Last week I heard about this great movie coming out that was produced by a Baptist church in Florida called Facing the Giants. I was told that Sony was giving it a test run over the weekend to see if it would continue to market the film. Being the good Christian patrons, my wife and I rushed to the theater after church on Sunday, purchased our tickets, and watched the film. After an emotional roller coaster of crying then laughing, then crying and laughing again, we left the film with a sense of hope for the future and a greater appreciation for the love of God. I immediately went home to check the online reviews of the film and came across Christianity Today's review of the film. Expecting at least a nod of appreciation for the film's content, I was rather disappointed when the reviewer blasted the film.
What disappointed me wasn't so much the fact that the reviewer didn't like the acting in the film. I can understand that. Acting is very subjective and all us have different emotional triggers that work uniquely for us and not for others. What disappointed me was the content of the criticism. The critic pointed to a scene where an assistant coach tries to help a struggling athlete kick a field goal by applying the Scripture , "Narrow is the way that leads to life and broad is the way that leads to destruction." The critic described this as "twisting Jesus's words" and totally missed the point. The coach wasn't giving a theology lesson, he was trying to help a struggling athlete. This is called comic relief, not Film Theology 101.
The other put down was the fact that things turn out a little too right for the stuggling coach and his infertile wife. After the main character has an encounter with God and decides to live for His glory, God shows up and turns his hopeless situation around. According to the critic, this is too close to the "name it and claim it" and "prosperity gospel" camp.
I beg to differ. Repeatedly in the film, the coach says that we are to praise God when we win and we are to praise God when we lose (aka...when things go bad). It just so happened that things did happen to turn out right for the man in every way before the end of the film. Might I ask, what is wrong with this? Speaking from the perspective of someone who has struggled with many of the same issues as the coach in the film (I too often feel like a failure and my wife and I have been struggling with infertility for almost the same time as the character in the film), I find it rather encouraging that if we live for the glory of God, then God will help us to win in the end-whatever that looks like.
Too often the words "name it and claim it" and "prosperity gospel" become cheap put- downs against Christians (especially preachers) who actually believe that God answers prayer. I wonder if the critic of this film was equally disappointed when he read the Book of Job and discovered that, in the end, God gave Job twice as much as he had before. Yes. Sometimes things really do turn out right for people when they cry out to God in genuine faith. I ,for one, do not have a problem with that. Why should I?