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Friday, April 3, 2015

What Does The Movie 'Do You Believe?' Want Us To Believe?

The movie Do You Believe? (click here for the move's website), like the movie God's Not Dead, is a Christian film focused on evangelism. While the previous movie revolved around stereotypes, the movie Do You Believe? does not, at least as much. This movie revolves around the lives of 12 people whose paths will intersect under an actual physical cross due to a chain reaction of car crashes on a bridge. In the meantime, this move presents a description of 3 kinds of characters: God and Jesus, the believer, and the unbeliever. 

The movie starts with the personal Christianity of a church minister being indirectly challenged by a street preacher carrying a cross. The message of this street preacher to the minister is that he should take the Cross seriously. This scene takes place in the city where a van is being stolen by one of the 12 people who are featured here and his gang. The street preacher challenges the kids not to steal the van, despite them pointing a gun at him, but they do so anyway. This impresses the church minister and it starts him to preach to his own church about the meaning of the Cross and what it calls us to be.

Some of the other characters in this movie include a paramedic who is sued for leading a man to faith while that man is dying from an accident, the lawyer who sues the paramedic, the gang leader and his brother, a veteran suffering from PTSD and was considering committing suicide because, while in action, he saw another soldier killed and he was too scared to help, a distraught young woman who was also considering suicide, a homeless woman and her daughter, a church janitor who was dying from cancer, an old retired couple who lost their only child early in the child's life, the wife of the paramedic who is also a nurse, the childless wife of the church minister, a pregnant homeless woman, and an unbelieving doctor. That partial list of the 12 characters also contains some of the characters in their lives. BTW, there are some notable people performing in this movie including Cybill Shepherd, Mira Sorvino, Brian Bosworth, Lee Majors, and Shwayze.

As a movie designed to convert unbelievers, this movie is an improvement over its predecessor God's Not Dead in that some of the stories are touching. But the ending is a bit contrived as the dying church janitor comes back unassisted after being dead for quite a few minutes. The veteran redeems himself as he saves a family who were stuck in a car that was falling of the bridge from the crash, the paramedic helps the veteran save that family as well as saves the life of the lawyer who sued him. In addition, the gang leader, who lost his brother to the man the leader was trying to kill, converts to Christ because his brother did and because his being wounded in the street not only started the accident, but saw the person attempting to kill him be killed. And finally, the church minister and his wife become parents by virtue of the homeless pregnant woman giving birth to her child while dying from the accident.

There are two basic messages this movie attempts to convey. It first adequately conveys the basic Gospel message of how God sent His Son to die for our sins because of how He loves us. That was adequately done. But the second message that was, IMO, conveyed is that we come to faith via the dramatic. Some of the dramas include the wife of the paramedic begins to believe when she sees the church janitor return from the dead in the hospital, the lawyer sees the paramedic she sues not only save her, but the helps save the couple in the car that is falling off the bridge, the veteran who risked his life to save the family in that car, and minister and his wife as they help the homeless woman deliver her baby. 

And what this coming to faith via the dramatic seems to lead us to believe is that Christians who take the Cross of Christ seriously in their lives become heroic. And it is with this heroism that we get  a very important insight into how some Conservative Christians see themselves and their role in this world. If they take the Cross seriously, they will be inspired to obtaining such a virtuous character that it causes those around them to believe. In short, this is a Christian movie about portraying Christians as the heroes of the world. We could call this Christian Exceptionalism, however, this exceptionalism only comes to those who take the Cross seriously enough.

In real life, we've seen another side of this Christian Exceptionalism. We've seen it throughout the history of our nation as Christianity once had a privileged position in society in terms of determining its laws and mores. And some Christians make the case that that privileged position should continue so that our  influence can save the nation from falling for self-destructive beliefs and actions.

We should also note the questions that this Christian Exceptionalism message and being saved by the dramatic might be asking of us non-exceptional Christians. Can we ordinary people Christians help the world without becoming heroes? If the answer is yes, then note that not only will our positive qualities help the world, our failures and sins might help as well. In other words, we can spread the Gospel and help the world as ordinary people. This is not a put down on those who are true heros. It simply states that we can help unbelievers in the world by relating to them as peers and equals. For what validates the Gospel is not Christian Exceptionalism, but Christ's exceptionalism. As for us Christians, we should focus as much as possible on not fumbling the ball by creating obstacles to those who would hear the Gospel. The obstacles I have in mind are those that result from us trying to do too much, of trying to show of our spiritually enhanced, "superior" character. So our job is to point to and not distract from Christ's exceptionalism.

We might also ask if people can come to faith without the drama of traumatic events merely by hearing God's Word? Are God's Word and His Spirit capable of winning hearts and minds simply by how they work together when people hear the Word? These are questions people should be pondering but are unaddressed by the movie as it insists on portraying us Christians in the way we would prefer to see ourselves: as the world's heroes.

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