From The Song to the Left Behind reboot: are Christian films becoming more comfortable with sexuality?

song-duetI got an e-mail today from the folks behind The Song. Like most Monday-morning e-mails of this sort, it asks its readers to support a newly-released independent film by voting with their dollars as soon as possible, etc.

The e-mail also does something I don’t believe I have ever seen in an ad or message promoting a “faith-based” film before: it draws special attention to secular critics who have praised the film for the “sexual chemistry” between its lead actors.

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The Left Behind reboot lands another lead actor

The world survived the end of the Mayan calendar yesterday, so we can now turn our attention to other prophecies and predictions regarding the end of the age. One of the most prominent is the premillenial dispensationalism that lies behind the Left Behind franchise, and, right on cue, it was revealed today that the producers of those films — who are currently in the midst of re-booting the series — are talking to Chad Michael Murray about playing Cameron “Buck” Williams, a part that was played in the original trilogy by Kirk Cameron.

Most of Murray’s work has been in television, so I am unfamiliar with nearly all of it, though apparently he was in the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday. I note, however, that this is not his first end-times movie; he was also in Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001) as the teenaged younger brother of the Antichrist; Murray’s character eventually grows up to become the American president, as played by Michael Biehn, while the Antichrist, of course, grows up to be played by Michael York, who had starred in the earlier Omega Code (1999).

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Review: Fireproof (dir. Alex Kendrick, 2008)

Two years ago, there was a big controversy when Facing the Giants, an ultra-low-budget movie produced by a church in the Bible Belt, was rated PG, allegedly for its spiritual content. Pundits and politicians railed against the MPAA and its ratings board for its perceived bias against religious themes, and moviegoers rallied to the film’s defense at the box office, making it one of the most successful Christian movies of all time. But as the debate over the movie’s rating subsided, another controversy emerged. Some Christians praised the film for its positive, family-friendly values, while others condemned it as bad art, a bad story badly told that would only encourage the worst artistic instincts of the evangelicals who saw it.

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Interview: Kirk Cameron

Kirk Cameron may be best known as a former teen idol and as one of the stars of the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains. But over the past decade, he has been cultivating another, very different fan base, as the star of several Christian movies — including the Left Behind series and Miracle of the Cards — and as an evangelist with The Way of the Master, a ministry he shares with Ray Comfort.

Cameron, who turns 38 in October, became a Christian while still in his teens, and he has been married to the actress Chelsea Noble — who he met when she guest-starred on Growing Pains — since 1991. He recently published a book about his life and career, called Still Growing: An Autobiography (Regal).

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The Church Behind Fireproof / How a Baptist church in Georgia became a movie-making mecca

For several years the members of Sherwood Baptist Church have had a vision: “To touch the world from Albany, Georgia.”

And thanks to the power of mass media, this church of about 3,000 members — located in a city of only 80,000 or so — has been able to do just that.

Through its media ministry, the church has already produced two feature-length films with an all-volunteer cast and a mostly-volunteer crew. Given their incredibly low budgets, both films — especially Facing the Giants — have been enormously successful, in theaters and on DVD. Both films have also been distributed to over 50 countries around the world in a dozen subtitled languages.

Now the church is putting the finishing touches on its third film, Fireproof, which opens on September 26. This time the folks at Sherwood are working with a budget of $500,000 — still peanuts by Hollywood standards, but five times the budget of Giants — and they even have a professional Hollywood actor, Kirk Cameron of Growing Pains and Left Behind fame, in the lead role as a firefighter whose marriage is in trouble.

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