Monday, February 01, 2016

When Dangerous Fundamentalist Ideas Creep Into Mainstream Society - "War Room" Movie

Yesterday morning I had one of the most triggering moments post-fundamentalism I've had in a very long time. It took place at the large mainstream denomination church my husband and I now attend. It involved the movie 'War Room', a recent release from the same folks that did the films, 'Fireproof' and 'Courageous'

Back this last summer I had the opportunity to see 'War Room' in the early days of its theatrical run. I went with a few blogger pals who were writing reviews of the film. I'd planned on writing about my impressions of the film for NLQ, but with the long busy days of summer that didn't happen. I went into the viewing not expecting much because so many of these 'Christian'-type movies are sappy, preachy, heavy-handed with the message with very poor production values. It sometimes feels like watching the world's dumbest Lifetime Movie Network movie.  So my expectations were already in the realistic range for the movie before my popcorn had started to cool off.

But by the time the film was over one of the friends I went with turned to the rest of us and uttered quite plainly, 'What the fuck did I just watch?' That phrase pretty much succinctly summed up my feelings about 'War Room' The film was so awful on so many different levels, almost as awful as 'Showgirls' but without the fake breasts, nude female flesh, fancy manicures and potato-chip eating.
'War Room' has in common with 'Attack Killer Tomatoes' and 'Showgirls' one big thing. Every single artistic decision made was the  wrong one. The dialogue is hokey and belabored, one of the main characters is that Hollywood stock character/trope known as the "Magical Negro", the film is preachier than an IFB pastor on speed at a tent revival, filled with simplistic formulas that do not work, and comparing it to a Lifetime movie is an insult to Lifetime. It's much worse than its predecessors in the Christian film genre. Even worse that the cringe-inducing purity ball-esque father-daughter moment that was in 'Courageous'

What makes 'War Room' much more dangerous and awful of a film than 'Killer Tomatoes' is the main message of the film. Which is 'Shut up about your unhappiness in your marriage, about the emotional abuse, submit at a deeper level, start praying hard and your husband will love and esteem you, treating you like the queen of his life.'
That's some dangerous thinking that is rampant in Evangelical Christianity that has left a long trail of dead women and children, not to mention the thousands who've silently suffered more abuse under this dangerous idea. If someone is emotionally abusing you it's not that big of a hop, skip and jump to physical abuse, or financial abuse.

It's a very unhealthy idea that to end borderline emotional abuse is to be even more sacrificial. Giving the other person a license to ramp up their abuse of you. How many stories at No Longer Quivering have we had of mothers and wives trying desperately to turn the hearts of their husbands even more to them by being gentler, more kind, quieter, sweeter, by being more submissive only to be pushed to the breaking point by a man who has turned into a petty tyrant over the course of time? So how did that work out? It didn't!

Thinking you can change the behavior of an abuser simply by changing your reaction to them and treatment of them is a good way to end up beaten or dead. Pushing this as the 'Christian' way is simply disingenuously leading women deeper into abuse.

There are no simple formulas to make a marriage work, but some of the things shown going on in this family are red flags of abuse potential. Taking the advice of the elderly 'wise' woman in this film only creates an environment for abuse to flourish.

Back to yesterday. I'm sitting on the platform with worship team when the trailer for this film comes up on the video screens and I find out my very mainstream church is promoting a movie night with 'War Room' I just about fell out of the chair. Later, after the service, I approached on of the assistant pastors I have a friendly relationship with about my concerns that showing 'War Room' is tacitly approving of the lie that at a woman's behavior can change a man. Sadly she told me that the film was the best film she'd ever seen and we'd have to agree to disagree. I came away from our encounter in tears, tears because I know first hand how dangerous this type of theology is and that in mainstream Christianity there tends to be a tone-deafness to the abusive ideas pushed in much of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christianity.

The question that this brings to mind for me is how do we best combat the poisonous ideas of QF that end up being promoted, however innocently, in the mainstream parts of society?  These are ideas that must die if we're to move on to a safer, just and more sane society.

1 comment:

Nancy Foster said...

Thanks for sharing this--I so agree but wouldn't have been able to so clearly articulate what you wrote. Thanks for giving me clarity when I talk to people about this. I came from an emotionally, verbally abusive marriage. My church told me "even good christians get angry and yell". I didn't have the ability to verbalize to them that a wife shouldn't be called names or screamed at for making too much noise chewing food--as if you can eat tacos quietly. I am divorced from that abusive man for 8 years and married to a man who does treat me like his queen and I didn't have to wear my knees out praying for him to get that way....