Category Archives: Faith & Life

Why can’t we laugh at ourselves?

Brother Bob & JoshWe take ourselves way too seriously.

Nowhere is the paranoia more obvious than in churches.

I discovered this phenomenon while trying to promote our film, “By the Grace of Bob” over the last year. Those who seem to be most uncomfortable with our film are clergy. One pastor was honest enough to tell me, “I was really uncomfortable watching your film. It depicts the stereotype that I’m not, but that everybody outside my church thinks I am.”

I understand. I spent most of my career as a church staff member. A Baptist church. I was usually quick to point out to a new acquaintance, “But not that kind of Baptist.”

We’ve had such a hard time getting “church folks” to give our film a chance that we pulled it from distribution, gave it a new title, and we’re now re-releasing it as secular entertainment.

(Another “strike” against our film is that it has Muslim and gay characters. If you want to kill the buzz in most churches these days, just mention those two groups. But that’s a topic for another story.)

The film is satire. And if they would give it a chance, our movie could spark some timely and meaningful discussion among people inside the sacred spaces of our land. It could allow religious folks to talk about why those outside their religious bubbles see them as irrelevant at best… and dangerous at worst.

As one astute reviewer noted, “Many films set out to accomplish satire. Unfortunately, some of them aren’t funny at all; others, end up highlighting their mean-spirited critique without ever loving their subject. To walk the fine line of critique and laughs, a film must actually appreciate the thing which it critiques and have a sense of humor. Powers’ film accomplishes that… With humor and challenges for the church. (Jacob Sahms review at Christiancinema.com.)

I’m grateful that Jacob “got it.” I hope more church folks will let down their defenses long enough to have a laugh and join the conversation. God knows we need it.

 

How to get in the flow

roaring-rapidsYou know those times when you’re in a conversation and the next day in the shower you think of exactly the right thing you should have said? Happens to me all the time.

Last Saturday I was on a panel at the Richmond International Film Festival’s “Flow” conference. The question put to us was, “How do you get back into the creative flow when you’re stuck?” I think I blathered something inane about taking a walk. What I should have said is, “I pray.”

In our film, SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL, Brother Bob Cross confesses, “The only time I know what I’m doing is when I’m telling God I don’t know what I’m doing.” That has been my experience; especially over the last several years as I’ve been working on the film. I’m often stuck. And the cure has always been to place it in God’s hands and trust Him for the solution.

Sounds like a cliché, I know. But it is the best way I can describe my experience. Continue reading How to get in the flow

The Good Old Days

Time cover TFADr. Theodore F. Adams  was the legendary pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church from 1936 to 1968, and president of the Baptist World Alliance from 1955 to 1960. He was on the cover of Time Magazine December 5, 1955. Almost 50 years after leaving the First Baptist pulpit, he is still revered.

The 1950’s were a booming era for churches. And those churches that also had a gifted pastor like Ted Adams were busting at the seams. I’ve heard some of the old-timers recall that all you had to do was open the doors and get out of the way. The pews were filled every Sunday.

A lot of churches that boomed in the 50’s are struggling to survive these days. With dwindling congregations, aging buildings and an unhealthy measure of nostalgia, they’re trying to figure out how to bring back “the good old days.” They point to the mega churches, the embodiment of American success and wonder, “why can’t we be like that?”

That’s the situation for the fictional Eternal Hope Baptist Church of Homer, Alabama in our film SHOOTING THE PRODIGAL. They remember the good old days when the church’s founder, Brother Big Bob Cross presided over a thriving enterprise. But these days, there are lots of questions and few answers: How do we keep the young folks engaged? How are we going to keep the church doors open? And, of course, “What would Brother Big Bob do?” Continue reading The Good Old Days