OK, I’m going to start populating my new blog with articles I have previously written. Here’s one I wrote in February 2009.
A Fireproof America
by Christopher S. Brownwell
And the Oscar for the Best Picture goes to . . . Fireproof.
Okay, so that didn’t happen. Fireproof isn’t exactly the type of film Hollywood rewards at its self-important awards gatherings. The movie doesn’t play into the stereotype with which Hollywood saddles Christians. Hollywood constantly paints Christians as fire-breathing, judgmental, self-righteous, religious bigots.
The movie Pleasantville is a clear-cut example of this stereotype. Set in black and white, the film makes the point that immorality adds color to your life. When the youth of the town engage in sexual playfulness, they turn from black and white to color. The director of the film then clearly equates religious scruples with racism. The religious bigots of the town respond to this tide of colorful awakenings by the youth by placing “No Coloreds Allowed” signs in their storefront windows. This humanist worldview found in Pleasantville sees Christianity as an old-fashioned, antiquated philosophy that has outlived its utility.
When Hollywood doesn’t characterize Christians as hateful Bible-thumpers, Christian characters are usually shallow and underdeveloped like Alice Lomax, the mother of Keanu Reeves’ character in The Devil’s Advocate. Alice Lomax: “’Fallen, fallen, is Babylon the great. It has become a dwelling place of demons.’ Revelation 18. Wouldn’t hurt you to look it over.” Kevin Lomax: “Couldn’t forget it if I tried.” Alice Lomax: “Oh, really? And what happened to Babylon?” Not hateful, but still an uneducated Bible-thumper.
Often Hollywood’s “love” stories are like cotton candy: very sweet, with no substance. In Titanic, Rose DeWitt Bukater was trapped in a superficial, self-congratulatory patriarchical world. Her way to rebel against it was to pose nude and then sleep with the artist. This artist, Jack Dawson, lived hand-to-mouth. Rose’s mother, Ruth Dewitt Bukater asked Jack “And you find that sort of rootless existence appealing, do you?” Jack Dawson responded “Well, yes, ma’am, I do. . . I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what’s gonna happen or, who I’m gonna meet, where I’m gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it.” There was no real love between Rose and Jack. “Love” to them was just a means to fulfill a selfish need in each of them. Rose, to rebel against rich patriarchy; Jack, to squeeze every bit of pleasure out of his life.
Too often Hollywood is the arsonist who would burn marriage to the ground. The celebrated Brokeback Mountain, which was nominated for Best Picture in 2006, subtly takes a swipe at marriage. That two men find themselves attracted to each other is not the issue. The real issue is that they were willing to abandon their marriage vows to fulfill their own sexual gratification. Marriage was a shackle that got in the way of fulfilling their identities.
Wedding Crashers tells the story of middle-aged boys who crashed weddings, fishing for foolish women who would fall for their bait. In the end they both found “love” and women willing to forgive and forget that they spent their entire adulthood seeking one-night stands. So, go ahead. Live it up now. When you are finally ready to settle down, you will have no problem finding love too.
Fireproof was in no danger of winning an Oscar. The movie portrays the Christ of Christianity as the solution rather than the problem. Caleb Holt, played by Kirk Cameron, puts into his marriage only what he expects to get out of it. His affections turn from his wife to other things: his demand to be respected, the digital dream girls he finds on the internet, and his dream boat for which he’s been saving. He angrily explodes at the perceived disrespect from his wife. His wife wants out of the marriage.
At this point, the prevailing wisdom would say “Just bail. Cut your losses and move on. Marriages are a dime a dozen.” But, that is not the message of Fireproof. Marriage is meant to be for life. Sure it’s hard. Sure there will be rough times. But, as Ken Bevel’s character states “Fireproof doesn’t mean the fire will never come. It means when the fire comes that you will be able to withstand it.”
In surrendering to the love of Christ, Caleb Holt found freedom to truly love his wife and sacrifice for her. The hope he found in Christ led to a change in his outlook and his behavior. (If you haven’t seen the movie, but would like to, skip to the next paragraph now. I’m about to reveal the tear-jerking ending.) He humbled himself and began to help his wife by doing the little things around the house. He destroyed his computer and gave up his addiction to pornography that kept him from seeing the beauty in his wife. In an act of heroic selflessness, he gave up his life’s savings meant to buy his boat and secretly paid for the desperately needed medical equipment for his mother-in-law.
Kirk Cameron’s apology scene captures the emotions of the moment so exquisitely, deserving of an Academy Award. I am not saying that Kirk Cameron or even Fireproof should have gotten an award, even though Hollywood awards talentless actors like Sean Penn, and banal, uninspiring movies like American Beauty or Chicago. But, alas, neither Kirk Cameron, nor Fireproof were considered for an Oscar. The movie’s worldview runs counter to the messages Hollywood is selling. In a world where the political winds are enamored with “hope and change,” Fireproof demonstrates just the kind of hope and change Americans need.