Saturday, April 23, 2011

Roger Ebert, "Soul Surfer," and "eerie optimism"

I was just reading Roger Ebert’s review of the recently released “Christian” film “Soul Surfer.” In it Ebert writes, “The flaw in the storytelling strategy of ‘Soul Surfer’ is that it doesn’t make Bethany easy to identify with. She's almost eerie in her optimism. Her religious faith is so unshaken, it feels taken for granted.”

Of course it’s true that the natural man doesn’t receive the things of the Spirit of God; however I sometimes wonder what an unbeliever must think of moral, Christian-inspired attempts at film minus any objective content of the gospel. Perhaps these films may leave the unbeliever in disbelief at the synthetic, cosmetic “eerie optimism” of such a hollow world view devoid of what Paul was unashamed of – namely the true gospel. Merely mentioning Jesus or putting on display the behavioral fruit of the gospel is not a distinctively Christian message for an unbeliever. Mormons and Roman Catholics could gladly do the same.

And in the midst of confessing this exclusive and distinctive gospel of grace, we still lament – we still groan – and yes even our faith at times is shaken and diminishes. When in Psalm 77 the psalmist remembers God, he moans. When he meditates, his spirit faints. He cannot speak. He cannot sleep. What does he do? He remembers the deeds of the LORD. He remembers His wonders of old. He ponders all His works.

So if a Christian film is Christian, and there are many good films that aren’t, let’s at least be clear about why it’s Christian. And let’s give believers permission to lament, so that our optimism rather than seeming “eerie” is objectively grounded in the gospel and yet truly human.