Thursday, October 26, 2006

Facing the Giants of Criticism

It doesn't take much more than seeing the commercial to know that the makers of Facing the Giants (made by Sherwood Pictures) faced just as large (or larger) specimens as the characters in the movie. Seemingly set-up for failure from the beginning, the production made by a Baptist church in Georgia utilized everything from volunteers to skateboard wheels to complete the movie for an "economical" sum of $100,000. Shaky acting, limited special effects, and a relatively un-original storyline all effect this movie, but Facing the Giants' very existence--and ensuing success--in and of themselves fell "giants"--the giant odds and the harsh critics.


The ironic thing is this: one of the major and more prominent criticisms of Facing the Giants is that it is too "preachy"--specifically, it "preaches to the choir." While I would agree that the movie could've had a greater influence and reach for God's Kingdom if it would have been less blatant and more convincing in its approach, I can't let the critics get away with this allegation.
The fact is, mainstream Hollywood is almost always "preaching to the choir." Hollywood preaches to the choir of those who are "lovers of pleasure rather than of God." (2 Timothy 3:4) It preaches to the choir of those who "love darkness rather than the Light." (John 3:19) It preaches to the choir of moral relativists. (John 14:6) It preaches to the choir of those who "do what is right in their own eyes." (Deuteronomy 12:8 ; Judges 17:6 ; Judges 21:25) It preaches to the choir of atheists, agnostics, and all others who lack a proper respect and fear of God. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ; Matthew 10:28) It preaches in favor of desires for LACK of sexual, linguistic, and many other types of moral restraints. (See Sodom & Gomorrah--for example--and Ephesians 4:29) It preaches positively towards believers in the autonomy--and perhaps even the omnipotence--of man. (There's too many Scripture verses to even mention one here.) It preaches to the "survivors of the fittest," and the fittest. And sometimes--often in documentary form as in those done by Michael Moore--it even preaches specifically to extremist liberals, socialists, and conspiracy theorists. If I had to sum it up in one line, Hollywood often tickles the eyes and ears of Secular Humanists, or "secular progressives," as Bill O'Reilly (The O'Reilly Factor) calls them.
Many times these "sermons" are preached in deeds, not words. But if a picture says a thousand words, then how many words does a motion picture say?

I want to focus on one of these "preaching points" in particular: the autonomy of man, and the prevailing will or power of man. This is most relevant when discussing Facing the Giants. There are at least six sub-plots in Facing the Giants to go with the main, Cinderella football storyline. In a summary of brevity, these plots include: the coach and his wife trying to have a baby; a player on the team dealing with the responsibility of natural leadership; a player on the team with a bad relationship with his father; a player on the team who has a fear of failure and a crippled father; an older man who prays for all the students in the school every week; and the coach and his wife dealing with financial troubles.
In this movie, God is heavily intertwined in ALL plots. In the vast majority of other Hollywood productions, God is heavily intertwined in NONE of the plots. Sure, "miraculous" things happen, that "defy science," or go "against the odds," or "can't be explained," but they generally are contingent on a few things: the charity of another human; luck; the determined will and power of mankind; etc. The doctor can say, "You're pregnant; I don't know how that's possible, but you are." But if the miraculous occurrence is explained with the answer of God, it's "preachy." A high-schooler can say, "Dad, I'm sorry I disrespected you. I want to have a better relationship with you." But if he says, "Dad, I got right with God, and I've read in the Bible that I should respect you no matter what," that's "preachy." A crippled father can stand up to show his son strength and bravery, and tell his son, "Your best is all you can do, and if you fail, it's not the end of the world." But if he says, "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me"; or, "With God, all things are possible"; or, "God has not given you a spirit of fear"; or, "Do your best and leave the rest up to God"; or something along those lines, that's "preachy" or religiously loaded. A dad can give the head coach a new truck for being a good influence on his son, his son's teammates, and the rest of the school. But if he gives him the truck because of his godly influence, that's too Christian. And lastly, a team can play together with all their hearts, and the breaks can go their way, and they can beat the Giants. But, if the team plays together with all their hearts to the glory of God and it pleases God to grant them victory, that's wrong for entertainment--deserving of a bad rating.
The conclusion is this: what the critics mean when they say that a film such as Facing the Giants is overly religious or the product of fantasizing Christians is that the only acceptable set of beliefs in entertainment is that of atheism/secular humanism/liberalism/relativism/etc. They'd try to make you believe that such beliefs are "neutral," but that's just not true.
I'll admit, the monopoly on the entertainment industry has gotten even to me. Now, this may be due to poor execution (acting or scripting) by the makers of Facing the Giants, but it even felt weird to me to hear God mentioned so unflinchingly. However, just cause it feels different--unusual is the right word--doesn't mean it's wrong or bad.

And that's where the critics contradict themselves. They say that the storyline is too cliche. But despite the tendency to think that Facing the Giants is run-of-the-mill, the overbearing presence of God in and of itself makes this picture out of the mainstream, and it deserves credit for that. Maybe the critics could call it "edgy" or "fresh." (See last post)
Besides, even if Facing the Giants is cliche and predictable, and even if cliche, predictable football films are a dime-a-dozen, Facing the Giants deserves its share of the ten cents. It is a good movie in its own right. Remember the Titans is one of my favorite movies, and I know it's based off a true story, but I would've been perfectly okay if the producers had decided to be "cliche" rather than having a melancholy ending.



So, the critics say they don't like it because it's "too preachy," too predictable, and too cheap. But, as I said in my post Worthy of Our Hearts, Minds, and Money, I believe something much deeper than dislike is going on here in the entertainment industry, whether the critics (and others) involved know it or not. Of course, even if there is some type of malicious intent, it would never be admitted to. But, preconceived skepticism is surely held towards this movie because it was by a church. However, when you consider the strong and sometimes radical beliefs held by others behind common entertainment fare, the "man behind the curtain" excuse is another impertinent, unfounded argument.

Within and in spite of all this criticism, the making of the movie, followed by its monetary success, could possibly be considered a better story than the movie itself. According to Rotten Tomatoes , $5 million plus change (big-bills change) has been accumulated in ticket sales. That's gotta come as a shocker, especially to the critics whose reviews Rotten Tomatoes posts, who have collaborated to give it only 7 percent "fresh" (positive) reviews. Of course, when you compare that to the 90 percent positive Rotten Tomatoes' Users' rating, it seems rather conspicuous. The bottom line here, is this: critics, consider yourselves ineffectual. You are effective only in as much as what you consider effectiveness. You couldn't stop The Passion of the Christ despite--on Rotten Tomatoes--giving it only 51 percent fresh. You couldn't stop The Chronicles of Narnia (although this widely got rave reviews, several critics for prominent outlets trashed it--some on the basis of it being too Christian, or that's at least implied). And you don't seem to be stopping One Night with the King or Facing the Giants. Perhaps you should get started on your strategy for The Nativity Story and Prince Caspian right now. (By the way, I boast not in myself or in other Christians, but in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. [Galatians 6:14] Also, I realize that Jesus Christ does not have to show Himself through Christian movies' large dividends, but if He chooses to, I'll be glad to celebrate and give Him the glory.)
If you don't want to take time to do some math, I'll do it for you: Facing the Giants has received income--SO FAR--that exceeds its outgo by 50-fold!!! In other words, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would've had to have made somewhere around $20 billion--IN THEATERS--to match!!!

Regardless of your critique of the execution--which I think is pretty good but can be fairly and vaguely summed up as "could've been better, could've been worse," this movie has such profoundly positive and Christian messages to portray that by themselves make this work worth seeing. Here's my list, in random order, of the messages this movie transmits [all these are biblical, but for the sake of publishing, I've decided not to have Scripture references here]:
1."If we win, we praise Him. If we lose, we praise Him."
2. Do everything for God and His glory.
3. Do your best, and leave the rest up to God.
4. God blesses the righteous and those who are in His will.
5. "Never give up. Never back down. Never lose faith."
6. Prayer changes things.
7. God supplies for our needs.
8. With God, all things are possible.
9. "Winning football games is too small a thing to live for."
10."We can't win football games if we don't play as a team."
11. The Bible can be applied to all aspects of life.

To read a fuller summary of the story of the movie and see other features, click here.

~ Kingdom Advancer

Post-Note: Favorite Element: Soundtrack: the Christian artists, like Casting Crowns, Bebo Norman, and Third Day, combined with an astoundingly impressive score, make this perhaps the highest production-value element of the movie.

*** If anyone has any other movies to add to my short "recent Christian success" list, feel free to do so.
****If anyone has any other messages they think Facing the Giants told that I don't have listed, feel free to comment with them, as well.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie Facing the Giants and totally disagree with all of the hype.

This movie tells the viewer all you have to do is believe in God and you will get a raise, a stranger will donate a new car, a infertile man will father a child, you will win at everything you do, people will love you everywhere you go, lame will walk, you will become rich and famous.

Sorry, but that is not God, that is Santa Claus. God never promised us a rose garden. He also never promised that our lives, our circumstances, our problems would change. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ – not money, cars, winning and pregnancy.

This is a sad case of humanism being replaced for God. In effect, non Christians who watch this film, and expect their lives to change and “get all the goodies” will be greatly disillusioned. In fact this movie might be a tool for Satan, and I believe it is therefore a satanic film.

It is sad such a pathetic humanistic excuse for satanic propaganda. The writers, directors and actors should be aware that their false worldly portrayals are helping Satan not God. This is one viewer who is greatly saddened by this horrible, false teaching.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to your beliefs of Christianity, I believe that your comment has no biblical base and therefore, it is a tool used by satan to discredit the ABILITY OF GOD to bless those who seek Him. Therefore, it is a SATANIC COMMENT that you posted. I pray God will open your eyes and reveal Himself and His love to you!

Anonymous said...

dude stop lying in the name of religion. you know as well as anyone else that non-christians go to heaven as well. so stop preaching lies in the name of god. have a conscience.

Fireproof the Movie said...

Hi there,

My name is Monique & I'm part of the PR team for Sherwood Pictures--creators of FACING THE GIANTS.
Thank you so much for supporting the movie on your blog! We wanted to keep you informed of their latest project--FIREPROOF.
It's due to hit theaters this September in theaters nationwide. You can go to www.fireproofthemovie.com to view the trailer, read the synopsis, and sign up for updates to stay up to date with all of the FIREPROOF happenings! If you're interested in learning more or need any resource, pictures, and downloads for your blog please email me at monique@lovell-fairchild.com and I will be happy to get you what you need.

Again, thanks for blogging!
Monique
Lovell-Fairchild Communications

Traci said...

Facing the Giants is a great family movie to remind everyone Religious or not that if you respect other, don’t dwell on things you cannot change, be grateful for what you have, work hard and great things will happen. Maybe not with a car or a winning team a baby etc. However, it is in your attitude towards life. If your happy with yourself and show others that they can be happy no matter what is put in front of you. I guess what I am trying to say is do not look at it a preaching movie look at it as a values movie. I am not a religious person persay, but I do believe in God. I lost my brother to a drug over dose 2 years ago and was very low for a long time until I decided I can’t change what happened to him and I need to move forward past the what ifs. I use many outlets. I looked at the bigger picture and I am better for it and this movie shows that. My only regret it I wish my brother could have found some thing like that in his life maybe he would still be here...who knows? I hope that helps.

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Matt said...

I heard a story about two farmers who desperately needed rain. And both of them prayed for rain. But only one of them went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain?

Jeremiah 29:11 >> For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

"this movie might be a tool for Satan, and I believe it is therefore a satanic film" Come on really, it might be a tool, therefore it is. I am sorry but that logic is simply sad... no in fact it is not logic at all, but folly.
Proverbs 10:14 >> [...]but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

"you know as well as anyone else that non-christians go to heaven as well"
"This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -Jesus (Matthew 13:49-50)
(see also 2 Peter 2:4-10)

Anonymous said...

The Lord will bless His sons. He is the God of the impossible. The believe in Him is not a fact, is faith. God does not want you be a loser in everything you do, he says to seek his kingdom first and then all the things will be added. Read the Bible, first of all, and you will see the truth.

Anonymous said...

I am watching Facing the Giants on the UP channel right now. Although the room is mostly white it became uncomfortable to everyonr when the young black assistant football coach was giving an inspirational speech quietly to a football player and was telling him basically you can do all things through Christ quoting bible verses and the white coaches kept interrupting him by yelling "Well!" In black voice. Its uncomfortable and my strong belief that any color should be allowed to worship God who created the entire human race. The next scene shows teens sitting on the football field in large groups listening to a man talk about Christ to them after he had included church beliefs with football practice. None of the coaches yelled "Well!" in black voice at him. I will contact the network because its embarrassing that Christians would mock a black Christian. It makes us look bad.

Anonymous said...

" A dad can give the head coach a new truck for being a good influence on his son, his son's teammates, and the rest of the school. But if he gives him the truck because of his godly influence, that's too Christian."

Well, no, a dad can't give a head coach a new truck at all, (at least, not in a godless public school in nearby Fulton County, according to their rules) because that is a violation of basic ethics. Giving an expensive gift to someone who can give your child a grade or decide how much playing time your child gets on a team can be perceived as a bribe, even if it isn't meant as one, and people of good morals and good sense would see that and tactfully refuse the gift. I know it was given anonymously, but the dealer's name is on the papers, and the coach could have returned the truck and explained that without knowing who donated the truck or why, he could be putting the team in a precarious position by making it look as if the head coach is corrupt. I don't know why this didn't occur to whoever wrote the script, but the fact that it didn't makes me unwilling to trust any of the other lessons given in this film, Christian or not.