After all the discussion and controversy I’ve been reading, I went tonight to see the film War Room, and decide its quality/worth/heresy for myself. Here are my thoughts on the film. Be patient, because it will take me a bit of time to express them. For one thing, I think I know now why someone said that film critics are not the target audience for this film. One simple reason would be that War Room is intended to speak to believers. No one else could even begin to connect with it or understand it. It would be foolishness to them.
Let’s remember that the Kendricks began as a couple of guys on a church media staff. Their films began as an outreach ministry of their church, and this latest film is in the same vein. Each film has examined a certain theme/issue and has aimed to leave a personal challenge in the viewer’s lap. They were:
1) Flywheel – simply intended as a church outreach to be shown for a few nights in the local cinema. Basic theme of the movie – make sure, for Pete’s sake, that if you call yourself a Christian, you really are one and then endeavor to live like one. It was a big surprise when demand for this fun (and funny!) little movie spread wider than expected.
2) Facing the Giants – Basic theme was faith, particularly faith exercised in times of defeat and discouragement. (I love this funny, heartwarming film and occasionally rewatch it.)
3) Fireproof – Basic theme was the importance of marriage. Kirk Cameron starred. (I think this is my favorite of the bunch. It made me laugh, gasp, tear up, and yes, appreciate my husband more, too!)
4) Courageous – Basic theme was fathering, its strategic importance in all our lives. (A fun film, as well. I love the scene in the back of the police cruiser, where the bad guy is freaked out by a Chick-fil-A order given in Spanish.)
Just imagine you’re the Kendrick brothers. You started out making a little film for your church. Here you are years down the road, successful beyond your wildest – yes, truly wildest! – dreams. Along the way, you’ve challenged folks to check out the genuineness of their Christianity, to trust God in tough times, to reaffirm and value their marriages and their commitment to their children – what next?
Well, what’s the one thing most neglected in the lives of Christians? I think it is prayer. After all, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.” Let’s be honest and admit prayer is the most neglected aspect of the Christian life. We’d much rather brainstorm or teach or write or lobby or almost anything than pray. This was a worthy theme. The Kendricks hit the nail right on the head with this theme choice. Hats off to them for addressing it!
There were a couple of things that I felt weakened the film. (Spoiler alert!) One weakness was the short timeline. Apparently from the time the prayer war room was initiated until the answers were received was only a matter of weeks. This can happen, of course – God could change things instantaneously, if He so willed – but I felt it was a weakness. There is something to be said for perseverance in prayer, as well. And I didn’t like it when the husband read a strategic text on his wife’s phone. I just don’t think husbands usually read their wife’s texts, and so that seemed contrived.
On the other hand, I did not find the scene where Satan is rebuked to be a serious doctrinal problem. It was a somewhat literal response to a verse from 1 Peter, which the character was repeating to herself, considering how to implement it – “resist the Devil, and he will flee.” Many of us would never think of challenging the devil outright in this way. Is this because we truly think it is unscriptural? I do have reservations about it. But then again, perhaps whether it is unscriptural or not may be irrelevant; we might not have the faith to do it, anyway.
I was impressed and touched by the list of colleges and universities who were credited at the end, along with several dozen churches. Also, the list of the prayer staff of the film was eye-catching. Yes, they had a prayer staff with its own leaders and organization. These people walked the talk! They have prayed over every day of every film since the very beginning years ago, and it was good to see that they are still doing it.
Do I think War Room is a timeless classic of cinema achievement? I do not. Do I think it is worth watching? Yes, I do. Do I think it teaches heresy? No. Has it challenged me? You bet! And I’m guessing that, warts and all, it will have a ministry with lots of other folks, too.
I’ve been thinking lately about the etymological relationship between the words “integer” and “integrity.” An integer is a whole number – un-fractured, un-decimaled, one might say intact. Yes, in-tact, from the Latin, meaning untouched. Integrity includes the concepts of unhurt, unchanged, sound, fresh, whole, entire, pure, honest. It includes 1) steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code, 2) the state of being wholesome, unimpaired, and 3) the quality or condition of being complete, pure. A human “integer,” then, would be a person who is whole, someone untouched by hypocrisy, a person who is one – the same inside and out.
I just came home from visiting my sweet “Second Dad” in Greenville Memorial Hospital, where he is busy fighting a particularly virulent strain of clostridium difficile (C diff.) I treasure him. Plenty of kids don’t even get a decent original dad to begin with. I had a wonderful one, and then was blessed again when I married my Steven to receive a top notch second dad in Glenn Lewis Case. He decided early on to simply accept, like, support and encourage me, and has never stopped doing just that.
So Dad, a man who’s hardly been sick a day in his long life, a man who at 80 takes just a few daily medications, who until a month ago was working a few days a week at Wal*Mart and planning his garden, has been confined to a hospital bed for the past 2 1/2 weeks. Tubes and wires are everywhere. The mobility he enjoyed for so long is now gone. His personal dignity has taken a major hit. At times he’s confused. He worries about his flowerbeds, or why he had to push a cart all night, and when can he have his pants. He called mom tonight to ask her to help him get up and dressed, because he knew that he needed to go to the hospital. He sounded quite relieved to find out he was already there.
But one thing I’ve noticed throughout all of this is that the traits and tendencies that make up my Second Dad have not changed. The sincere Christian faith that once motivated him to encourage the spiritual lives of his coworkers is seen now in his praying with a doctor or nurse. The kindness I’ve always enjoyed is clearly seen, as he repeatedly thanks his caregivers for their service to him. His calm disposition, so free of temper or bitterness, is still there in full force. His love and care for his wife, his appreciation and affection for the people in our church family – all these things are essentially unchanged. If you cut a cross section of Dad’s character – even in pain, fear and discomfort – it’s the same all the way through. He is whole. He is one. He has true integrity.
Like gold, integrity is comparatively rare. So much of human life seems to involve hiding our hurts and fears from others. How often we focus on our image, on the face we present to our bosses, to our subordinates, or at social occasions. Far, far too often, believers do the same at church. Oh, the effort we expend to protect our secret selves! Dad’s illness has made me face the fact that for many of us the time will come when the infirmities of age will make it impossible to keep those walls up. Our bodies will weaken, a random microbe will find us a suitable host, and suddenly our independence, our personal space, the comforts and habits we relied upon will all be stripped away. And then, what’s inside will be revealed.
The psalmist prayed, “Teach me Your way, O Lord. I will walk in Your truth. Unite my heart to fear Your Name.” A united heart, with no layers of secrecy. A true integer, the same through and through – at all times and in all places. Integrity. Wholeness. What you see is what you get. Yep! That’s my Second Dad.
Olivia was born on December 20, 1988. She was delivered in a doctor’s office by a Papua New Guinean doctor and his down to earth, blunt nurse. In America if the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, the nurse might say, ‘Hold off on pushing, dearie. Breathe, breathe, Ok, there we go, all good now.’ My PNG nurse simply shouted, ’You are keelling de baby! Stop pushing! You are keelling de baby!’ That works too. I obeyed her, the cord was untangled and our little girl was safely born.
That was Monday. Kim and I and our new baby came directly home to the Lae guest house and introduced our fifth child to the other four.
On Wednesday of the same week, I went to the local hospital for a minor surgery. In no time at all I was wrapped in a stained -but clean -white sheet. What looked like baling twine was tied around my ankle and attached to it was a note which had my name, procedure and doctor written on it. I lay on a gurney as it was pushed out one building, down an outside alley and into another building to await my turn in the operating room.
That done, home we went again to anticipate Christmas two days hence. Because we were away from our island home and in Lae City to have our baby, we did not have Christmas decorations with us. A friend gave us a small plastic tree complete with lights. We put it on a coffee table, made a few decorations and called it good. It was a lovely time. We had our new baby. Our family was complete, 3 boys and now 2 girls. How happy we were.
On Christmas Eve after the kids went to bed Kim and I put the presents we had brought back with us from the states under the tree, filled the stockings, snuggled our baby and counted our blessings.
Early Christmas morning I went outside and picked several hibiscus flowers, brought them inside to place among the branches of our little plastic tree. Now it looked extra pretty and festive and PNG appropriate!
Hibiscus flowers, once picked, live only a few hours. For the time we opened gifts they remained bright and beautiful. By afternoon they were drooping. By nightfall they were closed up and finished.
This month of Olivia’s birth I think of her short yet lovely, bright, happy life. I push past the pain and bewilderment of loss to savor with love and thanksgiving the dear lovely happy gift she was and is to our family.
Last Sunday in church we sang, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be His name. He gives and takes away. My heart will say, blessed be his name.’ My husband and I cannot sing that song without tears in our eyes. Our trembling lips can barely form the words. But I like to think this. God did give us Olivia and for her short life she brought joy, delight and laughter to our family. And God did not just ruthlessly take her away. He took her away to Himself. His grace was in the giving her to us and his grace is also in the welcoming her home to be with him forever.
I don’t know if there will be hibiscus flowers in heaven but if there are, they will forever be alive and vibrant. As will Olivia. As will we. ‘And forever we shall be with the Lord.’ This then is our comfort and hope.