Chocolate cake is based on health food like Sound of Freedom is based on a true story
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If the case is made to you that eating chocolate cake is based on eating health food, would that encourage you to dig into a cake and feel good about what you are doing? The statement is true but deceptive. Chocolate cake will have raw cocoa as an ingredient, although in reality it may have been highly processed. Raw cocoa by itself is a very healthy food, but typical chocolate or a chocolate cake has numerous other ingredients, notably sweeteners that may be highly processed and would probably contribute harm to your health.

So when the case is made to you connecting chocolate cake and health food, it is an attempt to deceive you. Motivations can vary from making money to causing harm. Your willingness to accept the claim can be based on a way to rationalize your food indulgence or give you a feeling that you are doing the right thing.

Creative license in a movie

A rational person should be aware that movies often take “creative license” to deliver a story that is compelling and brings people to the box office. After all these are typically money making ventures. A common theme is to state the movie is “based on a true story”. Notice that it is based on something true, but with creative license it may either contain some fallacy, or be an outright fabrication. It might be chocolate cake.

July 4th is a good day to celebrate with fireworks and a day off, but how many have anything more than a vague idea of what the day marks? Tying something to that date will bring an additional emotional appeal, such as the release of a provocative movie, like Sound of Freedom, which is based on a true store. Or is it chocolate cake bringing in a lot of money and perhaps fueling a problem it claims to fight?

Self-sacrifice or a golden opportunity?

The trailer gives us the impression that a young child asked Tim Ballard to “help me find my sister”, and then shortly thereafter his wife encouraged him to “quit your job and go and rescue those kids”. The many years between those two events is ignored as it would take away from the artificial sweetener of the storyline.

We hear a constant theme of Tim Ballard giving up the security of a high paying job in the government with a lucrative retirement plan for a suggested low pay of a risky non-profit. However, his salary with Operation Underground Railroad was $120,000 in 2014 and grew to $525,958 in 2022. Considering that the US President’s salary is $400,000, it seems he is doing better at a non-profit than his government job. Operation Underground Railroad has numerous investments, such as $43,000,000 with Fidelity Investments. Perhaps there is a retirement plan as good as or outright opulent compared to what he expected from the government?

There have been years of investigations, criminal and otherwise, into Operation Underground Railroad. With connections and backing from public figures like Glen Beck and Melvin Russell Ballard, Jr., those investigations don’t matter. Russell Ballard is part of the LDS Church Quorum of the Twelve, but no relation to Tim Ballard, yet alleged as a silent partner with Operation Underground Railroad.

The reality of human trafficking

Human trafficking is a broad term and can include things that would be considered honorable, such as helping someone escape a country for political asylum. It could be for economic issues which might blur perceptions. It might be to put someone into forced labor for which most will find a clear disgust for. That labor could be farming, mining, textiles, fishing, or sex. While it is appropriate to be concerned about someone forced into sex, does that mean we forego our concern about the others, which is a vastly larger number of people? Maybe we need some creative license to make a movie about that. Maybe serious ones have already been done.

While there is a drama about someone suddenly taken without their will, perhaps transported to a faraway place, and then forcibly used for sex, what is the reality? Even Operation Underground Railroad admits that Sound of Freedom does not depict what human trafficking typically looks like. They state “that Hollywood took creative license” and “most trafficking happens through a manipulative grooming process”. The term “grooming” has become part of our lexicon in relation to things like “Drag Queen Story Hour”, which allows us to think it is over there and something we can avoid. However they also point out the reality is “Predators are soccer coaches and trusted teachers, neighbors across the street, uncles and aunts.” (

Making claims

It is easy to make the claim in the movie trailer that “it is the fastest growing international crime network that the world has ever seen. It has already passed the illegal arms trade and soon it's gonna pass the drug trade.” The claim can be repeated often, but finding evidence to substantiate the claim is more than difficult. Is it reality, or marketing hype? Perhaps the movie itself may encourage some of the audience to go from voyeurism to reality to make the claim self-fulfilling. Are you familiar with the idea of “tell a big lie and repeat it often”?

Is the movie simply the “sizzle” to build a non-profit organization that brings in serious cash to a well paid staff? Paying almost three million dollars to just eight employees might suggest an answer. Is the audience being encourage to address a serious issue in society or being fleeced to line the pockets and boost the ego of a few? Just asking the question might be offensive and the line might come to mind “won't somebody please think of the children?” It becomes all the harder if you have already invested emotions into the movie, seen it, or donated to the organization. It is hard to consider that you may have been suckered.

The proclamation and the reality

Why do people visit big or historical cities? Because they know they are there. Why do your kids want you to take them to Disneyworld? Because they know it is there. Why do people want to go to exotic places, or take on challenges like Mount Everest? Because they know it is there and there is a thrill to accomplish it. Why will there be a growing market for sex tourism? Because thanks to Sound of Freedom, now you know it is there!

What kind of person does it take to be in a government or private sector job to go after sex traffickers? If you do undercover work, or pose as someone in the market for sex in order to catch the trafficker, you cannot come across as someone who is not interested or unwilling to look, touch, or engage in acts that you are allegedly trying to stop. To what degree do you have to destroy yourself in order to justify what you do?

You could state your interest is due to following the Bible’s command in Ephesians 5:11: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Discussing with friends or using the Sound of Freedom movie as a subject for a sermon could give it a lot of “sizzle”. But you must avoid the next verse: “For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.” Shame or sizzle is a hard choice.

When Operation Underground Railroad even states that the predators are your “neighbors across the street”, does it also includes religious leadership? This is easy to find in major institutions, but if you look you can probably find it in your community. It is so much easier, and has more “sizzle” when we look at those people over there. But the Bible tell us in 1st Corinthians 5:12: ‘For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."’ What does or should religious leadership do? What do you see lived out in front of you? Perhaps Matthew 23:3: “For they preach, but do not practice.”

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