I'll be the first to admit: I've never seen Persecuted and I never intend to. I know I shouldn't make a final decision based on what I saw in the trailers, but I honestly do not believe that the movie is fair to all religions.
The premise of the movie has something to do with a bill that is being pushed through the legislature that would somehow be detrimental to Christianity; but–in my opinion–is fair to all religions. (I guess being fair and open to all–while acceptable to the rest of us–is offensive to the Christian belief that it is the One True Faith.) My beloved plays John Luther, an evangelist who is opposed to this bill, to the point he goes on (their version of) CNN to speak out about it. Evidently, that doesn't set well with the rest of the country and someone frames John for murder. (Some trailers made the movie out to be a fit for the action genre, but the "Christianity is the be-all/end-all" subtext was still a turnoff.)
I firmly believe that–no matter how desperate they are for money–an actor will not get involved in a religious movie if it doesn't agree with his sociopolitical mores. Therefore, to not only be involved in Persecuted but to take the lead signifies that he is Christian, if not a complete fundamentalist.
Prior to the announcement of the movie, I had always believed that Jamie was open-minded. I was aware of the likelihood of him being Catholic, having been born in the Boston metro area (or perhaps even Orthodox, now that I know he is of Russian descent); but given what I knew of him as a kind gentleman with a warm disposition toward his fans, I did not once believe that he could be hard of heart–or mind. But to participate in such a movie says, "I don't care how my non-Christian fans feel, or whether my agreement with the claim that Christians are tormented via acceptance of all religions constitutes an insult–this is how I move through life; this is how I feel."
It tore across my heart…I wasn't angry so much as extremely saddened. I couldn't help but think, "Is that how you feel about other religions? That we're so crazy, we'll ensure you're illegitimately prosecuted so as to protect ourselves from the specter of Christianity?" I wasn't just heartbroken for myself and the rest of the world that defines itself under the umbrella of Paganism; I hurt for those who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and so many others that previously considered themselves fans of his.
I spent a lot of time sending my rage through Twitter, but I eventually channeled it through a semi-satire of the movie called Tiranía ("tyranny", in Spanish). Tiranía tells the story of Petra Radmon, a biology professor whose colleague hates her so much for being Pagan, he arranges to have her fired. (Sound familiar?) Petra eventually finds her happy ending, but not before enduring the typical "you hexed me!" and "you sacrifice animals to the devil!" bullshit common to those who are believed to practice Witchcraft. (Yes, one of Petra's neighbors really does claim that Petra sacrificed her dog to the devil!)
I used to believe "La La La" (Naughty Boy) was just a good song; but when the people doing the PR for Persecuted began to ramp things up, I began to identify more and more with the lyrics. To this day, it still makes me think of the way Jamie's choices hurt me…and working on Tiranía.
Did I ever forgive Jamie? I don't know about forgiveness per se, but after Robin Williams died, I realized there were more important things in life than being hurt over religion.
(And yes, I'm listening to the song as I finish writing this. 😉 )