Film :: Kidnapped for Christ

I had not heard of the documentary Kidnapped for Christ until several weeks ago when it crossed my path twice in one day. First, a post of the trailer on Christian Nightmares, then an AMA with director Kate S. Logan on Reddit.

This film, currently showing on Showtime, is not for the faint of heart and is sure to provide ample ammunition for those at odds with a certain vein of evangelical Christianity. It is still well worth the watch – especially if you’ve seen docs like Jesus CampAmerican Jesus, of MSNBC’s “Mind Over Mania”.

The film starts innocently enough with director Kate Logan (a film student at a Christian liberal arts university) travelling to the Dominican Republic to document the work of “school for troubled teens.” With pure intentions and a healthy dose of naivete, Logan is genuinely excited to see the great work of God’s people in helping to reform the lives of these these problematic kids. It doesn’t take long before we begin to see that things aren’t all what they purport to be.

We meet David, a 17 year old boy from Colorado who has been taken to Escuela Caribe against his will. In his words, two men showed up at his home, placed a belt around his waist, and pulled him onto an airplane against his will. Hours later he found himself in the Dominican with no means of escape and constant threats of discipline should he not toe the line set out by school leaders. How could such a thing happen? Well, when his parents found out he was gay, they knew that they had to go to extreme measures to get him back on track.

David’s story is not unusual at Escuela Caribe. Other students have been sent here after getting in trouble at school or at home. Some have emotional issues, others have drug dependencies. But, of the students featured in the film, none appear to be the “hardened criminals” the director expected to find during her stay. As she becomes more aware of the reality of the situation, Logan finds herself encountering more restrictions from the school directors.

After returning to the U.S., connecting with David’s friends and letting them know the gravity of the situation, it seems that the director put her work on an indefinite hold. Fast forward about 5 years, Logan returns to her camera and offers some closure on the different storylines that she has developed throughout the film. Perhaps most important among these scenes is a trip to the first everSurvivors of Institutional Abuse conference to realize that Escuela Caribe is only one of many such programs around the world where U.S. teens are sent against their will.

The videography here isn’t great, but that shouldn’t be any surprise. A good portion of the filming is done “undercover” due to restrictions of the school. There is a noticeable jump in film quality when we fast forward to present day. One of the most unique aspects of this film – compared to other recent docs I’ve reviewed – is that the director is as much a lead character as her subjects. She moves the story along through voiceover and on-camera segments. These pieces bring an added dose of humanity to an already all-too-real story.

If you’re easily angered by injustice, bring your stress ball with you when you watch. Unfortunately, there was nothing really new here to me – but there are likely many out there who have no idea that these types of places exist. For that reason, this is a must watch.

As mentioned, Kidnapped for Christ is currently airing on Showtime and will hopefully be available for digital purchase in the near future. For more info visit

Hillsong Worship: No Other Name

First thing out of the gate, as previously reported, the band formerly known as Hillsong Live is now Hillsong Worship.

While I’ve been aware of the work of Hillsong for many years, it wasn’t until last year’s Glorious Ruins that I had a proper introduction to them. That album was great, but likely overshadowed by Hillsong United’s Zion record and the massive hit “Oceans.”

The group’s latest album, No Other Name, is a solid addition to their catalog, though time will tell as to its staying power. The set list starts strong, though excitement seems to wane toward the back half of the record. Several songs are “keepers,” but most took some time to grow on me — as opposed to the immediate connection I had with their previous release.

It’s often hard to critique a worship record because there is a lot at play beyond just production values, artistic choices, and listening experience. With that in mind, I will try to be as holistic as possible with my review.

The album opens with the mellow and melodic “This I Believe,” a nice, contemporary take on the Apostle’s Creed. While far from a new concept, the structure here is really engaging. “Heaven and Earth” is a great follow up, further developing the creedal theology and introducing the album theme. The high point of the album comes on track 3, “Broken Vessels.” The nine-and-a-half minute epic weaves together new lyrics and a new tune with the classic hymn “Amazing Grace.”

With how strong Glorious Ruins and Zion were, it’s hard to not hold this record up against them. For me, Ruins was immediately engaging despite being new material. I think that a large part of the effectiveness of that record was that the LIVE aspect was really ramped up.

The crowd volume was high and the songs were melodically engaging. That made it easy to feel like I was part of an experience. On No Other Name, the crowd voices are present, but are buried in the mix — sometimes to the point that I had to really pay close attention in order to hear them.

United’s Zion was not as captivating to me right off the bat. In fact I think I turned it off after about 30 seconds. I did, however, give the Zion Acoustic Sessions more opportunity and it has become one of my favorite records of the last year. Track by track, the songs have grown on me. That style of song-writing, especially the moodier melodies, are readily present here. While there are some anthemic moments, the entire presentation just seems muted — not that that is bad thing, just not what I was expecting.

Beyond the listening experience, an album that presents itself as a worship record should be able to provide resources to the church – that is, it should be “transferrable.” (It should be said that I think this is where Live and United have served different functions in the past, with United being more artistic, and Live being more corporate-worship-oriented.)

With that in mind, I think that church leaders will be pleased with “No Other Name” because it does offer several great songs that can be immediately picked up and used in corporate settings.

All things considered, this is a good record and definitely worth the listen. I would highly recommend it to worship leaders who are looking for something to add to their Sunday morning set list.

If this record suffers it is only due to the high expectations set by its predecessors in the Hillsong catalog.