Thursday, July 29, 2021

"Classic" Christian Films Face the Giants

Facing the Giants
It should probably be stipulated that this month's "classic" Christian films aren’t necessarily, well, good, but all of these films have a unique place in the growth of the Christian film industry. 

Facing the Giants is the second film from the Kendrick brothers, Alex and Stephen, after their debut film, Flywheel. This second film broke through commercially, bringing in ten million dollars on a million-dollar budget. After Facing the Giants, the brothers went on to make several financially successful films. In 2008, the Kendrick brothers made a film about marriage called Fireproof on a budget of half a million that went on to earn 33 million dollars.

Facing the Giants is the story of Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick), the football coach at Shiloh Christian Academy. As the film opens, Coach Taylor’s Eagles lose the final game of their season to end a losing record. He is struggling financially, and we learn that he and his wife, Brooke (Shannen Fields), have been unable to have children (though they’ve been attempting to do so for four years.)

film flashes forward to the first day of school the next year. Oddly, the first day of school at Shiloh Christian Academy seems also to be the first day of football practice. At most every school I know, football programs begin weeks before the school year starts. And that same week they begin school and practice, they have their first game. The Eagles go on to lose their first three games. Coach Taylor’s job seems to be in danger.

But then Coach Taylor goes to the woods behind his house and begins to pray. And things begin to turn around. There is a revival at his high school, beginning in the Bible class. Students are praying all over the school property. And at practices, Coach begins to challenge his players to play not just for the win, but for God. This turns the kids around, and they start to win games.

Now it seems like in some conferences, three losses might already know you out of contention to win the division. Not necessarily, but it could. Instead the Eagles begin to win every game. And then every playoff game. And soon they are on the way to the state championship.

But that’s not the only thing that turns around for the coach. Because he’s praying, apparently, he is given an increase in salary. And he is given a free, spanking new truck. (The father of one of his players is so thrilled that the coach told him to respect his father, the father gives him a truck.) I would worry greatly if someone gave me a gift like that with no explanation. If for the tax liability alone.

Best of all, his wife goes to the doctor’s office and gets good news (eventually.) This is one of the most unprofessional doctor’s offices I’ve ever seen. The coach’s wife goes in the office and one of the nurse’s announces loudly to the other, “It’s Coach Taylor’s wife! I sure hope she’s pregnant this time!” And do you know what? She is!

That is the way things go in the world of Facing the Giants. Though there are problems for these Christians, everything eventually goes their way. God must want everyone to win the big game. (But what if there are Christians playing against them? It can’t be.) And God must want every Christian to be financially successful. And no Christian could possibly be impotent.

Now there are two big problems with this type of storytelling. It builds false hope that all will eventually go well in life if you have enough faith. But the Christian life often doesn’t go swell. The Apostle Paul was beaten, arrested, stoned, shipwrecked, and eventually beheaded. A far cry from winning the state football championship. (And you might recall how Jesus’ ministry ended. When the people brought Him before Pontius Pilate, He didn’t get a pay raise.)

The second problem is dramatic. To have everything go the way of the protagonist is not very interesting. Even in sports movies. Rocky is one of the greatest sports movies ever made because the hero doesn’t win in the end. But he gives his all.

Shiloh Chistian Academy is a small school with so-so players. God could miraculously take them to the state championship, but why? It seems a rather pointless miracle.

But we have bigger problems here at Movie Churches. Because though there are plenty of Christian characters in the film, there isn’t a church in the story or any clergy. (Fireproof at least had Alex Kendrick as a minister that leads the main couple in a renewal of their marriage vows at the end of the film.) So it would seem we don’t have anything to write about. Fortunately, a church shows up in the credits. Because the film is produced by Sherwood Pictures. And Sherwood Pictures isn’t an ordinary production company but a ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia.

So it is rather cool that a church has a film production company. It’s just too bad the Prosperity Gospel in the film is not very solid theologically. On the other hand, the gospel is presented in the film, so we’re giving Sherwood Baptist Church, who provided money and many extras for the film a Movie Churches rating of Three Steeples.

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