I Can Only Imagine

I believe the entertainment industry, particularly the movie sector, is not just a symptom, but a major cause of the rapid moral decay of America. Top Hollywood productions are usually R-rated and depict the the most violent and immoral content legally permissible. Thankfully, Christian-oriented movies with redeeming values are becoming more popular every year. One such movie is presently shocking the industry.

In 2001, an obscure band, MercyMe, released a major-label song, I Can Only Imagine, written by its lead singer, Bart Millard. The ballad, written just after Millard’s father died, considers what Heaven is like. It caught the attention of a few Christian music genre icons who helped launch it into the number one position on Christian charts. Secular radio stations picked up on it, and it was soon among the top hits on the adult contemporary lists. With over 2.5 million copies sold and reaching double platinum status, it is to this day the best-selling Christian single of all time. You can read the lyrics here. You can also find the song video on numerous YouTube options. I requested the song be sung at the funeral service of my former wife, Connie, shortly after its release. It is a powerfully moving song.

The heart-rending back story of I Can Only Imagine is now a phenomenal movie. It hit the box offices on March 16th. My wife, Linda, and I saw it a few days later–wow! A relatively low-budget movie with low industry expectations, it’s first weekend draw sent shock-waves throughout the cinema world. Grossing $17.1 million in the first three days, it was bested only by Black Panther ($26.7 million) and Tomb Raider ($23.6 million). It had the seventh highest opening weekend gross revenue of any other faith-based movie ever.

I Can Only Imagine demonstrates how a top-notch Christian genre movie appeals to a vastly under-served audience. This film was well produced, exceptionally directed, and impressively cast. Its actors include Dennis Quaid, Cloris Leachman, Trace Adkins, Priscilla Shirer and Broadway star, but screen newcomer, J. Michael Finley. Even though the film’s quality compares favorably with most secular productions, it appeals primarily to people of faith. I understand why, but more Americans need to experience this reality theme of authentic faith. I pray for the day when the message of spiritual redemption becomes a common option for all people entering theaters across our nation. I dream of movie-goers becoming sick of all the blood, sex, nudity, and horror, and opting instead for a family-oriented emotional journey of redeeming values.

The problem is Hollywood has institutionalized liberal cultural into everything it produces. It has been “Take it or leave it, America” at the box office for years with very few choices outside of the trash major studios call artistry and entertainment. The Academy Awards have become a sham of liberal politics. I Can Only Imagine will have greater impact on its audiences than any other movie this year, but don’t look for even a mention by the Academy. With more choices like I Can Only Imagine on the theater marquees, the Hollywood culture will start turning around. Either Hollywood will be forced to change or more movies will be made in Oklahoma, Georgia, and other locations growing in the industry.

I encourage you to make it a high priority to watch as many faith-based movies as possible and avoid the filthy “block-busters” of Hollywood. Encourage others to do the same. Only voting with our ticket choices will change the movie industry and, in turn, substantially change our nation’s cultural trends. If you haven’t seen it yet, start by seeing I Can Only Imagine now.

A final note. If you know people who are struggling with their faith, perhaps after watching I Can Only Imagine, urge them to visit http://terrythompson.org/eternity.




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  1. A side note to this movie, “I Can Only Imagine.” Dennis Quaid the actor who played Bart Millard’s (the lead singer in the group Mercy Me) abusive father in the movie became very good friends with the real life Bart while filming the movie. Bart helped Dennis finish a song he was writing for his mother’s 91st birthday called “On my way to Heaven.” Dennis sings it in video you can Google. It’s quite good. Check it out.
    I Can Only Imagine is a great movie. My family and I caught it on its opening day and really enjoyed it. I highly recommend seeing it, just as Terry has.

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