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Faith and flicks

Christian films gain a following.

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. — The box office and the Bible don’t always go together.
In recent years, though, films with Christian themes have found success at theaters — and Hollywood can’t help but notice.
“We’re increasingly seeing films that affirm rather than denigrate faith,” said Craig Detweiler, director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
On a recent Friday night, hundreds of people — including two couples from the Northtown church in Milwaukee and myself — packed a super-sized theater to see “The Blind Side.”
Starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw, the surprise No. 1 blockbuster tells the inspirational true story of how a Christian couple adopt a homeless black teenager who becomes a first-round NFL draft pick. It’s rated PG-13 for language, violence and depictions of drug use.
Runaway hits usually generate their highest grosses in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, as the Los Angeles Times noted.
But “The Blind Side” became a show-business phenomenon in places such as Dallas, Birmingham, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn. — the Bible Belt, you might say.
“It taps into this hunger we have to see faith portrayed as something relevant and tangible and life-changing,” said Detweiler, who has developed a Bible study guide based on “The Blind Side.”
In Leigh Anne Tuohy, Bullock’s character, “you finally have a person who looks, acts and sounds like our greatest Christian role models — people making a small difference in their community every single day,” he added.
In 2008, “Fireproof,” a low-budget film made by an almost all-volunteer crew and cast from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., opened as the No. 4 movie in the nation. That PG-rated film starred Kirk Cameron as a firefighter who rescued children from burning buildings but couldn’t save his own marriage. That is, until he turned to Jesus.
“‘Fireproof’ proved there’s a strong niche audience” for such films, Detweiler said. “‘The Blind Side’ proves that audience is much larger than Hollywood might have imagined.”
I saw “The Blind Side” with Keith and Margaret Brumley, who are white, and Tim and Regina Anderson, who are black. Over pizza and soft drinks at the Andersons’ house afterward, we enjoyed a 45-minute discussion about the film and the faith aspects.
Overall, we gave it five thumbs up.
However, Regina voiced concern about the lack of positive black role models, as the film portrays many of the African-Americans as poor, drug-addicted and involved with gangs. “That was the thing that really stood out to me, but I thought it was really good,” she said of the movie.
“Fireproof” was smack-you-in-the-face religious. The Christian references in “The Blind Side” come across a bit more subtly.
Early in the movie, the football coach at a Christian high school argues that the school should accept Michael Oher in spite of his poor grade-point average. Not because of his size and athletic ability, the coach says, but “because it’s the right thing to do.”
Now, it seems pretty obvious that football really is the coach’s motivation. Yet, admitting “Big Mike” is the right thing, and the school does the right thing.
Nonetheless, the expressions of faith unfold as a natural part of the story — not in any contrived way.
“This family … wanted to reach out, lend a hand, and had no idea that they would get a son in return,” Bullock said, according to Scripps Howard News Service. The actress said that, while making the movie, she gained a little “faith in those who say they represent a faith. … I’ve finally met people that walk the walk.”
Given the success of “The Blind Side,” don’t be surprised if more such people get a chance to walk across the big screen.

Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

  • Feedback
    On the heels of The Blind Side, comes another PG-13 movie that includes faith. Though some hesitate to call the movie a Christian movie (including the writer), it is built from a Godly worldview and includes a Christian youth pastor as an important mentor.
    Kyle Thompson
    Church on the Move
    Tulsa, OK
    January, 17 2010

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