Lauren Appell: Faith-based films now feature top Hollywood talent -- Here's why it matters

While “Avengers Endgame” was already setting box office records last weekend, a promising and unexpected trend has developed recently in Hollywood. High-profile actors are emerging in movies with powerful messages of faith – a faith which is often shunned in Hollywood circles.

The most recent example is the movie “Breakthrough,” which recounts the story of 14-year-old John Smith from Missouri who miraculously defies all odds and makes a full recovery after falling through ice in a Missouri lake and being submerged for 15 minutes.

When he was rescued and taken to the hospital he had no pulse, his mom was sent in to say goodbye but instead, she prayed and miraculously his pulse returned. Still, he was given only a one percent chance to make it through the night and told if he did he’d be severely impaired for the rest of his life. Not only did he make it through the night, but fast forward to just over two weeks later, through the power of prayer and nothing short of a miracle, John walked out of the hospital fully recovered.

BOY WHO INSPIRED FAITH SURVIVAL STORY ‘BREAKTHROUGH’ SAYS ‘GOD STILL DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE’

The first week of its release this month “Breakthrough” came in second overall at the box office. The movie is packed full of top Hollywood talent. Josh’s mom is played by Chrissy Metz from the award-winning, NBC drama “This is Us.” Josh Lucas plays John’s dad, Topher Grace plays his unconventional pastor, and Dennis Haysbert plays his doctor (think Allstate – “Are you in good hands?,” as well as his roles in “Absolute Power” and “Waiting to Exhale”).

In addition to the Hollywood cast of all-stars, NBA all-star Stephen Curry was an executive producer of the film.

“Breakthrough” follows last year's hit “I Can Only Imagine,” a powerful story of love and redemption, which tells the true story of the lead singer of the Christian band Mercy Me, who was a victim of child abuse by his father, played by Dennis Quaid.

It’s no secret that Hollywood is quick to accept diversity in virtually all forms, except when it’s packaged as Christianity. Those kinds of thoughts and opinions they’d much rather do without. While Christians exist in Hollywood they’re in the minority, and it’s a safe bet that the entertainment industry wishes they didn’t exist at all. For most in the entertainment business, Christianity is something to be mocked, not celebrated, as they repeatedly remind us.

Vice President Mike Pence has been a favorite punching bag for the entertainment world because of his Christian values, which they’ve repeatedly mocked him for in the last two years. “The View’s” Joy Behar last year even went so far as to say he was mentally ill for talking to God.

At the Emmys in September, co-host Michael Che used his podium to take a shot at Jesus by saying, “The only white people that thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads.”

People of faith have always been a favorite target of Bill Maher’s. In 2017 on his HBO show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” he shockingly went after Christians with vile comments about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Christians make up a large portion of society in this country. It’s promising to see more and more accomplished actors in Hollywood acknowledge that there’s a large market for faith-based movies.

Interestingly, in addition to Haysbert, Lucas and Quaid are also commercial spokesmen for national brands. Lucas for Home Depot and Quaid for esurance.com. Yet they were still undeterred from taking on a faith-based movie, which is generally the equivalent of a Hollywood pariah.

People go to the movies to be entertained. Entertainment comes in many different forms, Hollywood doesn’t define it.

The fact of the matter is that there is room for diversity at the movie theater when it comes to faith-based movies. People of faith have proven by now that if you make it we will come.

Hollywood should have taken that clue years ago with the wildly popular “Passion of the Christ,” which starred highly accomplished actor Jim Caviezel. Perhaps they thought it was just a one-off.

Now more and more high-profile actors are signing on to faith-based movies. So many of these stories of faith are worth sharing, and it’s encouraging to see such talented actors willing to do them justice. The acting is good, the stories are compelling, and they’re a hit at the box office. That’s three thumbs up.

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We can be cautiously optimistic that the stigma attached to faith-based movies is finally being removed and the trend to make more movies centered around faith will only continue and see even more talented actors sharing these stories.

Once upon a time, Hollywood understood the very best art seeks to inspire, and perhaps the film industry is now slowly rediscovering that principle of success.

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