Friday, September 14, 2012

Last Ounce of Courage

While in Texas, I had the opportunity to meet with the promoters of a film about religious freedom.  Last Ounce of Courage is produced by an Evangelical film company that hoped to make some inroads in the Catholic market, thus their presence at the Catholic New Media Conference and Catholic Marketing Network Tradeshow.

The movie itself centers around a mayor of a small town who grows concerned about religion being banned from the public square.  So, he makes the decision to decorate his town for Christmas, in spite of threats from a fictionalized version of the ACLU.

Now it can be tempting to think that, what with issues like the HHS mandate having recently gone into effect, and the recent flare-up at Steubenville's Franciscan University over how one of their sociology courses approaches homosexuality, the idea of equating religious freedom with putting up Christmas decorations is somewhat trivial.  And from a Catholic perspective, the film seems to take more care to depict the characters as patriots than as Christians.  But.

The core message of the movie is an important and timely one.  Religious freedom has certainly been on the Catholic radar lately, because it is something we no longer have the luxury to ignore.  The Catholic Church cannot, for example, comply with the HHS mandate, because they are unable to provide employees with coverage of contraception.  It violates some of the Church's oldest and most fundamental religious beliefs.  So once the one-year period is up, Catholic organizations and employers will be left to participate in civil disobedience. 

I'll be honest and say that I used to hear people talking about the loss of freedoms, and I wrote them all off as alarmists.  But now?  Well, I guess I'm one of them, because when the federal government can legislate that faith-based groups are required to cover things like the morning-after pill and sterilization procedures, something seems very wrong.

Interestingly, as time marches onward, and more and more lines are being drawn in the sand, strange bedfellows are beginning to emerge.  Catholics and Southern Baptists, for example, do not have much in common on the surface, and certainly have never been BFFs.  But as the Nashville-based, Baptist movie promoter said to me over lunch in Dallas, "We're on the same side now."  And he's right. 

So while Last Ounce of Courage was made by Evangelicals, we Catholics ought to support this effort and stand with our Protestant brothers and sisters to help spread the message.  The makers of this film took a chance by reaching out to us, and I believe we have the opportunity here to reciprocate and respond that YES, we too are concerned about how things are going, and we of all people care deeply about preserving the freedom to practice religion.

My own favorite part of the film is when the mayor tells a news reporter that Muslims ought to be able to pray in the public square.  It was a powerful moment, and a beautiful image of what America ought to stand for.  There is a lot of American imagery in the movie--flags, for example--but I believe it is used less as a nationalistic tactic and more as a symbol for what our country ought to stand for.

Last Ounce of Courage opens nationwide today.  The promoters were quick to point out that this film is straightforward and simple, and that they are ultimately hoping it can serve as a good catalyst for conversation.  The movie utilizes professional actors, and the production value is good considering that it is a small film company.  So please spread the word, and go see the movie, and if you've not given thought to the concept of religious freedom, now may just be the time. 

In the interest of FCC disclosure, I received a screener's copy of the film, as well as a stipend, to assist with promotion.


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