“Welcome to Canada”: Documentary on Canadian Immigrants and the Church

A mounty in front of a Canadian flag welcomes visitorsThousands of immigrants and refugees migrate to Canada each year. The reasons people come to Canada are as diverse as the countries from which they came, but all come with the hope of starting a new life in Canada.

On Saturday, October 6th at 7pm, Crossroads Television System (CTS) presents “Welcome to Canada” a unique documentary about immigration in Canada through the eyes of those who have made Canada their home.

The hour-long documentary focuses on 3 stories of immigrants and refugees as they reflect on their journey to Canada.

Magdalene John, Writer and Director of “Welcome to Canada” explains, “It was important to tell a variety of stories in this one hour documentary. We interviewed Canadian Senator Don Meredith who came to Canada as an immigrant from Jamaica, Ins Choi, an up and coming Korean Canadian Playwright trying to find his identity as a Canadian, and finally the story of the Yousif family from Iraq who have just recently arrived to this country after living in a war torn country for years.”

The documentary also highlights the significant role the Church has played in providing community for new immigrants and refugees as they begin their new life in Canada.

Below is a trailer for the documentary.

Canadian moviemaker produces controversial film Hellbound

Kevin Miller of Hellbound

Hellbound, a feature-length documentary that explores today’s highly contentious debate over the Christian doctrine of hell, is set to hit Canadian theaters in October 2012, hot on the heels of its September release in the United States.

Written and directed by award-winning screenwriter Kevin Miller, who is based in Abbotsford, B.C., the film also marks Miller’s directorial debut. His previous credits include the documentaries Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed with Ben Stein; Sex+Money; spOILed; and With God On Our Side.

Hellbound features interviews with an eclectic group of authors, theologians, pastors, social commentators, musicians, exorcists and other high profile participants in the debate.

“Throughout history, Christians have disagreed about pretty much everything,” says Miller. “With every debate, particular doctrines become a litmus test to determine ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders.’ That’s certainly the case right now regarding the doctrine of hell. Hellbound is my attempt to get to the bottom of the current debate, to find out why challenges to the traditional ‘fire and brimstone view’ are so contentious and to discover the implications of this dispute for Christians as well as those watching from a distance.”

Miller has no illusions about the controversy this film might cause. “No matter what you believe about hell, this film is definitely going to push your buttons. But I see that as a healthy thing. Rather than just stir people up, though, I hope Hellbound will provoke informed discussion and get people to take a second look at the impact their religious beliefs have on the world at large.”

Production on Hellbound took place in more than two dozen cities in the United States, Canada and Denmark throughout 2011. It was produced by Miller’s own production company,

Kevin Miller XI Productions Inc. The film’s ethereal music is provided by three musicians from British Columbia: composer Marcus Zuhr, singer/songwriter Ari Neufeld and the band YUCA.

For more information, including theatre locations, visit www.hellboundthemovie.com or watch the trailer below:

Canadian religion is not going away

Reg Bibby

“What most of us thought was happening isn’t happening,” Canadian sociologist Reg Bibby says in his new book A New Day. “Religion is not going away.”

Bibby has been the foremost researcher into Canadian religious developments over the last four decades, particularly through his massive Project Canada surveys of adults and teens. His research has been systematically presented in 13 books, from The Emerging Generation in 1985 and Fragmented Gods in 1987 to Beyond the Gods & Back in 2011.

A New Day: The Resilience & Restructuring of Religion in Canada is a colourful, easy-to-read, 76-page summary of Bibby’s research. It is available free as an ebook or for $20 as a paper book. The free ebook, Bibby says, is an effort to make the heart of his findings and their implications “widely available” because “This is a critically important story that needs to be heard by everyone who cares about religion, and even some who don’t.” Bibby offers not just academic data but also crucial advice for Christians and others on how they can best respond to the current religious situation in Canada.

Resilience

Because weekly church attendance in Canada had dropped from 60% of the population in the 1960s to 20% by 2000, it was widely assumed that organized religion in Canada was in “irreversible decline.” But research by Bibby and others has demonstrated that since the 1990s weekly attendance has remained at 20%, another 10% attend monthly and a further 30% attend church at least some of the time.

This interest in religion, Bibby says, is not superficial but rests on a solid and enduring foundation: “For most people, the experience of life – as well as death – leads to questions of meaning, purpose, and what happens when we die “ and “there is almost an innate restlessness for something beyond ourselves.”

Restructuring

This does not mean that everything is staying the same, however. While religion will continue, its form may change, and in fact is changing, very significantly.

Mainline Protestant denominations (such as the Anglican Church and United Church) are in rapid decline; Roman Catholics are holding steady at just over 40% of the Canadian population; and evangelicals have increased from about 8% to 11% of the population, with most of that growth coming in the 21st century. At the same time, other religions, particularly Islam, are also growing rapidly. At the other end of the scale, the proportion of people who say they have no religion has risen from less than 1% in 1961 to around 25% today. In other words, what is happening in Canada is not so much secularization as polarization.

Moreover, there are indications that the staying power of religion in Canada is not going to change soon because of what is happening elsewhere. Looking at the larger picture, Bibby points out that “religion is experiencing something of a global resurgence.” He cites global statistics that show Christians and Muslims are each growing by 70,000 adherents every day, while atheist numbers are growing by only about 1200.

This is significant because two-thirds of Canada’s population growth is due to immigration, and half of Canada’s immigrants are Christian, about 30% belong to other religions, and only 15% have no religion.

Implications

So, what are the implications for Christians?

The first thing, Bibby says, is for them to get rid of the pessimistic attitude that secularization is inevitable and the situation is hopeless.

As well, Bibby suggests, faith groups should explore working together with like-minded people to increase their impact. He is not just thinking of evangelicals working with evangelicals but of evangelicals working with Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, and even Christians working together with adherents of other religions.

Further, Biobby’s research shows that religion will remain but specific religious groups may not. Bibby argues that those which survive and prosper will be those that minister well, those that meet the needs of people. This means, first of all, ministering to those who are already members. It also means ministering to that 30% of the population who have some relationship with a church but attend only sporadically. Bibby’s research shows that that these people are unlikely to switch to another religion and many are open to returning to the religion they are affiliated with – but only if they find it worthwhile. As for reaching out even further, Bibby says it is much more unusual for people to switch from one religion to another or from no religion to embracing a religion. However, it is possible, especially when there is “a relational bridge,” a person to person connection.

A Call to Action

Bibby concludes his book with a call to action: “What transpires in Canada as far as the religion-no religion balance will depend largely on the collective performance of its religious groups.”

The research that Bibby has conducted and collected is so significant that it should be studied by the leaders (and many of the members) of every church and ministry in Canada – and the short, inexpensive, highly readable A New Day makes this very easy.

The free ebook is available online. The paper version of this book, as well as Bibby’s other books, are available for sale on The Project Canada website. As well, Bibby is inviting readers to get involved in ongoing online discussions of the research.

A Gentle Answer has cosmic implications

Cover of the Mizan Ul Haqq: Blance of Truth by Carl Gottlieb PfanderIn this age of instant bestsellers, it is difficult to comprehend the historical and cosmic scope of this book project. It is the next stage in a discussion that is measured, not in months or years, but in centuries. And the issues involved are as far-reaching as they are timeless.

That is the nature of A Gentle Answer, a book project being undertaken by three writers based in different continents.

The project was initiated by a man identified as “Paul,” a Christian leader from Asia. In his church work, he kept encountering arguments against Christianity being brought by Muslims, and he wanted some help in dealing with them. In the end, a team was formed that includes Gordon Nickel, a Canadian theologian and expert on Islam, and Jay Smith, who debates with Muslims from his base in London, England.

There was a certain similarity to the arguments Paul was encountering, and it became clear that they had a common source in a previous century.

History still matters

In the 19th century, with the encouragement of the British colonial rulers, Christian missionaries had begun evangelizing in India, and had been having some success in converting Muslims in northern India. Among them was a Swiss/German missionary named Karl Gottlieb Pfander. In 1829, Pfander wrote a book titled Mizan ul-Haqq (Balance of Truth), which upheld the authority of the Christian Bible over the Muslim Qur’an.

The book was so effective that Muslim leaders felt they had to answer, and they challenged Pfander to a public debate in Agra, northern India, in 1854. The main Muslim debater, Rahmat Allah Kairanwi, had discovered the writings of 19th-century liberal German theologians and academics, who were arguing that the Bible had been composed of other documents, had been changed over the years and was not historically accurate. He used these writings very effectively in the debate, particularly because Pfander had left Europe before these theologians’ books had been published and was not familiar with them. Kairanwi published his materials from the debate as Izhar ul-Haqq (Demonstration of Truth) in 1864.

Izhar ul-Haqq, became a very influential book and is still very widely used by Muslims to discredit Christianity. In fact, it marked a turning point for the Muslim understanding of Christianity. Instead of believing that the Christian Bible contained some distortions, as Muslims had always said, they now believed that the Christian Bible was totally corrupted and unreliable.

A Gentle Answer

No systematic Christian response to Izhar ul-Haqq has ever been published—until now. A Gentle Answer is intended as a textbook for Christians anywhere in the world who encounter arguments drawn from the 150-year-old Muslim book.

Of the three Christians mainly working on the project, “Paul” brings a practical and pastoral grounding. The issues are of particular importance to him because he is a Christian from a Muslim background.

Paul is a friend of Gordon Nickel, who spent ten years studying and teaching in Pakistan and India. Nickel earned an M.A. in South Asian Islam at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and then a Ph.D. at the University of Calgary. His dissertation, “Narratives of Tampering in the Earliest Commentaries of the Qur’an,” pointed out that early Muslims generally accepted the authority and reliability of the Bible and only thought Jews in the seventh century had “hidden” certain biblical references to Muhammad.

The other scholar involved in the project is Jay Smith, who has become well-known for debating Muslims at Speakers’ Corner in London over the past quarter century. Smith, who is working on a Ph.D. at London School of Theology, leads Hyde Park Christian Fellowship. Among his initiatives is the Pfander Centre, which prepares missionaries for ministry among Muslims, and a collection of videos on YouTube he calls “Pfander Films” – both named after the missionary who started the whole debate almost two centuries ago. Christianity Today profiled Smith’s work a few years ago.

The proposed project will be a lengthy (400-page), four-part book, which is scheduled to be ready for publication by 2014, 150 years after the publication of Izhar ul-Haqq and 160 years after the debate in Agra.

The goal of the first part of the book, based largely on Nickel’s research, is to “level the academic playing field.” Nickel explains that it is inconsistent for Muslim scholars to question the reliability of the Bible on the basis of literary criticism but then insist that the Qu’ran is a divine book and therefore beyond question. He says that if the Qu’ran is subjected to the same historic and scholarly critique that the Bible was subjected to in the 19th century, it raises more questions than are raised about the Bible. In fact, a number of scholars – Muslim, Christian and secular – have already begun studying this question.

Nickel also points out that much has happened in Western scholarship in the past 150 years. The documentary theory of the liberal theologians, that seemed so definitive to Muslims in the 19th century, has not generally found acceptance among Christian scholars. Moreover, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls half a century ago has confirmed that the Bible text has been transmitted without significant distortion over the past 2,000 years.

Love and Respect

This is where the book becomes dangerous, Nickel says. If the book demonstrates that the Bible has not been distorted, then it can also be demonstrated that the Bible does not prophesy about the coming of Muhammad. This will call into question the reliability of the Qu’ran, which claims that the Bible did prophesy of Muhammad, and it will call into question whether Muhammad really is a prophet of God. This is dangerous, Nickel says, because history shows that “the Muslim world will defend Muhammad to the death.”

That is why the project is called A Gentle Answer. The authors are taking their model from Proverbs 15:1 (“A gentle answer turns away wrath”) and 1 Peter 3:15 (“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”). They say they want to enter a dialogue with Muslims based on mutual love and respect.

Ironically, Nickel says, this is more understandable in Muslim countries than in North America. In the post-modern Western world, “North American Christians don’t see such debates as helpful.” North American Christians want to “emphasize similarities” and foster tolerance and relativism in society and avoid divisions in the church. Some even wonder “why we want Muslims to become disciples of Jesus.”

But in Africa and Asia, Nickel says, “questions of truth still matter.” In those places, it would be “disrespectful not to talk about such issues.” He says, “If friends see friends going in the wrong direction, they say something.”

Information about A Gentle Answer is available on the project website, and an opportunity to support Nickel financially is available on another website. Also available on the project website is a download of parts of Margins of the Mizan, a novel written by Nickel and set in Pakistan; it is offered free of charge to supporters of the project. It includes a discussion of Pfander’s book by Muslims and Christians.

Faith for Today’s Media

Faith Today, the national magazine published by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, will now be offered free of charge online effective May 21 at www.faithtoday.ca/digital. Faith Today will continue to publish five print issues of the magazine every year, which still require a paid subscription, but starting this summer it will also publish a digital-only July/August issue. The online version will include five years of archives, dating back to January 2008. The digital version will be supported by innovative forms of advertising, including slideshows, video advertisements and hyperlinks to websites and Facebook pages.

The Painter of Light

American painter Thomas Kinkade passed away on Good Friday, April 6, at age 54, leaving a legacy that former friend Terry Sheppard called “a story of triumph and tragedy.” Kinkade was reputed to be “the most collected living artist in the United States,” with reproductions of his thousand paintings in an estimated five percent of American homes.

Kinkade called himself the “Painter of Light.” His paintings feature glowing highlights in idyllic settings such as gardens, streams, stone cottages, main streets, snow scenes, churches, Christian images and such popular American icons as the Indianapolis Speedway, Disneyland and Yankee Stadium. Art critics dismissed his work as tacky and sentimental, but his work was very popular with ordinary people. Kinkade put considerable effort into commercializing his work, and his company, Media Arts Group Inc., brought in tens of millions of dollars from prints of his paintings, as well as reproductions on calendars, greeting cards and coffee mugs.

Kinkade spoke very clearly about his Christian faith. He was a church member, and donated and raised money for the Salvation Army, World Vision, the Make A Wish Foundation and other charities.

However, a darker side also became more visible in Kinkade’s later years. As the American economy went into recession in the last few years, many of the hundreds of Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries began losing money, went bankrupt or closed, leading some of those who had bought franchises to make accusations of fraud and misrepresentation and launch lawsuits. Kinkade’s own company faces significant financial problems.

As well, a growing alcohol addiction led Kinkade to exhibit crude and bizarre behaviour, including a DUI conviction in 2010. Kinkade and his wife Nanette had four daughters, all named after famous painters, and all given the second name “Christian.” However, Nanette filed for divorce two years ago, and Kinkade was living with his girlfriend Amy Pinto when he died. Pinto said he died peacefully in his sleep due to natural causes, but there are reports that he had been drinking heavily all night and that police had previously been called to the house for domestic disturbances. The results of an autopsy have not yet been made public.

Terry Sheppard, a former Kinkade friend and vice president Media Arts Group Inc., parted ways with the painter in 2003.

Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST Ministries, interviewed Kinkade about 13 years ago. After Kinkade’s death Assist News Service re-released an article based on that interview.

“My goal is to touch all people, to bring peace and joy into their lives through the images I create, and I see my art as a ministry tool to share Jesus Christ with the masses,” Kinkade said in that interview. “I became a Christian in 1980, when I was about 22 years old, and I would say that when I was saved, my art got saved. It was then that a very interesting transition began in my life. I started to see the characteristic of light begin to develop within my work. The darkness was leaving and the light was beginning to break forth.”

Kinkade said that before his conversion, his art was all about himself. “I had little interest in how my art affected other people. In fact, my college professors would constantly make the point that one’s art is all about oneself. It doesn’t matter if someone else understands or likes it. It doesn’t matter if they purchase it. All that matters is you. It was art as self-expression, as opposed to any concern for, or consciousness of an audience, or any desire to impact other people.” In contrast, Kinkade said, “When I became a Christian, I began to challenge that notion. To this day, I find it odious that that notion is fostered within the arts. It is very self-serving and a self-absorbed kind of approach to creativity that really is ineffective. In fact, artists have fought the wrong battle over the past 75 to 100 years. The battle has been one for the freedom of expression … Artists have won that battle, but, in the meantime, they’ve lost the war for cultural relevancy and a positive impact on society.”

Kinkade continued, “There was a time when artists were cultural leaders, revered within society as visionaries, people who might point the way to a better world, a better life … All that began to change with the advent of hyper-individualism in the late 19th century, which said one must be apart from society, an outsider.” It has become unfashionable for artists to say that they want to have their work accepted, Kinkade said. “Yet, secretly, that’s what every artist really desires—not only to be accepted, but also to have their life and their work mean something.”

Kinkade suggested, “You will find that in many cases, the artist creates in today’s world out of a deep need, out of a pain or out of a lack in their life. This is the opposite to what began to emerge in my art after I put Christ in the center of my life. I had an overflowing of joy, an overflowing of peace and an overflowing of passion for living that began to find itself expressed through my canvases.” As that passion worked its way into Kinkade’s paintings, he “began noticing light emerging more and more in my work” and then he discovered in the Bible “how light is a fundamental expression of God’s character.”

Kinkade said this emphasis allowed people to see in his paintings not just visible light but also “a spiritual light … that really touches the inner darkness of their soul. As a result, we receive hundreds of letters a year from people who write, not to comment on the technical aspects of the paintings, but to comment on how God has warmed their heart or changed their life through that painting.”

Kinkade also wrote a book called Simpler Time. He said, “I believe the foundational challenge in life in our culture, at least, is not the challenge for more material attainment … The real battle is for the identity of the soul … Most people are just too busy and their life spins out of control in frenzy, and I began to see that happening in my life as more and more commitments would weigh in on my daily schedule and I would lose time with my family.”

In the early years of his marriage, Kinkade made an effort to keep life simple. “We eliminated the television and that’s a radical thing for most people because it is a drug-like addiction.” What many people see as “a form of relaxation” can become a “stressful element in life because people become hooked on certain shows, which create commitments … you have to be there because you can’t miss this latest show.” Kinkade continued, “I don’t have any particular moral objection to television per se. It is a neutral media that is neither good nor evil. It can be either, depending on the content. But as a medium it is neutral. Therefore, television is not intrinsically evil, but to me it is a thief of time.”

Kinkade also made some observations about communications media generally. “We are in a post-verbal, post-written-word society. We are fast approaching an image-based society. It is very interesting to see that reading as a skill is probably sustaining itself at a certain level, but reading as a recreational activity is declining. People are surfing the Net or spending time watching television or renting videos rather than spending time with a good book. As a result, the era when you could write a Christian book and hope to change the world is changing. The power of the written word is being weakened and that should not be a scary thing for the Christian church because ultimately, God’s Word, though it is a written word, is only of power when it is enlivened by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. It is truly the Holy Spirit that communicates with us and not the text-printed page.”

Kinkade came to understand that that is why his paintings would have a much more profound effect on people than he had ever expected. “People would have physical healings in front of the paintings, and they would write to share that they had had a salvation experience and had come to know Jesus while standing in front of one of these paintings. People who were in deep despair and depression got hope through the paintings. People who went through mild times of stress had a new sense of purpose in their lives.” Kinkade concluded, “It began to be obvious to me that something bigger than me was happening here” and that “God would touch people through these paintings.” This should not have been surprising, he said, because “all created work” is a form of “communication with another person.”

A painting is an especially powerful form of communication, Kinkade suggested, because “It is a permanent part of the home … You are looking at it continuously.” He said that continuously gazing at positive images is part of the important work of “guarding the heart” since the Bible says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Kinkade’s words, spoken earlier in his life, have a haunting tone to them now, in the light of his last years.

Book not dead

Contrary to expectations, sales of printed books in the US were up significantly in January 2012 compared to January 2011, according to a report from the Association of American Publishers. Sales of e-books grew even more quickly. Sales were particularly strong for “religious” (mainly Christian) books, with e-book sales up 151 per cent in January 2012 to $6.7 million and sales of hardcover books up three per cent to $39.6 million, but sales of paperbacks were down 10 per cent to $5.3 million.

October Baby: Do you feel wanted?

Almost everyone wants to be wanted – by their spouse, lover, friends, parents. How would you feel if a person whose love you craved not only didn’t want you but also tried to eliminate you?

For 19-year-old Hannah Lawson, that feeling drives a quest to discover her real identity. You see, she’s just learned the likely cause of her mysterious lifelong health problems: She’s the product of a failed abortion attempt.

The new movie October Baby traces Hannah’s journey of bewilderment, anger and anguish as she searches for her birth mother and wrestles with family secrets. Romance, laughter, faith and forgiveness mix with pain and turmoil on this attractive teen’s odyssey.

Choices and Consequences; Caring, not Condemning

Abortion, of course, is a thematic powder keg, and this film – inspired by a true story – may generate some provocative headlines. But it’s screenplay is caring – not condemning – in fleshing out the human consequences of choices and reconciliation.

Actress Rachel Hendrix says playing Hannah affected her deeply: “I was able to emotionally dive into the reality of this story, and feel it. And something shifted in me, and I got it, I got it.”

Hannah’s adoptive parents – played by John Schneider (Smallville, The Dukes of Hazzard) and Jennifer Price – struggle, wondering what their daughter can handle about her past. But Hannah’s determined search for answers becomes an entertaining and gripping saga that blends sleuthing with tender young love and sweet forgiveness.

How to Let Go

In a particularly touching scene, Hannah wanders into a lovely cathedral. “I can’t figure out how to let go of the fact that I feel hatred for myself and others,” she explains to the kindly priest. “I’m angry at my real mom for not wanting me. Why didn’t she want me? What’s so wrong with me?”

This wise cleric is a good listener. He sensitively mentions that the cathedral was named for the biblical Paul who, he says, once wrote, “Because we have been forgiven by God, we should forgive each other.”

The parson’s application for Hannah? “In Christ you are forgiven. And because you are forgiven, you have the power to forgive, to choose to forgive. Let it go. Hatred is a burden you no longer need to carry. Only in forgiveness can you be free, Hannah. A forgiveness that is well beyond your grasp, or mine … ‘But if the Son shall set you free, you will be free indeed’.”

Intriguing Back-stories

The movie has powerfully influenced some participants. Gianna Jessen – whose personal story inspired the film, and whose singing graces it – says she has “the gift of cerebral palsy, which was caused by a lack of oxygen to my brain while I was surviving an abortion.” Of October Baby, she says: “I laughed so hard, cried so hard, and healed. Thank you!”

Life imitates art in some eerie ways. Shari Rigby, who plays Hannah’s birth mother, actually had had her own abortion 20 years earlier. She had kept it a guarded secret and felt stunned when approached for the part. During a climactic cinematic moment, her character collapses in tears as she faces the significance of Hannah’s life. Rigby admits she wasn’t acting then; the tears were genuine as she experienced personal emotional and spiritual healing.

Beautiful Lives

Sony’s Provident Films says the producers have assigned ten percent of the profits “to the Every Life is Beautiful Fund” for “frontline organizations helping women face crisis pregnancies, life-affirming adoption agencies, and those caring for orphans.”

I highly recommend this stimulating and entertaining film, regardless of your views on abortion. Even if it doesn’t touch you emotionally as it did me, I predict it will get you thinking. Rated PG-13 for “Mature Thematic Elements.” Opens March 23.

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. His website is: RustyWright.com.

This article is reprinted, with permission, from ASSIST News Service www.assistnews.net

 

 

 

 

 

Davy Jones passes away at 66

On Wednesday, February 29, 2012, former Monkee Davy Jones passed away from what is believed to have been a heart attack at age 66 – 66 was the same year he and his band surfaced on the music charts with their first number one hit “Last Train to Clarksville.” Jones’s charming grin and British accent won the hearts of millions of fans on the 1960s television series The Monkees.

Besides having been a fan since age four, I have been involved with several projects for Jones over the last fifteen years: writing music reviews, tracking down recordings for compilations, researching info for liner notes, even running his merchandise table at his concerts.

Davy Jones was very warm, caring, and generous – just like his character on the show. He would even give away the clothes off his back – I know, because I saw him do that for a fan who commented on his sweater (thank goodness he had a T shirt on underneath).

For those who knew him, there was another side of Davy that many fans never got to see – his love of family and his love of God. I felt it only fitting to share some of this as my way of saying goodbye to a talented man that I’ll deeply miss.

Husband, father, son, jockey, producer, director, actor, author…the Manchester boy, original Artful Dodger in London’s West End production of Oliver! and former Monkee, David T. Jones had done it all. Jones’ ability as a musician and song crafter, however, had been overlooked by many.

This had to do with Jones auditioning for and getting a lead role in a TV rock’n’roll band that was often sneered at by critics as “a manufactured image.” Although The Monkees once sold more records than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined, they may never make the rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame.

Prior to The Monkees, Jones released a full-length album and a few singles on the Colpix label. Jones was going places, and he would’ve been an achiever whether The Monkees had happened to him or not. Factoring in his skills as an arranger, choreographer, composer, dancer, set designer, guitarist, keyboardist, percussionist (“the world’s greatest tambourine player”) and vocalist, Jones rated as an artist of considerable depth.

As a private man who had become very public, Jones’s music reflected his personal life and, to an extent, his spiritual life. One of his most popular Monkees songs is from the first album, “I Wanna Be Free.” The song accurately described his life as a Monkee. We can all relate to the lyrics…we all yearn to be free at times. At first listen it seems to be a simplistic lament from a young person being bruised by hard choices. But the gentle melody probes man’s basic questions about meaning and self-validation in an overwhelming universe. The lyrics pose part of Everyman’s perennial chase for personal liberation.

Twenty-five years later, Jones, along with long-time friend Alan Green, recorded “Free (The Greatest Story Ever Told).” The lyrics were a logical sequel to “I Wanna Be Free.” The song was a vivid description of David’s career, lacing levity with a spiritual sentiment: “All my life is just a stage I’m going through/The director has set the scene for me and you/and we must act accordingly/All I know, this is the greatest story ever told, and we never grow old. We just pan away and fade to light…”

Christian ethics and references had been a constant thread in Jones’s life. When Jones was in his storytelling mood, he would tell how his youth revolved around the church. His family was poor, and the church became the centre for community and recreation.

The Monkees showed reverence for Jesus in their music and on their television show. In 1967, they recorded Riu Chiu (a 16th-century Spanish hymn) for their Christmas episode. Just like The Beatles, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, and all the other youth-oriented music acts of the time, The Monkees made it OK to have a relevant thought about God and incorporate it into their music.

And not just in the music. In the Monkees episode “The Devil and Peter Tork,” Peter Tork sells his soul to Mr. Zero (aka the devil) in exchange for the gift of music. As expected, the other three Monkees come to Peter’s rescue. The four Monkees and Mr. Zero end up in the devil’s courtroom. Davy, holding the Bible, addresses the judge and jury saying, “Can I interest anybody in taking a quick peek at this Book here? It’s been on the best-seller list for many years.” The episode ends with Michael Nesmith giving a powerful speech on love.

After the Monkee experience ended in 1970, Jones walked his own path of recording and writing. He originally intended to release what could have been a redefining production, an acoustic guitar-oriented collection of his originals and choice covers by Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. But his record company, which apparently wasn’t interested in artistic liberty or Jesus, rejected his master. They then cornered Jones (who was under contract) into a formulaic album that prolonged his status as a “poster boy.” His appearance on The Brady Bunch television show that same year made Jones a “teen idol” all over again.

Jones experimented with new sounds in the 70s, including country. He worked in a range of theatrical shows, including the role of Jesus Christ in Godspell.

Years later, Jones teamed up with long-time friend Chip Douglas, producer of his signature Monkees hit “Daydream Believer,” to create It’s Christmas Time Again, released in December 1991. The album included familiar Christmas classics and hymns. Of particular note is Davy’s narration of the Ten Commandments over the music bed of “Silent Night.” The single “When I Look Back on Christmas” contained additional lyrics by David’s then-wife Anita. Jesus being “the reason for the season” was emphasized on this album.

On October 31, 1993, Jones performed two full sets at the Four Queens in Las Vegas, released on video in 1994 as Davy Jones Live in Las Vegas. While staying in tinsel town, Jones had attended a Catholic church service. He shared with his audience that the priest had told his congregation that before passing on, you must go off to a “monastery, or to a retreat or someplace, for three or four days to prepare…to go to wherever you’re going to go when you go…So I thought about it, and I just realized that this (pointing to the audience) is my monastery…this is my retreat, the stage. So, I come up (here) and get myself prepared, for tomorrow, the next day, next week, or whatever it might be.”

Between 1994 and 1996, Jones got together with producer Johnny J. Blair to assemble Just for the Record, a 4-volume box set that encompassed Jones’s musical career from 1962 to 1996.

Around this time, David and Anita were going through a divorce. His feelings about the imminent break-up came through in the songs “Couldn’t Have Been Love” and “It’s Not Too Late” – the lyrics expressing his hope for a resolution. Jones later said, “You could take this as a gospel message. There are many ships in life heading the wrong way. They could all be turned around and put right with forgiveness and love.”

In the summer of 1998, Jones hit the road with all new material. On December 11, 1999, he headlined the Holiday Spectacular at the Hershey Park Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Also on the bill were The Tokens, Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge, and Gary Puckett. Early in the evening, Puckett gave a testimony at the end of his set, telling the audience he had a close, personal friend in Jesus and “will someday be in Heaven.” Halfway through the show, Jones invited gospel singers Monette Newsuan, Cassie Blair, Deb Wilson, and Linda Wheatley (from a local church) to help him sing “When All Else Fails.” Jones and the gospel singers then performed the Monkees classic “I’m A Believer” and

“Satan, We’ve Come to Tear Your Kingdom Down,” a gospel standard.  Davy later recorded “When All Else Fails”

Unfortunately, one of Davy’s unrecorded written songs, “My Heart Belongs to the Lord” (which I had hoped would surface from the studio one day), is a now a lost gem.

We’ll miss you Davy! You’re finally free!

More information on Davy Jones

Christopher Pick is a singer/songwriter; missionary and advocate for the Persecuted Church and Native Missionary Movement. MySpace www.myspace.com/pickmusic

 

Republished, with permission from ASSIST News Service www.assistnews.net

Movies promote Christian books

The Vow - Book CoverMovies helped place four Christian books on the New York Times best seller list in February.

The Vow, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter’s true story of faith and commitment, topped the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list in its first week of re-release. The Vow joins three other film-related, faith-based books as national best sellers. The Resolution for Men, The Resolution for Women and The Love Dare placed 10th, 12th and 13th on the Times paperback advice list. (The Vow: The True Events that Inspired the Movie)

The Vow traces actual events from the 1990s, when Kim and Krickitt Carpenter met, fell in love and married. Just 10 weeks later, the couple survived a terrible car wreck with Krickitt awakening in the hospital married to a stranger. The accident had claimed 18 months of her memories, including all recollection of Kim. With Kim committed to his marriage vows and Krickitt maintaining her strong Christian faith, even if recent memories were gone, the couple began the long road to a rebuilt relationship, choosing to fall in love again and capping that with a second wedding ceremony and renewal of their vows almost three years later.

Their story inspired the number one movie in the United States, The Vow, starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, which took in over $40 million its opening weekend. The book, originally released in 2000, launched again February 10 with an additional chapter and photos updating the Carpenters’ story.

“Krickitt and I feel very blessed that our story might give hope to others facing difficult circumstances,” Kim Carpenter said, “and inspire them to stick together for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”

The other three books are based on films produced by the Kendrick Brothers.

The Resolution for Men, by Alex and Stephen Kendrick with Randy Alcorn, issues a call to godly parenting, challenging fathers to resolve to be the kind of dads God means them to be. The book title relates to the 2011 film Courageous, which featured four fathers publicly resolving to lead their families well.

The Resolution for Women, by Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer with Alex and Stephen Kendrick, offers “help, hope and challenge” to women desiring to find God’s will in their lives and the lives of their families.

The Love Dare, also by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, has now been on the Times best seller list for more than 170 weeks. It was written after a book by that name played a prominent role in an earlier Kendrick Brothers movie Fireproof and people who had seen the movie started asking for the book to help them with their own marriages. The book challenges readers to offer 40 days of acts of unconditional love to their spouses.

All four books are published by B&H Publishing Group, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources.

www.BHPublishingGroup.com