Fireproof

Movie Information

The Story: A fireman whose marriage is on the rocks enters into an agreement to follow the dictates of a book that might restore his marriage. The Lowdown: A faith-based drama that's strictly for the faithful.
Score:

Genre: Faith-Based Drama
Director: Alex Kendrick (Facing the Giants)
Starring: Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea, Ken Bevel, Harris Malcom, Phyllis Malcom, Walter Burnett
Rated: PG

Is there really any point in reviewing Alex Kendrick’s follow-up to Facing the Giants (2006)? It’s not a film in any real sense of the term, which is to say that it isn’t aimed at moviegoers, those who care about movies. It’s for people interested in religion—specifically, at people who are keen on religion as viewed by Kendrick and the Sherwood Baptist Church. In other words, it’s aimed at the people who liked Facing the Giants and found its moralizing uplifting. Since I am not one of those people, Fireproof isn’t for me.

Co-critic Justin Souther, who watched most of Fireproof with me, pegged it when he remarked, “The problem with movies like this, with people like you and me, is that they drive us further away from accepting Christianity.” That neatly sums up the central drawback. Fireproof isn’t merely preaching to the already converted; it’s helping to further alienate the unconverted and the skeptical. I doubt that was the intention, but it pretty much is the result with films such as these. The simplistic and often self-righteous tone is off-putting.

The tone of this movie is just that much more out of kilter due to the fact that the filmmakers splurged by hiring “name” actor Kirk Cameron for the lead role. Those who subscribe to the former Growing Pains teen heartthrob’s fundamentalist evangelical Christianity will doubtless like him here and respond positively to his presence. If you’re out of that loop, however, you’re more likely to find his smugness and constant smirking anything but sympathetic. 

Cameron plays Caleb Holt, a fireman in a crew made up of sitcom-styled goof-offs and one earnest Christian. Caleb’s marriage is in trouble, which isn’t hard to understand since Caleb is pretty much a jerk. But wife Catherine (Erin Bethea, Facing the Giants) isn’t all that much better, though it could be argued that she’s merely responding to his alpha-male loutishness. When it looks like the pair are headed for divorce, Caleb’s father (Harris Malcom) steps in with a handwritten book called The Love Dare. The book outlines a 40-day (get it?) program for restoring marriage—complete with appropriate Bible verses. Grudgingly, Caleb agrees to try this.

The problem is the program doesn’t seem to be working so well. Personally, I think this is because Caleb is such an oafish boor, but the film has it that it’s really all because Caleb isn’t a Christian. (The earnest Christian fireman has a good marriage. So would Caleb, if he, too, were a Christian.) A talk with dad changes all that, and Caleb—somewhat unpersuasively—decides to become a Christian. It’s as simple as that. But he still faces an uphill battle to win Catherine back, especially since a married sneak of a doctor at the hospital where she works is making a play for her. All this is handled with maximum predictability, combined with outbursts of sloppy writing and dialogue that bears only the slightest relation to the way people really talk.

The catch is simply that if you’re predisposed to subscribe to the film’s intentions and messages, chances are you’ll overlook the bad writing, rudimentary filmmaking, awkward performances and lame attempts at comedy. If you’re not so inclined, I can’t imagine any earthly reason to subject yourself to this movie. Personally, I found Spike Lee’s new film, Miracle at St. Anna, much more profoundly and movingly religious than anything on display here. Viewers in search of something spiritual, and not a simple religious tract, would be better advised to try Lee’s more challenging opus. Rated PG for thematic material and some peril.

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

151 thoughts on “Fireproof

  1. Cheflance

    Yes, I have to agree that Fireproof was overtly and aggressively proselytizing. And I am the first to admit that people don’t generally go to the theater to A: find religion, or B: learn a life lesson. But in light of the current percentage of marriages in America today that succeed past a couple of years much less THRIVE, I believe that conversion intent aside, Fireproof does a noble and necessary job in displaying marriage for what it is supposed to be. Work. In today’s society, too many people view marriage as a “reversible institution.” The first twinge of unhappiness sends far too many people scrambling for their lawyers. The average divorce rate for marriages today is 52%. This might be a bit of news for some people out there, but marriage is less about happiness and more about JOY. There is a huge difference between the two, and I believe Fireproof did a nice job in making that distinction. Too many people feel that they have a right to be happy, and the slightest bend away from that selfish happiness is grounds to break the matrimonial covenant that they so eagerly agreed to before the altar. I feel that Fireproof has done what no other movies out there even attempt to do – show what it takes to restore honor and resilience back to marriages here in America today. But then again, divorce lawyers have always made a killing in Hollywood anyway… Why not allow the rest of the country to follow suit?

  2. Sean Williams

    Thank you, Mr. Hanke, for once again reminding me why I avoid religious films despite my personal faith.

    There are two fundamental (or fundamentalist?) problems with Kendricks’ films: first, he thinks that films made by Christians, about Christians, and for Christians will somehow appeal to non-Christians; second, he thinks that religious enthusiasm is equivalent to artistic ability. (At the risk of sounding prejudiced, I must say that the latter attitude is very typical of Southern Charismatic churches.) If God gave you a quadriplegic duck’s sense of camerawork, it’s probably a safe bet that He didn’t intend for you to spread the Gospel through film.

    Too many people feel that they have a right to be happy, and the slightest bend away from that selfish happiness is grounds to break the matrimonial covenant that they so eagerly agreed to before the altar.

    Can I get an amen, brethren?

  3. Ken Hanke

    I feel that Fireproof has done what no other movies out there even attempt to do – show what it takes to restore honor and resilience back to marriages here in America today.

    Yes, but, you see, that’s what it did for you because, I’d guess (based on the tone of your post), it plays to your beliefs. The belief that the only way for a marriage to hold together is through the scriptures is not one I subscribe to. As a result, the film not only doesn’t do anything like what you say for me, but its whole somewhat smug attitude only drives me further away religion. All I’m left with is a preachy, amateurishly made movie with low production values and clunky, unrealistic dialogue.

  4. brebro

    When my wife and I were made to go to the family preacher for a “talk” before he performed our marriage, he asked about our faith in God. When we told him that we had none, he was very upset and warned us that without God in our lives, our marriage would last maybe five years at the most. That was 25 years ago and we are still happily married. Maybe Kirk Cameron and preachers don’t know everything after all.

  5. Ken Hanke

    There are two fundamental (or fundamentalist?) problems with Kendricks’ films: first, he thinks that films made by Christians, about Christians, and for Christians will somehow appeal to non-Christians; second, he thinks that religious enthusiasm is equivalent to artistic ability.

    And this leads to what, for me, is a third problem — the idea that the results should be immune from criticism and should be supported and praised regardless of any actual quality. I was amused to find that I was castigated over on Rotten Tomatoes for holding the film “to a higher standard” so I could give it a bad review. A higher standard than what? A high school play? The poster seemed oblivious to the possible idea that he was lowering the bar in order to give the movie a free pass because he was in sympathy with the intent.

  6. Chester

    Just a point of clarification – the filmmakers didn’t pursue Cameron – Cameron approached them. He wasn’t right for the part (in their minds) and he actually had to go down to Albany and audition for a couple of days. In the end, it came down to their not being able to afford Cameron’s fees, so Cameron waved the fees, and had the filmmakers make a donation to a charity ranch he runs. That’s how much he believed in the project.

    I do agree with you, however, that these films are preaching to the choir, largely. For that reason, I wish they’d have gone ahead and made Cameron a professing Christian from the top, but still had him going through the same struggles. I just think it would have played better, and would have avoided the notion that simply praying a prayer will make everything turn around in your life. It can, but it’s just not so simple as that.

    “Christian fantasy” is how one reviewer referred to “Facing the Giants”, and it seems that “Fireproof” might be continuing that legacy.

    But all those seemingly negative remarks having been written, I do hope that the Kendrick brothers continue, take some of these critiques to heart, and really put out a good, broadly appealing film in the future.

  7. Ken Hanke

    But all those seemingly negative remarks having been written, I do hope that the Kendrick brothers continue, take some of these critiques to heart, and really put out a good, broadly appealing film in the future.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing that myself. I don’t know if it can be done within the confines of an approach that would be acceptable to them or to their core audience, however, and that may be a stumbling block.

  8. Brian

    I haven’t even seen this movie, and I don’t need to. The very premise offends me. My father converted to Catholicism at the age of 33, trying to save his marriage, thinking it actually meant something to the relationship. They divorced less than a year later. Give me a f-ing break with this sh-t.

  9. leo allard

    “bad writing, rudimentary filmaking, awkward performances, and lame attempts at comedy” could apply to what percentage of movies today? 80? 50? Of course, everyone’s a critic, so here is my take. Mr. Hanke brought his own agenda into the film BEFORE he watched it, and as someone who reads film criticisms to make choices on what to go and see, I feel he let me down. We all do this, bring our own worldviews into a viewing of art, but we all aren’t connected to RT for several thousand people to read. I’ve been married for 12 years, and the situations that were driving the married couple in the movie apart are the same (pride, selfishness, loss of romantic emotion, etc.) as the ones that my wife and I have had to deal with. I felt like the movie gave real examples of marital problems, and then gave specific actions to take to deal with those issues. No film coming from Hollywood is doing anything to celebrate a oommitted marriage. Does that mean that we should say it’s great because it is the only movie that is telling that story? Maybe so. I do know that there were three specific times in the film when I was suprised by the direction the film took, so I didn’t think at all that it was predictable. I also found the humor to be funny, not lame, but that is taste and I understand differences in taste. I felt the performances were genuine and the actions scenes were excellent. I also know the film was done for $500,000.
    So overall, I felt Mr. Hanke’s criticism of this film lacked a center, unless his whole point was that he wanted to bash a film made by xtians, it provided a wrong description of how the lead role was chosen, it kept going back to the author’s choice to not believe in Jesus, well, basically the reviewer continue to make the creview about the reviewer and not the film itself.

  10. Cheflance

    Mr Hanke,

    Why do you presume that I subscribe to Christianity? I made no mention of that in my first comment. I was simply stating that NO ONE else in Hollywood is attempting to address the integrity of the covenant of marriage. In fact, most productions nowadays are pointing us in the other direction by glorifying divorce because one or both people are “just not satisfied.” If that was the case, why don’t we just call the institution of marriage antiquated and chuck it to the garbage like many other values that have been lost in this country over the past 200 years.

  11. Cheflance

    Please don’t assume that I am a Christian simply because I am defending a movie that happens to be evangelical in content.

  12. Greg Peterson

    I for one, as an atheist, am happy to defend one movie made by Christians–I thought “Spitfire Grill” was quite good. And while I don’t know the faith of everyone involved, two scripts by Horton Foote–Tender Mercies and Trip to Bountiful–deal in Christian themes and are excellent films. Movies with spiritual themes can be well-made. Sectarian, preachy movies are almost never good, and I cannot imagine they often have the intended impact on their audience. Jesus reminded hs followers to be as subtle as serpents and gentle as doves. Most movies of this ilk are about as subtle and gentle as pornography is.

  13. Nicole

    I don’t feel alienated when the theme is anti religion. I don’t feel alienated when clearly there is no God in a script–any God–yours, mine, any other person’s. What is it about Christianity that has some geared for an attack before even a word is spoken? Your post reads as if written by a man threatened by christianity, and I wonder that had it been any other faith in any other diety, would you have praised the avant garde nature of the film or have been just as closed- minded. I don’t see films about buff men with big guns, but that doesn’t mean that if I do I expect it to be horrible, and, sometimes, when it’s my husband’s turn to choose, and because I have an open mind, I am surprised that I like the movie. Did you go into this with an open mind, or with a chuckle that, “oh gee, just another christian trying to convert me.” This wasn’t a movie meant to convert you. This was a movie meant to show a couple of ways to save a marriage: with an open heart, and hey, imagine this, God! And, by the way, both work. See the movie again, putting aside your distate for christianity, and maybe you too might laugh out loud when Wayne is busted horribly grooving in a mirror and later because of a dare leaves a trail of hot sauce on his way to the bathroom. And, just maybe you might feel moved by a man who would give his life, and nearly did to move a car from a railroad track to save a girl he didn’t know. With a closed mind, I can see how you might have missed out on being able to enjoy those very true to life kinds of scenes. Maybe just not hollywood enough for you. Maybe you can only stand to watch the vague spirituality–the it’s all about me and my search for filling myself with whatever makes me feel good kind of a script.

  14. Ken Hanke

    “bad writing, rudimentary filmaking, awkward performances, and lame attempts at comedy” could apply to what percentage of movies today? 80? 50?

    Whether it could or couldn’t — and I’d agree that part of it could — that doesn’t give Fireproof some kind of free pass. All you’re really saying is that “it’s no worse than a lot of other films.” That’s not praise, it’s only a kind of justification. But even if it falls into that category, neither 80, nor 50% of the movies today are as badly made as this. For that matter, the average Hollywood product may be stupidly written, but it’s at least more proficiently written than this, and nearly all of it is better performed.

    Mr. Hanke brought his own agenda into the film BEFORE he watched it, and as someone who reads film criticisms to make choices on what to go and see, I feel he let me down.

    No, I brought my own baggage and worldview to this film, not my own agenda. I don’t have an agenda, the film has an agenda. Also, I clearly indicated that this is not my sort of film and that I am not in sympathy with this particular kind of proselytizing. Had I pretended complete objectivity, you’d have cause to feel let down, because the review would have been hypocritical. As it stands, I was completely upfront about my lack of sympathy with the film’s intent.

    No film coming from Hollywood is doing anything to celebrate a oommitted marriage. Does that mean that we should say it’s great because it is the only movie that is telling that story? Maybe so.

    And this is where I completely disagree with you. A badly made film is a badly made film. A badly made film that addresses issues that are important to you is still a badly made film. Calling it “great” when it isn’t doesn’t change that. Of course, you’re at liberty to call it “great” even if you think it isn’t, but then I’m at liberty to call it otherwise. I see cardboard characters, bad acting, corner-cutting run rampant, and a script that preaches a moment of religious conversion that doesn’t even depict that moment. I see a truck that’s driven for at least 40 days with a license plate advertising the dealership that loaned it. I see an action sequence in a burning house that’s clearly utilizing some fire-fighting training ground. (Not only is there no furniture to speak of in the house, but the camera is angled in such a way at one point that you can see the burnt-out shell of the house next door through the window. I’d call out a Hollywood feature on stuff like this, too.) I see gags that aren’t in the least funny or inspired. The list goes on. This is simply not a good movie, let alone a great one by any reasonable standard, apart being in sympathy with the intent.

    So overall, I felt Mr. Hanke’s criticism of this film lacked a center, unless his whole point was that he wanted to bash a film made by xtians, it provided a wrong description of how the lead role was chosen, it kept going back to the author’s choice to not believe in Jesus, well, basically the reviewer continue to make the creview about the reviewer and not the film itself.

    Well, I’m sure I won’t change your opinion, but, no, I would have given a good film a good review. This is not a good film. I also don’t believe in the idea of a “choice” about what I believe and don’t believe. A belief is either something you have or you don’t have. The film, however, should be judged on how effective it is at being an evangelical work, since that is openly its agenda and its raison d’etre. With that in mind, the fact that it did nothing to impact my beliefs or lack thereof in any positive way is relevant to the film’s success or lack of it. And I didn’t actually say how Cameron came into the project, merely that the church splurged in getting a real actor this time.

  15. Adam Renkovish

    Here’s the thing: I am a Christian. I accepted Christ into my life when I was a teenager. However, I am also an avid film buff and I know a bad film when I see one. Now, I haven’t seen FIREPROOF, so I can’t make any specific comments about this film as of yet. What I can tell you is that I did see FACING THE GIANTS, and it was one of the worst films that I had ever seen in my life. Before some of you get bent out of shape, I will say that I admire this small church for putting together two productions and getting them into the theatres. Not many mega churches can say that. The problem is that the work that they are producing is of such a low quality, that it is an embarassment to “Christian filmmaking”. Some of the reviewers have already stated this, but I’ll say it anyways: these films are way too keen on preaching to the choir, moralizing, and preaching then they are on telling a good story with faith based themes. I am of the opinion that Hollywood and those in the indie scene make much better “Christian” films than we Christians do. Films like MAGNOLIA, THE STRAIGHT STORY, BREAKING THE WAVES, TENDER MERCIES, HOTEL RWANDA, DOGVILLE, and even PULP FICTION, in my opinion, have stronger representations of the themes of religion and faith. It’s just that most Christians won’t watch these, and that’s a shame. Maybe they’d learn something. I’m just fed up that all the Christian community has to offer are films like THE OMEGA CODE and ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING. Quality is being ignored for the sake of a forced spiritual message, that I assure you, will turn off most non-Christians. I know this because I’ve talked to non-Christians who have watched what we have to give them. A friend of mine knows a guy that accepted Christ after a screening of BONNIE AND CLYDE, because he saw so explicitly the consequences of sin portrayed on the screen. I’m waiting for Christians to produce something that doesn’t throw the harsh realities of life under the rug. I’m tired of “family films”. We need to get our hands dirty, and maybe portray life the way it REALLY is. That’s another problem with Christian films. They are extremely sanitized. People don’t want to get out of their comfort zones. Ken Gire wrote a book called REFLECTIONS ON THE MOVIES: HEARING GOD IN THE UNLIKELIEST PLACES. At one point he says, and I quote, “I’d rather be told and R-rated truth that a G-rated lie”. Why are we Christians lying to our audiences? Why not show the real hurt and pain that goes on in a rotting marriage, Edward Albee style? I assure you that it would be nothing like FIREPROOF – from what I have heard of the film. I guess the reason that I am ranting so much is that I can understand where Mr. Hanke is coming from. I agree with him. These films are pushing people away. Read Hanke’s review, and you have the proof in black and white.

    There’s nothing wrong with integrating faith based themes in film. I think that we need more films that point to God, but we need to do it in a way that doesn’t feel like a blow to the back of the head with a Bible.

  16. Ken Hanke

    Why do you presume that I subscribe to Christianity? I made no mention of that in my first comment. I was simply stating that NO ONE else in Hollywood is attempting to address the integrity of the covenant of marriage.

    Simply because not too many non-religious people would be likely to use the phrase “the matrimonial covenant that they so eagerly agreed to before the altar.” Was I in error? I certainly didn’t mean to offend you by implying you were a Christian, and what I actually said was that the film played to your beliefs, based on the tone of your post. I didn’t actually say you were a Christian. Are you saying that you aren’t a Christian?

    In fact, most productions nowadays are pointing us in the other direction by glorifying divorce because one or both people are “just not satisfied.”

    So if both people are not satisfied by being in this marriage, just exactly what is the compelling reason they should remain in that state?

  17. Ken Hanke

    I for one, as an atheist, am happy to defend one movie made by Christians–I thought “Spitfire Grill” was quite good. And while I don’t know the faith of everyone involved, two scripts by Horton Foote–Tender Mercies and Trip to Bountiful–deal in Christian themes and are excellent films. Movies with spiritual themes can be well-made.

    And have been well-made over the years. The central fallacy that’s always at the center of “the critic who doesn’t like this movie hates Christians” — it presupposes that because the critic admits to not being a Christian, he must therefore hate Christians. (Does it then follow that Christians must hate non-Christians? It would seem the logical conclusion, if we accept the first line of thought.) The comment further presupposes that the critic who didn’t like the film dislikes all spiritual films — a fairly big leap, especially coming in response to a review that includes, “Personally, I found Spike Lee’s new film, Miracle at St. Anna, much more profoundly and movingly religious than anything on display here. Viewers in search of something spiritual, and not a simple religious tract, would be better advised to try Lee’s more challenging opus.” This makes any such supposition open to question.

    For the record, I don’t hate Christians or Christian filmmakers. Take the latter to an extreme and I’d have to hate a sizable number of Christian filmmakers, who tend to make secular films. That’s improbable. I could rattle off a list of spiritually-based films that I rate very highly — going as far back as Frank Capra’s The Miracle Woman and Leo McCarey’s Going My Way and forward to William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration and on to the Spike Lee picture I cited. There are many more.

    Sectarian, preachy movies are almost never good, and I cannot imagine they often have the intended impact on their audience.

    Thank you. That’s essentially my point.

  18. Tania Plemmons

    I just happened to notice that other than “Righteous Kill”, this movie had more comments than any other. As I curiously read through the comments, I noticed a widely variety of opinions on the film. Since I was about 18 years old,(now 37), I had been very confused about religeons, who was right and who was wrong? Until one day (2 years ago)I decided to pick up the Bible and actually read it for myself. Since that really worked for me, I’m going to do the same here and just go see the movie for myself.

  19. Ken Hanke

    Your post reads as if written by a man threatened by christianity, and I wonder that had it been any other faith in any other diety, would you have praised the avant garde nature of the film or have been just as closed- minded.

    Several points at issue here — not the least of which is the bizarre notion that anything about Fireproof could be construed as “avant garde.” I would be curious to know the definition being used here, because it fits no meaning of the phrase that falls within my sphere of knowledge. As to my response to the film being different had it been “any other faith in any other diety[sic],” that would be a valid question except for the fact that I have yet to see a film that was made for the sole purpose of selling the viewer on any other faith or deity — at least not that was being shown in a theater. Evangelical films about Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. may well exist, but I’ve never actually seen one. Could you offer me a list of such movies? Then I could see them and answer the question.

    Did you go into this with an open mind, or with a chuckle that, “oh gee, just another christian trying to convert me.” This wasn’t a movie meant to convert you.

    Oh, on the contrary, I think it very much is meant to convert the viewer. And, no, I didn’t go in with a chuckle. Having seen Facing the Giants, a groan was the best I could muster. And that’s not an anti-Christian response, it’s an anti-heavy-handed preachiness and bad filmmaking response. The idea that the film’s supporters want to put forth — and it’s been the same with any evangelical film that’s ever come along — is that the fault simply has to lie with the reviewer and not with the film. It never seems to occur to anyone that the film itself just isn’t good, no matter how admirable its message might be. The logic here is interesting because it works on the basis that the reviewer is prejudiced against the movie because he’s not in sympathy with its goals, and that he mustn’t question those goals, but that he should simultaneously give the movie a free pass because of them.

    This was a movie meant to show a couple of ways to save a marriage: with an open heart, and hey, imagine this, God! And, by the way, both work.

    Not according to the film. As put forth in the movie itself, the former doesn’t work without the latter. That is openly stated in the movie.

    See the movie again, putting aside your distate for christianity, and maybe you too might laugh out loud when Wayne is busted horribly grooving in a mirror and later because of a dare leaves a trail of hot sauce on his way to the bathroom.

    Good Lord! This stuff wouldn’t be funny regardless of context. It’s weak material and it would be just as weak in a wholly secular film, except there no one would be defending it. Calling it funny is just indulging Fireproof — it’s like laughing out of politeness at a hammy high school play.

    And, just maybe you might feel moved by a man who would give his life, and nearly did to move a car from a railroad track to save a girl he didn’t know. With a closed mind, I can see how you might have missed out on being able to enjoy those very true to life kinds of scenes. Maybe just not hollywood enough for you.

    Actually, it’s the fact that it’s altogether too Hollywood that grates on me. I don’t find it “true to life,” I find it preposterously contrived and shamelessly manipulative. It’s all pasted together out of cliches from the Hollywood playbook — only not done as slickly.

    Maybe you can only stand to watch the vague spirituality–the it’s all about me and my search for filling myself with whatever makes me feel good kind of a script.

    An interesting assertion. Can you back it up? What are these movies with “vague spirituality” that operate on this basis? Name me a few. I don’t mean films that aren’t in any way about spirituality, but ones that fit this definition.

  20. Ken Hanke

    The problem is that the work that they are producing is of such a low quality, that it is an embarassment to “Christian filmmaking”.

    That’s only the beginning of the problem, Adam. The problem is compounded by the rush to support these films and make claims for their quality that are incredibly out of proportion to reality. This merely indulges the filmmakers to continue on the exact same path. And that’s fine if that’s what they want to do, but if they want the films to reach out beyond their own adherents, it’s a dead end.

    Films like MAGNOLIA, THE STRAIGHT STORY, BREAKING THE WAVES, TENDER MERCIES, HOTEL RWANDA, DOGVILLE, and even PULP FICTION, in my opinion, have stronger representations of the themes of religion and faith.

    That’s exactly the point I’ve been trying to make.

  21. keith

    I wonder how many of you giving poor reviews have lousy marriages. My guess is 99%. You’re more happy with the backbiting, affairs, jealousy and hurt as that is more reflective of your reality, your, “normal.”

  22. After college I worked on Music Row in Nashville, primary in country music, but also dealt with Christian music as well. At that time (early 90s), Christian music was an embarrassment. Each “hip and new” act sounded about five years out of date and HAD to have a “sounds like” tag added. Remember Petra? Yuck.

    Now there’s quite a few artists that are on the forefront of indie music that have been accepted in the music community. Pedro the Lion, Danielson, Wovenhand and others come to mind. I’m not a Christian, but I listen to these artists… because they are GOOD.

    The Christian movie industry, if there is an industry, is standing at the same point where the music industy was 15 – 20 years ago. How do you evolve? I’m sure that there is many talented actors, producers and directors in Hollywood that are devout. Where are they?

    I think it’s possible to make great religious films that are not so laughably bad. It’s obvious that the market is there. A great film is a great film, the accolades and crossover appeal will come.

    I believe I remember reading that the one film that converted the most people was THE EXORCIST. Ken, correct me if I’m wrong.

  23. Sean Williams

    Quality is being ignored for the sake of a forced spiritual message, that I assure you, will turn off most non-Christians…. I’m waiting for Christians to produce something that doesn’t throw the harsh realities of life under the rug. I’m tired of “family films”. We need to get our hands dirty, and maybe portray life the way it REALLY is. That’s another problem with Christian films. They are extremely sanitized.

    Mr. Renkovish, your comments are some of the most inspired I have ever heard from a fellow Christian. Frankly, I’m ready to carbon copy your post to every Christian “director” in the medium!

    To my brethren, I would only note that spirituality does not exempt a film from criticism — especially not sophomoric spirituality.

  24. Ken Hanke

    I believe I remember reading that the one film that converted the most people was THE EXORCIST. Ken, correct me if I’m wrong.

    Good grief, Marc, I have no idea. It seems plausible enough. The Exorcist doesn’t do it for me, but Wm. Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration and Exorcist III are capable of getting me to buy into Blatty’s arguments for Catholicism (a faith I’m more in sympathy with — broadly speaking — than most) — while they’re on the screen. Afterwards, not so much, but he does open up points for discussion for me.

    On the other hand, there’s the question of just how long these conversions are good for. Back in my younger days I used to go out with a girl who had some unfathomable (to me) tendency to go to tent revivals, get caught up in them, and become “saved” — for a period of anywhere from two days to a week. This happened every six months or so.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I wonder how many of you giving poor reviews have lousy marriages. My guess is 99%. You’re more happy with the backbiting, affairs, jealousy and hurt as that is more reflective of your reality, your, “normal.”

    Once again, it’s the reviewer who must be at fault, not the film he or she is reviewing. Your post, by the way, is exactly in keeping with the smug, self-satisfied tone of the film and why it rubs non-believers and skeptics the wrong way.

  26. Chester

    “I’m sure that there is many talented actors, producers and directors in Hollywood that are devout. Where are they?”

    Hey! You left out the most important one… THE WRITERS. If you don’t have a good story to tell, then the rest of those folks will have nothing to work with.

    And I’m glad to give a shout out to a fantastic organization called “Act One” (www.actoneprogram.com) that exists to enable Christians to work in Hollywood – not to create a Christian film ghetto – but to work within the existing industry – to tell great stories that communicate the truths of the Christian faith.

    There is a move on in Hollywood now – several different Christian organizations that are trying to equip Christians to not just survive in Hollywood – but to thrive.

  27. Hi Mr. Hanke,

    I haven’t yet seen Fireproof yet, but I am a filmmaker who is also a person of faith and am also married – so I plan to see it. Whether it makes any sense to folks or not, my family was deeply moved by Facing the Giants. And isn’t that what causes a filmmaker to succeed – when they move their audience?

    I want you to know I am listening to the comments on this page as a filmmaker and as a person of faith. I’m very interested to look at the reviews for a film like Fireproof especially from people who are not Christians. Please understand, we’re not making this up that there sometimes is an agenda with those who aren’t Christians review a film made by christians. There is a bias. And other times, there is not a bias and Christians unfairly defend the film and condemn anyone who is critical as a Christian basher — which is equally wrong. But who can possibly discern which one it is at times? I’ve not read all your reviews? But would you, for example, be equally critical of a film like El Miriachi or Blair Witch Project or Clerks which were made for low budgets but had large success at the box office? Sure, maybe in Fireproof there’s no furniture in the burning building – but is that really a distraction for the audience? Would you have let it slide in other Indie movies made for small budgets with different worldviews?

    Most folks who aren’t Christian are skeptical of Christians who come across as trying to force a conversion on the audience whether the tactic be movies, books, etc… or whatever art is out there. This makes it hard for us as Christians who are trying to produce art with our own convictions. There’s a stigma on us when we go to make a film and heaven forbid we tell everyone we’re a person of faith — it causes criticism from within and without our churches.

    Is a Christian who makes a film with an agenda any different than propaganda or “agenda filmmaking”. Watch PBS in the mornings with your kids and you’ll find plenty of agenda filmmaking. Some is lousy and some is good. The purpose of PBS Kids, or Nick, Jr. is to teach alphabet, addition, morals, reading etc… etc… and done with the use of good or bad storytelling. Most people (whether liberal or conservative, Christian or not) bring nothing but praise for these sort of media. Ben Hur was an agenda driven story — written to get a point across about God. Translated into a film it achieved the highest record for Oscars.
    Look at the films that opened up this weekend – Religuluos (Agenda driven) and American Carol (Agenda Driven) Both filmmakers have an agenda. This type of filmmaking goes on all the time. Sometimes there’s great criticism of it — and sometimes there’s not. But the filmmakers still have an agenda.

    Christians have fallen short over the years in trying to speak the language of film and get their voices heard in the media. But they are one of many different voices in media with agendas as well. I for one have seen incredible improvement over the years and have seen better and better films being made by Christians these days.

    I’ve also had some good discussions with fellow Christians who are filmmakers about Facing the Giants. The argument is this: If a team playing ball turns to God and they win, then what of other teams in other movies who don’t turn their teams over God -was God not with them? Like the Bad News Bears or the Football or Hockey Teams like the Mighty Ducks? Well let’s look at it from a worldview sense. If a team in any movie, or a character begins to stop focusing on themselves and changes their worldview by sacrificing what they want and coming together as a team — all of a sudden, that team is more likely to win or succeed. Why is that? Is that any different than Coach Grant Taylor from Facing the Giants? He changed his attitude and things changed. It’s just that he turned his life over to God and his attituded changed and thus things got better for him. If an employee with a bad attitude who is lousy at their job changes their attitude at work don’t you think they’re going to do better at their job? Won’t they have a chance of really getting a raise or promoted? They are following a principle that is found in the Bible.

    What is happening is that within us, the Bible teaches that we have a conscience — in our heart of hearts we know what’s right and when we begin to do that (whether we admit it or not) we are following principles of the Bible — observing the laws that God put in the world and that is a formula for success when we apply them. Same is true for marriage. There are many non-Christians who are successful at marriage. Why? Because they apply principles that work. There are many Christians who are not applying these principles and they are failing at their marriages (sadly divorce is rampant in churches all around these days).

    But these principles are there: Love your neighbor, sacrifice, laying down your life for your spouse, honoring your spouse. These are the heart of God who loves His people and the entire world. When Christians or non Christians don’t live according to His standards everything falls apart.

  28. Mrmoss

    To the Christians on this forum:

    It is virtually POINTLESS to argue ad nauseam with those who have not yet experienced the touch of Christ in their lives. Think about it. Remember back when you were in the same position? I was there as well. I was the LAST person you would ever see stepping foot in any house of organized religion. And the Christian church was, to me, the WORST OF THEM ALL. But God did something in my life that within the span of about 30 seconds rendered me unable to deny his existence. As much as I tried to explain him away scientifically and logically, alas, I could not. I was, in a word, brought “kicking and screaming” into the presence of God. But my life has, since then, become infinitely more full and rewarding. God himself touched me, as he will ultimately touch those who may or may not be seeking his face. We will probably not bring those people to know God through a movie forum. The best we can do is extend love, grace and the great commission. God will, and does, do the rest of the work.

    We can, however convince those who do not share our faith to stop GENERALIZING.

    Non christians – Some of the comments that you are making are akin to the sentiment that all Muslims want to fly planes into buildings. All Christians worship the same God, but not all of us share the same doctrines. Please refrain from the generalizations that seem to be the norm here. They only show how much many of you do not know about the Christian faith.

  29. Sean Williams

    I wonder how many of you giving poor reviews have lousy marriages. My guess is 99%. You’re more happy with the backbiting, affairs, jealousy and hurt as that is more reflective of your reality, your, “normal.”

    Kieth, please cease with your straw men. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…” — Colossians 4:6.

    How dare you presume to know the state of Mr. Hanke’s marriage based on a movie review? That’s classic projection and a personal attack that ignores the substance of the debate itself.

    Save your zeal — Fireproof isn’t worth it. We Christians aren’t obligated to defend this trash just because it throws the name “Jesus” around regularly.

  30. Ken Hanke

    All Christians worship the same God, but not all of us share the same doctrines.

    I doubt seriously that any non-Christians here are unaware of this (see my statement about being more in sympathy with Catholicism). However, I think it is fairly accurate to say that a more fundamentalist form of Christianity is at the core of nearly all movies of this sort.

  31. Ken Hanke

    Save your zeal—Fireproof isn’t worth it.

    True — but then it appears to be axiomatic that the worst movies seem to generate the most commentary and not only on these boards, but darned near everywhere. I find that puzzling and disheartening.

  32. Ken Hanke

    But would you, for example, be equally critical of a film like El Miriachi or Blair Witch Project or Clerks which were made for low budgets but had large success at the box office? Sure, maybe in Fireproof there’s no furniture in the burning building – but is that really a distraction for the audience? Would you have let it slide in other Indie movies made for small budgets with different worldviews?

    That’s a not unreasonable question that has no constant answer. Of the films you’ve cited, I’ve never actually reviewed a single one. It’s also been too long since I’ve seen El Mariachi to really comment on it. I’ve gone on record — much to the railing of horror fans — as thinking that Blair Witch is badly made, unmitigated rubbish, however. I’m also not that keen on Clerks, though I’ve admired some of Kevin Smith’s subsequent work. I will say, however, that Clerks, for all its technical shortcomings, is better written and acted than Fireproof.

    You’re kind of dealing from a stacked deck of your own here. You cite three movies that have no agenda apart from attempting to break into the movies using the best film the makers could as a calling card. You want to weigh them against a film that does have an agenda. It doesn’t quite work, since this goes back to “the reviewer is biased because he isn’t in sympathy with the movie’s agenda, and therefore shouldn’t be reviewing it.” So let me ask you this — apart from congratulating yourselves on your religious beliefs, what earthly (or heavenly) good is a movie of this sort if it can’t even make a dent in a non-believer?

    As to the basic question, would I point out the technical shortcomings in a secular independent movie? Of course, I would. I would also weigh those shortcomings against the cumulative impact of the film. And here is where it gets tricky, because in my view Fireproof does not have a cumulative impact that outweighs its shortcomings.

  33. “Hey! You left out the most important one… THE WRITERS. If you don’t have a good story to tell, then the rest of those folks will have nothing to work with.”

    I didn’t mean to… it all starts with the writers. Andrew Stanton from Pixar is an unabashed Christian and has had a very successful career both creatively and financially. I’m sure there are many others.

    “Look at the films that opened up this weekend – Religuluos (Agenda driven) and American Carol (Agenda Driven) Both filmmakers have an agenda. This type of filmmaking goes on all the time. Sometimes there’s great criticism of it—and sometimes there’s not. But the filmmakers still have an agenda.”

    Awakenpictures, I’ll make a deal with you. If you promise to watch RELIGULOUS then I promise to watch FIREPROOF.

  34. That’s good that you brought that up, Orbit about religulous. I’m not sure if I would have any reason to watch it, at least from my perception of it — of sitting there letting a filmmaker attack my faith with hostility coming from someone who just openly speaks out vehemently against Christianity without having any understanding of what that faith is really about. Now I haven’t seen that film as of yet so I can’t truly comment on it in all fairness. I wonder if many non Christians here feel that way about Fireproof or movies like Fireproof? Do you feel great hostility against who you are by watching it? Is it the same kind of feeling a Christian would get from watching Religulous?

  35. Ken and Orbit thanks so much for taking the time to read my long post by the way. My apologies for writing too much.

    I hope you don’t think I’m trying to come in here all self-righteous in saying I’m a filmmaker and a person of faith. What I’m trying to offer is insight from that perspective for those here who are interested. Believe it or not, I really appreciate the comments here.

    For what it’s worth, I believe Fireproof will have an impact on Christians who are married. The statistics are not good for Christians in America who have a very high rate of divorce no different than the non-Christian which is very sad. So a film like Fireproof has a true message to preach to the choir.

    Ken, that’s a good point you make — “what earthly (or heavenly) good is a movie of this sort if it can’t even make a dent in a non-believer? ” This is a question many filmmakers who are Christians need to really ponder – because our Bibles tell many stories of Jesus who hung around “sinners” and they enjoyed his company. Can you enjoy the company of the films that we as Christians are presenting to you?

  36. Ken Hanke

    Awakenpictures, I’ll make a deal with you. If you promise to watch RELIGULOUS then I promise to watch FIREPROOF.

    After which I’d personally love to see a critique of Religulous that adheres to the rules of a lack of bias that’s so often laid down for pro-religion agenda films by their supporters.

  37. Ken Hanke

    I wonder if many non Christians here feel that way about Fireproof or movies like Fireproof? Do you feel great hostility against who you are by watching it? Is it the same kind of feeling a Christian would get from watching Religulous?

    In many cases and ways, I think the answer is yes. A film like Fireproof may not attack my beliefs, but it certainly tells me — with undeniable certainty — that my beliefs are wrong, and that, implicitly, I’ll be damned for eternity because of my beliefs or lack of beliefs. In effect, it tells me if I don’t subscribe to its beliefs, I’m lost.

    A film like Religulous sells a somewhat different package. It’s fair to say that it attacks religion (not just Christianity), but it’s not selling anything as a certitude. Indeed, when all is said and done, its conclusion is “I don’t know and I don’t think anyone else does either.” That’s a little less dogmatic and comes without a threat.

    But I really think that it’s less films like Fireproof that seem openly hostile. It’s the supporters of the film who will accept no disagreement on the merits of thte film and its message. That not only seems openly hostile, it very often is.

  38. Ken Hanke

    Can you enjoy the company of the films that we as Christians are presenting to you?

    If what we’re talking about is Megiddo or Facing the Giants or Expelled or Fireproof (and a number of others), I’d have to say no. There is simply nothing persuasive or entertaining or enlightening in these movies.

    The people who make these movies need to step outside of the Bible classroom where people tell them what a wonderful movie they’ve made and how much good it’s going to do, etc. and look at the larger world. I happened to be in a position last night to see a group of people — there were at least four, neatly dressed and middle-aged — exit Fireproof about 20 minutes into the film and ask the doorman of the theater if they could go see something else. (And, no, I don’t know how they liked the very R-rated Burn After Reading they opted for.) I cite this simply because it’s something apart from the thoughts of some liberal, humanist movie critic. I would, in fact, assume that these folks had some reasonable expectation of enjoying the film and knew what sort of movie it was, yet 20 minutes was enough for them. If you’re interested in reaching a broader audience, you need to ask why.

  39. “Ken and Orbit thanks so much for taking the time to read my long post by the way. My apologies for writing too much.”

    No problem. You are giving thought out, honest opinions and I am more than happy to read them.

    I grew up in the church watching all the movies and listening to all the music. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as Christian anymore, I totally understand why people have faith. As I stated earlier, I do listen to artists that are religious, sing about it, and I don’t feel threatened at all. Unfortunately, the Christian movies that I’ve seen look like either a bad Lifetime movie or a bad Sci-Fi Channel movie, but I believe that they also will improve over time.

  40. I guess, Ken, for what you’re saying comes down to two key questions. Question one is whether Christians who argue about eternity are really telling the truth in their movies and in other forms of communication. Question two plays off of question one — if it is the truth, are they going about expressing that truth in the right way.

    Now if it is the truth, that changes a lot of things. For many Christians, they wholeheartedly believe that people without Christ will perish. So they are genuinely concerned for people even if those folks who get upset about it think they are judgemental. So that brings about a dilemma in expressing a message about eternal punishment — there’s no easy way to say it. And the Bible teaches that it’s foolishness to people who don’t believe. So that’s why it’s hard to truly gage how someone will respond to a film with a Christian message in it if they think it’s no good.

  41. I agree Orbit that these films will improve and I believe they are improving thankfully. Would love to know what happened to drive you away. I heard once that most folks don’t have a problem with Jesus but with those doing his public relations.

    Anyhow This has been a good discussion for me and I appreciate the civility and the honesty on everyone’s part. Have a blessed evening and good night.

    Shalom (peace),
    Tom

  42. Ken Hanke

    As I stated earlier, I do listen to artists that are religious, sing about it, and I don’t feel threatened at all.

    Threatened is, I think, the wrong word. I can’t say I feel threatened by this sort of thing (except when its adherents want to make it into law), but I do sometimes feel attacked by it, though I’m speaking more of the movies. Attacked is also too strong, but it will do.

    While I have yet to encounter a specifically Christian musician that would prompt me to go buy an album, it’s as impossible to divorce religion from music as it is movies. (By the bye, I should note that the only new albums I’ve purchased since Oingo Boingo’s farewell concert were Page and Plant’s Walking to Clarksdale and whatever Ray Davies’ next to last album was called, so I’m hardly up on current music.) There are certainly religious themes — some of them Christian — throughout rock music. Anyone who listens to George Harrison (granted, that’s a mix of eastern religion and Christianity), Jethro Tull and the Who (again eastern flavored) and doesn’t get that isn’t listening very carefully.

  43. Ken Hanke

    Question one is whether Christians who argue about eternity are really telling the truth in their movies and in other forms of communication. Question two plays off of question one—if it is the truth, are they going about expressing that truth in the right way.

    Depends on whether or not they really want to go beyond their core of believers. But the real question isn’t so much are they telling the truth, because I’m reasonably sure that most of these filmmakers are telling the truth as they believe it to be.

    Now if it is the truth, that changes a lot of things. For many Christians, they wholeheartedly believe that people without Christ will perish. So they are genuinely concerned for people even if those folks who get upset about it think they are judgemental. So that brings about a dilemma in expressing a message about eternal punishment—there’s no easy way to say it.

    No, there’s no easy was to say it, but there’s no way I can imagine that you’ll ever be able to sell it to me. It may be what you believe — not all Christians even agree with you and it’s certainly nothing I believe for a second. Moreover, this is where religion completely breaks down for me — basing it on fear. To paraphrase a much more articulate and famous agnostic, Bertrand Russell, I could never subscribe to a god that believes in eternally tormenting someone, nor would I consider such a being worthy of worshipping. So really, I don’t think Christian cinema is going to get past the devout if it’s going to go on the fear-mongering path.

  44. Sean Williams

    True—but then it appears to be axiomatic that the worst movies seem to generate the most commentary and not only on these boards, but darned near everywhere.

    At the risk of insulting fellow posters, I must ask, Are people genuinely invested in defending these movies…or are they paid for their services?

    I could never subscribe to a god that believes in eternally tormenting someone, nor would I consider such a being worthy of worshipping.

    On a side note, there’s some uncertainty about the definition of the words translated as “eternal punishment” in the English Bible: they could imply punishment that lasts eternally or punishment the results of which are eternal — e.g., the damned are burnt up rather than burned. Since the Bible constantly contrasts righteousness/life with unrighteousness/death, many scholars now favor the latter interpretation. Given God’s stated hangup about sin and His insistence that one must be pure-hearted to gain eternal life, why keep the wicked around, even confined to a celestial ghetto?

    Maybe exclusive immortality was a campaign promise or something…. Anyways, that’s a whole other discussion.

  45. gene

    first I want to say that I am biased about this movie and require that by saying this that you will take me as an intellectual also by saying this it lets me get by without having a conscience of what others might feel or care about. oh that only works if you are a film critic.
    I think that you all have missed the point, the fact of the matter is, the numbers do not lie first it finished it’s opening weekend at #4. it also grossed 6.8 million, it played in only 839 theaters and was produced with only 500,000 dollars. now you can say it is just the Christians flocking to see their movie. but come on when tom cruise puts out a bad movie his people still flock to it, and the numbers still count. like legend or MI-3. now with these numbers, compare them to the opening movies with budgets of 16 to 185 million, and played in 2.3 to 4 thousand theaters. abcnews.com gave it a good review, http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=5941016&page=1 all i can say is this if you want a good christian movie go see it if not watch something else. do not let the so called professionals tell you what is good or not.

  46. Adam Renkovish

    Just a side note: Over the summer, I worked as an intern in Georgia at ART WITHIN PRODUCTIONS. They are currently developing several screenplays to be produced. Most of them were excellent.

    I love what they are doing, and it was probably one of the best summers that I have ever had. I learned so much about script development, and I worked with some great people who are true artists. You should check them out and see what they are all about: http://www.artwithin.org.

  47. Ken Hanke

    saying this it lets me get by without having a conscience of what others might feel or care about

    On this frankly rather childish basis, nothing could ever be given a bad review because it might hurt someone’s feelings. Remember that when you weigh in on Religulous.

    I think that you all have missed the point, the fact of the matter is, the numbers do not lie first it finished it’s opening weekend at #4. it also grossed 6.8 million, it played in only 839 theaters and was produced with only 500,000 dollars. now you can say it is just the Christians flocking to see their movie. but come on when tom cruise puts out a bad movie his people still flock to it, and the numbers still count. like legend or MI-3.

    You left out Lions for Lambs, which no one flocked to. Aside from which, this is remarkably beside the point. No one has said the movie hasn’t made money. No one has said there isn’t a core audience for it. Neither of these things prove the actual artistic value of this or any other movie — as you pretty much proved with citing those Tom Cruise pictures.

    abcnews.com gave it a good review

    And that proves what? That somebody there had a different opinion from mine or that of the Boston Globe, the LA Times, the LA Weekly, etc. We can play bring-on-your-review-and-I’ll-trot-out-mine all day. It doesn’t prove anything — and anyway, how does a good review from ABC News count, but reading reviews by the “so called professionals” don’t? You really can’t have it both ways.

  48. gene

    well Greg, first let me tell you on the Mrs. Palin remark…thank you that is the nicest thing anybody has every said to me, I would have preferred Ronald Reagan but it will do. all I am trying to say is a lot of people have seen this movie. and majority of every one I have talked to has had good things to say, it finished #4 in the nation with only 839 theaters nation wide. and it went against the big boys. also I might add abc news gave it a good review and with the media in a left wing corner, I would have been more surprised if cnn wrote a good review. I am not a fan of christian movies. they are done with a fear mongering attitude but there was no fear mongering in this.as i recall facing the giants did not have fear mongering it dealt with respecting others.while this movie to me was more about the marriage than preaching to people. I guess all i am saying is, if you do not like these movies do not watch them if you do watch it. and in a few months who will care what a film critic said about it.

  49. gene

    sir.
    on the remark “saying this it lets me get by without having a conscience of what others might feel or care about” was childish and I want to apologize for it,
    first the abc report was not a review and I do not want to mislead anyone it was a positive article about how christian movies can strive in hollywood, second I understand you have a job to do and sometimes you have to do things that go against your beliefs, all I want to show is this,
    majority of the people including myself on this post, feel that the artistic value of this film was good enough and a lot of people enjoyed it enough to say so.

  50. nutkrakerfan

    I am so baffled as to why so many people think that a “Christian” movie will always be terrible. If we go to the movies to escape or be inspired or just to see what other film makers are doing then we should be glad others are attempting to bring in a new audience. This will just expand our audience. Maybe this will be a new genre. Religious-themed films. I applaud what Sherwood Baptist is doing. Maybe their next film will be as good as some of the stuff that Mel Gibson has done in the past. We won’t know until they try.

  51. Ken Hanke

    majority of the people including myself on this post, feel that the artistic value of this film was good enough and a lot of people enjoyed it enough to say so.

    As is their perfect right. The problem with this whole approach is that it constantly does two things — it endorses the idea that anyone who doesn’t admire Fireproof doesn’t like it because of its agenda and that’s wrong, but anyone who does admire it can do so because of its agenda and that’s just fine. In essence, it’s the same bias you accuse the film’s detractors of only in reverse.

    When my positive — yes, positive — review of Religulous appears this week, I’m sure I’ll be castigated for being biased toward the film’s message, but those doing the castigating will likely not admit to being biased against that message.

    Also, no one ever seems to want to admit that a movie that’s in many cases attended by busloads of churchgoers as a church outing (in one instance I’m aware of, it replaced the Sunday evening service) is pretty much a shoo-in for a warm reception. What do you honestly think the reception to Fireproof would be with an audience full of wholly secular folks not in the least interestd in religion?

  52. gene

    sir,
    first I want to say I have enjoyed our discussions
    and I want to apologize for any arrogance I have shown. I have shown disrespect on behalf of my beliefs and know this is not how as a christian I should react to you or any one who disagrees with me. let me say I am not changing my opinion of the movie I just know it is not worth me arguing over it, I know that Sherwood would not act in this manner and neither would jesus christ. you are entitled to your opinion, and who am i to expect you to accept mine. thank you sir for your time and wour words. and may God bless you.

  53. “I am so baffled as to why so many people think that a “Christian” movie will always be terrible.”

    Well, because past movies prove that to always be true.

    There’s no way you can like EVERY Christian movie, nutkrakerfan. Can you name us a few that you couldn’t stand?

  54. Greg Peterson

    Gene…I’ll let drop anything to do with the once and future Governor Pallin, because there’s no accounting for personal taste. But I will say that as a convinced, full-blooded and full-throated atheist, I have no problem giving bad reviews to atheist movies, books, music, whatever. I said the book “The End of Biblical Criticism” was dull. I said atheist frontman of the band Bad Religion, Greg Gaffin’s solo album was a vanity project of little merit. What’s more, I am a big fan of not only classical Christian works of art, music, literature, etc., but think that, for example, U2 creates some wonderful spiritual material–notably “Beautiful Day,” which is a terrific song of edification and grace. I also listed a few movies with Christian themes that I think are fantastic, and was pleased to see “The Ninth Configuration” mentioned, as I agree that is another great Christian-themed film. I would add “Places in the Heart” as another remarkable example.
    I was an evangelical Christian for 20 years, so I know what the “other side” is like. When one is part of an insular subculture that is distrustful of the human imagination, and production of human talents, and art for its own sake, one does not develop a sense of what quality in art is. It doesn’t matter if the music is a cheap, crappy, knock-off of some far better “secular” band, what matters is a clear salvation message, and the band must use the name of Jesus to be taken seriously. It doesn’t matter if the acting is wooden and script laughable, as long as it hits the right Gospel points. See, I’m free to love or hate any art I want, because I see all of it, from the most sacred mass to the most profane porn, as nothing more or less than the product of human beings. And I can appreciate it–or damn it–on that level, irrespective of its merit as a sectarian tract. You, my new friend, do not have that luxury. And so you get stuck with bad movies.

  55. Ken Hanke

    But I will say that as a convinced, full-blooded and full-throated atheist, I have no problem giving bad reviews to atheist movies, books, music, whatever.

    I know there are atheist books and I presume there is atheist music (I reckon some John Lennon qualifies), but while there’s almost certainly no shortage of movies made by atheists, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything other than Religulous that sets out to spread atheism. Bunuel’s L’Age D’or maybe.

  56. ncain

    I lived in Albany Georgia for a year, right down the road from Sherwood Baptist Church at about the time Facing the Giants came out. Just let me say that these films are pretty much the apex of culture in that area. I couldn’t handle it.

    After a year, I promptly packed up my things and came back to Asheville, and then Atlanta. There really is a giant, imposing cultural divide in America and simplisitic films like Facing the Giants (I haven’t seen Fireproof, nor will I), don’t do help bridge the gap, in the same way that public intellectuals like Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens don’t help. It’s all just preaching to the choir.

  57. Greg Peterson

    Let me try this again–last time I wasn’t able to get it to post. There was a movie a few years back, “The God Who Wasn’t There,” that tried to be for atheism what “Expelled” was for creationism. It’s a clunky tract, as you might expect. The most atheistic mainstream genre movie I can think of is “Altered States.” “Contact” did not actively promote atheism as such, but it made atheism a live option, at least, and put an attractive atheist at the center of the story. Documentaries such as “Jesus Camp,” Hell House,” and “Deliver Us From Evil” perhaps promote religious skepticism by exposing some of religion’s extremes. “The Golden Compass” promotes questioning religious authority, and if the third book in atheist author Phil Pullman’s trilogy, “The Amber Spyglass,” had been made into a movie, I don’t see how it could not have promoted atheism outright. I still hold out hope that will happen someday, since no one has done it better in fiction. And while so far his film directoral output consists only of “Serenity,” the movie continuation of his TV series “Firefly,” Joss Whedon’s body of works promote a brand of French existential atheism. I think Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” promoted atheism, too. I’m not saying any of these movies is like “Fireproof” here–shallow storytelling designed to propel a narrow sectarian view–but I think they do present aspects of atheism that can make it more attractive to a thoughtful skeptical seeker.

  58. Ken Hanke

    This rather interesting link to a review in a Christian publication was sent to the paper –

    http://online.worldmag.com/2008/10/07/fireproof-shouldnt-be-critic-proof/

    The comments are also interesting, some are quite revealing. Notice the one who mentions that he (or she) isn’t big on movies in general, which plays to one of my original contentions that films of this type aren’t made with moviegoers in mind, but are aimed at persons keen on the message alone.

  59. ncain

    I think the big question is how religion becomes hostile to art. There’s a huge industry selling cultural products with the adjective Chrisitan in front–Christian rock, Christian fiction-Christian movies–and it’s all derivative crap that focuses on what it considers to be the appropriate message at the expense of the delivery.

    It’s not like religious messages and themes and art are mutually exclusive. Western Civilization has many, many great artistic works that are inspired by religion. No one dismisses Michaelangelo’s work on the Cistine Chapel because of its subject matter. So it’s not that Christianity is inherently hostile to artisitic endeavor, or achievement. So what is it?

    I think its the insularity of fundamentalism (and evangelicalism)that cuts off believers from the larger culture. Are the makers of Fireproof going to sit down and watch Woody Allen’s movies? I doubt it. Why? Because Allen doesn’t reflect their world view. When you start talking about a subculture that sees itself as at war with the larger culture, then engaging with the larger culture becomes a type of treason.

    In the comments section of the movie review Mr. Hanke links to, one commenter notes that, at their Christian college, they were only allowed to watch approved movies. Now, who is going to go to that college? Certainly not an aspiring filmmaker. And if someone who went to that college did decide they wanted to make movies down the road how would they know where to start? They wouldn’t.

    There’s never going to be any great fundamentalist or evangelical art because it’s a closed system that doesn’t allow for outside influence.

  60. Mr Hanke,

    Good afternoon and thanks for referring us to that article at World Magazine. They are a conservative and Christian magazine, and believe it or not they do have a strong understanding of art at that magazine.

    As for the comments of some Christians there, I agree that some Christians who come from certain schools of thought haven’t been schooled in cinema however I will graciously disagree that there’s any difference in non Christians from that standpoint other than the strictness of some homes who are cautious about what they let their kids watch (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

    Most people in the world have no clue about what makes a good movie or not- they don’t go looking like you or I would or other film buffs who have been schooled in watching cinematic classics like DW Griffith and Chaplain up to present. That’s why popular culture can be so aweful as many folks sit and watch Soap Operas for years and get sucked in (which are technically excelling from a video standpoint – but not very cinematically excellent – which I think you will agree)

    It all comes down to this: people will hate a movie if they don’t get sucked into the film emotionally and sit there looking at their watch.

  61. ncain,

    I believe there are many Christians who might watch a Woody Allen film depending on which one it is.

    Many Christians have an understanding that the things that they watch effect their thoughts and they are cautious about that sort of thing. I bet there are many here who are careful what they eat – many Christians are concerned about what they take in on all levels and I know it’s hard for a lot of you to understand. It’s scinetifically proven that what we watch in entertainment does have an effect on us as a culture.

    Sure there can be extremes in that — but it’s no more extreme than someone who will never eat a potato chip or candy for concern of hurting their body.

  62. “Let me try this again–last time I wasn’t able to get it to post. There was a movie a few years back, “The God Who Wasn’t There,” that tried to be for atheism what “Expelled” was for creationism. It’s a clunky tract, as you might expect.”

    THE GOD WHO WASN’T THERE rents like crazy from us, but it is HORRIBLE. The interviews are interesting, but the whole documentary is basically a therapy session for the director. He must have been beaten in Catholic school often. Many of its topics we will discuss tomorrow.

  63. ncain

    “I believe there are many Christians who might watch a Woody Allen film depending on which one it is.”

    I never said all Christians avoid Woody Allen films. There are many flavors of Christianity. I was referring to the currently popular strain of Evangelical Christianity that considers willful ignorance to be a badge of honor and subtlety as some sort of sin.

    There’s no reason for Christianity and art to be at odds. Flannery O’Connor wrote great stories and novels and they’re all about religion. Every last one of them. Never once did she resort to preaching or simplistic stories. Of course, O’Connor was Catholic, and the Catholic Church has a lot of problems, but it hasn’t really joined this headlong rush away from any sort of empirical knowledge, achievement and cultural literacy the way American Protestants have.

  64. “There’s no reason for Christianity and art to be at odds”

    I definitely agree with you on that point, ncain.

    “willful ignorance to be a badge of honor and subtlety as some sort of sin”

    I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re saying here. Are you saying you feel they are purposefully ignorant to things they should learn about and yet pat themselves on the back about it? And subtlety as sin? Can you give some examples as to what you’ve seen with that?

    I’m not trying to argue either, just trying to understand.

  65. Adam Renkovish

    I think that all Christian filmmakers should take a lesson from Ingmar Bergman. I just watched THE VIRGIN SPRING, and was deeply moved by the spiritual themes within the film. It was the perfect example of what a Christian film should resemble. Now, it probably was not intended to be a Christian film by any means – I don’t know Bergman’s religious background – but, to me, it was a textbook example of how this sort of filmmaking should be executed. There were moments of raw horror and sheer beauty. All of the things you find in “real” life. Things that most “Christian” films are afraid to portray, for the fear of pulling some Pharisee out of their comfort zone. VIRGIN SPRING poses the question “Why does God allow such terrible tragedies to fall on good people?” It’s an age old question, and I don’t care who you are, we have all asked it at one point. On the surface, it sounds cliche. It’s the way the material is handled that makes all the difference. The end is so powerful, with the father falling to his knees and crying out to God. It feels genuine, authentic. Finally, the film ends with a miracle that is so unexpected, it took my breath away. I thought to myself, “this is what Christian filmmaking CAN and SHOULD be.” Kendrick and the good people at Sherwood Baptist could use a lesson on subtlety from one of the masters of cinema, and check this film out. It wouldn’t hurt.

  66. Greg Peterson

    Bergman was the son of a Lutheran pastor but had little if any theistic beliefs, and in his book “Images: My Life in Film,” says the following about death:

    My fear of death was to a great degree linked to my religious concepts. Later on, I underwent minor surgery. By mistake I was given too much anesthesia. I felt as if I had disappeared out of reality. Where did the hours go? They flashed in a microsecond.
    Suddenly I realized, that is how it is. That one could be transformed from being to not-being — it was hard to grasp. But for a person with a constant anxiety about death, how liberating. Yet at the same time it seems a bit sad. You say to yourself that it would have been fun to encounter new experiences once your soul had had a little rest and grown accustomed to being separated from your body. But I don’t think that is what happens to you. First you are, then you are not. This I find deeply satisfying. That which had been formerly been so enigmatic and frightening, namely, what might exist beyond this world, does not exist. Everything is of this world. Everything exists and happens inside us, and we flow into and out of one another. It’s perfectly fine like that.

    It’s probably worth nothing that Bergman is a major influence on Woody Allen, another director who tackles big issues.

  67. Ken Hanke

    The most atheistic mainstream genre movie I can think of is “Altered States.”

    Interesting. This is pretty obviously a film I know very well (hell, I saw it five times on its original release), and I never really thought of it in this light, though I can see where you’re coming from (“simple hideous nothing”). What’s most intriguing is that the filmmaker is not an atheist, though he’s certainly not a traditionalist. Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote the source material, however, may well have been an atheist.

    “The Golden Compass” promotes questioning religious authority, and if the third book in atheist author Phil Pullman’s trilogy, “The Amber Spyglass,” had been made into a movie, I don’t see how it could not have promoted atheism outright.

    Even as it stands, the film of the first book is no Valentine to religion — though it seems more aimed at Catholicism than anything else. Much of the references may be toned down, but they’re inherent in the material and they’re certainly evident in the art direction and set design.

    And while so far his film directoral output consists only of “Serenity,” the movie continuation of his TV series “Firefly,” Joss Whedon’s body of works promote a brand of French existential atheism.

    I’ll have to take your word for it, ‘cuz Whedon’s writing style grates on me.

    I’m not saying any of these movies is like “Fireproof” here–shallow storytelling designed to propel a narrow sectarian view–but I think they do present aspects of atheism that can make it more attractive to a thoughtful skeptical seeker.

    With the exception of the documentaries, I think what you’re looking at are films with a degree of complex thought where the themes are more subtley buried within the materal itself. Also, it’s worth noting that a lot of the more direct stuff is comparatively obscure, i.e., The God Who Wasn’t There played…where?

  68. Ken Hanke

    Many Christians have an understanding that the things that they watch effect their thoughts and they are cautious about that sort of thing.

    And that’s what breeds the very insularity that keeps the fundamentalist/evangelical film stuck in self-congratulatory mediocrity. If they have to shelter themselves from the greater world at large out of fear that it might undermine their faith, then it strikes me that their faith is pretty shaky to begin with. Also, it comes around to a central question — how can you know you object to something if you haven’t even seen it? I know I object to the ham-fisted preachiness of Fireproof and the amateurishness of its writing, production and acting because I’ve actually sat through it. (And, for the record, though it hardly needs be said, it didn’t undermine my lack of faith.)

  69. Ken Hanke

    Kenny, Kenny, Kenny—it’s always the reviewer’s fault.

    Oh, yes, I forgot for the moment. What a zany I am.

    Besides, Fireproof wasn’t intended for critics in the first place.

    You mean it wasn’t intended for critics who don’t like it.

  70. “Also, it’s worth noting that a lot of the more direct stuff is comparatively obscure, i.e., The God Who Wasn’t There played…where?”

    It might have hit a few festivals, but I bought it directly from the filmmakers.

    Also of note is Richard Dawkins’ ROOT OF ALL EVIL, which BBC made a bold move in broadcasting.

    Of course, this should be a topic of another thread.

  71. ncain

    “I’m not quite sure I understand what you’re saying here. Are you saying you feel they are purposefully ignorant to things they should learn about and yet pat themselves on the back about it?”

    Yes. That is what I’m saying. The fundamentalist flavor of Chrisitanity that is now very much in vogue in the U.S. is proud of ignorance. People who have never studied biology or genetics rail against teaching evolution on the basis that a book written thousands of years ago by a bunch of goat herding desert nomads doesn’t mention it. That’s glorifying ignorance.

    It even goes beyond strictly religious boundaries, to the point where we have candidates for public office railing against educated, citified elitists who eat arugala. There’s a general resentment against people who have worked to better themselves and are intellectually curious.

    And subtlety as sin? Can you give some examples as to what you’ve seen with that?”

    Evangalicals-who may or may not be fundamentalists-see “evangelizing” or spreading the gospel as one of their main missions in life. To that end, when they produce art it tends to be preachy because they are preachers, not artists. The product is often hopelessly unsubtle, like Facing the Giants, and, presumably, Fireproof. I wasn’t saying that they see subtlety as a sin in the way that idol worship is a sin, but just that they seem incapable of it.

  72. Greg Peterson

    I’m not making any exceptional claims for myself beyond one, and that’s that I have an uncommon vantage point, having been a fundamentalist evangelical for twenty years and now an atheist for about 12 years, and I want to applaud and ratify what ncain has written. I will also add my conviction that religion in general and fundamentalism in particular MUST be insular because it cannot survive contact with other ideas. Evangelical parents who place their children’s beliefs above everything else are quite right to fear the internet and libraries. And it is this very fear that makes films such as “Fireproof” possible. The filmmakers don’t really believe that it is likely to reach or convince many non-believers. But they know there is an audience of already-believers who will go to this movie because it is safe, because it will NOT confront the Christian viewer with any unapproved ideas. The movie is intended to soothe believers more than challenge non-believers. The irony is, the movies that really challenge my status as an atheist are ones such as “Places in the Heart,” in which a warm blast of grace at the end broke my heart and made it possible to accept emotionally a narrative that I could not now accept intellectually. It is the power of story that can bypass our critical faculties and tap into pure existential longing, which is surely religion’s strength.

  73. Ken Hanke

    Evangelical parents who place their children’s beliefs above everything else are quite right to fear the internet and libraries. And it is this very fear that makes films such as “Fireproof” possible. The filmmakers don’t really believe that it is likely to reach or convince many non-believers. But they know there is an audience of already-believers who will go to this movie because it is safe, because it will NOT confront the Christian viewer with any unapproved ideas.

    This could also explain the — to me — quite disproportionate anger directed at anyone who dares to suggest that the films are bad, because that indicates that there are indeed others out there who aren’t subscribing to it all.

  74. Sean Williams

    I will also add my conviction that religion in general and fundamentalism in particular MUST be insular because it cannot survive contact with other ideas.

    “Must” is entirely too strong a word. For one thing, willful ignorance is a determined effort to survive contact with other ideas. Furthermore, you implicitly assume that any fundamentalist who critically considers other ideas will immediately find them more valid than religion. Forgive me, but that’s precisely the same assumption that Mr. Kendrick and company make: viz., that anyone who rejects their enlightened worldview is either ignorant or determinedly perverse. Fact is, plenty of religionists have critically examined their beliefs and still found them worthwhile.

    There’s a general resentment against people who have worked to better themselves and are intellectually curious.

    So the faithful don’t work to better themselves and are never intellectually curious? You’re right about a general resentment against the educated, but that resentment is a longstanding aspect of American culture. It is neither endemic to religion nor universal among the religious.

  75. Greg Peterson

    With genuine respect, Sean, I will now make the implicit explicit: fundamentalism cannot survive broad, deep, honest inquiry. It is simply untenable. That might make me sound insufferably arrogant, but as a person who actually went through the process, and who was at one time desperate to hang onto his faith, I can testify that this is the case. If it were only me, I would be more circumspect, but time and again I have seen that fundamentalism simply cannot survive good questions. I think one final evidence for that is the ghettoization of religious subcultures to help them avoid confronting unfamiliar, non-sanctioned views. I’ll relate a recent example, associated with another movie, “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” the latest from Woody Allen. On the Christianity Today website the review of the movie condemned it because of its sexual content, but if anything, it was a cautionary tale for humans about finding the right balance between passion and control. I think that’s a healthy message, and it was presented paradigmatically, not pedantically, through the film’s story. But they could not take that away from the story, because in their worldview there is a single correct way to view eros. For a fundamentalist to think about balance (whether in matters of the flesh, or in matters of metaphysics) is contrary to her or his Manichean approach to life. Now, I am stating the case a little stronger than it perhaps it deserves–there are obviously exceptions and nuances that I’m ignoring here. But as a rule of thumb, I will stand by what I wrote previously, and then some.

  76. Hello friends,

    I wish I had more time because there’s so much to discuss, but will be observing Yom Kippur tonight (which might seem rather odd for a follower of Jesus – but that will be another discussion for another day) so I’d like to just leave a few thoughts and will hope to continue this discussion in 24 hours from now if you’re interested.

    I’ve been reading many posts here and see your perspective and I’d like to ask another question of some, especially those who are atheists here. Have you ever truly met folks who were educated and strongly convicted in their faith in Jesus – and not just in words, mind you (because there’s many folk who give lip service to the Messiah but have a very different lifestyle behind closed doors)?

    True, fundamentalism in itself can cause serious problems – however living by Biblical conviction is not necessarily something that is counter to scientific inquiry. THere are countless Christians who are educated and scientific who believe contrary to evolutionary doctrine..

    The argument has been made on here that art and Christianity can exist together. I believe that science and Christianity are also a subject that can work together. The Bible is no science book – however it does not contradict true science. For example, The book of Job talks about the earth sitting on nothing (rather than an animal) and Isaiah (one of them wilderness type nomad prophets) spoke of the earth being circular rather than flat. THere’s so much more but as I said, I’ve not got the time to further discuss.

    You’re right that some Christians blindly follow things without thinking and are afraid of being challenged, but let’s be honest, that’s the whole problem with mankind, be it secular, atheist, and any religion under heaven and on earth that has some sort of power or influence. How many kids sit in a classroom and have no clue how to research or think for themselves. THey follow the crowd or take things in from their teacher or scientist or doctor or textbook or even PAstor without checking it themslves.

    A lot of folks who call themselves Christians don’t even know how much changed after the first century after the last of the Apostles passed on. They don’t know church history and many don’t even know their Bibles. Sometimes certain Christians will argue for some non-biblical doctrines just because they were taught it and it is a tradition yet it contradicts what the Bible teaches. This causes so much confusion especially amongst skeptics of Christianity and I apologize to all of you who have seen the hypocrisy that many Christians have lived. Well.. I wish I could talk more now… but I have to go.

    Shalom (peace),
    Tom

  77. Ryan

    I have struggled with the notion of religion and the abundance of hypocrites within the ranks for years. I overtly refuse to subscribe to the teachings of evangelicals or sit amongst their congregations with the knowledge that a large percentage of them are only Christians on Sunday. The thought that as long as one asks for forgiveness, they can live their lives any way they want during the week is absurd to me and does not make one a Christian. I have argued this with people for years.

    That being said, I went to this movie not knowing that it was necessarily religion based, but somewhat expecting it since it was my devoutly Christian mother who recommended it. However, I was open minded enough to look at it for exactly what it is: a movie about a failing marriage that expounds on real life issues real couples face. The religious connotations were not in your face nor were they portrayed to be the end all be all to save your marriage. There was a message to be heard here. A message that so many married couples need to hear in today’s society. The fact that religion played a part in the reconciliation was merely a bonus for those who lead that lifestyle or are seeking it. It is nothing more than a suggestion. Religion alone could not repair any dysfunctional marriage. The Love Dare is a tool that one could actually use without bringing religion into the equation.

    It is absurd that religion and the film makers have to take a hit here. Are the lot of you seriously criticizing the acting and the writing of a movie that was never dubbed a box office hit? Do you think they set out with a $500,000 budget to wow the pants off of viewers with special effects and big name actors? That is the pretentiousness of Hollywood and there is no place for that in this film. This film is designed to bring marital issues and resolutions to the forefront in the hopes that the average couple can relate. And if simultaneously it brings people closer to whatever faith they hold, great.

    I found this movie to be very touching and left me choked up at times. It also made me reevaluate my own marriage and take notice of areas I need to improve on, with or with out religion. The problem in today’s society is that so many people have the burning desire to find the negative in everything. Nobody is forcing anyone to watch it. If it is not for you, then don’t go, it’s as simple as that.

  78. Ken Hanke

    I’ll relate a recent example, associated with another movie, “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” the latest from Woody Allen. On the Christianity Today website the review of the movie condemned it because of its sexual content, but if anything, it was a cautionary tale for humans about finding the right balance between passion and control. I think that’s a healthy message, and it was presented paradigmatically, not pedantically, through the film’s story. But they could not take that away from the story, because in their worldview there is a single correct way to view eros.

    Even if I agreed with your reading of the film — and I don’t entirely — it’s never going to find favor with a fundamentalist mindset because it contains a same-sex romance and a menage a trois and it presents them casually without condemnation.

  79. Ken Hanke

    That being said, I went to this movie not knowing that it was necessarily religion based

    That seems incredible, but seeing as I’ve seen people ask to go to something else after 20 minutes of the movie, I have to concede that it’s apparently possible.

    The religious connotations were not in your face nor were they portrayed to be the end all be all to save your marriage.

    This is patently not true. It is in fact stated in the course of the film that the reason the Kirk Cameron character’s attempts at fixing his broken marriage aren’t working is because he’s not approaching the situation through Christ. This is even in the film’s trailer.

    It is absurd that religion and the film makers have to take a hit here. Are the lot of you seriously criticizing the acting and the writing of a movie that was never dubbed a box office hit?

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t limit my criticism — pro or con — to movies that are “dubbed a box office hit.” That’s so remarkably beside the point that it hardly bears thinking about.

    Nobody is forcing anyone to watch it. If it is not for you, then don’t go, it’s as simple as that.

    I know this is seemingly a hard thing to grasp, but no one is forcing anyone to read this review (or any others) or the responses to it on this website. It’s as simple as that, too.

  80. Mike Wiggins

    My only problem with the review is the presumption that one who’s inclined to subscribe to the film’s point of view–namely, evangelical Christianity–will also be inclined to overlook sloppy production and shoddy writing. I am an evangelical writ large, but I’m harder on Christian media, art and literature because of it. I expect more. And I’m by no means alone in this perspective.

  81. Ken Hanke

    My only problem with the review is the presumption that one who’s inclined to subscribe to the film’s point of view–namely, evangelical Christianity–will also be inclined to overlook sloppy production and shoddy writing.

    The box office figures and the tenacity with which the film is defended would seem to suggest this — just as they did with Facing the Giants.

    I am an evangelical writ large, but I’m harder on Christian media, art and literature because of it.

    And your assessment of Fireproof is?

  82. Hi, all.

    It’s true some Christians act like this Sunday only faith. That’s what I’ve heard called “cheap grace.” While I was saying that many Christians don’t know all their history or their Bible, there are many who have been transformed and been delivered of drug addictions and healed of sickness, for example, are sincere in their faith and show genuine love of neighbor (Christian or not) and are champions of helping the poor and loving their neighbors. I’m just talking about the system in general being broken -which is what turns a lot of folks off.

    Hi Orbit,

    I am what you would call a Creationist (not exactly which type, though as defined). How old the earth is, according to the Bible’s account? I believe according to the moment God says let there be light from day one (as the Bible begins recording time) – we’ve come somewhere about a 5760 years (according to the Rabbinical reckoning) to 6000 years. The reason I believe that, is because if I don’t believe that this is true, then what right do I have to defend the rest of it? I could practice fast food Christianity (pick and choose what is true and what isn’t) which many people of faith do and then are not taken seriously.

  83. Sean Williams

    If it were only me, I would be more circumspect, but time and again I have seen that fundamentalism simply cannot survive good questions.

    I appreciate and reciprocate your respect. However, the very fact that you project your personal experience with and personal observations of Christianity onto the religion as a whole indicates a definite bias. I can name Christian intellectuals who regard atheism as a perverse refusal to examine the hypostasis of the material universe.

    In any case, the straw man of the Christian clinging to his faith is irrelevant to the question of that faith’s validity. I cling very tightly to my faith in the existence of the sun, and I’m pretty sure about that one, too. I can’t look at it directly, but it illuminates everything else to me — just like God.

    With genuine respect, Sean, I will now make the implicit explicit: fundamentalism cannot survive broad, deep, honest inquiry.

    Again, you’re assuming that all “honest” inquiry will produce the same answers. But human objectivity is about as subjective as you can get. Several prominent Evangelical figures claim to have “found Christ” while investigating Christianity in an active attempt to invalidate it. Of course, one can question the sincerity and logic of those testimonies. Nevertheless, there are individuals far more intelligent and far more analytical than you or I who ascribe to beliefs that we would find fantastical, not because they are self-delusive or ignorant, but because they seriously think they have a rational basis for their faith.

    And anyways, rationality is not a self-contained system; it’s a tool for deconstructing our observations of the material universe. One philosophy is more rational than another only insofar as it is more internally consistent. The fundaments of all worldviews are a priori, because there is no axiomatic basis for the validity of any observation besides that of one’s own existence.

    Perhaps the attempts of Christian apologists to reconcile contradictory passages of Scripture are contrived, but the very act of reconciliation codifies an internal logic. It imposes order on chaos and supposes that order to be preexistent — which is precisely what science and mathematics do, too. In point of fact, there is no axiomatic proof for the internal consistency of mathematics except as a semiotic representation of physical quantities. Medieval alchemy was actually far more internally consistent than modern science, and just as complex. I daresay the reconciliation of quantum theory with general relativity requires justifications as contrived as Scriptural apology! Why? Because the complexity of the observable universe necessitates a certain degree of self-contradiction in all worldviews, invented or empirical, scientific or religious.

    It is absurd to present science as more rational than religion simply because science is predicated on observation. As I said, such an argument misrepresents the purpose of rationality. Besides, limited as we are to the insides of our own skulls, how can we possibly prove the validity of our observations? or the validity of our memories? Perhaps I am actually the only real sentience in the entire universe and exist outside of time in an eternal, static present. Perhaps my perceptions are illusory and my memories a subconscious attempt to explain the content of those illusions. There is no rational means to discredit this possibility. Frankly, even if I did not believe in God, I would pretend to believe just to make a point about epistemology. And to tick off atheist documentarians on YouTube, which is (forgive me) the most satisfying of all cyberspatial pastimes.

    Anyways, that’s why I marked myself as a walrus in the 2000 Census. I defy you to prove to me that I am not a walrus. Cogito ergo sum walrus! Angus Dei, Angus Beef! Ave Caesar! We who are about to rock salute you!

    Behold! I have achieved…NERDVANAH!

  84. ncain

    “Medieval alchemy was actually far more internally consistent than modern science, and just as complex.”

    Turned any lead into gold lately? I didn’t think so.

    “It imposes order on chaos and supposes that order to be preexistent—which is precisely what science and mathematics do, too.”

    Except that, you know, when an experiment doesn’t produce the expected results scentists change their hypothesis based on the new findings.

    When an apologist finds contradictions in scripture they come up with a way to rationalize their preexisting beliefs. The hypothesis never changes.

  85. Greg Peterson

    Friends! This a film review site! Let’s not taint it with theology or atheology. First off, if we had an actual debate, where facts and logic matter, I would win. And I don’t care to do that. Your faith seems to serve you well; I am happy for you. As Jefferson said, “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my legs if my neighbor believes in 20 gods or no gods.” But don’t compare the daily EVIDENCE for the existence of the sun, which is so obvious as to be part of the simile “obvious as the noonday sun,” to a blind belief in something for which there is not only no evidence, but contradictory evidence. Now, I have thorughly enjoyed this discussion, most especially as it centered on art and religion, and I think Ken is terrific–I’m looking into your books, now, Ken. No wonder you know “Altered States” so well! But I won’t be coming back to this thread because in my experience, theological discussions are the deadest of dead ends. You really, really believe something and so accept as evidence for that belief something that in any other context you would recognize as naked sophistry, and I insist on standards of evidence for holding a proposition to be true that, if you did acknowledge them, would sink your faith. It’s not pretty, and it’s not constructive. So…I like you guys. I bet if we met in real life, we could be friends and have a great conversation. But I won’t continue this thread. But if you really WANT to argue theology, I’m easily found on blogs and sites specifically for that purpose. Just a word of caution: If it was in Augustine, Panenberg, William Lane Craig, Aquinus, Francis Schaeffer, Lee Strobel, Paul Tillich, Blaise Pascal, William Dembski, Michael Behe, or Alvin Plantinga, please don’t bother. I have read virtually everything by those folks. I have a degree in biblical studies and helped translate Matthew from the Greek for a version of the NIV (OK, it was a gender-neutral version, but don’t judge me a liberal just because of that gig). I kind of know my stuff. I have seen, so far as I know, the most advanced and best respected arguments that there are for gods, and they fail. I would argue that the only remaining arguments for religious faith come to us as story. The way elements in the gospel narrative speak to our human condition. That is why Christian art–in this context, film–does us no favors when it tries to present the least compelling element of faith: its grasp on the facts. Long after every enlightened person will have to admit that Christianity–and the other religions–are all but devoid of factual content, we must respect their existential content, their capacity to move and guide us and give shape to our lives. That is the value of story to humans, and religious stories are among our most powerful. So for those concerned about the thriving of religion in the future, I suggest abandoning any discussion of the earth being less than 10,000 years old, which only makes A) you appear ignorant or possibly ill; or B) your God look like a crafty trickster fraud. And concentrate on stories. Better movies. Movies like “Places in the Heart” that can make us realize the overwhelming power of grace. Or “The Ninth Configuration,” which can can make us confront the mystery of sacrifice. The course that religion, especially any religion that holds to a literal creation narrative, is on is a dusty trail to obscurity. I don’t quite join Bill Maher’s call to “grow up or die.” But my hope for you–as people I honestly find myself liking–is that you DO grow up.

  86. Mr Peterson,

    While I can respectfully agree to disagree about being a literalist about Creation, it does not make me ignorant any more than believing that man descends from a monkey or supporting scientific “theory” that is taught as fact. I can definitely agree that we probably should put this argument aside out of respect for each other but ultimately none of us were there at the beginning so it’s truly only “faith” or “belief” in creation that we end up with in the end. No matter how someone cuts it — they must reject the literal Biblical account if they want to accept anything other than a young earth and that’s where the issue is in its heart.

    I enjoy this discussion as well, and will try to swing it back toward films from the faith based community. As for media that I will consider recommending to this group media made by Christians that I think these are a good stock from ours that some of the highest skeptics on this thread might actually enjoy.

    From the evangelism (agenda driven) side: There is “H20″ – A very impressively made series that I only discovered recently. I think you can watch some of them and Episode one “Thirsty” here:
    http://www.brightcove.tv/title.jsp?title=1025135438&channel=773424779

    Then there’s the humor/animation side of Jonah: A Veggietales movie they even have some humor from Monty Python in there… but the filmmakers subscribe to excellence in their craft.

    There’s the film called Second Chances (don’t be scared that Michael W. SMith is in this) that I found a realistic portrayal of a preacher ministering on the streets and it’s more a challenge to the church to get involved and stop throwing money at the problems. I think you all might enjoy it’s rugged message

    Then there’s The Gospel of John that was a very well made film about the life of Jesus that you might enjoy.

    Lastly a film from the Billy Graham World Wide Pictures vault (made in the 70s I think) called The Hiding Place about Corey Ten Boon’s family hiding Jews from the Nazis and ultimately many losing their lives for their love for the Jewish people.

    Now maybe you’ll disagree with me and naturally from the context of reviewing media that is your right. But I think I can stand by the artistic integrity of every one of these projects that has succeeded in speaking their message in the right language that we are arguing should happen for films whether there is a “Gospel message” or “Gospel worldview” in them.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  87. Ken Hanke

    Now, I have thorughly enjoyed this discussion, most especially as it centered on art and religion, and I think Ken is terrific–I’m looking into your books, now, Ken.

    Well, I’m certainly somewhere beyond flattered by that!

    No wonder you know “Altered States” so well! But I won’t be coming back to this thread because in my experience, theological discussions are the deadest of dead ends.

    While I don’t question your choice of bailing on this thread (really, where can it possibly go at this point?), I would be more than happy to see you weigh in on other matters of a cinematic or artistic nature, if you find the time. I have greatly enjoyed your contributions here.

  88. Duane

    At the end of the day I like the movies I like. Ultimately if I enjoyed the movie or felt it was good then it was good. One guy prefers Olive Garden another prefers a fine non-chain Italian eatery. If they both like what they’re eating more power to them. I am a Christian. I enjoyed Fireproof. Sure it wasn’t the most sophisticated movie I’ve seen but I enjoyed it and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

  89. Sean Williams

    Except that, you know, when an experiment doesn’t produce the expected results scientists change their hypothesis based on the new findings.

    Well, yes. But as I said, individual reality, artificially constructed or not, is really the only reality upon which we can rely.

  90. Sean Williams

    Turned any lead into gold lately? I didn’t think so.

    That’s…not the point, really. The point is that logic is internal to any philosophy, not an entity in and of itself. Note the common root between “rationalization” and “rational”.

    First off, if we had an actual debate, where facts and logic matter, I would win. And I don’t care to do that.

    How very generous of you — but please define “fact”. Some philosophies exalt the observable universe; others exalt the individual consciousness. I repeat, all philosophy is a priori, and one cannot compare philosophies with dissimilar predicates. Apples and oranges, really.

    In any case, I must retire from this debate, but it’s comforting to know that Fireproof‘s smug certainty is endemic to religion and has not infected the secular community.

  91. Mr. Williams,

    Before you go, What of the list of films and media that I just presented? Do they stand your test of what you would consider good media in representing a filmmaker’s foundation of faith?

    I think it’s important to see what is thought of those well made films by filmmakers who are from the Evangelical community.

    Another good film I saw was called Against All Odds: Israel Survives — It is a documentary/docudrama about Israel that was presented also in the standard of broadcast excellence produced by an Evangelical Christian.

    Blessings,
    Tom

  92. Ken Hanke

    Then there’s the humor/animation side of Jonah: A Veggietales movie they even have some humor from Monty Python in there… but the filmmakers subscribe to excellence in their craft.

    This is the only of the films you listed that I have seen and, frankly, I found it no better than most faith-based movies, and I would certainly not call the animation an example of “excellence in their craft.” My guess is that it didn’t go down well outside of the evangelical community, since their follow-up film downplayed the religion aspect (and it still didn’t do all that well).

    You have to remember a couple things when dealing with this. First of all, the films in question are invariably produced on the cheap, so it’s not hard for them to be called successes. They don’t have to make much to make a profit. Second, you have to look at them through secular eyes, which is probably as impossible as it is to ask a person without faith to look at them through the eyes of a person with faith. From a wholly secular viewpoint, I have yet to see a faith-based film from the fundamentalist perspective that I thought was good.

  93. Thank you for your comments. I believe what you wrote here is very true:

    “Second, you have to look at them through secular eyes, which is probably as impossible as it is to ask a person without faith to look at them through the eyes of a person with faith.”

    I had commented in another place wondering if secular reviewers truly could be trusted to critique a Christian movie without a bias… and the opposite is true that I also wonder if Christians can properly critique these films without a bias either.

  94. Mecha

    I would like to know if Mr. Hanke is married. He took went with his friend but did he go with his wife. I would love to know what she thought. I’m just curious about what the different sexes take on this film is. It seems even non-Christian women like this film but non-Christian men hate it.

  95. Ken Hanke

    I had commented in another place wondering if secular reviewers truly could be trusted to critique a Christian movie without a bias… and the opposite is true that I also wonder if Christians can properly critique these films without a bias either.

    The answer is obviously no to both, but that makes it even out. Plus, there aren’t just two groups. There are many — perhaps the majority in fact — persons of faith who are not of the fundamentalist or evangelical stripe, so the question becomes a lot more specific.

    But you have a particular problem here. You’re dealing with movies that are message-driven. That makes it not merely impossible, but undesirable to critique them without dealing with the message. Someone once suggested to me that it would be proper to critique John Steinbeck based entirely on his use of English and form and structure. Plainly put, Steinbeck — who wrote many, if not most, of his books in order to convey specific messages — would plotz over such an idea. The result is that the reviewer is coming at the work with a worldview and a set of personal beliefs. If the work jives with that view and those beliefs, it’s going to work for them. If it doesn’t, it won’t. In other words, you’re not going to sell a work promoting creationism to anyone who doesn’t believe in it. Similarly, you’re not going to see a work promoting evolution to someone who believes creationism. As long as you stay in the realm of message movies, this is going to be true.

  96. Ken Hanke

    It seems even non-Christian women like this film but non-Christian men hate it.

    Really? This is based on what kind of sampling?

    For the record, I am married. Also for the record, my wife had and has zero interest in sitting through this. She did, however, go with me to Religulous, which she wanted to see.

  97. Tabitha Higgins

    I will admit, this film is not oscar quality. It’s not a great film. There are good moments, and there are lousy moments. A lot of the dialogue is really on-the-nose – and that heroic action sequence in the burning building? If he were a real fireman instead of a character in a movie, he would have lost his job for all the safety violations… no, he wouldn’t have lost his job, he would have died, and killed that little girl too. He would have been seriously investigated and written up even if he’d only done the few things that firemen really do occasionally forget to do in a crisis situation – forget his radio on the engine and go in alone. Even the most gung-ho volunteers know better than to take off gear in a building and leave an air pack behind… but I’ve never heard of a single firefighter movie that got a structure fire remotely right, and most of them totally miss the culture of the fire service too.

    Other than the structure fire scene (and the fact that I have never in my life seen a paid department where the officers are skinny and in shape while the new firefighters are tubby – the new guys are going to be fresh out of the academy and in the best shape of their lives while the officers might still have it but they are much more likely to have let themselves slide a bit), they got it pretty close. And one scene just like it might have happened out of two is batting better than most do. And one thing the Kendricks brothers do a really good job of is capturing the reality of the inter-relationships between men who spend a lot of time together – I really loved the hot sauce/tomato juice scene, and when the guy was caught in the bathroom, I turned to my fiance and commented “he’s not going be allowed to forget that for the rest of his career.”

    Perhaps I have a skewed perspective on judging the quality of a Christian film – I used to work for a major Christian television network, and had to sit through many many really bad Christian films (though they were more interesting than most of the other shows we aired). Compared to pretty much all the Christian films I’ve ever seen, this one is as good as a lot of regular films. It’s not great – but it’s not crap either.

  98. Ken Hanke

    And one thing the Kendricks brothers do a really good job of is capturing the reality of the inter-relationships between men who spend a lot of time together

    Sorry, but they don’t capture it at all from any men I know personally. This is pure, sanitized sitcom stuff. Put plainly, people don’t talk like they do in this film and the jokes tend to be a lot cruder. Of course, this is a central problem with the supposed reality of a Christian movie. Take it further — as when it tries to depict the blasting Cameron gives his wife. The guy’s being portrayed as utterly non-Christian at this point, but the strongest he gets is “Gosh darn it to heck” level. It might suit the target audience, but it’s pretty ridiculous.

  99. mdthames

    Actually, it’s the fact that it’s altogether too Hollywood that grates on me. I don’t find it “true to life,” I find it preposterously contrived and shamelessly manipulative. It’s all pasted together out of cliches from the Hollywood playbook—only not done as slickly.

    I do not agree with you at all with this point. I found it to be very “true to life”, at some points during the movie actually uncomfortably so. The dynamics between the main character, Caleb, and his wife: the selfishness, the lack of communication, the flirtation of thinking “the grass is greener on the other side” when things are at their worst, and the bitterness and feelings of rejection and resentment rang very true for points in my marriage and anyone else that I know that is or has been married. Although it is very obvious that this movie was “low budget” both with the quality of film used (the difference noticable between t.v. and movies) and lack of stellar acting (no oscar worthy performances), the content more than made up for this.
    I also don’t agree with the suggestion that the film portrayed that Caleb just simply became a Christian and that is how his problems with his marriage were solved. It wasn’t a “just like that” occurance. Throughout the film, he rejected all mention of God from his father and friend. He also skipped anything to do with reading the bible and prayer that was part of “The Love Dare”…he was just going through the motions because he promised his dad, he didn’t feel anything and his heart wasn’t in it. His wife was able to sense this and recognized it was not sincere, therefore rejected him more and made her more distrusting of his motives. It was a struggle for him, and toward the end, Caleb did choose to turn to God. Not just with Christians, but most people I have known that turn to or away from any religion or spiritual belief there is usually a catalyst or significant event that causes this, for Caleb it was being faced with the very real impending end of his marriage.
    I have always been an avid film goer and collector and can say there are very few films that have touched me in a true to life way that this film has. My husband and I watched it together and both cringed at things the characters did and said that was like a mirror for ourselves. Most films made are entertainment, romance, or thrill. This movie was heart-wrenching because of how I could relate to it. Both characters have serious flaws, not just the “no good man”, as most movies seem to show. Both characters solely blamed the other for their marital problems. And, as much as I hate to admit it, women are greatly influenced by thier girlfriends and I have experienced many times of complaining to them during rough times in my marriage and have been given bad advice as was shown in the movie. Now, does this sound merely Christian to you? Any women’s magazines, talk shows, self-help and marriage books, or marriage counselors will tell you the same exact things. These are all real to life issues that the majority of marriages experience at some point and many lead to divorce because of them. For Christians, the point is that Caleb accepted Christ and allowed God to perform a CHANGE in him and therefore a change in his marriage. For non-Christians, the point is that Caleb CHANGED. He took the first step and his motivations and heart changed for his wife. He loved her again, he cared and couldn’t help but to show it. This is what helped her to begin trusting him and take a look at herself and what she was doing. She recognized that she rejected him and didn’t recognize that he was a good man. She CHANGED. That is what is necessary when you are in a rut or at the end of your rope, someone has to take the first step and CHANGE what isn’t working. From the sound of it, most of you that have responded to this review have been men. It is true that men and women see things differently. Did any of you that viewed the film recognize any of the things that I have listed? Please remember, this is a review of the film FIREPROOF and how and why I was able to relate to it…not a theological discussion or personal feelings about the whole of the film industry or Christian films.
    Also, I did find that there were many points in the movie that were extremely funny…and my full theater, which I can tell you there were no church buses parked outside, exploded in laughter several times. Even the gossipy women in the workplace rang true. People responded to the film, and many clapped at the end. Fireproof was a touching real-to-life overall good film.

  100. Ken Hanke

    I do not agree with you at all with this point. I found it to be very “true to life”, at some points during the movie actually uncomfortably so.

    And I still don’t agree with that.

    I also don’t agree with the suggestion that the film portrayed that Caleb just simply became a Christian and that is how his problems with his marriage were solved. It wasn’t a “just like that” occurance.

    Yeah, it pretty much was. He, as you note, was just going through the motions, then his friend tells him that it’s not working because he’s not going through Christ. Now, I’m not saying that this made the “Love Dare” automatically work, what I’m saying is that it’s stated by the admirable Christian character that that’s the reason. More, Caleb’s “conversion” is completely a non-moment. It amounts to no more than, “Well, by golly, then I’ll decide to believe in Christ,” and that’s that. Poof! Instant Christian. And, it’s impossible to seriouly deny that once that happens, the “Love Dare” starts to work.

    Now, does this sound merely Christian to you?

    As presented, yes, it does. Are you trying to claim that this isn’t a Christian film and that it wasn’t made to promote Christianity?

    Also, I did find that there were many points in the movie that were extremely funny…and my full theater, which I can tell you there were no church buses parked outside, exploded in laughter several times.

    So you’re claiming that the audience wasn’t largely made up of Christians — probably fairly fundamentalist in their views — when you attended the film? Are you saying that you aren’t yourself in that group? That you’re not a Christian?

    I’m sorry, but I have yet to find someone who isn’t in synch with the film’s agenda who thinks Fireproof is good on any level, and I haven’t found many who aren’t Christian who’ll go to see it at all.

  101. Brian Smith

    Saying that spiritual movies drive non-believers farther from belief is like saying that rap music drives people who don’t like rap farther away from rap music. Duh!

  102. Ken Hanke

    Saying that spiritual movies drive non-believers farther from belief is like saying that rap music drives people who don’t like rap farther away from rap music. Duh!

    If that had been what was said, I would agree with you, but it wasn’t. The idea was put forth that self-righteous, bad movies like Fireproof drive non-believers farther from belief, so it would be more proper to say that bad rap music drives people who don’t like rap farther away from rap music. And that would also be true.

    Plus, as a non-believer I can tell you first hand that sitting through Fireproof indeed made me just that much less sympathetic toward religion. Sitting through, say, The Ninth Configuration, which is a spiritual film, did not have that effect.

  103. Mummer

    A great number of people seem to assume that the reason Fireproof is given almost universally poor reviews is because it has a Christian-agenda, and not because it is poorly made.

    Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, a movie with a clear message and, most likely, agenda, was met with decent reviews in most cases. As far as I know, most reviewers acknowledged the technical quality of the film making. It was considered a good MOVIE, because it was well made. And less than a minute’s worth of searching on Google showed that Mr. Hanke gave the movie 4 stars.

  104. Ken Hanke

    Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, a movie with a clear message and, most likely, agenda, was met with decent reviews in most cases. As far as I know, most reviewers acknowledged the technical quality of the film making. It was considered a good MOVIE, because it was well made. And less than a minute’s worth of searching on Google showed that Mr. Hanke gave the movie 4 stars.

    That’s pretty much true, yes. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I re-reviewed the film when Gibson brought it back out as The Passion Re-cut and was much less impressed by it on a second look.

  105. HoneyJo

    Mr. Hanke – I greatly appreciated your well thought-out, intelligent review. I am a Christian and a believer, and I’m also an avid movie goer and movie lover. I saw Ghost Town and enjoyed the warm fuzzy it gave me, even though it’s not what you would call a great film, it served its purpose and I really liked it, but saw how it di so much more poorly at the box office than Fireproof, so I decided to check out Fireproof and I was shocked at just how bad it was. I actually can’t really comment on it in great depth because I could only sit through the first 45-50 minutes of it. The incredibly bad acting by the supporting cast, the complete lack of character development, the superficiality of the writing, and I was supposed to believe this couple truly loved each other but just lost their way, when the silly, petty squabling over who ate the last piece of pizza and such could have been fixed with one episode of the Dr. Phil show.

    I like spiritual movies. I actually considered Ghost Town a much more spiritual movie than Fireproof. I’m not opposed to religious movies, even. But just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I have to like paying my hard earned cash to see poorly written, poorly directed, poorly acted movies that really belong on Lifetime just because they preach about God. If you have a positive, life affirming message that involves worship and religion, great, but you still have to make a GOOD movie if you want good reviews.

  106. Ken Hanke

    I actually considered Ghost Town a much more spiritual movie than Fireproof.

    In point of fact, so do I, and I think it a great pity that Ghost Town (that title cannot have helped!) fared so poorly at the box office. As you say, it wasn’t a great movie, but it did alright within the confines of its goals.

    As I’ve said in this thread over and over, I have nothing against spiritual movies — regardless of my own lack of faith. I don’t care if it’s the rather silly spirituality of the 1935 version of Lloyd C. Douglas’ novel Magnificent Obsession (kind of like an early Pay It Forward). I don’t care if it’s the slick schmaltz of Going My Way. I don’t care if it’s the weightier concerns of The Ninth Configuration. I don’t even care if it’s dressed up like a horror picture as with Exorcist III. What I care about is the emotional honesty I get from the films. This is what I am not getting from Fireproof.

  107. don

    Ken, at first i was nonplused (sp?) by your comments. But, after reading (what possessed me to do that?) every one of your posts, i find you to be quite intellectually honest. The Christian community needs people like you, desperately. I loved Athony Quinn’s character grabbing a torch to help burn Rome (when he’d heard that was the root cause of the fires). Of course, Christians didn’t burn Rome..he was misguided and confused. Sound familiar? I’m sorry you didn’t like “Fireproof” and i understand why…like you said, a bad movie is…a bad movie. But, your comment below certainly demonstrates a huge difference in our world view:
    So if both people are not satisfied by being in this marriage, just exactly what is the compelling reason they should remain in that state?
    Uh…i’m not sure, how about the contract part of most American marriages? Uh…”for better or worse”…vs. when something better comes along….uh…how about the “promise” that you made “to death do us part.” I’m truly not intending to sound preachy or critical. And, I would not take you on. Just giving my opinion, sir. You obviously have well thought out and logical thinking. We can agree to disagree. I’d rather sit down and visit with you about almost any topic than with any of my dogmatic Christian friends. Heck, i often disagree with them, too.

  108. Ken Hanke

    Uh…i’m not sure, how about the contract part of most American marriages? Uh…”for better or worse”…vs. when something better comes along….uh…how about the “promise” that you made “to death do us part.” I’m truly not intending to sound preachy or critical. And, I would not take you on.

    Well, there’s really nothing to take on here anyway since it’s grounded in two very different worldviews. Obviously from my comments — especially if you’ve slogged through all these posts (which I can’t imagine!) — I can’t say I regard marriage vows as sacred in a traditional sense of the word. With that in mind, I can’t see the point in two people not dissolving this contract if they’re both unsatisfied in the marriage. Perhaps divorce has become too easy and too common, but I’ve seen too many bitter people who’ve stayed in marriages in which they were miserable for a variety of reasons. All too often it seems they’re just inflicting senseless pain on each other — and themselves — by doing so. This, of course, is from a wholly secular mindset.

    I’d rather sit down and visit with you about almost any topic than with any of my dogmatic Christian friends.

    I’ll take that as a compliment of some note. Thank you.

  109. David

    I’m not familar with this site but I’m assuming, I hope that you are strictly an amatuer critic and are not actually getting paid. Examine your first paragraph careful and read it careful and substitute something else where Christian, religion and church appear.

    For instance:
    I don’t know why I’m reviewing “Quantum of Solace” It’s not aimed at moviegoers just people who people interested in silly spy stories that are obviously over the top and don’t really happen. It has lots of chase scenes but those are not really my cup of tea so the movie is not for me.

  110. Greg Peterson

    Hey, David. I think a movie came out today that you might enjoy…”House.” It’s also Christian-based garbage.

    Any one of the articulate commenters on this site could be won over by a film with any viewpoint whatever, it had something of artistic merit on offer. What we have, most of us, said repeatedly is that absent artistic merit, there’s not there there.

  111. Ken Hanke

    David is working on the interesting premise, I assume, that films should only be reviewed by people who will like them. It’s a weird position to take, because you might as well not review a film at all, just take whatever puffery the distributor doles out as an indicator of quality. They, I assure you, will have only good things to say about the movie for the simple reason that they want your money.

    As for his other objection, it’s a charge that he can lay against just about every critic worth his keep — from Andrew Sarris to Roger Ebert. It’s called honest disclosure and it lets the reader know that the critic is not in sympathy with the movie or type of movie at hand — something that should be factored into the review, especially by the target audience.

    As for his hopes that I am an amateur, sadly I have to inform him that I’ve been writing about movies — and getting paid for it — for about 25 years.

  112. Greg Peterson

    Hey, Brian. The last comment in this thread was three months ago. Turns out you very much can wait to watch it, and have.

  113. TS

    Yes, the target audience is those of Christian faith, however, by reading the critiques of this movie, more than Christians watched the movie. There was plenty of information to allow one to know that it was written and based on scripture. Therefore it only leads me to believe there are two reasons a non-christian would watch this movie. 1)They are looking for something deeper in life, possibly God. 2) Possibly personal/marriage issues within their own lives. Whether this movie got you curious about Christ or gave you motivation to save your marriage or not, it did bring you there. In addition, in MY opinion, it was well written and followed the word precisely, therefore it did what it was intended to do. It is certainly made for the theaters despite the fact that it does not inlcude fowl language, nudity, a high price tagged budget, violence and whatever else this twisted society of ours embraces. It is nice to have something hopeful, enduring and realistic out there! I do not like horror movies, therefore I do not go see them…. same here. If you do not like movies that are scriptured based and purposeful, then don’t go see it!

  114. Ken Hanke

    Therefore it only leads me to believe there are two reasons a non-christian would watch this movie. 1)They are looking for something deeper in life, possibly God. 2) Possibly personal/marriage issues within their own lives.

    You left out critics who went because it’s part of their job, and you left out the merely curious (not about Christ, but about the movie). The question then arises as to how many of the non-Christians who saw the film thought it was good (I’ve yet to meet one). I concur, however, about the lack of “fowl language.” I never heard a single reference to a chicken, duck, goose or turkey.

  115. ts

    I will give you that point, Ken. You are correct, I did not take the fact that movie critics, etc. in consideration. I just made a point based on my opinion. Arguing this, however, is really not a priority in my life as I see it is yours. Also, nice catch on the “fowl” language. Let me correct myself, “foul” language. Oh, but there was a reference to chicken if you paid close attention. It was in the firehouse when one joked that the only thing the other fireman would have under his arm was a bucket of chicken. So it did contain “fowl” language. Wow, my bad again. Thanks for the fun Ken! Now off to my real life that doesn’t contain going back and forth about a movie. Wishing you a wonderful life…. and meaningful one too.

  116. Ken Hanke

    You honestly posted on a movie review site and didn’t expect an argument? Good heavens, that’s what movie reviews sites exist for!

  117. jim young

    I only watched this movie because I hack cable and get PPV for free. It was nothing more than a febal attempt to try to push off the idea that the big space guy made a man of mud, and then took a rib from that man and mand a woman, then he made a snake that could talk and a tree that could dispence knowaldge of good and evil and the talking snake told the woman made of the rib of the man of mud to eat the fruit the tree produced causing all the worlds wows. Yep I think Santa Claus is more believeable than this shit. Did you see cameron and the aussie idiot talk aobout the bananna fitting in the hand so god exists? Shit this guy is stupid.

  118. Greg Peterson

    Jim, you’re right. I hate to say it because the vast majority of religious people are nothing like stupid (credulous, perhaps, but not at all stupid), and I know several devout people who are much smarer than I am, but Ray Comfort is a bona fide idiot, and Cameron is, if anything, worse. They really are actually stupid. The only other possibility is that they are deeply, wickedly dishonest and are only pretending to be that unintelligent to ensnare the naive and trusting. I hope that it’s merely that they’re stupid. It’s too ugly to contemplate that people would use that cynical level of deception just to prop up a dying superstition, or worse, just for whatever money they can get by pretending to.

  119. John Williams

    I won’t see Fire Proof, because I have seen Facing the Giants. I am a Christian. I watched Facing the Giants after losing my job. Hoping it would give me hope for my situation. It depressed me further, because it wasn’t real. The main character’s life is spiraling out of control. All of this is happening because he is not seriously committed to God. He gets seriously committed to God, and all of his problems go away. In fact things, are better than they were before.

    Christian life is not always like that . Sometimes you get seriously committed to God, and your life seems to unravel. You lose your house, your car, your wife, your children, your reputation, you can be eaten by lions, burned at the stake, tortured, jailed, stoned, you name it can happen. The only thing you have left is your faith. That is priceless.

    I agree with the fellow who claims he is a non-believer, movies like this drive people away, if it doesn’t right away, it usually does later when the storms of life hit. I will disagree with him on Spike Lee movies. I used to live in the inner city. Anything remotely “gangsta” I want nothing to do with. But that’s just my taste.

    Just because you “do the right thing”, as Spike would say. It aint necessarily gonna turn out all right for you in this life. It will in the next. Just once I would like to see a movie about Christians who drive 18 year old junk cars, have bad hair, pot bellies, and work as janitors, but have lots of the love of Christ in spite of these things. Or maybe one where being a Christian involves loss and sacrifice.

  120. Angelia

    I guess none of you really KNOW a good movie when you see one!! Sure there were a few things in the movie I think could have been written better, but the overall story of the movie was WONDERFUL and if it can save one sole from a burning Hell then so be it. For all of you atheist, if you were so against a Christian movie, why did you watch it? Curious?????

    As for the comments about it being unrealistic, well my Bible says that if you ask you shall receive, it might not be exactly what you are asking for when you ask, but in God’s time it will come. Just as in Facing the Giants his faith was often tested but when he gave God his all and totally gave it to God as our Bible says, things started changing. The Bible says that we are not to bare our burdens that is why Jesus died on the Cross for us. It also says that we will all face trials and tribulations but to know when we are in those valleys that if we were not strong in our faith the Devil would not be wasting his time with us. In fact when time gets tough, have a good laugh in knowing that the Devil is after you and he wouldn’t be unless he knew you were part of a greater being. I can guarantee when you reach the mountain tops again you will be stronger in your faith and have an even bigger smile knowing you have a heavenly home waiting for you.

    Finally, for those who refuse to give their life to the Lord and be born again, well when millions of people disappear off the face of the Earth and people start wondering what happened, LOOK UP. We where not abducted by aliens, we didn’t evaporate into thin air by some unknown chemical, we are now with our Father in Heaven and the best thing you can do at that point is hit your knees and find a Bible. Things are going to be HELL on EARTH but our gracious God still will give you one more chance. Start with the end of the Bible (Revelations) and then work your way back. You will find it to be the best reading you ever did.

  121. Ken Hanke

    I guess none of you really KNOW a good movie when you see one!!

    Not that it matters to you, but you’ll have a hard time making a convincing case to anyone who isn’t hopped up on this movie’s message that this is a good movie.

    if it can save one sole from a burning Hell then so be it.

    Since it only seems — based on the reponses posted here — to have any impact on the already saved, its effectiveness would appear rather improbable. I know I’m still slated for your mythical fiery furnace, based on the belief system you espouse.

    For all of you atheist, if you were so against a Christian movie, why did you watch it? Curious?????

    I can’t answer for anyone else — and I’m an agnostic, not an atheist — but I watched it for the same reason I watched Alvin and the Chipmunks: because it’s my job.

    Start with the end of the Bible (Revelations) and then work your way back.

    I tried it already, though I didn’t work at it backwards (what a curious notion). I didn’t buy it.

    You will find it to be the best reading you ever did.

    I don’t know. I’m partial to Slouching Towards Kalamazoo for that accolade.

  122. Greg Peterson

    Angelia, this atheist didn’t see the movie and never will–thank goodness that is NOT part of MY job description. But having a long association with Christian movies (and publishing), I think I can comment in a very general way about propaganda movies like “Fireproof.” After receiving a degree in biblical studies from the Bible college in Minnesota for which Billy Graham was president from 1948 to 1952, I worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and helped to promote such Christian films as “Joni” and “The Hiding Place,” both of which I think are pretty good.

    So I know Christian films reasonably well, and I know your Bible really well–my guess is, quite a bit better than you do. And you are not wrong about it being good reading. I have never stopped finding the Bible utterly fascinating. Parts of it are very well-written. And the overall impact of studying the Bible will be, for any honest person not under some kind of threat or prior delusion, to conclude that it is a profound book, and a profoundly human book. There is nothing even vaguely divine about it, apart from its claims to divinity. It bears all the marks of ancient mythology, including the fact that much of it actually borrows from even older ancient mythology.

    To help people gain an appreciation for just how remarkable some parts of the Bible are, I can think of few worse starting places than with Revelation (with the probable exceptions of Numbers and Leviticus). As late author Douglas Adams slyly has a character saying in “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” that Revelation “shows very clear signs of
    having been written while waiting for a ferry. ….It starts off, doesn’t it, with that kind of dreaminess you get when you’re killing time, getting bored, you know, just making things up, and then gradually grows to a sort of climax of hallucinatory despair.” It is a bizarre, cruel, and insane bit of literature, and proved itself some 19 or so centuries ago to be unreliable. In Revelation 22:20 Jesus says that he is “coming soon.” Nope. Didn’t happen. And yes, I’m well aware of the multitude of excuses for that. “It doesn’t mean soon, it means quickly, so that WHEN Jesus comes, it’ll be fast,” and “With God a thousand years is as one of our days,” and so forth. And of course they are all desperate, unconvincing, and make your god into a pathetic trickster rather than someone a person should feel any confidence trusting. “By ‘soon’ I meant ‘centuries from now,’ and by ‘heaven’ I meant “Detroit.’”

    Incidentally, I always know I’m reading the work of an amateur “Bible scholar” when I see them refer to the book in the plural–it’s the Revelation (no “S”) to John, not Revelations.

    Finally, to anyone who can write something like, “Things are going to be HELL on EARTH but our gracious God still will give you one more chance,” I can only say that I don’t negotiate with terrorists. How is bowing to Jesus in order to avoid the hell scenario in any way better than bowing to the Antichrist to avoid beheading? Because your imaginary bully ultimately wins? Just making a safe bet, then…nothing to do with righteousness, compassion, justice, or any of the other lofty human ideals we project, intermittently, onto a god.

  123. Ken Hanke

    Wow. This discussion is several million times more interesting – intellectually and theologically – than the film that inspired it.

    True enough, but it wouldn’t take all that much to accomplish that.

  124. Bruce Brechtel

    Tell me, what movie would compell you to accepting Christianity? I’m thinking you would prefer something that is bland, mot in movie expertise, but content, therefore not convicting or compelling. The problem isn’t really Christianity, but Christ. You reject Him, therefore you have no understanding of what is good and what is not.

  125. Hi Bruce,

    While Mr. Hanke does seem to reject our faith – I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to judge him as a film critic rejecting something that is not at the level of films that he would give a positive critique to. I certainly was blessed by Fireproof and Facing the Giants -as it spoke to me in my language as a Christian – and that’s fine because it certainly has Christians as its target audience and it has helped a lot of marriages of those who are Christian. And things are greatly improving for those of us who are of the faith who are working to make better films. I would love to see what Mr. Hanke thinks of the soon to be released film by a friend of mine “No greater love” to be released by Lionsgate. http://www.nogreaterlovethemovie.com/index.html?dir=main I’m not advertising here — I’m suggesting a film about love and faith produced by Christians that I’d be curious of Mr. Hanke’s perspective from a strict secular critic’s point of view.

    Blessings,
    Tom

  126. Greg Peterson says “It bears all the marks of ancient mythology, including the fact that much of it actually borrows from even older ancient mythology.”

    Indeed, Greg, it’s actually that Christianity has itself as it left its Jewish roots (nearly 2 thousand years ago) steered more toward paganism and began to borrow a lot from ancient pagan religions which have their root in the original teachings of the one true God from the beginning. But many of the descendants of Noah turned away from Him and to worshipping nature rather than Him. The Bible is actually a Jewish book… not the book of a different religion called “Christianity”. Christianity is actually a sect of Judaism that proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. It’s also true that most pagan religions have a common similarity to the gods of ancient Babylon – isn’t it fascinating that every religion has some sort of similarity to one particular sort of god which all look the same? You seem to be a well studied guy — I mean this doesn’t actually make the Bible false – it makes it more evident in showcasing that every person is a descendant of Noah and that every pagan religion comes from one source.

  127. Greg Peterson says “It bears all the marks of ancient mythology, including the fact that much of it actually borrows from even older ancient mythology.”

    Indeed, Greg, it’s actually that Christianity has itself as it left its Jewish roots (nearly 2 thousand years ago) steered more toward paganism and began to borrow a lot from ancient pagan religions which have their root in the original teachings of the one true God from the beginning. But many of the descendants of Noah turned away from Him and to worshipping nature rather than Him. The Bible is actually a Jewish book… not the book of a different religion called “Christianity”. Christianity is actually a sect of Judaism that proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. It’s also true that most pagan religions have a common similarity to the gods of ancient Babylon – isn’t it fascinating that every religion has some sort of similarity to one particular sort of god which all look the same? You seem to be a well studied guy — I mean this doesn’t actually make the Bible false – it makes it more evident in showcasing that every person is a descendant of Noah and that every pagan religion comes from one source.

  128. Ken Hanke

    The problem isn’t really Christianity, but Christ. You reject Him, therefore you have no understanding of what is good and what is not.

    That is perhaps the most arrogant stance of Christianity I have ever encountered. This is exactly the sort of thing that made me reject Christianity in the first place.

  129. Ken Hanke

    I would love to see what Mr. Hanke thinks of the soon to be released film by a friend of mine “No greater love” to be released by Lionsgate.

    If it plays here chances are that I’ll be reviewing it.

  130. I know the film is making rounds in churches now, Mr. Hanke, so my hopes is it will make it to theaters as well.

    As far as what I was sharing about Christianity with Mr. PEterson I still consider myself a part of those who are Christian even though I myself embrace a more Hebraic Expression of the Christian faith. I see a lot of good “Fruit” in many Christians and have a genuine expression of faith in Jesus, the Messiah. I’ve even found a great group of Christians who are filmmakers and many of us respect each others differences.

    So what I was trying to say is that Christianity in its early years in the early second century began to distance itself from First Century Judaism after the destruction of the Temple and began to embrace some pagan things.

    So when people today who have no knowledge of this history begin to do research they find pagan characteristics in some of the customs practiced by the churches today and they come to a conclusion to throw the baby out with the bathwater rather than seeking the complete truth of what is going on and embrace a reform to its original intent.

    Blessings,
    Tom

  131. Steven Adam Renkovish

    I have recently watched this film again. People claimed that I was a bit too harsh on this film the first time around. Well, it all comes down to this: I was right, they were wrong.

    I cannot believe and am utterly shocked that this thing is the best that we Christians have to offer to the film industry. Most Christians flip out when Michael Moore releases a documentary, calling it shameless propagada, and then we turn around and do the same thing with a tract disguised as a movie. I, personally, am a follower of Christ. For me, this is a very important part of my life. I’d say that I am quite dedicated. I wish that everyone could be a Christian, and yet, reality seeps in, and I realize that this will never be true. However, if we constantly beat non-Christians over the head with our message, we will ultimately alienate them, especially if we package our message in a film that is nothing more than one big cliche after the next. I’m not going to lie. This film is terrible. From the dialogue to the acting to the production values, this film is one big train wreck. I understand the filmmakers used what they had to work with. This is obvious. However, other indie filmmakers have done the same thing, only they’ve studied film over the years, and are more capable of putting out a quality production. I admire the church for pulling together and getting a film in theatres. Not an easy thing to do. But a film class or two wouldn’t hurt at all. Maybe they could read a few textbooks on Bergman and Kubrick. However, this probably won’t happen. The way that I saw the characters interact in this film made me wonder if the filmmakers had ever had any real contact with an actual human being. No one talks like this. No one acts like this. It’s false. In my opinion, it cheapens the message of the Gospel by wrapping it in such an awful package. A little subtlety would have been nice. Bergman focused on faith, and although he dealt with the subject with a touch of ambiguity – he comes across as an agnostic – he still said what he wanted to say, and it came across as a work of art, and a foundation upon which people of every background could discuss the issue of religion and faith. FIREPROOF comes at you like a 50 ft. Bible just waiting to stomp you over the head.

    If your marriage is failing, please, do not turn to FIREPROOF as a way to save it. Find a counselor. Spend a few weeks, months, or years in therapy. This film is simply not strong enough. I question people who claim that their marriage was saved from watching this film. The Kendricks still have a lot to learn about the art of filmmaking. Film is not a pulpit to preach from. That’s why we have churches. This is just shameless.

  132. Greg Peterson

    For what very little it might be worth, Steven, I’m as hardcore an atheist as it sounds you are a Christian, and I had an almost identical response to the Ricky Gervais “comedy,” “The Invention of Lying,” which was also quite propagandistic. Look, it’s fine for an artist to have ideas in the back of her head. The best art always has some philosophy about it, I think. But art should never, at its best, be ONLY tarted up ideology. Both C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, come from opposites of the theological divide, came very, very close to committing propaganda with their respective books, The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials. Their works were only saved by sheer dint of amazing talent, or they also would have sunk under the weight of their proselytizing pretensions. So, we can agree on at least two things: Art must be more than naked propaganda; and we both wish everyone thought just as we did. Oh, and in sincerity, thanks for your reflective and honest critique of “Fireproof.” Too often people invested in a worldview have a very hard time being unbiased about things connected with that worldview. Be very careful about that sort of honest critical thinking–or you could wind up, at least, agnostic.

  133. Greg I think you have some valid points about the importance of art having honesty. I do believe, though that it is possible to have an agenda as a filmmaker or storyteller and share a purposeful message.

    I do believe that Christians can be honest and critical with what they believe. They should ask questions and test what they’re being taught. I don’t believe that honest critical thinking leads to agnosticism. However faith in what we can’t see and hope in something yet to come in the future is the cornerstone of Christianity and Judaism. Faith is about believing in something unexplainable. I think in light of studying the Bible many Christians don’t even know much about what they’re believing or studying — many just take it from a preacher or Bible Teacher on the TV or the radio.

    It seems like, from what I’ve read you’ve written (and correct me if I’m wrong, please) that you have probably stumbled into some information that appears true from some historical record that looks different than from the type of Christianity that is practiced today. And I wonder if you might have thrown out the baby with the bathwater rather than further exploring and questioning.

  134. Steven Adam Renkovish

    Thanks for your comments, Greg! I enjoyed your post.

    “Oh, and in sincerity, thanks for your reflective and honest critique of “Fireproof.” Too often people invested in a worldview have a very hard time being unbiased about things connected with that worldview.”

    You are most welcome! I think that it is sad that most Christians are hesitant to call this film out for what it is.

  135. Ken Hanke

    Aside: I liked The Invention of Lying.

    More to the point, what I find utterly amazing about a movie like Fireproof is that when all is said and done it’s putting forth the idea of spending eternity in a heaven comprised of people like the ones in the film. Many thanks, but, no.

  136. Steven Adam Renkovish

    Ken, I don’t think I’d want to spend eternity with these idiots, either. It’s a horrible injustice to Christians, such as myself, who bear no resemblence to the people in this film. I can assure you, if Jesus were to watch this film, he’d find most of the acting hilarious. At least, I’d like to think he would. We’d both have a laugh.

    I especially love how Kirk Cameron takes his anger out on the trashcan. I was howling last night. He knocks the piss out of that sucker, twice! If this was intended for dramatic effect, I think they missed the mark. I had tears rolling down my face during that scene. Well, during that scene, and also whenever any of the characters opened their mouths to speak.

  137. Greg Peterson

    Awakenpictures, first know that based on your posts, I respect you and I bet we’d hit it off if we met in person. Same with Steven. Please let me respond to the inference you made:

    “It seems like, from what I’ve read you’ve written (and correct me if I’m wrong, please) that you have probably stumbled into some information that appears true from some historical record that looks different than from the type of Christianity that is practiced today. And I wonder if you might have thrown out the baby with the bathwater rather than further exploring and questioning.”

    I confess that I’m not entirely sure what you have in mind…something like Gnostic gospels or things along that line? I admit that I have read some books along those lines, but not until several years into already being an atheist.

    I find it almost impossible to describe how and why I became an atheist, but I can assure you of one thing: for a period of years, I fought against the impulse with everything I had, studying, praying, seeking godly counsel, worshipping, etc. I was desperately afraid of losing my faith and did what I could to retain it. Eventually it came down to an issue of integrity. I believed that God had given me the gift of reason, and my reason was causing me to doubt Christian truth claims.

    But as near as I can piece the process together, my issues with Christianity were not primarily with the scriptural texts, many of which I was already interpreting as forms of literature other than history (the Garden of Eden, for example). My biggest issues had to do with theism simply not matching up with what I observed in the universe. I could not square suffering in the world with an all-powerful, all-good, all-know being. Prayer didn’t seem to work any better than chance–it was completely unreliable. And yes, I know all the excuses for why that might be, but I find them unconvincing. Hell is a ridiculous idea, frankly. In short, it was not one thing or another, it was scores of little things…what my Christian apologist friend calls my “death by a thousand cuts.” There was no magic bullet, no “Jesus’ Tomb” or “Gospel of Judas” or anything facile like that. It’s that over time I simply could not get the Christian story to make sense, no matter how hard I tried. And I found the biblical notions about cosmology, human nature…reality, actually…to be tawdry and inadequate and in most cases simply mistaken. It looks for all the world like a collection of tribal myths and mystery cult musings and so forth. Which don’t get me wrong, I still find fascinating. But true in any literal sense that should matter to how I live or what I believe? Absolutely not.

    I write that in full understanding that the Bible is a beacon of light for many people and that it gives their lives a foundation for morality and meaning and helps mitigate their fear of dying…and more. I simply do not find the Bible to be a book that can do that for me.

    But before that, before anything about the Bible or any other holy text, I find the very notion of deity incoherant. Nothing about reality gives me the slightest hint that there is design or purpose in the universe–except to the extent that humans can impose them.

  138. Ken Hanke

    One thing I do want to approach about the film itself and its making is the statement, ” I understand the filmmakers used what they had to work with. This is obvious.”

    That’s a little ingenuous. They used what they chose to work with and cut corners every step of the way. These same people made a tidy fortune off Facing the Giants. They could easily have plowed some of that into the production values of this movie.

    But part of the problem with trying to assess this thing as a film is that it isn’t actually made by people who care anything about film for its own sake and it’s made for people of a similar mindset. That’s almost impossible to get around — and face it, it does play well within that group. (It wasn’t long ago that I drove past a church in Florida that was offering lessons in how to “Fireproof” your marriage.)

  139. Greg, I bet we would have some great conversations in person if we ever met and perhaps God would ordain such a time :)

    You know my heart goes out to you and your struggles and I’ve really prayed about how to respond. I could write this really long response and try to defend everything I believe and try to convince you with some elequent speech… but perhaps you just need a hug or someone to just sit and mourn with you over these struggles rather than trying to manipulate you and beat you over the head with a Bible verse or two. I’ve been wondering if your situation is the result of God’s people failing to help you and I hope that somehow you press on and don’t give up even so.

    I can tell you especially in these days, there are times when I have asked God to help me, to answer me and He has seemed so silent or I just wasn’t listening right, but there are times when His answer has been so clear so concise that there was no denying it even when His response at times was not what I wanted for me. But it was an answer. Sometimes He has said “No” or “Not yet” and I had to accept that as His will for me. Anyhow I will say a prayer for you and hope that perhaps we will continue to engage in discussions on these forums in the future or even have further discussion in the future. I thank you Ken for giving me an opportunity to share on here as well rather than ending this thread.

    I think one big reason that this film in and of itself was made was helping marriages rather than just to tell a good story well and it has really helped marriages. That part is obvious. It seems to me that it speaks the language of Christians and in watching it with that purpose, it seems to have helped Christians who understand that language. So I believe it has helped Christian marriages. That much anyone here can appreciate about it helping people in our communities whether they agree with the Christian message or not.

    Now as for the style of filmmaking used, I think you all have brought up some valid things to think about and discuss especially in light of how non Christians respond to these type of films made by Christians.

    As A Christian and a filmmaker I can assure you I have been listening to what you have had to say (even though I don’t agree with everything) and I have discussed it with other Christians who are filmmakers and shared it with them and have asked them to read your comments here. I find this thread to be very valuable and for that I am thankful to God.

  140. Greg Peterson

    Awakenpictures, your graciousness is a model, truly, and I appreciate everything you have said. I just feel the need to clear up one misconception, which is entirely my fault: I don’t need a hug. I’m actually doing very well…at LEAST as well as when I was a Christian, and in some ways, better. I have great friends, a wonderful partner, terrific kids, a good job…I love life, make lots of meaning in it for myself, and truly celebrate the opportunity to pass through this amazing universe. Now, sure I have struggles, like everyone else, but they are not much different and certainly no worse than for people of faith. I genuinely appreciate your concern, but I gave the wrong impression. It is true that I struggled to hang onto my faith because I was afraid of life without it. I was very much mistaken. I have sources of morality and meaning just as I ever did, and I am not crippled by some fear of death. And best of all, when something like the earthquake in Haiti occurs, I don’t have to wonder about it or seek someone to blame. I just know that in a universe indifferent to our needs, much less comfort, bad things are going to happen. It takes a little courage to face life like that, but I see that as a good thing. n balance, I am very happy as an atheist. Again, I must emphasize, I appreciate the great care and courtesy you have shown me.

  141. Hi Greg,

    Well I’m glad you shared your story. I will still say a prayer for you, my friend, and I’m sure we’ll see each other around on this forum or elsewhere.

    Thanks again to Ken and others for sharing your perspective on Fireproof and the things that Christians need to improve to tell better stories as filmmakers. :)

    Shalom (peace),
    Tom Swift
    Awaken Pictures, Inc.

  142. Ken Hanke

    I thank you Ken for giving me an opportunity to share on here as well rather than ending this thread

    I don’t believe I’ve ever ended a thread. I’ve killed a few accidentally, though.

  143. heitor

    Wow,it´s amazing to see how long these posts have been going on. I have seen Facing Giants last year and Fireproof just yesterday. I am in Brazil and here this films don´t even get to go to the movies. My wife is evanglist and I have been going to church with her as part of my commitment to her. That´s how I got to know about these movies.Yet, I am not converted or Christian for the matter. I´ve been married for one year and I live amongst two different realities. I am also a big movie buff, though it is not my job. I do flag both movies, Facing Giants and Fireproof as movies that I think could do with some great deal of retouching and a few more millions invested, but I do give them some credit. I personally thought Fireproof was a really moving picture. I can´t however pinpoint why. I know it´s not for it´s cinematographic prowess nor for it´s outstandingly converting agenda. I do think that in part it´s because it does depict the fragility of marriage and relationships pretty well, and also how weak and unprepared people are in relationships and commitment no matter how much we excel at work or how succesful we are.

    Of course, the movie will work better within its community. Every movie has its niche. For instance, I was forced to see Alvin and the Chipmunks by my wife. I´d rather watch Fireproof a hundred times again and memorize all camera and acting flaws than to have to see 5 minutes of Alvin and the chipmuns again.Still, during the movie, I was taken by the story. I guess we can all be hooked by one thing or another.

    I feel kind of awkward writing here for two reasons. First because it´s my first posting in Rotten Tomatoes. Secondly because many people here are so strongly opinionated. As I have said before, I am from and live in Brazil. I´ll say one thing that might make any movie critic go “OK, I don´t need to read anymore”. But take for instance “Rambo” and “Commando”. These 2 movies are laugh today. At least here in Brazil. I still appreciate the, though. To me they were entertaining and thrilling. I have them at home in my DVD collection and I don´t mind watching them again for fun. They aren´t by far my favorite movies, but they are not movies I mock because of the absurd they portray and whatever they lack. You appreciate a movie for what it gives you. Sometimes the best thing a movie gives you is popcorn, nice pop soda and some making out with a girlfriend. Fireproof was moving to me. It´s not a film for popcorn, not a movie to make out with … and well, I did drink some Coca-Cola at the beginning. I think that regardless of all limitations and eventual deficiencies, it really had something to offer. I think the tomatometer is a fair judge, I think Ken has a realistic and professional approach to it and I think fans have the right to object. I would and probably will watch it again, for I do think that not only the Bible, but the situations portraid are really realistic and it does open eyes to reflection, though you might not need this film to open your own eyes and lead a happy life. However, I do believe that the intention of trying to touch people is noble and has an effect on many people on many levels. Even if it does push away many people. I think that when your heart is not open, nothing can move you. It is, on the other hand, clear that a film like “The pursuit of happiness” compared to “Fireproof” is at a clearly different level. However, I don´t think it´s so much in the story than it is in the telling. Both stories are good. How you accomplish that in two hours is where magic lies.

    As far as conversion goes, I think people only convert when they decide to. Circumstances are irrelevant. I don´t see how a movie can go that distance. But if God talks to everybody in a special way, why not?

    I give the movie a C+, but I most certainly don´t regret watching it.

    PS: stay away from Alvin and the Chipmunks!!!

Leave a Reply