“WAR ROOM”: Proceed, but with CAUTION
I saw the movie WAR ROOM and for the rest of that day I was on fire – not with anger, but with a renewed love for God. Before you dismiss this review, let me explain. I’ve since deleted my Twitter and FB posts raving about the movie because after reading a review about the dangers of this movie, I realized that I needed to explore my reasons.
WAR ROOM gave me a renewed sense of my devotional life. As a New Testament scholar and an ordained clergywoman I struggle with engaging the biblical text as a textbook and as the word of God. At times I wonder if I did myself a disservice by becoming a biblical scholar – questioning and analyzing and at times un-doing what I’ve been taught in my early “Christian” formation, what I thought was my faith. But it is important to ask these questions, to expose the patriarchal nature of these texts, and how they continue to be used to perpetuate many –isms today.
Nevertheless my devotional life has suffered. I have “issues” with the church – well, to be more accurate, some of its members – and after working all day with this textbook, reading it for the sole purpose of enhancing my relationship with God, it just doesn’t happen as it should.
I liked WAR ROOM because it reminded me of what my prayer life used to be like. Not the magical-Hollywood-prayers with its microwaveable-fast-paced and always affirmative responses as expressed in the movie, but rather, a prayer life that involves personal time with God. Time to “lay it all at the altar” and trust that no matter what happens, God will be with you. My devotional life used to include keeping a journal, writing prayers, and reciting scriptures that spoke to my soul; the movie included these practices. WAR ROOM reminded me about the importance of having a personal relationship with God, one that comes with personal time with God.
I must, however, admit that reading the review noted above tempered my affirmations, and even made me wary of my actions. Upon seeing this movie, I posted that it was “a marker in [my] life,” and suggested that watching the movie was a pivotal point in my spiritual life, and it was. I took what I needed from that movie – what I still see as an answer to my prayers about my devotional life – but I was careless. My overwhelming joy about rekindling my devotional life, blinded me to the patriarchal, misogynistic, and downright Christ-as-an-instant-fixer-upper themes that this movie puts forth.
Some Christians will be disappointed if God doesn’t answer their prayers in the “next frame” amount of time. And many more Christians will be disappointed by the ever-present message that if you pray hard you will always get what you want. What if what you are praying for isn’t in line with God’s will? That is why it is important to know that no matter what you pray for, no matter what you discern, and no matter how God answers (because God’s answer may be “no”), God is still with you. This is a grand oversight or omission in WAR ROOM.
As a professor and an ordained clergywoman, I need to exercise more restraint before I give anything or anyone a grand resounding “shout out” – especially without clarification, discerning other messages that can be interpreted, and even more than that, analyzing it for its messages concerning race, sex, class, sexual orientation, etc. – all the things that I teach my students to do. Social media is easy access, but that’s exactly why it is important to use caution. I cannot control who “shares” my posts, or those who follow me on Twitter, and thus, an unpacked message like “Go see WAR ROOM!” is a dangerous and careless move – especially if folk check my credentials and think I just may know some things (☺).
So, while this movie helped me to rekindle some devotional practices that used to feed my spirit – making time for intentional focused prayer with God – I was already equipped with the ability to ignore moments and messages in the movie with which I disagree. Not everyone is able to do this, and it’s been made quite obvious to me that ignoring something does not mean that it does not exist or is not problematic. I picked out what I needed from this movie (proof-texted it), but failed to examine its overarching patriarchal rhetoric and visuals. Lesson learned!
Would I still say go see the movie? Yes, especially if you are going to teach it, analyze it, critique it, or like me, just want to see about it for yourself, BUT…
PROCEED WITH CAUTION.