It took us a while, but my wife and I finally watched Fireproof. I am a firm supporter of evangelicals pursuing every field of life, including movies, and bringing a distinctly Christian perspective to it. For instance, Brian Godawa has done a fine job entering this virtually virgin field and bringing some sanity to Hollywood’s perpetual madness. Other attempts have been frankly embarrassing. The movie version of Pilgrim’s Progress was a sincere attempt, but a horrendous one. Facing the Giants was another honest attempt, but failed at many levels. So what about Fireproof?
In typical Framian fashion let me offer several positive elements:
First, Kirk Cameron was a perfect fit for his role as a pig-loose-canon-husband. His past acting experience came in beautifully in this role. In many ways his role added a certain authenticity to Christian movies that is often lacking.
Second, fellow pastor Douglas Wilson observed: “And they (men) would rather watch a movie about a woman being abused so long as the movie was made right than to have the woman treated right in a movie that offended their refined sensibilities.” Christian men are satisfied with explicit brutality and abuse in movies so long as it doesn’t upset their sophisticated ideals of what a movie should look like. Fireproof offered an alternative ending to what most typically reflects modern marriage movies (MMM). To this end, it should be commended.
Third, the movie depicts marriage as hard. It drives away any naive ideas of married life. It is difficult, and it requires a whole lot of work. Marriage is a perpetual maturation process.
Fourth, in one of the scenes, Cameron’s co-workers encouraged him to lead his heart, not to be followed by it. A good start, I say. Following the heart (sinful heart) is the culprit to many of America’s divorces.
Fifth, for all the theological flaws, the movie illustrates what the Bible makes clear: apart from Me you can do nothing. A marriage can be fixed only to be broken again, but a marriage transformed by Christ can be fixed and restored again and again.
Before I delve into the negative aspects of the movie, I should say that I applaud the continual attempts of Christians engaging the movie industry. This is dominion-minded (though most may not realize it) and is a part of the old Kuyperian strategy. Most of us need to be reminded that the Christian industry is an infant industry. There is a lot of growing up and learning to do. We should not bring $150 million budget films (Hollywod) and compare it side by side with a $50,000 film. We have a long way to go.
Several negative elements:
First, there is an explicit version of Christianity exposed. It was not the Reformed, Anglican, or Lutheran version. It was the pop-evangelical, revivalistic version. The salvation message was overtly individualistic. Here is a camp, here is a cross, here is a Bible, here is a prayer=Eureka. While many come to Christ through such formulas, my central concern is who they become after such conversion experiences. Do they become lovers of orthodoxy, creeds, unity, catholicity, theology, bread and wine, church, Trinity, or do they simply treat this new found faith as recovery from a miserable past life, like an addiction?
Second, formulaic Christianity is really bothersome. 3 steps to this or 40 steps to that fits neatly on a page, but really messy in real life.
Third, poor acting. If movies want to take a decidedly Christian direction, one actor ( Kirk Cameron) can’t carry the weight of the entire movie. Again, we’re only babies at this stage in the game.
Fourth, Jesus does not always save marriages; sometimes He actually destroys them and sometimes He asks that you endure the marriage for the sake of the other. In the Christian world we can’t always expect a happy ending.
The movie is certainly an improvement; a slow, but noticeable one.