Spiritual Warfare at Hollywood & Main

A Conversation with Steve Deace, Creator of Nefarious

There aren’t many popular podcasts out there specifically focused on how the political news of the day intersects with the Christian worldview. Neither are there many that offer a weekly segment titled, “Theology Thursday,” where the host discusses the religious philosophies of thinkers like Thomas Aquinas. But there is one. And it’s safe to say that the host of the Steve Deace Show (Deace is pronounced “Dace”) does not suffer well those who demand that Christians “stay out of politics.” His X (formerly Twitter) bio pulls no punches: “Child of the King of Kings, husband and father, BlazeTV host, 2x best-selling author, and EP of #NefariousMovie. Proud hater of your BS and idol smasher.”

Steve Deace took a circuitous route to his current position as a nationally syndicated political commentator. Born to an unwed, 15-year-old mother and raised with an abusive stepfather, Deace began his career as a sports-radio talk show host in Des Moines, Iowa.

In 2003, he attended a Promise Keepers rally that changed the trajectory of his life. Today, he is a political analyst who is not in the least way shy about letting his Christian worldview critique the culture. Last summer, that propensity found a new platform when his first novel hit the big screen as Nefarious. “Nefarious” is both the title of the movie and the name of the demon at the center of the story.

Give us a short take on the process by which A Nefarious Plot became a movie.

I published the book A Nefarious Plot in March of 2016. It was a modest success. I patterned the book after [C. S. Lewis’s] Screwtape Letters as kind of an homage sequel. But instead of a demon talking about tempting us as individuals, my demon talks about taking down an entire culture.

Six months later, I got a call from a guy that I had never met, Glenn Beck. He said a mutual acquaintance gave him my book and he wanted to have me on his show to talk about it. The next Friday we spent a full hour discussing it. That morning, a guy named Chris Jones was driving around in Burbank, California, and heard the show.

Chris was part of a new company called Believe Entertainment, the company birthed out of Pure Flix that produced God’s Not Dead. Two of the filmmakers from that project were Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman. They were in pre-production on their first project, a film adaptation of Abby Johnson’s memoir, Unplanned. Chris read the book and immediately told Cary and Chuck he had found their next movie. They were busy with Unplanned at that point, so it took three years. But in June of 2020, I went out to Burbank to begin storyboarding the movie with them.

Cary and Chuck had a longstanding relationship with Sean Patrick Flanery, who played the lead role as Nefarious. Sean was so blown away by the script, he said, “Listen, this part will probably get me blacklisted. But this movie’s message is so important, I will crawl over broken glass to play the part when the time comes.”

You’ve talked on your show about some things you encountered in making and distributing the film. You considered some of them forms of spiritual warfare. Can you tell us about that?

We had struggles from the moment we began. Things seemed to go seamlessly at first. About 80–85 percent of the movie you see on screen is what we originally storyboarded the first week in Burbank. Commissioning the script and set design takes more time. But by May of 2021, we thought we had a script that was locked down. With our limited budget and shooting schedule, we knew it was going to be largely a singular-shot film and that we couldn’t let it bog down. We had to schedule a shoot that would fit our budget and get the most bang for our buck. We were ready to start filming in Oklahoma that August.

That’s when both our producers came down with Delta-variant Covid. They both went into the hospital and developed Covid pneumonia. Both men are in their 60s. At the time, the odds of older men with pulmonary events like that ever coming out of the hospital were not good. Thankfully they both recovered. But that delayed us enough that we had to raise another $1,000,000 with our investor group. We weren’t sure if we were ever going to get to film this movie. We had to get the movie shot by Christmas or we were going to lose our sets.

We were the first movie in Oklahoma history to film in a live prison. The first three days went off without a hitch. Then we got blindsided with a strike. We were a non-union production filming in a right-to-work state. Our crew was mostly the same one that had worked in Oklahoma to film Unplanned. And we were actually paying them better than what the union demanded. The problem was that the unions didn’t want to set a precedent that you could film in Oklahoma to get around them. The union bosses were threatening our people with being blacklisted and never working in Hollywood again if they worked on our movie.

What the unions didn’t know about were the political connections we could bring to bear. With the help of Oklahoma’s governor, secretary of education, and several state legislative leaders, we ended up winning our case in the National Labor Relations Board court. That’s very rare. We beat them on every count but one. But, as if giving an offering to the Spirit of the Age, the judge said that we had to pay back salary to one transgender member of the crew for no apparent reason. That’s how frivolous their claims were.

Then, the week the movie was to be released, out of nowhere, I developed full-sized cysts on my left armpit. It ended up being a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. They had to carve these things out of my body and then put me on a very strong, sometimes toxic, antibiotic. A week later, I had a relapse and had to be taken by ambulance to an emergency room in New York with a temperature of 104. It turned out the medicine defeated the MRSA, but the meds were attacking my immune system.

The day I was released from the hospital, Chris Jones was strapping his son into a car seat when another car swerved and took the open driver’s-side door off his car. It missed hitting Chris by centimeters. Another one of our producers, John Sullivan, was walking to his car when a nursing student fell asleep at the wheel on his way home from his shift and crashed into John’s car. It was totaled.

We had inexplicable equipment problems and actually called Father Carlos Martins, host of The Exorcist Files podcast, to pray over us.

You’ve mentioned that it was an intentional decision to market the movie in the horror genre and specifically avoid promoting it as a “Christian” film. In hindsight, do you think it was the correct decision?

That was the dumbest decision we made, and I was probably the leader in making it. Cary deferred to me on this, given my knowledge of the genre. I do think we made a good enough film that it had a crossover, evangelistic appeal. But marketing it up front like that freaked out our core audience. We should have told our core audience that this was a faith-based film. We should have marketed the worldview of the film to them so they would know it, then told them to bring their unbelieving friends and family because they’ll think it looks like something they want to watch. We did it backwards. And that’s primarily my fault.

Did this whole experience impact your view of spiritual warfare in any way?

Without question. The movie touches on this subject on a broader scale —on the things that we’re doing culturally that no one benefits from. As an example, some could argue that someone benefits from abortion —the parent who doesn’t want to be responsible for somebody else, for instance. There has always been a perceived benefit of child sacrifice. The Israelites offered their babies to Moloch because they thought it was going to help their harvest.

What we see now though, like with the gender mutilation of kids, these are things for which there’s no perceived benefit. It doesn’t benefit society at any level to chest-bind our girls and castrate our sons. So there are the things we do to exploit the instincts and desires that God gives us, but things like the trans agenda are just pure nihilism. These are things that defy our very human nature. Your own sinfulness will not prompt you to say, “I think I should let my 12-year-old son cut his penis off and turn his colon into a vagina.” These are things you won’t do on your own. You need inspiration for that. That’s what I think we’re seeing.

Too many of our public-policy debates today are not cases of clashing worldviews between people who vehemently disagree. They’re with people who have no worldview. Nihilism. Black pill. Darkness for the sake of darkness. I think that’s what we’re seeing. And the only explanation for those kinds of things is spiritual warfare.

To Be Continued

After Nefarious’s successful theater run in 2023, Deace announced more Nefarious projects in the works. Developments are underway on a sequel TV series, and a second film, an adaptation of his novel, A Nefarious Carol (2020), is also in the works.

is a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy (B. S., Aerospace Engineering) and Biola University (M.A., Christian Apologetics). Recently retired, his professional aviation career included 8 years in the U. S. Marine Corps flying the AV-8B Harrier attack jet and nearly 32 years as a commercial airline pilot. Bob blogs about Christianity and the culture at: True Horizon.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #68, Spring 2024 Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo68/spiritual-warfare-at-hollywood-main


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