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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 2:58 am | Fair 50º


Cinema in Focus: ‘The List’

This film, directly on DVD from Fox Faith, explores the spiritual battle and the power of prayer.

4 Stars — Insightful

The fear of secret societies that have banded together for evil reasons has psychological and spiritual dimensions.

The psychological is expressed in conspiracy theories in which, for example, a candidate might fear that a “right-wing” or a “left-wing” conspiracy might defeat them. This fear may have some basis in actual events, or it may be a paranoid reaction reaching the level of a mental disorder. The spiritual dimension is expressed, for example, through a believer’s fear of a coven of witches who have banded together to curse them. Again, this fear may have some basis in the reality of actual covens or it may be an imagined spiritual attack. In the final analysis, whether it is actual or imagined, the power of the secrecy and the fear of the conspiracy can have a detrimental effect on any who believe it. This is explored in Gary Wheeler’s film The List.

Written by Robert Whitlow, a practicing attorney, the central character in his fictional tale is a lawyer named Josiah “Renny” Jacobson (Chuck Carrington). Upon his estranged father’s death, Renny is informed that his wealthy father has left him none of his millions, but instead, a secret that has been passed down through his family, father to son, for four generations. The secret is that his great-great-grandfather had entered into an agreement with 10 other wealthy Southern families to plunder their ailing Confederacy and secure the wealth for themselves and their descendants. They had pledged their oath to one another and to this secret with their own blood.

However, this “business arrangement” was far more than that. When one of the invited families would not join in this arrangement, the group had him killed. This shedding of blood in the formation of the partnership resulted in an evil entering their union. It was an evil that granted them power but also extracted devastating payments, not only on their bodies and souls but on the bodies and souls of their descendants. 

At the formation of their alliance, a believing Christian had warned them of the biblical maxim that a father’s idolatry can bring sorrow to the three and even four generations that follow him, while a father’s righteousness can bring blessing to a thousand generations of his descendants (Exodus 20:4).  As the generations from 1963 to today have lived out their lives, it is clear that this warning and blessing were experienced by the descendants of the original 11 families as well as by those of the one who would not join them.

We won’t disclose the dynamic of the tale as Renny lives out his prophetic naming by his mother, acting in the manner of the Israelite King Josiah, but there are many lessons present in this film worthy of mentioning. The most important is the power of prayer, prayer not only for those who need God’s love, but for those who need protection from those who would harm them. This living out of the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer when we ask God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” is a reality that is not based on either a paranoid disorder or a spiritual imagination. 

In a similar manner, the power of greed to destroy a person and entice them to sell their future and their soul is clearly shown in history. That it produces generational pain is shown by great literature as well as by psychological studies. That secrecy produces dysfunction is also shown by both history and psychology. 

The List is a well-written, acted and directed study of the power of evil in a secret group that is a valuable lesson for us all.


» The use of a blood-oath to swear the families to secrecy and the shedding of the blood of an innocent man who knew their secret but would not join in created the dynamic of this tale.  Have you ever known of such a gathering of people?  How did you find out without being held accountable for your knowing?

» When greedy and power-hungry people join together, their synergistic presence is powerful even if there is no supernatural evil involved.  Have you ever known such a group of people?  How did you get free from them?

» The attraction which Renny has for Jo Johnston (Hilarie Burton) is obviously deeper than just physical.  Do you believe the attraction we have for others is based on our ancestors’ behaviors?  Why or why not?

Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara, and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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