"Let There Be Light" is a fabulous movie that has taken the box office by storm and by surprise, opening in a modest 373 theaters and exploding to more than 650 in just its second week.
Congratulations to director Kevin Sorbo and co-writer Sam Sorbo (also the lead actors in the film), co-writer Dan Gordon, and executive producer Sean Hannity. Kudos for giving moviegoers a charming alternative to the standard fare offered in theaters Friday.
Conservative Christians have learned constructive lessons in their struggle to contribute to the modern media and Hollywood culture, which routinely mocks and impugns their values and faith.
For years, Christians have exhorted one another to do more than just grumble about this cultural assault. "We have to get involved, producing movies, art, literature and other programming content instead of acting like whining victims."
Many artists throughout the media and cultural spectrum have stepped up and delivered faith-based content, and appreciative consumers have purchased and enjoyed it, but a common criticism has emerged for much of this product.
The legitimate complaint is that Christian-friendly television shows and motion pictures are overtly preachy and hokey. They mean well, but instead of seamlessly inserting the message into their shows, they use it as a sledgehammer and hit viewers over the head with it -- projecting a sense of desperation. It's as if they sense their ideas are promoted so infrequently that they have to be in your face with them to make up the deficit.
This approach is often counterproductive because it violates the accepted rule that a writer should "show, not tell." There's certainly nothing wrong with characters in Christian movies quoting Scripture passages, but they should know they risk restricting their audience if they're too pious and sanctimonious. There's a clientele for such movies, but the movies most likely won't reach as many of the "unchurched" or have as much influence on the secular culture.
Liberals have learned to be subtler in their art, interweaving their political and secular themes in well-made dramas, so that even some viewers repulsed by the political message will endure the soft indoctrination because the stories are otherwise entertaining.
Some Christians and conservatives get it and are producing better-quality movies and incorporating their worldview inconspicuously into the content. There is a hunger among millions of Americans for the entertainment industry to provide content that at least doesn't disparage traditional values, even if it doesn't affirmatively promote them.
"Let There Be Light" admittedly hits Christian themes squarely, but it does so through authentic characters in normal settings whose experiences reflect those of everyday people in real life. It features humor and drama, but not fire and brimstone. The Christian characters are no less human than anyone else, nor are they immune from life's tribulations. Quite the opposite.
I first watched the movie in a screening at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Orlando, and I've seen it several more times since and enjoyed it immensely each time.
Its characters display the full range of emotions -- lows and highs, tears and laughter, despair and hope, raw anger and genuine joy, and deep personal suffering answered by enduring faith. The movie evokes these sentiments in the audience as it identifies with the struggles of the characters and shares their emotional and spiritual turbulence.
The film shows how life's painful events and circumstances can lead even people of faith to turn against God -- to forsake and abandon him because they believe he first abandoned them. Loss of a loved one can destroy one's faith or strengthen it immeasurably, and we see both aspects here.
I was taken by how movingly the characters reflect heartfelt agony and how such despair reverberates throughout the lives of the entire family and inner circle of the aggrieved.
But though this brokenness can destroy everything in its path, it can also be the catalyst for the casting off of personal pride, the turning to God in repentance and the resulting redemption of the human spirit that only God can offer. In this process, we witness the power of prayer, the cleansing of forgiveness and the perfection of God's love.
Beyond these general themes, I don't want to include any spoilers, because you need to see the movie for yourself for maximum impact.
It is a delightful antidote for the negativity currently bombarding us in the culture, a powerful faith-builder for believers and a winsome apologetic for doubters.
I won't pressure you to watch this movie simply because we want to subsidize faith-based films. Movies should stand on their own merit -- and this one does. No, don't go see this movie to support a cause or as a favor to the producers; see it as a favor to yourselves. You'll thoroughly enjoy it and profit from it.