Same song. Different movie.
Christian people are all over the place on this movie. While I don't think any rational person believes it to be a cinematic masterpiece (small budget and marginal to poor acting are typical for Sherwood films), the message of the movie seems to be the divider.
[For the record - this is not a review of Courageous, but a personal commentary on the Sherwood body of work]
The only Sherwood films I've seen are Facing the Giants and the one about the car lot (the title escapes me). They could've been the same movie, just that one story was centered around a high school football coach and the other around a used car salesman (which may actually be the same thing - you sports fans will know what I'm talking about). Neither one blew me away. I LOATHE watching movies, television shows, or reading books that I can stay ten steps ahead of, plot-wise.
Then Sherwood went and got involved with Kirk Cameron for Fireproof. When that movie came out, I knew nothing of Vision Forum, and obviously not of Cameron's affiliation with them (whatever it may be), and really didn't know anything about P/QF and its litany of spiritual and emotional dysfunctions - but I knew Cameron gave me the creeps with his "Way of the Master" crap and the way he "witnessed" on the street, not to mention how itchy Ray Comfort always made me (and still does).
In hindsight, the Cameron/Sherwood connection is potentially pretty religiously dangerous. If the Sherwood folk would get involved with him, despite his raging religious addiction and weirdness, it doesn't speak well of their ability to discern the merit of ideas that might be introduced into their thinking and storylines. Their movies already have a lot of works-based, particular action=reward, prosperity "gospel" thinking and teaching in them. I'd say it's a safe bet that within their next 3-5 movies we'll start seeing some outright sociopolitical concepts (with dominionist roots). They'll have to do something. People aren't going to keep buying tickets to the same movie with a new title. When plot-lines (and what they teach) are already formula-driven, the logical next step is legalism and dominionism.
In a discussion elsewhere, my friend Darcy summed up exactly why I find Courageous unappealing and have no real desire to see it...
I don't need to see the movie. I can predict exactly what happens: dude's life sucks. Family is going to hell, he doesn't do anything about it. Suddenly tragedy strikes. Dude realizes he "needs god", dude recommits his life to god. Dude is excited and gets his buddies to
recommit their lives and live like "godly men". Life magically starts working out, dude's wife and kids shape up, and everyone lives happily ever after, proclaiming the blessing of living "god's way". The End.
That's the formula that Courageous (and all Sherwood films) present, and, frankly, that just isn't how the Christian life and Christian faith work the vast majority of the time. It isn't realistic in the slightest. A prosperity gospel formula is what it is. The overwhelming theme of the state of life in this world that you'll find throughout the books of the bible is a pretty easy one to pick up on if you're willing to look for and at it: Life on the earth generally sucks. That's true for all people, those of faith and those not of faith.
The true happiness of Christians should rest in their hope of eternity, in their reconciliation with their Creator, in the hope of life beyond the grave. Not in what faith can give them in life right now. Seems silly and shallow to expect more from life on earth than what Christ or the early church got from it. Those early Christians in Rome lived with passion, loving God, trusting in Christ, loving each other, praying, sharing, giving, helping - and a lot of them ended up as lion poop. Hit shappens, Christian or not.
Faith isn't about doing the right series of things and expecting a particular result. That's formula. Faith isn't about doing this, this, and this, living "godly", and everything becoming fluffy flowers and puppies playing and birds singing in sophisticated harmonies while God acts as your celestial bellhop, miraculously paying all your bills, fixing all your family problems, and healing your diverticulitis - while giving you a new car and helping you lose 30 pounds. Yes, those things CAN happen - but those things also happen to unbelievers. Don't ask me how and why those things happen. I don't know.
Yes, I believe in prayer. Yes, I believe that those of faith in Christ should live as Christ lived and taught - selflessly, loving God and neighbor, being honest people of integrity, doing the right thing even when the price is steep, caring for the less fortunate and the outcast. Those things aren't formulaic. They're minute by minute choices, opportunity meeting decision. Take out the "loving God" part, and a lot of non-Christians live in the same manner.
Yes, I believe that strong faith can bring about happiness. I just think we need to be able to tell the difference between faith bringing happiness and money, health, new cars, new homes, et cetera, bringing happiness. They ARE different things. Would the football coach from Facing the Giants have still been happy had vermin completely overrun his home? Had he not been given a new car? Had his team's record actually reflected its talent (0 for forever)? Had he lost his coaching job? Had he and his wife been unable to conceive? If he'd still followed the formula - praying, living for God, et cetera - and all of those things failed to happen? Somehow I don't think the message would've worked...which shines some light on exactly what the message was - a formula, live this way, and miracles will happen in your life.
Maybe you're planning to see the movie, or have already seen it, and right now your life really sucks. You may decide to follow the formula the Sherwood movies present - surrender to God, pray, live "godly", et cetera - but (unlike the Sherwood movies) just be prepared for life to still suck, because it's probably going to. Life will still be life.
Find and relish in happiness and hope wherever you can, even in the midst of the suckiness of life. Just don't expect to find it in a formula. It definitely ain't there.
I know more Christians than I can count who've lived as beautiful a faith as can be lived - and the external elements of their lives (finances, health, family issues, and so forth) are continually in upheaval. The true beauty of their faith is in how it perseveres through these things, how they find happiness, peace, and continue to love and give relentlessly through those things. Their hope of eternity is their payoff.
If Sherwood wants to make a realistic film about a real faith-based miracle, base one on the lives and faith of those people - and at the conclusion, let the main character end up broke, sick, his car perpetually in the shop, his dog dead, his wife run off with another man...yet still content in his faith, still loving, still giving, and not waiting for the big payoff to come anytime soon. That's more like life. What they're offering now is largely a fairy tale which sets people up for disappointment.
ETA this (ht to Eric). If Courageous passes the mustard for the dominionist cult Vision Forum, do you want to support it too? And this collection of manly words from manly men, compiled by the Kendrick brothers (Sherwood films) - creepy. Sherwood has absolutely gone the route of VF kookiness. Under no circumstances will I see, encourage others to see, or support, Courageous.