The Blind Side
I like Thanksgiving. I could overly spiritualize my position at this point, but instead of glossing pastoral I would like to gloss selfish. One reason I like Thanksgiving is babysitting. I am thankful for babysitting. We live some hours away from our families, so for Thanksgiving we are usually out of town with parents/grandparents. In my mind this translates, “You haven’t seen your grand babies in a while, Shannon and I are going to the movies.” I like Thanksgiving because it is about the only time of the year in which we get a chance to go to a movie that isn’t a cartoon. This year’s Thanksgiving kidless date movie was The Blind Side.
The Blind Side is about the rise of an impoverished black teenager who is adopted by a wealthy Christian family. This unlikely adoption gives young Michael Oher opportunity. Taking full advantage of the chance he is given, Oher eventually becomes a first round draft pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Yes, this is a true story. Even before the movie, it was a story I was interested in. It is about football and redemption. Two themes that seldom hold hands.
I would highly recommend the movie. It is one of the best I have seen in a long time. Being that I see a movie about once a Thanksgiving, my recommendation may not mean much. Yet I, like everyone else, am inundated with previews. I am educated enough to know that Hollywood is excellent at producing dung and charging you $10 to smell it. So in my mind it is refreshing that someone associated with big film picked a good story to portray, one with a redemptive theme, a happy ending, that actually challenges the moral soul of man.
As a pastor I am always blindsided by the number of “Christians” who are quick to grab onto any movie with a subtle Christian theme and wave a banner saying, “This is us.” When Mel Gibson created The Passion, the church unfortunately declared, “He is ours,” then came Apocalypto and the dark side of Mel Gibson. When Ms. California said something decent about marriage, once again, the church said, “She is ours,” then came a sex tape. Are Christians now producing Christian pornography? All I am saying is that when there is a movie in which there is a prayer scene, let’s not wave our flag immediately. Let’s take it slow. Which makes my next statement all the more interesting. With The Blind Side there has been very little Christian flag waving. Maybe I am out of the loop. No surprise! As a pastor I usually get a promotional packet declaring ten reasons why Superman is a must see for my church, or how I should teach Sunday School using themes from the Beverly Hillbillies. With the release of The Blind Side, I received no packets wanting me to rent a theater for my flock. So what’s the deal? Maybe the lack of flags is because The Blind Side has a less than subtle way of saying to the white suburban church, “This is you.”
Usually, when it comes to portraying Christianity, Hollywood doesn’t have a clue. In one of the opening scenes Michael Oher is walking through the entrance way to his new educational experience in a white suburban Christian School. Engraved in stone is, what I think is supposed to be Matthew 19:26, but instead reads, “With man this is possible, but with God all things are possible.” I hope Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, which is the school portrayed in the film, doesn’t actually have this misquote in stone. If so, they need to get out the chisel and add an “im” on the man side of possibility. When I saw this seemingly “chisel-o” I thought to myself, “Here we go again, hollywood, humanism, and Jesus.” Then we meet the Tuohy’s. Very wealthy, very republican, and what seemed to be “christian” because it is the decent thing to do when you are suburban, white, republican, and rich. Enter Michael Oher, who turns out to be more of a mission to the Tuohy’s than the Tuohy’s to Michael Oher. Over and over again, once the relationship was formed, the theme became, “How serious are you about this relationship?” It seemed like their unexpected addition to the family challenged their friendships, their own prejudices, and more importantly their version of faith. There is a great line in the movie that to me, best represents the whole paradigm shift. Sean Tuohy, played by Tim McGraw, looks at Leigh Ann Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock and says, “Who would have thought we would have a black son before we ever met a democrat?” Even in the end the NCAA investigates the theme and asks, “What is this really all about?”
As a white, suburban, pastor considering the upstart of a Christian school, The Blind Side hit me from an unexpected angle. The film challenged introspection, when it comes to my version of faith, “What is this really all about?” Am I more interested in a safe version of the suburban Jesus or the redemptive, more dangerous version of The Christ? The film forces you to wave a convicting flag for the white suburban Christian and say, “Sadly, this is us.” But as Michael Oher and the Tuohy’s teach us, we are flawed, but there is hope.
I recommend this film to everyone, as the rating implies, over 13. Free commercial, Sandra Bullock is great. If Leigh Ann Tuohy is really that sassy and funny, we need to pray harder for her husband. He has married a hilarious version of the buzz saw. If the film portrays his character accurately, he knows it and loves it. Warning, there is a good deal of course slang and one or two intense scenes. Yet, after seeing this film, I would use it as a starting point for open, honest discussion with my congregation.
My short review of The Blind Side is simple, this is a meaningful movie.
Thumbs up for The Blindside. Look for my next movie review in November 2010! Happy Thanksgiving.