I should admit this up front; I've had a real grudge against this film.
The first time I went to see it was back in seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.A college girl I had a bit of a crush on loved this film. She thought it had profound things to say about Trinity College's dancing ban. I asked her to go with me to see it, and she agreed to meet me at the theater. But she didn't come. I was stood up.
It was years before I tried to watch the film again, this time on DVD. I only made it a few minutes. The opening credits were pretty fun; a montage of dancing feet accompanied by the theme song by the great Kenny Loggins (with music in this, "Caddyshack," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Rocky IV," "Top Gun" -- Loggins IS the Eighties.)
But then I got to the film proper with John Lithgow as the Reverend Shaw Moore preaching, and I didn't last much longer. The Rev. ranted about "Our Lord testing us" and why God allows the plague of big cities.
Then he turns to the evils of that "obscene rock and roll music and its gospel of easy sexuality." He again asks why God is testing us with this horrible thing when He could easily wipe all this evil from the earth. The Reverend argues that this testing is allowed by God to make us stronger for Him. At no time does he use Scripture to back up his assertions. The Reverend also does not seem concerned about the people in big cities or the makers or fans of rock music. He doesn't seem to consider that God may love these people and that is why He continues to show them grace (II Peter 3:9).
That's when I turned off the film the last time I tried to watch it.
But for the sake of this blog, I set out to watch the whole film. And, of course, I did so not to write about the film but rather about the church in this film.
The sermon I had already seen would probably lead me to choose not to attend this church. It reminded me too much of the days of my youth, attending Bill Gaither's Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar where he spoke of the evils of rock music. It didn't seem true to God's word to me then, and it doesn't now. Certainly, there are rock songs that have lyrics contrary to God's Word. But the argument against the musical genre itself is pathetically weak.
The next sermon Rev. Moore gives is about the glories of small town life. The director of the film, Hebert Ross, presents this sermon as a montage, as taking place from the pulpit and in conversations with parishioners. He says he doesn't miss the hustle and bustle of the big city, but prefers small towns where everyone is part of a big family. He says he feels safe with his people in the small town. He, of course, doesn't use any Scripture to support his points, because the God of Scripture loves the City. In the book of Revelation part of the New Heaven and New Earth is the New Jerusalem. So obviously, unlike the Rev. Moore, God is okay with the city.
In the final sermon of the film, the Rev. Moore has finally seen the light and allows his daughter and the kids of the church (and, one assumes, the town) to go the dance that Kevin Bacon is staging. He gives the analogy of a new parent that must learn when to let go as well as when to hold on. Again, he uses no Scripture in his sermon.
Which is perhaps why Rev. Moore is won over a bit by Kevin "6 degrees of" Bacon quoting Psalm 149 about dancing and the book of Samuel (he never says whether it is First or Second Samuel) about dancing before the ark, because the young man dancer incorporates Scripture in his city council speeches better than the pastor does in his sermons.
This inability of the pastor to use the Bible is one of the reasons the nameless Movie Church of the town of Bomont in the '80s version of "Footloose" earns only one measly steeple.