I recently watched the 2014 Christian movie, Redeemed, which was produced (in part) by Pure Flix Entertainment, the company that gave us the movie God’s Not Dead. As is the case with a number of Pure Flix films, David A.R. White played a significant character.
Redeemed is about marital fidelity and guarding one’s
marriage from adultery. In this movie, Paul Tyson is a Christian, a
devoted husband, and a businessman, but he is tempted when a beautiful
representative of a Brazilian company, Julia, visits his company to see
if her company should do business with his. Paul makes excuses to see
Julia and lies to his wife about her. In the meantime, a couple he
knows from church has recently split up, and the husband, David (played
by David A.R. White), tells Paul that this was because his wife fell in
love with a man she met online.
Paul receives conflicting messages about what he should do. He sees a
therapist of a seedy fellow employee, and the therapist tells Paul that
being attracted to another woman is natural and so Paul should not
worry too much about it. The therapist is a bit surprised that Paul
considers this attraction a problem, especially since Paul has not
crossed any lines and committed actual adultery. David, however, tells
Paul that Paul is treading on pretty serious territory. David refers to
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:28 that looking at a woman and lusting
after her is adultery of the heart. When Paul responds that nobody
takes that seriously, David asks why Jesus said it if it wasn’t
important: was it to hear himself talk?
There is also a Brazilian pastor, whom Paul meets on a plane to
Brazil. Paul is going to Brazil to confess and to apologize to the
Brazilian company, since there have been shady dealings going on. Paul
also wants to see Julia. On the plane, Paul unloads his story to the
Brazilian pastor, who listens compassionately, asks him why he is not at
home with his family, and invites him to a Brazilian church, where Paul
can experience Brazilian Christian hospitality! Paul goes to that
church’s service and is convicted of his sins.
The movie had quite a bit of intrigue, but I do not want to get into
that in this post, since I did not entirely follow it, plus I want to
focus on the movie’s theme of adultery. I’ve read a number of
post-evangelical bloggers or listened to post-evangelical podcasts, and
they have problems with the sort of message that the movie conveys.
They do not respond to the movie itself—-maybe they have heard of it,
and maybe not—-but the movie expresses prominent conservative
evangelical messages about marriage and adultery: that one can commit
emotional adultery, and that married men and women should not get too
intimate with people of the opposite sex who are not their spouse. Some
post-evangelicals say that it’s all right to be friends with people of
the opposite sex. Some go so far as to suggest that evangelical
teaching on marriage and sexuality can objectify people just as badly as
pornography does: when a man sees an attractive woman as a threat, for
example, he is objectifying her rather than viewing her as a real
I can somewhat identify with what the post-evangelicals are saying.
The portrayal of women as a lure that men should resist has contributed
to the stigmatization of women within Judaism and Christianity
throughout history, and, yes, it has objectified and dehumanized women.
At the same time, I think that there is something valuable to the
conservative evangelical message, themes that even non-evangelicals
appreciate and teach. Allow me to share with you two examples.
First of all, there was a presentation that I attended back when I
was a student at Harvard Divinity School. The presentation was about
how ministers should not become romantically involved with their
parishioners—-or, for that matter, people in authority should not become
romantically involved with people under their authority (i.e.,
professors should not date students). We watched a video, presenters
offered their comments, and the class split up into discussion groups.
One of the presenters said that it is perfectly understandable for a
person in authority to become attracted to someone under his or her
authority, but the person in authority should establish boundaries. If
he is going to an event specifically to see the person to whom he is
attracted, that is a warning sign. If their conversation becomes a bit
too hot, it is time to back off. While the subject-matter of this
presentation was a bit different from that of the movie Redeemed, both highlighted the importance of establishing boundaries.
Second, there was an anti-fundamentalist book that I perused years ago: Pathological Christianity,
by psychologist Gregory Max Vogt. Vogt tells the story about a woman
whose husband was a respected and loved pastor, and this pastor would
have golf games with another woman. The pastor insisted to his wife
that nothing was going on, but she still felt that he was giving another
woman the intimacy that belongs to his spouse.
Any lessons here? Probably be careful. The conservative evangelical
message offers warnings that should be heeded and that should encourage
the establishment of boundaries. But one can easily take boundaries to
an extreme that is not good—-they can discourage platonic friendships
and objectify people.