Monday, February 20, 2012

Ramblin' Man: The Forest and the Trees

Many thanks again to Cindy Kunsman for allowing me to post her review of Courageous. As her review has made its way around the web, I've watched it generate some interesting, and at the same time befuddling, observations.

First ramble: A couple of people have expressed concern that Cindy "goes out of her way" or "overreaches" to make a connection between Courageous and Vision Forum. It makes me wonder if anyone even bothered to research the links she provided within her review. They aren't there for their festive coloration. We need to be clear - Cindy isn't manufacturing a connection...

Sherwood/the Kendrick brothers (the producers of Courageous) and Vision Forum are connected.

The initial connection was most likely via Fireproof and Kirk Cameron. What developed from there is anyone's guess, but there's no gray area that Courageous serves as a vehicle for the teachings/ideas of Voddie Baucham, Doug Phillips, and Geoff Botkin, intended to introduce those ideas to the mainstream - and the mainstream, as non-discerning as ever, lapped up the shiny, "Christian" packaging without asking ANY real questions.

For those who say "but many people/extremists teach these things" - that's kinda true, but Voddie Baucham is the personal champion of most of the themes presented in the movie, and is VF's champion of father/daughter dating and FIC issues. Phillips and Botkin are the absolute, undisputed heavyweight champions of the father-centric, manly-men teachings. Most of the other teachers of these ideas got their ideas from the VF champions. When it's known that the Kendrick brothers have an established professional relationship with VF, and the father-centric ideas of these men start turning up in a father-centric Sherwood film... you don't have to be Matlock to connect the dots. Vision Forum is the KING of all things "daddy".

Still not convinced? Wow. Ok.

Consider that as soon as the movie went into the theaters, VF was marketing the "Courageous Family-pack" and "The Resolution for Men". This means there was almost definitely a prearranged marketing agreement. Do you think there's a snowball's chance in Hades that Doug "the little General" Phillips would sign on to promote the merchandise of a movie that didn't communicate his message? He'd been made fully aware what the movie was about, most likely because he and his people were consulted about the message (what the smart money would say in Vegas), and at a minimum VF materials were used to craft the message, seeing as how its a dressed-up, mainstream-friendly version of his/their message.

And keep in mind (those of you who want to "eat the meat and spit out the bones" regarding Courageous) that Doug Phillips can't stoop to even have to stand to communicate or deal with women. [And yes, I intentionally placed "stoop" where "stand" would normally go in the sentence, and vice-versa - my homage to the little (confederate) General.]

It ain't rocket surgery.

Next ramble: Someone said to me yesterday, paraphrased, "I don't care if it comes from a cult. I think its decent." That's an incredibly malleable position to be in. Anyone can introduce ANY kind of poison into such a mindset - as long as they mask it with an agreeable culture. I mean, largely, what this person was saying is that they agree with "the culture" of the film. Back in 2010, regarding Jonestown, I wrote this...

The People's Temple started very much as a Christian undertaking (even if in name only as far as Jones was concerned). Peace and love and happy, clean living. Then, over time, as the result of government pressures and to avoid scrutiny, Jones headed down to South America and created Jonestown. By this time, there was no pretense of Christianity, as Jones had now announced himself an athiest, and the focus was on a Communist culture, with the ultimate goal of living, as a self-sufficient agrarian commune, in the Soviet Union. And through all of this, through the transformation from Christianity to Communism to Atheism, his followers stayed with him - and happily so. Nothing, whatsoever, about their lives changed when Christ was taken out of the equation. They were, by all measurements, happy and content with the culture...

...When Jones issued the call to commit "revolutionary suicide", only one single person offered any resistance to the command, and it was only in the form of a couple of questions before offering compliance. They all drank the Flavor-aid with "purpose" and "vision", laid down carefully and neatly, and died. Almost a thousand men, women, and children. All because Jesus left their culture...and they never noticed, because nothing changed. Their culture became their Jesus.

According to Stanley Clayton (one of only five people to escape Jonestown alive), only one person offered any physical resistance to taking the poison, and it should be noted that by the time he left, most everyone was already dead. When culture becomes god it becomes powerful and all-encompassing.

Let's say, for instance, that I told this person that Satan had actually authored the books of the bible. If this person believed me, they'd throw out the bible - despite the wisdom in it - because this couldn't be fit into their culture. But, an extremist cult group (which hurts people through the practice of the belief system it promotes) formulates the message of a movie (a message which, at its core, is in opposition to direct teachings and authority of Jesus Christ), and as long as it fits into the accepted culture, it happily becomes part of the accepted culture. No questions asked.

If we really knew how much of our faith was exclusively about religious culture, and not at all about God, we might be surprised. Regarding VF, I wrote about their cultural worship a couple of years ago.

Next ramble: To those of you Quiverfullers who don't like me "lumping you in with the crazies" - you lumped yourself in when you decided to follow QF "theology". You were conned. This doesn't make you a bad person, or a bad parent, or a bad anything. It's just time for you to recognize QF as what it is: a means to resource a cultural army. If not for the cultural wars, and for the Christian homeschooling movement, Quiverfull wouldn't exist as we know it today. As I said the other day...

Before Christian homeschooling, there was no "Quiverfull movement". Christian homeschooling was developed to give the dominionist cultural war a boot camp and training ground. You can't build an army without numbers, so a way to resource the army had to be invented. It's not like they could say "Hey...Y'all start screwin'. We wanna win this thing!" without coming off as overtly cultic and outright kooky, so they found what amounts to an obscure passage of three verses in a Psalm which say nothing of substance to humanity today (and have no commands in them), twisted them (and they still say nothing of substance and have no commands), and created an entire theology out of those three verses that say a whole lot of nothing.

If you want to have a house full of kids, and you can take care of them physically, materially, and emotionally, have at it. Just don't tell me it's "biblical" or that God controls the womb, cause that's BS. If you want to do it, and can do it, just do it and stop blaming God already.

Final ramble: Those of you who say I'm using the same fear-based tactics as the fundamentalist extremists...get back to me when I'm trying to sell you something.  


  1. Well, I have not seen Courageous...probably won't.I did see Fireproof and thought that some of the ideas behind it were sound. Was that made before an association between VF and the producers?

    But, back to Courageous. I think it is VERY scary that a VF type message is being packaged to appeal to mainstream Christians. It's as if they will go for anything that has a trendy package. It also shows the lengths that the VF people will go to to sneak their philosophy in the back door, making the characters dress normally, seem like the people next the women work outside the home in the movie?

    You know, in the early days of homeschooling, I read LOTS of material about watching for ideas infiltrating our culture and our children's minds from communists and atheists. Too bad we aren't just as careful to look for the ideas and people behind "Christian" books, movies, and organizations?

    Why are we so lacking in discernment? Because, maybe, we don't know Christ as intimately as we should? Maybe because we look for systems and formulas rather than relationship? If you know someone well, you are more apt to be surprised and ask questions when they seem to veer in a weird direction.

    When you step back and survey all the extra-Biblical stuff that is being shoveled into Christianity nowadays, it makes me sick!

    I remember a documentary that terrified all new homeschoolers back in the 90's that was called something like "Governors School". It dealt with how the Clintons and all their crowd was trying to brainwash American youth. Now let me say that in many (not all) areas I am conservative and or libertarian and no fan of the Clintons. And, I do think that there are people I would strongly disagree with that do try to promote ideas in the schools that I don't think they have any business promoting.

    But HERE is my point. Why aren't we half as "discerning" about the people and ideas behind all this gobbeldygook that we are presented with in the name of Christianity? A well made documentary about the VF, QF folks showing them in their patriarchal, anti education, Confederate (sometimes) underclothes might be a good thing, particularly if made by an honest and humble Christian filmmaker. Just a thought.

    1. "A well made documentary about the VF, QF folks showing them in their patriarchal, anti education, Confederate (sometimes) underclothes might be a good thing, particularly if made by an honest and humble Christian filmmaker. Just a thought."

      I agree. I think the deterrent there, though, is that Doug Phillips, as a lawyer, would sue or threaten suit. He could pursue a lawsuit with no other purpose than to break the bank of a small filmmaker in legal defense - and he'd never have to win the suit to achieve his goal.

    2. But if Phillips were to lose the suit, and even if he won, more people would know about the movie, perhaps do some research on this "Vision Forum" they keep hearing about. And then the REAL fun will start...

  2. The Kendrick brothers were guest speakers at the 2006 San Antonio Christian Film Festival Filmmakers Academy, which is where their relationship with Vision Forum began. I believe Kirk Cameron was introduced to VF through the Kendricks, but Cameron is also close friends with Ron Comfort, who is a celebrity of sorts with the ATI & VF circles. As someone raised in the ATI/IFB/VF/QF/Patriarchy (yeah, the full cocktail), I wept through much of the Courageous film, mostly because I saw what my parents strove so hard for in the ideal happy christian family, and how the involvement in all those groups/lifestyles destroyed what had once been an imperfect, but happy and loving, family. Weeping over the ideals in the film didn't blind me to the problem though, and I recognized and was offended by the subtle mainstreaming of ideas such as those suggested in the article you published, particularly the pledging purity to daddy, and the father figure being responsible for the sanctification, and sin, of his family members. In the exuberance to promote family value filmmaking, the lifestyles of the patriarchs is making its way into "mainstream" christianity.

  3. "I saw what my parents strove so hard for in the ideal happy christian family, and how the involvement in all those groups/lifestyles destroyed what had once been an imperfect, but happy and loving, family."

    I am sorry for your loss, Ryan. Many, many children from evangelical homes could say the same thing. We parents were trying to give our children the perfect (godly) family experience. Instead, we often destroyed what was wholesome and good about our families to start with- unconditional love replaced with Dobson performance-based punishment/reward system; the thrill of watching unique human beings grow up into who they were meant to be replaced with the disappointment of seeing that our children were not going to fit into the evangelical child mold we were told they should fill.

    So sad. We have to keep taking a stand for truth and praying for the ones still under the shadow of these damaging teachings. Thanks, Lewis, for all you do to sound the alarm. You're awesome.

  4. It always makes me chuckle to hear people accuse those that are speaking the truth as using fear-based tactics. When will they realize that when the truth is spoken, there is no need for fear?

  5. Still having back and forth stuff with people who would deny a VF connection to Courageous if the lead character had stuck his head out of Doug Phillip's rear-end to deliver his lines.

    There's only so long you can look at a duck, with the feathers, bill, and feet of a duck, which quacks, waddles, and floats around the pond like a duck, and keep calling it a chicken until you're just lying to yourself. It doesn't matter how determined you are for it to be a chicken. It's a duck.

    I think it's a case of what I wrote about above. The shiny, "Christian" packaging, the appeal to culture...

    And people don't like to acknowledge when they've been caught with their pants down because they failed to use discernment.

    1. Wouldn't Courageous still be just as problematic if it were just inspired by Vision Forum? I mean, Doug Phillips is on board with it, that should be a red flag to anybody who cares.

  6. hrm...

    Lewis, i think this idea isn't anywhere as hopeless as you imply it would be.
    if Doug Phillips [or any lawyer] were to attempt to sue, it would be upon him to *prove* malicious intent to slander or defamation of character [which any good filmmaker knows how to avoid]
    assuming Phillips could even get a court to take the suit seriously [always a difficult proposition with slander and defamation - you have prove MALICIOUS intent, at least in most of the states. i'm not a lawyer, but i just spent 4 years working on a BS in journalism - trust me to know from slander or defamation :) ]
    and if Phillips *does* get a court to agree with him, well, A) the burden is on HIM. in any legitimate film, there'd be no intent. [the argument of "they told X, which people didn't know, and now i/my business is losing money!" was shot down almost 2 centuries ago]

    but, i'm fairly sure the ACLU [or the Poverty Law Center, perhaps, or several other orgs] would be quite interest, as any attempt to sue would *really* be an attempt to censor the filmmaker in a way that is quasi-legal, at BEST. so... yeah.

    1. well, that's... vexing

      Lewis, in case there is confusion, i wrote the above post in reply to yourself and Saturn500, about the idea of a documentary that shows the negatives of the P/QF movement and etc.

      why didn't it nest in as a reply? that's sort of odd... but Blogger's been acting odd again. NOT as bad as a few months ago, but still...

  7. "And people don't like to acknowledge when they've been caught with their pants down because they failed to use discernment."

    no. it feels shameful!!