Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Filming Grace

When I decided to rent The Grace Card, I was determined to lay aside my preconceived bias against "overtly Christian" movies, which nearly always lack depth and artistry.  Unfortunately, this movie only reinforced that bias.

My primary objection to this and other recent "Christian" films (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, etc.), is the false, happy-clappy assertion that as soon as anyone trusts Christ, everything works out right.

In The Grace Card, "all things work together for good" means that the Christian wife always says the right thing with the right inflection, body language and motive, while her Christian husband always responds with humility and a gracious spirit.  Their Christian children are perpetually cheerful and obedient.  Knowing Christ = the absence of sin, trouble, conflict, and hardship.  

In the opposite corner, we have the UN-Christian family whose eldest son dies an untimely death, whose only other son ends up near-death as a result of his rebellious lifestyle, and whose abusive, loveless marriage is shattering.  However, as soon as the father calls on Jesus, his son is rescued from the brink of death and their very broken, estranged relationship is instantly healed.  He and his wife suddenly and miraculously love each other.  His lifelong, racist attitude is reversed so dramatically that we find him and his family sitting, as the lone white occupants, worshipping comfortably on the front row of an all-black church where...drumroll, please...the criminal responsible for his first son's death, seeks him out and asks for forgiveness which he...of course... symbolically grants by handing him a "Grace Card" with this inscription:

“I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same, and be your friend always.”

That may all sound really sweet and lovely...the way things ought to be.  But it portrays an emotional, sappy, shallow Christianity that I find embarrassing.  Trusting in Christ becomes a magic talisman that dissipates trials.

Now...the movie wasn't entirely without merit, and I assume the film's writers, producers, actors, sponsors, etc., had faithful intentions and truly desired to forward the cause of grace and its power to radically change lives.  But I am a firm believer in the marriage of content with form and, quite frankly, Christians need to master the art form of narrative, script writing, and cinematography if they're going to gain respect and a voice.

For now, if you'd like to experience an artful story of grace, I recommend Get Low with Robert Duvall.  It isn't exciting or sensational, but it is wonderfully comic at times...charming...warm-hearted.  You won't be spoon-fed a message, nor will you hear a pedantic presentation of The Gospel.  In fact, forgiveness and grace come slowly, subtly, and late for Duvall's character, but its arrival carries a power and beauty which affects a quiet, but thoroughgoing, transformation of The Guilty One.  The gospel of grace and redemption shines beautifully through this story.


Anonymous said...

Tender Mercies with Duvall is another goodie along these lines.


Jeremy Sexton said...

Tender Mercies with Duvall is another good one along these lines.


Lori Shaffer said...

Yes! That is one of my very favorite movies.