Screenwriter and script analyst Barbara Nicolosi is extremely disappointed by the Christian-produced film Facing the Giants. I have not yet gotten around to seeing the film, but I suspect that Ms. Nicolosi is quite right. She points out that Facing the Giants is the cinematic equivalent of Contemporary Christian Music, bland nonsense meant to make Christians feel good and thereby bring in a steady stream of money from a highly defined market segment, what is known in the entertainment business as a cash cow.
In addition, Nicolosi argues, Facing the Giants is animated by a devotion to what is known as the Prosperity Gospel, a decidedly perverse notion prevalent among some Evangelicals, which holds that God wants believers to be happy and prosperous in this world (which is surely true to some extent), and that he will give believers such earthly success to the degree that they believe in Him and accept his promises. That is an absurd, unbiblical doctrine that is derived from Puritanism but puts an optimistic, positive spin on it. It is an idea, as Nicolosi notes, that utterly denies numerous direct statements in Scripture, especially the words of Jesus Christ himself.
In sum, the Prosperity Gospel is a very bad thing indeed, and according to Nicolosi the story of Facing the Giants manifests it entirely. Given that even the film’s defenders are not making any claims of aesthetic value for it, this suggests that the film is unworthy of admiration.
Now, not everything has to be great art, of course, but if a "message" film has a bad message and little to no artistry, it cannot be said to have much going for it.
As noted on this site earlier and as cited by Ms. Nicolosi in her article, the Fox studio has embarked on an effort to create low-budget theatrical films for the Christian market. The important question at hand is whether the model will be indie films that challenge current atheistic cultural perspectives or a bland and manipulative Christian Contemporary Cinema that uses religious tropes to snag an ignorant and complacent audience.
Right now we have no idea what the answer will be. As I noted earlier, however, Fox will undoubtedly follow the audiences’ lead, giving us more of the type of film to which we respond with the most support, financial and critical.
The responsibility, then, is most certainly ours.
Addendum (November 2007):
I saw Facing the Giants on TV recently, and I found it to be somewhat bland and the performances rather weak, but I did find it quite watchable and felt that the sincerity fairly well forced one to get involved in the story. And the film does have a couple of very good scenes. Some non-Christians may find it enjoyable and learn something from it, but the quality of the film is not strong enough to make it likely to entice a large number of viewers.
In sum, I doubt that this film will make many converts to Christianity, but I don’t see it as spreading a Prosperity Gospel as Barbara Nicolosi argues. It’s perfectly apparent that the football coach at the center of the story wants to do well as a coach because he believes that teaching young men to work hard and strive to achieve their best is why God put him on this earth. That is definitely a conventional Christian point of view, and I don’t think that the Prosperity Gospel message of treating God as a spiritual ATM is the film’s intended effect nor a likely message for most people to draw from it.
Hence, I suspect that the film will ultimately do more good than harm, though probably not all that much of either.
After reading your comment, on the validity of Christian Cinema’s offering, I was quickly reminded, that a Godly discernment, is what this is all about. You can read, or, watch many things, but, it is only through prayer, and listening to God’s word, that one can apply any such material, to actual life.
To cast stones, at anyone, is not bible based philosophy. It is better, to make some attempt, at offering God’s word, than to make no attempt at all.
Which is exactlly, what is happening today.
The casting of stones, is God’s job, and rightly so, for it is by his standards, which all will be judged, including Christian Cinema’s offerings to his people.
I agree with your skepticism toward so-called Christian films in general, Steve. Please let us know your thoughts on FTG after you see it. Thanks.
As a Christian, I have always been skeptical, and remain so, of so-called “Christian” films.
The truth is, they are not very good. They either try to tell too much or concentrate only on the emotional aspects of Christianity. I haven’t seen “Facing the Giants” and won’t comment until I do.
Actually, I was reporting on what Ms. Nicolosi wrote, and giving some general thoughts on Christianity and cinema, not this particular film. I intend to see it some time and will comment on this film specifically if it appears to merit further consideration. Thanks for your comment.
How can a serious critic or observer attack a movie he hasn’t seen? And accuse it of being “animated” by a so-called “Prosperity Gospel” (which I saw nowhere in the movie). This is a great family film, I saw it in the theater, bought the DVD, and recommend it highly. It is, remember, a movie, not a documentary on systematic theology. It is a sweet and moving story that celebrates faith, believing and trusting in a personal God, and giving one’s best. What about those do you find offensive? And finally, I did find the movie entertaining, and well-made considering its limited budget and that many of its actors were not professionals. Just because it wasn’t made by Pixar Studios or directed by Stephen Spielberg doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of respect.
A year or so ago, I saw a movie about St. Therese “The Little Flower” that was made for about $1 mil & actually played at my local mall for a week. As a movie, I have to give a C+, to be generous, because it looked like the director had stage experience rather than movie making experience, although I give the message an A+ and totally understand what the director went through just to make the movie.
While the dearth of Christian cinema is something which will make many Christians say any Christian cinema is better than none, the lack of cinema also brings about a lack of expert talent for creating that cinema.
In this sense, Facing the Giants is a necessary first step towards developing that talent, as stumbling as that step may be. Apart from FOX, there is no major studio rushing to market to the Christian audience so films like Facing the Giants–made by new filmmakers, untrained, and unsophisticated, are what we get.
Barbara Nicolosi’s article, and yours to an extent, ignores the economic realities surrounding the creation of explicitly Christian films. The first truly Christian independent films since the big blockbusters of the 1950s and 1960s (Quo Vadis, Greatest Story Ever Told, the Ten Commandments, etc.) are going to be drek because they are made by people with no assets but enthusiasm. And then the films will start to get better.
I’d also touch upon one other issue–what does a Christian film look like? Based upon book sales, it will look like the Left Behind series. Though this causes just about every Christian blogger I have ever met to gnash their teeth, the reality is that books like that sell. Studios will be drawn to the same sort of stories because, to paraphrase bank robber Willie Sutton: “That’s where the money is.”
Want better films? Make them.
Does anyone actually read your dribble….I had to stop after a few lines…..sorry.
Like you said, you didnt see the movie…so you might hold your tounge and your pen till you do. Try reading the Bible too. Maybe 3 John 2, Psalm 1, Joshua 1:8. But you dont have to beleive it…God gives you that choice. But you may not want to beleive that “with God all things are possible.”
I dont even know who you are….but I had to just share that with you….
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