“Along with traditional means such as witness of life, catechetics, personal contact, popular piety, the liturgy and similar celebrations, the use of media is now essential in evangelization and catechesis. Indeed, “the Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect”. The media of social communications can and should be instruments in the Church’s program of re-evangelization and new evangelization in the contemporary world. In view of the proven efficacy of the old principle “see, judge, act”, the audiovisual aspect of media in evangelization should be given due attention.”
– Pastoral Instruction Aetatis Novae, Pontifical Council for Social Communications
By now, you’ve probably seen the video, A Nation Rises. President Obama’s moving speech in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy acts as voiceover for images of children, infants, the unborn, and the actions of the pro-life movement. If you haven’t seen it, please take a moment to watch:
The juxtaposition of these profound, passionate words about our collective need to protect our children with images of the fight for the unborn is startling, coming as they do from the most pro-abortion president in history. It’s a work of cinematographic brilliance, replete with high production values, a moving score, and well executed edits.
It is, in my opinion, a perfect example of how Catholics can use new forms of media and social communication to accomplish, as Bl. Pope John Paul II called it, “The New Evangelization.”
I contacted John-Andrew O’Rourke, founder of Blackstone Films and creator of A Nation Rises to discuss the film, what it means, and how social media will help to advance the pro-life cause.
SS: Tell me a little bit about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, what is your religious background?
JAO: I’m the oldest of 9 children. I was born and raised Catholic in central Indiana, and after homeschooling through High School, I forwent college in favor of interning with Grassroots Films in Brooklyn, NY. Now, almost two and a half years later, I am 20 and have started the production company Blackstone Films.
SS: Your video, A Nation Rises, juxtaposes the speech President Obama gave about protecting our children after the Sandy Hook shooting with images of the unborn and members of the pro-life movement. Where did the inspiration come from to compare and contrast these themes?
JAO: After President Obama’s speech, which I did not see live, I noticed several different graphics and a video floating around on Facebook. They were all using the speech to call Obama to the carpet for not holding the same standard regarding protecting the unborn as he does regarding protecting children. However, it wasn’t until I actually heard Obama’s speech in the context of a LifeSiteNews video that I realized just how unbelievably pro-life his words were. They were (and are) strong enough to be the rally-cry of the Pro-Life Movement. Nothing I had seen to that point was highlighting this reality effectively, so I felt called to use those words in a powerful pro-life video. My coworker Tom Shannon had already filmed the March for Life in 2011, so I thought using that as our call to action was more than appropriate.
SS: President Obama makes an incredibly passionate and eloquent pro-life speaker, if one interprets his words to mean what the video suggests. Do you believe that the irony of this message in the video is making an impact on people who don’t equate being pro-life with protecting children? Does it have the power to change minds?
JAO: I think the most important thing is that the video is causing debate. It has given people an avenue to voice their thoughts regarding the issue of abortion, and I’ve already seen some who were shocked to realize that Pro-Lifers don’t “just care about the baby”. We care about all stages of life. While I would hesitate to call A Nation Risesthe silver bullet in the Pro-Life debate, I do think it’s an excellent starting point for discussion.
SS: Have you received any official response to your video from the White House, the Democratic Party, or any other pro-abortion political groups?
JAO: None officially, though I would love if the president got to see the video. ; )
SS: When I first came across your video a week ago, it had only 13,000 views. Now it’s at almost 200,000. What is it about this video that is resonating with people?
JAO: I think what resonates with people is the undeniable reality that we can’t leave abortion unaddressed, and that our president’s stance on the issue is hypocritical. It is completely unacceptable that Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for 40 years, and President Obama has unknowingly lit a fire in the pro-life movement. We are quickly realizing that we are NOT “powerless in the face of such carnage” and that the politics are NOT “too hard.” If, less than a month after 27 people were killed during the Sandy Hook shooting, President Obama can begin enacting legislation against guns, then surely there is something we can do after 55 million unborn children have been slaughtered within the sanctuary of their mother’s womb. The fact that Obama is completely ignoring this while claiming that we need to do something to “protect our children” is infuriating to say the least.
SS: As someone who studied radio and television production in college, what stood out to me about A Nation Rises were the production values. It’s a very professionally-produced piece. How did you choose video production as the medium you wanted to use for telling this kind of story?
JAO: Since I was 5 or 6, I have felt drawn to video production. I see film as one of the most powerful mediums of storytelling at man’s disposal, and I am blessed to work in such an influential field. Consequently, after I first saw Obama’s speech, producing a video seemed like the natural next step.
SS: The January 14th cover story of Time Magazine suggests that since the Roe v. Wade decision 40 years ago, abortion-rights activists have been fighting a losing battle. Do you think that’s true? What role do you think socially sharable videos like A Nation Rises play in advancing the pro-life cause in our national discourse on abortion?
JAO: While I think the Pro-Life movement is making a lot of progress and winning hearts and minds in the process, I hesitate to say that we’re “winning” the battle. As long as abortion is legal in our country, we have a long way to go. We need to keep our eye on the final goal, which is living in a country where ALL life is not only protected, but respected. Videos like A Nation Rises help this cause in two ways. First, they provide a positive means for discussion and keep the issue on the forefront of people’s minds. Secondly, and just as importantly, they remind Pro-Lifers that the Pro-Life fight is not only necessary and influential, it’s also cool. The media often labels us as “radicals” and “out of touch with everyone else”. What I tried to portray in A Nation Rises is the idea that we’re in a battle, a battle for hearts, minds, souls, and lives. There’s no reason to be ashamed of that. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.
SS: What are your future plans for your production company, Blackstone Films?
JAO: We are currently in production on a 20-30 minute documentary concerning the Catholic Church’s teachings on Homosexuality. After that, we hope to produce some Catholic-themed short films.
SS: Is there anything else you’d like to tell people on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade?
JAO: Not everyone can protest in front of an abortion clinic, join the March for Life, enact pro-life legislation, or make pro-life videos. But the most important thing that needs to be done to end Roe v. Wade is something that everyone can do – pray. I strongly believe that if every pro-lifer prayed and fasted for the end of abortion, we would see a greater change in public opinion than anyone could ever imagine. While politics and action may be the face of the Pro-Life movement, prayer is its strength. Without prayer, all other efforts are in vain.