Churches would love all youth to see Soul Surfer

Not just because Bethany Hamilton’s story of triumph over adversity is admirable, but because the makers of the film (and her parents themselves) made sure the audience would know just how wonderfully Christian she is, thus should use the movie (and the inspirational literature tie-in) to help themselves, and likely convert others. From the Christian Post:

Global Media Outreach, formerly the media arm of Campus Crusade for Christ, announced Tuesday that it has partnered with several national youth ministries to develop a website to share the spiritual story behind Bethany Hamilton’s inspiring life. The online ministry hopes that Hamilton’s story and personal testimony will engage youths into thinking about their own faith life.

Since I never did have any plan to see this movie, I checked reviews and many of them are panning the film, or at least giving it average scores. As far as the production team goes, there might have been too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen. The Globe and Mail notes clichés in the script and plot lines. A.V. Club elaborates on that:

the film’s bubbly narration, relentless pop soundtrack, wearying MTV editing, and desperately intense positivity wash away most of her story’s drama, as well as any sense of reality. … there’s a sense that they’re trying to map Hamilton’s actual life over the conventional beats of a sports-underdog film. But the conventions mostly win, often in saccharine ways.

They aren’t entirely kind to the acting, either, but that often has a lot to do with how skilled the writers and directors are and how important they think it is to create a well-rounded supporting cast. Judging by the reviews, it wasn’t a priority. By the look of things, it was barely a priority to make AnnaSophia Robb’s portrayal as realistic as possible. Roger Ebert mentions the actress coming across as “eerie in her optimism” and likens the film to a parable rather than a true telling of this girl’s “harrowing” experience.

Using his own experiences in hospitals as a jumping off point, Ebert then wonders how those less capable than Hamilton might view her experience based on this film. I wonder how they view her unwavering devotion to a god who’s made it clear he’ll never heal amputees. Adding to that, do churches want all youth to take a leaf from this character’s good book and never complain (much) or falter in any way? Stop them from turning away from god-loving attempts to claim it’s all part of some master plan?

Quoting the Christian Post again:

The power of family, the importance of faith, and seeking God’s direction in life have proven to be important lessons for churches to teach. Outreach Inc., a church marketing and publishing company, has produced resources based on the movie’s positive, family-friendly themes for churches to utilize.

“Amid the difficult times we are all facing, Outreach’s ‘Soul Surfer’ resources equip congregations with the materials essential to walk through challenges, deepen their faith and strengthen their relationship with God,” remarked Eric Abel, vice president of marketing for Outreach, in a statement Tuesday.

Marketing aside, I think it can be good advice, and a good lesson, to show kids that if they’re able to face their problems with a positive frame of mind, a tragedy can be turned around. A setback shouldn’t be treated as an excuse to quit trying all together. Might have to rethink the method to achieve the goal, but if they want it bad enough, they’ll figure out a way to make it happen.

I don’t know if a church would even be the best place to get support in a situation like this. Something like the Amputee Coalition of Canada might be a better resource.

The Amputee Coalition of Canada was created to improve quality of life of persons with limb loss in their communities by providing education and opportunities to gain skills, lessons and coping techniques that increase confidence, connectedness, and sense of belonging. Through the ACC, persons with limb loss are educated on how to best engage in social and physical activities following amputation and how to incorporate these activities into their lives. The ACC relies on structured and validated programs, with the involvement of persons with amputation, to encourage a culture of support, networking, and active participation in life following limb loss.

By getting involved with groups like that, they can see for themselves how life goes on regardless of what’s been lost. They’re leading by example in a way a church cannot.

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