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 faith...one 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 uncomfortable...at 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.