I saw a movie this week that, despite its shortcomings, has stuck with me and caused some interesting discussions among family members. The weird thing is that it’s a so-called “Christian” movie. (I’m still not sure what that means. See my Identity Crisis post.) I like a movie that makes me think after I see it. Most don’t make me think while I see them.
“To Save a Life” has all the classic earmarks of the typical Christian movie: uneven acting, preachy script, attractive people. But it has more. It’s surprisingly gritty for a Christian movie, with swears, drugs, alcohol, and unmarried teens in the bedroom. Also, the characters were not clearly delineated between two distinct parties: the Good Guys (Christians, of course) and Bad Guys (i.e. “unbelievers”). The lines were pleasantly fuzzy. Some of the church people were downright skunks. And not all the pagans were losers.
The most refreshing part was the lack of the requisite evangelical version of deus ex machina where everyone accepts Christ at the end and they all live happily ever after. Just like in Real Life. I think the ending was tidier than it should have been, but there were real consequences and some unresolved issues. When you’re dealing with a topic like teen suicide, which this movie does primarily, it should be a little messy.
This is not a movie that is going to convert people. I don’t think that was the filmmakers’ intent, unlike most lame Christian films. However, I hope it gets those who claim to follow Christ talking. Our churches have been totally unwilling or incapable of dealing with the problems considered in this film: drugs, suicide, sex, peer pressure, cliques, bullying, teen pregnancy, and the like. As one teen bemoaned to me recently after seeing the movie, “Why is my youth group just like my high school?”
We might all ask the same question. Why is church just like the office (except we don’t swear) and the health club (except we’re not in shape)? What will it take for the western Christian church to acknowledge that we are exactly like those outside the church? When will we confess, “It should not be this way. Something has to change.” I doubt this movie will do it, but maybe it will start some discussions. Or maybe Anne Rice’s controversial resignation from Christianity will help. Or maybe we’ll all just look in the mirror. I can only hope.
Is “To Save a Life” a great movie? No. Is it an important movie? I think so. It should be seen by everyone who claims a relationship with Christ. Things have got to change in the Church. No entity associated with the name of Jesus should be so lamentable.