Brigham Taylor, Producer of New Ewan McGregor Disney Film ‘Christopher Robin’ Talks Winnie the Pooh, Redemption & Why Our Culture Needs This Movie Today

Originally published at Rocking God's House.

The new live-action Winnie the Pooh #Disney film Christopher Robin tells the story of an adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) living in midcentury London when suddenly he comes face-to-face with his past from Hundred Acre Wood.

The film releases in theaters nationwide this weekend. Like many Winnie the Pooh fans young and old, I'm looking forward to seeing it, especially after my intriguing conversation with the film's producer Brigham Taylor.

Directed by Marc Forster, the film also stars Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael along with Jim Cummings reprising his beloved role as the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, roles he has played for several decades. There are quite a few other high caliber actors in this film--see full cast here. In fact, Clara McGregor, the daughter of Ewan McGregor, also has a few scenes in the film in what looks to be her first film with her father.

After such a heavy, rather contentious two years in American culture, a movie like this is both welcome and refreshing. I had the opportunity to discuss the film with Brigham Taylor, who produced Christopher Robin with Kristin Burr of Burr! Productions. Taylor has a long and fruitful history in Hollywood, recently producing under TaylorMade Productions such notable features as "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," the live action version of "Jungle Book," and "Tomorrowland." When he was an executive vice president at Disney, he oversaw the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, “Tron: Legacy,” “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” (I was especially interested to see his Narnia credit as I am a huge Narnia fan and published a book about C. S. Lewis.)

And as a long-time fan of Winnie the Pooh ("Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" is still my favorite), I was quite curious about "Christopher Robin." I had a number of questions about the film, including how Ewan McGregor became interested in the project. After speaking with Brigham, I'm convinced that "Christopher Robin" will eventually become one of Disney's all-time classics. It seems to have all the right elements in play--even a powerful theme of redemption:

I know it took you many years to see it come to life. Can you share a little how that journey started for you and how it's evolved into the film we have today?

It's been an idea that I was thinking about years ago. We got as far as writing some scripts, but we set it aside because at the time [early 2000s] the animation group was still doing wonderful things with the character and the stories and putting films out. So we didn't really want to compete with ourselves, and so we set it aside. The years went by, and honestly for a stretch of that time I wasn't thinking that much about it just because of preoccupation with everything else we were doing. And then as we [Disney] were slowly coming back as we have in recent years to this idea of utilizing some of these classic stories, re-telling some of these fairy tales and featuring characters we love--to utilize old stories in new ways--it made more and more sense to pitch this. We had a whole new group at the studio, Alan Horn is now the Chairman and Sean Bailey is now President of Production, and none of them were around when we pitched this 15 years ago. So it's kind of like doing it all over again from the start. I was now stepping into my producing role at the studio, and my old friend and colleague Kristin Burr was still in an executive role and she's the one who said, "Now is the time to dig up that old idea of yours because this is really want they are leaning into." And she's definitely right, this was perfect, and so we found a new writer and we pitched it again. The concept was very similar. We had new details I think that we improved, in terms of certain ideas we put into it, but it was really about waiting for the right time, and it finally came out.

It sounds like the delay was a blessing in disguise.

Christopher Robin quote-2.jpg

I think so. We were able to not compete with other projects we were making. Also, we were able to benefit from the advancement and wonderful animation techniques that we can utilize with the visual effects team in bringing these characters to life. It's gotten ever more sophisticated. And the funny thing here is that we're trying to do the most rudimentary thing: we're trying to basically present vintage stuffed toys and have them only move in ways that they could realistically move. So we're trying to do the most low-fi possible presentation but it takes wonderful technology to do that. So hopefully the effect is that of a very low tech even though it's using state-of-the-art techniques.

Interesting contradiction there. I'm excited to see the animation. The trailer looks extraordinary. I write for a Christian website, and I'm a Christian. Obviously not every movie talks about faith, but just about every good movie in Hollywood has some theme of redemption in it, where something lost is found again. I was curious what kind of themes of redemption do you see in this project?

I think this is all about finding the things you've lost, and specifically the things that Christopher has left behind in childhood. So that is, I think, the universal challenge that everyone faces: how to hold on to the best things from youth, assuming we were privileged enough to have a happy childhood. But there are these wonderful lessons about friendship, about kindness, about taking time to be completely present with your friends and with your family. That gets ever more challenging as you get older and you take on your education and eventually your career. We wanted to tell a story and have Christopher Robin be very much the "everyman" who stands in for all of us, all the men and women who grow old and get weighed down with responsibilities and distractions that can absolutely pull you away from things that are important. And so what better way to remind you of that than the embodiment of your childhood--in this case Winnie the Pooh arriving at your doorstep needing your help. Christopher has to tend to someone else's needs, which is always a great way to get outside of your own issues. And in doing so, to see yourself even more clearly for what you're doing and more for what you're not doing. In the case of Christopher, he's really not attending to his most important relationships, which are his wife and daughter. And so hopefully in the story you will get a feeling that he corrects that and puts his life back in balance. We can't all quit our jobs and go play in the woods all day [laughs], but we can find time to do that and put life in balance, and that's hopefully the message that comes through.

Was Winnie the Pooh a part of your childhood? What's your history with that character?

Yes, he was a part of my childhood, and the stories I remember were read to me by my mom who remains a huge fan of A.A. Milne. Even now, I just came from a family reunion where there are four generations and 95 people all sort of springing out of my parents' family and we are inevitably all forced to recite one of the poems from A. A. Milne's "When We Were Very Young." I gave my parents--they have sitting outside their cabin--a wood carving of Pooh and Piglet. He's always been kind of a key character in childhood and even adulthood, which made it all the more exciting to try to add a new chapter and to re-introduce these characters to this generation in a way that no one has ever quite seen them before, as these very real and approachable characters. The characters were very meaningful and I really fell in love with the early animation of those three featurettes they produced, especially between '66 and '74. Just amazing voices that they found to embody these characters and the most charming animation. They were very adept at portraying these characters as stuffed animals, even their drawings and the wonderful charm and kindness that permeates these stories. They have a certain kind of tone all to themselves, and we really tried to keep that in the movie. We didn't try to put a weird edge on it or hip it up, we tried to keep it very approachable and keep the tone more of the sort of quiet communication of these characters. Though there's Tigger who's very energetic and there's a little bit of lunacy there, but by and large it's a movie that gets by on its charm.

That's fantastic. And we would expect that from Tigger definitely [laughs]. Ewan McGregor, I just saw him in "Last Days in the Desert," and he has such an amazing range of roles: I was just curious how he got involved in this particular project.

We had a script and a director and we sat down and of course the most important decision at that point is "who is our Christopher?" You look around in the landscape of who is out there in the right age range and one guy just popped out to all of us as number one on our wish list, and that was Ewan. Mark, our director, had made a film with Ewan, so they were friendly and he was able to approach him with a positive past relationship. But still it comes down to him reading the script, wrapping his head around it and wanting to do it or not. Lucky for us, he embraced and jumped into it. I remember, just a week into filming, we felt like we had the right guy, but we were really blown away. He was incredibly prepared, he takes his craft super seriously. There was not a moment where he was thinking, oh I'm just making a family film. He was making a dramatic film in the best way because him being very grounded in that role both I think accentuates the drama and the emotion but also heightens the humor in the movie because there's a very real tension between the adult Christopher Robin trying to maintain all the issues that are on his plate and also deal with this friend who has seemingly very frivolous problems. That was always to me going to be a wonderful source of comedy in this movie and I think it's in there. And I love those scenes where he's having to suppress his own frustration, which eventually turns around into understanding. With Ewan we couldn't have been happier. He's one of our best actors working in this industry. And he's the guy who brought to us both this amazing sort of gravitas and emotional depth but also has this tremendous charm and can remind you of the six year old boy he used to be and the kid who used to play in these woods. He has just one of the most magnetic smiles that you're ever going to see, and when you get to employ that it's an amazing sort of jolt. His range is tremendous and I can't imagine it without him now.

That's awesome. It was surprising to see him there, but then the more I thought about it, I thought "That's going to be amazing!" [laughs] How do you hope this movie will contribute to the overall legacy of Winnie the Pooh in our culture?

I hope it serves as a wonderful refresher course in the value of these characters and what they represent. I think a lot of people don't have to be reminded. But I think there's a lot of people who maybe grew up with it and haven't re-engaged with one of the movies or with the books recently and I think this is a gateway back into that and it reminds you about the value of this kind of friendship, the value of doing nothing with people that you love, and that means just being present and being together doing your favorite things. As Christopher Robin asks Pooh, "How do you do nothing?" He says, "That's when someone says, 'What are you going to do?' and you say, 'Nothing,' and then you go and do it," [laughs] which means you go and do something you enjoy. That's a timeless value and I'm hoping this keeps those lessons firmly etched in people's minds and imaginations and has them going back to re-read these books, which are amazing. Every time I've read them, now multiple times in the course of making the film, they're never notenjoyable. That's my hope.

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To view theater listings and purchase tickets for "Christopher Robin," click here.

Kevin Ott is a movie reviewer, entertainment journalist and the author of the C. S. Lewis, music-themed inspirational book Shadowlands and Songs of Light.

Becoming Free (Through Christ) From What Other People Think About You

The following are notes and reflections on a Tim Keller sermon I listened to recently about the meaning of "justification."

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"I don't care what other people think about me."

We have all said that or, probably more accurately, wanted to say that.

Becoming enslaved to what other people think about you is painful and maddening, and it's a vicious cycle. The more you want people to approve of you, the more you keep your "radar" on for any hint of disapproval--along with great rejoicing when you are a smash-hit with the world--but each cycle, good or bad, makes you want it even more.

You become obsessed with other people's thoughts and opinions and actions as they pertain to you. (This can also make you extremely self-absorbed.)

Of course, there's the opposite extreme. You might become so anti-other-people's-opinions and so detached from humanity that you turn into a sociopath. That's not so good either.

In truth, we seek a healthy balance--a malleable but firm, secure state of confidence and freedom from people-pleasing. We want to be good listeners and attentive and mindful of other's preferences and needs--not self-absorbed and self-serving--but we want to be free from always needing to be needed, liked and accepted. We don't look to others to define our foundations or our identity in Christ, and we want to freely speak our mind and our true feelings, thoughts, beliefs without fear when we need to.

The Gospel is extremely relevant here--unbelievably relevant--and that might sound odd to some. But it's true. The Gospel--yes, the simple message in the little "four laws" booklet that college kids pass out at the beach during summer outreaches or the Roman Road or the "sinner's prayer," as some call it--is not just Christianity 101. The Gospel is the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Course of everything that healthy, fruitful Christianity is all about. There is no doctrine that is more advanced, complex, or bottomless than the Gospel. You can never spend too much time on the Gospel from the platform or the pulpit.

And it's not just for "saving" people. The Gospel--i.e. what Jesus did on the cross for us--is the giant suitcase that can hold everything you need theologically for your Christian journey from beginning to end. And it can truly--and I'm not using hyperbole here--be applied to just about any problem or situation.

The Gospel Applied to the Problem of People-Pleasing

The people-pleasing problem is a serious thing.

When we have this problem, our identities, our lives, and even our security in Christ can become utterly controlled by the opinions, wants, whims, and moods of other fallen, imperfect, manipulative human beings (even other Christians) who, as Isaiah says, are as frail and impermanent on this earth as dead grass caught in a gust of wind.

The Gospel can help with this, but only if we clear up a common misconception: we read the Bible and we think the words "forgiven" and "justified" are synonymous, referring to the same thing.

Most Christians understand the forgiveness part of the Gospel. Our debt has been paid by God's grace. We've been given a "get out of jail free" card, etc. even though we've broken God's perfect law and done things we shouldn't have done in our lives.

But that's not what "justified" is referring to here. We are both forgiven and justified by Christ. In the Gospel, "justified" does not mean "forgiven." The difference reveals a vital clue.

God's Gift of a Perfect Record: A Part of the Roman Road We've Overlooked

In Romans 3:24 it says that we have been "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."*

This verse, admittedly, is stacked with Christianeze and insider jargon that might sound alien to the non-religious reader. But it is relevant for everyone because, truly, everyone is trying to be "justified" in some way or another, whether he or she is religious or not.

Before we go any further, let's clear away all the religious clap-trap for a moment and take a look at the profound meaning behind an Oscar-winning movie.

In the film "Chariots of Fire," we find an astonishing subtext below the action and plot. It tells the stories of two runners in the Olympics, and one of them, Harold Abrams, runs the 100-yard dash and says that, in every race, he "has 10 seconds to justify his existence." In the film, Abrams strives and strives for the gold medal, yet even a gold medal is not enough to satisfy his need for that justification. The work never ends for him. His good deeds are never enough. (In contrast, his fellow runner Eric Liddell is presented as a symbol of God's grace. You'll have to watch the movie to see what I mean.)

We have all been Harold Abrams at one point. We have all pinned our hopes on some person or thing or outcome--even on seemingly good things like our ministries or the impressiveness of our spiritual fruit--to "justify" our existence and give us the validating performance record that wins the admiration, warm approval and good opinions from people around us.

That's exactly what this Greek word translated as "justified" means in the New Testament: our validating performance record--the thing that shows others that we're worth something and worth their attention and admiration.

Our society is crazy about getting the many kinds of validating performance records that "justify" us in whatever context we're in at the time--i.e. they show us worthy to get the job we want or the college admission we crave or the significant other we wish we could marry. (It's true, even in the courtship rituals, we strut our stuff and act on our best behavior in hopes that the beloved will accept us.) I'm referring to resumes, diplomas, referrals, letters of endorsement, good reviews, attendance records in school, grade reports, good social skills that earn us friends, second dates, and popularity. All of those things are spoken and unspoken records of validation, and we desperately need them to get anywhere in this society.

But Christ freely gives us the ultimate validating performance record--the one that will outlast any of the records listed above.

As Dr. Keller says: "Justification is far more than forgiveness and pardon but distinctly different than moral goodness. Forgiveness is 'you may go, I'm not going to punish you,' but justification is 'you may come.' It's not just getting a pardon, it's getting the Congressional medal of honor bestowed upon you."

And God gives us this medal of honor that Christ earned. He gives it "freely" as Romans says, and it has nothing to do with our moral goodness. We cannot earn this justification any more than we can earn God's forgiveness.

The Gospel is not just an act of negation, of removing sin, in other words. The cross of Christ is an act of addition, of putting something on us that changes how God views us. It does not, of course, magically change how everyone else views us, but it changes how the Creator sees us from that moment on--the very moment we put our faith in Christ and open our hearts to Him.

It really is a miracle worth contemplating for the rest of our lives: God gives us Christ's "perfect record of validation"--His perfect resume--as a gift. He "justifies" us. He doesn't just pay our sin debt and remove the stains; He goes and pins the medals that Christ earned on us as if we had earned them.

He gives us the Lord Jesus Christ's perfect record.

So what is our motivation for doing good? Once God removes the scampering, selfish panic we feel to do good for the sole sake of earning a good record, we can finally start doing good works for God's sake and for the sake of others. We can finally stop doing good works for ourselves. If we think our goodness is what earns us God's love and approval, then every good thing we do will always be tinged with a selfish agenda. But if God has begins by justifying us and settling the whole question from the outset by giving us His perfect record, there our motivation for loving others changes to unselfishness. And if we meditate deeply on what Christ has done for us, the gratitude and wonder will become so intense and overflow so that it spills out into good works. We're doing good things out of genuine love and gratitude, not out of fear, pride or self-preservation.

The Gospel is utterly scandalous and unique because it does something that no other philosophy, religion, or societal system does: it gives us a perfect validation record as a gift. It clothes imperfect humans in the shining virtue of God--at least, it does so in God's view of us, maybe not always (or ever) in people's view of us.

But, thankfully, His view of us is the only view that will matter in the end.

Stay Tuned for My U2 Conference Ireland Report

Life has taken some wild turns the past couple years (some of them quite grievous) and I've found it difficult to do a large amount of posting as of late. I recently attended the U2 Conference in Belfast, Ireland, and I shall publish a report on it this fall. It was a life-changing event on so many levels.

Stay tuned!

For now here is a picture I took of St. Mark's where C. S. Lewis went to church when he was growing up in Belfast.

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Leaving for the U2 Conference in Belfast, Ireland This Week!

It's hard to believe it's already come, but I'm leaving for the U2 Conference tomorrow. I'm nervous, excited and still in wonder it's finally happening (it's been a long time coming). I am a speaker at the conference, and I'll be speaking about the U2 song "Gone."

I will be sure to publish a report when I get back.

In the meantime here is the link to the U2 Conference website:

http://u2conference.com

If You're Hurting, Read this Scottish Preacher's Amazing Story

Originally published on Rocking God's House.

Note: Usually I write a movie review for Fridays. This week I decided to hold off on the review and publish this instead, an old post that I’ve been saving — something that I believe will encourage you.

George Matheson was a Scottish preacher from the late 1800s. At the age of twenty, he was engaged to be married. Suddenly, he began to go blind and eventually lost his sight completely. When the doctors declared that the blindness was irreversible, his fiancee abandoned him. She refused to go through life married to a blind man.

The joy of Eros’ true love so glorified by humanity failed George in his greatest time of need.

He was heart-broken.

Years later, when he attended his sister’s wedding, the event brought back the tragic memories of his lost love who forsook him, and his heart broke all over again. In those moments of great sorrow re-kindled, he penned one of the most beloved hymns of his generation, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go. I have pasted the words to this hymn below.

But first, I’d like to share an amazing quote written by this man of God:

‘Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress’ Psalms 4:1.

This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving that he has been set free from suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through suffering:

‘Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.’

He declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of life’s enlargement.  And have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true? It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.”

We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. He who sheds tears over a romance will not be most apt to help reality; real sorrow will be too unpoetic for him. We need the iron to enlarge our nature.

The gold is but a vision; the iron is an experience.

The chain which unites me to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal. My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory.

Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain. –George Matheson

And now here is his hymn:

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be.

Is The Shroud of Turin Evidence for Christ’s Resurrection?

Originally published on Rocking God's House.

Have you ever wondered about the Shroud of Turin–whether it’s authentic? Is it really the burial cloth of Christ?

Well, one of the world’s leading experts on the Shroud, Mark Antonacci, wondered the same thing too once, and it changed his life. Antonacci, a lawyer by trader, has not only discerned evidence that the cloth is authentic and is the burial shroud of Christ, but he has recently released an astonishing hypothesis: the Shroud also bears evidence that the body wrapped in it was resurrected.

So when I had the chance to interview him about the Shroud, I jumped at the chance. Besides hearing about the remarkable facts about the Shroud that led to his hypothesis, we hear how God used the Shroud to bring him to Christ.

But before we jump into the interview, here is the latest press release about him and his new book TEST THE SHROUD:

Author and one of the leading experts on the Shroud of Turin, Mark Antonacci, continues his pursuit for the authenticity of Christ’s burial cloth with his new book, Test The Shroud. Following over 34 years of studying the garment, Antonacci is convinced that additional testing at the atomic and molecular levels could easily prove that the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Christ were actual events in history. Antonacci maintains that the marks on the cloth are those of a dead human body and were made with particle or neutron radiation that wasn’t discovered until the 20th century. The radiation accounts for more than 30 unique and remarkable features on the body image that includes still-red blood stains and the pre-mortem and post-mortem wounds that were inflicted upon Jesus. Test The Shroud presents illustrations to help explain the proposed testing, while the writing style is easy to understand and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Test The Shroud describes advanced scientific testing techniques that have become available and can demonstrate if a miraculous event occurred, when it happened, where it happened, the actual age of the garment and the identity of the corpse. Antonacci is petitioning the Vatican to allow this new scientific examination to take place, and his theory is being supported from other scientists around the world.

•    “…convincing line of reasoning that the Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus Christ.” – Art Lind, Physicist

•    “Test The Shroud is a gold mine of information on the controversial Shroud of Turin.” – Joe Marino, Theologian, Sindonologist

•    “A fascinating read – highly recommended.” – Robert A. Rucker, PE, Nuclear Engineer

•    “…many interesting details of the most important relic of Christianity, both from the scientific and historical points of view.” – Giulio Fanti, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Thermal Measurement, University of Padua, Italy.

For my first question, I want to hear more about your story before we get into the Shroud. How did you get interested in the Shroud? And how did it lead to your faith in Christ?

I stumbled on the subject by accident as a result of an argument with an old girlfriend almost 35 years ago. The argument was over the fact that she was a Christian and I was an agnostic and it was kind of a threat to the relationship, which was just beginning. I didn’t want to sit around all weekend and let it bother me so I decided to go in and do some work on a Saturday, when there’s no deadlines hanging over your head or nothing like that–there’s no court on Saturday morning.

As a result of the argument I go into work and I can’t get anything done there either so I decided, “Well, I’ll just take some lunch.” It was a Saturday and the paper that I stopped to get didn’t even stay in business much longer after that and it had been in business for decades, but I never read that particular paper, but on Saturday the weekend sports edition came out in that paper so that was one of the few times in my life I grabbed that paper. It had a review of an article about a new book that came out on the Shroud of Turin summarizing the findings from the first initial examination of the cloth. In fact, it’s still the only examination of the cloth. If it wasn’t for the argument I never would have came across the article or the paper and if I had come across the article I wouldn’t have paid any attention to it. But this actually irritated and bugged me because it reminded me of the argument and this is what I was trying to forget.

You couldn’t get away from it!

I literally sat there eating lunch and there was a byline at the top of the paper on the weekend edition and they had a picture of the man on the shroud. You know how a picture looks like it’s looking at you? The thing kept looking at me out of the corner of my eye when I’m trying to read the sports page, and I pushed it away a couple times. Finally I picked it up and said, “All right, I’ll read the blankity-blank article.” Then I find myself back at the apartment where I started out and I’m pacing back and forth and this is the key. I feel threatened and a lot of people feel threatened by new, objective and independent evidence on a subject that is almost as personal as you can get–your religion. But I was very attracted to it because I’m an attorney and it’s very unique evidence, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Finally, I’m pacing a couple hours and finally in mid-step it hits me, I go, “Wait a minute, what are you worked up about? If this, if there is evidence of the Passion, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, what’s bad about this? This could be good news, idiot.” So I thought, “Well, okay, I’ll look at it all … ” Boy was it interesting, it was just astounding. But a lot of people can’t get over that first hurdle and I admit, having a long-legged brunette was a real incentive to reach an accommodation here. [laughs] But after we more or less put that issue behind us we found other things we could argue about. Everybody thinks, “Oh, it has a happy ending and you marry her and you live a wonderful Christian life together.” I do live a Christian life, but I didn’t marry her. I married somebody else 10-12 years later.

So it’s almost as if God set up these little things that prodded you in the right direction.

Yes, we were to meet and to know each well for a short while. I still talk to the gal once in a while, we went to school together but we were three years apart so you didn’t have any contact with each other in those days. That’s how I got started and I really do think it was very important because it’s hard to get yourself to look at it, to overcome your preconceived notions, whatever they are. I was agnostic but you could have been an atheist, you could have been a Hindu, a Buddhist, you could have been anything. It’s hard for people to think, jimminy, there might actually be scientific, medical, and archaeological evidence that corroborates the accounts of the greatest historical sources in the world, the Gospels and the New Testament.

It has been pretty astounding just to read through your material. One of the things that jumped out to me about the Shroud was where it says that there are approximately 130 blood marks, and there are many unique features have never been duplicated in any age. Can you maybe talk a little about that?

These blood marks appear in cloth in the same shape and form as they would have on the body. They formed and flowed, they coagulated and first of all it’s hard to get coagulated blood off of your skin and onto cloth, it’s just hard to get it off your skin in the same shape that it was in on your skin. They’re not only on the cloth, they’re embedded in the cloth with serum around the edges and you can see them on both sides of the cloth.

The outer side of the cloth has always had a backing cloth on it for support but when you take the backing cloth off and you look at it, they’re in almost the same shape and form on the outer side of the cloth as they are on the inside of the cloth that wrapped the body, the dead body. The blood still has a reddish color to it, tint is a better word for it. If the blood is from the Middle Ages it wouldn’t have been red after a few days. I don’t know if you read that part in the book but if you irradiate blood with neutrons and then subsequently expose it to sunlight or ultra violet light, it will maintain a reddish color and it will even look more red than it does in natural light, in sunlight. It will look even more red than in a room or something. It’s something about the combination of neutron radiation initially and then ultraviolet light subsequently, but no forger could have irradiated it with neutrons in the middle ages, of course, neutrons aren’t discovered until the twentieth century.

That touches on one of the things that really stuck out to me the most, your discussion about how it’s been irradiated with particle radiation and the more I read about that it seemed to create this amazing image of basically Christ’s body–evidence of the resurrection. Is that what you’re pointing to? Is this particle radiation showing that something really supernatural happened here?

Oh, yes. This could only have been a miracle. It appears, and of course we’ll want to test this, but it appears that particle radiation emanates from the length and width and depth of the dead body that’s in rigor mortis, and it’s after he suffered all the wounds. This is a miraculous event. Scientists can’t do that in the 21st century, although they discovered particle radiation, protons and neutrons, they can’t make it come from your little finger let alone the length and width and depth of your body–a dead body on top of it.

That’s incredible.

It captures all the indicators of a prior event. This guy has been crucified, he’s got all the signs of it, he’s had a bundle of sharp pointed objects, or thorns, put over his entire head, which is consistent with the types of crowns that were used in the east in the first century. He’s been scourged with a Roman instrument, he’s had a rough, heavy object across the back of his shoulders. He’s fallen down, he’s got a postmortem wound in his right side in the perfect location that they would have never known of back then, from which blood and a watery fluid flows, just as the Gospel of John describes, on Jesus. His legs aren’t broken, unlike the thieves–they’re legs and all other crucifixion victims were broken–but this guy was already dead, as indicated by the postmortem side wound and the lack of broken legs.

They’re all captured by this, what we think is a miraculous event that happened and if it’s particle radiation it will leave unique proof that this event occurred, but it will even tell you when it occurred and where it occurred and, at that point, the identity would be pretty simple. But the clincher of who it was would be the miraculous event. No other such miraculous event under all these same circumstances [has happened]–that only exists for the historical Jesus. It doesn’t exist for somebody else. What gets me is the evidence is simply unfaceable. Collectively, it’s unfakeable. You can fake a few aspects of the images, though I’ve never come across anyone who’s duplicated one of the blood marks let alone 130 of them. The blood marks are not broken on the edges and they simply don’t know how any of this happened, and my book hypothesizes that after the radiating event occurs, the body also disappears. If you hypothesize that the disappearance occurs at the time of this radiating event you can account for all the primary and secondary body image features, as well as its off-image features such as this radiocarbon dating or the excellent condition of the cloth, and if there are things like coins and flowers on there you can explain those as well by this event.

The evidence is definitely overwhelming and, like you said, it’s a thread to an amazing path to joy if people are willing to accept it. I know your desire is to have the shroud tested, do you see any progress in having that happen, is there resistance to that? Have you been trying to petition for that to happen?

There is resistance to that, a lot of people don’t know the first thing about the subject and when they hear it, when you talk about that they just think it’s preposterous and they have no idea what the evidence indicates. All they know is it’s carbon dated to the Middle Ages and that’s that. Even a lot of Christians will think, or even people who study the Shroud will think, “You can’t risk doing these tests because what happens if they fail?” Well, you’re just in the same situation you already are in. It wouldn’t mean anything except that my hypothesis is wrong. You’d still have to explain all the features on the body images and the blood marks.

Is it the Catholic Church that has the authority to have it tested? Is that really the main one that you have to petition or is it more complicated than that?

Certainly you would have to convince them but you’d have to convince the people who have influence with them–say in Italy, various scientists and that probably have more influence.

It’s just so fascinating. Thanks for writing this book and sharing all of that. I’m praying that it actually does come to fruition, that it does get tested. I really think that could lead to many, many more people like you who found Christ through the Shroud.

Listen, your prayers are very valuable, don’t think they’re not. They help more than anything. I find myself all the time praying about this. If the public’s aware of it you can get a response from the Vatican even if the present conduits to the Vatican never do believe in it themselves. I’m not limiting myself just to those conduits. They’re good people, it’s just I don’t think they have a good grasp of [it], and they’re afraid of what other scientists might think.

But this is very detailed out in peer-reviewed, scientific literature–the hypothesis is out there, as well as in the book. The hypothesis is testable and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be tested. The technology should be developed more and perfected before it’s ever applied to the Shroud itself. The technology exists now for limestone but it needs to be developed and perfected for linen and blood, which are the most important things to test. We don’t know for sure whether Jesus’s burial tomb, the reputed locations, we don’t know if one of them really is the tomb. The most likely one is the Holy Sepulcher, by far, in my opinion, but we don’t know for sure if that’s the case or not. I think even they questioned this very strongly back 1600 years ago.

It’s just amazing that we have the Shroud. I think that’s definitely a sign, I think God intended that as another way to advance the Gospel during these difficult times of humanity. It’s amazing to see all this come to fruition. I’m excited to see how it develops.

Think of all the wars and conflicts that are going on now where religion is at the heart of these disputes or certainly an underlying element or a long-established basis for such centuries-long conflict. Why can’t we decide this question based on logic and evidence instead of who can outgun the other one, who can conquer the other one? It doesn’t work on these kind of issues. You can’t. Any victories you have are temporary and it just makes the bitterness and the combativeness. It just ingrains it and gives people a more recent reason to fight even harder and to start another war. It’s time these things were answered on the basis of evidence, like we try to do on every other issue. You try to get the evidence, the objective evidence to guide your opinions. It’s too bad we can’t do this on politics as well.

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For more information on Test The Shroud visit online at www.testtheshroudonline.com.

About Mark Antonacci

Mark Antonacci is the founder and president of the Test the Shroud Foundation, one of the world’s leading authorities on the Shroud of Turin. He gave the keynote address at the international conference held in Italy in conjunction with the Shroud’s exhibition in 2010. As an attorney, he has spent over 30 years studying all aspects of the evidence relating to the Shroud of Turin and released his first book on the topic,The Resurrection of the Shroud, in 2000. The project received coverage from such high-profile outlets as the Chicago Sun Times, Dallas Morning News, Tulsa World News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the nationally syndicated radio program Coast to Coast AM. Antonacci practices law and lives with his wife outside of St. Louis.