Are more Christian movies at least moving away from what critics would call the usual altar-call-driven “inspirational” fare?
Last night I read a review of the new film Persecuted, which for some reason I assumed was a documentary (wrap that in scare quotes if you wish) based on the 2003 nonfiction book by David Limbaugh. Not a chance. Folks, this is a evangelical-flavored suspense thriller. And I didn’t even know that was a thing.
If this were another Liam Neeson thriller, that stuff wouldn’t be new. But surely we must grade on a fair curve because it’s Christians.
Sen. Donald Harrison has introduced a bill—the Faith and Fairness Act—that would make it a requirement for religious leaders to express their beliefs in a way that “permits equal time and respect to other systems of faith. […]
John Luther, though, isn’t evolving. John’s the leader of Truth, the largest Christian organization in the country, and a critic of the Faith and Fairness Act. […]
Clearly, the guy’s a serious troublemaker. So despite years of friendship, Don hatches a detailed plan to jettison John and squelch his salvation sermons.
Step 1: Have John pose for a couple of post-sermon selfies with an admiring 16-year-old girl.
Step 2: Kidnap John.
Step 3: Drug John.
Step 4: Stick John in a car with the girl.
Step 5: Take pictures of the girl getting physical with the passed-out John.
Step 6: Kill the girl.
It’s hard to have much spiritual authority or political clout when you’re in prison for rape and murder.1
And then there’s The Virgins, a direct-to-streaming independent film that dares to be a Christian sex comedy2 And it works? And by laughing at the expense of the evangelical Sex Prosperity Gospel — that is, the meme that if single Christians simply Wait Patiently on God’s Chosen One For You then your future married sex life will be stigma-free and mind-blowingly perfect forever? Yes, according to Christ and Pop Culture writer Wade Bearden:
Mary is a graceful Christian girl with an overprotective father. Because the couple waited to have sex, they’re planning a wedding night for the ages. The stakes get even higher when the audience finds out that Nick is being shipped off to Afghanistan the following morning. After an ill-timed prank by Nick’s brother Toad (Conner Marx) creates a domino effect that leaves the couple running around town looking for a place to consummate their marriage, it seems like the universe (and maybe even God) just might be against them having sex. Nick’s perfect night, the night he dreamed about his entire life, is on the verge of unraveling right before his eyes.
All of these points converge to make The Virgins a very funny film. Though, given the religious nature of the story, it’s probably not the type of funny you’d expect. And that’s okay. The characters talk about sex. A lot. There are jokes about foreplay and intercourse—especially from Nick’s crass but deftly amusing grandpa. But the humor never comes across in a way that degrades or cheapens the meaning of intimacy. In turn, it actually serves to nudge at our ideas and sensibilities. This makes The Virgins very different from most traditionally defined faith-based films—though their characters never seem to be having sex, either.3
Other than end-times retreads, evangelicals don’t make thrillers. And other than a recent apparent “ha ha, silly husbands can’t manage households because the woman’s place alone is in the home”-themed film, we also don’t do comedies.
Persecuted and The Virgins appear at least to be worthy attempts to break those barriers.
Now if we can just do something about that whole dearth of decent, imaginative, groundbreaking fantasy and sci-fi films … or with all the fantastical films available these days, do Christians even need to try?
- From the Plugged In review of Persecuted by Paul Asay, July 18, 2014. ↩
- I’d ignorantly assumed this also was a documentary (wrap in another set of scare quotes if you wish). ↩
- Sex, Marriage, and the Prosperity Sex Gospel: A Review of The Virgins, Wade Bearden, Christ and Pop Culture, July 18, 2014. ↩