MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by Darrel Campbell. Starring Marshall Teague, Jennifer O’Neill
Five years ago television pundit Bill O’Reilly stated that our secular world had declared a “war on Christmas” that included such things as wishing folks “Happy Holidays” rather than the Christ-filled “Merry Christmas” greeting. The last time I checked, every town I’ve ever lived in has used both of those expressions without controversy, the public school’s Christmas program still included traditional songs about Jesus, Santa, and winter, and people were pretty good about respecting the rights of Christians, Jews, African Americans, and pagans to celebrate the holidays of their choosing. Since Christmas is still the best time of the year to demonstrate the love of Christ through sacrificial giving to those in need, as well as tell others about the love of God, I can live with the other stuff without shoving my faith down anyone’s throat.
Things are not quite so complacent in the small town of Mount Columbus. Town mayor/pharmacist/biker /patriot Bob Revere (Teague) realizes that the Grinch has come to his home town when his 14-year-old grandson (recently moved into town with his mom; his dad died in war when he was a newborn) has his Bible taken from him as he begins his first day of classes. “There’s no law against that,” the school janitor tells Bob. Sure enough, after checking with the principal, Bob finds out that Bibles are not actually contraband, but to be on the safe side…
If that wasn’t bad enough, the annual junior high winter program is no longer about Christmas, but it’s a winter space odyssey play (directed by a flamboyant teacher) in which the Nativity story is turned into a space adventure. Instead of Mary and Joseph, aliens from another galaxy come down to earth in peace, and familiar Christmas songs are given secular words. Obviously, it’s time to take a stand with your last ounce of courage and set things right. Bob is joined in his efforts by a plucky team of middle schoolers who are plotting to give the audience a Christian surprise on opening night.
This is simply an amazing film filled with all kinds of crazy stuff. Although Bob is the mayor, he doesn’t seem to know how city council works. There’s never any real indication that anyone in town is against Christmas; it’s just that pesky African-American civil liberties guy, Warren “The Hammer” Hammerschmidt (played by seventies blaxploitation superstar Fred “The Hammer” Williamson!), coming along to stir things up. And then the film brings in flashbacks about serving your country in time of war, to parallel our war overseas with the war on Christmas at home.
For a movie that strives to be patriotic, Bob Revere disrespects the American flag at least twice – once by using a flag as a protective cover for his motorcycle and then by flying a flag in back of his chopper that rivals the one in front of Perkins Pancake House.
The movie goes out of its way to say that other religions are guaranteed rights, but implies that for some reason the world is out to get the Christians. Such a defensive posture may cultivate a sense of self-righteousness, but it’s not likely to impress those outside of the faith.
But there’s hope. As long as CBS shows “A Charlie Brown Christmas” every year, I am sure that Jesus will get a fair shake on His birthday. You know, it’s really not such a bad little tree. “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, anyone?
Two halos: An earnest, consistently befuddling film about defending Christmas..
One pitchfork: For some war images
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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