From the gritty to the pretty
Jason Jones’ pro-life ministry takes him from the homeless to Hollywood’s stars . . .
The pain of abortion catapults many people into the pro-life movement and the Catholic Church. Legate Jason Jones is no exception. But when he entered the pro-life movement back in 1989, he was as far from Catholicism as anyone could be.
It all began when Jones was about to turn 17 and he learned that his high school girlfriend was pregnant. Jones joined the U.S. Army to support his young family, and the couple decided to keep the pregnancy a secret until he finished basic training. One day — right before the seventh month of pregnancy — Jones’ girlfriend called him where he was stationed in Fort Benning, Ga. She was crying hysterically. Then her father came on the line and said, “Jason, I know your secret, and your secret’s gone. She had an abortion.”
The news rocked Jones to the core.
“I didn’t even know abortion was legal until my captain told me that it was,” Jones said. “All I knew was that my girlfriend had been coerced into this by her Catholic father.”
Jones immediately became a rabidly anti-Catholic pro-lifer. Heartbroken, he began going door-to-door to talk to people about abortion. When Jones’ captain found out, he told the young solider that he needed a plan — and to work backwards from there.
“So I made a 40-year plan to end abortion,” he said. “I knew I had to go to college if I was going to get anywhere.”
Jones enrolled in the University of Hawaii after getting out of the army and volunteered for Hawaii Right to Life. There Jones began to learn about the pro-life movement and how legislation worked. Jones was a firm atheist in college, but reading Jean Paul Sartre and Friedrich Nietzsche during his final semester challenged him. Both philosophers argued against the existence of God and a transcendental moral order.
“I knew that human beings had incomparable worth, but only if referenced to God,” Jones explained. “This forced me to believe in God and accept Christian anthropology.”
By 1999, Jones began attending a pro-life Evangelical Church in Hawaii, but admits that his “behavior was still that of a pagan and I was only praying intermittently.”
After college, Hawaii Right to Life hired Jones, who eventually became chief of staff for Hawaii state representative Mark Moses. He worked on an effort in 1999 to ban third trimester abortions in the state. Despite a massive petition effort, Moses’ pro-life bill died in committee because the committee head was pro-abortion.
In desperation, Jones remembers praying, “God, if you exist, I don’t see you doing anything. I need three things to believe in you. I need rich, famous and powerful people on our side.”
Jones would live to see God answer his prayer in good time.
By 2001, Jones moved to Virginia to work with Human Life International where he met a number of committed Catholics. He was also reading the Church Fathers in earnest, noticing that all of them were Catholic.
“I was struck by their consistency,” he said. “They believed in apostolic succession and in the Eucharist. I realized that there was no escaping becoming Catholic.”
Jones registered for RCIA in 2002 and entered the Church a year later.
Saving our century
Since becoming Catholic, Jones has been involved in a dizzying array of activities — from producing films to launching numerous efforts to help the poor. His first book, co-authored with Catholic writer John Zmirak, was released last month.
Jones’ first venture into film came in 2006, when he helped produce the award-winning movie Bella , starring Mexican actor and singer Eduardo Verástegui. The pro-life film went on to earn $12 million at the box office and save hundreds of babies from abortion.
Jones was an associate producer for the 2008 film The Stoning of Soraya M , starring Jim Caviezel. His self-produced 2013 pro-life short Crescendo has raised almost $6 million for crisis pregnancy centers. It won 11 international film festival awards, and Justin Bieber’s mother Pattie Mallette was an executive producer.
Now Jones is working on Broken Hearts Sing , a film about the devastation of abortion through the eyes of people working in Hollywood. It’s slated for release in 2016.
“I believe it will be a watershed for the pro-life movement,” Jones said.
Besides making movies and engaging in politics, Jones founded the non-profit group HERO (Human- rights Education and Relief Organization) in 2002 to promote human dignity in all stages of life through international education and relief programs.
Under the HERO umbrella of organizations is Movie to Movement and I Am Whole Life, founded in 2007 to uphold the principles Jones believes are foundational for a just social order: people are made in God’s image, the transcendent moral order, subsidiarity, solidarity, and a humane economy.
I Am Whole Life ministers to the homeless to build an appreciation of the dignity of local homeless communities. It also raises money to provide clean water to the Nuba people in Sudan.
Jones encapsulates his many humanitarian and pro-life efforts in his new book, The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture of Life.
“It’s the result of 18 years of thinking and writing on this subject,” Jones explained. “Its basic premise is that humanity must commit to fundamental moral truths about the human person. I started to write this book while I was still an atheist.”
Sam Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, is one of the book’s biggest fans.
“What’s impressive about the book is that it explains how the failure to understand the truth of the human person produced such devastation in the 20th century,” he said “If we don’t recover the truth of the human person, we’re bound to make similar mistakes in the 21st century.”
The idea of man being made in God’s image — Imago Dei — is a major premise in the book.
“The nature of Imago Dei is that we reflect God’s reason and free will,” Gregg explained. “We are made for communion. If you take this view that human beings are made in the image of God, this radically shifts your view of the unborn and elderly people.”
With Jones now in the 25th year of his 40-year plan to end abortion, his friends and collaborators say we can certainly expect more original projects.
“Jason Jones has what I believe is an essential ingredient — a total, passionate dedication to ending abortion. It is not just one of many passions,” said Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.
“In terms of the movies he has produced, this has made a major contribution to the pro-life movement. We used to talk about this in the past: ‘What if we made a pro-life movie?’ Now we have a whole catalog of them.”
One of the best things about Jones, Fr. Pavone said, is his perseverance — a marvelous quality that anti-slavery movement leaders had.
“Jason Jones is one of those people who has a vision for a project, and he does not let the vision drop until the project is completed — no matter how long it takes.”
SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.