Saturday, January 12, 2019

The very first Movie Church post

Back in 2014, Dean started reviewing churches and clergy at Dean and Mindy go to church. It wasn't long before we realized that those posts deserved their own blog. Now that we've finished up the church visitation project, the time is right to move all the movie churches here where they belong. (Observant readers will notice that in this first movie church post, Dean hadn't started giving steeple ratings.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (1983)
Since this is the first movie post, I want to make it clear what this is about, so you’ll be in the know. Those poor folks who start reading after this week will be baffled but not you. These movie posts will review not movies, but rather the churches portrayed in movies.

For example, I recently saw John Wick. The film features Keanu Reeves in a mindless but stylish retread of 1980’s Chuck Norris, Sly Stallone type action films --perfectly fine if you like that kind of thing (and I do). But in this column, we wouldn’t be analyzing the direction of Chad Stahelski or the plotting of screenwriter Derek Kolstad. We'd just jump ahead to the church portrayed in the film. The church is some sort of Orthodox denomination with a massive building in NYC. But apparently, that just serves as a front for an Eastern European mob. I’m giving the church in the film a big thumbs down. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like churches with clergy on the take with syndicate drug money, where sitting in a pew could get you shot in a spectacular gun battle.

For this first month of movie churches, I’ll be reviewing churches in Christmas films, starting with The Church with No Name in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a cheesy made-for-TV version of a pretty wonderful children’s book.

As I’ve indicated, I never did catch the name of the church from watching the film, but let’s go through some of the church’s pros and cons before we decide on whether to give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Pro: Thriving Children’s Ministry
Every kid in town seems to go to the Church with No Name’s Sunday School class and participate in the annual Christmas program. Well, every kid except for those in the Herdman family, youngster thugs who are devoted to extorting from other children and blowing stuff up real good. The story is about when even the Herdmans decide to become involved with the Christmas program.
Con: A Network of Gossips
When the Herdmans become a part of the Christmas program, every woman in the church seems to be on the telephone talking with every other woman in the church about how awful it is that these young reprobates are befouling their sacred building. (Jesus, on the other hand, was pretty positive about when sinners came to see Him.)

Pro: A Minor CelebrityAttending the church and directing the Christmas program is none other than Loretta Swit, television celebrity. Didn’t recognize anyone else in the church, but it would be cool to say, “You know Hot Lips from the show M*A*S*H? She goes to our church.”

Con: Cowardly, Mealy-mouthed Clergy
The pastor wants to buckle under the pressure of the gossiping women and plans to cancel the Christmas program because the Herdman children are involved. Skittish pastors are not a pretty sight.

Pro: Grape Juice Served for Communion
I know many of you probably prefer wine for communion, but in the film, the Herdman kids get into the grape juice stash. I used to sometimes get a hold of the leftover communion grape juice and drink it until I was sick. And I can tell you both situations would have been a lot worse if wine had been involved.

Con: Little Support for Volunteers
Ms. Swit seems to be on her own directing the Christmas program (with the exception of her reluctant daughter).

But I have two pros left:

Pro: Christmas Program Goes Well
The Herdman kids manage to inject some earthy reality into the show, and it touches people.

Finally, one more Pro:

Early in the story, after a church service, one of the Herdman kids asks, “What isthe Christmas program about?” and someone responds, “It’s about Jesus.” And the Herdman kid says, “Everything in this church is about Jesus.”

Now if “everything… is about Jesus”, then that church definitely would get a thumbs up and I’d want to go to there.

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