24 March 2016 | kevin-38242
As good an argument in favour of atheism as I ever saw
You don't have to be a Christian or, indeed, a believer of any kind to enjoy movies (or books, or plays) that have Christian themes, or that clearly promote a message. Such themes are very subtly played out in Gabriel Axel's 'Babette's Feast,' less subtly in the Narnia stories and Lord of the Rings, and rather blatantly in, for example, Ben Hur, to give only a few examples. All these have in common that they tell engaging stories in either dramatic settings, or with vivid, engaging characters, or both.
'Do you believe?' has insipid, cardboard-cutout characters and no genuine drama whatever. I can't trash it completely, because it's decently acted with competent cinematography -- a slick package, in fact. So slick, in fact, as to be suspicious. This is a movie that is clearly designed to push a product, and any artistic or dramatic interest it might raise is clearly a device, directed toward that end.
Although the movie is frequently described as "Christian," in reality it promotes a particular kind of US, affluent, protestant Christianity. One of the characters is a tame pastor whose role is merely to expound the doctrine of substitutionary atonement and keep everybody on message. I suspect that if you were, say, a Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, that message would grate on you almost as much as it would on an atheist.
It wouldn't be so bad if the message were not delivered in such a plodding, heavy-handed manner. All the Christian Characters are shown as self-sacrificing, noble, and charitable; everybody else as in some way defective. The non-Christians exist solely to act as foils to the Christians, and highlight their Godly virtues.
I know from personal experience that most Christians are as prone to be conflicted and self-interested as anybody else, even if they aspire to higher ideals. But there's little sense of that aspiration in the movie -- even the putative "bad guys" are just good guys who have fallen in bad company, and just need a little nudge from the Big G to become fully-fledged saints. There's no sense that anybody struggles with his or her faith, or is put into real danger by it. The biggest risk that any character in the movie faces for standing up for his principles is to lose his job. Big deal -- it's not example martyrdom, is it? If you are already a Christian -- in particular, a protestant evangelical Christian -- then I guess this movie might give you a warm fuzzy. Anybody else, anybody who can look beyond the slick facade and see the not-very-subtle manipulation, will wish we hadn't stopped throwing Christians to the lions.