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
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:
- Recognizing Pervasive, Poisonous Power in Marriage
- What to Do about Toxic Power in Marriage
- Abigail's Story: Responses to Domestic Violence
- Elizabeth's Story: Domestic Violence in a Ministry Home
- Mara's Story: Anger After Abuse
- Top 20 Very Best Things to Say to Someone Who is Struggling (Guest Post by Susan Moore) - please note that this list is facetious!
- Banging the Buttons
- If You Expect Real Respect...
- Follow the Way of Love
- A Spiritual Warfare Prayer
- What Are You Looking For?
- Praying for Your Children
- Got Prayer?
- Give Reviving (Strength in Hymn)
- Kyrie Eleison (Strength in Hymn)
- Disillusioned and Disappointed? Take It to Jesus!
- Gleaning Encouragement from Scriptures in Times of Disillusionment
- Wisdom from Letters of Direction by Abbé de Tourville