When we were young and living in New Jersey, we used to hear about every forthcoming Billy Graham movie months ahead from our church leaders. We were urged to attend and to bring someone with us and to pray that the good news was broadcast to many in our area. Times have certainly changed. We saw no movie previews (who could afford them?), heard nothing from our Christian friends, but we happened a week ago to pass a movie poster at our local AMC theater advertising “I’m in Love with a Church Girl” by the Reverence Gospel Media Films (RGM) and we decided we must come back next week. We were delighted to attend a “Billy Graham”-type film made for today. As in the past, up on the screen, we saw people struggling with moral issues, citing the Bible (as they would in any Christian setting), praying, discussing become a Christian, and eventually coming to church to meet and hear a pastor (as opposed to going to a Billy Graham crusade). However, these Christian families drank wine, the heroine wore short dresses and low cut blouses, and lived in some opulence (with a built-in pool in back). Nevertheless, as in Christian films of our youth, we heard the same message, but now expressed as, “If God is in it, there is no limit!”
We were drawn into the movie, “I’m in Love with a Church Girl,” by the marvelous acting. As the two young Chicano/a main characters, Miles and Vanessa, struggled with the issue of transformation, they conversed, but Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins and Adrienne Bailon always kept our interest with their expressive faces, voices, and body language. Especially moving was Atkins’ prayers to a mighty stained glass-paned Jesus. In fact, all the actors did a fine job, evidencing strong direction by Steve Race, a solid story, and screenplay by Galley Alexander Molina, and careful production. And what seems unusual for Christian movies these days, the women, as in real life, were not only devout characters, but strong ones as well. For a change, it was refreshing to have a heroine confident and assured enough in her faith in Christ to remain steadfastly sexually moral despite temptation. God can indeed use mothers and girlfriends to bring around the hardest cases, and friends do bring around friends. Interracial friendships and marriage were also presumed to be normal. The music was delightful, especially the Reggae-oriented “Rain Down” by the New Breed Africa. Many individuals, churches, and organizations appeared to have donated to the production of this bold movie.
What the movie had was conflict, complex characters who were products of an oppressive society whose main avenue for success was sports or drug-dealing for minorities struggling to stay on the side of good, when everyone else is participating in evil activities. Pastors are found in opulent church buildings or driving a car most of us have not only never seen, but can’t even pronounce, like the hipster worship pastor (played to the max of cool by rapper T-Bone). Meanwhile, parishioners are fueled at Sunday worship, Bible Studies, and faith-based stores, but must live their lives out in this world. This is not “Hoodlum Priest.” The film is not minister-oriented. No pastor appears at the hospital when characters are sick or hurt. This film is basically parishioner-oriented. This is why it seemed like a Billy Graham movie – the pastors were found in the church building (as in the auditorium), not out on the street. But, at the same time, this is a work of art and the need to enter a sanctuary to find Christ is symbolic of leaving the world for God.
What was missing, at least in our area, was the support this interesting film should have had. Only five of us attended the Friday 7:00 p.m. opening screening in our area. We didn’t bring anybody ourselves, because we had no idea exactly what this movie was or what to expect. So, we write this blog to encourage you to go in your area and bring any friends who are considering Christianity or are Christians needing encouragement that our faith is still relevant in today’s world.
“How can they hear about [the Lord] unless someone tells them?...How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14, 15).
So, should we love “I’m in Love with a Christian Girl”? We did. We were not only edified ourselves, but we believe this movie can both edify others and also give Christians a film venture we can support.
Aida & Bill