We saw The War Room the other night. Admittedly I went with a negative opinion of the movie before it even began. I had planned on waiting until it was $1 and change in Redbox, but some of the reviews, comments on Facebook, and the overall reaction of many had me intrigued. I was hoping I was wrong.
I believe that as good as we may think these movies are, and as great an underlying message they may have, they also promote an unhealthy view of discipleship. I am not a huge fan of any movie which paints an unrealistic and biased view of the “saved” versus the “unsaved.” The “saved” are the great husbands, fathers, mothers, prayer warriors, volunteers, helpers, ethical, hardworking, wonderful people, while the atheist, Muslim, and all unbeliever’s, are the angry, abusive, unhelpful, chauvinists (i.e. God’s Not Dead).
First, I’d like to say what I liked about the movie.
It promoted prayer and trust in God.
It promoted mentoring new disciples of Christ – something that is lacking in church relationships everywhere.
It showed that God does in deed answer prayer and changes hearts in doing so.
It promoted a single woman’s strength in prayer.
It starred people of color. Kudos to the movie makers who are trying to break down racial tensions in Christian movies. (And in my experience, the truly bruised kneed women I know as prayer warriors storming the gates of hell, are my friends’ of color. They taught me how to put the “P” in prayer.)
What I don’t like.
First, do we as Christians, with over 2,000 years of testimony still need a fictional movie to teach us to pray? And then to come away in awe over what prayer can do based upon a fictional account? (I am in awe over that.)
Are we still absent from the “relationship not religion” we profess to embrace? Most healthy relationships are healthy because they communicate. How can we profess the relationship and yet say we don’t talk to God? Does it take a movie to be reminded that the weapons of our wars are best used on our knees? (Or in our cars, or our living rooms, or bathrooms, or the grocery store…)
Third, the prayer closet was a bit over the top. Most middle class or below (the majority of the church) do not own houses with giant walk in closets. Actually, if we move away from American consumerism to most European countries, or developing third world countries, a prayer closet is non-existent. Prayer should be practical to all people, at all times, in all places. It was missing a practical side.
I also felt it missed prayer as a relationship of talking to God throughout our day – walking in constant communion with the Holy Spirit. Yes, there is a time for quiet prayer, contemplation, concentrated prayer, praise, and meditation, (preferably daily), but it is like date night or alone time in a human relationship, versus casual conversation. It sets up busy, sleep deprived moms to feel like they can’t seek God without hours away from the demands of family. It robs people of the power of God in meeting us in the mundane – soapy hands in a sink, muddy knees in a garden, waist high in piles of laundry, blowing bubbles with our littles.
My very best times of prayer during the season of life my littles were toddling at my feet, was when I had fifteen minutes for a shower! The Holy Spirit would fall in a way that I could touch the face of God!
Mostly, I simply can’t embrace a movie where the wife of a cheating, verbally abusive, selfish, crook, was merely told to pray for him – not even to consider counseling, a mediator, or a loving confrontation of “Hey, I love you but what you are doing is simply wrong!” This may work in the movies, but it does a disservice to women in real life. It is the very type of abusive complementarianism that gives Christianity a bad name, keeps women in bondage, and promotes unhealthy, uncommunicative, and unbalanced, relationships. (I’ve seen way too much of it in my work.)
Dave and I watched this together, and he being the wonderful, soft-hearted, man I love, he was moved to tears by the story of reconciliation, as we should all be. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but notice that there were only three other women in the theater with us – all of them sitting alone. I heard some sniffles and I was moved to wonder what their stories are. Are they in a real life struggling relationship? Are they divorced? Have they prayed for years to no avail? What will this kind of “God always answers our prayers in miraculous ways” do their faith? If they have any faith in God at all.
My heart broke for them as I witnessed them wiping their tears.
I have some friends who have been in their prayer closets praying for husbands for ten, twenty, even forty years who are still waiting for their prayers to be answered; others who stayed for years only to be deserted. It must be nice to have a man go from adultery to such deep conviction within what? Weeks?
Yes, it can and does sometimes happen. Usually it is messy, painful, and wrought with long and difficult times. (Former pastor and author Tullian Tchividjian, and his wife can attest to that.) Thank-God grace abounds – and abounds even more fully in our darkest moments.
Not every marriage has a happy ending.
I also was completely disheartened to see there wasn’t any reaping what the husband had sown. Even though he deserved to go to jail, Santa God continued to provide the means for a three car garage, huge house, exorbitant lifestyle, despite the “Community Center” job he ended up with. (Last I checked, they usually don’t pay huge house salaries.) I would have felt much better if included in their conversion came the knowledge that wealth and prosperity belongs to God and maybe we need to downsize and change our lifestyle. Maybe a community job in reality won’t pay the bills on big executive homes.
Admittedly, it hits a sore spot for me. Just a few years back when my hard working husband was laid off (no fault of his own but IBM’s big downfall) and after a couple of years of living off our retirement, now gone, he accepted a job for less pay. It came with a high price. We were facing our eighteenth move and with it the loss of our “gonna finally die here” dream farm in way upstate NY. We didn’t want to move, we didn’t like starting over again, we didn’t like not having a dime left in our 401K after caring for our large (single income) family, and a gazillion farm animals, that we were forced to liquidate. We didn’t really like anything about our circumstances.
But we did like God. In fact, we trusted Him with our lives despite the odds.
We had prayed.
And prayed some more.
One Sunday a “prosperity preacher” came to our church. The preacher opened his mouth and it went something like this, “I see Christians in this economy losing their jobs and accepting new jobs for less pay. People that is a lack of faith. You need to claim higher pay, with bigger blessings, not settle for less…” Wa-wa-wa-wa… (A little Charlie Brown goes on in my head when I hear this stuff.)
Of course he left with a substantial offering.
As for us, we were incredibly blessed that Dave had employment in his field, and despite our having to move, we trusted in God’s goodness towards us, His plans, and His future. We still do.
We are Americans after all. We don’t know what faith for provision really means. (Syrians do right now.)
War Room had the potential to be a solid movie that encouraged prayer, while also revealing the heart of Christ in relationships and healing. It could have enlarged the eyes of viewers with a greater Kingdom vision seek justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8). Instead, it was an unrealistic, feel good movie, that I am confident will cause wounds to people who are in struggling marriages, set others up for prayer failure when the expected outcomes don’t happen, and possibly even further abuse in oppressive, dominant, patriarchal families.
But that’s just my opinion.