Films from Eszterhas’ screenplays have grossed over one billion box office dollars. Time Magazine once called him “America’s king of sex and violence.” Jack Valenti, the late head of the Motion Picture Association, once labeled him “desperately ill and in need of medical attention.”
Once Hollywood’s highest-paid screenwriter, Eszterhas has said he’s “been a bad boy all my life. I was the king-daddy of sex and violence, the wild hair, the rogue elephant, the drinking, drugging, wild man, the cocaine cowboy.”
Eszterhas’ Hungarian childhood included almost five years in refugee camps. Acutely poor, he ate pine-needle soup and suffered from rickets. Smoking and alcohol use begun in youth haunted his adulthood. He had surgery for throat cancer; medical experts warned that continued substance use would kill him. With a family he cherished, Joe was desperate to live. But he couldn’t relinquish his addictions.
Finally, feeling hopeless, sobbing alone on a curb, “I cried and begged God to help me,” Eszterhas writes. “I hadn't prayed since I was a boy. I had made fun of God and those who loved God in my writings. And now, through my sobs, I heard myself asking God to help me … and from the moment I asked, He did.”
“I didn't at first understand why He did. I didn't deserve His help, I thought. I was unworthy. I ignore Him for forty years and then suddenly I ask Him to help me and He does? It took me some time to understand that God helped me because He loves me. Because even though we don't deserve God's love, God loves us – all of us.”
Eszterhas replaced his excesses with prayer and long walks. He’s written a memoir, Crossbearer, “as a thank-you to God. Not just for saving my life, but for saving me.”
The front of the book quotes this New Testament statement: “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Faith, peace, access, hope; sounds as if it could be Eszterhas’ new personal theme.
Will It Last?
Road to Damascus? Perhaps. Skeptics watch. Some feel he’s just swung from one emotional excess to another. But it has been seven years. His wife, Naomi, says the transformation has been gradual but real. It appears to be lasting. They’re living in Ohio, raising their sons and continuing to give thanks:
“I am witness to and the beneficiary of God's love for all of us,” Joe writes. “I am witness, too, to the fact that His love is so strong that it was even able to open my rusty old closed heart.”
“I will thank Him forever because He gave me new life and a heart which is truly able to love for the first time in my life. His love is mine.”
A hopeful postscript: Eszterhas says his throat surgeon has pronounced him “cured.” The man who removed about eighty percent of Joe’s larynx says the tissue has regenerated such that evidence of the cancer is gone. The surgeon called it “a miracle.”
Amazing medical development. Amazing life changes. Amazing grace.
Father Luis MontesAn Argentinian priest caring for the Catholic community in Baghdad says the faith of persecuted Iraqi Christians is moving and will continue inspiring future believers for generations. “The number of martyrs the Middle East is giving to the world is amazing. It is not well known but it will be in many years, and we will speak of them like we do of the acts of the martyrs of the early years of Christianity,” Father Luis Montes told Christian charity Aid to the Church in Need. “The faith they have despite the persecution is moving, as well as their sensitivity towards others,” he added, noting their profound devotion to the Virgin Mary. Christians and other minorities in parts of Iraq are being strongly persecuted by ISIS, a Sunni Islamist group that calls itself the Islamic State. After emerging earlier this year as one of the rebel groups fighting in the Syrian civil war, ISIS spread its operations to Iraq, taking control of Mosul and swaths of territory in the country's north and west. ISIS has imposed a strict version of Islamic law in its territory that mandates conversion, payment of a jizya tax, or death for Christians and other minorities who refuse to submit. Hundreds of thousands have fled due to the violence. Despite the terror that has overtaken their lives, Fr. Montes said the Christians in Iraq have remained firm in their faith. He cited the example of a Christian family in Qaraqosh harassed by jihadists and unable to flee. “The terrorists pressure them every day to convert to Islam. Their very neighbors insult them and treat them with scorn, and they can’t even leave their own home to buy food, which they are running out of. They cannot leave because they won’t let them, or because they are afraid the mother will be killed.” “One day, a group of terrorists entered the family’s home and they told them directly that they were going to take the mother away and make her some soldier’s slave. This is the frightening and terrible reality these people are experiencing and yet nevertheless they remain firm in their faith,” the priest explained. In his post on the website Friends of Iraq, Fr. Montes also discussed his own commitment to serving the people of the country. “The phrase I always say is: ‘I am not worthy to serve these people’,” explained the priest, who is a member of the Institute of the Word Incarnate. “This nation is giving martyrs. Almost all the people I know in Iraq and in other countries of the Middle East know a family member killed out of hatred for the faith,” he said. “Others have suffered direct persecution or discrimination. For us it is an honor to serve these people.” “Lord knows what He will ask of me in the future but as for me I would like to serve here my entire life.” Fr. Montes also expressed the appreciation of the faithful in Baghdad for Pope Francis, who recently sent his personal envoy Cardinal Fernando Filoni to convey his closeness to them. “This is very important to the Christians in Iraq. He conveyed the Holy Father’s care for these people and for us it is a great consolation. We pray for him.” The priest said the solution to the current crisis will require “humanitarian aid on a grand scale,” as the aid sent so far has been insufficient, as well as through intervention from the international community to stop the jihadists and cut off their financial sources. “If this is not done urgently, the cruelty, the murders and the deaths are going to go on for a long time,” he warned. More information about Friends of Iraq, the organization that Fr. Montes works with, can be found on their website, as well as their facebook page.,