My wife and I recently watched “Saved!“, a dark comedy about evangelical Christianity produced by REM lead singer Michael Stipe1. I have had this movie in my Netflix queue for quite some time, shuffling it around because I thought it would turn out to be like “Dogma“. Boy was I mistaken.
This movie’s portrayal of popular evangelical culture is stunningly accurate. Just watching this movie brought me back to when I was first Saved! and the jargon, ideas, and general incoherent babbling I got caught up in.
For instance, in the movie the main character, out of a good desire to “save” her homosexual boyfriend, decides she has “heard from Jesus” that she needs to sleep with him and proceeds to do so. While we may think this kind of thing is silly, I’ve known and have been known to use the exact same reasoning to justify similar behavior.
The similarities don’t end there and aren’t limited to my narrow experience. They permeate many Christians thoughts and beliefs. From pastors who ought to know better to the parishiners who often don’t (but wish they did), the common theme brought out in this movie is the tendency to act holy, to use holy language2, and to generally accept a burden of legalism that is far removed from the “law of liberty” James writes about.3
In short, this movie exposes the eagerness with which many Christians rush to pick up a yoke far removed from the “light” and “easy” yoke promised by Jesus.4
Within the first 5 minutes of this movie you are hit squarely between the eyes with causal determinism (baptized stoicism popular among reformed theologians) and the corresponding question of evil. By the time you move to meeting the rest of the characters you are also confronted with the logical paradox this presents when coupled with the popular Christian pastime of “finding God’s will” in addition to the ambiguous (and often vacuous) understanding of prayer.
All of these ideas are combined with a general air of anti-intellectualism ((God forbid we use our minds to try and sort all this mess out. )) combined with an overarching emphasis on “spiritual highs”5 to give us a chaotic mess. From this chaotic mess you begin to have a clear view of the neurotic mess most Christians are and why we are largely ineffective at reaching a culture that is often more clear about what love, community, and genuineness mean than we are.
Unfortunately the confusion we take in is often expressed very clearly to those around us which begs the question in them of how we can claim to have the answers to life’s deepest questions when we have trouble with even the simplest choices of whom to marry and what job to take.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Church, I love the church enough to desperately wish this movie was a work of pure fiction but the sad reality is that its not. It is, instead, scarily accurate.
I hope mature Christians6 take a good long look in the mirror with this movie and, instead of getting angry about the mocking, ask the tough questions like, “What does this movie show us about ourselves?” and “How can we work to clear up the misconceptions portrayed in this movie?”
Even though I’m not a movie critic, I give this movie two big thumbs up and encourage everyone to go see it. You’ll have a bit of a challenge finding it, though, it’s not something you’ll be able to ask the clerk at Family Christian or Lifeway to grab for you.
- You know, the guys who brought you the great song “Loosing my religion“ [↩]
- I contend that one of the banes of Christendom is the use of words and phrases we have not carefully studied and have no idea the meaning of. We simply use them because they sound good. Phrases like “God told me..“ [↩]
- James 1:25 and James 2:12 [↩]
- Matthew 11:30. ..for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. [↩]
- In other words, we’ve created our own “Christianized” brand of existentialism that we think is spiritual [↩]
- Or those who think they are at any rate, this movie can also show you how mature you are by how visceral your reaction to it is. [↩]