Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | By: Zachary Bartels

Lenten Experiment #1: Fireproof

 
If you read my last post, you know about my five-month Lent commitment. I've been trying to enjoy some things that my snarkiness would not have permitted before Ash Wednesday. I bought a three-disc set of super-old-school Michael W. Smith CDs, which I've been enjoying with no little nostalgia. I've been avoiding the online Rob Bell dust-up. All was going well. But then I decided to up the ante.

That's right...Fireproof: The Christian Movie.

Who ordered the charred awesome?
 

Now, I've watched Fireproof before, but it was with smirk firmly affixed. Not this time. You may be thinking, “But Pastor Zach, why wouldn't you build up to a movie produced by a church, starring church members? Why not start with an incredible movie like Amazing Grace or Luther? Then move on to straight-to-video fare featuring big-name stars of the '80s and '90s? Then, once you're all warmed up, tackle the likes of Fireproof?”

Simple: Kirk Cameron is a guilty pleasure of mine.

Yeah, I wish I could rapture away every copy of the Left Behind movies, and I get a little uneasy when I see Mr. Cameron holding a banana, preparing to defend the Christian faith. But the guy is awesome anyway. Google “Camp Firefly” for an example of how awesome he is.

So, how was watching Fireproof with my new attitude? Rough. Rough-ish, anyway. Until I realized that, cast almost entirely with church members, this film should be held more to the standard of a church play than a Hollywood production. With that standard in place, the film is downright impressive. And then you've got Kirm Cameron, who is actually pretty Pesci as a firefighter in this movie.

Highlights:

  • Kirk Cameron is at his best here. Now, it might be the fact that he's surrounded entirely by amateurs, but I think it's something more than that. He's very convincing in his frustration and anger with his wife. I really think, given the whole recent '80s-stars-making-a-comeback phenomenon, if it weren't for his outspoken faith, Cameron would be playing roles in “real” movies these days. I'm not suggesting that he'd have gone directly from Growing Pains to $20 million dollar paychecks and leading man roles (although DeCaprio did just that), but compromising his faith could certainly have helped his career from a human perspective.

    Fun fact: Cameron flew in his wife, Chelsea Noble (who is a professional actress, begging the question: why didn't she play the leading lady) and dressed her up as his on-screen wife for the sillhouetted kissing scene at the end. He's taken a lot of flack for this principle, but it just makes him even more awesome in my mind.

  • Erin Bethea, who plays Kirk Cameron's wife, is pretty darn good. I understand she's the pastor's daughter at the church that put this movie out, and also played a role in Facing the Giants. I also understand that her acting has improved greatly between the two films. Good for her.

  • The scenes in the firehouse are pretty funny. Especially the stuff with Wayne and Terrell.

  • The Love Dare concept itself is great. I really don't think I've encounterd any other marriage “tool” so distinctly Christian. Even amidst the awful acting from Kirk Cameron's on-screen father, I was rooting for the dare to work from the get go.

  • Alluminum bat vs. PC = best scene in the movie! When tempted to fall back into Internet porn after getting saved, Caleb (Cameron) brings the computer outside and beats it down, Office Space style. I was watching this with my wife and mother-in-law, who commented, “That's a little excessive,” to which I replied, “Not as excessive as cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye!”



The Movie's Message:

When this flick came out in 2008, I remember reading a lot of Reformed bloggers trashing it for being too Law-based. I just don't see it. First of all, what's wrong with the Law? If we're really not antinomians, we recognize the need for imperatives (rooted in the indicative of the Gospel, which this film does just fine). Others complained that all the marriage problems sorted themselves out too easily. Huh?!If cooking a candlelight dinner for your wife and having her look you in the eye and say, “I don't love you,“ or leaving her a dozen roses and a note only to have her leave you divorce papers is “easy,” then I need to re-visit the basic definitions of the terms involved.

I think there were basically three great messages in this film:

1. “Don't follow your heart. Your heart can be deceived. You've got to lead your heart.” Best line in the movie. And a message greatly missing from many pulpits.

2. The kind of love described in I Corinthians 13 is not nearly so neat, cute, and fluffy as we try to make it. Watching someone keep no record of wrongs, forgive unconditionally (70 x 7), and return good for evil again and again is downright painful. But, in the end, reminds us what kind of love should mark a Christian’s life.

3. Sin should not be toyed with. It should be beaten to death with a baseball bat. Rap music optional.
 

2 reader comments:

Jennifer said...

I love your blog.

Pete Scribner said...

Good thoughts Zach.

Once my wife and I were in Dallas at DFW airport. She saw a guy who looked EXACTLY like Cameron did 10-15 years earlier in the Growing Pains years and asked me if I thought it was him. "No," I replied, "looks way to much like he USED to look." After all, TV/film stars always look different in person.

We get out to the baggage claim area and there's a driver there with a sign reading "K. Cameron." Anyway, he and I both grabbed our luggage and walked out at the same time and I struck up a conversation with him. Really nice guy.