Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Cross: The Arthur Blessitt Story

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Faith-Based Bio-Pic Chronicles Missionary’s 40-Year Pilgrimage across the Planet

Back in 1969, Arthur Blessitt was ministering to drug addicts, strippers, prostitutes, runaways, hippies and other lost souls in a Christian coffee house he had opened near Skid Row in Los Angeles, when he was suddenly partially-paralyzed by a life-threatening brain aneurysm. Ignoring the orders of his doctors who wanted to operate immediately, Arthur instead opted to answer a calling from God to spread The Word all over the planet.
So, on Christmas Day, this humble servant of Christ checked himself out of the hospital to embark on a 38,000-mile walk which, over the next forty years, would take him to every nation and island group in the world, including 52 war zones. What made his spiritual pilgrimage particularly noteworthy was the fact that he didn’t carry a Bible like your typical missionary, but rather a mammoth, 12-foot high wooden cross, which was draped over his shoulder every step of the way. And although he would eventually be inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for this remarkable feat, it is easy to tell from listening to the man speak for even just a few minutes that this was no publicity stunt but a simple case of sincere surrender to do the work of the Lord.
Directed by Matthew Crouch, The Cross chronicles peripatetic Blessitt’s perilous trek to the ends of the Earth. This endlessly intriguing and enlightening film features a compelling combination of news footage shot in a variety of exotic lands and interviews with folks the energetic reverend encountered on the road.
Among the movie’s more fascinating moments transpires when we see him being stopped with his young son, Josh, at the border of East Beirut at a time when the city was being shelled by Israel. After he explains to the soldiers that he wants to meet with Yassir Arafat, the soldiers respond, “We’re trying to kill him.” Yet, the father and son were waved on into no man’s land by an Israeli tank commander with tears in his eyes who had previously encountered the pair making their way across the Sinai Desert, then en route from Jerusalem to Cairo.
In the very next scene, we find Arthur praying with Arafat, before being kissed on both cheeks by the late PLO leader. I was surprised to learn that Arthur was able to carry the cross openly in every Muslim nation, and that the first place he was arrested was back in his own country, in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was jailed for holding the hand of a black man he was preparing to bless. Ironically, when the cops let him go, they warned him never to return to the state, not knowing that he had been born there.
Another amazing incident occurs in Africa, where he was turned away from a missionary compound where he had anticipated spending the night after camping out for the last 2,000 miles. However, the supposed “Christians” running the place refused because he couldn’t produce any credentials or proof of affiliation with an approved religious order. Not to worry, he was soon welcomed by a couple of atheists who offered to put him up for as long as he needed to recharge his batteries.
Arthur also enjoyed an audience with the Pope, but it is evident that he preferred to spend most of his time among the least of his brethren, because as he puts it, and “Everywhere, there’s an opportunity, someone with a need.” An inspiring bio-pic about a flesh and blood saint who literally sacrificed his own life to put the teachings of Jesus into practice on a daily basis the best he could.
So moving it made me weep three ways: openly, deeply and repeatedly!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mature themes, violent images, mild adult language and drug references.
Running time: 93 minutes
Studio: Gener8Xion Entertainment

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