Some people are going to love it and others are going to hate it. But everyone should watch it! Believe Me promises to be satirical toward Christians, making light of nearly everything they hold sacred. So why should you watch a film that makes fun of your sacred beliefs, habits and traditions?
We should all be educated about how we appear to the outside world. It’s easy to limit our exposure to like-minded people and develop a “safety zone” where we are not ridiculed for our beliefs. But even Jesus opened himself up to people who called him a drunk and an adulterer. Sure he had a safety zone, a buffer of his closest friends, but the rest of the world was his mission field. Have we made the perimeter of our mission field into a safety zone? Jesus had the advantage of knowing what was in the hearts of his revilers. Do you know what lies in the hearts of your mission field? Do you know how to respond to their cynicism without being offended?
Though it ridicules, it also affirms. While the four main characters entertain themselves at Christians’ expense, they also acknowledge the sincerity of the believers they are traveling with. As they interact more and more with their tour-mates, the security that the Christians have in Christ causes the four mockers to questions their own belief systems. By the end of the film, the Christians who have been ridiculed most harshly are the most respected. They are portrayed as sincere people living out their convictions, even if it’s done imperfectly.
It offers up refreshingly three-dimensional characters in an age where most filmmakers (even secular) like to stereotype. Believe Me doesn’t have “good guys” and “bad guys” as much as it has “mostly bad guys with some good sides” and “mostly good guys with some bad sides.” Each character is unique, with his or her own set of internal conflicts and agendas. Even the supporting characters are well developed. The film pays tribute to the complexity of each person’s spiritual journey and the various stages of growth in which people find themselves. Many Christians resent being held to a sinless, perfectionist standard or being cast as holier-than-thou, ignorant, easily duped or hypocritical. Non-Christians often resent being portrayed as base, unthinking people who are “deluded” or simply evil saboteurs of the faith. Do we really want stereotypes in our movies, or does vulnerability and honesty make a better case for Christ’s redeeming power? You decide.
It raises some excellent questions. Honest films are inevitably more believable, more entertaining and more effective in making us think. Though it may not be helpful to raise a long list of unanswered questions, the practice of raising questions at all in a film is extremely important. A movie that has no central disagreement, that doesn’t argue both sides of a point, that doesn’t validate opposing views as legitimate and important, is just a mashup of propaganda. Believe Me raises all kinds of questions, but only answers a few. And those few answers aren’t spoon-fed to the audience. This approach is ideal for a film that wants a broader reach, because it allows the Holy Spirit to dictate which messages people take away from the film.
It teaches us how to reach the unbelieving world. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it to say that Believe Me offers one of the most realistic treatments of what happens through lifestyle evangelism in today’s generation. Of course there is a time to share the Gospel, point by point. Of course there is a time to invite someone to church. But this film shows what must precede those things if we want to develop discipleship situations and keep birds from carrying away the good seed (Matthew 13:4). Developing relationships that foster forgiveness, grace, patience and reconciliation helps an unbelieving world see Christ before we ever mention his name.
You have to see the ending!! Some of you will hate it and say “…Wha-?...” But I absolutely loved it!! Here is a tip: Just sit there long enough for it to sink in as the credits roll. The message will be loud and clear. I LOVE THIS ENDING! (Did I mention that I love the ending?)
In short, don’t let the idea of this film keep you away from it. Most of us have thicker skin and a greater ability to laugh at ourselves than we think. Most of us can appreciate a film like this if we already expect satire going into it (we do this all the time with secular movies). We have a more savvy sense of comedy than we give ourselves credit for, and if we go into it wanting to laugh, we will.
If we go into it looking for something new to learn about ourselves and our neighbors, it will be worth our $9 ticket. It will also be worth our unbelieving friend’s ticket. A film like this may give them the freedom to laugh, share, and watch us respond to criticism. It gives us an opportunity to be resolute in faith when we are opened up and exposed as vulnerable. Our willingness to laugh at ourselves may open some powerful doors of conversation and camaraderie.
Believe Me opens in select theaters and everywhere On Demand on September 26. For local times and theaters or to stream it On Demand, visit the official website at http://believemefilm.com.
ADDED BONUS: If you want to prepare in advance to discuss the film with friends you bring along, or if your church or small group wants to engage in lively debate after the movie, check out this INCREDIBLE discussion guide. It’s one of the best I’ve seen!