Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Cannes Film Festival Meets Jesus: A Flowering of Culture at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention

As a conservative journalist working in the belly of the beast that is Washington, D.C., and mostly focused on shining a light on what’s going wrong in America, I find it all too easy to forget that there’s a lot going right, especially outside the capital city I affectionately call “Mordor.”

This past week at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Orlando Florida, I crossed paths with conservative giants such as Dennis Prager, Eric Metaxas, and Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., but I also met numerous Christians and Jews with a heart for sharing the hope that is in them—through filmmaking, radio, podcasting, poetry, children’s TV, and more.

The convention represented a flourishing of conservative religious culture that my heart had longed for—and it was surreal seeing it in person.

This past year, the Angel Studios streaming show “The Chosen” has introduced millions to the stories of Jesus’ disciples, but in the months ahead, the studio is launching even more. On July 4, “Sound of Freedom” will hit theaters. This action-packed thriller with Jim Caviezel—yes, Jesus from “The Passion of the Christ”—will tell the story of a man freeing people from modern-day slavery. I had the honor of hearing from Tim Ballard, the man whose story that movie is based on, and to call it inspiring and convicting would be a vast understatement.

Angel also has kids’ shows like “The Tuttle Twins” and “The Wingfeather Saga,” and it will be premiering a star-studded film in January 2024, “The Shift,” a fascinating science fiction film featuring Sean Astin (who played Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings”) and Neal McDonough (Damien Darhk on TV’s “Arrow”).

Angel was far from the only TV and film studio at the NRB convention. PureFlix and VidAngel made appearances, and I saw numerous other Christian studios I had never heard of as I perused the convention floor. I also ran into poets, singers, and other creatives of the kind I would never expect at a political convention like CPAC.

The NRB also brought some big stars in the music scene. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting John Cooper, lead vocalist and songwriter for the award-winning Christian rock band Skillet, who was not afraid to speak out against the left-wing ideologies undermining Christianity and America’s Western heritage.

Jonathan Cain, keyboardist for the legendary rock band Journey, personally thanked me for a speech I gave at the convention.

It wasn’t all musicians and filmmakers, either, of course. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the conference just two days before he announced his presidential bid, and former President Donald Trump gave remarks remotely, as well.

Pastors and religious leaders also flocked to the convention. Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham gave the keynote address on Monday, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler spoke at the closing gala dinner Thursday.

Yet the beating heart of the conference was—unsurprisingly—the broadcasters themselves. Big and small, faith-based commentators stuffed the Orlando hotel to the gills. Salem Media’s top talent—notably Prager and Metaxas, but many more besides—dominated the radio row, but Real America’s Voice, Newsmax, and other big names also lined the halls. You couldn’t walk 10 paces without running into a podcaster—many of them with huge national audiences.

You’d see top talent at Fox News, like Raymond Arroyo, speaking about his new book on Thomas Edison. You’d see Brandon Showalter with The Christian Post praying for God’s help to fight the demonic forces behind the transgender movement. You’d see the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody shaking hands with Metaxas.

Last, but certainly not least, was the Israel contingent. Jews who had moved from all over the world to live in the Holy Land made a trek to Orlando to share good news about Israel. As faith in God appears to diminish across the West, faithfulness is growing in Israel, a land that Jews transformed from a barren desert into a lush oasis, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Of course, the Israelis are rightly nervous about the rising axis of Iran, Russia, and China, but they brought a faith in God that inspires great hope for the future.

While I often feel bombarded by negative news, I was blessed at this conference to hear from so many voices sharing what God is doing in America and across the world. The Eastern European Mission told me that sending Bibles into countries like Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Serbia has brought Christians of all denominations together, mending wounds that trace back centuries, if not millennia. British Christian Richard Gamble told me about the Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer, a 169-foot monument he is constructing in Britain that will tell the stories of 1 million answered prayers. (The Daily Signal will run podcast episodes with both of these interviews soon.)

Pastors such as Lucas Miles told me how they preach the Gospel and combat the lies of a “Woke Jesus.” Prager gave tips on how to fight the Left’s crusade against free speech. David Rubin, former mayor of Shilo in Israel (near the site where the Tabernacle rested for hundreds of years), told me how he survived a Palestinian terrorist attack and how that experience inspired him to help children across the Holy Land.

All is not right with the world, and I remain committed to exposing the threats of the radical Left, the menace of communist China, and the rot seeping through America’s once-great institutions. Even so, I couldn’t help but be inspired by what I saw at the NRB convention.