Saturday, August 29, 2015


Evangelical, Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Fundamentalist church culture is gripped by a spirit of fear.  The Bible itself says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind...perfect love casts out fear, the one who fears judgement has not matured in understanding God's love." Most folks in this movement, though they would deny it, are very fearful. Fearful of being left behind, apocalypse, the devil, etc.. Why do preachers do it?  Fear sells. Fear is primal and gets attention.

Psychologically, it's damaging long-term to be immersed in fear, but very very effective to get attention and motivate. There are always calamities that can be used though to reinforce fear.  Preachers have always used it, be it the atrocities of Civil War in 1800's, Hitler's rise in WW2, (most evangelicals said he was the antichrist at the time).

I've found as people get away from fear-based church stuff, they get healthier spiritually, mentally, psychologically. But I understand why people are in that place of fear. There are different levels of spiritual growth. Lower levels are very fear based. Much of the evangelicals world is there and may never grow beyond that. That's where they are. I was there at one time, but have come to a much healthier place of greater peace. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee," Isaiah wrote.  I am very grateful to be free. However, if I ingested this type of teaching consistently and constantly i could have the fear come back moreso.

I hope and pray I can do a great job making my next movie "Canaan Land" to contrast fear and love, a faith that heals versus a faith that hurts.  True religion that cares for the orphans and the widows and the needy versus manipulative fear-mongering designed to get bigger offerings and built bigger megachurches.

Visit the new just-launched Facebook page for the film here:

Friday, August 07, 2015


I never saw my Dad cry.  His generation was tough. He fought in the Korean War.  His best friend was killed beside him. He suffered what would now be called PTSD. The medication he was on stabilized his emotions, kept feelings frozen.

When I was seven and I cried when a car hit our dog, I asked Mom a question.  "Does Daddy ever cry?" I said. 

"I only saw him cry once," Mom said.  "Although he didn't really cry, he fought it and kept from crying. His eyes were a little wet."

"When was that?" I said.

"When his father died."

I didn't think much about that through the years until I was at Quentin Tarentino's theater, a pet project of his that he and I both refer to as "our film school." It's a place that is like heaven on earth to me called the New Beverly Cinema.  They've shown my movie there and they show independent and classic films.

On this particular fall night, the film was "Somewhere In Time" a love story with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve.  The haunting score and the desire to go back in time washed over me and I had a strange compulsion, an inner voice giving me the oddest message.

"Show this film to your father.  Right away."

The intuition was so overpowering, my wife and I went home three thousand miles to Pittsburgh.  My Dad's health wasn't well.  I asked him if I could rent the film "Somewhere In Time" and show it to him.

"What's it about, Richard?"

"Going back in time.  How love transcends death.  This playwright goes into the past to a woman he loves."

"Okay.  I'll watch it."

My mother and father watched the film with my wife and I.  When the beautiful score played and the film concluded, something happened that shocked us.

My dear father was weeping, sobbing uncontrollably.  My mother couldn't bear to look.  She told me she'd never seen him like that.  My wife didn't look either, she said she didn't want to embarrass my father.

I looked at him, I felt like I had to, because I was seeing something so rare.   Through his tears he thanked me.  He cried for what seemed about fifteen minutes, and I don't know all the details but something very heavy and oppressive was released from him.  Maybe he knew his time was short.  He died shortly thereafter.  Remembering it now, now that he's gone and buried in the Veteran's Cemetery, makes me tear up to even type this note.

But it shows me the power of music and story and film.  It makes me committed to my work to hopefully make movies and music that touch people and help them to feel.  I think I'll watch that film again now.  Call me a sap.  It's just nice to feel feelings sometimes, once in a while, even though it might be hard to feel certain intense feelings all the time.

If you're not familiar with the film's score and images, here's a link:

Saturday, August 01, 2015


Words. Tricky little things.  Neil Young had a great song called "Words" that said words are between the lines of age.  For just a minute, let's examine what's between the words, why they change into euphemisms.  I warn you, if you read this, there's a chance you might start nitpicking words and how they're used.

Dr. Walter Palmer says he "took" Cecil the Lion.  He was "collecting a trophy."  Practicing the "pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion," Palmer said.  A euphemism is a word that softens the severity of what people do.  Taking something isn't as bad-sounding as skinning it and beheading a majestic species for fun. 

Abortion is a horrible thing.  The only way humans can stomach it is to use euphemisms as well.  "Fetus" or "tissue" isn't as bad sounding as killing a baby.  Female friends of mine who've had abortions refer to it as a "procedure."  That being said, I don't totally agree with the fundamentalist rhetoric linking the lion killing and abortions by saying "we shouldn't focus on Cecil, we should be outraged about killing human life through abortion."  I disagree with this all-or-nothing thinking because my conservative religious friends see everything in black and white, without nuances.  The two atrocities aren't identical exactly.  Dr. Palmer wasn't like some of the women I've known who were truly conflicted, in a relationship with a jerk who was abusively pressuring them to have an abortion because he didn't want to support the kid.  They didn't get the abortion because it was a fun sport for them to kill. 

I still think abortion is morally a devaluing of human life.  If we found living cells on Mars we'd say we discovered life on Mars.  But when we decide to take a baby's life, we tell ourselves it's not a life worthy of protection yet.  We have to say that to stomach it. 

By contrast, pregnant friends a couple months along say they "feel their baby kicking."  But if they didn't want the child, they wouldn't use the word "baby." So the words we use change, soften, tamper down life's value.  Dr. Palmer did it to kill Cecil.  Doctors do it to kill babies.  I'm not writing this as the moralistic judge of anyone, merely observing how I notice words change to defend the seemingly indefensible.

Slang words are part of our culture of euphemisms. Right now there's some strange buzzwords that spread like a virus.  Even hip-hop expressions spread to the suburbs and suddenly middle age white women are calling their friends "their peeps" and ending posts with "just sayin." 

Other current contenders for mindless slogan adopting are "it's all good" and "it is what it is." These sayings comfort us, help us accept things, and communicate some meaning to us. We all pick up on the popular patter to some extent.

I live in the Valley, the San Fernando Valley that gave rise to the term "Valley Girl."  Walking in our area, you'll overhear people using the word "like" every couple words instead of a conjunction or comma.  "I was like walking Runyan Canyon and he like texted me and I was like why are you waiting an hour to return my texts. That's like not acceptable," a woman walking by my wife and I said into her cellphone.

For some reason, my church friends use the word "just" a lot when they pray.  At prayer meetings, for example you'll hear "just" used to soften the request.  "God, we just ask that You would just be there," a sincere seeker prays.  And my mind goes off analyzing the words.  "We just ask that You would just be there," I repeat to myself. "That's it?" I ask myself.  "God's already here. Omnipresent.  So if that is "just" it, that's just not asking for much."

These slang words are also utilized as euphemisms or commas to soften the gravity of things.  "Just sayin" has it's roots in urban hip hop culture as a way of softening something harsh.  "If you don't pay me the money you owe me, I'm going to take it by force.  Just sayin." So when hip-hop language filters down to soccer Moms, it becomes a way of stating something, but then pulling it back a bit.  "Dr. Palmer should have done to him what was done to the lion, just sayin." That kind of pullback sarcastic takeaway. 

If you don't agree with what I wrote, like no hard feelings.  I just wanted to like make you like think and like observe how we like use words. 

It's all good.  It is what it is.  Just saying.