Patrick Ryan

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With ‘Woodlawn,’ Christian Films Enter New Playing Field

by Patrick Ryan 10-16-2015

Image courtesy Alan Markfield/RNS.

Never underestimate the power of pigskin and prayer. 

When the government mandated that Woodlawn High School desegregate in 1973, riots and cross burnings ignited Birmingham, Ala. But after a chaplain visited the high-school football team, future Miami Dolphins running back Tony Nathan and more than 40 of his black and white teammates chose to dedicate their lives to God: praying together at practice, meeting for Bible study after school, and ultimately helping to unite the town. 

As Birmingham natives, faith-based filmmakers Jon and Andrew Erwin were inspired to bring the true story to the screen in Woodlawn (in theaters Oct. 16), starring Jon Voight, Sean Astin, and Caleb Castille. 

"It was an anomaly event where an entire football team at once made a decision to love God and to love each other, in a school and a city that didn’t know what that meant,” says Jon Erwin. 

“Faith was an absolutely essential part of this story. It wasn’t politicians that led the Civil Rights Movement, it was pastors.” 

Jesus Is All Over the Small Screen, and That’s No Accident

by Patrick Ryan 03-31-2015
Photo via NBC Universal / RNS

Diogo Morgado in Son of God. Photo via Casey Crafford/LightWorkers Media LLC/Hearst Productions/Telemundo/ NBC Universal / RNS

Need proof that biblical entertainment is Hollywood’s holiest trend? Then look no further than Morocco, where three TV projects — National Geographic Channel’s Killing Jesus, NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues and CNN’s Finding Jesus — were filmed on neighboring sets last year.

“You got this kind of Life of Brian-esque world you’re living in, where on all of our days off, there’s 36 disciples sitting around the pool and three Jesuses at the bar,” said actor Stephen Moyer, who ditched the fangs from True Blood to play Roman governor Pontius Pilate in the Ridley Scott-produced Killing Jesus.

Based on Fox News host Bil O’Reilly’s follow-up to the books he co-wrote with Martin Dugard, Killing Lincoln and Killing KennedyKilling Jesus tracks the last days of the Christian Messiah. Played by Muslim actor Haaz Sleiman, he is portrayed less as a miracle worker and more as a political threat, and the script heightens the sexual tension between Jesus and follower Mary Magdalene (Klara Issova).

“It plays with the idea that Jesus’ teachings are more important than the doing of miracles, that the idea behind what he’s saying is the point and it doesn’t need to have out-of-body, magical elements happening,” Moyer said.

Comparative Theology

by Patrick Ryan 06-03-2014

I enjoy comparative theology, but I have a hard time with your cover article (“Did Jesus Pray to Allah?”). First off, I think the article was disingenuously titled. Saying “Christians and Muslims pray to the same God” is different than asking “Did Jesus pray to Allah?” Jesus cried to God using the words, “Eli, Eli,” but because Eli is linguistically similar to the word Allah it means very little in comparative religion.

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