Thursday, September 17, 2020

Back to Back to School Month: Catching Faith

Catching Faith

I know I need to talk about churches and clergy in these films, but I have to deal with another issue here at the start, because it bothered me the whole time I was watching Catching Faith.

A Christian high school football team is a major part of the plot of this film. The son of the family, Beau Taylor (Garrett Westton), is a senior and a star player -- presumably on the varsity team.  The football games are played on school days (Fridays?) in the afternoon. My high school had some varsity day games, but they were on Saturdays.

Surely this school has a junior varsity team. If the Varsity plays after the end of the school day and after a JV game (and perhaps after a freshman game) in Wisconsin in the fall, surely the sun would not be burning bright as it is during all the games in this film -- including the end-of-season championship game.

Okay, there is one other thing that bothered me in this film -- let me vent, and then we'll get to the part where we talk about the church and clergy. Early in the film, the mother of the Taylor family, Alexa (Lorena Segura York) is asked, “What do you do?”

Her answer was, “We have twins. My son is the star of the football team. My daughter is a valedictorian.” I have all kinds of problems with this, including, of course, that this woman defines herself solely by her offspring, but that's not even my biggest issue with this. Something else that bothers me more is that she calls her daughter, Ravyn (Bethany Peterson), a valedictorian. Since the football season is in process, this is obviously the fall (even though the sun sets inexplicably late), so that year's valedictorian is months away from being decided. We also see Ravyn's dad (Dariush Moslemi) hand her a thin, business-sized envelope at a football game. The skinny envelope contains early acceptance at some great college (anyone who watched Gilmore Girls knows skinny college envelopes don’t have good news. You want a fat envelope. Also, this movie is from 2015 -- didn't that kind of thing come in an email or online portal?) Ravyn's parents give her a quick pat on the back and then go back to watching the game. 

Also, the letter says she has to keep her grades up to keep her acceptance,t wasn’t  so it isn't really an acceptance letter.

Alright, enough of preliminaries. Is there any church or clergy in this film (since that's what we're here to talk about)? We do see Alexa leaving a church service. The building is a big brick edifice; I’d guess it was a mainline church. We never go inside that church or meet clergy from there, but there are two other Christian institutions depicted in the film: a Bible study and a Christian school.

Alexa has just started attending a small group with women who all seem to be about her age, all attractive, well dressed, and able to meet during the day. It could well be that this is a Bible study affiliated with a church, but they never talk about a church. It certainly isn’t Bible Study Fellowship, but if it is some other parachurch organization, we never hear what it is.

The group is starting a new study which doesn’t focus on any particular book of the Bible or concept in Scripture, but rather on self-discovery. (At the end of one session the group leader does say, “Read I Kings chapters 17 and 18,” but we never hear the group discuss that, or any other Scripture.)

Alexa seems to like the people in the group, but initially, she's unwilling to discuss anything personal. She feels pressured to share more deeply, and snaps at one point, “You don’t like or accept my answers.” But eventually she seems to find the women in the group to be a source of encouragement and strength.

The big conflict in the film is when Beau goes to a drinking party after a game. The police bust the party, but let Beau off. But the school has a Code of Conduct that says drinking, among other offenses, makes him a student ineligible for extracurricular activities. Beau’s parents insist on Beau reporting himself.

The school coach, Coach Z (Bill Engvall), doesn’t try to work around the school rules to have Beau play. He lets Beau sit on the bench, but he doesn’t let his star play. And he encourages Beau by telling him that just as a receiver must trust the quarterback, on the field of life each of us must trust God as our quarterback. As a teacher at a Christian school, he does serve a pastoral role and does it well.

I appreciated how Beau and Ravyn were depicted dealing with real temptation and moral choices and their relationship with each other. I was disappointed that the film culminated with the Big Game. (Will there be a way for Beau to play in the playoff game? Will the school win the game? I’ll leave you in suspense.)

The school and Bible study do encourage the Taylors to see God and live in integrity, so I’m giving them Three Steeples out of Four. (If that Bible study actually studied the Bible, they might have rated higher.)

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