In his 2008 anti-religion documentary Religulous, Bill Maher is on a mission. His goal is to put religious people in their place once and for all by demonstrating how ridiculous and harmful their beliefs are. It is an astonishingly foolish film, with its sub–Michael Moore grandstanding and utter lack of self-awareness. In lieu of mounting a serious investigation into what makes faith—and the faithful—tick, Maher prefers to point a camera at whichever believers would agree to sign a release and then badgers and mocks them into oblivion. In only an hour and a half, Maher and his director conduct a master class in how to make a bad film about religion: Prize glibness over substance, treat people like props, and never interrogate your own assumptions.
Movies from Christian film studio Pure Flix are on a mission as well. As the studio’s stated purpose makes plain, they’re out “to influence the global culture for Christ through media,” and that single-minded approach is apparent in the media it produces and distributes. Pure Flix’s output and Maher’s Religulous couldn’t be farther apart on the ideological spectrum, but they represent two sides of the same coin when it comes to their inability to conceive of a universe that doesn’t conform to all of their presuppositions. It’s a failure not only of imagination but also of humility—a failure that may not trouble Maher but should trouble Christians.
It’s a relief, then, to find that Pure Flix’s The Case for Christ, released in theaters last week, makes an effort to shed the constraints of the “faith-based film” in favor of a more well-rounded vision. The film is only intermittently successful, but when it takes its own story seriously rather than treating it as a means to an end, it stands among the best films yet produced by the Christian film industry.
Read the full review over at Christianity Today.