Thursday, January 5, 2012

"To save a life" review... reviewed

I have watched the trailer for "To save a life" as linked by some friends who have used this film as an outreach for unsaved teens and their youth groups alike. "To save a life" was in theaters 2 years ago, and came out on DVD 16 months ago. I have not seen the whole film, yet I felt inclined to write this post as it concerned me so much.

I find it sickening the lengths to which some people will go to try to "be real". This review from Plugged In online sealed the deal that neither I nor anyone I have guidance over will ever watch "To save a life". Reading the youth pastor/screenwriters comments about how he chose to use certain curse words (and hand them to someone else to quote) is disturbing to me. Plugged In often does a good job with movie reviews, but I feel their discernment is in error as they have ended up promoting some seriously sinful activity in the name of reaching people. Says the writer:

"We never really set out to make a Christian film," he says. "We said we wanted to make a film for teenagers that would never set foot in a church but would go to the movies—something that would reach them. … We wanted to make a movie that really mattered, and that empowered students to be able to reach out to their friends."
The Bible clearly states (Romans 1:16) that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. It is not by being relevant, making friends with the world, "being like the world to win the world" (see James 4:4-8) and promoting sinful activity out of one side of your mouth while decrying that Jesus has a better way out of the other side. This is not the Gospel, it is not true to Scripture, and if we want to reach sinners, we might want to examine God's Word for better tactics before venturing into the arena of "To save a life". I know many will argue this point, and I encourage Biblical discussion of this post.

The review writer found a way to promote this movie, but he had to add an awful lot of qualifiers to do so. The "positive elements" section starts out with: Suicide. Sex. Teen pregnancy. Divorce. Drugs. Cutting. Hypocrisy. That didn't do me in, though, as I have been involved in youth ministry for years and know well the issues that many teens and parents deal with in our society. For me, to see a youth pastor writing a script that has two young folks not married to one another taking off clothes, rolling around on the bed together has gone a bit too far. We all know that this type of thing happens, but we don't need to see it, nor encourage people (in this case, they were paid) to engage in such activity. Whether you call it acting or not, the fact is this activity is sinful.

This movie adds to its credit a laundry list of ways to commit suicide, which at the least could lead some viewers to try out such methods that they might not have considered before. Add in a few drunken, stoned, drug dealing pastor's kids and you have the evidence the world is looking for to say that all Christians really are hypocrites at heart. Be sure the world is watching as this film directs people to curse, play-act sex, and more.

From the PI review: [Youth Pastor] Britts says he felt it was important for the party scenes to feel authentic—to show that there's a reason why teens gravitate to them. But he admits they were hard for him to have filmed. "Two or three times in between takes I had to say, 'I have to remind you that this life leads to sorrow,' because they were looking like they were having a lot of fun," he admits. "It was hard for me as a youth pastor to watch, even though I knew they were acting."

The writer seems oblivious to the fact that many youth group kids have not yet been involved in many of these activities, and in a sense he is actually luring them with these things that "they looked like they were having a lot of fun" with. These same Christians will complain that the public schools promote such things, yet they bring kids to church youth meetings to pollute their minds with more sinful, dangerous ideas in an attempt to prove a point. I have been around a while, and never seen something like this turn out for God's glory.

In my years dealing with teenagers, drugs, alcohol, sexual activity, and suicide, I have never once gone to the levels this film does to supposedly help. God's Word, the truth of the Gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit to change and make new the old, dead sinful man is what will do the job. We don't need more movies about sex, drugs, and suicide. We need more people willing to invest in the lives of teens, to get in the trenches and do the dirty work. We need people like Jesus who loved the unlovely, but who kept Himself from sin in the process. We need more people to live like Christ, parents to do their job in training and nurturing young people, and to hold each other accountable for such things. Some are trying to do this, and they are using the tools promoted by "Christian ministries" while neglecting God's Word on the matters of evangelism, though their desires are pure they are missing the mark by a mile.

We are so scared as a society to offend someone that we are willing to watch their children die in the world to avoid a little pain for ourselves. I have no idea how after reading this review and seeing the trailer, that the review can end with a positive note:

 "The final product is polished, professional and one of the best Christian films I've seen."

At least the reviewer woke up enough to end well with this comment:

And, more significantly, Christian audiences may be legitimately troubled by some of this film's grittier aspects: The language. The drinking. The dope smoking. The cutting. The suicide. And the scene that shows the lead-up to teen sex.

For those who read this blog for my two cents worth, take the time you would have watched this movie and use it praying for God to open a door to reach a teen in crisis. Then, go out and walk through that door, following the pattern of God's Word for reaching the lost. Don't ask the world, don't ask any ministry that promotes sex in order to condemn sex. Don't follow the trends of the modern church, but go back to God's Word and obey what you read.