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Film students and faculty members at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University are putting the finishing touches on a film titled The Trump Prophecy: A Voice of Hope - A Movement of Prayer. While some are lauding the project, others are calling it another political gift to Donald Trump by conservative Christian evangelicals.
According to Christian Today's Samuel Smith, "The film focuses on the prophecy of a retired Florida firefighter named Mark Taylor, who claims that God told him in April 2011 that Trump would one day become president. Although Taylor initially thought that meant that Trump would become president in 2012, the prophecy was ultimately fulfilled in November 2016."
Taylor's prophetic claim was described in his 2017 book, The Trump Prophecies: The Astonishing True Story of the Man Who Saw Tomorrow... and What He Says Is Coming Next.
The production of the film -- which will be shown in perhaps as many as 1200 theaters on October 2 and 4 -- is led, and funded by, producer Rick Eldridge and his Charlotte-based ReelWorks Studios, which also helped produce the 2015 documentary based on the book Four Blood Moons by megachurch Pastor John Hagee. According to a report at vox.com, the film's budget is about $2 million, and it was shot in the Lynchburg, Virginia area – home of Liberty -- with much of the cast and crew comprised of LU students.
It is probably no accident that Liberty University's film school has taken on the project since its president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., has been an outspoken and non-apologetic supporter of Trump, endorsing him at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Falwell Jr., is a member of Trump's informal evangelical advisory board and has been to the White House on multiple occasions. And, despite revelations about payoffs to porn star Stormy Davis, racial slurs by the boatload, attacks on immigrants, including the separating of children from their parents and holding them in cages, the relationship between Falwell Jr., and Trump has continued to grow. Trump even spoke at Liberty University's commencement ceremonies last year.
"I hope [the film] reflects an understanding that when people come together in prayer, how valuable that is not only for the people that are praying but for what they are praying for," the film's director, Stephan Schultze, the executive director of Liberty University Cinematic Arts Department, told The Christian Post. Schultze, a director of photography and scriptwriter, came to Liberty six years ago.
"They have come together in the recognition that those prayers have value and build community and build a strong bond that allows for a president like Donald Trump to be elected. It created a bond within the Christian community."
Schultze maintained that there is no particular political agenda involved in the making of the film, or its release date.
Despite Schultze's claims, a Change.org petition, signed by more than 1,900 people, has called on the university to cancel the project. "Mark Taylor claims to have received prophecies directly from God that do not align with the Bible's message," the petition reads. "Please support this petition if you think Liberty University should focus on reflecting God's message rather than Mark Taylor's message."
One anonymous Liberty film student told PJ Media that the film "will significantly discredit our film program. It's not just a video — it's a feature length movie that will have a theatrical release in October."
The student added: "In December , before we left for Christmas break, we were slated to shoot two short films that had nothing to do with Trump. The first day we were back in January for spring semester that had changed. Needless to say, we all thought it was a joke at first, but as you know ... it's not."
"Who wants to go to a school that glorifies such a controversial man?" the anonymous film student asked. "Additionally — politics aside — it's a terrible story! The whole year they harp on telling a good story, but I have yet to see why this is a good story and one that needs to be told."
"For the university, by stamping our name on this film, we are telling the world that this is what we believe: radical prophecies about a controversial man make him a Godsend," the film student concluded.
In July, The News & Advance's Josh Moody reported that the producers planned a full-scale advertising campaign using Facebook, but the social media site "removed some film ads for being too political." Producer Rick Eldridge claimed that
Facebook disapproved of "approximately 40 different ads."
"It seems that Facebook has now began censoring our page. For a movie??? Because the word TRUMP, Facebook has decided to disapprove any ads that we are placing and capping our exposure. Do they feel threatened in some way?" reads the post on The Trump Prophecypage, which Eldridge and the Reelworks Studios advertising team manage.
Via email to the News & Advance, "a Facebook spokesperson stated the platform's policies define political content as that 'made by, on behalf of or about a current or former candidate for public office, a political party, a political action committee or advocates for the outcome of an election to public office' or relating to any election or voting information campaign. Facebook lists a disclaimer noting political content includes anything that 'relates to any national legislative issue of public importance in any place where the ad is being run; or is regulated as political advertising.'"
Since 2012, the number of faith-based films released in theaters has grown. As of this writing, the film is scheduled to be shown in theaters on October 2 and 4. Whether The Trump Prophecy finds an audience remains to be seen.