Saved! not as controversial as it seems

The Courier (Houma, La.), 17th June, 2004

Saved

Some Christians have criticized Brian Dannelly's teen movie "Saved!" as mockery, while others believe it's a harmless comedy that leads to positive discussions about faith.

After reading the arguments from both sides and coming from a Christian background, I took a trip to Harahan this weekend to see the select-theater production and make my own judgment.

While some scenes and dialogue will probably bother some Christians, the movie in itself portrays a true picture of how non-believers and some more conservative Christians view the actions of fundamentalist evangelicals. Nothing seemed grossly exaggerated in the tale of a clique of hardcore Christians, led by Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), and a few outcasts at a Christian school.

Each character in "Saved!" has several real-life counterparts that many people have probably met at least once in their lifetime. Many of the evangelical Christians probably don't realize how they act, and it has caused some to label the movie as a satire. However, if one looks around the around the church and some of the religious schools, they'll see some of this movie.

For example, when Mary (Jena Malone) gives away her virginity to help make her gay boyfriend straight, she worries about pregnancy. Christian teen girls are taught that nothing could possibly be worse -- not even death -- than being pregnant. Instead of reaching out with compassion after her mistake, the Christian Jewels at American Eagle Christian High School, like some fundamentalist Christians would, ostracize her and believe she's possessed by a demon.

Mary's boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), is immediately sent to Mercy House, a boarding school for those who have committed a major sin. The depressed Mary is not comforted by Christians, but a couple of non-believers at the school including the wheelchair-bound Roland (Macaualay Culkin) and Cassandra (Eva Amurri), a Jew. The film reveals how some evangelicals judge and intimidate others without thinking about feelings.

The movie also exposes not the battle between Christians and non-Christians, but between each other and how to reach non-believers. While Christians are the villains in “Saved!” they are the heroes too. Patrick (Patrick Fugit), the most accurate picture of a compassionate, conservative Christian, changes the outcome of the movie for the good. The villains admit their wrongdoing at the end and seem to genuinely recommit their lives to God or continue to seek for him.

But without more characters like Patrick in the movie, the film does fail to show an accurate and fair portrayal of the entire Christian community. For every Christian that lacks tolerance and acceptance of others, there are handfuls more that display true love and compassion for those who share different views and those hurting.

Nevertheless, if the film prompts conversations about faith among teenagers and adults, Christians should welcome the opportunity. And if some fundamentalist Christians realize that people aren't converted through Christian T-shirts and forceful preaching, but by building relationships and trust, then the film should be a success and blessing for Christians.

Even many non-Christians realize that not all Christians are like the ones portrayed in the movie. While the film is real to life, it only reflects a minor percentage.

“Saved!” a United Artists release, is rated PG-13 for profanity and mild sexual content. Running time: 92 minutes. Rating: 3 out of 5.

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