Friday, September 18, 2015

War Room: Hope or Hype?

Dear friends,

So the War Room movie hit #1 status in the box offices, and that's pretty amazing for an overtly Christian film. Immediately, my Facebook feed filled with glowing endorsements from my friends. "This movie is awesome! You must go see it!"

But I haven't. Maybe I'll rent it from Redbox when it comes out on DVD. Or not.

Not seeing it yet hasn't stopped me from posting reviews on Facebook, all of them less than favorable for various reasons.

Some ask why I bother if I haven't seen the movie. They question whether I have the right to an opinion since I obviously don't know what I'm talking about. This amuses me.

Others are upset that I post links to articles that supposedly bash Christian efforts at making wholesome films. They diss and dismiss the very valid theological and relational concerns that the reviewers bring up. Critique against a Christian ministry or movie is seen as tantamount to the work of the devil, bordering on heresy, maybe? (Why does this remind me so much of the Duggar fiasco?) This does not amuse me.

Hello folks. We are big people. (I think.) We can hash through big ideas, even controversial ones. (I hope.) If you appreciate the movie, fine. I know it has encouraged many and that there are a lot of positive aspects. But at least acknowledge where others are coming from. At least be sensitive to why this movie might trigger fresh trauma in someone who has suffered deeply even in the midst of prayer.

I think what I have read about the movie has been corroborated enough to warrant a thoughtful discussion of the positive and negative aspects. Here are most of the reviews I linked along with a few extras I just found.

[Disclaimer: I offer this to read at your discretion. I do not endorse everything in these articles or the blogs on which they appear.]

War Room: Pretty Little Lies by Kay Bruner, a professional Christian counselor

Why I Refuse to See War Room at A New Free Life: Rising from the Ashes of Domestic Violence

Genie Jesus and the War Room Problem by John Mark N. Reynolds

War Room review at ScreenIt

The War Room Review: Shut Up and Pray He Quits by Jordan Hoffman at the Guardian

The "Faith" of Faith-Based Films: On Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in Christian Movies by Joel Mayward

Movie Review: The War Room by Jessica B. Fry 

Here is my bottom line after reading these reviews, keeping in mind that as I have repeated over and over, I have not seen the movie! 

Prayer is not the cosmic vending machine to get you what you want. Prayer is a relationship, not a formula. He is not duty bound to give us what we want, and we might never understand why this side of heaven. The life of prayer is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Like our relationship with God, human relationships take a whole lot of work. Difficult and dysfunctional marriages take even more work. And time, lots of it. And professional intervention by people who don't spout trite platitudes. And there is still no guarantee that they will be fixed. An offending spouse can change their tune and act like they have reformed for a while to get what they want, and then go right back to pig slop behavior. This is sheer manipulation and hypocrisy, not true repentance. Time and discernment and firm boundaries will prove what is true. It can be a long and messy ordeal. You can't trust mere words, even religious ones. It takes a long time to rebuild trust.

One more thing: I am well aware that there was no physical abuse in the movie marriage and that the wife had her issues too. However, this must be said: If a marriage is dangerous or destructive, the emphasis has to be on the well-being (safety and sanity) of the victim, not reconciliation or sticking it out in the hopes that prayer will solve all of the problems.  You say this doesn't happen in devoutly religious families that value the Bible and prayer? Oh yes it does! I have spoken with many Christian domestic violence survivors who sincerely asked God what to do about their marriages and clearly heard him say, "Get out now. Run for your life!" Looking back, they realize they and/or their children would be dead if they hadn't. In many cases, their husbands were very religious, some of them pastors and missionaries. But this kind of "run for your life" ending doesn't play well with a triumphant Christian movie plot, does it? Too bad.

It is misleading and cruel to insinuate that someone with a failing marriage can do a snappy U-Turn to Happily-Ever-After-Land by rebuking Satan and storming the gates of Heaven with fervent intercession. To gloss over the realities of life for the sake of a movie plot or to "put in a good word for God in the middle of a dying world" is a crying shame. It is no credit to God to misconstrue his grace. Christians, let us pray more. But let's also get real about what else we need to do. That's what people are really watching to see if our faith is authentic.

I can't end this post without a good word from the Lord. Two passages that are on my heart right now:

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6:8

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." Habakkuk 3:17-19

Grace and peace, 
Virginia Knowles

P.S. Here are some related links on my blogs:

Real Life Relationships:

Prayer and Spiritual Growth:

"For Those Who Suffer"

You are love,
and you see all the suffering,
injustice, and misery,
which reign in this world.

Have pity, we implore you,
on the work of your hands.
Look mercifully on the poor,
the oppressed, 
and all who are heavy laden
with error, labour and sorrow.

Fill our hearts with deep compassion 
for those who suffer,
and hasten the coming of 
your kingdom of justice and truth.

Eugène Bersier (1831-1889)


  1. Agree with you post on your blog 100% - very thoughtful and discerning too. Also, a lot of these movies tend to replace what we as Christian should be doing - that is reading God's Word in context and understanding his character and nature properly. God Bless You My Friend (Wade) & Semper Reformanda (Always Reforming)

  2. Keep in mind -- what you read from others is simply THEIR perspective of the movie. You are taking their perspective and forming an opinion rather than seeing the film for yourself. You cannot create a fair judgment without seeing it first hand.

    The only thing that bothers me about movies like this isn't the movies themselves, it's that Christians praise them to the skies but then fail to act on the message. In the case of War Room, we need to be on our knees!! If the movie didn't convince us of that, then we missed the message completely. I don't blame the movie, I blame the people for lack of action.

    Prayer will change people -- that doesn't mean the circumstances will get better, but it WILL change people.

    War Room did not act like prayer was a vending machine, but we need to understand the heart of God and in order to do that we need to be in prayer. God does desire marriages to succeed, however.

    Finally, keep in mind it IS a movie. There is meant to be dramatic effect in order to help make the point clear. Most of us know that real life doesn't necessarily work like that. But there is no limit to God's power and the prayer of a righteous person is effective and powerful (James 5:16)

    1. When I say "real life doesn't work like that", what I mean is that everything may not happen as fast as it did in the movie, or even in the same way. This is ONE example and I don't doubt that God could have worked in a family with that same scenario, in the same manner.

    2. Thank you for the encouraging thoughts, Christin!