Friday, July 13, 2012

Higher Ground...and Other Thoughts on Christian Films

First of all I need to clarify that Higher Ground is not a Christian movie.  Not like Fireproof or other films published by Christians and for Christians.  Higher Ground is adapted from a spiritual memoir by Carolyn Briggs entitled, This Dark World.  This movie was made, not by Christian and not just for Christians, (as far as I know) but it looks at faith and tells an honest story...this is why I liked it.

I never like Christian movies, which is hard since I am a Christian, and I have to nod and smile while my friends glow after viewing one.  They always say, "Now, I know that most Christian movies are poorly acted or not very well made, but  not this one.  This one was so good."  Of course, when I view it I cringe and squirm and want to hide under the covers.  When I say things like, "Really, yeah, it made me uncomfortable."  Often my friends look at me with shock and total disbelief, and I feel judged so I just keep my opinions to myself.  (Until they read this blog post...oops.  Yes, I didn't like Courageous either.)

After viewing Higher Ground, and liking it, I  finally concluded what I like and don't like about movies regarding faith.  I like honesty.  I like truth.  There are so many true stories waiting to be told that just happen to be about people of faith.  I don't like fictional Christian movies that play it safe to get the G rating having to keep too many factions happy and not offended.  Nothing is worse than a staged sermon embedded into a dramatic film.

So, don't watch Higher Ground if you are easily offended.  Watch Higher Ground if you want to know how many of your Christian friends feel and have felt as their faith ebbs and flows.

Here is the blurb about this film found on the Netflix jacket, "Vera Farmiga stars in and directs this sensitive and searching chronicle describing a woman's lifetime journey of that initially leads her to join a fundamentalist sect and then leave it again years later.  The film looks deeply into human doubt and certainty, and the challenge of trying to match our lives with our spiritual beliefs."

Yes, much of what they depicted could be taken as making fun of religion, but when you feel like you are on the outside much of what happens in churches feels awkward and strange.  When someone is having a "spiritual moment" and you are not, you often feel like you are watching something least I do.  So watching many of the scenes in the film still made me want to hide under some covers, but not because I was a Christian watching other Christians put a movie together, but because I was watching those on the outside summarize what we on the "inside" look like to them.

Not only did I identify with the main character in her search for God, but I also was raised in the church during the same era as she began her spiritual journey.  I'm not sure the 70's, 80's, and 90's were the church's best.  There were a lot of growing pains as the American church responded to the Holiness Movement and then the Jesus 70's.  The scenes of Bible studies and prayer meetings were all scenarios I have experienced.  Chastisement by the "older" women mentoring the main character in her role as a submissive woman were identical to experiences I had growing up.  Carolyn Briggs simply told her story, and I simply listened and cringed and laughed and related. 

Part of me is nervous to even post this.  Nervous that people will misunderstand me, judge me.  But there is this hope in me that believes that if I am honest about my relationship with God and church then just maybe it will be exactly what someone else needs to hear as they make sense of their spiritual journey. 

My husband and I went on a 14 mile hike the other day, so there was plenty of time to discuss, and we spent a good portion of it talking about church and what makes us keep coming back, makes us want it for our family.  If we weren't committed in our resolve to make church part of our lives, it would be easy to release it and leave it behind.  I think we concluded that our parents modeled that there was something authentic and good and necessary in church.  Our parents modeled grace toward the church.  We all desire grace from the church, but we often forget to extend that grace to this place that has never claimed to be perfect.  (Some do and that is a problem.) We place great value in having relationships with others who are seeking truth in God.  And we are hoping that we can do life with people who are honest with us and honest with themselves and their spiritual memoirs.

So, because of that I would highly recommend Higher Ground and would love to hear your thoughts on it.


Michelle said...

Thank you for posting this! I have felt the same exact way, listening to my friends rave about the recent Christian movies, while I shuddered when I had to watch one. I will check out Higher Ground!

Anonymous said...

I think you and I have so much in common. A big part of the reason I keep choosing to keep church in my life is because I know there are women like you at Grace City. I know we haven't talked that much, but we should do that sometime.

Good thoughts, and I will definitely be watching Higher Ground soon based on your recommendation.

Heather said...

Great post! I feel the same way about many things and don't normally discuss my faith even with my friends.

Rebekah said...

Heather, we should discuss! I love hearing other thoughts and stories and would value hearing yours!

Jen Rouse said...

Good post. You've sold me on seeing this one.

Tree said...

Confession time. I have never watched "Left Behind". I have never read "The Prayer of Jabez" or "The Purpose Driven"...anything. I find trendy Christianity hokie, pushy, and fictional. The Christian walk is more than just a slogan or bumper sticker. Thank you for posting this.

Jo said...


Awesome post!

With Roger in the film industry, I can soooo relate to this, too. Sometimes living an authentic life of faith means . . . being authentic. What a concept! I have a group of female friends with whom I meet to hold each other accountable in living faithful lives and upholding masculinity and femininity in balance in a post-feminist culture. One of the women is about your age with 4 little boys. She represents you to me. I wish you could be a part. I think we will have to see this one together. (We are taking in Hope Springs together right now - and finding it is something we all relate to, even as Christ followers in the 20, 30, 40 and 50 something age range.)

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