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.