Steve Ray is a convert to the Catholic Church and the author of three best-selling Ignatius Press books (Crossing the Tiber, Upon this Rock, and St. John’s Gospel). He speaks at conferences around the world and has appeared on many radio and TV programs, including Fox News. He is writer, producer and host of the 10-part video/DVD series “The Footprints of God: the Story of Salvation from Abraham to Augustine” filmed entirely on location in the Holy Land and surrounding countries. Steve and his wife Janet and are certified guides to the Holy Land and lead pilgrimages throughout the Middle East and Rome. He owns Distinctive Maintenance with 500 employees in Michigan and is a member of Legatus. He lives in Michigan with his wife Janet. He has four children and six grandchildren.
The interview starts with a minute of shared prayer asking for the Lord’s blessings and guidance upon our thoughts and words.
SFC: Just recently a film on the life of Billy Graham (Billy the Early Years) received a limited opening on screens across the USA. I understand your parents became Christian through a Billy Graham crusade.
SR: That’s right; in 1954 he was in Detroit, Michigan. My parents were both pagan, so they didn’t have any religious upbringing at all, but my mom, she had two kids and then twelve years of miscarriages, and for twelve years they wanted kids but failed to have any. So what happened was that she was getting ready to go shopping and she put on the radio, and she heard for the first time that God loved her and that she was a sinner destined to hell because of her sin, but that God loved her enough to send his son Jesus to die for her. And she hadn’t heard anything like this before you know, and she fell on her knees right there on that kitchen floor and started to cry and she asked God to forgive her sins and told God that she wanted Jesus to be her Saviour. And it changed my Mom’s life and my Dad’s too, and then they prayed, and they got this Bible [Steve gets up and takes a Bible from his bookshelf], you can see here the pages are all tattered. And they prayed that they would have more kids, and see the date in here is 5th May 1954, and I was born in December of 1954. So I would say that’s an answer to their prayers, because they said now that we’re Christians we want to raise our kids to love Jesus. And I came along later in the year.
SFC: The movie that’s been produced on Billy Graham's early life is a Christian-produced movie. Have you had a chance to view many others of these films? There was one recently called ‘Fireproof’ and one before that called ‘Facing the Giants’, which I still have not seen.
SR: ‘Facing the Giants’ is a nice one; it’s kind of you know second rate acting, but it’s a nice story, the story is endearing enough. And even though the acting is second rate, it’s a little over the top pushing the gospel message, but it’s still got a good story and that makes it endearing and we’ve watched it twice. It’s a nice thing to have around the house.
SFC: But more preaching to the choir rather than a general audience?
SR: Yeah, I mean its kind of sappy, but it is very difficult to make a movie for a general audience if you’re trying to present a Christian message, because you’re either going to be too sappy with it, or you’re going to have too much preaching, and with either of those you won’t get your message across. But ‘Bella’ for example, Bella is a good film because it presents a very clear message without shoving a Bible in your face.
SFC: I agree; unfortunately we’re still waiting for its official release over here in the UK. I think it’s going to get a small release later this year.
SR: You see I make my movies obviously not for Hollywood, but very much with Catholic families in mind. They’re made more for catechetics and I’m unabashedly catechetical and because of that I’ll never have any chance of getting mine on the History Channel, or anything like that. Although we did make a “sanitised” or ”secular” version of ‘Mary’ (‘In the Footsteps of Mary’), which actually is quite nice and I took quite a lot of the apologetics and the in-your-face Catholicism out of it. But we still presented the true story of Mary and made a case for the Immaculate Conception.
SFC: I hear Barbara Nicolosi is maybe going to produce a film called ‘Mary Mother of the Christ’, which could be interesting.
SR: Yeah, it would be.
SFC: On your website you mention that you got rid of your television channels. Is that decision still working out well?
SR: There are times when we miss it; like when there’s a scandal with the government and we want to find out what’s going on, but you know on the internet you can get hold of news and download video pod-casts. We live out in the country so we don’t have local television anyway, but we have a high-def cable satellite television, and we were watching that one day, and there were too many commercials that were just an insult to our intelligence, and so we got sick of it and got rid of it. So we pulled the plug on that, but we use our television now, we have something called Netflix, I don’t know if you have that over there?
SFC: Yes we have one called ‘Lovefilm’.
SR: Right, the same kind of thing; you put them back in the mailbox and then you get the next two posted to you. So we do that, we watch old movies; we have a pretty extensive DVD library here for the kids. But now we watch more things together. So basically no we don’t miss television; I think everyone should do it – make a statement to Pagan culture!
SFC: Still on that note, between television and cinema, which do you think has more of an effect on society? I mean with television, things like soaps and dramas, they’re maybe less of a spectacle than movies, but people are watching them every day; it’s kind of this drip, drip, drip. What do you say?
SR: Well the fact that the cinema ends up on the television anyway, I would say television because you’re home all the time and you don’t just get the shows but you get all the commercials that go with them, and they tend to be even more seductive and sensuous. But you know with a movie you have to go out of your house, and you’re going to another place, and there’s the big widescreen and thundering sound and everything. I think your statement “drip, drip, drip” is much warranted because with TV in many homes, they’re playing it all the time. Young kids when they go to a movie, they go out with their parents or their friends when their parents take them out once a month or something. What is it something like an average grade school kid watches an average of five hours TV a day? Whereas they average 17 minutes a day with their fathers. I also think with TV they’re being presented with adult themes such as lesbians and homosexuals, and I think in America it’s something like only 1 in 5 relationships is a marriage relationships; the others are adultery or fornication, so I would say television is far more insidious.
SFC: But surely on the plus side of that, the potential must also be there to do great good? Something like the Catholic TV Networks in the US and Canada; if we could really get a hold on it (the mass media) as a community.
SR: Yeah if we could just make it a little more interesting and relevant it has great potential; but we need to up the ante in terms of quality and creativeness and ingenuity; make it more energetic.
SFC: You have a list on your website a list of 76 ‘Ray Family Favourite’ movies. Do you have particular favourites from this list?
Ray Family Favourites
African Queen, The; Amadeus; Anne of Green Gables; Anne of Green Gables: the Sequel; Assissi Underground; Avalon; Babe; Babette's Feast; Black Robe; Bucket List, The; Cardinal, The; Chariots of Fire; Cheaper by the Dozen; Cinderella Man; Crimes and Misdemeaners; Dead Man Walking; Englishman Who Walked up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain,The; Evelyn; Everything is Illuminated; Faustina; Fiddler on the Roof; Follow Me Boys; Fried Green Tomatoes; Gods Must be Crazy, The; Henry V; I am David; I Confess; In America; In the Shoes of the Fisherman; Jean de Florette; Jesus of Nazareth; Ladies in Lavender; Life is Beautiful; Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring; Lord of the Rings: Return of the King; Lord of the Rings: Two Towers; Love Among the Ruins; Man for All Seasons, A; Manon of the Spring; Miracle Worker, The; Mission, The; Mr. Hulo's Holiday; Much Ado About Nothing; My Big Fat Greek Wedding; My Dinner with Andre; Ninth Day, The; Notebook, The; Passion of the Christ, The; Pride and Prejudice; Princess Bride, The; Quiet Man, The; Rabbit-proof Fence; Radio; Ratatouille; Return to Me; Saving Private Ryan; Scarlet and the Black, The; Schindler's List; Second-hand Lions; Shawshank Redemption, The; Sophie Scholl: the Final Days; Spitfire Grill, The; Station Agent, The; Straight Story, The; Strictly Ballroom; Supersize Me; Tender Mercies; Terminal, The; Tunnel, The; Ushpizin; Waking Ned Divine; War of the Buttons; What about Bob?; While You Were Sleeping; Witness; Yearling, The.