Anyone who has read my reviews of Christian films knows that generally, I’m not a fan. The writing is usually very bad, the acting is often even worse, and they usually look (and sound) like they were shot in a church gymnasium. They are often sappy, unrealistic, and so obviously evangelistic that they shouldn’t really be called films but propaganda pieces. That last point could be forgiveable if the film quality and writing had redeemable qualities. Since they usually do not, Christian film generally stinks.
Last year Living Waters Ministries announced that they were going to do an evangelistic movie on the issue of homosexuality. They put together a Crowdfunder project for it and raised more than $300,000 to make a 48 minute film that will be released on www.AudacityMovie.com for download June 24th. Ray Comfort (among others) is listed as the producerwriter and Eddie Roman directed it.
To be perfectly honest, to say that I was expecting more of the same would be an understatement. When the first trailer dropped, it gave me pause–vas is ist? Some unknown actors delivering lines in a believable way? A “ray” of hope! As time and the filming went on, my doubts resurfaced and I assumed that the film would end with a Good Person Test, the main character coming to faith in Christ, and some gratuitious tear jerkers along the way.
Here’s the skinny: this is Ray’s first endeavor into dramatic film. It just doesn’t look like it (excepting the short running time). What distinguishes this film from the rest of what passes for Christian film is that it doesn’t try to do what it knows it cannot. There is no effort to draw on some washed up Hollywood leftover like most of the DVD’s in your local Christian bookstore. There are no half baked special effects which look only like lame attempts to imitate good Hollywood special effects. There is no Pollyanna scripting that leaves the main character dying on a sidewalk in the rain outside of a Newsboys concert where people are running down the proverbial aisle like rats jumping off of a sinking ship.
What you DO have is sincere, excellent acting, particularly by Molly Ritter in her role as Diana. Travis Owens who plays the role of Peter, the earnest Christian bicycle delivery guy, also does a very good job, but Ritter walks away with this film. The scripting for the dramatized sections is well done. Finally, we have a Christian movie where an unbeliever does NOT convert through a simplistic gospel presentation, but who (believably) is considering the gospel at the end.
This is why the template for the pot-boiler Christian film is broken–writing. You cannot make up for bad writing with Nicolas Cage and big budgets. Christian film is far better served with new actors no one knows but who can actually deliver a line believably. Such craftsmanship actually glorifies God. Before CGI we had great stories and greater acting. Carey Grant. Humphrey Bogart. Katherine Hepburn. I’m not saying Ritter is the second coming of Hepburn, but I am saying she does a heck of a lot better job than Nicolas Cage did in Left Behind.
That’s not to say that all of the acting here is created equal. It’s not. Ritter and Owens carry the film and that is exactly what the lead roles are supposed to do. If it wasn’t so important for the plot there are some sections of this film that would have been better laying on the cutting room floor. I leave it to you, dear reader, to figure out to what I refer.
If you are thinking that this is the movie where Ray Comfort skips the Good Person Test and the man on the street interviews, you will be disappointed. However, the way they are used here works. Their implementation is a little unwieldy in places but I found myself thinking, “Well, it could happen this way.” In the process, Ray introduces us to a simple, uncompromised and effective way to bridge the cultural gap with homosexuals while sharing the gospel.
What I liked the most about the movie was the way that Peter’s character is portrayed; struggling with the real issues while presenting the gospel to homosexual friends. The main gift to the Church in this film is the attitude that Peter models for us. Sacrificial, level headed and loving–in short, everything homosexuals think we are not.
As long as evangelicals allow Fox News and other neo-con media outlets dictate the conversation on the issue of homosexual marriage we allow them to type cast us as uncaring, unfeeling idiots. If the Church can grasp the model we have here in Peter’s character, without insincerely parroting his words and actions but letting them flow out of a genuine love for Christ and for people–there would be a revolution in the culture war on homosexual marriage. Imagine what it would be like if homosexuals took us seriously as we presented the claims of Christ. Imitate this example and you might find out.
By the way, the homosexuals were not type cast in this movie. They were believable. That’s a step forward for the entire movie industry, not just Christian film. Hollywood does itself no favors when they depict homosexuals as flamboyantly as possible. They should take a lesson from Comfort and crew. It is not necessary to make homosexuals look ridiculous. The irony is that Hollywood seems to think that it helps their cause.
I’m reminded of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s book “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.” Butterfield was a professor of Womens Studies at Syracuse University and is a former lesbian. She converted to Christianity via the patient, loving proclamation of the gospel through the efforts of a local church just a couple of miles down the road from where I type this. She is now a pastor’s wife.
When Butterfield and her husband moved to the campus of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA, the hub of the Reformed Presbyterian denomination, the Scripture signs posted on the front lawns of believer’s homes gave her pause. She asked, “Perhaps I or one of my drag queen friends would be welcome to have a cup of coffee at one of these Bible-loving houses, resting our cups between sips on vinyl tablecloths in country kitchens. Perhaps we would be talked with as people made in God’s image. But perhaps not” (67). She follows this up with the poignant questions, “Do these Bible verses that sit as placards take up the same cultural space as the rainbow flag that once resided on my flag pole? Are these ‘Welcome’ signs, or signs that read ‘Insiders Only’?” (67-68).
This film is the natural sequel to Butterfield’s book. If you prefer, it is the training video. Watch Audacity and learn how to share a cup of coffee and the gospel with people made in the image of God. It’s worth the investment.
Audacity will be available for download on www.AudacityMovie.com on June 24th.
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