Christian Film Critics Publish “Outrageous, Disingenuous Lies” for God’s Glory

This week’s Film Forum contains dangerous material.

Christians are giving mixed reviews to The Nativity Story.

Some of them love it, some of them like it, some of them don’t like it.

Could it be that a movie might fall short of greatness, even if the story that it tells is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

Could it be that a Christian might still have misgivings about a work of art, even if that art is about Jesus?

Or is it a crime to point out weaknesses in a big-screen version of the Christmas story?

*Dr. Baehr of Movieguide tells us that those who have negative responses to the film are liars, and incapable of dealing reverently with Bible stories.

“The most negative responses to the movie reflect a clear inability to accept any movie that deals reverently in any way with beloved Bible stories like the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Dr. Ted Baehr of the Christian Film and Television Commission in a released statement.

“Don’t buy these outrageous, disingenuous lies,” Baehr urged moviegoers in a statement. “‘The Nativity Story’ brings the Gospel alive in a compelling, captivating, entertaining, and inspiring manner that shatters expectations. It has one of the best scripts of the year.”

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UPDATE #1:

In my first note, I merely repeated what I have read in other responses to Movieguide: That “Dr. Ted Baehr” does not actually have a doctorate. But this time, I was wrong. And I apologize for the error. Apparently, after years of calling himself “Doctor,” Mr. Baehr has finally received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Belhaven (a school that, incidentally, does not offer any doctorate programs). Earlier, he was just a JD (juris doctor), which is essentially bestowed upon all law school grads, and never used as a title . . . unless you’re Mr. Baehr.

But now that he has been given an honorary doctorate, well, I won’t be questioning the claim… anymore.

UPDATE #2:

I have received a corrective from Dr. Tom Snyder of Movieguide, telling me that Baehr was referring only to mainstream critics, not Christian film critics. And Snyder has accused me of pulling Baehr’s comment out of context.

But here is the article I quoted, which begins: “Some movie reviews of The Nativity Story bashing the traditional portrayal of the Christmas story left one Christian film critic outraged.”

“Some movie reviews” is not specific enough for me to infer that he meant only mainstream reviewers. And whatever the case… is it responsible for a Christian film critic to read some other people’s opinion of a movie and declare to the public that they are “liars” because of their feelings about it? Is it admirable to declare that they have “a clear inability to accept any movie that deals reverently in any way with beloved Bible stories” simply because they found The Nativity Story to be flawed artistically? That’s what I call presumption.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • RC

    huh, this is interesting…thanks for the great linkage…i have missed a few of this upcoming titles…especially the sword of peter.

    it would be excellent if any of these films were quality and grabbed soem public attention.

    –RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

  • Sheila West

    I heard a story from the pulpit once:

    A missionary to India had been evangelizing an Indian man for a number of weeks and gave him a New Testament to read. After finishing the text, the Indian man came to him to talk about the four Gospels and said, “This Jesus is most extraordinary. He was able to reach ascension after having lived and reincarnated only four times.”

  • Geoffrey S. DeWeese

    Thought it was “interesting” to note that on the website for the Reserection pic you linked to it’s genre is listed as “fantasy drama.” Fantasy??

  • Victor

    The only “outrageous, disingenuous lies” any Christian film critic has published on THE NATIVITY STORY was if any of them said the film was watchable. What a hunk of dead wood. TNS is dead. Dead. Dead on the screen. As dramatically inert a film as I’ve seen this year. Almost made me want to convert to Islam.

    Fortunately, I saw Mel Gibson’s APOCALYPTO right after. All hail Kukulcan!!!

  • Justin

    Baher is a victim of his own shallow views. I havent seen TNS yet, however I think it looks like a decent film. I can understand why it would not appeal to alot of people, and I still disagree with the fact that its a tame pg rated retelling. But I realize they want to market it to families. It’s just never going to escape that Christmas card mentality that we all seem to associate with the Nativity.

    Mr Baher needs to grow up.

  • Gene Branaman

    I liked The Nativity Story. It’s a good film. It is not great nor brilliant. I totally agree with both reviews by Steven Greydanus & Peter Chattaway re: this film.

    Methinks Baehr emloys hyperbole too much. I thought the script was very strong, not clunky like some critics, but “one of the best scripts of the year” . . . ? No. This film is simply not in the league of Sophie Scholl. That is a brilliant script!

    Frankly, the most moving part of TNS was when the shepherds arrived at the cave. I liked the look of the film, & don’t at all agree with critics who found its tone inconsistent (realism toward the beginning & overtly sentimental toward the end).

    Ultimately, I agree with Barb Nicolosi: “It is what it is.” Nothing more. And it should be take as such. And welcomed as such. Until something better comes along.


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