Facing the Giants: A Fantasy Film

I’ve blogged a couple times before (here and here) about Facing the Giants, a film produced by a church in Atlanta that is currently in theatres. Barbara Nicolosi from Church of the Masses just posted her take on the film. Barbara is a critic whom I probably disagree with as often as I agree with her, most notably about Da Vinci Code and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I think she’s hit the nail on the head with this one. Here’s part of her review, along with her summary of the film:

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.)

We are going to leave alone the fact that the film is badly acted, terribly written, completely lacking in imagery, and directed and shot without any style or evident skill. Let’s skip all that and just talk about the content problem.

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.

Read the rest of her post here.

Christianity vs. Morality

After having a conversation with a friend last week about the differences between Christianity vs. Morality (they’re not the same, by the way, despite what some people try to say), these lyrics from the beginning of Andrew Peterson’s Come, Lord Jesus caught my ear again yesterday:

Tonight in the line of the merchandise store
While they were packing up my bags
I saw the pictures of the prophets of the picket signs
Screaming, “God hates fags”

And it feels like the church isn’t anything more
Then the second coming of the Pharisees
Scrubbing each other ’til their tombs are white
They chisel epitaphs of piety

Andrew Peterson lead sheets

Andrew Peterson released a CD this year titled “Appendix A: Bootlegs and B-Sides: Being a retrospective look at a dubious career in storytelling and singing off-key”, a collection of bootlegs and demo recordings spanning 13 years. On the back cover, he includes this notice:

! ACHTUNG !
READ THIS FIRST
Though every attempt has been made to make this record sound super professional, it’s still a bootleg record. You’ve been warned. Vomiting and/or nausea may ensue if listened to without reading the liner notes

The liner notes start out by reiterating this: Vomiting and/or nausea may ensue if album is experienced without proper explanation, ventilation, and eye protection. Despite these warnings, it is a fun album to listen to. It includes live versions of songs like Little Boy Heart Alive, Alaska or Bust, and Isn’t It Love, and other songs you can’t hear anywhere else like Mohawks on the Scaffold and Alien Conspiracy, or, The Cheese Song.

Two of my favorite songs Andrew included are Flesh and Blood (a Communion song), and Doxology (Romans 11). To help facilitate the use of these songs in churches, I wrote out lead sheets for both of them. You can download them for free from Andrew’s website here. There are links at the bottom of the Music page.

I’d love to hear if you’re able to use them. Andrew told me he has heard from a lot of people that have already downloaded them.

Enjoy.

Mindy Smith – Long Island Shores

Mindy Smith, whose debut album One Moment More ranks as one of my all time favorite albums, has just released her sophomore project titled Long Island Shores. I saw Mindy perform several of her new songs on the 8th, the week it came out. While I have not yet had time to fully take it in, it is very promising so far.

I’m Not the Only One Asking continues in the vein of Angel Doves from her first album, with Mindy singing Bird on the telephone wire / come down and sing to me / Have you heard from my Father? / Have you any news to bring? // I know I’m not the only one asking / among wandering souls down here / Can you shout it from the highest peak / or at least whisper it in my ear // I’m reaching for heaven / down on my knees / down on my knees / I’m finally getting nearer to heaven / nearer to Thee //.

The first verse on Out of Control says The blood is dry and the wounds I hide / the scars are settling in / So I keep the light low and they still show / I sit and count every stitch //. In the second verse Mindy sings about the questions and the longing I think we all feel, if we’re honest with ourselves: Don’t know what for but these open doors / keep slamming in on me / and if life’s a joke then it’s getting old / and I hope God’s looking out for me //.

Mindy is one of three artists whose debut solo albums completely blew me away in the last year or two, the other two being Holly Williams and Steven Delopoulos. They’ve all been working on new albums, and Mindy’s is the first to come out. Steven’s new album, As If Love Were a Sword, is scheduled for release early next year; I haven’t heard anything recently about Holly’s. I don’t see how any of these three can make their sophomore recordings as good as their debuts, but I’m hoping that they are close. Long Island Shores so far lives up to my expectations and gives me hope for the music Mindy will make in the future.

“God is proud of this movie”

Facing the Giants, a movie I blogged about here back in July, released in theatres last week. Josh Hurst, reviwing the movie for Christianity Today, broke what is evidently the cardinal rule of christian film criticism: “Never ever ever, under any circumstances, say anything bad at all about a film if it is made by christians.” He ended his review by saying this:

One must also acknowledge that the film—made on a $100,000 budget by a Baptist church in Albany, Georgia—has its heart in the right place; there are good lessons here about honoring God in everything that we do, the importance of respect and leadership, and the power of prayer. Those are all things viewers could benefit from hearing. Whether they ever will hear them, though, is another matter—when a film is as unintentionally corny as this one, it’s anyone’s guess as to how many viewers can stomach all the schmaltz for the positive message at the end.

The comments have been pouring in to Christianty Today in response to Josh’s review. Here are a couple:

posted 10/03/06
Your review of Facing the Giants is disgusting. This was one of the greatest movies I have ever seen.

posted 10/03/06
“Shame, shame, shame on you for giving Facing the Giants a bad review! I’ve heard that Christianity Today is anti-Christian. Now, I believe it!”

posted 10/03/06
“In a world where Christians curse the darkness, it’s a welcome change to see a movie daring enough to light a candle. Yeah it’s a littleover-the-top at times, but I would expect Christianity Today to embrace a movie that challenges Hollywood in every way. I believe audiences will prove your last comment wrong and turn out to support this movie. You guys should be ashamed of yourselves for giving this film a negative review. I believe God is proud of this movie, and that is enough to deserve my support. I guess that’s not enough for your publication.”

Jeffery Overstreet summarized some of the arguments here, and quotes a couple other film critics, including these two:

Jeff Strickler (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) says, “The religious proselytizing in this football movie is about as subtle as a blindside hit by a 300-pound defensive end.”

Chris Hewitt (St. Paul Pioneer Press) asks, “If the Christian football team in Facing the Giants begins to win because God wants them to, does it follow that the acting isn’t good because God didn’t want it to be?”

Jeffrey sums up his comments with this paragraph:

Are audiences loving it? Yes. Does it have a positive Christian message? Obviously. Is it crafted with more professionalism and quality than most “Christian films”? Yes. But are there some valid criticisms? Many accomplished critics think so, in the religious press and in the mainstream press. And since we serve a God who cares about excellence as well as “messages” and crowdpleasing, we should be glad that there are watchful critics challenging us to strive for better and better things.

Well said, Jeffrey.

Violence vs. Peace

Shaun Groves wrote a post today comparing Martin Luther King’s philosphy during the civil rights movement to that of Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panthers, and then asks how those differing philosophies should affect our thinking today about peace and violence. He concludes his post by saying this:

I have a question for the white faces in my audience, dimmed with disapproval: Does the shoe America is kicking her enemies with today fit Martin [Luther King]? You and I, well, our grandparents and their parents, were the terrorists once. They stole humans, caged them like animals, denied them the practice of their religions. They blew up a church and killed three little girls. They made it legal to rape a dark skinned woman. They lynched and burned “niggers.” Their politicians and Sunday School teachers hid behind Klan hoods. And the goal of many whites was to eradicate African Americans or, at the very least, keep them from participating in our government and society. It’s as if their generation wrote a chapter of the dictator handbook used by our enemies today.

Would you have argued in the sixties that terrorized African-Americans should follow Huey [founder of the Black Panthers]? Would you have argued for “regime change” and cheered an army of dark faces fighting the U.S. government for “justice, freedom and democracy” with bullets and bombs? Would you have defended their violent revolution by quoting Just War doctrine?

Is it only godly to “kick @$$” now that we’re the one’s wearing the shoe? What about when we were the ones so many wanted kicked?

Read his full post here.