Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Freedom of Speech: It is Going, Going...Almost Gone

Freedom of expression is a right that is granted to each of us through the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  We know it as the "freedom of speech."  This is one of those freedoms that we seemingly take for granted until it is threatened.  Now I must admit there are parameters around that freedom.  One parameter is that what I say should not be a direct threat to another person or to the property of someone else.  We have witnessed several Supreme Court rulings in the past year with regard to "hate speech."  But, for the most part, I have the right to speak my mind. 

I remember teaching a class on ethics in a high school several years ago.  During that time we delved into many controversial subjects seeking to better understand them through the lens of Scripture.  This past year I have co-taught a group of high school students from my church a class on a biblical worldview.  In both instances I have strongly urged my students to share openly their thoughts in class.  I want them to begin feeling comfortable that they can give expression to what is in their hearts and minds.  The ability to dialogue openly, honestly, and, even at times, vigorously has been a strength of our nation in its past. 

But, as I have shared in past blogs, that right of free expression of ideas is disappearing from the American landscape.  Allow me to share another example that was reported on the Breitbart website today.  It was written by Austin Ruse and is titled, "Jesuit University Moves to Fire Conservative Professor Over His Political Views."  The article begins, "Marquette University has moved to suspend and then fire Professor John McAdams for backing a student who tried to defend man-woman marriage when a leftist teaching assistant shut the student down.

"In the fall of 2014, Junior faculty member Cheryl Abbate told a student, who secretly recorded the exchange, that his defense of man-woman marriage was an unacceptable topic in her ethics class and compared his views to racism.  She said, "You can have whatever opinions you want but I can tell you right now, in this class homophobic comments, racist comments, and sexist comments will not be tolerated."  And then she told the student he should drop the class.

"On his very popular blog, Professor McAdams outed the incident and charged the teaching assistant with 'using a tactic typical among liberals now.  Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong, and are not to be argued against on their merits, but are deemed "offensive" and need to be shut up.'

"It was announced this week that a 'diverse' faculty committee recommended to the university president that McAdams be suspended without pay from April 1 through the fall of 2016 and that he lose his job unless he admits 'guilt' and apologized 'within the next two weeks.'  Specifically, the demand is 'You acknowledgement that your November 9, 2014, blog post was reckless and incompatible with the mission and values of Marquette University and you express deep regret for the harm suffered by our former graduate student and instructor, Ms. Abbate."  And here is what is interesting, the University is not requiring Ms. Abbate to make an apology that her comments demeaned the opinions of another student while he was attending the University.  I believe we call this "having a double standard."  But, then again, that seems to be accepted in our culturally-confused world. 

Here is another case of "you are free to speak your mind as long as what you say does not contradict what I say and think."  In other words, the operative principle today when it comes to "freedom of speech" is: What I say is right; what you say, if you disagree with what I say, is wrong - end of story.  With such a principle in place, how can there be a healthy exchange of ideas?  It is through the exchange of ideas that people are stretched in their own thinking.  Such narrow constraints on "freedom of speech" were operative during the dark days of the Inquisition.  Then, if you did not accept and agree with the normative thinking of the times, often your life was forfeited.  Many a person was burned as a heretic - his/her only crime being of "different thinking."  I believe that if such ideology continues to prevail, we may soon see another Inquisition. 

Jesus told His disciples that it was the truth that would set them free.  Truth is achieved through the process of dialogue and conversations.  Debates can often be the tools for such dialogues.  I have read the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858.  What a wealth of ideas that were shared.  Those debates really helped change the course of American history.  Today's debates are mostly verbal free-for-alls and not a clear exchange of ideas, but they fit well in our sound-byte world.

I will continue admonishing my students and those within my congregational family to share ideas and opinions.  But I also share with them that those ideas and opinions might cause them to experience a form of persecution because those ideas and opinions might not be acceptable to the prevailing culture of today.   

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Millennials: Their Anxiety, Their Lack of Faith

I came across a very interesting article this past week written by Karol Markowicz, a writer with the New York Post.  The article was titled, "'They can't even': Why millennials are the 'anxious generation.'"  You can find the entire article at:  The writer begins, "Seventy years ago, there was 'the greatest generation.'  Later, Generation X became known as the slacker generation.  Today, millennials are turning out to be the anxious generation.  Numerous recent studies have shown that millennials suffer from anxiety at a much higher rate than generations that preceded them.  What's wrong with kids these days?"

That is a great question.  The writer seeks to answer that question.  "A lot, actually.  They're the first generation raised with Internet.  The first generation to experience 'helicopter' parenting.  They're at once constantly exposed on social media but also permanently sheltered by overbearing parents.  They're not the first generation to experience a rough economy, but they certainly act as if they were."  The author then cites an article that appeared in New York magazine, written by Jean Twenge, a social psychologist at San Diego State University, who "cites all the change and upheaval young people today have seen.  As marriages happen later or not at all, the family structure is changing dramatically."

Yes, our culture is undergoing some cataclysmic changes...most of which seem to not be beneficial to culture as a whole.  This causes anxiety for most of us.  Now, for that part of the article that captured my attention.  "But the real change comes in the freedom of movement that has made it easy for people to leave families far behind.  Studies have shown that having limited family in close proximity can lead to anxiety and depression.  It makes sense.  In 2015, the American Psychological Association's annual 'Stress in America' survey found that people who have close family or friends to turn to in times of crises experienced less stress. Today we instill independence in our kids and tell them to forge their own paths.  But we've stopped telling them that doing so might be easier if they stay geographically closer to us. ... It's not a crazy idea that if you live near people who love you the most, you're more likely to be more comfortable and confident, all other things being equal." 

I have lived in Minnesota now since 1999.  Minnesotans seem to practice this "staying-close-to-home" with an almost zealous approach.  I wonder if it does relieve their stress?

A second article was disturbing in the statistics that it shared.  It was written by Joshua Krisch and published at  The article begins with this banner: "Since 1980, the number of Americans who believe in God has decreased by half and the number who pray has declined five-fold.  Has America lost its faith?"  The article now had my undivided attention.  Allow me to share just a few of the facts:

"Researchers found that the percentage of Americans who claim they never pray reached an all-time high in 2014, up five-fold since the 1980s.  Over the same time period, belief in God and interest in spirituality appears to have similarly declined, especially among young adults.  The findings suggest that, 'millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history,' says Jean M. Twenge, psychology professor at San Diego State University and coauthor on the study."  (You remember this same psychologist was quoted in the above article on millennial anxiety.) 

"But this new study suggests that Americans have a problem with God - and that our spiritual issues run deeper than paltry mistrust of religious institutions.  For the study, researchers pulled 58,893 entries from the GSS, a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults.  The results suggest a steep decline in the number of Americans who pray, believe in God, take the Bible literally, attend religious services or identified as religious - all factors that should have relatively little to do with America's skepticism of large institutions.

"As of 2014, nearly one third of thirty-somethings who matured in the 2000s said they were 'secular' and one fifth reported that they were not even 'spiritual', suggesting a decline not only in religious affiliated but also in the core beliefs of Generation Y.  'Decline in religious affiliation and participation has now extended to private practices and beliefs,' the authors write.

"The next generation, often referred to as iGen, is even more secular.  By 2014, the number of 18 to 22-year-olds who reported no religious affiliation rose from 11 percent in the 1970s to 36 percent; the percentage who said they never pray rose from 4 percent to 28 percent.  Belief in God and attendance at religious services declined by half while self-reported spirituality declined five-fold.  'This suggests that iGen will continue the decrease in religious orientation rather than reversing it, even in spirituality,' the authors write."

Friends, as Christians who believe those fundamental truths of the Word of God, we have an incredible task before us.  Why has the younger generation turned away from faith?  Why have they turned their back upon the Church?  More importantly why have they walked away from a belief in God?  I believe one of the great contributors is the hypocrisy they have witnessed both within their homes and within their local church.  They have witnessed the "one-hour-on-Sunday-morning" all their lives.  Yet what impact has that "one-hour" had upon what they have seen at home?  Mom and Dad still fight with each other.  Children are still yelled at.  Dad is so busy with work that he does not even know what is going on in his children's lives.  And so they have had it with God.  They have had it with the local church.  They have had it with religion.  It doesn't work for them! 

If we are going to make a turn-around, friends, we have to get back to modeling an authentic faith.  It has to be founded upon the absolute essential truths found within the Word of God.  But it has to be heightened with relationships, beginning with our own families, that are filled with grace.  As one author I recently read expressed it, we need truthful compassion and compassionate truthfulness.  That is what Jesus did.  That is what we must do. 

I am reminded of those words of Jesus to His disciples recorded for us in Luke 18:8, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"  Perhaps Jesus was pointing to our times.  Perhaps this lack of faith is another indicator pointing to the soon return of the Lord Jesus.  If it is, then I rejoice to see that day.  But my heart is saddened that a coming generation has decided to walk away from God.  The lingering question in my heart and mind is this: If God does not fill this "belief-vacuum" then what will?  The answers to that question become frightening.

I want to close on a more glorious note: He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Our redemption has been sealed!  Our victory has been assured!  Let's tell the world that "Jesus is the answer they are searching for!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It Is Time to Stand Up for Truth

One never ceases to be amazed at the diligence of America's political-correct police.  I mean we have heard so many stories of bakers, florists, photographers and others whose lives have been severely changed because they have simply refused to cooperate with a same-sex wedding ceremony.  They have watched as their businesses have been forced to close.  They have had their good names dragged through one court room after another and through one press-release after another because they took a stand for the principles they held dear.  Many of us have read their stories and, initially, were drawn into that story.  We might have even felt some compassion for them.  We might have even tried to support them in one way or another.  But the list of those targeted by the PC-police continues to grow almost daily.  Sadly, I am afraid, so has an apathy of "what can I do?"

Let me share another story.  This time from the files of Sean Hannity, one of America's most respected conservative commentators.  You can find this article at:
Hannity begins: "It is widely accepted that American public schools are controlled by liberals.  It seems like every day, we see new examples of American school children being indoctrinated with left-wing ideas.  The latest example was brought to our attention by a concerned parent.

"Kindergarten students from PS75, a public school in New York City, recently took part in a class project in which the children were made to create an American flag with the flags of 22 other nations superimposed over the stripes.  Below the flag read the words 'We pledge allegiance to an International Flag.'  The flag is being auctioned off as a way to raise funds for the Parent Teacher Association.  According to the description offered on the auction site: The students made a beautifully painted sketched canvas American Flag and then applied flags from all the Spanish speaking countries onto the strips of the American flag.  The stars are cut canvas which are painted and decorated with REAL Swarovski Crystals (gold and crystal colored)!  The fun quote on the bottom is about unity and creating an environment in which everyone is welcome! 'We pledge allegiance to an International Flag!'  Our dual language classroom strives to be a place that everyone feels welcome!

"Although the description claims that the flags are limited to 'Spanish speaking countries', the Russian flag is amongst those that are included.  This is the type of globalist indoctrination we have come to expect from the public school system, but telling impressionably young American children that their loyalty should lie with some nebulous idea of a global community rather than their own nation is a new low."

So, there you have it.  And we wonder why home-schooling families are exploding across the landscape; why Christian schools are being created at almost a rapid-fire pace.  Parents are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of the secular-humanistic worldview that dominates our educational scene.  Our children are no longer taught the vital truths concerning our nation's founding.  As I wrote several weeks ago, we can no longer use the term "Founding Fathers" because it is gender exclusive.  Free speech only applies when that speech is in agreement with what has already been decided as being acceptable.  The free-exchange of ideas that once dominated our college and university campuses is no longer acceptable.  Our media members have almost become paranoid when asked to consider something that the PC-police have already rejected. 

Where is truth to be found today?  I listened to an interesting video today where the speaker declared that the reason for the success of Donald Trump is because he is telling the truth.  Perhaps he is.  He has certainly gathered together an "army" of followers who have felt very disenfranchised by the professional politicians.

Churches had better be advocates of truth - for, after all, the Jesus they proclaim to believe in said that He was The Truth.  And that Truth is found within the pages of the Holy Scriptures.  Friends, I have been teaching and preaching the Word of God for nearly 44 years now and, I must confess, there are still passages that trouble my soul.  But, and this is so important, I believe those passages are God's Truth - that all of God's Word is Truth whether I understand it or not! 

It is time for all of us to take a stand for what is True.  It will not be a popular stand because our culture has already judged Truth and condemned it.  But I think of those amazing early followers of Jesus.  They stood for Truth in the midst of a world that embraced nearly every false philosophy that man had created.  They were laughed at.  They were mocked.  They were imprisoned.  And, some were even put to death.  But the Truth began to prevail and the world was changed. 

Can it happen again?  I don't know.  But I know what will happen if we don't take a stand for Truth; of what will happen if we don't tell our children and our grandchildren what is Truth.  They will begin to believe the lie.  And that, my friends, is the moment when the Antichrist enters upon the stage and a time of unprecedented suffering begins.  I don't know about you, but I want to shout the Truth from my pulpit as long as God gives me passion and breath.  I want to shout the Truth to the young families and young teens within my church.  I want my grandchildren to know that their Grandfather stands firmly upon the Truth.  How about you?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Middle East Threats Escalate

It has been awhile since I have focused upon what is happening in the Middle East.  But an event that transpired today should not only draw our attention but cause us to be greatly alarmed.  It was reported today, by most of the major news organizations, that Iran launched two ballistic missiles with the phrase "Israel must be wiped out" written in Hebrew on the sides of each missile.  According to a report published by Fox News, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, a deputy commander of the Guards (Iranian Republican Guards) told Fars news agency, "The missiles fired today are the results of sanctions.  The sanctions helped Iran develop its missile program."   The Fox News report continued, "Fars quoted Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard's aerospace division, saying the test was aimed at showing Israel that Iran could hit it.  'The 1,240 mile range of our missiles is to confront the Zionist regime,' Hajizadeh said.  'Israel is surrounded by Islamic countries and it will not last long in a war.  It will collapse even before being hit by these missiles.'"

Now what made this act even more sinister is that it occurred while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  It was a warning, really, to both countries that Iran could do whatever it wanted to do and no one could really do anything about it.  The economic sanctions have all been lifted.  Iranian leadership has entered into several major trade agreements with partners in Europe.  They laugh at the threat of other imposed sanctions by anyone. 

Furthermore, also reported by Fox News today:"Iran on Tuesday again threatened to walk away from the nuclear agreement reached last year with global powers, hours after the country breached international agreements by test-firing ballistic missiles.  Iran's most recent ballistic missile test, which violates current U.N. Security Council resolutions, comes a day after the international community's nuclear watchdog organization disclosed that it is prohibited by the nuclear agreement from publicly reporting on potential violations by Iran.  Iranian leaders now say that they are poised to walk away from the deal if the United States and other global powers fail to advance the Islamic Republic's 'national interests.'  'If our interests are not met under the nuclear deal, there will be no reason for us to continue,' Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, warned during remarks delivered to a group of Iranian officials in Tehran.  'If other parties decide, they could easily violate the deal,' Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iran's state-controlled media.  'However, they know this will come with costs.'" 

This deal with Iran that was agreed to in Switzerland last year is becoming a political nightmare.  One wonders at the intelligence of those who crafted this agreement.  The more I hear of its implications - and they are all one-sided toward Iran, the more I remember that agreement that British Prime Minister Chamberlain signed with Adolph Hitler purporting to "bring peace to our time."  And we all know how that agreement turned out.  It seems that those entrusted with protecting "the chickens in the chicken coop" entered into an agreement that truly favored "the fox."  And now "the fox" is strutting his stuff. 

But the alarm concerning Israel and the Middle East does not come exclusively from Iran.  Yesterday I read the following from the website.  "With about 10 months left in office, President Barack Obama is considering unprecedented moves to implement a two-state solution, according to a Wall Street Journal report.  Senior US officials revealed that the President is looking to initiate a final negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority using United Nations Security Council resolutions, a step that would obligate not only Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but effectively determine the direction of US policy for the president's successor as well. ... According to the plan described by senior US officials, Obama is considering reviving the dormant Middle East Quartet, a diplomatic body including the US, UN, EU, and Russia, to apply pressure to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume active negotiations.  The President is also considering use of a United Nations Security Council resolution to forcibly extract concessions from Israel and the PA.  The US has until now vetoed any such resolutions, though Mr. Obama has in the past threatened to allow them to pass.  A Security Council resolution would be binding upon all parties, unlike General Assembly measures which are non-obligatory recommendations.  Such a resolution would remain in force even after the president leaves office next January, effectively shaping the future of American policy in the region for Mr. Obama's successors.  The resolution would require Israel cease construction over the Green Line and would force Israel to recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.  At the same time, the Palestinian Authority would be obliged to officially recognize Israel as a Jewish state and would be pressured to give up the long-standing demand for a right of return."

Let's see:  Israel is faced with a very real nuclear threat on its eastern borders from Iran.  Israel is faced with the threat of the Islamic State radicals now camping out in parts of Syria and who are as vocal as are the Iranians in their intent to destroy Israel.  Israel is faced with the constant threat of Hamas on its southwestern border with its tunnels and rockets.  And Israel is faced with a very hostile political climate in Europe and in the United States.  Where can this little state, the only island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism in the Middle East, turn?  Who can it trust? 

Now, as Bible-believing Christians, we know that Israel's only true source of help is found in God.  We know that God has not forgotten those people whom He called by His Name so many centuries ago.  We remember those promises that God gave to Abraham recorded for us in Genesis, promises that focused upon a piece of land given to Abraham and his descendants forever and promises of a people so great that they could not be counted and promises that it would be through the seed of Abraham that all the peoples on the earth would be blessed.  We remember the words from the ancient prophets of how God would bring His people back to that land He had promised to them.  He would rescue them when all others abandoned them.  Israel's strength is not in her military might - as powerful as that is right now.  Israel's strength is not in her technological wizardry - as ingenious as it truly is.  Israel's strength is found in its God!  He is the One in whom I daily put my trust.  He is the One in whose promises I rest.  I pray this for the people of Israel as well. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Politics and More Craziness in Our Country: But There is Hope in Christ"

Well Super Tuesday has come and gone.  There were a few surprises in the results but it would appear that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are now the presumptive favorites to square off in the general election come next November.  Trump's entrance into the presidential race nearly a year ago was viewed by many within the establishment and the media - both mainstream and conservative, I might add - as being some type of publicity stunt.  But Trump's message began to resonate with the general populace who had grown weary of "politics as usual."  Tired of stalemates in Washington.  Tired of rhetoric but a lack of action.  Tired of promises made but, as soon as the ballots were counted, promises forgotten.  Tired of deficit spending.  Why can government spend more money that it receives when I cannot?  Along came Donald Trump and brought a renewed hope to the general populace.  His success has caused a near panic among the Republican establishment who is seeing nearly 30 years of "promise-making, promise-forgetting" being threatened.  His success has caused a near panic among media, even among so-called conservative media.  This man does not fit the conventional mold.  He has no political record that can be scrutinized and then sanitized. 

Trump's success has caused a conundrum for Christians, especially those who identify themselves as being evangelical.  Trump has never identified himself as being an evangelical, although he has identified himself as being a Christian.  Perhaps his definition of Christian might be different than yours or mine, in fact, I am confident that it is.  But he did not claim to be an evangelical as had Senator Rubio and Senator Cruz and Dr. Carson.  Certainly Trump's lifestyle is not one that many evangelicals would hold up and say to their children, "I want you to become just like Mr. Trump."  So there is a problem for many Christians as they ponder the seeming reality of a Trump candidacy.  It is not unlike what happened four years ago when many Christians sat-out the election because they could not bring themselves to vote for Romney because he was a Mormon.  Well, we know how that election turned out. 

As many of you know I love history and politics - I would never want to be a politician, though.  But I am fascinated as to why many evangelicals are supporting Trump, including Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas.  Perhaps this might be the year that morality is not a litmus test of a candidate.  Perhaps this is the year when we need to ask ourselves "who can return America to a sense of greatness again?" and not, "who can overturn Roe v. Wade?"  I have visited with friends who have recently retired from active military leadership and they have related to me how unprepared our military truly is.  We have a lack of leadership as many of the two and three-star generals have either retired voluntarily or were forced to retire.  One shared with me, "Max, I truly believe that if something catastrophic happened, our military is not prepared to respond as it should."  Those were alarming words.  Yes, I believe we still have the greatest military in the world.  And, no I do not believe that our military should respond to every little crisis that develops around the world.  But I do want to feel like I and my family are safe if another "Pearl Harbor" or "9/11" happens? 

I read recently that this election just might be America's "last hope."  So, who am I supporting, you might ask?  Right now I tell people that I am basically uncommitted but would lean in Dr. Carson's favor, although I know that he really has no chance to be the nominee.  But I have always admired him and his story.  Which, by the way, I highly recommend the film version of his life: "Gifted Hands."  Powerful story! 

Friends, we are teetering on the edge.  Let me give you an example of how far we have gone.  This is an article, written by Bob Unruh and can be found at  The article begins, "U.S. Marine veteran John Kevin Wood and his wife, Melissa, have gone to court asking a judge to overturn a school's decision to banish him from a public school campus because he objected to the Islam indoctrination to which his daughter was subjected.  The fight has been going on since 2014, but John Kevin Wood said the issue has become urgent because this is his daughter's last semester and he doesn't want to be deprived of the opportunity to be at her graduation events and ceremony.

"The Thomas More Law Center said on Monday it filed a motion for a preliminary injunction that would overturn the school's ban.  The motion for the preliminary injunction that would block the school's ongoing banishment explains the school deprived Wood of meaningful involvement in the direction of his daughter's education because the no-trespass order prevented him from speaking at parent meeting in violation of the First Amendment.  The district, the Charles County Public Schools in La Plata, Maryland, also deprived Wood of his constitutional rights 'by giving a principal unfettered discretion to ban him - the father of a student - from school grounds without any hearing or opportunity to defend himself because he brought to light the school's unconstitutional practices.

"The plaintiffs are a Marine Corps veteran John Kevin Wood and his wife, Melissa, who 'refused to allow their teenage daughter to be subjected to Islamic indoctrination and propaganda in her high school world history class.'  The lawsuit charged that the defendants' 'curriculum, practices, policies, actions, procedures, and customs promote the Islamic faith by requiring students to profess the five pillars of Islam.'  The students, the complaint says, were required to 'write out and confess the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith.'"

I read this article with alarm.  I remember when I teach Church History that I spend an entire lesson on Islam and its impact upon the Church.  I share with my students the five pillars of Islam, including the shahada: "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger."  And we discuss the purpose behind each of those five pillars.  But I would never consider having my students identify with that shahada statement.  If this is espoused in a public school, then in fairness, students should be given the opportunity to memorize the Apostles' Creed, the earliest know credal statement of Christianity, and to memorize the Shema of Judaism.   But, of course, that seldom happens.  All Christian thought is to be excised from the public arenas.  Christian thought is to be reserved for one-hour on Sunday morning.  I am reminded of those words of Jesus to His disciples, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15:18).  Those are good words to keep in mind as we are in the Lenten Season with its focus upon the hatred of the world and organized religion against Jesus Christ.  But remember, Easter always follows Good Friday!

Speaking of Easter, before I close this week's blog, I want to highly recommend the movie "Risen."  It is very well done.  It is the story of a Roman tribune who oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus and then was assigned to guard the tomb where the body of Jesus lay.  When Easter Sunday comes, Pilate, Judea's governor, orders this tribune to begin a search for the body of Jesus.  From that point on the story becomes almost like a "mystery."  The biblical foundation for some of the story comes from the Gospel of John.  And, when those foundational stories are shared, they are told very accurately.  Warning: the movie was filmed in Spain and on the Island of Malta, thus, what purports to be Galilee looks nothing like Galilee.  But, unless you had actually been in Galilee, this might not be annoying to you as it was to me.  The actor who plays Peter does a superb job, as does Joseph Fiennes who plays the Roman tribune Clavius.  I very seldom attend movies with a biblical theme, but I am glad I saw this one.  It reminded me of the reality: Jesus is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Now that is great news for all of us!