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Tony Rossi

Radio Host/Producer

The Case for Christ

God had plans for Lee Strobel, plans that Strobel himself couldn’t comprehend or even conceive of at the time since he was an avowed atheist. But in 1980, Strobel, then the legal editor at the Chicago Tribune, set out on an investigation to disprove Christianity. Instead, he wound up converting to the Christian faith. He shared his story in the best-selling book “The Case for Christ,” and it’s now being told in a new way in a feature film with the same title.

Recently on “Christopher Closeup,” I interviewed Brian Bird, the screenwriter of “The Case for Christ” and creator/executive producer of the Christopher Award-winning Hallmark Channel series “When Calls the Heart.” Bird explained that Strobel’s problem started when his wife Leslie became a Christian, a religion he likened to “a cult.” It led to deep conflict in their marriage.

Bird said of his movie, “’The Case for Christ’ is as much an investigation of Christianity as it is a love story between Lee and Leslie. He deeply loved his wife and didn’t want to lose his marriage. But he felt like this newfound faith that Leslie had undertaken was like an affair. He literally said to her, ‘You have another man. His name is Jesus.’”

Strobel’s antagonism toward Christianity stemmed from his own background, which is explored in the movie. Bird said, “Lee had a deeply painful relationship with his own father. He discovered along the way that all of the most famous atheists in history had a huge father wound...[They] either had fathers who were abusive, or who died prematurely when they were young, or who were cold to them. So he discovered that his bias was rooted in his own upbringing as much as it was in his own skepticism.”

It says a lot about Strobel’s ethics and commitment to truth that he was able to go against his bias and follow the facts where they led. He interviewed many Bible scholars who convinced him that the gospels are reliable pieces of history that affirm the theological view of Jesus as the Messiah. And instead of seeing Jesus as a rival to his marriage, he came to view Him as a partner on which both he and Leslie could rely. Bird calls this movie “the most meaningful thing that I’ve done in 30 years of doing this work.”

Bird’s Hallmark Channel series “When Calls the Heart,” which he created with Michael Landon Jr., is faith-affirming in its own way. It takes place in 1910 and tells the story of a wealthy, young woman who leaves the safety of her family to teach school in a coal mining town called Hope Valley. 

Bird says, “The town is a throwback to the values of yesteryear: the great virtues of hope, faith, love, courage, nobility, redemption, forgiveness, sacrifice, and communities pulling together to help each other in times of need. It’s in the tradition of Michael’s father’s show, ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ in that family, faith, and community are the most important things in our lives.”

Millions of viewers are tuning in to “When Calls the Heart” every Sunday night at 9/8C, and watching the show together as a family because it’s one of the few TV series that can be enjoyed by viewers ranging from age eight to 80. It may not be making a case for Christ exactly like Lee Strobel does, but it beautifully captures the heart of what it means to live the Christian values we believe in.

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, FINDING THE COURAGE WITHIN, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org