Pilgrims Past, Future… and Present – Intercessors for America

Two dramas celebrating the Pilgrims are available now to direct your prayer life, and a third is on its way. I’m a bit in awe of how the Lord has placed me on all three projects about our spiritual forebears, but it shouldn’t be surprising religious persecution is a common theme these days!

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Freedom: William Bradford and the American Pilgrims, an audio drama, tells how they escaped tyranny and ultimately dedicated America to spreading the Gospel.

The second, Mayflower II, is a film about religious persecution in the not-so-distant future.

The project yet to come is a mini series, exploring the Pilgrims’ journey to America and their lives once they settled here.

Freedom: William Bradford and the American Pilgrims

Freedom is produced by Brinkman Adventures, which has been producing “movies for the ears” since 2009.

This offering tells of the first missionaries to reach our shores.  The audio drama emphasizes sharing the Gospel with the natives of America was one reason the Pilgrims sacrificed everything to come here.

The audio drama also shows how the Pilgrims’ desire to worship the Lord according to Scripture — not the dictates of men — motivated the group’s separation from the Church of England. In England the Pilgrims concluded they could no longer worship in the government-controlled Church. I play the role of Richard Clyfton — their first pastor — along with some other minor roles.

The Pilgrims fled to Holland but the morally degenerating Dutch culture spurred them to leave for America.

In the opening sequences set in the present the fictional Brinkman family discusses the fallacy of revisionist history.  The main part of the story shows how flawed people did the best they could under extraordinary circumstances.

In one of the opening sequences, I also play the role of Charles Deane, who edited the 1856 edition of History of Plymouth Plantation. This part of the story shows how the original writings of William Bradford were rediscovered and establishes the script is based on eyewitness accounts of the events.

Freedom does not shy away from depicting the negative actions of our forebears. A sequence reveals how Pilgrims stole from natives, but in the fuller context we hear they feared starving to death and intended to repay the natives once they were able to communicate and establish trade with them.

Freedom also includes a beautiful reading of the Mayflower Compact, which founded our nation “…for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith.”

Ian Bultman, producer of Brinkman Adventures was inspired to add this story to their repertoire to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the signing of the Compact, but as he developed the script he realized:

The story hits on so many things we are dealing with today in America. Freedom of conscience and freedom to practice our faith unhindered by government; race relations; how to deal with a society that treats us unjustly; suffering for/with Christ; loving our enemies; a pandemic. In hindsight I really see God’s hand leading us to this project (four) years ago before everything that’s happened in the U.S.  I see this as a reminder to America of its roots and heritage, a warning to those who wish to go back to tyranny, and a reminder to the church how to live in troubling times.

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Pilgrim Mini Series

Keith Perna (writer/director for the films Christmas Grace and the pro-life film It’s a Life Worth Living) is developing a mini series about the Pilgrims. Starting without knowledge of Bultman’s audio drama, Perna also relied heavily on eyewitnesses to the events, especially Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation.

I’m a script consultant on the project, and I think it’s looking great! The mini series follows a similar trajectory to the audio drama but fleshes the story out over five hour-long episodes, and will, of course, add visual elements.

Perna said:

I especially love true stories from history that clearly show God at work in the lives of people. This journey to write “The Pilgrims” started with a trip my wife and I took to Plymouth, Massachusetts. As I learned about their story at the actual locations where it took place, I became very fascinated by it, and I believe God planted this passion in me to see their story told properly from a Christian perspective. I believe this project will be very inspirational and encouraging to the (IFA) audience. The Pilgrims were people who put their faith and trust in God. You can see that through their actions, and you can see the great accomplishments and legacy God allowed them to achieve because of it. I hope it will help the intercessors… follow their example there. Knowing that God is bigger than us and will give us the power to accomplish whatever it is he wants us to accomplish.

Mayflower II

This film looks into a future coming upon us now in many respects, as the heroes attempt to escape religious persecution on earth… by fleeing to a colony on Mars.

Filmed in 2014 but recently released, the movie feels like it was based on stories from! Its theme verse is Psalm 11:3, when the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?

Mayflower II was produced by prescient Canadians Greg Lammiman and his son Dallas Lammiman. They previously produced another sci-fi thriller, Remember, about a government taking children from their parents and mandating drugs that alter citizens’ memories. Because Mayflower II is packed with special effects, it took some time to get to market, but the timing seems ordained. By the time it was released churches north of the border meeting outdoors were being hunted down by helicopter, and pastors were being thrown into prison for daring to meet during lockdowns. This real-life scenario is played out in a scene in the film when the heroes are hunted by drone as they leave an underground Bible study.

Miles and Kate O’Rourke (played by Justin Lewis, who played the lead in Remember, and Shawna Pliva McGill) are doing their best to ignore government overreach, as those in charge are saving the planet. Miles’ brother, Rich O’Rourke (played by Stephen Hardy, who plays the lead in another Lammiman film, My Grandpa Detective), shows Miles the Mayflower II spacecraft, intended to help Christians escape persecution. Miles scoffs at such an idea, calling his brother paranoid…until the government targets Miles as a domestic terrorist because he happened to be on site during a demonstration.

On the run, Miles and Kate “borrow” the Mayflower II and escape to Mars, but the utopian colony there is showing signs of tyranny.

My wife Joyce Swingle, also an IFA contributing writer, and I play the leaders of an illegal cell group, using unauthorized Bibles the government hasn’t been able to neuter.

The film was featured at the 2021 International Christian Film and Music Festival, where it won Best Screenplay, one of four nominations it had received.

Our Reality Now

The Church today faces similar state control issues as the “fictional” future depicted in Mayflower II and as the Pilgrims faced more than 400 years ago. The Senate recently passed the deceptively named Respect for Marriage Act, and IFA reported how Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said “This sets in motion a [dangerous] sequence of events… that ends in the … destruction of religious liberty in America.”

We also have global concerns: The United Nations report “Engaging Religion and Faith-Based Actors on Agenda 2030” states the UN Population Fund “appreciates that many faith communities see their role as preserving traditions, culture and morality which can sometimes conflict with the changing world in which young people are forging their identities and making personal choices.” The report goes on to lay out how to leverage the fact that “faith leaders are in a position of power when it comes to influencing norms….” So if the UN is set to use the Church to achieve its godless goals, what will happen to Christians who don’t conform?

Those who went before us escaped religious persecution, and though we have no place else to flee — Mars is off the table — we can be grateful prayer can shape our future. Let’s pray and take action to preserve our rights to use the whole of Scripture and live as it dictates!

I’ll close with a prayer Bultman sent us:

Lord, as the intercessors across this country listen, encourage their hearts and faith through the faith and actions of these Pilgrim Fathers who now stand among the cloud of witnesses. May each listening be reminded that they too are pilgrims, strangers in a foreign land, serving as ambassadors for You with the Good News that each may be reconciled to you through the blood of Jesus.  Help us find ways to get this story circulated across the country this year and may it ultimately be pleasing to You and bring glory to Your name.

In your Son’s name, amen.

Here’s a talk back we did with the Lammimans after Mayflower II was screened at ICFF:

Your turn: For which religious freedoms are you grateful, and how can we protect them? Share in the comments below, and let’s agree in prayer!

Rich Swingle has taught and performed in 39 nations on six continents, mostly with his own one-man plays. He’s also performed in about 45 film projects and 25 audio dramas. He and his bride, Joyce Swingle, another contributing writer for IFA, now have 37 screen children. The two of them live in New York City. Photo Credit: Mayflower II.

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