An Open Letter To Truly ‘Courageous’ Storytellers
(Breaking the Human Nature series, just for this week, to explore this broader Story issue.)
To my brothers in the faith, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, and any other brother or sister from the Sherwood Baptist Church (Albany, Georgia) film ministry, Sherwood Pictures:
I write as an admirer and simultaneous critic of your movies, specifically Fireproof and Courageous, both of which I’ve seen.
On Sept. 26, 2008, my girlfriend and I bought tickets on the very debut night of Fireproof. Inside the theater, filled with Baptists (they love bringing their big white church vans to the movie the-ay-ter!), we enjoyed the film. Many moments made us laugh or be gripped, just as a good story should do. Of course, the theme of “fireproofing your marriage” got through blazing hot, and in fact, the very next day, I proposed to the woman who’s now my wife. Of course, I had already been planning that, but still, the film’s theme helped set the mood.
Just last Sunday, there we were again, surrounded by Baptists, and viewing Courageous. As God-delighters and movie-enjoyers, we were glad to find that you have gotten even better at your craft. Funny moments were funnier, sobering moments more sobering. The story was more complex, the conversion scene more subtle, the acting definitely improved.
Action scenes were better than the gripping car-on-the-train-tracks scene from Fireproof. The bad guys, even though they never cussed, were clearly bad. Cops chased and pounded them. Realistic. At times — and especially for a Sherwood Picture — almost “edgy.”
I’m an aspiring novelist. I enjoy exploring Story from a Biblical worldview. I help run a blog, Speculative Faith, about such topics — especially visionary stories like fantasy and sci-fi. Many of my friends have similar missions: to craft and enjoy stories for God’s glory.
Because we are all characters in God’s true-life Epic Story, the Gospel. Because God Himself in His Word, both implicitly (with beauty in His writing craft) and explicitly (Old Testament literature and Jesus’ parables), endorses manmade, fictitious art and Story. Because unlike nonfiction, only Story can uniquely apply and “simulate” truth in imagined experiences.
Story has power. I think you folks realize this. And in making stories, you have power.
And this is not of yourself. It is God’s gift — the gift of imagination, of “imaging” Him and His truths even when we don’t know it. Nonbelievers can stumble across this, thanks to common grace (as when Paul in Acts 17 quoted a Greek poet who accidentally echoed truth). Yet only Christians discern beauty’s and truth’s spiritual Source (1 Cor. 2:14).
So how come, in both Fireproof and Courageous, you seemed to forget the power of Story?
Example: The quiet opening of Courageous quickly turns thrilling — a man chases his own car, stolen by a crook, and hangs out the vehicle’s window as it careens down the road. Later a stunning moment reveals the reason why the driver was so desperate not to let the crook get away, and shows us something about the character.
But then, seconds after, we catch up with other main characters, sheriff’s deputies. They blatantly ask each other if they could have done the same thing, and for the same reasons.
Seeing as how my point is — to give it away — overstating the case, here’s Example Two. A man in grief after a family tragedy is slowly beginning to recover. Already the audience can tell this is happening, and up until now it’s been (mostly) realistically yet cinematically shown. But already the story begins to overdo it by showing the man arriving at a place he’s been before. There his daughter had once asked him to dance with her, but he had declined. Now he is reenacting that dance. He looks happy. The music is whimsical and the scene almost already becomes schmaltzy. But then he has to start praying, aloud, acting well — but over-explaining to the point of audience-participation squirming.
Might as well flick up a white sign inscribed with the words I Am Now Experiencing Healing.
It’s not just my Story-enjoying snarky friends who’d moan at that, or the movie’s altar-call ending in a church. (Yes, that’s how it ends.) Fellas: everyone got the point! Subtlety is great. You even practiced this yourself in the movie’s well-done (yet obligatory) witnessing scene. So how come the movie bends over backwards to make other things excruciatingly clear?
If God had put His main point in the Bible like this, every book, even chapter, would repeat John 3:16. We’d have no Psalms, no Song of Solomon, no Ecclesiastes, no “he who has an ear to hear, let him hear,” as announced by Jesus as a challenge to explore His parables’ truths.
By contrast, all of Courageous is obviously about Fatherhood. That’s how it’s been sold to Christians. Not “this is the story of four men who band together to protect their families as they protect their city.” Not “this is a story about how men from different paths come together on their mission.” Instead: “This movie is about a Virtue. Give your Support.”
Sure, Christians are great Supporters. It’s instinctive. We are Support Zombies.
But is that the point of a movie? The point of any story? Support it ‘cause it Proves a Point?
Evidently God didn’t think so, in His Word. And in many ways, you don’t think so either. PluggedIn.com quoted one of you gents, Alex Hendrick, from a 2008 interview. You said:
“There are two views [about making Christian movies]. One is that you should let the art speak for itself and let people infer from it what God wants to say. The other view involves using the art to present the gospel in no uncertain terms so that people won’t miss it. There’s a place for both. God has called us to a certain style of filmmaking, and we’re going to stay true to that. Our goal is for it to be natural but clear. We want to have a solid gospel message so intertwined in the plot that it never feels like we’re pausing the movie to preach to the audience.”
That’s fantastic. I’m grateful you’ve thought this out, and — unlike other Christians — do see that Christian filmmakers, and storytellers, have more than one option. And in this, I’m trying to be careful not to expect more from Courageous than you intended to give.
But while much of the film did seem “natural but clear,” the parts I described just weren’t.
The truth-based themes that any great story should Show were frozen to a halt while we were Told about fatherhood, the need to be courageous, and about how God will somehow, someday tell daddy and his teen daughter whom she’ll marry(?). [Biblical citation needed.] We also saw slow pans over the print Resolution the fathers sign to do better jobs at home — and that very afternoon I was stunned to find that framed Resolutions are available at Christian bookstores near you. (The daddy/daughter scene Purity Ring® truly did surprise me.)
That’s one viewer’s perspective, about your own stated goals. But I also encourage this:
As you practice better Story craft, consider trusting the power of Story. Trust it to do what it does best, without dragging seemingly federally required Churchy Content into it.
Christians should hate it when people base church services on entertainment.
They should also dislike when people base entertainment on church services.
Ultimately, doing so doesn’t trust God — the Author Who gave us the Word that itself is sufficient, and gives us all the clear spiritual truths we need.
Ladies and gentlemen of Sherwood Pictures, or any aspiring Christian movie-maker: if we truly believe that, this is freeing! We don’t need to feel guilty if specific calls to repentance and faith aren’t in a movie. We don’t need to think, subconsciously: Scripture isn’t enough; people also need stories to put Bible truths in their minds. Instead, we can fulfill the purpose of Story: to bring others into a truthful, beautiful simulated reality, an experience, that takes us outside ourselves and helps us glorify God our Creator, our story’s Author.
I have hopes for Sherwood’s next film. I hope it will show you’ve led others in deepening your filmmaking craft, simulating Gospel-based living in stories that will honor God and the gifts He gives us.
E. Stephen Burnett
It’s important to remember that in any fiction, whether movie, book, or tv show.
Ouch. I had thought about picking up Courageous, but if it preaches that bad, I’ll just pick up a random Christian fiction book off the shelf at Berean. They all do the same thing.
I wish that, just once, these Christian movies would realize that they’re preaching to the choir about this, and just tell a good story.
….wut. They SAY that?
*hears echoes of I Kissed Dating Goodbye*
Yep. A very clear expectation stated, in those words.
Hmm, actually, I’m not sure IKDG ever said that. In fact, it said very little about what “method” a mostly-marriage-ready person should use to find a spouse. It just exposed some faults of directionless, teen dating. Thus, Harris wrote Boy Meets Girl later, which was much better, and even after that he revised both books a few times to clarify things and make the material more Gospel-based.
But maybe you’ve read one version of IKDG more recently? For me, it’s been a while.
I read IKDG over and over to punish myself whenever I developed a crush on my guy friend who I later married. Hee hee.
You’re right, it’s Boy Meets Girl that espouses the whole courtship thing. But while I agree with it in theory, I read in later years that people took it to this weird extreme where the guy wound up courting the father more than he did the girl, sometimes not even being allowed to interact with her at all on dates. So that remark about ‘God showing the girl and daddy who she will marry’ just waves a little red flag in my head.
Sorry, this is going off topic really quickly. :-p
I saw Courageous a few days ago, and my reaction was much the same as Stephen’s. Sherwood is making some progress on the showing vs. telling front, and they haven’t lost their sense of humor. They can’t seem to break free of the sermon on the screen formula, though.
They also have a tendency build their films around Today’s Urgent Male Problem. In Fireproof, it was Inattentive Husbands (and pornography). In Courageous, it’s Inattentive Fathers (and overwork). To their credit, the male characters were more complex this time. Instead of a screwed-up lead character, we had a lead who actually had his life pretty well squared-away–but of course, he wasn’t doing enough. The supporting characters were struggling with a variety of issues, and not all of them were fixed at the end. The women were cardboard cut-outs, the Tearfully Supportive Wife or Daddy’s Little Angel. There was an anonymous female police officer, and it would have been nice to make her more than a token or afterthought.
The whole promise ring thread made me a little twitchy. I can do my best to protect my daughter and provide her sound counsel, but at some point I have to accept the fact that what goes on in her heart is between her and God, and I can’t decide for her. Committing to sexual purity before marriage is a good and noble thing, but the parent can’t make it happen. A young girl has to make that sort of commitment herself, of her own volition.
I’ve seen some Christian friends take this a step further and engage in what effectively are arranged marriages for their children. I wonder at what point, if ever, they’re going to let go and allow their children to take adult responsibility for their own decisions and actions.
I haven’t seen Courageous, but what bugged me about Fireproof was:
1. They backed *off* subjects such as porn and other things that really should’ve been treated, and,
2.The husband was an inattentive bonehead, sure, but the wife actually started an affair, but she’s treated as if she’s innocent. It’d be one thing, I suppose, if she just didn’t pick up the other doctor was hitting on her, but she did. She responded to it and she encouraged it.
Addendum: Good lords, what’s the point of a bulleting option if it isn’t working? 😛
Kaci: I agree that the treatment of underlying problems was superficial in Fireproof, and though Courageous does a little better, there were so many “issue” threads floating around that many of them got a similar bandaid fix.
As to the affair, I’ll probably need to see one more Sherwood movie to confirm this (once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is a trend), but there seems to be a sort of iconization of women going on. All the Really Big Problems are laid at the feet of men, and if a woman has a problem, some man pushed her into it, so it isn’t really her fault. In Courageous, the women don’t have any problems, they just have to hold down the fort for their men (and get them to sign that covenant).
I know of more than one story where a wife has shown Fireproof to their husbands to knock out their wish list before running off with another man, and simultaneously blaming the first husband for not keeping her from having an affair.
Ayyy-men, Fred. I just had to repeat that.
And I can say that, as an honorary Baptist, in honor of the Courageous team’s efforts.
This is why such propaganda parts bother me, not just because they add needless Telling when the story’s Showing is already doing fine enough, thank you very much — it’s because this is frankly a false promise.
Yes, Fatherlessness is a bad problem, and probably the most socially prevalent one when compared with the one I’ll point out. Yet I’m also quite aware of what Fred said above: that no matter how sincere and Godly and involved and loving and gracious and Gospel-driven a father is, a daughter or son must embrace Christ’s Gospel and resulting holiness for him- or herself. You can do all you like, as a parent, and still fail; or you can fail, and watch spellbound as God takes one’s failings and uses them anyway!
Too often people take verses like Proverbs 22:6 as an absolute promise: If you do your best at parenting, your children will follow after God and turn out well. Others who’ve studied that Scripture, know the genre of Proverbs, and can testify from personal experience that it doesn’t always “work,” say otherwise! (One of the best recent articles about this was by Daniel Darling at TGC: Do Not Neglect the Holy Spirit in Parenting.)
Alas, these subtle mindsets — that if it’s God’s will, my kid will agree with me almost always, and the relationship direction will always be clear — can pop up even amidst those who are certain they want to have nothing to do with “arranged marriage.” …
One of our little faith fetishes (also the title of an upcoming series) in evangelical fiction — often disguised as nonfiction! — is the ideal of the Perfect God-Directed Courtship and Wuv and Mawwiage. Perhaps folks are trying to catch up on some “sovereignty” ideas that they’ve left out elsewhere? If so, it’s a well-intended by flawed effort: God leaves these decisions to our own meaningful free choice and never promises in Scripture to find your a husband/wife by telling you, and/or your father/parents, who it will be.
Anyway, I’m saddened that myth got repeated in Courageous, but like others above, didn’t want to focus on it too much in this piece. Neither did I want to focus on the baldly false statement in the end-movie altar-call scene when a man said directly that a man’s hobby or job has no eternal value; only how he treats his family does. Whuh?!
Movie-sermonizing can be bothersome enough, even when the sermon is true. Adding questionable folk-theology in there doesn’t help matters …
By the way, Fred, perhaps this counts as a “Speculative Love” discussion, relocated?
A few positive things, in reaction to Fred‘s reactions — which, by the way, encouraged me that I wasn’t just trying to be too optimistic about the film!
I did notice that not everything ended cleanly, as a stereotypical Christian story — especially a movie — almost always does. The movie did kind of head-fake that clean ending, though, by having all those guys stand up in the church to Pledge Their Lives (another faith fetish that has infected our fiction, often in the guise of nonfiction).
Yeah … in my view, they need to work on that.
I believe it was another commentator here, elsewhere, who said that what miffed him most about Fireproof was the wife getting away with flirting with another guy. Yes, I would agree, a husband should lead, and if a wife genuinely isn’t getting his loving attentions and support at home, it’s a reason — not an excuse — for her to be attracted elsewhere. But, it’s actually a form of subtle chauvinism to act as if the husband is held to a higher standard than a wife (just as it’s subtle feminism for a woman to hold a husband to lower standards than those of women; a similar principle applies to race).
(Quick edit, after my simulpost with Kaci) …
The commentator I referenced must have been you.
Back to Fred:
That was a nice touch. Apparently in the the Sherwood-verse, women do have other tasks besides happy homemaking. (I’m not opposed to happy homemaking or saying it’s inferior, just acknowledging how our world looks now-a-days.) But it would be great in a future movie to explore more life-complexities from a woman’s side of things.
Speaking of different types of people and diversity, by the way — did anyone notice that Courageous‘ black actors were always the most fantastic actors?
Stephen: Speaking of different types of people and diversity, by the way — did anyone notice that Courageous‘ black actors were always the most fantastic actors?
Yeah, I admire the way they’ve un-selfconsciously brought racial and ethnic diversity into their films, with strong actors, without trying to make a point about it. It just is. However, about the time I was beginning to wonder if all the criminals in this little Georgia town were black gang-bangers, they busted some white drug dealers, and I can’t help but think that was on purpose.
It might have helped to show a few more routine police activities–traffic control, pulling cats out of trees, etc. I liked how construction worker Javier and his family were brought into the police officers’ story, and the scene in the back of the patrol car was priceless.
The pep rally at the end fell flat for me, because, like the promise ring, it was coerced. Stand up if you’re with us. Who’s going to stay seated in that room, whether they mean it or not? Maybe somebody needs to actually read that document first before committing to it. By not standing up, they’ve instantly identified themselves as Part of the Problem. They came to witness a significant and praiseworthy event, and found themselves in a spiritual litmus test.
Haha. Yeah. Though I know Jeremy’s had similar feelings.
Not just miffed. I felt like it almost undermined the whole theme of the story. However, the main character’s confrontation of the doctor at the end was a much enjoyed scene. (There’s plenty I did like about Fireproof – I just wished they’d teased some things out more. ) My real issue was the movie’s subtle message that the wife’s actions were not equally sinful.
I think in that case leadership wasn’t even the issue. The man was mentally and emotionally absent, and I can’t recall seeing too much effort on her part either (because women *will* shut off and/or redirect their emotional and mental investments, too, if they realize it’s just not going to happen – be it a marriage or any other relationship; it’s self-preservation mode – that’s just human nature irrespective of gender).
You just can’t genuinely explore the issue of addiction to pornography in a PG movie. That’s one of the first mistakes they made with Fireproof.
Christian – Point made. I just thought it was weird to mention it and never expand on it. I got over that one pretty quickly. It was the other that really bothered me.
I laughed when I saw: [Biblical citation needed.] 🙂
This could be used beneficially over a lot of the Christian sites on the internet…
I must admit, Kristy, that I got the idea from this:
Same thing with the audience in the movie theater.
But I’m one of those grumpy Christians who thinks those types of “pep really” stunts are at best unnecessary, at worst manipulative, during a local-church service.
I haven’t seen either of the movies in question, but after listening to the discussion, I’m wondering if this last one isn’t suffering from not having a woman on the writing team. Perhaps the writers don’t actually see the complexities of women today or perhaps they were writing to their imagined ideal. Another possibility is that they think women’s issues have been done to a significant degree in novels and self-help books, so it’s time to put the focus on men.
If they are learning as they go, and it certainly sounds as if they are, perhaps these things will also work themselves out.
Hope so. I like the effort.
And unlike you, Stephen, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in wanting to go to a movie because it tells the truth about something I believe in. I’m referring here to this line in your article: “But is that the point of a movie? The point of any story? Support it ‘cause it Proves a Point?” I’m absolutely happy to support a piece of fiction that proves something I hold dear. I don’t want it to do so badly, but I don’t need, or want, the movie creators to pretend that there is no theme. That’s the problem novelists got into, and it still hasn’t sorted itself out — while the anti-God writers happily fill their stories with all their anti-God themes, and make no apology for it. In fact they celebrate it with things such as a list of the top 100 best novels with gay characters.
Meanwhile Christian writers are stubbing our toes trying to get out from under the accusation of having something to say!
I for one am happy this movie had something to say and let people know it. May they improve in the execution without backing away from a clear purpose.
As a Christian, I was disappointed that the “message” being preached wasn’t Gospel-based but Moralism-based. Not that I think every Christian film has to contain the Four Spiritual Laws as such, but that I think Moralism is the opposite of the Gospel, and that’s what they were preaching: “You need to be a better person, so do this and do that and do the other, and in fact here’s a checklist of things to do. And if you don’t follow all the rules, now you’re in trouble because you’re Doubly Accountable.”
If Christian filmmakers are so committed to preaching a message, it’s unfortunate that it isn’t, well, frankly, a Christian message. “You have a Heavenly Father who loves you, and when you are secure in that unconditional love, you can give that love to your children the same way our Father loves His Son.” You could even frame that, if you must.
As a film fan– Let’s face it. The Incredibles has just as much substance about the importance of being a good dad, and it’s got a magnificently plotted script, believable characters, strong women, and is an unmitigated joy to watch. Courageous lost me the moment they put the voiceover on top of the dancing scene. They have a perfect opportunity to show us what’s going on inside the character, but they had to explain it point by point in case we didn’t get all the maudlin callbacks. No: He dances, there’s only music, fade to back. And end right there, because that’s where the story ended.
As I hope I clarified above, I don’t wish to impute on Courageous, or any other story, my expectations for what I believe its goals should have been. For instance, if they said directly that they weren’t trying to make a just-art-that-doesn’t-preach-at-all story, I’d try to discern and enjoy the result based on that goal.
However, I would argue along with Becky that every story preaches in some way — either poorly or more naturally. I’d also join Courageous’s fiercer fans in opposing indiscriminate “it’s preachy” critics, who seem to think any time a secular critic cries “preachy” those preachy Christians need to tone it back. I do see those reactions happening, and Christians falling for the bluff. Sometimes “stop being so preachy, just tell the story” really means “stop being so Christian, and just entertain me, if that,” while also giving secular indoctrination a free ride into the brain.
At the same time, the filmmakers themselves said they wanted to include Christian themes clearly but naturally. And I believe the overstatements of the case — Telling, when Showing was already doing fine — didn’t help.
It’s confusing the role of storytelling by individual Christians, which simulate Biblical truth, and the role of the local church/preacher to proclaim Biblical truth.
About Eric‘s notes about the film’s seeming moralism: I think a Christian story can, if it’s not imitating the Epic Story of Scripture, explore how Gospel fruits play out in simulated realities. In that same, the Gospel is “assumed” as the foundation, giving the author/movie-maker the freedom to explore its results. Scripture itself in its “smaller” stories (and in, say, the Psalms) does this. Yet I did note some post-salvation moralism in the film, even if I didn’t address it in the Open Letter — not so much overt “legalism” but rather a “okay, you’re saved, and now it’s up to you; you’re Accountable” theme.
At this point, it’s mainly up to Christians to understand this more directly, in nonfiction contexts. Yet though I don’t wish to violate my own expectations, based on the words of the filmmakers, for the story to include its Christian themes honestly, directly and yet naturally, I think there could have been ways to clarify — as Fireproof did — that the Christian characters are relying not on their own efforts and righteousness, but Christ’s.
Otherwise we reinforce that faith-fetish of “just make a big Commitment, on paper or on church, and follow through with it, and eventually your life gets sorted out.”
Yes, we need to be courageous in those ways, but ultimately, as the film itself said, hard challenges will come that put us to the test. At that point, though, unlike the film said, it’s not our own pledges/efforts/vows that we draw upon, but Christ’s, as Eric said.
I’ve seen secular movies that preach hard, and I hate, hate, hate it. Look at Avatar. One long sermon about the evils of Capitalism, the American Military, and civilization, while the Noble Savage is held up as the Ultimate Perfection.
Gag me with a fork.
I couldn’t read all the comments. Sorry. They were inciting me to sin and curse at my screen.
The ones I read were trashing the movie pretty heavily, so I’ll tell you what I loved about it.
There were things I thought could have been improved. But the thing I hated most about that movie was that as I was walking out of the theater, blowing my nose, and hearing my son say, “That was such a good movie,” I knew that within 48 hours there would be criticism burning up the Internet.
What happened to loving our neighbors? Have any of you written to the men and offered to critique their screen plays? Have any of you written privately telling them you appreciate their efforts and asking if there is some way you can help them? How many of you have prayed for them regularly, asking God to give them great skill so that his name would be exalted when their movies blow away all the godless crap in the theaters.
I believe that Steve Jobs said technology doesn’t change the world. We’re all singing his praises because he invented some technology. No offense to Mr. Jobs, but his iPhone will be burned up with wood and stubble. It is a great tool and I use it. But it has no eternal value.
I wonder if Sherwood movies will be burned with the stubble up or if your criticisms will be. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.
I offer a challenge. Let’s all commit to pray for the Sherwood movie-makers once a week until the next movie comes out. Then let’s go to the movie and see if it’s any better. And if it is, we’ll know that the failings of these earlier movies were as much our fault as anyone’s.
Your take-away from the movie seems similar to mine. Honestly, there was plenty to criticize in the movie, from a story telling perspective, casting perspective, acting perspective, but making a movie ain’t easy and these are the little guys. So, I feel more inclined to support what I feel are their very sincere efforts, and to praise the parts I felt were praiseworthy…because there were a lot of those too. I think Sherwood’s pretty brave and courageous for doing what they’re doing. Are they going to get it all right? No, they’re human. But life is a process.
No bullets and then I spent several minutes editing it and when I was done I was told I didn’t have permission to edit.
Sorry my comment is so hard to read.
If we didn’t think these folks were doing something worthy and significant, we wouldn’t bother critiquing it–we’d turn our attention to the latest Doctor Who episode or whatever. We talk about what we care about. I don’t think anybody here wants Sherwood to fail, and those of us who’ve seen the film have identified both strong and weak points in the presentation–that’s the difference between a hatchet job and a critique. I enjoyed the movie and was pleased to see the growth in production quality and storytelling. I watched it with my family, and we all had a good, uplifting time. No argument there.
The purpose of this forum is to talk about the intersection of speculative fiction and Christian faith, and sometimes that discussion overflows into other areas of popular culture. There will always be areas where we think a writer or filmmaker could have done better, and talking about those isn’t malicious, hateful, or unloving–it’s all of us processing the experience and trying to make sense of what we’ve seen or read. As you said, it looks like the folks at Sherwood have taken some of the critiques of their prior movies and applied them to make Courageous better. This is the same process. We want that improvement to continue, for God’s glory.
Fred, if we would spend as much praying for them as we spend criticizing them I wonder what God would do. God uses the foolish things to shame the wise. In the end, most of the really fine art we love will be reduced to ash.
Maybe I just have to quit reading some of the blogs. I am tired of people swallowing camels and straining gnats. Hurrah for Firefly. Yes, I love that show. But the prostitute is a fine woman and the preacher is a humanist. It calls evil good and good evil. So that one’s going to burn up and Joss Whedon will probably burn up with it. Has anyone prayed for his salvation this week? We love him so much. Enough to pray for him?
But when he dies everyone will tell him to rest in peace as they are now telling Steve Jobs to do. Jobs was a Buddhist. Why one earth are Christians telling him to rest in peace?
When did being a brilliant inventor or a brilliant athlete or a brilliant screenwriter make someone a better man and more worthy of praise than being a Christian trying to engage your culture and working hard at speaking truth to a church full of Christians who aren’t really saved?
I’m not asking you to say a movie is good when it’s not good. I’m not saying that we should pretend Jobs and Whedon aren’t brilliant. I’m asking if maybe we’ve all been deceived and made art, and good looks, and intelligence into idols?
What movie do you think God likes better? Courageous or Serenity?
Serenity will be ash. Courageous is not ash. It is not great art, but God doesn’t put as much value on art as we do, I’m pretty sure. He’s quite able to give those men all the skill they need to make great movies if he wants. But he’s also able to use the weak things to shame the strong and the poor things to shame the rich. And I’m pretty sure that Courageous puts Serenity to shame.
Hey Sally, so sorry about the editing issues! I hope I managed to repair the formatting — not sure why it would have rejected your previous bullet additions.
I also hope that, while I wanted to evaluate the film less like a church project — though I know it is — and more like the more-and-more-professionally-done movie it’s meant to be — that my “open letter” was fair. While some may be embarrassed about a Christian movie being Christian at all (or wrongly calling that “preachy”), I haven’t seen that here, though. Maybe I missed it? But regardless, I hope you didn’t hear that in my open letter.
My hope is indeed to encourage the filmmakers, knowing they know way more about this craft now than I do, yet knowing what I as a viewer saw.
As a side-note, I do have some theological critiques. Iron sharpens iron, eh wot?
I’d contest the idea that the iPhone has no eternal value — which, oddly enough, was also echoed in the film’s ending scene. In an otherwise excellent “sermon,” the lead character said that one’s hobby or job had no eternal value. 🙂 Hmm. Well, just as I’d question a false idea in a secular movie I otherwise enjoy, I think I can do that here also. Not sure where in the Bible that concept comes from, but it seems to be based on an idea that God only redeems human souls, and not His whole creation, and will have absolutely no carryover from this physical old Earth into the New Earth.
My $.02 on that one! Methinks that if Christians truly thought that, though, we’d not need to make any movies, or have any job ambition. (And as for writing novels and stories that honor Christ, pfffft!) Implicitly with their actions, the Sherwood geniuses disproved that statement: their well-done Showing in the film outshone the Telling!
I loved when he danced in the field and asked God to tell her he carried his half of the dance.
You think we will have iPhones in the New Earth?
I’m pulling the verses out of context, I know, when I say things will be burned up. I shouldn’t have done that.
But I don’t see what your point is about Christians not writing books or making movies. I can shine shoes for God’s glory and my shoe-shining can have eternal value if I use it as a way to speak the the gospel to people. But the shoe-shining itself? Doesn’t matter at all. I have to do a good job because love and giving fair value to the customers both have eternal value. But shoe shining has no intrinsic value. God doesn’t care if I’m a plumber or an electrician. He wants me to do a good job at whatever I work at.
Neither does the iPhone. It’s a neutral thing. It can be used to send encouragement to a friend or to view porn. It has no value at all. What we do with it has value.
If we didn’t have the iPhone we could still send encouragement to friends and view porn. It really hasn’t changed our lives at all. It hasn’t changed us at our root. We are sinners called to be holy and the iPhone has nothing to do with any of that. It cannot make us sin and it cannot make us holy. So what eternal value does it have?
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but have seen their others. While I agree that Sherwood’s talents are improving I also accept that we as audience have varying levels of perception. Please keep in mind that writers are, hopefully, people with a more developed sense of story than others. If it takes a bit less subtlety to get to particular audience groups they why should the Christians who already “get it” complain? Not only does the bible say “Blessed are the meek” it adds “Thou shalt not kill”. Subtlety isn’t always the answer.
I also accept that story may not be the only goal here. Think of the movies as a sales presentation to the gospel; they provide the story as marketing and then like a good salesman they include a call to action. If the screen people wonder if they would have done the same thing it probably inspires the audience to wonder the same thing. If there are blatant moments of “What are you going to do about it?” in the movie then I feel some of us are more likely to remember and actually do something about it. I still recall scenes from Flywheel and Facing the Giants in ways that encourage me to be a better Christian.
Some replies to Sally, which I hope will prove thoughtful and helpful:
My response to that was mainly that of one attempting-creative-guy to another’s work — similar to when you appreciate a really great novel by a Christian, but one part you sincerely believe could have been rendered more powerfully. That’s a more-subjective response. My thoughts about some of the film’s espoused doctrines — minor points, when compared with its orthodoxy — are likely easier to back up more Biblically.
Or something like it. This is based on a general Biblical principle of continuity, from this world to the next. The New Earth will be paradise restored, even better because no one will ever want to rebel again (been there, done that, got saved, love my King more!).
Human bodies will be physical bodies, not omnipresent like God’s, and I almost don’t even want to hope we’d be able to communicate telepathically or “apparate,” say, from New York to New Jerusalem. (It would be more fun to develop technology for that, or experience it more rarely as a miracle.) From that, I figure we’ll need things like cell phones, cell towers and satellites. And I ask: will we need to start from scratch? Or will there be tech leftovers, first developed even by people who rejected God but knew how to do good things (Matt. 7:11) and still partly fulfilled the creation mandate (Gen. 2) to do great things and develop the Earth? Even if we presume God counts all their stuff as worth nothing, I think it would only take one Christian engineer, one developer, to “salvage” the iPhone’s or any other product’s designs and re-create them for His glory.
I didn’t think anything of it. I still need to remember that it’s a misinterpretation of 2 Peter 3:10, but it makes some sense because some manuscripts say burned up — contrary to Paul’s assurances elsewhere, though, and physical-New-Earth promises.
Note: “exposed,” as in, laid bare, purified — the fire God uses to blast the old Earth is not an annihilating nuclear storm, but a refining fire.
And as you yourself pointed out, do we really believe that even physical, “unspiritual” stuff like good movies have eternal value, if we don’t pray for their success as eagerly as we’d pray for God to help us with such-and-such Ministry or for someone to be healed?
That’s what bugged me, not necessarily about what you said, but the similar lines said in the film. I’m quite sure I heard them overtly say that your hobby or your job has no eternal value. And I cringed — not only because that’s frankly unsupported, especially for the Christian for whom everything is ministry even when he’s not overly preaching — but because the film itself so wonderfully showed that about these men’s jobs. (So if the storytellers truly believed that had no value, why show how cool it was and how well the men did their jobs and made them into ministries even when they weren’t clearly witnessing John 3:16-style? Just a gimmick to get to the “good stuff”? I hope not.)
Respectfully, I would disagree. Before the Fall, Adam did all kinds of jobs that mattered very much to God: zoology, maintenance, landscape architecture. Even now we get a hint of that, when the epistles tell us to do everything for God’s glory. And even before this, under the Old Covenant, God calls Bezalel and his craftspersons to make things for the Tabernacle, much of it for functionality, and much of it simply for beauty, to glorify God that way. (See also Exodus 28:2, when God instructs Moses, “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”)
Making order from chaos, beauty from non-beauty, images (verb) God, imitates His role as Creator. Even nonbelievers can do this, but of course the results will be flawed, even badly disfigured, without knowledge of Him. But Christians can know the Source.
Yes … and yet I do believe God cares about our specific work and callings, just as much as He does our callings as, say, father, or mother, or son, or daughter, or local-church pastor, or local-church musician, author, speaker, missionary.
Local-church positions, though, are said to bring more responsibility, and they are special. But while some may wrongly say a plumber is as spiritually authoritative as a pastor, others go to the opposite side — I have done this myself — and assume the “churchy” stuff is what Really Matters and that other things are just means to that end. Responding to his day’s errors, Martin Luther took on that stuff and scribbled fervently about Christian Vocation. Others today do this as well (such as Gene Veith, whose book God at Work condenses another author’s work on Luther’s Biblical teachings).
If at best it’s neutral, then, why wouldn’t it “make the cut” into the New Earth, while the porn and other irredeemable garbage gets roasted before the cosmic remodeling?
By the way: I’m not an iFan. Still own nothing i-Ish. But I am grateful for the “common grace” way in which God sovereignly used Steve Jobs and his company, and still uses other entrepreneurs and folks who don’t know Him, to bless even our fallen world.
However, I do think that — as you also said above — many Christians are casually saying “rest in peace,” without discernment. My thought is that it’s best not to try to say for sure, one way or the other, where Jobs is now. We can make absolutely clear, solid, Scripturally based propositional conditions: Yes, those who die without repenting and believing in Christ will die forever, apart from Him; and those who repent and believe in Him, even if it’s at the last moment, gain Him and Heaven forever.
Apart from that, it’s unwise to say either “The saddest part is that he isn’t saved,” when technically only God knows that, or else “R.I.P.” The latter initials bring to mind not heartfelt sentiment but a sordid gray Halloween decoration. Or maybe that’s just me.
I could write a bunch more on this, but it so happens John Dyer at TGC did it first:
Stephen, when I spoke about things being burned up with the hay and the stubble, I was thinking about 1 Corinthians 3. This is speaking about elders building the temple, and I was ripping it out of context. I still think, though, that we can make some application to the arguments I have heard for years about art and preaching. One books plants, another waters. I think there is room for preachy books in the world and room for books that don’t preach at all. And I think that much of the art we admire will be burned up because it tries to build with stubble.
I posted on Novel Rocket about this today, if you’re interested.
I have no idea if there will be iPhones in heaven, but I suspect your vision is far too small. I hope I am not required to text in heaven. But I guess if I am, my eyesight will be better and my fingers will be smaller and I won’t get any nagging repetitive motion pains.
I also think the mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord and heaven and earth will pass away but God’s word will never pass away. And John saw in his vision a new heaven and a new earth for the first earth had passed away. If God wiped it all out at the flood, and started again with eight people and two of each animal, I find it hard to believe he’ll save the iPhones in the Day of the Lord.
If you have me pegged as gnostic or somehow being opposed to the physical world, you have me pegged wrong. I love this world, fallen though it be, because there are still shadows of the “very good” that God saw. I simply don’t think the iPhone has any eternal value. I don’t think it was made to glorify God and I don’t think it does glorify God. I think we can use it to glorify God or to sin. The physical world can be used for evil or good and how we use it has eternal consequences.
I think when you take my paragraphs apart and answer them line by line you miss the point the paragraph was meant to make.
You said if a Christian thought their works would be burned up, they wouldn’t need to make movies or write books. I was answering that with my shoe shine paragraph. I don’t have time to delve into it further. If you don’t see the difference between speaking a word, through a movie or a book or as you shine shoes, and changing a man’s eternal destiny by that word, and shining a man’s shoes without speaking…I wish I had time to hammer this back and forth, but I just don’t.
Besides that, I suspect that after all the hammering we would find that we agree about things but we were just speaking past each other because we had preconceived notions about what the other guy was saying.
But when you suggest that a neutral iPhone should make it into the new earth while porn and irredeemable gadgets shouldn’t make it, I’m confused again. Gadgets and porn are apples and oranges. Gadgets are neutral and have no intrinsic value. They don’t matter. How we use them matters. Porn is evil and has eternal consequences. Books—paper and ink—are neutral, while the ideas they contain have eternal consequences. Do you agree with this?
I also am grateful for common grace. And I hope God saved Steve Jobs in the eleventh hour and I agree with the John Dyer quote.
I am reminded of the fact that God almost never spells things out for us. He expects us to figure out the meaning more than just coming out and telling us. One of my favorite Proverbs (a modus operandi for my own writing) is this: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; it is the glory of Kings to seek it out.”
Unfortunately I am away from my Bible search software to give chapter and verse, but I memorized this one. But one of the deepest goals God has for man is to have wisdom enough to be able to seek out meaning, not to have it pasted over top of every scene and every chapter in a book. It is the “glory” of Kings (and we’re all Kings in Christ) to seek out that which has been concealed.
Great stuff, Steven.
Here I’d only suggest that some Biblical books — such as Romans — make things more clear. Others, such as Ecclesiastes, or Proverbs, or Job, are different, in showing how our world is, how it should be, and moreover who God is, in more subtle ways, without feeling the need to explain all mysteries. It all depends on the Biblical book’s genre.
Yyet overall the Book’s main Story, the Gospel, is clear enough to give context and freedom for the smaller stories and the “seek it out” mysteries we live, or subcreate.
Whoops, misspelled Stephen. Sorry about that.
Agreed, and the reason Romans and Paul’s epistles are explanatory are because they are now resourcing all the elements of the Old Covenant into the Christian paradigm, drawing back the shadows and types and revealing that Christ was always standing behind them, integrating them into the story of the incarnate Christ. That takes some explanation. It’s also, I think, important to note that the more abstract, explanatory books come at the end of the story, not speckled throughout. Most of the Bible is history, story, and symbol. The Epistles just let us go back and see the whole story in a new light, revealing deeper meaning and connections within the typology and symbolism and structures of the stories, sort of like an M. Night or Christopher Nolan ending that makes you go back through the rest of the story, seeing it all in clearer perspective that draws the whole thing up into a wider, and deeper, unity.
But even the more abstract books like Romans depend heavily upon the meaning of those older stories in its structure and argument. If you don’t know the meaning of the story of Abraham’s life, for instance, you’re at serious risk of misunderstanding Romans 3-5; Paul just expects us to know the ins and outs of the theological meanings of those stories, because he just builds on them and expects us to keep up.
I was watching the previews for Real Steel and noticing that it’s one of those “want to be a better father” stories, too. Aside from not presenting the Gospel, I wonder how it’d stack up? (Assuming Real Steel is a good movie. People are saying it’s better than the last two Transformers movies combined.)
Since the Incredibles got a mention and all. 🙂
The only problem here is I know plenty of male writers who do a phenomenal job writing female characters. (And I typically can’t stand female characters; they tend to be too masculine or too…”ridiculous female” for my preferences.)
Just a couple things:
Speaking only for myself, (a) again, I haven’t seen Courageous and therefore said nothing about Courageous, and, (b) my only real gripe about Fireproof was that I do not consider the treatment of the wife’s affair either a moral or a Christian one. Maybe they chose not to get that far into it; maybe they figured since, technically, she hadn’t done anything, she hadn’t really sinned. I understand they wanted the husband to have that confrontation scene – and he should have. He needed that scene; and it was well-played. I love that scene.
Moreover, I loved the scene in Fireproof where the husband goes out of his way to take his anger out on the trash can to the point it becomes comic relief just to keep from further damaging his marriage. I like how his backward image of women gets spun on its head at the revelation by his father at the end (and who knows, maybe that reason is why we don’t see more with the wife).
And one of my favorite scenes in Facing the Giants, oddly, is when the main character is at his end, goes into a field, and prays. It’s probably one of the most realistic “prayer times” I’ve seen on screen, to be honest.
That said, I still feel that both movies held back to some extent. That’s not a terrible movie-bashing; that’s my opinion. I can tell you the pros and cons of just about every book or movie I’ve ever seen, regardless of how much I loved or hated it.
But for fun I’ll keep going down the list.
I saw The Other Boelyn Girl a couple years ago (max). Visually, it’s stunning. Script-wise, it doesn’t miss a beat. But I’ll probably never see it again because inside the first ten minutes I was screaming my head off in anger (and I am *not* an emotional movie-goer) to the point my friend offered to turn it off.
I like Doctor Who, but I’ve got a whole series on the positives and negatives of the show. At one point, I really did consider not watching anymore.
Leverage is one of my favorite shows, but it took me three seasons to start even tolerating one of the female characters for whatever reason I can’t explain. As of the end of the third season, I’m having to deal with one of my favorite aspects of the show (no sexuality) with the fact that, while it’s never more than implied, one couple is sleeping together. It took me all of season four to find that tolerable, and only because they’d get so busy it didn’t come up much, if at all.
I like Merlin, but I can’t stand Uther, and there’s this odd part of me that, while understanding and accepting the terms of the storyworld, knows that real magic really isn’t…good. (And I have no idea why this one show has really hit me with that.) But Uther isn’t good either; he’s cruel and, in my opinion, a total fool. So in a weird way, part of me wants to agree that magic, as a whole, isn’t good; but the majority of me rebels against the mere idea of agreeing with Uther on principle.
So a Christian movie alluding to the idea that a woman having an affair was innocent is a acceptable because the overall message was “love and pursue your wife”?
I do get your overall point: I’ve started preferring Pixar movies just so I don’t have to deal with crap, myself. I watch Merlin after Criminal Minds because it’s nowhere near as dark. But one or two comments on “what could have been better” is hardly trashing the whole movie. (I think the last movie I can genuinely say I trashed as a story is “Seven Pounds,” and even then I have to grant them it’s marvelously composed and acted despite the horrible theme. Will Smith is great; but the whole movie leads to a justified suicide….and the way he does it is horrific, and we’re forced to watch the entire thing for a full three to five minutes.)
Is it loving my fellow writer not to mention something that didn’t work? The reason I put all that effort into systematically editing the excerpts from those contestants last weeks is because I firmly, firmly believe that if I do not line-by-line offer honest feedback–feedback I’d want *myself* if I’d entered, I do not love my fellow writer.
I have not seen the movie. For myself, I’m a novice at screenplays.
I’m trying to imagine the reaction of an elder writer taking lip from a younger one.
For the record, I didn’t know who Mr. Jobs was until his name popped up on FB the other day as everyone said he had died.
I don’t think movies, books, iPhones, trains, planes, and automobiles, TARDISes, or the shirt and jeans I’m wearing are at all what Jesus had in mind when he made the statement about things burning up that had no value. To be sure, it’s no less true–and on that point, The Passion of the Christ and The Ten Commandments are but temporary. Rather, his point, if my memory serves, is that you can fast, pray, tithe, go to church, be morally upright, be healthy and prosperous, and have everything to your heart’s desire and it all still be chaff.
I can sacrifice myself on behalf of another and be burned alive……for absolutely nothing.
(Sidenote to Stephen, don’t get sidetracked on a Heaven discussion; put that in a column for later and I’ll debate all you want on the subject. 😛 )
I guess that’s really between each servant and his master.
I’m gonna get flogged for saying it, but I didn’t like Serenity that much. Not sure why. I’m just not sure I think this question is the right direction. Are we comparing the movies or their writers at this point? Cuz, as you said, it’s the writer that really matters. (Hey, don’t get me wrong; I think I’m accountable for the stories I tell. But as to whether or not there’s TV in Heaven…I just don’t think I’m going to care when I get there.
You sure? How did we learn to dance? To make clothes? To paint? To write? To build? To sing? To cook? You think Adam and Eve just knew all that? They had to learn somehow.
And yet Jesus was a carpenter; God gave Noah blueprints for a boat. He gave blueprints for a tabernacle, then a temple. Not only so, but he called out two ex-slaves by name because of the skill of their craft bestowed upon them by the Spirit. He called for all the skilled builders, weavers, seamstresses, and metalworkers specifically because they’d know what to do with the materials and instructions God was giving to them. (Really…Moses with a needle and thread just doesn’t jive for me—God didn’t let Moses do more than deliver the instructions for that project.) Sabbaths and holy days were days of worship: song, dance, music, sacrifice, food, offerings—the entire country. He gave battle commands to Joshua and David. He led armies with the band.
You have kings dancing and professional musicians in the temple. There were scribes and poets, historians, treasurers, diplomats, warriors, bakers, housewives, ranchers, cattledrivers & sheepherders, merchants, fishermen, tentmakers, negotiators, leatherworkers…
…You have angels showing prophets the exact measurements of New Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple measured down to the last ash tray.
You have God comparing himself to the strength, wisdom, and creativity of Mankind and saying “I am that much greater. I am the better craftsman, musician, singer, dancer, chef, baker, merchant warrior, housekeeper, cattleherder, writer, tentmaker, statesman, physician, lawyer, priest, king, prophet, and god. They have prowess and cunning in their own fields—and mine is that much greater.”
So no, I don’t know that we’ll have iPhones in Heaven. I know we’ll have buildings, streets, clothing, and food. We’ll have plates, cups, tables, tablecloths, and silverware. And who knows, maybe some device for listening to the old songs and recording our new ones.
Ugh. My apologies for all the typos in there.
Looking forward to adding more here — perhaps another column, as Kaci suggested. In fact, on the way back from a concert combining Lord of the Rings and Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” opera themes — and held in a Baptist church! — I had plenty more thoughts on it.
This late at night, though, I might recommend a distinction between the current Heaven, the place where Christians go after they die, to the yet-future New Heavens and New Earth.
We know more about the New Earth’s nature, physical, than we do about Heaven.
I doubt very much there are iPhones or other physical things in the present Heaven, but about the New Earth, we can say more, as Kaci said, about physical things being there.
And yet I also know that “Heaven” can be shorthand for “New Heavens and New Earth.”
I just find it helpful, especially for those like myself (five years ago) who simply blended the two in my head and didn’t think about the differences between them.
More to come from me, perhaps on Monday … good night!
thanks for making that clarification. When I said heaven earlier I did mean the new heavens and the new earth.
This post came in a kind of “perfect storm” way for me. It all hit me at once. I’m seeing Christians on Facebook saying that Steve Jobs has started his new life in heaven, and so many honoring him, and then I’m seeing Christians dishonor Christian men who are making preachy movies. I’m wondering if God loves the Kendrick brothers more than Steve Jobs. We are the ones who worship rich, smart, and good looking. God is not moved by those things. And why should he be? He’s the one who gives us our money and our brains and our looks. He wants us to love and obey him.
I didn’t say that, or even imply it.
There’s a time to write privately, and there’s a time to review and critique publicly, and there’s a time to just be quiet and pray. All of those are loving if done at the right time and all are unloving if done at the wrong time. In this case, I objected because he entire thread felt disrespectful and harsh. The original post was snarky in a couple of places and wound up being as preachy as the film was. And several of the comments were, I thought, disrespectful. You write an open letter to someone and that means you invite them to come and read and then you carry on as if they aren’t in the room.
Anyone who publishes a book or makes a movie has to be OK with being reviewed. You put your stuff out for public consumption and you need to be publicly critiqued. But an open letter has the feel of being more of a rebuke than a review. And then many of the comments felt harsh to me. Steven said something in the post about his snarky story-loving friends. And haven’t we all heard harsh criticisms of this church and the films? It’s shameful, really, and no one in this thread was that harsh. I didn’t mean to imply that they were. But I think that since we’ve all heard the harsh criticisms we should be extra gentle. I didn’t think any of the comments were particularly gentle.
Plus I was serious in challenging you all to pray once a week for this church. I don’t think we should criticize people we haven’t prayed for. Sometimes rebuke is loving, but we can be sure that prayer is always loving. Let’s start with that.
They aren’t temporary. The ideas those movies put out have eternal consequences. If they spoke biblical truth and someone was changed then they had good eternal consequence. If they spoke error and someone was changed, then they had bad eternal consequence. With the tongue forests are set on fire. The words of a gossip are really dangerous. Our ideas and the thoughts we express have eternal consequences. What we post in the comments section here is important. We will either edify or tear down and either way there are eternal consequences. On the day of judgement we will give an account for every careless word. And God can forgive but we still move someone closer to heaven or closer to hell with every word we speak. We either encourage them to look at God’s holiness and to fall down and worship or we distract them and help them take their eyes off of God.
When I said that the iPhone would be burned up I meant that all the praise of Steve Jobs was silly because his iPhone has not value. It’s a machine. Mr. Jobs did not please God when he made the iPhone because without faith it is impossible to please God. His works are dung. They are burned up.
So are you willing to let the Kendrick brothers stand before their Master without calling them out for making bad movies?
Is this funny to you? I don’t know you well enough to know if you’re making a joke or not. I don’t get it, at any rate. The question was straightforward. Which movie does God like better? Was that a confusing question? Do you think God likes fine art that slanders him or bad art that tells the truth about him? I have heard so many Christians quote the nonChristian Madeline L’Engle as if she’s the patron saint of Christian art. She says that beauty is Christian, and it’s simply not true. Satan is beautiful.
Yes I’m pretty sure. We worship art. God calls that idolatry.
Sorry this looks so odd. I can’t get the formatting to work for me.
No worries. I’m having trouble with the formatting myself.
I understand that. What I’m a little unclear on is why everyone who say something by way of criticism or general negativity is getting lumped in the same boat with people trashing the movie.
He died for both of them, and me, and everyone else in this discussion. Rain falls on the righteous and the wicked.
We are the ones who worship rich, smart, and good looking. God is not moved by those things.
No one said God was moved by those things. I said, point blank, someone with the mind to create the entire universe with a mere thought and grow animals out of the ground, admonish us to excellence in all things—be it making clothes or an iPhone– and call us his workmanship (poetry, masterpiece) , put eternity in our hearts and gave us creative minds and inspirations probably does care about the way in which we engage our craft. No offense, but I’m not sure you read my post all the way through.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” ~ Micah 6:8
He also said, more than once, “Whatever you do, do everything as unto the Lord” and “do with all your might.”
And I had a third that evidently didn’t copy over. I freely admit I could have completely misunderstood you–and if that’s the case I apologize. But what I heard (or read, I suppose) was that if the movie was written by a Christian and/or has a Christian message, it has eternal value, and if it isn’t and/or doesn’t, then it’s worthless.
To be sure, you’re right: Someone who loves God and strives to honor him with his work brings something far more acceptable to God than someone who doesn’t. However, I’m not sure I can agree with you on every point. (Which is no more and no less than I said of Fireproof, btw — and again, I have not seen Courageous and therefore have not said a word about it.)
Moreover, I found this statement a paradigm shift for me:
I also heard much of your own experiences and feelings (which, I promise I’m not trying to invalidate; and you had several good points I hadn’t considered before), but not much on the craft of the story itself. I’m not a big fan of calling things “preachy” myself, and, yeah, it’s a bit irritating when all people do is trash things for no reason. Personally, I stopped reading reviews a long time ago.
However, the way I understood your comments (and, again, I could have misread; I’ve been very tired lately) was that as long as it has a ‘family friendly’ atmosphere and a Christian message, then it’s okay if there’s a glaring problem with a subplot (in this case, the wife’s fledgling affair). I promise I don’t think you actually believe that’s okay. I only pointed it out to demonstrate that just because it’s a Christian movie by Christian men with honorable intentions doesn’t mean there’s never room for discussion on a point like that where they’re wrong. And really, I’m not sure they actually meant to give that impression,either.
Could you offer some specific examples, please?
I won’t speak for Stephen, but I will say this: The biggest difference between a movie and a blog is the former is fiction and the latter is non-fiction. I defer again to the words of a much more seasoned writer than I: “Novels ask questions. Sermons [ or, for our purposes, blog essays] offer answers.”
Well, unless Stephen emailed them, they’re not.
Um, at the risk of sounding much more cheeky than intended, I’m not sure how we shifted from a critique on a movie to criticizing the entire church that put it together? Frankly, I wish more churches would embrace a wider spectrum of the arts. And, quite likely, this little church is a pioneer in that respect, and we’ll look on them the way we now do Peretti’s opening the door for Christian horror.
Who said the movie was bad? I certainly didn’t. ‘Sides, no, I don’t think they’re going to stand before God for making a movie that I think is a 3/5 (Fireproof) on the scale. I think they’re going to be held accountable for whether or not they did everything to the absolute best of their abilities at the time, their conduct, their attitudes, and motives. And I think we stand before God on whether our art falls on either the “glorious” or “grotesque” side of thing — and the writers of Fireproof were not anywhere near grotesque.
I define excellence as “the best of your abilities” – and you know, as long as we’re striving for excellence in all things, I’m not going to complain.
Um, no. I wasn’t joking, being sarcastic, or mocking. I answered quite seriously and sincerely. Just a minute and I’ll explain why. I use smiley faces when I’m joking or being silly. But I’ll be sure to be more clear from now on.
I said “I think this question is going the wrong direction.” Either way, I cannot answer the question because I have not seen Courageous.
I’m having a hard time following because I am trying to keep separate the eternal state of the people from the eternal state of the movies. And I feel like they continue to be merged in this conversation, which makes it very difficult for me to give you an answer I feel is clear.
So I’ll say it this way:
God is pleased with the one whose heart is wholly his.
God is displeased with anyone who rebels against him, ignores him, or belittles him.
God is pleased with what is good and righteous and holy.
God is displeased with wickedness, evil, and sin.
God is pleased with writers who strive for excellence.
God is displeased with writers who don’t.
And here’s kind of the case in point. You said:
For the record, I agree that what we write has consequence. But I feel like I’m getting a mixed message. For one thing, that passage on things burning in fire is referring to “things Christians did.” But, if this is true, then if a Christian blatantly teaches something false, or writes something grotesque (which, again, I don’t think the Kendrick brothers or whoever are guilty of), Jesus reserved his harshest words for those who taught false doctrine. Now, as far as fiction goes, I think there’s much more leeway because we’re seeing predominantly what the characters believe, not what the writers believe.
I suppose what I’m saying is, it’s quite possible for a Christian to write something that’s “dung” and burned up in the fire, worthless and without eternal value. I am not saying that’s the case with Courageous or Fireproof, because I don’t think it’s true of them.
And what I will say is that I don’t think there’s a problem with people being sorry for the death of a man and acknowledging the things he did in his life. Of course those things do nothing as far as his salvation goes, but if he did a good thing, then he did a good thing. I like my Kindle, my laptop, and my Samsung 22″ secondary monitor; and I like the features my phone allows; and I like my iPod because it doesn’t die every hour like CD players always did for me. I thank God for the intellect he gave their makers; if they were Christians, then I mourn my brothers; and if they weren’t, then I can’t say anymore than “I’m sorry for your loss” and mourn with those who mourn.
I’ve never read her. Heard good things. I thought Lewis was the patron saint (teasing). 0=)
I won’t harp this point, but I’d to offer these passages.
On the reasoning for the priestly vestments:
Then there’s Isaiah’s description:
The restoration of Job’s fortunes:
And still more:
Okay, I could keep going, but the horse is dead, methinks. God is beautiful. He lives in a beautiful place (Isaiah 63). He makes us beautiful. He gives “beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, and peace for despair” (Isaiah 61).
Let’s not dare give Satan — that horrid, atrocious, pathetic snip of a lizard who dared challenge the Living God and only presents himself as an angel of light because he dares not come to us as his true self or we’d run from him — the corner market on beauty. Satan is is a troll. There is nothing desirable left in him, therefore he has to make himself look desirable. He might be pretty on the outside – and I’ve no doubt he his, but inside he is nothing more than an open grave full of rotting corpses. Let’s not call his putrid imitation of beauty the real, true beauty that cannot be matched because the matchless beauty is none less than Christ himself.
I think God likes us to strive for excellence in all things and do everything as if we were doing it for him. To be sure, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”
Kaci, I read your last post three times.
This one I have only read part of. I will try to read it tonight and I will try to answer you questions one at a time over the coming week, if you really want me to. I think some of what you have said and asked is worthy of discussion, but I just can’t keep my old mind concentrating on so many threads at once. I’m not blowing you off. I just don’t have time for marathon comments just now.
Not a problem, Sally. I really didn’t mean to get so long-winded.
I think the truth is I’m not horribly pleased with the attitude that prompted me to respond in the first place. Forgive me?
Sure I forgive you. I would be happy to discuss this further if you like. I wasn’t putting it off because I was upset or angry. I just need to stick to one point at a time because things get too confuse when we cover so many points at once.
OK Kaci, first point:
The comments I read seemed to be trashing the movie. Some of you said some nice things, but the overall tone was negative. Kessie’s response would have been my response if I had not already seen the movie. I thought the post and comments were critical and not very encouraging at all. Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but I can’t really change how it struck me and how it still strikes me when I go back and read the thread.
You may disagree. It’s OK with me if we have different opinions on this. Is it OK with you? I trust God to make it clear to me if I am being easily offended, I’m sorry I just can’t see it now. So I don’t see any reason to argue this anymore. Feel free to have the last word on this issue, if you like. But I’ll move on to the next point tomorrow if you don’t mind.
I am sorry for saying the comments were tempting me to sin and curse at my screen. I was joking about that, really. I don’t curse and I wasn’t tempted to curse. But I wanted to be honest and say I hadn’t read all the comments. I don’t like joining a thread when I don’t read all the comments. But they were disturbing to me. I’m sorry I being such a jerk there, though. I realize that coming in to the thread like that wasn’t helpful. Please forgive me for that.
Thanks. 0=)All’s forgiven and well on all counts. I do agree this has probably unraveled as far as it can, and, you’re right; it’s just time to agree to disagree. There’s no pressure to answer everything if you don’t want to or feel you have time. If it’s not edifying each other, it’s just distracting, eh? 0=)
Hope all’s well.
Methinks this warrants a quick (edit: “quick”) comment by itself, before I head to church!
More later, I hope, either here or in a forthcoming column called Is fiction forever? (And sometime I’ll get back to the final one or two parts of the Human Nature series!)
2) I believe in common grace
3) I believe you are a very nice man, Stephen, and I really mean that. I like you. But I thought the end of that post was patronizing and instead of treating them like adults you were lecturing them, or scolding them. I think you intended that, but I think that’s what I would have felt if you had written that open letter to me.
4) You were clear on that point and I appreciate it.
5) Flawed preaching in fiction and preachy fiction is the same thing. The movie was preachy. I agree. I just think praying for them would be the better than critiquing them. I think they’ve gotten plenty of critique from critics and we Christians could better serve them by praying.
6) I didn’t hear the “no value” comment. I’d like to hear it in context. Ditto the “God will tell me who you should marry” comment. Context matters.
7) I appreciate that you did say they did some things right. I thought you let a little bit of snark and patronizing sneak in at the end. But that wouldn’t have bothered me so much if the comment thread didn’t seem to be building on that. I felt discouraged by the accumulative effects of the post, the comments, and all the praise for Steve Jobs. And I really think we should pray a lot more and criticize a lot less. I really believe if we’d pray more God would pour out blessing. He loves to answer prayer.
I decided to post something by author Eric Reinhold on here. I’m also letting him know I did this.
I saw the movie last night with my family and like you, I found the beginning to be a little slow, but quickly got into it as the 5 subplots began with each of the men. There were three scenes that I really started tearing up and my wife had to use the kleenax. Even my teenage son was crying. This included the dance scene you mentioned after his daughter is gone. I’m not sure if you have children or not, but the death of a child is the worst fear of a parent and really hits a soft spot. There were also three (at least) very funny scenes in which the entire theatre was laughing for awhile. I think my son’s favorite was when one of the thugs is put in the back of the cop car with Javier. Very funny.
Like a preacher preparing for a sermon, I think the folks at Sherwood had to decide who are they trying to reach in the audience. I go to a Southern Baptist Church and we have an alter calling every week. I have to remind myself that this is new for those who are at church for the first time and it’s just something I need to deal with personally for their sake. In the same way, there are issues you mention in the film (argh and double argh) that might be obvious to you, but not so much for someone bringing their unsaved friend to the movie. Because of that, I put up with the obvious to those of us who have been Christians since childhood.
Sherwood continues to hone their skills and like you said, there is better acting and it’s more realistic (edgy) than previous films. Let’s continue to support them fully as they go through this process. By the way, if you haven’t seen the latest article in Forbes magazine about family friendly films, then check it out at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/pauljankowski/2011/10/04/family-friendly-movies-make-big-get-hollywoods-attention/
Lastly, Gold Pictures is finishing up casting for two movies being filmed simultaneously on my first two books for kids, ages 8-12. “Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword” and “Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith.” Filming begins in April 2012 and it will be overtly Christian and made as a G movie for families with kids ages 6-12. We’ve been watching all of these movies that have blazed the trail and hope to continue providing quality, christian entertainment in the theaters. http://www.ryannwatters.blogspot.com has more. Thanks for your efforts, Eric
Hey Eric! Thanks for your thoughts.
Not sure if you were able to read through all the comments, but if you wouldn’t mind skimming some of them, you might find my extra clarifications about my thought-basis.
First, all stories “preach” in a way because they’re all based on the maker’s worldview.
There is certainly no such thing as a Christian story that doesn’t “preach” in some way.
Some critics may also use the epithet “preachy” to mean any story that is based on the Christian worldview. That would be absurd, and also likely inconsistent; they don’t fault other stories in the same way, but wrongly think of them as “neutral.” Not possible.
Two previous SF series, Critiquing critics of Christian fiction and Why we should write fiction for Christians, explore this further.
Secondly, as the basis of this “open letter,” I do assume that the chief end of man is not “to do or use anything he can to evangelize nonbelievers.” That’s part of a Christian’s mission, but not the be-all, end-all. Rather, as the Confession says, “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” That includes evangelism, and everything else.
But I think when it comes to some things — especially churches and notions that mock the Biblical witness-to-unbelievers impulse — some Christians can overcorrect and act as if man’s chief end is to do anything to witness-only, including hush up difficulties.
Thus, I’ve heard some Christians excuse more-subjective questions about whether a Thing was well-done “artistically,” and even more Biblically based objections to, say, a popular preacher’s beliefs. They seem to want to present only a “clean face” to non-Christians. They seem to discourage honest reflection about whether something was well-done, or done or said in a Biblical way, with this: Don’t do that, you might drive the nonbelievers away, or make them throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Some nonbelievers may be like that. However, wouldn’t it be better, and more Biblical, to be honest about Christians’ and their work’s flaws — as anyone has flaws?
Again, as I said above a few times, I am basing my reaction on the filmmakers’ own rules about their goals. They said they were trying to make a movie with overt Gospel content. I’m not imposing a goal on them that they didn’t have!
But that does set the bar a little higher. If they’re not trying to make “just a story,” or “just a sermon,” but a combination, a “story sermon,” I’ll be responding to the results just as I would any story, and any sermon — even those I overall enjoyed.
So far, no one’s presented a strong case that, from even only a story perspective, the added prayer and sermon-scene in Courageous made the story better.
And no one’s presented a case that the film’s clear presentation of some ideas — such as that God will tell a father who his daughter should marry, or that a Christian’s hobby or job has no eternal significance, only his family does — are Biblical.
Yes, the main theme of the film was Biblical; praise God for that! But those two points were not. And those notions have bad consequences. And I don’t believe Christians should refrain from bringing that up , just because a (hypothetical?) nonbeliever might decide the jig is up and bolt, having expected Christian movie-sermons to be perfect. 🙂
Saying the movie was emotionally powerful, the themes struck close to home, etc. — and I agree! — doesn’t answer what I felt were storytelling flaws, and especially what I showed were un-Biblical (though minor) teachings.
Thoughtful, loving Christians can walk and chew gum at the same time: love the story, or sermon, or the story-sermon as Courageous was meant to be, yet also see its flaws.
But I might also suggest that the film wasn’t really intended for Nonbelievers anyway. The Gospel message, directed toward non-Christians, was certainly in there. But most of the film didn’t need to repeat that message over and over. Similar to Fireproof, it did Tell the Gospel’s basic message in the middle. But mainly the film Showed the Gospel’s effects: This is what the Gospel does, or should do, in the life of dedicated Christians.
To try to use the film for nonbelievers’ benefit, then, seems to take it out of its context.
That’s why I enjoy Sherwood’s films. They don’t fall all over themselves only to altar-call-preach at nonbelievers. That can happen elsewhere. Instead, they have been showing — with a few flaws! — what Christians actually do after they get saved.
As I’ve argued elsewhere, and others have agreed, we need more of those. As a Christian, I get a little weary of Christian stories only meant for nonbelievers. I’d like something for me, to strengthen me and other Christians, and to explore Biblical themes and the Gospel’s other implications, beyond simply “repent and get saved.”
Otherwise I’m just using story as a tool on Others, instead of humbly allowing story to show me others’ lives, or take me outside of myself and glorify God for His creativity.
Sure, I think a Christian can use the film as a “tool,” in some sense. But that’s a secondary goal of a great Christian story, or even story-sermon — especially one that was clearly directed toward those who were already Christians.
Similar to Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians about how to do things in church if a nonbeliever happens to wander in, we can have stories that are “closed captioned,” for Christians only, and then if a non-Christians asks about something, we can explain those themes more specifically, in the “nonfiction” conversations that follow any good film. But we can also honestly admit, “hey, I agree with you, that part of the story could have been done better,” or “that minor teaching actually wasn’t Biblical,” without fearing that the non-Christian will spook and sprint away. If anything, he should appreciate the Christian’s honesty and the Christian’s trust that he won’t blast the good with the bad.
Stephen, perhaps you’ve never heard the saying, Only two things on earth are eternal — God’s Word and people. I’m guessing that was the sentiment, though I’m only guessing since I haven’t seen the movie.
Certainly both those can be shown Biblically to be eternal. I’d say you’d have a harder time showing Biblically tht someone’s hobby is eternal.
The significance comes from whether or not we are obeying Christ, not in the thing itself. That seems clear to me from Scripture because of the good works/good fruit passages all throughout the New Testament.
I’ve only read Randy Alcorn’s novelization of the movie Courageous. It was good but not great. If the book is reflective of the movie, the studio has improved their craft but they still don’t seem to understand the visual medium of movies. There’s plenty of ‘let’s stop and preach’ moments, pat answers to problems and needless exposition. Also, some of the theology isn’t biblically-based. On the plus side, the story is decent, the theme of becoming a Godly father is vital (if overdone), the characters and conflicts are more complex, realistic and interesting. Sadly many of the female characters are still flat characters – Oops.
Thanks for the great response. Your thoughts are very valid and aim to support the efforts while providing constructive critism. In much the same way, I try and teach my children to be “teachable.” For me personally, I didn’t mind the little prayer uttered during the scene with him having the imaginery dance with his daughter. I utter little prayers to myself in times of angst or crisis. I was a little unsure of how they might pull off the church scene at the end and was glad that they started bringing in highlights of each man while he was speaking. That helped change the dynamics. I’m not sure how it came across in your theater, but in ours the motivational pleas at the end where men started standing up in the congregation got me excited, like a drill Sergant saying, “who’s with me?” I almost felt like standing up in the theater and when he was done and the COURAGEOUS sign came up, everyone in our theater must have felt the same way because a spontaneous applause arose from everyone. So in our little corner of Orlando… it worked.
Thanks again for your in-depth look into the movie.
From seeing the movie first hand, it is very clear to me, in a touching scene with the father and daughter out to dinner and his giving her a promise ring, that he is asking her to trust him with interviewing boys and providing wisdom to her on whether those who are interested in her are godly young men or not. I thought it was great, since I have made it a practice to interview any boys that want to date my daughters, but taking them out to breakfast or lunch, first. My girls very much appreciate my involvement and it helps to set the tone for the relationship. I convey that God holds me responsible for the spiritual, physical and emotional well being of my daughters and that when she is with him then he is being held accountable for her physical and emotional well being. I start out with easy questions like, “so, what does dating mean to you?” and “you and I both know my daughter is beautiful, what other things attract you to her?” and they get progressively deeper, including; him giving me his testimony of faith.
Something was bothering me about many of the responses to Sally’s initial comment, and I think I’ve finally figured out what: no one really responded to the main point — shouldn’t we commit to praying for others who are stepping out boldly to proclaim the name of Christ?
So what if we see imperfections? So what if we are taking a different approach? Ought we not to pray that God will teach them and correct them when needed and use them and their efforts for His kingdom? Ought we not to be glorifying God for their good works?
Whatever else we may have gleaned from this discussion, I hope we don’t overlook this call to action. Personally, I don’t want to be on the sideline telling Abraham he’s a fool for setting out on a journey when he doesn’t know exactly where he’s going. I don’t want to be kibitzing about his need to take more water or to chose a more level path, or worse, wait til the weather is better or more people are up for moving too.
I want to be part of his support by doing what I can. And we all can pray.
On that I agree.
And I wish I’d more strongly said that earlier — or in fact, said it at all.
More and more I discover that functionally I am just as much a default Gnostic about novels, fiction, and more, as anyone who overtly says “only spiritual things have eternal value.” Sure, I might say differently, but when it comes to prayer, do I seriously pray for things like this as often as I should, or stick to the “spiritual” things such as my family relationships, needs for healing, or (this should come first) how great God is?
Our need for prayer for our favorite storytellers, Christian and secular, is more vital than I think sometimes. And I just sort of assumed it in this column, along with others.
Here’s hoping I can correct that, both with other writings on it, and actual prayer!
Yes, that seemed to be the foundational thought behind the statement (for review: that a Christian’s hobbies or jobs have no eternal value; only his family relationships).
I cringe every time I hear that slogan. It’s not Biblical. When God Himself, in both Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21 along with other mentions, promises a New Heavens and a New Earth, and describes a literal future physical paradise very much like Earth yet cleansed of all sin, it’s just strange to say that only God’s Word and people will last forever. Under that claim is an assumption that Satan wins in corrupting God’s world, leaving Him no option but to nuke His creation and pull souls into a heavenly dimension for spiritioids.
If a hobby is watching TV, or useless video-game playing, both of which serve no purpose besides vacuous amusement, I’d definitely agree. Yet I was thinking about the fine line between a Christian’s “hobby” and his job. For some Christians so blessed, their hobbies are their jobs — a statement that could be applied to fiction writers, for sure. And why would there not be things like sports, even video games, in the New Earth, done not for vacuous amusement or out of laziness, but for God’s glory?
I suggest that is one’s hobby, or job, or anything else, could not “translate” to the New Earth if God so chose, it is indeed worse than neutral, and we should stop doing it.
Example: if one thinks novels have no place in New Earth, we should ignore them now.
I don’t think anyone here believes that, by the way. Just an example.
That again reminds me of the necessity of praying for the powerful ministry of Story.
… Which is another point, I suppose: whether nonbelievers, when they do something creative even out of sinful motivations (inevitable for ’em!), somehow echo God.
Better writers than I (such as Lewis, Schaeffer, and Veith) have articulated why they believe even sinful humans, with sinful motives, nevertheless honor Him as creator when they create things likes stories and literature. (I’ve been re-reading through The Christian Imagination, edited by Leland Ryken, making these subjects even more vivid in my mind.) But again, that’s another issue besides Christians’ hobbies or jobs.
A couple of further thoughts for Sally, perhaps winding this one down?
Great; I just wanted to be sure. It sounds more like we disagree not on the nature of the everlasting Kingdom, but on what criteria God uses to bring Stuff into that realm.
As do I, yet I’m still exploring what this means for how we look at nonbelievers’ actions or contributions to culture. Does a corrupt maker corrupt the Thing? This is especially complicated because Christians are too often tempted to do two extremes: a) claim that the person must be truly good or some kind of secret or “anonymous” Christian, just because he/she seemed to do some good (such as Sally pointed out about the Steve Jobs situation); b) disregard all that he/she did while neglecting common grace.
Jesus said in one breath that evil people do good things (Matt. 7:11). Paul said that God uses even flawed governments to accomplish His will. I’m still convinced that God will certainly carry more than His Word and human souls into the physical New Earth — and that what we find there could reflect not only Christians’ contributions, but those of nonbelievers who accidentally echoed God’s common grace. But, more another time.
Thanks for your encouragement. Yet I am sorry it sounded that way; it wasn’t my intent, but I could have been more careful with my wording. In retrospect, too, I might have written a more-positive column/review about the film first, then had a second one about the film’s flaws. Either way, stressing prayer would have helped (though I have personally prayed about the film’s success, and the filmmakers’ growth in their craft!).
My hope, though, would be to treat the filmmakers as adults, neither scolding them nor having a kind of “affirmative action” that lowers my hopes for a film’s substance and style, just ’cause it’s a Christian Movie. When I see the next Sherwood film, I’ll remember! And again, I highly encourage supporting the church’s work.
There’s where we might end up disagreeing. Prayer and criticism can go hand-in-hand.
I know I’ve benefited from both prayer and constructive criticism. God is sovereign, and will change people’s hearts and help them grow from the inside because of His Spirit, yet He also uses human meaningful choice to do that. And when it comes to wrong ideas in a Christian sermon, movie, or movie-sermon, Scripture shows even more clearly that it’s important to point that out, and pray for the brother/sister.
When I see the film again, I’ll get a direct quote. Perhaps the dialogue is also reflected in the novelized version. I’ll ask Christian up there, who just finished it, if he could help.
He does! And again, if I truly believe things like stories and films that glorify God are forever — as I do, and as the Sherwood filmmakers apparently do, thus leading to their movies! — then I should pray for that stuff more. And speak the truth in love, primarily about content issues, secondarily about style issues, while hoping to build one another up in the faith and in the ways we glorify God even in our “hobbies” and jobs.
Finally: again, I also was discouraged by the few examples of thoughtless “R.I.P.s” and such after Jobs’ death. I didn’t see as much as you saw, apparently, but I did see some.
But we don’t know he was saved. We don’t know he went to the present-day Heaven or will be able to build i-Stuff again, this time more overtly for God’s glory, in the New Earth. So I’d say: let’s be more careful to praise how God worked through the person’s work and accidental reflections of the imago Dei, and not imply we know the person was saved. Only God can know that for certain. We only know how someone can be saved.
Oops. On point three I meant to say I DON’T think you intended that. Sheesh. I need to proofread.
[…] E. Stephen Burnett: From Becky: Something was bothering me about many of the responses to… 4:16 pm, October 10, 2011 […]
So how about Seven Days in Utopia?
Colson love it.
Ebert hates it.
[…] barn-burner discussion of the non-spec-fic movie, C0urageous, reminded me (thanks, Stephen) that I haven’t talked […]
[…] this week — should I continue the Human Nature series with its final part, or offer a followup to last week’s thoughts about the contemporary Christian film Courageous? Well, as Tony Stark would say, “Is it too much […]
From Jeremy, above:
Whoa, seriously? Care to elaborate further?
And yet, at the same time, though the film arguably left that “open,” no one story can “cover” everything. (Not even the books of the Bible do.) Though I have a few quibbles with Fireproof as well as Courageous, over style and substance, I’m not sure I can blame the film and its makers for how others may abuse its themes like that.
Still, that’s disgusting. It’s a reminder to all storytellers of our great power — which as most of us know, also comes with great responsibility.
I’d rather not elaborate, other than to say that the one woman found parallels in Fireproof to things that she wanted. She ended up with a new car, in her name. Once the papers were signed, she confessed to an affair and ran off with the other man. She then proceeded to ruin her husband’s reputation by inventing reasons he drove her to another man’s arms. She accused him (in front of their church) of abandoning her with a baby, but neglected to mention that it was the other man’s.
There was another story similar to that one, and a third where the wife wasn’t having an affair, but was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive to the man, and blamed him for not leading her better.
I would strongly suggest that the Kendricks take a viewing of “The Kid with a Bike”. A film that was released the same year as Courageous but not on this side of the Atlantic, it is a near-flawless example of exploring the importance fatherhood in life of children completely done through showing rather than telling. No lavish on-the-nose dialogue, no ham-fisted approaches to difficult subject matter, no simple resolutions to troubling events and situations so as to avoid scandal, no blunt categorizations of “good guys” and “bad guys” so as to make a more obvious statement, no convenient rewards for righteous actions. Just straight, honest, excellent, insightful, contemplative, beautifully and excellently delivered narrative.
[…] Courageous (2011) […]