Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Review of Fireproof

First, I need to say that I wrote an unflattering review of Alex Kendrick’s movie Facing the Giants. Mr. Kendrick was truly shocked at my interpretation of his film and sent me a couple of emails where he explained what he was hoping to demonstrate in that film. I had told him that I would print his email in my blog but by the time we had completed our correspondence, my blog had moved forward. At the end of this review, I will link my review of Facing the Giants along with Mr. Kendrick’s emails to me.

My son, Michael, asked his dad and me to attend Fireproof this afternoon with him. I will freely admit that I was skeptical. I was expecting to leave this movie much like I felt after viewing Facing the Giants. However, I prayed about my attitude and decided to attend.

This movie was the exact opposite of what I was prepared to see. I found myself crying, laughing and crying again as I watched this story unfold. Mr. Kendrick did an amazing job of presenting a true-to-life account on how difficult it is to remain married and faithful especially without a foundation based upon Christ.

I have witnessed marriages where both husband and wife were Christians and yet, they divorced. Today, we are so pulled by the lust of the eyes. Men and women are torn by the world in so many directions. Some of these distractions seem good and without evil intent while others are addictions. I believe that this movie would benefit anyone who is married whether or not they are Christians.

Mr. Kendrick, in an unassuming way, begins to lay out a plan for Caleb (Kirk Cameron) to discover whether or not his marriage can be salvaged. Caleb’s father asks his son to take a love dare and work on his marriage for forty days. Caleb consents to the dare only because he respects his father.

I do not want to go through all of the scenes in the movie about the dares, but let’s just say that until Caleb committed his life to Christ, he could not truly show his wife that he was sincere in his effort. In the meantime, his wife began a flirtatious affair with a married doctor at the hospital where she worked. Caleb was also struggling with an addiction to internet pornography.

One of the things that I appreciated in this film was the fact that Mr. Kendrick did not whitewash this couple’s behaviors or their sins. He showed the reality of the world in which we live today and the struggles that many couples face. He did not show an easy fix but allowed the viewer to realize the seriousness of the problems within this marriage.

In the movie, Kendrick showed this point beautifully, faith without works is dead. Caleb had to be willing to go to God for guidance and he had to work without his wife’s applause. In fact, she continued to move away from his attempts to win her back. After trying to please his wife, she gave him divorce papers. My favorite part of the movie was when it was revealed that Caleb had surrendered his dream of buying a boat even when he thought that his marriage was over.

While this movie had a joyful ending, Kendrick didn’t turn Caleb into some sort of a superman where the entire community kissed his backside. I liked the fact that his crotchety old neighbor still thought him weird when he and his wife drove off to church. I liked the fact that Caleb had to work on his relationship not just with God but with his wife. This movie didn’t portray him as saving all those around him. What we see instead is the possibility of his newly discovered faith as influencing those around him.

Unlike Facing the Giants, Kendrick did not present God as a Santa Claus in Fireproof. Caleb’s mother-in-law never spoke, the married doctor’s marriage wasn’t restored, and the nurses did not see the error of their gossiping ways. Instead, we are left wondering if perhaps this change that has happened in Caleb and his wife’s lives might begin to make an impact on those around them. All the situations were not solved. Kendrick also showed that saving this marriage was not an overnight fix but that it was going to take continued work and sacrifice on both the husband and wife’s parts.

I believe that this movie presented a more realistic view of God and His miraculous ways than Facing the Giants. I highly recommend this movie to both believers and non-believers. It should strengthen the believers’ faith and could influence the non-believer to check out Christ and the work He did on the cross.
My Review of Facing the Giants

Mr. Kendrick's first email to me:

Debbie,
Thank you for emailing me. I wanted to respond to your review of
"Facing the Giants" and share with you my side of this movie. I admit to
you that your review hurt me very much, and I was saddened that your
"take" on the story and its message was so harsh and critical. I have
received many negative reviews from non-believers about the movie and
can certainly accept them, but only a few critical reviews have come
from brothers or sisters in Christ. They are the ones that sting.
I have copied some of your remarks below so as to adequately
respond to them.

You wrote, "It presents a one sided picture of a god who is more
like Santa Claus than the God that I worship. I am disturbed that
churches are using this movie as an evangelical tool."
Debbie, everything you saw in the movie actually happened. The
only reason we did not present this as a true story was that the events
happened over several years to our own family and other members of our
congregation at Sherwood Baptist Church. However, for the sake of
telling a story within a limited amount of time, we re-ordered the
events to happen in one season. But our Christian school really did
break out into a student led revival that consumed the school. An
elderly prayer warrior really visited the school. A coach (and a
missionary) was really given a new vehicle, and three different couples
really had children after being told it was impossible. I also saw a
young player kick a 51 yard field goal to win a game when he had never
kicked that far before. Finally, I spoke with a team that started off
with three loses and ended up winning the state championship after
rededicating their team to the Lord. My brother and I incorporated these
real events into the movie after watching God work in their lives.
I do not believe that God is some genie in a lamp that gives out
wishes to His children. I argued with several people that wanted to make
the ending "happier" that I was not going to add anything to the plot
that I had not seen God do myself. I told them that at the end of the
movie, I wanted the coach and his wife living in the same house and
never establishing that the leaky roof or broken appliances ever got
fixed. I wanted them to STILL be a one vehicle family, and I wanted
their household income to remain at 30K a year (he got a raise but she
left her job at the flower shop to raise the kids). Same house, same
job, same household income, and one vehicle. I also defended that
David's dad remained unhealed of his Multiple Sclerosis since my own
father has had MS for 22 years and still praises God from his
wheelchair. After struggling to stand for his son in the movie, Larry
Childers sits right back down in his wheelchair. I also wanted the ring
leader of the "fathers" that tried to get the coach fired to remain
unredeemed. That really happened, so I didn't alter his outcome.
In other words, I didn't want EVERYTHING to be resolved, but
since I have seen God overwhelm me (and our church) at certain times in
the past, I wanted to include that in the movie. It doesn't mean that
there won't be any more struggles or trials, but that God CAN do the
impossible. Is it not scriptural to believe that? I felt like you
treated the movie like we were presenting a sinful view.
Since the movie was released, we have had over 4,300 churches to
attend the theater or to show it to their congregations. After giving
invitations afterwards, pastors and church leaders have emailed us with
the results. So far, over 2,100 people have made first time professions
of faith in Christ (that we know about), and hundreds of others have
rededicated their life to Him.

You wrote, "We live in a world where people do not understand
the Spirit and they are constantly looking for a sign. If God loves me,
then He should do the following. I should have a car given to me. I
should suddenly become very successful in my job. I should find the dead
mouse in my house. I should get a several thousand dollar raise. I
should get pregnant. And, everyone that I have any contact with should
change because of my influence toward God in their life. All these
things should happen if I stay up all night and read my Bible and pray
and share my faith."
Debbie, we NEVER said these things would happen if you read your
Bible and prayed. In fact, we present numerous times that we should live
our lives to honor the Lord, and to "praise Him when we win, and praise
Him when we lose". Did you not catch that? When Brooke is asked by
Grant, "If the Lord never gives us children, will you still love Him",
we wanted to present to the audience that our deepest desires can never
be the basis on which we choose to love and worship God or not. He is
worthy of our total worship because of who He is, not just what He does.
However, since He CAN still do miracles and perform the impossible, and
since we have seen it ourselves, we included a happy ending to THIS
PARTICULAR story.

You wrote, "Sometimes, the only things that we see God do in
some situations is hold us and give us strength to continue."
That's absolutely true! That's why I included the deathcrawl
scene. Brock was pushed and stretched further than he ever thought he
could go. He was blinded from knowing how far he had been or how much
longer his struggle would last. I believe at some point in our lives, we
will all do our own deathcrawl. For some, like my father, it will last
decades. For others, it may last just a season. That's where the point
comes in to praise Him either way! We may never understand the "why" in
life, but we know the "Who", and that He is trustworthy.

You wrote, "Where was the message of Christ? This movie reminded
me of that popular name and claim it doctrine........the message of this
movie was only good things will happen to you once you make God first in
your life."
In the locker room scene where the coach holds up the ten dollar
bill, he tells that team that pursuing trophies and personal glory
CANNOT be their goal. He reminds them that God's Son died on the cross
for our sins so that we could live for Him. Again a few scenes later, he
witnesses to a player in the stands about Christ. Later, at the revival
scene, that same player accepts Christ as his Lord and Savior. As for
the name it and claim it doctrine, I don't support that view at all. I
do believe God can do the impossible and have watched Him do it many
times, but other prayers I have prayed have gone a different way than I
expected. Gad has said "no" at times and I must praise Him anyway. In
the movie, the coach is given a truck, NOT because he asked for it, but
because father was so moved by how the coach poured into his son. That's
not name it and claim it. That's the body of Christ meeting the needs of
others.

You wrote, "I need to say, to those struggling in their faith,
or those new to the faith, or to those who are thinking about coming to
God, this movie was a farce and not reality. God will change you and
hold you and love you but you probably won't get pregnant or a raise or
an expensive truck given to you. God does bless His people; however,
sometimes that blessings are being able to experience a true and real
joy in life regardless of your life's circumstances, sorrows, and
disappointments."
A farce? Are we in sin for telling this story? Have we disobeyed
or dishonored God? What do I make of the real life events we portrayed?
What do I make of the thousands of decisions for Christ? How do I
interpret the Lord answering hundreds of prayers to get this movie made,
and then to pull off the impossible and have a secular studio distribute
it nationwide and in 56 other countries? I have personally received
almost 6,000 emails from viewers who told me it challenged them to seek
the Lord more, and to love Him whether they win or lose. What do I do
with those?

You wrote, "This movie did not make me feel joyful and happy.
This movie made me think about my life's biggest sorrows and losses and
then wonder why God hasn't stepped in with my miracle."
After reading the attachment you sent, I thought that you may be
in the middle of a long deathcrawl yourself. I have five kids of my own,
and cannot imagine what you have been through. You seem steadfast in
your faith and grateful for the blessings you have as well as the
ministry God has given you. It's obvious that your journey is not over,
and that sorrows and joys lie ahead. But you and I both know that Jesus
is on the throne!

Finally, you wrote, "The truth of life is that we will
experience happiness and sorrow. God makes the rain to fall on all. We
are called to live in faith. Faith that Jesus Christ is doing exactly
what he said He would do."
AMEN! We stand in total agreement here! Sorrows and joys will
come for the believer, and both are seen in the movie, but we chose to
have a happy ending to this ONE story because we saw it happen. We never
say that life is without trials, or that Christians can ask for whatever
they want and get it. That wasn't the point of the story. The point was
that God is able to do the impossible (Matthew 19:26) but that whether
He answers our prayers like we hope for or not, we are to follow,
worship, and praise Him for who He is!

Debbie, please don't shoot at us for things that are scriptural.
I would appeal to you not to make assumptions about what we are trying
to say in the movie. If you feel we are wrong or in sin, please share it
with me. We serve the same Savior, and it is my deepest desire to draw
others to Him. Some may misinterpret the movie because of pain or
frustrations in their own life. Others have seen God's truth jump off
the screen at them and prod them to a deeper level of faith. It's not
about materialism or just winning games. It's about a walk of faith with
a holy God.
We are making more movies that have a variety of plots. Some are
darker and deal with the struggle of trials in life. Others focus on the
joy of having a need met. Not every story will end up the same, but we
can only tell one at a time. It's difficult to present stories that
appeal to everyone. I hope the next one blesses you instead of
frustrating you, but before you review it, please prayerfully consider
whether the Lord is using it for His purposes.
Your email to me about the deathcrawl was quite encouraging.
Thank you for sending it. After reading two of your blogs, I was
impressed with your skill of writing. You do have a gift for painting a
picture. Perhaps there is a script in your future.

God Bless,
Alex Kendrick

My response to him:

Dear Alex,

I am sorry that I have taken a week in getting back to you but I had an
extremely busy week last week and I wanted to prayerfully respond to
your email. I watched your movie a second time and have discussed it
with a few other people in depth because I wanted to make sure that my
reaction was not a knee-jerk one.

First, I want to tell you that I am sorry that my review hurt you. I
really do not think that my Blog has a big following. Probably only a
few ladies from my board (ChristianMoms) ever read it. However, I will
be glad to paste your explanations of my comments over on it. I am
interested in your thoughts on this movie and the message that you were
trying to convey.

I am going to try and respond to some of your concerns.

You wrote, "...everything you saw in the movie actually happened."

I do not doubt for one minute that everything in this movie happened.
But, by your own admission, it happened to several different families.
I fully believe that God is in the miracle making business. I
understand that you had time restrains and so you decided to present all
of these things as happening to one man and his wife. But, this is where
my concern is great. When I recall your movie, I do not remember that
the guy had a leaky roof. I thought the man that was against the coach
was redeemed since he gave the coach a truck - which tells me that
obviously I have your minors characters confused. And, the father in the
wheelchair, never, to the audience's knowledge, prayed for a healing. He
did give his son a talk about continuing to live despite his disability.
This character is not where my concern lies. I am concerned over the
main character's windfall of blessings. That is the over-riding message
of the film. The coach spent a night in prayer and quickly all of his
problems seemed to vanish. The few things you mentioned that weren't
corrected in his life, I never thought about because they were minor.

You wrote: "...we present numerous times that we should live
our lives to honor the Lord, and to "praise Him when we win, and praise
Him when we lose."

I did catch many of those statements in your movie. However, the coach
never had to deal with disappoint long. All of his prayers were quickly
answered. You never presented one of those "big" deals in the coach's
life not getting a miracle answer that blessed him. Once the coach
prayed to God, he seemed suddenly invisible. It was like he had the
"Midas Touch". This concerns me because it didn't show a balance in the
Christian life. Christians have our share of sorrow and disappointments
along with seeing God move in fantastic ways in our lives.

My concern is for the young Christian. The coach did say, "We will
praise Him no matter what." However, all of his "no matter whats"
worked out to his benefit. I am truly concerned that is the
overwhelming message that a new, ungrounded Christian will take from
this movie. If someone is facing a life of challenges, they are seeking
answers and quick fixes. You and I both know that the Christian walk of
faith isn't about quick fixes. We are tested and tried in fire.

You wrote: "Are we in sin for telling this story?"

I believe that the intention and the desire of your heart in presenting
this story was to share the amazing love and power of God. I think that
you wanted to present to the world a picture of God that showed Him to
be concerned about all the areas of our life. As you stated earlier, you
have witnessed those miracles.

Alex, I have witnessed many miracles and some of them similar to the
ones that you mentioned in this movie. But, they were miracles that
happened to either several families or over decades to one family. I can
give you many testimonies of God's awesome power just in the life of our
family. But, we are talking 27 years of marriage.

I do not doubt for one minute that your movie moved many people to make
professions of faith or rededicate their lives to Christ. Your movie
was inspiring but it wasn't balanced. I do not think that the intention
of your heart was to present an unbalanced view of the Christian life.
You brought up several things that you left in the movie that didn't
work out; yet, the things you mentioned are not the things that people
walked away from remembering. Of course, you remember these things
because this was your project and I am sure that you poured many hours
of your life into it. You are intimate with all of the details of this
movie.

I wonder where all these same people will be in their walk, say in 5, 10
or 20 years down the road, if their deepest concerns, sorrows, and
desires do not work out as quickly as the coach's appeared to be solved.
Will they still be faithful? Will they be serving God in a church? (A
side note: I also wish that you had shown at least one time the coach
attending church.)

Again, my main concern is what novices in Christ are taking away from
this movie. If this movie wasn't being used as an evangelical tool,
perhaps, my concerns wouldn't be so great. However, as I read my Bible
and biographies of giants in the faith, I see over and over again where
their lives had tragedy. Yet, they continued with joy in Christ. I
understand and believe that you agree with this statement. You wrote
about your own father's struggle with his illness. Your dad is a major
"character" in your life. So, your perception of this movie is filtered
through the life lessons he taught you. Your dad taught you how to
praise God despite "his thorn in the flesh." However, many people are
watching this movie through different filters and receiving different
messages.

One young man told me that the message of your movie was, "When your
life is falling apart, get right with God, and everything will work
out." He later added, "Eventually."

That shows another problem with how some people are interpreting this
movie. They are assuming if a believer is experiencing problems and
heartache that their walk with Christ is not right. This concerns me,
especially when thinking of my denomination (Southern Baptist). I have
seen this sway to legalism in many of the churches. This young man's
attitude reflected that legalistic attitude. This attitude is hard and
judgmental and is Pharisaical in nature. I am reminded of the scripture
where Christ is asked whose sin, his or his parents, caused his
affliction.

Perhaps, my concerns are all invalid since you have had many people sing
this movie's praise. I am not a great theologian. However, what if my
concerns have some validity?

Alex, sometimes, we lose the big games while serving God with all of our
being. Sometimes, godly people suffer and it's not because their life
wasn't straight with God. It was because God wanted to reveal His glory
to a lost world through their lives.

I wrote you a lot of words, but I do want to make one last statement to
you.

I believe you to be a man who is trying to reach many for Christ. I
believe you are compassionate towards the hurting. I think that your
sincere desire is to try and get the message out about this totally
amazing and magnificent God that we serve. And, irregardless of my
opinion about this movie, God saw and knows the intentions and desires
of your heart.

With blessings,
Debbie Baskin

Mr. Kendrick's final email to me:


Debbie,
Thanks for writing back. I appreciate you pasting my comments on
your site. That's very kind of you.
Although these are very minor issues, I wanted to remind you of
where certain events were in the movie. The "leaky roof" comment was
during the coach's first kitchen scene with his wife at their home.
Also, the father that was the ring leader of the effort to fire the
coach was Alvin Purivs, not Matt Prater's dad. However, as you said,
these are minor issues.
It seems to me that you and I both agree that God can do the
impossible, and that Christians WILL have trials and tribulations in
life. Our disagreement seems to come over how much tribulation and how
many blessings God may allow during seasons of our life. You agreed that
our message of "honoring God with our lives and praising Him no matter
what" was a good message. It seems that your frustration comes when we
show God overwhelming people with answers to their prayers too quickly
(which they had been struggling with for years, I might add).
If you do not think God would ever do that, I can live with
that. However, I have seen Him do it in "seasons" of my life and in the
lives of others. It doesn't mean that every season is like that, nor
does it mean that the amount of blessings will be equal for each
believer. It's just a difference of opinion on how God may work. And we
both base part of that opinion on our own life experiences.
As far as where new believers might be five or ten years down
the road from a decision they made after watching the movie, I have this
thought. Even Judas, who was WITH Jesus during his time on earth turned
away from the Lord. In other words, when people accept Christ as Lord,
it is a growing process that will include joys and pain, and being
blessed and tried by fire. That's true for every Christian! Some made
their initial decision to follow Christ from a church service, a
concert, a testimony, or by reading about the gospel. God may use many
different methods of reaching a lost soul, but if the person accepting
Christ TRULY meant it, then that's where the Holy Spirit begins working
in their life. If someone walks away from the Lord because God didn't
give them enough "benefits or blessings" in life, then their motive was
wrong to begin with. God can bless us tremendously, but that can't be
the reason someone gets saved. It's about Lordship and turning over our
lives to Him. I would still argue that this is the main message of the
movie.
However, I realize that some may have a different slant when
watching Facing the Giants. But SO MANY got what we were trying to say.
We tried to pack in as many points as we could (praise Him no matter
what, we're here to honor God instead of ourselves, don't waste your
influence, don't quit, prepare for rain, God can do the impossible,
etc.) and we are thrilled that it has challenged and encouraged so many.
If some have walked away with a wrong perception, I would beg God to
work in their life and give them discernment. I still ask for it myself.
But in no way do I feel this movie is a farce.
I will respect your opinion from here on. If we disagree, then
may God continue to teach and guide both of us. We are serving the same
Lord.
Thanks for hearing my side, and for reading this. To some
degree, it certainly helps to challenge and sharpen one another. I want
God to us me to draw as many people to Himself as possible, and I don't
doubt for a minute that you want the same.
May God give you and your husband much fruit in your ministry,
and may he ever direct your steps.

Sincerely,
Alex

5 comments:

Hope said...

I'm so glad you guys liked Fireproof! We all loved it and are going to see it for a second time tomorrow with some friends.

I love you!
Hope :)

ridge765 said...

My husband and I have a copy of the Love Dare book and a "Couple's Kit" which is a bible-study based on the movie. These have certainly been the most powerful blessings on our marriage this year. Have you seen them? Check them out at www.fireproofresources.com. I think you can get them at a discount on this site! Yay!

Luke said...

Thanks for the review!

You might like these video interviews of Kirk Cameron: http://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/08/20/the-love-dare-new-movie-seeks-to-fireproof-marriages/

Armenio & Luska said...

Debbie,
You are right on about Fireproof. I saw it last week... cried the whole entire time. It really did speak to me. I also recommend it to anyone who is married, whether or not they are believers. Thanks for sharing your views.

Luska

Blueberry said...

I didn't like Facing the Giants for the same reasons that you didn't. When I heard about Fireproof, I knew in my heart that I should give it a chance, and then I became excited about it. I haven't seen it yet, and I didn't finish reading your review, but I am looking forward to watching it when it comes out on dvd.