The prison official shouts, “Give me their names!” But pastor Richard Wurmbrand, tied up in a dark-and-dingy Romanian prison torture chamber, remains silent.
His face is bloodied, and his feet scarred from relentless beatings. The guards had offered him a deal: If he hands over the names of Christians to the Communist government, he would get a reduced sentenced – perhaps even be freed. But he refuses.
“It’s only a matter of time,” the prison official tells him. “… Be reasonable. Your life belongs to me now.”
A weak Wurmbrand, struggling for breaths, responds, “My life is not my own. I belong to Christ.”
The gut-wrenching and inspirational story of Wurmbrand is well-known to Christians worldwide thanks to a series of books he wrote, but on Monday night (March 5) moviegoers will have a chance to watch his story unfold on the big screen when Tortured for Christ – based on the 1967 best-selling book by the same name — debuts. It was produced by The Voice of the Martyrs and will be in theaters only one night.
Here are five things parents should know:
1. It’s worth taking church groups to. When other church leaders succumbed to Communist doctrine at a “Congress of Cults” – a large public gathering of church and government leaders – Wurmbrand didn’t back down. His wife encouraged him.
“If I speak now, you’ll have no husband,” he whispers to his wife in the film.
She retorts, “I don’t need a coward for a husband.”
Wurmbrand took the podium that day and preached the Gospel. Incredibly, he avoided immediate arrest. Perhaps even more incredibly, Russian soldiers were open to the Good News – and many became Christians due to his bold witness. To avoid confiscation of Bibles, Wurmbrand and his fellow believers had special Bibles printed with Karl Marx on the cover. “Marx on the cover, Jesus in the pages,” he says in the film. He even baptized one Russian soldier in his bathtub. He was preaching on borrowed time, though, and he eventually was arrested and put in prison. The Russians assumed he would cut a deal and give them the names of all the Christians, but he refused.
2. It’s a story all Christians should hear. Yes, it’s disturbing to the senses. (See below.) But for adults, teens and maybe older children, Wurmbrand’s story is powerful. He was beaten. He was burned. He spent three years in solitary confinement. In one particularly horrifying incident, he was forced to stand for hours and days in a box surrounded by sharp spikes. And through it all, he refused to recant his faith. How many of us would be willing to face a gruesome death for Christ? How many of us would continue praying in a cell, knowing that such an action would result in physical punishment? And how many of us would be filled with so much joy in prison that we would sing hymns and make music with our prison chains – as he did?
3. It’s not for young children. For them, I’d recommend the animated Torchlighters DVD The Richard Wurmbrand Story. (That one also is streaming on various platforms.) But Tortured for Christ has violent images and noises that would have given it a PG-13 rating, if it were rated. Still, the violence isn’t gory. Most of the torture is implied. I’ve seen far worse on episodes of 24. The film contains no coarse language or sexuality.
4. It’s half documentary/half film. An actor voicing Wurmbrand’s words narrates it. The movie was filmed in Romania with Romanian actors, and some of the scenes were filmed in a prison where he stayed.
5. It’s short. The screener I watched was about 60 minutes – but very good. Better not visit the restroom in this one!
Tortured for Christ is unrated. It is not appropriate for young children. Find a listing of theaters at torturedforchrist.com
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.