I just found Barbara Nicolosi's review of the movie "Facing the Giants" (HT - Phil Cooke) To say that Barbara didn't like the movie would be a gross understatement. She's a bit over the top in her condemnation of it. My mom saw the movie and liked it so I've got to go easy here. I don't want this to be just a rant, but I do want to say that I think that, in her over the top way, Barbara makes a good point here.
Facing the Giants from any serious perspective is a fantasy film. Its message is very dangerous for Christians, and scandalous for pagans. Adult Evangelical Christians watching Facing the Giants is like sex addicts watching the Spice Channel. (Nope. Not going to take it back.) . . . . .
The film tells the story of a poverty-stricken, generally disdained, losing football coach who drives a broken down truck and goes home at night to a devastatedly infertile wife. Incited by no particular plot point, the coach reads the Bible one day and then kneels down in a field (Why the hell is it always a field? Is that like in Zecharaiah somewhere?) and gives his life to Jesus. In short order after he utters the Evangelical commitment formula aloud, he wins back the esteem of his fellow townspeople, he turns around his terrible team so that they win the championship, somebody gives him a brand new shiny red truck, AND his infertile wife becomes pregnant!
WOW! Give me some of THAT Jesus-stuff!
Absolute fantasy stuff. The kind of thing that makes Christians puff out their chests proud to be on the winning team! This film fumbles deep, deep in the prosperity Gospel end zone. It is icky to tell people that they should be Christian because of the career and health benefits. We have the problem on the team of that embarrassingly unsuccessful crucified coach of ours.
If we want to charge Barbara with being over the top here I think we ought to concede that she accurately describes a Pollyanna-ish approach that many take to the Christian faith. We see this in Christian fiction and movies with their neat and tidy happy-ever-after endings, in our church websites populated with pics of bright and shiny people, in our preference for idyllic countrysides over messy over-populated cities, and in our health and wealth gospels.
On the one hand we could argue with the statement about "that embarrassingly unsuccessful crucified coach of ours." What Barbara forgets to mention is that the crucifixion wasn't the end of the story, the resurrection was - a very happy ending. Yet, the point she wants to make still stands - things don't always end well in this world for christians. That's where pollyanna Christianity goes wrong. Christ promises us a cross in this life, not a trophy.
Update: 11-21-06 - My Monkish friend has also written some excellent comments on this. Here's a few excerpts:
Facing the Giants angers an advocate of serious films of faith like Barbara Nicolosi, but those of us who live in the Bible belt can easily see why eight weeks out it is still on almost 300 screens, will probably pass $9 million in the theaters and make huge DVD sales. Facing the Giants is the kind of story the average evangelical Christian in the largest evangelical areas wants to see; it’s the kind of story that fills Christian bookstore shelves and pastors’ sermons. It’s a story that says “God is real; we’re right; it works.” It’s reassuring . . .
I happen to agree with Nicolosi’s desire to see real quality films and serious art coming from Christians, but let me be blunt: the more the films she imagines reflects what she would like to see, the more likely such a film will be almost completely ignored by average evangelicals . . .
Is there an audience for a film where the lead character experiences a lot more pain, turmoil and failure AFTER praying the prayer? Where’s the Bonhoeffer story? Where are the stories of non-evangelical Christians? . . .
Interestingly, Hollywood has made some of these movies, such as Tender Mercies and To End All Wars. But evangelical Christians showed almost no interest in presentations of faith with depth. Stories of faith and real life won’t be successful among the audiences that went to see Facing the Giants. Never mind that a story where the coach wins, the baby arrives and the truck really is red misrepresent and pervert the entire nature of the Gospel as a call to take up a cross and become the scum of the earth. Evangelicals aren’t ready to tell themselves or anyone else the truth on the big screen. They see the media’s power in simple terms: it should tell them they are right, and make all the questions, problems and failures go away in a fantasy of certainty . . .
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