I finally saw the movie War Room and I feel the need to write my thoughts on the experience. War Room, a drama centered around the power of prayer, was written and directed by the Kendrick Brothers, the same team who gave us Courageous in 2011 and Fireproof in 2008. Now I love a happy ending most of the time, and I like movies that have a moral lesson or a Christian message for us but the storyline has got to be believable. War Room has the former two but not the latter.
The protagonist, Tony Jordan, played by T.C. Stallings, is a completely unlikable character, an A1 jerk from the beginning. He works as a rep for a pharmaceutical firm where his salary is “four times” what his wife earns as a real-estate agent in suburban Atlanta. He treats his wife badly, ignores his daughter and is full of himself. And to make the story even shallower, Tony’ s only redeeming quality is that he is extremely good looking. I suppose the Kendricks felt that a little ‘eye candy’ would go a long way.
So just like a made for TV Hallmark flick we know the number one villain will have a dramatic change from jerk to extremely nice guy and we also know that all will end well for everyone involved.
Now Tony’s wife Elizabeth played by Priscilla Shirer, gets advice from a meddling older woman who teaches her how to pray for her husband, instead of harboring anger and resentment toward him. After Elizabeth utilizes her walk-in-closet as her war-room to do spiritual battle for her marriage and her husband, things begin to happen. She immediately has a change of heart and begins to feel only love and understanding toward her preoccupied spouse. At one point she actually intervenes through prayer when Tony is on the brink of committing adultery. He ends up running to the restroom instead, leaving his beautiful companion at the table, while he deals with a bout of ‘angel induced’ food poisoning.
Tony gets fired when his employer learns he has been stealing from the company. As a result Tony is forced to eat humble pie, confessing to his wife, who, as expected, is very understanding and supportive. She now trusts God and prayer.
In one scene Tony cries out to God and falls to knees, praying for Jesus to forgive him and fix his mess. OK, so far everything is believable.
Now here is where the plot is sickeningly saccharin. Church Lady (that’s me) has been around long enough to know that even with a contrite heart and forgiveness and grace flowing all over the place most humans do not get off that easy. There are consequences to pay for our actions. And without the consequences hitting us right in the face, most of us will not do the hard work of ‘repentance’ the definition of which is ‘a turning around or away from. Changing.’
Jesus is not our personal Jeanie who will fix up our mess just so we’ll love him and follow him. Jesus never promised an easy life to his followers, or a life of luxury and material blessing. Jesus said things like “Sell everything you have and come follow me,” and “If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower,” and the best yet which we always ignore is “Take up your cross and follow me.” Notice he says your. American Christians love to say Jesus died on the cross for my sins. And they totally ignore that we need to put ourselves on the cross and allow our own lives and wills and desires to be crucified so we can truly follow him.
Now back to our protagonist. It is not in human nature to do a 180 unless we hit bottom, we suffer then we are transformed. We need to go through the fire, to come out on the other side. Tony Jordan did not face prosecution for his crime, he only had to repay $19,000 for the drugs he confessed to stealing and he had one of his expensive cars re-possessed, but his beautiful happy Christian family gets to keep their million-dollar home. And lastly he gets a new job as the director at the Community Center where he’s been working with his daughter and the double-dutch jump rope team. I wonder how that salary compares to his previous.
The message I took from this movie is the ‘Gospel of Prosperity’ the gist of which is ‘Get Saved by Jesus, and pray and all this will be provided for you.’ Another slant on this theme is ‘Just give your 10% to God (aka your Church or TV Evangelist) and God will give you back 100 fold.’
So if you like fairy tales and believe being a Christian in America only requires you to ‘ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, and then accept him as your personal Savior’ then maybe you can live out the American Christian Dream, and not be part of the worldwide ‘Kingdom of God, where the real Gospel of Jesus is played out where ever someone is feeding the hungry, visiting those in jail, giving a bed and shelter to the homeless; loving, teaching, blessing and serving the least of our brothers and sisters, giving up comfort, and financial security to further the cause of Peace on Earth.