Friday, August 31, 2007

Rebellion of Thought, Post Modernism, The Church and the Struggle for Authentic Faith

There is a new documentary that is sure to cause waves in the world of Christianity. Just as some of the debate over George Barna’s book Revolution is about to settle down, it is as if someone has thrown a giant boulder into the water to cause waves in the same measure of thought and reasoning as the Barna book. Waves that support in part, the premise of Barna’s book Revolution. A premise that many in Christian circles, especially the “organized,” “established,” and “traditional” church will have issue with. Rebellion of Thought does more than cause waves though, it takes us to an understanding of Post Modernism, while at the same time understanding the struggle of those who attempt to follow the teachings of Christ while balancing that with what many churches have become. In an intelligent, academic, intellectual, moving, and entertaining way, the documentary takes us beyond a point of just looking at Church, what that is or should be, it causes us to think and struggle with the concept of where does those involved in church go now.

Exploration Films and The Brothers Williamson, Kent and Brad have done an incredible job with putting this documentary together. While I am hesitant to mention this as a “Christian” company, I am pleased to say, that the quality of film making, the editing, sound, and so much more is a thing of beauty. I have to admit, I love the documentary form. I never really quite realized this until looking at my recommendations at NetFlix but it didn’t take long to see that yes, for some time now I have loved this form of film making when done well. I have seen any number of Christian themed presentations in the past that seemed preachy, poorly done, and so forth, it was with some hesitancy that I reluctantly viewed Rebellion of Thought, and let me tell you, am I glad I did. Academy Award Documentary Winner Paul Wagner stated this film was; “Visually and intellectually rich… Exciting and provocative… it will make big waves in the world of faith and spirituality!” While often times hesitant to take promotional material and give credence to it, I found myself agreeing with these comments.

In my discussion with film makers Kent and Brad Williamson recently I freely admitted that at first I thought this documentary which explores Post Modernism somewhat academic, even running the risk of going over my head. There were wonderful interviews that explored the origins of Post Modern thought but the initial academic style was more like school than a film. This was necessary though for us to understand that Post Modernism is a concept we have heard a great deal about over the years, and it is a form of thought and philosophy that has greatly impacted our society. During the early moments of the film, it is filled with the language of academia. Various professors from fields such as philosophy, religion, media, communications and more talk about the role Post Modernism has played on Western Culture. I have to admit, if the documentary would have stayed here, I and many others may have quite easily gotten lost. What transpires before our eyes though is one of the beautiful things about documentary film making.

Many are critical when a documentary film maker injects their own thoughts into a project. I am one of those who actually find this at times satisfying. The Williamson Brothers do something here while exploring Post Modern thought that moved me from the point of being a reviewer, to a point of caring about the subject matter being presented, and ultimately questioning my own thoughts and practices not only in how I see and understand my faith, but how I as a spiritual person, live my faith. This component of film and the exploration begins to take place as we see The Williamson Brothers begin to question their own thoughts and understanding of the world we live in. We see this as they struggle with their faith and practice and an incredible thing happens, we see this in such a way that it moves us, the viewer, and it causes us to struggle. This takes place so much so that days after seeing the screening I find myself thinking about the subject matter of the film.

Rebellion of Thought takes us on a journey that not only entertains, it challenges. Without giving away a spoiler for the film, we see this journey and these questions being asked and discussed in a respectful way with individuals on the street. It is a film that while certainly Christian in origin, will garnish the respect of those of other faith values. While The Brothers Williamson are unapologetic about their faith, they ask questions that don’t just have an impact for those within their faith value, but all people. We see the dramatic impact of this illustrated in the closing, shocking moments of the film. Something many documentaries don’t have, and don’t display. The conclusion forces us to think about realities, and questions in today’s world. It forces people of faith to evaluate their own beliefs and practices. For Christians, just like Barna’s book Revolution, it also calls into serious question the operations and methods of the church in the Western World.

If you can’t tell by now, I loved this film, but then again, I loved Barna’s book Revolution because it forces thought, and challenges individuals of faith to actually look at their values and practice of those values. I know the hate mail will begin, it already has for The Brothers Williamson and I saw a taste of that right after my interview with them on my radio program The Virtual Pew Live. I received several emails attacking George Barna, and any group that would challenge the church. That is okay though, because the message given, if listened to and applied will make one evaluate their faith and practice. I can’t see that as being anything other than a good thing.

On a scale of 1 – 10 for the number of letters in the word Rebellion (Which I would challenge us all to be a part of.) I pleasantly give a score of 9 for what may end up being one of the best documentary films of the year.

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