for his epic historical dramas, directed this classic. It is based upon the life of T.E. Lawrence, an officer in the British Army in World War I. The plot centers around Lawrence’s efforts in the Arab Revolt to unite the various tribes and recruit them to fight against the Ottoman Turks.

Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, and Claude Rains star in this winner of 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The cinematography and musical score are excellent. There are many widescreen shots of the desert that really immerse the viewer in the Middle Eastern world.

It will help if you enjoy history when watching this film. A knowledge of Britain’s role in the Middle East during and after WWI will be helpful as well. But even if you aren’t a history buff, you can still enjoy the beautiful panoramas. This film has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

7. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

This is the quintessential Christmas movie. I watch it every Christmas Eve. I remember the first time I watched it on Christmas Eve on a local PBS station. I knew I had stumbled upon a treasure. This Frank Capra film is classic Americana, and it makes one nostalgic for more innocent times. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchel, Henry Travers, and Ward Bond star in this film, which is based upon a short story, The Greatest Gift, which is loosely based upon Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

At 131 minutes, the film is long, but the length is necessary to develop the characters and backstory. Everyone should see this film at least once. It has become part of the fabric of our culture. Interestingly, it was not always so popular. Due to a lapse in the copyright, the film was shown often on television in the 70’s and 80’s, which spurred its rise to classic status. The film has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

6. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Another David Lean film, Doctor Zhivago is an epic historical romantic drama which begins before the Russian Revolution and ends during the Stalinist era. The film is based upon the Boris Pasternak novel of the same name. The revolution and civil war serve as the backdrop to a tragic romance. Omar Sharif, Geraldine Chaplin, Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Alec Guinness, and Rod Steiger, and Ralph Richardson star in this classic.

I think I first saw the film on TCM after I took a class on the Russian Revolution. I always thought the film did a good job of showing the miseries of communism and Bolshevism. But the film is not all politics. Besides the obvious love story, it is really about how the various characters deal with the crises inflicted upon them by the revolution. It is a story about humanity and suffering.

The film won five Oscars, including Best Original Score and Best Cinematography, and was nominated for five more. The music is very memorable in the film, especially “Lara’s Theme.” The ice palace scene is not to be missed.

5. The Patriot (2000)

A great movie to watch on Independence Day, The Patriot may not be historically accurate in every detail, but it will remind you of why you love America. I get a tear in my eye whenever I watch the scene where Benjamin rides off to the last battle of the film while holding the flag. Also, if it doesn’t get you pumped when Benjamin screams, “No retreat. Hold the line!”, in the midst of the battle, I don’t know what will.

The film stars Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Jason Isaacs, and Joely Richardson. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound. Set in the Revolutionary War, the film’s protagonist is Benjamin Martin, a colonist in South Carolina, who reluctantly fights in the war. The Martin character is based upon four historical figures.

4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Another Frank Capra classic, this political drama made quite a splash when it was released. It’s a story about a political novice who goes to Washington as a newly appointed Senator and finds out the hard way that D.C. is more corrupt than he could have imagined. He is further disillusioned when his bill for a boys’ camp in his home state comes into conflict with the plans of his political hero, who is not what he appears to be.

Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Claude Rains star in this whistleblower film. Being a Jimmy Stewart fan and a student of history and politics, I always loved this film. It’s a classic David versus Goliath underdog story. It reminds us all of the principles that made our country great–honesty, hard work, and concern for our fellow man.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

This movie is really underrated. You don’t hear much about it, but it is very solid. It’s based, of course, upon the classic Alexandre Dumas novel. This film was directed by Kevin Reynolds and stars Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, James Frain, Dagmara Dominczyk, and Luis Guzmán. The story is a classic tale of love, betrayal, revenge, and forgiveness. And it’s a really fun ride. I recently watched the 1975 TV movie version, and I found this 2002 version far superior. Jim Caviezel is wonderful as Edmond Dantès.

I wrote a previous blog post about this movie. You can find it here: https://wesleyprovine.com/2018/03/18/justice-or-mercy/

2. Casablanca (1942)

I love classic movies, and Casablanca is the best of the best. Directed by Michael Curtiz, the film stars Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre. Although the film had a solid release, few if any expected it to turn into the classic it has become.

Casablanca is the WWII-era story of a cynical but romantic nightclub owner who is confronted with his former love and a choice about whether to serve himself or the Allied cause. The movie is full of famous lines like, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” “We’ll always have Paris,” and “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Interestingly, “Play it again, Sam” is often misquoted. The actual line is, “Play it, Sam.” The song that Rick is referring to is the beautiful, “As Time Goes By.”

The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was also one of the first films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. Even those who have not seen the movie have likely heard of it since the film has become such a part of our culture. Casablanca may be the best picture to ever appear on the Silver Screen.

1. The Natural (1984)

This is so much more than a baseball movie. It has mythology, history, nostalgia, romance, humor, and inspiration. Based upon the novel by Bernard Malamud, the film differs in tone from the book. While Malamud’s version presents a cynical take on Roy Hobbs, the movie is much more forgiving and strikes an optimistic note.

Directed by Barry Levinson, the film has an all-star cast which includes Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Barbara Hershey, Richard Farnsworth, Robert Prosky, Joe Don Baker, Darren McGavin, and Michael Madsen. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards.

The Natural borrows elements from the legend of King Arthur as well as Homer’s Odyssey. The true story of the shooting of baseball player Eddie Waitkus also influenced the film. This is a story of redemption and second chances.

I saw this movie in the theater as a kid with my mother and have loved it ever since. My brother and I even carved “Wonderboy” into a wooden bat that we used to play with in the backyard. This movie is my favorite because I never get tired of watching it, and it does more than entertain. It speaks to the heart and the human condition. The themes and lessons of the film give it a timeless quality.

I wrote an earlier blog post about the mythology in The Natural. You can find it here: https://wesleyprovine.com/2019/04/08/symbolism-and-second-chances-in-the-film-the-natural/

Not all the movies that I like made the list. So here are my Honorable Mentions:

Back to Future III

The Big Sleep

The Best Years of Our Lives

City Lights

Dark Passage

Dr. Strangelove

Emma

Entrapment

First Knight

Gladiator

High Noon

I, Robot

Legends of the Fall

The Mask of Zorro

National Treasure

A Perfect Murder

Rocky IV

Shattered

Singing in the Rain

Troy

Independence Day Should Cause Us to Reflect upon our History

I want to wish everyone a Happy Independence Day. It was a good day. We enjoyed patriotic music in church this morning, a family cookout with games this afternoon, and fireworks tonight. I really enjoy celebrating America’s birthday. It probably helps that I love the summertime and the extra hours of daylight.

Our country has been through so much the past couple of years–COVID, shutdowns, racial tension, riots, a contested election, moral revolution and upheaval, and whatever that was on January 6.

Sometimes I feel like we our losing the country that I grew up in. Marxist ideologies like socialism and Critical Race Theory as well as a constant degradation of our nation’s history and heritage in our media, schools, and national consciousness threaten to tear apart the fabric of our nation. The most depressing aspect of these conditions is that these beliefs are starting to seep into areas once off limits–like churches.

The reason why our history is being rewritten is because our history has been largely forgotten. Those ignorant of their own heritage are susceptible to dangerous ideologies.

In the novel 1984 George Orwell writes:

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped.”

That quote hits a little too close to home these days. We see statues being torn down, books being banned or censored, and America being rebranded as an oppressor instead of the land of the free. Our youth are taught to hate our country and its history. Many of these same youth know little of the murderous history of communism in places like China, Cuba, and the Soviet Union. They have largely rejected traditional American values and embraced the tyrannical ideologies of Lenin and Mao.

“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” 1984, George Orwell

One solution to this problem is to get back to our foundations and to remember from whence we came. Let us study and learn our history in such a way that promotes patriotism and love of country rather than cynicism and nihilism. As I read about our Founding Fathers and founding documents, a love of America wells up inside of me. I begin to recognize the long tradition of freedom in which we have been privileged to participate.

Our country is not without fault, but no nation is. It’s all about perspective. Are we going to focus on the positive or the negative? Marxists want to deconstruct Western Civilization to create a utopia that can never exist. We’ve seen the results of such utopias in the 20th century–millions of innocent people killed. Yet, America has done so much good in the world. Its has promoted freedom around the world, vastly elevated the standard of living of its own citizens, and corrected many of its own faults through its ingenious constitutional republican form of government.

We also must remember our Christian heritage. From the Pilgrims to the Great Awakening to Billy Graham crusades, our nation has a long history of faith. But Marxism and communism are antithetical to a Christian society. Much of what is currently taking place in America’s educational system is due to a sustained effort by those on the Left to undermine and tear down the Judeo-Christian foundation of America. They know that if they can replace our Christian roots with their “America as an oppressor” narrative, they can remake the United States into something unrecognizable.

Sadly, America has turned its back on God of late and embraced many wicked ideas, behaviors, and policies. There is definitely a need for repentance and revival. One of the best things you can do for our country is to pray for her. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 the Bible reminds us of this principle:

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

So on this Independence Day, let us rediscover our history as well as our love of country. Read the Declaration of Independence. Teach our traditions to the next generation. Set off fireworks and eat some hot dogs. America should be celebrated. We have a rich history and heritage of freedom and faith. Don’t let those who hate her rob you of your patriotism. And don’t let ignorance of the past cause you to slacken your resolve in defending the freedom you now enjoy.

We’re Losing Our Country

We’re losing our country, and it saddens me. The worst part is that we are doing it to ourselves. Or we are at least allowing it to happen. I’ve often been disappointed by the lack of people who take a stand or speak up about what is going on these days in the land of the free. Yet, there are some faithful patriots who refuse to give in to the woke communists and the leftists. God bless them.

The primary problem I see is that there are too many silent Americans who value their jobs, reputation, or friendships more than they value freedom or truth. We need more to speak out against the leftist takeover of our nation.

The worst silence is the silence in the pulpits. You would think that preachers would be screaming as loud as they can about the dangers posed to our families and freedoms, but sadly that is not the case for the most part. Everyone is afraid.

We need more sons of Issachar who understand the times. We need more Davids to fight the Goliaths. We need more Pauls who will boldly speak the truth.

My Thoughts on the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville

Before the 2021 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Nashville last week, I thought that the new President would probably be Georgia pastor and outgoing Executive Committee (EC) Chairman Mike Stone or Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler. I really liked Stone’s conservative stances. As for Mohler, he represented the establishment, which opposes false teaching like Critical Race Theory (CRT) publicly, but seems to allow it to be taught in the seminaries.

Northwest Baptist Convention Executive Director/Treasurer Randy Adams was also running. I liked Adams’ platform which pushed for transparency and local control, but I wondered whether he had the name recognition to win the race. The person I least expected to win was Alabama pastor Ed Litton. I really didn’t think he had a shot. I considered him the woke candidate, and I felt like he would bring the same left-wing policies of his predecessor, J.D. Greear.

So I was surprised and very disappointed when I heard that Ed Litton had won. In the first round of voting, Albert Mohler received 26.32% of the vote, Mike Stone received 36.48%, Ed Litton received 32.38%, and Randy Adams received 4.71%. In the runoff (the winner had to get a majority), Ed Litton won with 6,834 for 52.04% of the vote, and Mike Stone had 6,278 for 47.81% of the vote.

Many people think that former Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore was to blame for Stone’s loss. In the days leading up to the annual meeting, there were two letters written by Moore which were leaked. They painted Stone and the Executive Committee in a very negative light. The first letter was written to the ERLC trustees; the second one was written to former SBC President J.D. Greear. In the first letter, Moore said that SBC leaders wanted him to live in “psychological terror.” In the second letter, Moore slandered Stone by accusing him of stonewalling investigations into abuse allegations.

Many suspect that Moore leaked the letters himself. Moore’s sleazy actions appeared political and vindictive. Moore was likely upset with Stone and the EC for assigning a task force to investigate the ERLC’s effectiveness in February 2020. Some see Moore’s actions as an act of revenge. It seemed to work in the short term. Stone lost the election, and the woke candidate won.

It wasn’t just the presidential election that was a disappointment. SBC leaders were also dismissive of messengers on the floor. A motion to rescind 2019’s infamous Resolution 9 (which approved CRT as an analytical tool) was rejected on procedural grounds. A motion on women’s responsibility in abortion was also rejected. And Kevin Ezell deferred to someone else when a messenger asked him about transparency of salaries within the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

So it was more of the same from a denomination that continues to drift leftward. Even though 15,726 messengers showed up to Nashville (the most since 1995), conservatives within the SBC continue to feel like the elites at the top refuse to listen to them and are doubling down on their woke ideologies, though at times they may throw us a bone by giving lip service to conservative causes.

Next year’s meeting is in Anaheim. It will likely be harder for conservatives to gather in large numbers there since it’s on the West Coast. In addition, many conservatives are already fleeing the denomination. At this point, we may have to also consider pulling out of a denomination which no longer listens to or respects the people sitting in the pews–people who just want to be faithful to the Word of God.

The Church Needs Courageous Leaders

Men with courage and conviction are in short supply these days. I’m often discouraged by the lack of men who are willing to take a bold, biblical stand on the issues du jour. This is true not just for society, but within the church as well.

It seems many are just too afraid to speak openly on what the Bible says on issues like human sexuality, gender, politics, freedom, etc. Many leaders seem more concerned with their prestige and position, being accepted by the Academy, pleasing people, and being popular. As a result, many leaders speak out of both sides of their mouths. It’s often difficult to tell where they stand on a certain issue. They are often silent when they should be speaking up.

President Ronald Reagan warned against being all things to all people. He spoke of raising a banner:

A banner of bold colors, no pale pastels. A banner instantly recognizable as standing for certain values which will not be compromised. 

We need this kind of bold, clear thinking in the church. In an age when moral and theological lines are blurred, and society is more confused than ever about right and wrong, we need the church to be the pillar and foundation of the truth. Leaders should quit worrying about being “nice” and start being concerned with being faithful.

I’m convinced many churchgoers in the pew don’t know the Biblical position on certain issues because their pastor never speaks about them. Thus, they probably get their ideas about what to think about those issues from the world. And we know the world is not telling them the truth.

What causes this silence among Christian leaders? Fear of persecution, fear of losing a job, and fear of losing friends are just a few of the reasons. More than ever, we need singularly focused men of God who care only about what the Word of God says; men who will speak that truth boldly and unapologetically regardless of the pushback. We need men who won’t calculate how many people will leave or quit giving money. We need men who will obey God rather than men. We need men of courage and conviction.