Thursday, November 26, 2015

I'm in Love with a Church Girl (2013)

A quick story before this week’s Movie Church review: when I was an intern at Fullerton Evangelical Free Church, a pastor on the staff, Gary Richmond, told a story on himself. Seems he was teaching on materialism and made the bold statement that if someone was really trying to follow Christ, that person shouldn’t be driving a Mercedes. Shortly after that, Gary’s car died. A generous person in the congregation offered Gary a replacement: a worn and battered Mercedes. Which Gary then drove.

It was a nice little lesson on judgmental attitudes which also featured God’s sense of humor. But it also reminds me of a scene in “I’m in Love with a Church Girl.” The movie tells the story of a drug dealer turned music promoter who falls for a young woman who works in a Christian “book” store (like many such places it seems to feature more t-shirts and CDs than books. She identifies it as a "faith based products store"). She eventually convinces him to come to church, where he sees a man pull into a parking lot in a shiny white Lamborghini. After church, Vanessa introduces Miles to the driver of the car, Pastor Galley. As the couple gawk at the worship leader’s car and gaudy jewelry, the pastor says, “The Bible says nothing about style being a sin.”

Now as new Lamborghinis retail at up to a quarter of million dollars, and throughout the New Testament we see examples of people selling their possessions for the poor, I must admit I have a hard time seeing how someone in ministry can own such a car. (I partly say this in light of Gary’s story, in hope that a divine, ironic twist of fate will bring such a car into my possession.)

There is a strange undercurrent of materialism throughout the film. The "church girl" of the film, Vanessa (Adrienne Bailon), is portrayed as epitome of Godliness, but she is obviously drawn by Miles's car and mansion. When Miles gives her a ride on a private jet for her birthday, shes give no thought to what the money spent on the trip could do to stock the pantry of a soup kitchen or buy goats for a destitute family in Guinea-Bissau. Perhaps part of the reason for this is her pastor's example and the wealth of those in her church Bible study.

Now I should get to writing again about the church in the film. (If you’re new to these parts, we review churches in films, not the films themselves. No need for an extensive review of this film anyway, once you see Stephen Baldwin is in the cast. If you see that particular Baldwin in the credits and the film was made in this century, the prospects are not good.)

We never hear the name of the church in the film (at least I didn’t catch it), but two San Jose churches are credited, Evergreen Valley Church and Church on the Hill. The exterior of the church featured has a bit of the appearance of a circus tent and Vanessa calls it “the best show on earth…and it’s free!”

When Vanessa enters the church with Miles (played by Ja Rule), she is instantly greeted by an usher at the door who says, “Let me take you to your parents,” abandoning his post at the door. The worship team seems to have a performance focus, and people in the congregation seem to be enjoying the show but not singing along. After the service, we see a woman from the worship team assure Pastor Galley the service was “awesome” and he says, “I had a great time…the Spirit was really moving.”

After a great deal of drama between Vanessa and Miles, including a coma for Vanessa and questioning from the police for Miles, the couple returns to church. The pastor says “Good morning, Church,” and reads about trials from James 1. He points to the example of Vanessa and her family. After a very brief sermon, the pastor has an altar call, and Miles is the sole person who comes forward.

In a montage we see Vanessa and Miles’ wedding, Miles’ baptism, and a title card tells us that three years later, Miles went into the ministry. This is not exactly a twist ending if you know that the whole film is written by Pastor Galley Molina (who played the pastor with the car) based on his own life story. (Knowing Molina based Miles on his own life makes one wonder about all the times in the film people talk about Miles’ good looks and charm.)

There is one other church talked about in the film. Miles was dragged by his mother to a Catholic church growing up. He says he was bored every Sunday, the music was horrible, the service was gloomy, and he was spooked by the statues and pictures. No mention is made about what kind of ride the priest drove back in the day.

But I will give the church we see in the film three steeples. There is something to be said for a church that makes drug kingpins welcome. (I’m not sure what that something is, but it is something, and we're looking forward to finding out this Sunday.) 

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