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Peter T Chattaway

No Compromise

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Link to our thread on the book.

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Christian rock icon's widow enlists Hollywood to tell the musician's story

Nearly 30 years after Christian-rock pioneer Keith Green died in a plane crash, his widow and a Hollywood producer have teamed up to bring his story to the big screen in the hope of introducing a new generation to his music. . . .

Melody Green is working with producer Mike Leahy to make a movie version of her book "No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green."

Leahy has been involved with a number of Hollywood projects over the past 20 years, including "The Prophecy" starring Christopher Walken and "Infinity" directed by Matthew Broderick. But this is the first project for the production company he formed with his wife, Lori, to make films with a spiritual or social message.

They hope to start shooting later this year, and release the film in 2011. . . .

Daily News, May 17

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Greg P   

Keith was an interesting character in the history of CCM, but I'm not sure his life would make a compelling biopic. He was a genuinely transparent and righteous guy, with no real secrets; the ideal stuff of inspirational Christian bookstore biographies, not necessarily the big screen.

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I'm not sure I agree. Christian bookstores may not look too kindly on Green's war on "Jesus Junk" and his "pay what you can afford" pricing.

Also, any mention of Donny Osmond (who Green came in second place under during an early competition) ought to be worth a laugh.

If they can somehow craft a cunning narrative, of a man who was extraordinarily gifted, chooses to use his gifts for ministry, and then go further into this aspect so that other Christians are made uncomfortable, most notably thru his preaching more than playing concerts, his creating a community, and his inviting homeless into his home, there might be something there...

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Keith was an interesting character in the history of CCM, but I'm not sure his life would make a compelling biopic. He was a genuinely transparent and righteous guy, with no real secrets; the ideal stuff of inspirational Christian bookstore biographies, not necessarily the big screen.

Are KIDDING? Done right, it would be perfect. Green was the ultimate fish out of water/babe in the woods. His ideals and standards just aren't a package for success, but we know history. God did it anyway.

Like I say, done right, it'll work. Get guys like Jenkins and La Haye involved and your suspicions will be correct. I don't mean to disparage Jenkins and La Haye here. I'm using them as archtypes for market driven evangelical sentimentality.

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Greg P   
Are KIDDING? Done right, it would be perfect. Green was the ultimate fish out of water/babe in the woods. His ideals and standards just aren't a package for success, but we know history. God did it anyway.
My point was that books like No Compromise, which I've read several times, are inspiring devotional reads for Christians but rarely make compelling films. Somewhere in the religious lionization, we avoid the gross character flaws and shortcomings that make film characters interesting.

One aspect that could translate well to film would be exploring the fact that Mr. No Compromise was, at the very end of his life, becoming an "adult" and perhaps beginning to compromise more with the religious establishment for the sake of reaching more people/forwarding his "ministry". Or even how his zeal became his own undoing... It was Keith's impulsive nature that caused him to overload the small twin engine plane that day; tragic but true.

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One aspect that could translate well to film would be exploring the fact that Mr. No Compromise was, at the very end of his life, becoming an "adult" and perhaps beginning to compromise more with the religious establishment for the sake of reaching more people/forwarding his "ministry". Or even how his zeal became his own undoing... It was Keith's impulsive nature that caused him to overload the small twin engine plane that day; tragic but true.

I guess that this is what I'm talking about and not the book per ce. Frankly, when I see that phrase, I can think of only one person. One could just as easily have copyrighted the phrase for his estate. Another thing that struck me in the one event I witnessed of his (consistent with accounts of other concerts and events I'd read), was his simple and cut-to-the-chase style of a demand for commitment and service to God. This sort of thing is what I envision for such a bio-pic.

It is also what I see as his babe in the woods persona. His complete and literal belief that if you take one step off of a cliff for the Lord, not only will He break the fall, but also get profit for His purposes out of it. Frankly, I attempt something similar when it comes to decision and commitment in classes and small groups I lead. At bottom, the rest is finesse. We will face the Lord at some point, it is wise to become accustomed to the experience as much as possible.

Now, as to this book of his, frankly, if you take out the screeds against his pet peeves and perceived enemies, your description reminds me of his Last Days Newsletter. This aspect of his ministry and method could also be dealt with. The perils of lack of preparation and lack of formal study. Balancing the avoidance of corruption by the institutions you perceive as holding back the Church with the need to rely on those very institutions for training, experience, and discernment while remaining true to vision. A story not unlike that of the liberal/mainline v fundamentalist split of the '20's. Now THAT'S a story as old as Jesus' walk on this earth. As old as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli. As old as earlier trailblazers like Huss, Wycliff, and Tyndale. And of Erasmus who fought similar battles from inside. Of Arminius and Roger Williams.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Greg P   
It is also what I see as his babe in the woods persona. His complete and literal belief that if you take one step off of a cliff for the Lord, not only will He break the fall, but also get profit for His purposes out of it.
Excellent point. Melody and Leahy would do well to consult with you on this project, Rich! From the what she writes on the LDM site, I think this is going in a different direction though. She wants to "lead people to Christ" and fulfill a a very personal vision, not tell the whole story of the man warts and all.

It doesn't take a seasoned aviator to know you can't take 12 people on a twin engine Cessna. Or employ an inadequately trained pilot for your growing ministry. As horrifying as this historical fact is, it is an essential detail to the story of Keith Green and I get the suspicion it's these type of details that will be omitted from the biopic.

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mrmando   

It's been a while since I read the book, but my recollection is that it does have some of Keith's naivete/warts in it: the fact that he rushed into music ministry as a newly minted Christian who didn't understand basic theological concepts, for example, seemed quite plain in the book. And I don't think the book excuses him for the plane accident either ... in fact, the book suggests Keith had some kind of premonition that he was going to die, but stuffed the plane to the gills anyway.

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mrmando wrote:

: And I don't think the book excuses him for the plane accident either ... in fact, the book suggests Keith had some kind of premonition that he was going to die, but stuffed the plane to the gills anyway.

Wow, that makes it sound almost like he had a death wish. Too bad he had to take so many people with him.

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mrmando   

Wow, that makes it sound almost like he had a death wish. Too bad he had to take so many people with him.

Yes, it comes across as something close to that. It's in Melody's account of what Keith said to her just before getting on the plane—along the lines of "Here's what I want you to do if I don't make it back from this flight." It struck me as really, really odd.

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Maybe, maybe not. Was Green the sort who believed in a prosperity gospel? This sort of thing has been a criticism of such types in time of fatal crisis. Another possiblity is that Green really took the falling off a cliff thing seriously, but to an unreasonable extent. Is it wise to trust God to make traffic stop for me at Woodward and Nine Mile Road (THE intersection that defines my town of Ferndale, MI. A VERY densely busy intersection)? Or the intersection of your choice? Yes, He can. Will He? Is it reasonable to irrationally throw your life to the wolves on the assumption that there is a tangential extra measure of service to God involved in the act? Either of these rationales need not include a deathwish, or premonition. I forget, where was he headed? Was all this stuff and personel headed in harm's way? If so, another not-deathwish, with plausibly bad outcome.

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Excellent point. Melody and Leahy would do well to consult with you on this project, Rich! From the what she writes on the LDM site, I think this is going in a different direction though. She wants to "lead people to Christ" and fulfill a a very personal vision, not tell the whole story of the man warts and all.

:Possible groan: How many times must Last Days attempt reinvention of the wheel? Practically every film made by evangelical/fundie parachurch organisations from the '50's through the '70's has done exactly that. They won't need Jenkins and La Haye for that. They'll cost too much and be too polished.

It doesn't take a seasoned aviator to know you can't take 12 people on a twin engine Cessna. Or employ an inadequately trained pilot for your growing ministry. As horrifying as this historical fact is, it is an essential detail to the story of Keith Green and I get the suspicion it's these type of details that will be omitted from the biopic.

Yeah, well as above, why did they get on the plane in the first place? You don't think that if there was dramatic motivation, it would be included? Besides, look what Amelia did with similar subject matter. History is coming back around to Earhart's lack of skill and foolhardy planning and calculation. But it was love of flying and "...where no woman has gone before." donchano.

Greg, I think we are right. My story might be better, if just as much a fantasy.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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mrmando   

I forget, where was he headed? Was all this stuff and personel headed in harm's way? If so, another not-deathwish, with plausibly bad outcome.

That's the real shame of it ... it was a joyride. Keith had some visitors, he had this property in Texas, he had a new plane ... the only reason for the flight was for the visitors to get up in the air and see the property.

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I forget, where was he headed? Was all this stuff and personel headed in harm's way? If so, another not-deathwish, with plausibly bad outcome.

That's the real shame of it ... it was a joyride. Keith had some visitors, he had this property in Texas, he had a new plane ... the only reason for the flight was for the visitors to get up in the air and see the property.

OK, so more Earhart than raiding Tokyo with Rickenbacker. 30 years hence, it's nice to know Green had real warts of a casual and human sort. Sort of takes the angry young rebel down a peg and, heh, raises the

babe in the woods once again for someone with a disinterested concern for the story. There can be good stuff to mine in the story if someone is willing to craft a good story.

You know, there's a christian POV that suggests that God uses simple stories of weakness and faults sorted through by the Spirit and maden strong for the greater glory of the cause of Christ. We can only pray that

Melody avoids hagiography.

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CherylR   

It doesn't take a seasoned aviator to know you can't take 12 people on a twin engine Cessna. Or employ an inadequately trained pilot for your growing ministry. As horrifying as this historical fact is, it is an essential detail to the story of Keith Green and I get the suspicion it's these type of details that will be omitted from the biopic.

Actually, the fault lies with the pilot--legally he's responsible to know how much weight a plane can carry--information that is kept with the plane--and to determine if the load he's asked to carry is over the limit.

I don't know how much training the pilot had--but if it was a clear day and all he was doing was doing was a flyover of the ranch, he wouldn't need a lot, as long as he was checked out as competent to fly this particular plane. But, pilots overestimating their abilities isn't rare, either.

(We own a Piper 160/180. My husband and oldest son are both private pilots, w/ my son much farther along training-wise than his dad.)

It'll be interesting to see how the movie turns out. I was crushed when he died.

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Greg P   

Ultimately, I think the responsibility for the crash falls on the organization's leader. LDM employed Burmeister's services and he was clearly not qualified to fly that plane at the time of the crash. The NTSB report stated that he was missing critical FAA certifications and should not have been flying, period. The plane was nearly 500lbs overloaded, if I recall. But as many of us know, it is not uncommon for zealous evangelicals to overlook such objective facts in favor of the subjective "voice of God". The NTSB report sites "overconfidence in personal ability" as one of the factors in the crash. That's a very profound detail in the tale of Keith Green, imo.

Keith had penned "I pledge my head to heaven for the gospel/ and i ask no man on earth to fill my needs... I pledge my son to heaven for the gospel/though he's kicked and beaten, ridiculed and scorned..." I don't know any listener who would doubt Keith's sincerity when he sang those lyrics. His voice cracks and is laden with emotion on that track. He had soaked in Foxes Book of Martyrs and biographies of great missionaries who had died in the service of the King and he was totally prepared to follow those heroes of the faith.

I just don't think he ever imagined he would pledge his head to heaven for a frivolous joyride. And that's exactly what he did.

Edited by Greg P

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CherylR   

Ultimately, I think the responsibility for the crash falls on the organization's leader. LDM employed Burmeister's services and he was clearly not qualified to fly that plane at the time of the crash. The NTSB report stated that he was missing critical FAA certifications and should not have been flying, period. The plane was nearly 500lbs overloaded, if I recall. But as many of us know, it is not uncommon for zealous evangelicals to overlook such objective facts in favor of the subjective "voice of God". The NTSB report sites "overconfidence in personal ability" as one of the factors in the crash. That's a very profound detail in the tale of Keith Green, imo.

Keith had penned "I pledge my head to heaven for the gospel/ and i ask no man on earth to fill my needs... I pledge my son to heaven for the gospel/though he's kicked and beaten, ridiculed and scorned..." I don't know any listener who would doubt Keith's sincerity when he sang those lyrics. His voice cracks and is laden with emotion on that track. He had soaked in Foxes Book of Martyrs and biographies of great missionaries who had died in the service of the King and he was totally prepared to follow those heroes of the faith.

I just don't think he ever imagined he would pledge his head to heaven for a frivolous joyride. And that's exactly what he did.

Ultimately the pilot in command is responsible. LDM may not have had any idea he was lacking the certifications needed to fly that particular plane. Anyone not familiar with aviation wouldn't know where to begin to ask a pilot about certifications and what not. I think people assume it's like driving--once you can drive a car, then the model really doesn't matter. Driving is driving so isn't flying, flying? (No, it's not. you can't even begin to compare the two.)

Overconfidence in personal ability kills a lot of pilots--just like 'get there-itis'. JFK Jr comes to mind.

If I remember right, relatives of the family that were killed sued LDM.

I have that track--and it is emotional. There is no doubt he was prepared to follow those heroes of the faith. You're right--frivolous joyride, indeed.

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I was never much of a fan of Keith Green's music, but the influence of his music and his ministry was undeniable for Evangelicals in the '70s. So there is a small part of me that is fascinated by the notion of a biopic.

Frankly, a lot of what Keith Green represented just sort of creeps me out now. I certainly don't question his faith and his utter commitment to Jesus. As others have noted, both were beyond reproach. But I question his methods which, in some ways, were the quintessential '70s CCM strongarm tactics. I found his concerts, in particular (of which I witnessed two), to be manipulative, guilt-inducing sermons that were interrupted by occasional musical interludes. I saw a bunch of people surge toward the stage at each concert, convicted and/or driven forward like sheep by lyrics like "Jesus rose from the dead/And you can't even get out of bed."

It was an effective approach, I suppose. But I do question the long-term value. Keith, perhaps more than any other CCM "star," was caught up in the hubris of the whole "last generation" theology that he espoused so fervently. It turns out he was wrong. The Church, in fact, had been around for 2,000 years before he arrived on the scene, and it's still going, now well over a generation after his passing. He was, ironically enough, a product of his time. His music bears the unmistakeable stamp of late '70s CCM CheeseWhiz. And his theology bears the unmistakeable stamp of the Jesus Freak generation that was convinced that, after 2,000 years, somebody had finally gotten it right. He is, in many ways, a tragic figure, and not only because of the way he died. Part of me would like to see this movie. And part of me has absolutely no desire to relive those crazy days in any way.

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I was never much of a fan of Keith Green's music, but the influence of his music and his ministry was undeniable for Evangelicals in the '70s. So there is a small part of me that is fascinated by the notion of a biopic.

Frankly, a lot of what Keith Green represented just sort of creeps me out now. I certainly don't question his faith and his utter commitment to Jesus. As others have noted, both were beyond reproach. But I question his methods which, in some ways, were the quintessential '70s CCM strongarm tactics. I found his concerts, in particular (of which I witnessed two), to be manipulative, guilt-inducing sermons that were interrupted by occasional musical interludes. I saw a bunch of people surge toward the stage at each concert, convicted and/or driven forward like sheep by lyrics like "Jesus rose from the dead/And you can't even get out of bed."

It was an effective approach, I suppose. But I do question the long-term value. Keith, perhaps more than any other CCM "star," was caught up in the hubris of the whole "last generation" theology that he espoused so fervently. It turns out he was wrong. The Church, in fact, had been around for 2,000 years before he arrived on the scene, and it's still going, now well over a generation after his passing. He was, ironically enough, a product of his time. His music bears the unmistakeable stamp of late '70s CCM CheeseWhiz. And his theology bears the unmistakeable stamp of the Jesus Freak generation that was convinced that, after 2,000 years, somebody had finally gotten it right. He is, in many ways, a tragic figure, and not only because of the way he died. Part of me would like to see this movie. And part of me has absolutely no desire to relive those crazy days in any way.

You better run. But I will keep you company...you capture how I feel about Green pretty well. :)

I have the Ministry Years box sets and I don't think I have a single song by Green on my iPod. I have over 20,000 songs on my iPod.

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My wife LOVES Keith Green's music. I...um... don't.

But I love my wife, so while she plays Keith's songs on the piano, I focus on that.

Although, I love the line, "ba-manna-bread!"

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I've been stewing on all of this all day. Yeah, he's a product of his time and exhibited all of the hallmarks of the CCM and Jesus Movement and then some. What struck a chord with me at the time was the fervency of his faith and lyrics. I thought they set him apart from the wimpy easy listening quality of CCM which I despised from its beginning. He was actually a hipper version of the lay-it-out-flat-for-the-Lord and no holding back arc of the Abundant Life Movement that I was taught at the gulag. I never rushed the stage, I did that too often at the gulag in chapel. But his directness was effective for me even though I still had pieces missing all over the place at the time. His music was OK. Hard to listen to today.

But this silly and mistake-prone human quality is something that we don't often see in Protestant and evangelical circles among the big shots and here is his value. Augustine's famous, "Give me grace, but not yet." is not heard much among our heroes and martyrs. I think of Luther of whom it is attributed, "What did I do? Nothing. I enjoyed good German beer and wine and God did it all!" Imagine Calvin, having sent Servetus to his Maker hanging out and bragging about it. Playing with a knife or sword and mortally wounding himself. There's the Reformation version of this hubris. Midst all the piety and earnestness of the evangelical tradition even back before we used the term so, the warts and the weaknesses were always hidden, or if they came out destroyed the "ministry" unless some rationalisationcould be concocted to present the flaw as overcommitment.

As an MK, I can attest to countless remote fathers in ministry so driven as to seemingly forget that there were human intimates rotting emotionally and lacking guidance at home (wherever that might be). Offspring as well as spouse. Cruel methods of leadership and organisational strategy that certainly made me question the reasonableness of working for fellow christians, whether in ministry or non-ministerial but tangential. This alone is why I prize Frank Scheaffer's Crazy for God and the Calvin Becker trilogy. Brokenness as part of the past over which we are supposed to be victorious is pure arrogance no one has a right to maintain in the presence of God. It is something ongoing, never quite fitting back together, but made whole in a sort of now/not yet way and as a weakness God overcomes as He sees fit on occasion while the brokenness remains as a reminder of Who's work it is and Who should have the credit and glory in the overcoming.

Green fell off of cliff after cliff and God caught him and profitted from it. For us, the lesson must be just what is a cliff and what is losing sight of the way God has appointed for each and rushing into oncoming traffic. I take solace in Peter's mad dash out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water, only to realize what a stupid thing he just did. The difference between that rash decision and Green's final one might be that Peter didn't see himself as touched by God in a special way which could afford protection. Might be. It is foolhardy to attribute any real motives to Green as he's not here to explain himself. Nevertheless, his rashness is its own testimony to the constant presence and/or potential for weakness that can be made strong as God purposes it, but that the weakness is weakness and can be our undoing. I think that this is the value of Green's silly death 30 years hence. The Fool For Christ did something foolish, lower case "f". God uses that stuff too in His time and purpose.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Greg P   
You better run. But I will keep you company...you capture how I feel about Green pretty well. :)I have the Ministry Years box sets and I don't think I have a single song by Green on my iPod. I have over 20,000 songs on my iPod.

It was around 1980 when a rabid evangelical, trying hard to wean me off KISS and get me saved, gave me a vinyl copy of "For Him Who Has Ears To Hear". A few years later they gave me "...Egypt" and shortly after that "Songs for the Shepherd". No surprise-- a few years later when I accepted Christ, Keith was the only music "radical" enough for my tastes. I'd been trained well by a group of Ravenhill-worshiping nuts. Despite my middle-aged liberal leanings, I find those songs still hold a special, sentimental spot in my life, like no other CCM. I still go back and listen from time to time, especially that first album which is essentially piano, bass and drums (with very sparse Hadley Hockensmith guitar)There are actually some very sweet tunes on that one and a very tight, low budget, 70's vibe which has stood the test of time. "When I Hear the Praises Start" or "I Can't Believe It" can still get me misty-eyed.

Ultimately the pilot in command is responsible. LDM may not have had any idea he was lacking the certifications needed to fly that particular plane. Anyone not familiar with aviation wouldn't know where to begin to ask a pilot about certifications and what not. I think people assume it's like driving--once you can drive a car, then the model really doesn't matter. Driving is driving so isn't flying, flying? (No, it's not. you can't even begin to compare the two.)

Very valid points. There were some glaring issues with his training, particularly from an insurance perspective and you gotta think someone, somewhere fudged on something. The NTSB report says:

CO MANAGEMENT DID NOT COMPLY WITH INSURANCE STIPULATIONS WHICH REQUIRED PLT OF THE FLT TO ATTEND A CESSNA FLT TRAINING SCHOOL, NOR DID THE PLT SATISFY THE MINIMUM HR REQUIREMENTS
Someone in this scenario was cutting corners for the sake of the mission, friendship or whatever... and it points back to LDM leadership, in my opinion, despite what I believe were probably very good intentions.

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mrmando   

I occasionally dip a toe in a listserv devoted to old Jesus Music. One fellow over there summed up his experience at a Keith Green show thusly:

"I have never been to another concert where the performer yelled at us for coming."

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Andrew   

This thread and the ORU altar call thread have been fascinating reads, for their historical info and for the personal memories they kindle. I appreciate Andy Whitman's candor regarding his attitude towards Keith Green and his music. For me, as a brand-new born again Christian in the mid-1980's, the guilt-tripping music of folks like Green and Steve Camp, as well as the manipulative tactics of the InterVarsity chapter in my region, found an apt receptacle in my guilt-prone brain. Quite frankly, I'm still working at undoing those damaging effects of this particular type of religiosity to this day. So while a part of me is quite interested in the history of this era of born-again American Christianity, I would certainly feel repulsed by a hagiographic film.

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Greg P   
"I have never been to another concert where the performer yelled at us for coming."
Heh. I know two people who attended LDM back in the day, and the school was like that too. Ravenhill did one evening service where I'm told he spoke for about two minutes, stopped and told the young students-- who'd left all to come to the remote Garden Valley "college"-- that they were lukewarm vomit or something like that. He promptly left the podium and went home. Ravenhill was notorious for this ultra-heavy duty guilt tripping and condemnation-shoveling and Keith aped his philosophy of ministry quite well.

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