To my knowledge, I have never written about a movie. Why would I as a pastor take the time to write a review about a film? - Because the influence of a movie may have the same influence or an even greater influence on our church members than one of my sermons! I especially think this is true because believers will watch a movie over and over.
I am also reviewing this movie because it has picked up traction even in our own church as a movie "all believers should get behind and support." Amy and I saw the movie last night.
First, I would like to commend what I believe to be the positive messages in the movie: 1. The solid love that couples can have. The main characters were portrayed as a loving and supportive married couple. 2. The value of friendship. 3. The honor of motherhood and specifically "stay-at-home moms". All of these and a few more messages were valuable and neat to see in a public forum.
However, and I believe this is a pretty strong "However" - there were muddy messages here that should not be overlooked; messages that sound "sound" Biblical in our "folksy-advice-kindof biblical" modern church culture.
I don't write this to be a bubble-buster. As a pastor, it is my responsibility to guard the flock and call them to discernment, so here it is:
1. The main message seems to be the same message that Disney promotes: Accept Yourself as you are. We all have problems and baggage, you are being too hard on yourself, Jesus accepts you with open arms, you are God's masterpiece, etc,etc, "Love Yourself" doctrine.
The problem with this is it is CHRISTLESS. The answer is NOT Jesus; the answer is not die-to-self and live for Christ; the answer is not "be content in God's will and your value in Christ's forgiveness, atonement, an your ever changing growth in the gospel" --- the answer in fact was pretty shocking. The main character was unhappy with her life and felt herself to be a failure. So, the writers chose the seediest character (or almost seediest) to be her "answer" --- the biker guy who "left the faith" years ago, knows every bar in town, runs a tattoo parlor, tells her at the climax of the movie something like "Jesus loves you not only just the way you are, but because of how you are" --- it is subtle - but that's the message. He leads her to realize that she is the only one who is not accepting herself. "Jesus will take you with open arms just the way you are." The problem with this message is it deny's how God really accepts us.
God's acceptance of failures and sinners isn't because He is really "reasonable" and knows we all "blow it-so, oh well, love and accept yourself" - it is because He has punished His Son for our failures and given us by declaration the standing of saints. -- Through Christ -not "just the way we are" - through Christ we can be clean, accepted, justified, adopted, joyful, guilt-free, etc. Our value in life comes always and only in Christ. When we try to go around that or short of that, it will ultimately be empty because it is false. When we embrace our standing in Christ and realize we are REALLY saints, priests, kings, etc. - then we FEEL our value in Christ.
Now, I know that this is a movie to a general audience - and even an unsaved audience -- but it lead people AWAY from the solution - the gospel - not to it. If I were lost watching this movie, I would think "I need to be content with myself because Jesus accepts me this way." That would be damning.
2. I also struggle greatly with "greater Christianity's" steady walk toward viewing edgy people as better leaders, more "real" leaders, etc. --- the resolution for this main character could have easily come from the Pastor of the church, his wife, or one of her church member friends - but they chose the "biker-rebel-tattoo-drinker" to be the guru of truth. This is just a head nod to the fact that we don't really need organized church or spiritual leaders to be walking the "good path" - if we are "real" - that is enough.
3. There was a moment in the movie that I think was disrespectful to the Lord. The Pastor's wife thanks the Lord and Donny Osmond (who is tattooed on her back) that her daughter says she will never get a tattoo. ("thank you Jesus and Donny" she says, making a joke out of our Lord's name.
4. There is another subtle "anti-conservative" message in the movie. The pastor's wife tries on a few occasions to protect her testimony -- She doesn't drink, she doesn't dance, etc. --- Then, at the end of the movie when all is resolved and everyone loves themselves she (and everyone in the movie) let's go in crazy party dance at the local bowling alley. The message -- "guarding yourself and your reputation as a conservative Christian isn't necessary -- in fact, it would be much better if you just relaxed and went wild.
Courageous and Fire Proof are Christian mainstream movies that have much clearer Biblical messages.
Overall, I had a tremendous time with my wife Amy, but I think the message of this movie is more harmful than helpful to the clear message of the gospel.