Daily Devotional for Saturday October 27, 2007

The Influence of the TV and Movie Industry

(Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:5)


Today and tomorrow I will be dealing with the TV and movie industries which have a huge influence over tens of millions of people's lives, including many Christians. The Bible talks about the "renewing of our mind," something we all need to do on a daily basis through His Word. What we watch and hear, DOES make a difference in how we think and act. What you allow yourself to watch and listen to IS a big deal. As you read the Daily Devotional today and tomorrow, be in prayer about what YOU watch and listen to on a daily basis. For many of you, God is speaking to your heart about this issue.

People love the HBO series the "Sopranos" for the same reason they love "The Godfather" trilogy. Even 34 years after it was released, "The Godfather" starring Marlon Brando is one of the most popular movies ever made. So what makes "The Godfather" movies, other organized crime movies like "Goodfellas," "Donnie Brasco," "Carlito's Way," and "Scarface" such a hit with people? After all, these are movies where the lead characters are part of organized crime, men who spend their life killing, stealing, cheating, and destroying other people's lives. They are involved in illegal businesses such as bookmaking, prostitution, extortion, selling drugs, and any other illegal activity you can name.


The popularity of these fictional crime bosses like Tony Soprano can be directly linked to the popularity of the real-life crime bosses like Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Myer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel who ran New York in the '30s, to Al Capone who ran Chicago in the '30s, to all the men who ran the various families across the nation throughout the decades. Men like Giancana, Marcello, Trafficante, Genovese, Gambino, Bonanno, Lucchese, Colombo, Accardo, and Gotti to name just a few. People have always had a fascination with these men who loved to portray themselves as "businessmen" and "family men," yet in reality lived brutal and evil lives.

Hollywood and television are largely responsible for how we look at these criminals. They have glorified and glamorized the lives of these men, often turning them into sympathetic figures. The movies and television have showed the human side of these men while almost justifying and excusing what their life is really about. Make no mistake my friend, these are cold, calculating, evil, and brutal men who without conscience or mercy spend their lives killing and destroying others. There is absolutely nothing glamorous or redeeming about how they live. There is nothing special about them. They are simply men who have chosen to live a life of crime and live in violation of society's laws as well as God's!

I am going to share some things from my personal life that I have never shared publicly in all of these years. After the initial success of my marketing business in 1979, I moved to Chicago in 1980 and that become the headquarters of my fast growing network of companies throughout the nation and Canada. A close business associate had introduced me to a law firm in Chicago that I would use to help me set up my various companies over the years. The lawyer I met with was a man named Jack Cerone, Jr. who actually specialized in labor law, so he referred me one of his partners, Joe DiNatale, to handle my legal needs. Little did I know that Jack Cerone's father was the infamous John "Jackie the Lackey" Cerone, who was actually the Don of the Chicago outfit (what the Mafia is called in Chicago).

In 1985, my attorney Joe DiNatale would represent Jackie Cerone, Sr. when he and several other leading mobsters would go on trial in Kansas City for skimming millions out of Las Vegas casinos. Jackie Cerone, Sr. was convicted in that trial and would spend the rest of his life in a Federal Prison. I was very close to DiNatale in the '80s, and often when we were alone at dinner he would share some of the stories of what really went on in the world of organized crime. He often referred to it as "unorganized crime," and in reality it was nothing at all like the world portrayed in the movies or on television.

These were mostly uneducated street criminals who killed, stole, and cheated people as their life's work. Those who rose to positions of power usually did so by attrition, since in the world they lived in you either ended up in prison or dead. Those who were able to escape those two fates the longest become the "boss." Over the years organized crime diversified from their traditional illegal businesses into legitimate businesses that would become fronts for many of their criminal activities.

However, in the '80s new laws that turned what used to be 2-3 year prison sentences into 20-30 year sentences, encouraged people inside organized crime who once would "honor the code" and do their time, to now cooperated and testify against those they worked for. Also, the new technology that made wiretaps and tracking people possible, gave the Federal Government tools to gather information they never could in the past. Today, the Mafia as we know it still exists and always will to some extent, but doesn't have anywhere near the influence it used to and thankfully never will again.

When I was indicted in December of 1989 for insider trading, I was denied bond for fear I would leave the country and was held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago to await trial sometime in late 1990. I was at the MCC from the first week in January in 1990 until October of 1990. It was there on August 20, 1990 that I rededicated my life to the Lord and finally gave God the one and only thing He had ever wanted from me, and that was my life completely and unconditionally surrendered to Him. My friend, today that is the only thing God wants from you, your life, completely and unconditionally surrendered to Him.

God began to work in my life. Within a week of rededicating my life to the Lord, my attorney was able to work out a plea agreement with the government that called for me to plead guilty and spend the next 22 months at a minimum security Federal Prison in Pensacola, Florida. If you have never heard my testimony, you can go to the links below and read all about it. It is a story I have told to millions worldwide over the years as a tribute to God's grace and mercy in my life, giving Him all glory and honor for what He has done for me. Let me encourage you today that what God has done for me, He will do for you!!! http://www.weeklyplanet.com/2003-12-04/cover.html http://www.liveprayer.com/bdy_testimony.html

While I was being housed at the MCC in downtown Chicago, in February of 1990, the Federal government indicted Ernest Rocco Infelise, who at the time was the head of the Chicago Outfit, and several of his top lieutenants, including reputed mob hit man Harry Aleman. They were obviously denied bond and also housed at the MCC awaiting their trial, and were assigned to live on the same floor I was on. I spent the next 8 months living with these guys. There are no secrets in a prison environment, and they found out that Joe DiNatale was my attorney, so I was one of the few people on the floor they interacted with. Many nights we would be in the dining area, and they would talk about their lives and experiences. They would never get specific, but it was enough to know that these were men who lived lives of crime from their youth and really only knew and understood that world.

Obviously, I was fortunate enough to never make the choices to become involved in that type of life or be part of the world of organized crime. However, I have had enough contact with those who were in that world to know there is nothing glamorous about it. It is a very dark, cold, evil world that operates in complete and total rebellion to God. No matter how much Hollywood cleans it up, no matter how appealing they make it appear, it is nothing but a world of destruction. Those who choose to be part of that world have their lives destroyed. Those who get caught up in their world have their lives destroyed. At the end of the day, NOBODY WINS BUT SATAN!

I love you and care about you so much. This message today is really a warning to you. A warning to keep your guard up at all times and not allow Hollywood and the television industry to cause you to fall into the trap of glorifying evil no matter how attractive they make it appear. The media already does a masterful job at glamorizing sin. Sexual sins of every kind are promoted as fun and exciting with no consequences. Drinking and drug use are also glorified by the media. So it is no surprise that the media will try to sanitize sins like murder, robbing, and whatever kind of evil one man can perpetrate on another you can think of.

I will be praying for you today to take a stand in your life from letting the world lie to you and lead you into the trap of sitting back and giving approval to evil by viewing it. Yes, I know the "Sopranos" is a fictional story, but what they portray is the real life evil and horrors of those who are part of the world of organized crime. No, you are not going to hell or a horrible Christian if you watch the "Sopranos" and shows like it. However, our goal as we mature in Christ is to be more like Him. The Bible talks about the "renewing of our mind." A great computer term is "garbage in, garbage out." Why would you want to pollute your mind with murder, adultery, physical violence, and a myriad of other sinful activities?

The problem with a program like the "Sopranos," the problem with so much of what is on television today and in the movies, is that they glorify and glamorize sin. Can you tell me anything glamorous about the sins you have committed in your life? Can you tell me how glamorous the consequences of your sins are? That is the point my friend. Sin is NOT glamorous. It is destructive! The consequences of our sins are very real and very painful. Watching sin, even in a fictional format, is not something a follower of Christ should be doing. Why do people love the "Sopranos?" Simple, they love sin more than they love God!