It must be the season for movie reviews. Last week, I wrote about the Barbie movie. This week, it’s Sound of Freedom, a low-budget film inspired by the work of a former Homeland Security agent, Tim Ballard, in rescuing trafficked children.

I first heard about this film on social media. It caught my attention because the people talking about it had also embraced strange conspiracy narratives during the COVID-19 pandemic. I wondered what made them interested in Sound of Freedom. And so, last night, my eldest daughter, Georgia-Grace, and I watched the movie. She and I are writing this blog together.

What’s Good?

Angel Studios, distributor of Sound of Freedom (as well as The Chosen), is a streaming video company that was co-founded by brothers Neal and Jeffrey Harmon, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons). Angel Studio describes the movie’s intention of “starting the conversation on the horrors of human trafficking.” We’re sure you’d agree that awareness and conversation about modern slavery is a worthy goal, especially if that understanding leads to action.

According to the World 101 website, human trafficking comes in many shapes and sizes, harming adults and children in affluent and developing countries. Modern slavery affects an estimated 40.3 million people globally and earns traffickers at least US$150 billion annually, making it one of the world’s most profitable crimes.

Human trafficking is the trapping and exploitation of a person using deception, violence, or coercion. It’s about forcing people to do something against their will: forced labour (which includes sex trafficking), forced marriage, and forced organ removal are the primary forms of slavery today. It’s estimated that 4.8 million people are forced into sexual exploitation (about a third of these are children). This is the focus of Sound of Freedom, which portrays one type of modern slavery. We encourage you to read the World 101 article to educate yourself on the other kinds.

Be Aware

Sound of Freedom is “Based on a true story,” which is the producer advising you that some of what you’re about to see is untrue. Angel Studios published a blog post on its website acknowledging that some of Ballard’s biographical details were altered and that the film “took creative liberties in depicting the different methods of child trafficking.”

If you watch this movie, be aware that it portrays some incorrect and misleading depictions of trafficking. The average victim is an adult woman. Women and children are more likely to be trafficked by family than strangers, primarily due to poverty. Places with lower levels of birth control and higher poverty rates lead to more children that parents cannot care for. Most child trafficking victims know and trust their traffickers. They are not kidnapped by shadowy strangers off street corners. Less than 10% of child trafficking cases involved kidnapping.

Other causes of modern slavery include conflict, political instability, and forced displacement. Transformations in the world of work, climate change, and migration increase the vulnerability of many people to exploitation by others. To combat slavery, all of these issues need to be addressed. It is not as naïve as the one-person rescue mission portrayed in Sound of Freedom.

Who is Tim Ballard?

Tim is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife, Katherine, live in Utah and have nine children, two of whom were adopted from a sting operation in Haiti. Tim founded Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) in 2013 but stepped away from the organisation this year after an internal investigation into claims made against him by multiple employees. In July 2023, Ballard left his CEO position at O.U.R. Matt Osborne is the current President and COO.

Ballard has also left The Nazarene Fund, the anti-trafficking organisation founded by Glenn Beck, where Ballard was also CEO. Neither non-profit has explained when or why Ballard went.

By 2021, O.U.R. netted US$47 million, and Ballard’s annual income was over US$500,000 plus expenses. O.U.R., on average, had ten to twenty years of operating expenses in reserve. CharityWatch has downgraded its rating to a question mark (?) and issued multiple cautions about the non-profit. American Crime Journal has covered this extensively. Investigative journalist Lynn Kenneth Packer has also fact-checked the storyline in Sound of Freedom and shows the narrative is riddled with falsehoods. Packer describes the film as “pure fiction.”


The people who embraced the conspiracy narratives during the Pandemic are also vocal about the Sound of Freedom. Why? It’s probably because of the subject matter and the connection of paedophiles to the QAnon hoax.

QAnon is a baseless internet conspiracy that declares a group of Satan-worshiping elites run a child sex ring and are trying to control our politics (Deep State) and media. In addition to molesting children, members of this group kill and eat their victims to extract a life-extending chemical called adrenochrome.

Key people affiliated with The Sound of Freedom have promoted these beliefs. Angel Studios denies any connection to conspiracy theories or politics, but in recent interviews, Tim Ballard and Jim Caviezel have defended the adrenochrome harvesting theory.

In one showing of Sound of Freedom, a Fire alarm went off in a movie theatre, “proving” to conspiracy-inclined people that “they” don’t want you to see the movie.


Sound of Freedom has been subject to criticism from anti-trafficking experts, many of whom claim it is an inaccurate depiction of child trafficking and that the tactics espoused in the film may put trafficked kids in danger because most trafficking does not look like it does in the movie.

Also concerning is the character Vampiro, who admits to assaulting a 14-year-old in the film, something he did not do. It’s a confronting and creepy thing to put in the movie, especially as it is untrue and adds nothing to the story. Ministry Watch warns that some of O.U.R.’s tactics drive demand for trafficking. They are making an awful situation even worse by their methods.

Then, one of the film’s many investors, Fabian Marta, was arrested on 23 July this year and charged as an accessory for child kidnapping in the US state of Missouri. While the case details are not public, this charge carries a penalty of 10 to 30 years or life imprisonment.

Trafficking is Real

Whatever you make of this film, it is good that people are aware and talking about modern-day slavery. Let’s hope their anger turns to action and not just donate money so others can see the movie. Excellent not-for-profit organisations are working in this space without all the hullaballoo. Together, they have released a combined statement addressing their thoughts on Sound of Freedom. It is well worth reading.

If you are passionate about genuinely helping the victims of modern slavery, we encourage you to check out these reputable groups:

International Justice Mission.

Anti-Slavery International.

Zoe International Foundation.

Hope for Justice.

The 360 Blog outlines seven more organisations that fight human trafficking and support survivors of these crimes.

End Slavery Now has an antislavery directory to find organisations where you can get involved in the fight against modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

There are many wrong ways to read the Bible. Here are a few:

  • Out of obligation. God says to read the Bible, so I better do it, even though I don’t want to.
  • An Instruction Manual. BIBLE = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Clever, but inaccurate.
  • God’s answer book. The Bible has lots of wisdom, but it doesn’t answer every situation of life.
  • To win every argument. You know THAT person who is ALWAYS right about the Bible and more than willing to tell you why!
  • The daily horoscope. Randomly opening the Bible with your eyes closed and pointing your finger to a verse.

People misread the Bible by considering it a static book where every verse and chapter are equal, it’s all literal, and it all applies to today. The problem here is that the Bible doesn’t behave this way and, if you try and make it, it simply won’t behave itself!

A Progressive Bible

The Bible is a progressive rather than static book. Throughout its pages, we observe the development of thinking and revelation. When the reader understands this, many of the previous problems, barriers, and misunderstandings fall away.

When I came to this realisation, it set me free and caused me to appreciate and value the Bible more than ever. No longer did I stumble over some of the sections of the Hebrew scriptures. You know the ones. Like when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Are you kidding me? Or when God tells Joshua to commit genocide. Or the banning of certain people from the temple. All of these barriers come tumbling down when you realise that the Bible is not a static book.

There are many examples I could use to explain this progression but, for the sake of brevity, let’s consider what the Bible says about slavery.

What about Slavery?

Slavery was commonplace in the ancient world. In light of this, the Bible gives some generally excellent and fair laws on the proper treatment of slaves. This was revolutionary for its time, being the first occasion when rights for slaves (and women & children) were written down. The purpose was to bring justice and order into a culture that before this had been lawless (Deuteronomy 15:12-18). Consider the following:

  • Some sold themselves into slavery (Leviticus 25:39; Deuteronomy 15:12-17); others were sold to pay debts (2 Kings 4; Nehemiah 5:1-8).
  • Jewish slaves could not be held for more than six years and were given a choice to leave (Exodus 21:2). They could voluntarily choose to remain as slaves (Exodus 21:5-6).
  • A slave’s religious rights were protected (Exodus 2:10), as were their civil and economic rights; including the right to have their own slaves (2 Samuel 9:9-10).
  • Those who came into slavery with a wife and children could take them when they left.
  • Slaves who their masters abused were to be set free (Exodus 21:26-27).
  • Foreign slaves seeking asylum in Israel were to be protected (Deut. 23:15-16).

What to do about THESE verses?

But other verses appear problematic. Consider Ex 21:20-21, “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” So, if you beat them and they live, that’s okay? Apparently!

Consider Leviticus 25:44-46, “You may purchase male and female slaves from among the nations around you. You may also purchase the children of temporary residents who live among you, including those born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat them as slaves, but you must never treat your fellow Israelites this way.” I’ve read over such verses in times passed and tried to pretend they’re not in the Bible. But they ARE in there, and we need to find out why!

If the Bible is a static book and every part of it applies today, we’re in deep doo-doo. If it is a book that progresses, we can equate such verses as quoted above (and many others) to how ancient people viewed life. They were nomadic tribes that were often at war. And so, to them, God was a warrior who would give them victory over their enemies and endorsed their taking captured enemies as slaves. They saw God through the culture of the day. God met them where they were at, but God is not like that.

When Jesus came, he gave us a proper understanding of what God is really like – a saviour that saves and does not kill or destroy.

What about the New Testament?

But even the New Testament is interesting when it comes to slavery. In the Roman Empire of the first century, there were between 70 and 100 million people. About 50% of these were slaves. The economy of the entire Empire was dependent on slavery. Slaves had no legal rights and were the personal property of their masters. Some wealthy Romans owned as many as 20,000 slaves. The master was in complete control of the slaves he owned. Slaves had no right to do as they pleased; they existed to please the master.

The New Testament doesn’t explicitly endorse slavery. It teaches because of slavery’s existence and its fundamental importance to both the economy and the community’s social fabric. And so, in the epistles, we find repeated instructions to Christian slaves and slave owners. Consider 1 Peter 2:18, “You who are slaves must submit to your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel.”

Even Jesus used slavery as an example in some of his parables, something graphically illustrated in the film, “Twelve years a slave,” in which Tanner, the slave owner, reads the Bible to his slaves, using it to impress upon them obedience to the slave owner. He dramatically reads the verse, “And that servant which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” What follows is a brutal scene as Tanner lays the whip repeatedly into one of his slaves’ flesh, all of which are justified by Scripture. Again, if the Bible is a static book, then we have serious considerations.

Abolishing Slavery

If abolitionist, William Wilberforce, were alive in the first century, it would have been impossible for him to have abolished slavery. But, 1800 years later, he could succeed despite opposition from slave owners, businesses, and churches. The 1800s saw the rise of many men and women who began to realise that slavery was wrong. Those who were against them were able to find plenty of Bible verses to say why slavery was acceptable. “The Bible clearly says…!” But overarching themes in Scripture such as the Golden Rule won the day! “Treat others as you want to be treated,” and the Royal Law, “love your neighbour as yourself,” are central ideas in the Bible.

In 1807, King George III signed into law the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, banning trading in enslaved people in the British Empire. In the US, the ratification of the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, led to abolishing slavery in that country.

Today, once again, it is Christian organisations at the forefront of working against this illicit trade. Why Christians? Because we are motivated by a God who, through the teachings of the Bible, has made it clear that his ultimate purpose is for all people’s freedom.

Slavery is just one instance of the Bible’s progressive revelation. I could have chosen women’s rights, interracial marriage, blood sacrifices, war, capital punishment, gender diversity, or any one of dozens of other examples to demonstrate that the Bible is not a static book. I hope this helps you in your reading and study of the Bible. It’s an incredible book that is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) but never static!

I want to make it clear that this blog is not a judgment on America. We have plenty of race-related challenges in Australia, so I’m not about to point the finger at another country.

But right now, the world is watching on in horror at the events in the United States. The brutal murder of George Floyd is just the latest in a string of black people killed by police.

Many of them were going about their daily lives (sleeping, driving, walking, at home) while others had a mental health episode and desperately needed professional help.

Many of them became hashtags that were quickly forgotten by society. So, it’s easy to understand the boiling anger of people who feel unsafe.

The Latest Victim

George Floyd had a criminal past. He’d spent time in jail for a 2007 assault and robbery and convicted of charges ranging from theft of a firearm to drugs.

Several years ago, George Floyd moved to Minneapolis for job placement and a Christian discipleship program. He became a committed Christian and wanted to turn his life around.

Then came the fateful day when George Floyd was accused of handing over a fake $20 bill to buy some cigarettes. It’s unlikely that Floyd knew the bill was fake. The store owner said they would no longer call the cops in similar situations: “Police are supposed to protect and serve their communities; instead, what we’ve seen over and over again is the police abusing their power and violating the people’s trust. We realize now that escalating situations to the police almost always does more harm than good, even for something as harmless as a fake bill.”

The video of Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd is horrendous. People standing around are begging Chauvin to get off his neck. Neither Chauvin nor the other officers do anything, and Floyd falls unconscious.

Chauvin’s wife has filed for divorce; and riots and looting grip America. No doubt there is opportunism going on, but this should not blind us to the deep anger and frustration of many Americans, not just African Americans.

Enter the US President

In the midst of this, the US President had a photo opportunity with a Bible in front of St John’s Church; a little like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned.

Protesters had been cleared from the area using force minutes beforehand.

The cynic in me thinks this was a political ploy to shore up the Evangelical vote that brought him to power four years ago. With a looming election and dismal polling, he needs to do all he can.

The vast majority of Americans are dissatisfied with their president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the riots.

Racial Resentment

According to Ryan Burge (Eastern Illinois University), white evangelical Christians have the highest racial resentment score in the US.

How bizarre that followers of Jesus (and readers of the Bible) should be totally out of whack with his teachings.

But this research sheds some light on why the deep racial divisions thrive even in a profoundly religious country.

One hundred and fifty five years have passed since the 13th Amendment ended slavery, but white superiority and its corresponding prejudice and brutality are alive and well.

The Curse of Ham

Justification for slavery was based on a flawed doctrine called “The Curse of Ham” (Genesis chapter 9).

The story occurs in the context of Noah’s drunkenness and a shameful act perpetrated by Noah’s son Ham, who “saw the nakedness of his father.”

A myth was proclaimed by certain preachers that Ham’s punishment was for his skin to be turned black: “Cursed be Canaan [Ham’s son]. The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers” (Genesis 9:25). This erroneous teaching has justified enslaving black races for hundreds of years; they’re inferior, they’re cursed, and the Bible is clear!

In the 1800’s, George Fitzhugh, an American lawyer and social theorist, argued that African slavery was “expressly and continually justified by Holy Writ [and] natural, normal, and necessary.”

Bishop Stephen Elliott of Georgia, suggested that slavery was beneficial for Africans: “For nearly a hundred years the English and American Churches have been striving to civilize and Christianize Western Africa, and with what result? Around Sierra Leone, and in the neighbourhood of Cape Palmas, a few natives have been made Christians, and some nations have been partially civilized; but what a small number in comparison with the thousands, nay, I may say millions, who have learned the way to Heaven and who have been made to know their Saviour through the means of African slavery! At this very moment there are from three to four millions of Africans, educating for earth and for Heaven in the so vilified Southern States…These considerations satisfy me with their condition, and assure me that it is the best relation they can, for the present, be made to occupy.”

Real Christianity

Contrast this with Frederick Douglass, the American social reformer, abolitionist, and Christian. About American Christianity in the 1800s he wrote: “Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity…”

How profound! I wonder if Frederick Douglass were alive today would he say the same about some sectors of Christianity in America? “I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity…”

A Christian that espouses violence against enemy, clears a crowd with tear gas to hold up a Bible, and is more likely than any other group in society to be resentful of non-white races, is far from the faith taught and modelled by Jesus.

There is no doubt that America has a massive problem on its hands.

What is needed is compassionate leadership, a de-politicised Christianity, and all people seeing all people as equal.

God created everyone in his image (James 3:9-10; Acts 17:28), and everyone has the same remote ancestry. That means every human being is our brother or sister with an equal right to worth, dignity, respect, and justice.