Today I went to see the movie Courageous. Before you read another word of this blog, let me say upfront, that this was one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen [and I’ll come back to the high praise in a moment]. This movie is another movie from megachurch Sherwood Baptist in Albany, GA– not to be confused with the God Hates Fags imbeciles at Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Sherwood Baptist’s best known production so far has been Fireproof, the movie that helps men be better husbands and all people build a better marriage by following some biblical principles and some therapeutic & relationship common sense. I didn’t expect much when I first saw Fireproof, perennial skeptic that I am, I had some doubts about a movie with my little Growing Pains friend, Kirk Cameron, who seemed to have gone all Left Behind on me. I also typically eschew Christian-themed or produced narratives because I prefer not to be told what to think or to be hit over the head with messages I would like to be able to ferret out for myself on my own walk with Christ. But, I enjoyed Fireproof, and I thought, while it did have sort of a Lifetime movie feel to it, it also had a lot to contribute to marriage and relationships in general and it did so without making me gag or feel nauseous.
So, I had heard some buzz about Courageous, not at my church– I’m Episcopalian and we typically don’t receive encouragement toward mainstream Christian media, but in my community and among friends. I watched the preview and thought it looked like it could be powerful. And, powerful it was– powerful, engaging, humbling, gut-wrenching, and entertaining. It got 4 stars on what I call my smart phone rating. That is, whether or not I am tempted to look at my phone during a movie. Here is the scale:
- **** never glanced at my phone
- *** glanced a couple of times to check for calls or texts
- ** answered a text or two
- * passed time in the movie by checking my facebook, listening to voicemail, and texting
The movie begins with an action scene that pulls you right in and satisfies the adrenaline junkie’s needs; it does not let up by alternating drama, shameless tear-jerking scenes, and more action. Yes, sometimes, it felt a little Lifetime, movie-ish, and yes, sometimes it got a bit preachy, but the parts that enacted the message were emotive and well done enough to make up for the preachy parts. Yes, it presented some very traditional gender roles, but that did not interfere with the message or impact of Courageous. Every father should see this movie. Every parent should see this movie. I was sobbing audibly during a number of scenes. Anyone who has experienced loss of any kind, but especially loss through the abandonment of a parent, poor parenting, or the death of a loved one, will be moved to tears- male or female, no question. The movie exposes many contemporary issues, including the link between fatherless children and gangs and crime.
They work very diligently to present a cultural rainbow of characters and I think they tried not to typecast any race, gender, or ethnicity, but inevitably we do see some sadly predictable roles– the black criminals [although they do arrest some white boys one time], the poor, heavily accented hispanic man who needs work and must be helped along by a white police officer, and the all black gang members. However, the spirit of this film and alternately positive scripting and casting, kept this from interfering with my ability to enjoy the film or be moved it. The underlying message is of grave importance. Fathers are missing from the American family, some physically and some emotionally, some are present and abusive or neglectful, many, many are absent. The impact of this void is far-reaching has a tragic trickle-down effect. It is time for Fathers to step up.
If you know me well, you know my parents divorced when I was in high school. You would have to know me quite intimately however, to know that my father prior to that, though physically present, was emotionally absent and sometimes abusive. To say that I have “Daddy issues” would be a gross understatement. I have been working on them all of my adult life. I know the importance of a good Dad, I know the void, I know the impact. I know what it is like to fantasize about having the perfect Dad. The father I was born with and the attentive, loving, protective father I wished for live on different planets. I am still grieving for the fantasy one I never had.
Many men who feel they are good fathers may be moved to be better fathers after watching Courageous. I felt moved to be a better parent. I wish I had seen this movie about 25 years ago. I wish my Dad had seen this movie about 47 or 48 years ago. Kids are our most important resource and our greatest legacy; and contributing to their future productivity, happiness, and spirituality is our most crucial responsibility.
I went a lot of places during this movie. I thought of how I need to forgive my father and really let it go. I thought of Maya Angelou’s quote: “Do the best you can until you know better; and when you know better, do better.” People literally do what they know how to do, and people change and grow, and then they do better. This movie can identify the mark for how to be a present, engaged Dad who is also a teacher and a leader or for how to be a present, engaged parent no matter what kind of parent you had or what kind of loss you have experienced. See it. Let me know what you think.