Part 2 of Beaches, Bikinis, and…Bibles?

Posted By on April 13, 2011

If you haven’t read Part 1, please click HERE first!

Part 2 of Beaches, Bikinis, and…Bibles?

By Carmon Friedrich

Last night, I took my daughter to a movie that has been heavily promoted by Christian outlets (you can read a positive review by Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn Online here, along with some of their caveats), and praised by Christian friends. Soul Surfer is the story of Bethany Hamilton, a Christian girl who bravely faced a horrible accident, a shark attack that cost her one of her arms, a tragedy made even more difficult because she was a competitive surfer.

I remember when the accident happened in 2003, and because 13-year-old Bethany was homeschooled, it was a poignant story for me; I was among those inspired by this young girl’s courage and hopeful that her trial would be a testimony to the Gospel of Christ as she had a platform to share her faith in Jesus to so many people. Looking at her website, Bethany is very open about her Christian faith. However, this message is not strongly presented in the movie.

There were lots of mixed messages in Soul Surfer. Because the real story of Bethany has elements that were left out of the movie, it is hard to criticize it without people coming to the real Bethany’s defense. I have not read Bethany’s book about her experiences, and looking at her website I am impressed by her desire to give thanks to God in Christ for what He has done in her life.

The concerns Stacy and I have about the movie have nothing to do with the real Bethany and her genuine testimony, though she and her family, according to stories I’ve read, seem to be pleased with their portrayal in the film. Our concerns stem from the watered-down message of the movie. It is syncretistic with worldly philosophies, from the gratuitous portrayal of lots of tanned and sexy bodies, to the ephemeral references to “faith” and “love,” to the humanistic message of personal success and fulfillment, unmoored from the importance of doing all things for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

In this movie, it seems that the glory mostly goes to a girl who refuses to give up in the face of adversity, a feel-good message, but one that could be presented by any secular motivational speaker.

Slip Sliding Away

In Part 1, Stacy already mentioned the dearth of real Christian content in Soul Surfer. Some places in the film almost get it right, but miss the mark by a mile by misapplying Scripture (see the PluggedIn review linked above for ways the non-Christian producers attempted to further minimize the Christian content).

For example, when Bethany first decides to try to compete after losing her arm, her father tells her it won’t be easy, and she says, “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.” When he replies, “With you, anything’s possible,” it evokes for believers Matthew 19:26, where Jesus says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Because we are so used to sewage coming from Hollywood, it’s easy to embrace a movie that shows a family that goes to church, talks about faith, and prays before eating. But, using a sliding scale for what we promote as a “strong Christian message” is where we get into dangerous territory.

If our standard is based on something being better than bad, we are building our house on the sand. Just because this story involves beaches doesn’t mean we are safe on that kind of shifting foundation. Our foundation is the unchanging Word of God. Our Lord said in Matthew 7:24: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (emphasis added).

There were several places I noted “listen to your heart,” self-esteem, or personal fulfillment messages. When Bethany had given up her dream of surfing after a disappointing experience in her first competition after losing her arm, then begins to think she will try again, she asks her father for guidance: “What am I supposed to do now?” He tells her to “pray, and listen for what comes next.”

He does not pray with her, however, and there is no caution about looking for answers in God’s Word as our hearts are prone to deceive us when we look for answers there (see Jeremiah 17:9, and the entire chapter, for beautiful words of encouragement about not trusting in our own strength but being utterly dependent upon God).

Later, when she is preparing for her comeback, Bethany’s father gives her advice about how to choose the right waves so she doesn’t waste her strength: “Listen to your instinct–trust it.” Though this might be common surfer advice, in the context of the previous conversation and the not-quite-right emphasis on looking within rather than to God for help, it comes across as mysticism rather than biblically-grounded counsel.

When Bethany wows everyone with her amazing come-back at the end of the movie, and everyone is proud of her for her tenacity and courage, as well as admiring her great skill in spite of missing an arm, she asks her mom, “What am I supposed to do now?” Mom replies, “You’re supposed to enjoy it, all of it, for the rest of your life.”

Enjoy “it”? What does that mean? Bask in the glory she gets from winning? Be happy with herself that she didn’t quit? This is far from the message of the Bible that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23) and “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us what our chief end is—our primary purpose in life when we belong to Christ: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Him, not “it.” If that is not our focus, then we are making an idol out of our own self-fulfillment and not giving God the glory that is due only to Him. We must glorify the Creator, not the things He created.

Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie Yellow Christianized Bikini

Stacy spoke strongly about the immodesty in this movie. I called it gratuitous, and it was. All the talk I’m hearing about surfing culture and Hawaii standards notwithstanding, I was offended by the nakedishness of most of the people, young and old, men and women, in Soul Surfer.

This is not a prudish problem, it’s a problem with that shifting cultural sand again. There are wide-ranging standards within which we can agree to disagree about what constitutes modest dress. I have been the recipient of disapproving looks from women who are “homier than thou” in layers of frumpy clothing, something I think can be argued is sometimes immodest in the way it draws attention to itself and cultivates an attitude of self-righteousness through dress.

But, what we wear does matter. Everything matters to God, and what we wear on the outside comes from what’s in our hearts. I have sometimes made an idol out of my appearance by looking in the mirror too often and being more concerned with what’s on the outside than what’s on the inside. So what about the beach bodies in this movie?

The beach attire was so skimpy, that it barely covered breasts and genitals. The mother and father in the film were often dressed in “clothing” that revealed their tanned and ripped bodies, which was disconcerting in light of their ages (Helen Hunt is almost 48, Dennis Quaid is 57) and their portrayal of Bethany’s parents.

The video clips of the real Hamilton family during the end credits shows a mother who would not look appealing in a swimsuit, but, looks like a very sweet lady; and, if authenticity was indeed a factor, I don’t know why Helen Hunt was chosen to portray her over someone who was more motherly and less sexy.
In the last scenes of the film, when Bethany shares an award with her most difficult competitor, her father’s shorts are so low on his hips while he’s cheering that I was concerned about a wardrobe malfunction. I think the men’s immodesty in the movie needs to be addressed as well as the women’s.

The Hawaiian surfing scene may involve a laid-back attitude toward this attire, but the biblical injunctions about modesty and nakedness are the standard in this case, not that shifting sand again. Isaiah 47:3, Exodus 28:42, Leviticus 18:6-18, Genesis 9:22-23, and Habukkak 2:15 all refer to the shame of nakedness or the sin of uncovering another’s nakedness to look on them.

We see in John 21:7 that being improperly clothed can be considered “naked,” when Peter made sure to cover up before getting into the water to swim to where Jesus was. If we are desensitized to the unclothing of our culture, then we need to conform our thinking to the standard of the Bible, not to the context of the culture.

As God’s “called out ones” (ekklesia, the Greek word for Church), we are to be a distinct people of God, pursuing holiness, not cultural compromise. This is to be done always with an attitude of humility and patience, but we are still to reprove, rebuke, and exhort from the Word of God (II Timothy 4:2)…always remembering what we ourselves deserve and what God has given us in His grace and mercy, lest we make idols out of our own pride in our “godly attire.”

If we are not clothed with the righteousness of Christ, we could be wearing a burkha and still be immodest. That does not excuse falling off the horse on the other side, however. Law without liberty is tyranny, liberty without law is license (“By no means!” –Romans 6:2). But the law of liberty (or truth AND love –II John 1:3…or spirit and truth–John 4:24) are joined perfectly in Christ Jesus, the One we must please and obey.

I know that there are many people who will watch this movie and not even think about the problem of modesty. It’s a problem because we are desensitized like the frog in the boiling water, and maybe this movie has created a good opportunity to talk about that!

Creating Eunuchs

It’s a well-known fact that many men have a problem with pornography, something that was addressed very biblically and carefully in the Christian film, Fireproof. Putting larger-than-life bikini-clad teenagers in front of Christian boys and men and then telling them to not lust, but to discern the Christian message in the movie, is ignorant at best.

If men do not have a problem with seeing women who are virtually unclothed, then perhaps we ought to wonder what that indicates about their sexual health and consciences.

When King David noticed Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop, he reacted as any normal, healthy man would–he was aroused. At that point he had a choice: he could keep looking, or he could turn away and refuse to indulge himself in lustful thoughts. He did the former, with terrible results. We need to teach our sons to deal with the cavalcade of immodesty, but we don’t have to intentionally place them in the path of it.

Exercising self-control is an important practice for all Christians. Yet, if we expect our husbands and sons to be functional eunuchs who have an on/off switch when it comes to their God-given sexuality, we may desensitize them in ways that have deeper consequences than we expected.

As a mother of seven sons, I want each of them (and my husband!) to be excited about his own wife’s unclothed body, and studies that show “overexposure to erotic stimuli exhausted the sexual responses of healthy young men” concern me.

This is not about a couple of church ladies who expect us all to be desexualized robots; we are actually concerned that the blithe acceptance of immodesty among Christians will be detrimental to their families in this area, as some shrug at what is a deep and beautiful gift from God to be enjoyed only in the context of marriage.

That He reserved nakedness for the privacy of marital intimacy shows God’s grace to us, in that Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness after they sinned; yet, He properly clothed them and redeemed their ability to enjoy each other as husband and wife.

Some are quick to defend the skimpy attire and surfer subculture as long as they “love Jesus.” But, those whose pagan culture is characterized by nakedness, or close to it, often change when they come to Christ. Peter Hammond, a long-time missionary in South Africa and the Sudan, wrote about his concerns with young American Christians who come to help him on short-term missions trips being a stumbling block to newly-converted-from-paganism Christians in Africa.

Some Christians treat even the ungodly practices of pagan cultures as sacrosanct and like Captain Kirk’s crew they have a “Prime Directive” to leave those cultures alone. But, the regenerate believers in some of the darkest places, when they have new hearts, want to live new lives, inside and out. If they were naked, they put on clothes. If they mutilated their bodies, they stop. Hammond says:

African cultures value politeness and hospitality highly. So unless you probe and ask lots of penetrating questions you will never know that you have offended your hosts. They will continue to smile and be friendly even as the door slams firmly shut to further ministry.

For example, in Africa, it is generally considered a disgrace for a man to have long hair. This is not only cultural, but Biblical: “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonour to him.” (1 Corinthians 11:14). Yet you will see many long haired and pony tailed men heading out “to evangelise the pagans in Africa” oblivious to what a “stumbling block” they are.

The Good Parts

Though I think it missed the mark, there were some things in Soul Surfer that I appreciated:

  • Bethany’s mother shows real concern over her daughter’s (and her husband’s) obsession with surfing and competition. She wants her daughter to find her identity elsewhere (though she never says that it should be in Christ).
  • Bethany is very concerned for her friend who was there when the shark attack occurred. Later she is gracious about her friend having an opportunity that she is missing out on because of her accident (a photo shoot, which Stacy discusses in her review). Though the scene itself was problematic, Bethany’s heart toward her friend showed selflessness.
  • The family in the movie is very close with one another, and Bethany’s brother and father are protective of her when she comes home from the hospital to an onslaught of media outside their home.
  • Homeschooling is mentioned in a positive way.
  • People who are suffering disabilities are portrayed as valuable and there is a lot of encouragement about not giving up because you have a physical obstacle.
  • Bethany is very kind to a girl who has been nasty to her, and she thanks her for not going easy on her because it has helped her to try harder and do better. Because of Bethany’s kindness, she eventually wins over her “enemy.”

What Could They Have Done Differently?

When the movie ended and the video of the real Bethany was shown in the end credits, I enjoyed watching her much more than the fictitious Bethany, especially when she did give credit to Jesus Christ for her success. I still did not like to see her in a bikini in a couple of shots, but I noticed that in many of the videos and photos of her, she was wearing a t-shirt or top that covered her up, even when she was surfing.

If a movie has to be made about this story (and I think there’s a discussion for another time about whether it needed to be done in a feature-length movie, rather than a documentary), the constant exposure to the bodies of the actors was not necessary to the telling of the tale. They could still have had a good and authentic story without exposing so much flesh.

Stacy and I are sympathetic to some reactions to criticisms of the movie, and we want to reiterate that we are only addressing the film and not Bethany herself. I believe that one of the reasons this is a problem at all is because we are lazy. We want easy answers to how to dress, so we often either dress in a frumpy way that covers our bodies or in a sleazy way that looks like everyone else.

It’s hard to find lovely things to wear that aren’t immodest. I was looking for a dress for my teenaged daughter to wear on Easter, and every pretty dress for young girls is about a foot too short. It takes a lot of work to help our daughters dress beautifully and appropriately. The answer isn’t to be as plain as possible. God’s called-out ones ought to be distinct in their loveliness…inside and out.

We are not gnostics who either act as libertines or treat our bodies as indifferent. We need to keep taking dominion over this area and be the trendsetters and problem-solvers who demonstrate what beauty truly is.

We also need to stand firm against spiritual syncretism. God will tolerate no other gods before Him, and His people ought to be very jealous for His rightful place in our lives and our culture. Syncretism with self-esteem, generic religious messages, and feel-good stories will lead people astray. They need the message of the Gospel loud and clear in a story that is touted as a Christian tale, else we are creating idols for others to worship.

Idols in Our Hearts

A couple of weeks ago I took my daughter to a women’s conference that discussed idols we all create in our hearts. Ever since then, we have been mulling over the welcome reminders that we are prone to daily place all sorts of thoughts and objects in the place of honor that belongs to God alone.

Because of what God’s Son, Jesus Christ, did for us–condescending to become a baby who grew into a man, living a perfect and holy life, and suffering and dying for our sins, then giving us His righteousness so we can live holy, set-apart lives to His glory–because of all that, we ought to be grateful women who are anxious to please our merciful God in every area of our lives. Yet, we still cling to our pet sins and justify our compromises, setting up sad idols in the place that rightfully belongs to our just, holy, and loving Father in Heaven.

We all do this. I was humbled as the speaker told stories about herself and women she’s counseled, who indulged in prideful, angry, and petty personal hurts in their idolatry; but, I was even more convicted as she spoke of how we even make idols out of good things when we take the focus off the Giver of those good gifts. We need to focus on His glory rather than our own desires, even if we have “good” motives for those desires.

It may be that we want a good marriage, godly children, peace and unity in our churches, or health. But, when our happiness comes from saying, “If I only had this…”, no matter how noble that goal, we are idolators. I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and it has given me much of which to repent.

There is a lot of confusion in our culture over things of much deeper import than just how we dress. Most people think they can get to Heaven by brownie points and they judge themselves by that sliding scale…”I’m not that bad!”

That’s not the standard God uses, and we must give them a warning and give them the hope that is found in Christ alone, and what He did for us in His life and His death and His resurrection. “Repent of all that displeases God and turn to Him for salvation” is what we should model and speak. Being a Soul Winner is much better than being a Soul Surfer. To God alone be the glory!

You can visit Carmon Friedrich at Buried Treasure Books as soon as she has it back up and running, which, hopefully, will be very soon!

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About The Author

Stacy is the wife of Pastor James McDonald of Providence Church and Family Reformation Ministries. She is the mother of ten precious blessings, and the grandma of 3 1/2 treasured cuddle bugs, so far! Surely, she is and does other things, but these are the most significant to her. Stacy is also a conference speaker, the author of Raising Maidens of Virtue, and co-author of the popular book, Passionate Housewives Desperate for God.

Comments

11 Responses to “Part 2 of Beaches, Bikinis, and…Bibles?”

  1. kcar38 says:

    Thank you so much for this gracious and truthful review.
    My daughter was wondering if our family could see this movie. She watched part of a trailer for the movie and reported to me that we could absolutely not see it for the nakedness that she saw just watching the trailer.
    Most people won’t let their children out in their Hanes/Playtex/other underwear, but it’s okay when the underwear is brightly colored and contains spandex?
    I am only touching on the modesty part of your review, but appreciate all else entailed as well. Thanks again for taking the time to write.

  2. AmyM says:

    Hi! I’m fairly new here, though I’ve been enjoying reading my way through the archives. Much food for thought.

    I really appreciated these reviews. I had seen a trailer for Soul Surfer, but had no idea it was even supposed to have Christian content at all. Very recently, I heard folks at a church we’ve been visiting (am in a new community and still seeking a church home there) talking about the movie being an “amazing witness”, so I was starting to wonder whether I had missed something in the trailer. Having read this, I have to say that I find it sad Hollywood feels the need to downplay or even censor Christian faith in movies.

  3. Abbysmom says:

    The most recent issue of Ladies Home Journal arrived in our mailbox two days ago. They had an article about the real Bethany and the support she received from her family, especially her mother. There were two photos — one with Bethany in a T-shirt and pretty short shorts, and another with Bethany and her mother (Cheri) where Bethany is wearing a one-piece bathing suit (somewhere lower necked than the one-piece suits that L.L. Bean or Lands’ End carry) and her mom with a conservative, high-necked black suit (or a sleeveless T-shirt and shorts).

    The article was inspirational and did describe Bethany’s effort to enter competitive surfing again and a foundation she’s set up to work with amputees and shark-attack survivors, as well as the making of Soul Surfer. But except for Cheri saying that she prays for Bethany when she think Bethany might be in danger the article had no spiritual content at all.

    This was very disappointing, IMHO. I know Ladies Home Journal isn’t a magazine with a target audience of adult Christian women. However, every now and then they have articles about women who have overcome adversity in any number of ways and have credited their faith in God or Jesus and/or ways that they saw the hand of God changing their situation. The marriage counselor(s) in their “Can This Marriage be Saved?” column sometimes encourages couples who profess to be Christian to start returning to church. So I don’t quite get it.

  4. bandersenz says:

    Thank you for your information regarding your opinion about this movie. My comment is about your opinion. I post on this site occasionally, but the reason today is at the request of my 17 year old daughter. She is curious as to why you would even attend this movie knowing it’s title about surfing and the ultimate costume choice of swim attire then write an entire post against most of it and promoting yourself as being God’s viewpoint.

    Didn’t your own post appear to give evidence that a Christian should have nothing to do with such?

    “The Hawaiian surfing scene may involve a laid-back attitude toward this attire, but the biblical injunctions about modesty and nakedness are the standard in this case, not that shifting sand again. Isaiah 47:3, Exodus 28:42, Leviticus 18:6-18, Genesis 9:22-23, and Habukkak 2:15 all refer to the shame of nakedness or the sin of uncovering another’s nakedness to look on them.”

    If your heart TRULY is convicted in this area by your obvious opinion and as much scripture as you quoted, then why did you go? Has not God given us his truth in his Word to live by? You keep referring to holding up God’s standard. From your own words, you do have a different mind set (or something) because you described the real mother as “not appealing” and then made this reference, …”looks like a very sweet lady. ” LOOKS? (outward, inward, heart, flesh???)

    “The video clips of the real Hamilton family during the end credits shows a mother who would not look appealing in a swimsuit, but, looks like a very sweet lady; and, if authenticity was indeed a factor, I don’t know why Helen Hunt was chosen to portray her over someone who was more motherly and less sexy.

    My 17 year old daughter would like to know how you deserve the right to determine who is appealing or not and what is your determination of sexy?

    Your view of sexy must be coming from the world’s definition. Why is it wrong to let the sun, (created by God to give health to our bodies while we pursue work/exercise) result in making our bodies tan? How can hard work and sun be determined to be wrong in your eyes? We can only surmise that Adam and Eve were in pretty decent shape for working all day long outside in a garden while getting tanned by the sun. She would not fit your description of “motherly” at all….and she is the Mother of all. Also, by your deduction, she would not be a “sweet lady”. Doesn’t leave many women who are tanned and in shape much room for being godly mothers. And you…” must be the trendsetter and example?” by your own declaration.

    She also says that you are truly looking to the world for your standard because of stating that you cannot find decent dress for your “teenage” daughter. If “teenage” is the adjective you would use to describe her, then enough said.
    Plus, why even look to the world’s apparel choice? My daughter has always been told that she is a lady. Therefore, she has not associated herself with other “teenagers” as the world calls them. As a popular Christian book describes in its frontispiece, “Mirror, mirror on the wall. I’m a maiden, after all.”

    My daughter is a lifeguard. She was determined to learn to swim after a near drowning incident. She was nine years old at the time. Upon this venture, she was concerned about wearing a swimsuit that showed her body out in public. She was timid about it, and innocently so. Her purity came from her lifestyle. She had not read a book, a blog, or gone to a conference for the information, nor did we ever TELL her what she could and could not wear or instruct her in the same. She ultimately became a competitive swimmer and now guards for the community and wears regular swim attire. Probably not to your standards, but a must for the job and to properly pursue her exercise.
    When church organizations rent the pool during her shift she has commented that their insistence of making the girls wear t-shirts over their clothing creates a safety issue for the staff. Also, the staff chuckles because the “covers” show more of their outline of their body rather than a properly fit suit which holds it in and does not create movement and catch your eye. Oxy-moron. But in all senses, these people have probably been Christian peer pressured into this practice because of the way we have become as Christians in the world today…as described below by my daughter:

    “It is a sham that so many “Christian” people give opinions and blogs and write books giving advice to other “Christians” and even posting a check box survey as to how people should dress? Then, have everyone “join the club”.What IN THE WORLD is that? pun intended. Have people no conviction when it comes to living and walking in the truth? Does not God do a good enough job by convicting us ourselves? Sin is sin. You learn to walk with him, listen to him, obey him and live. Too much proud big business the other way. ”

    Obviously, a person of your published significance on modesty would never have even attended this movie.

    “We are not gnostics who either act as libertines or treat our bodies as indifferent. We need to keep taking dominion over this area and be the trendsetters and problem-solvers who demonstrate what beauty truly is.”

    Read that again. Please. You are literally saying that it is not in your hearts to do such because YOU …’HAVE to keep taking dominion over this area and be THE trendsetters and PROBLEM SOLVERS who demonstrate what true beauty is.’

    YOU do just that. YOU be the trendsetter. YOU be the problem solver. YOU keep blogging about how beautiful you are while you continue to inadvertently slam others and promote yourself and make money writing books.

    We will keep reading Ephesians Chapter 2, verses 8 & 9.

    Your opinion in our opinion is far from beautiful.
    To us, it is deeply rooted in the world’s viewpoint as per your own ramblings.

    As a parting gesture and honest acknowledgment,

    My daughter said…”Mom, you can sign it as being from me because it all was my questions and viewpoints. Also, if what this lady said is true, then ten years ago, when you were a runner, in shape, tanned and healthier than you are now I would not have learned to live by conviction the way I do now. It was then that you taught me everything about life and walking in truth. I developed my convictions as a little girl and they are from being with you 24 hours a day.”

    We also admit that we do not blog much so we may not be as eloquent in writing or giving opinion. To you who are offended, we apologize.

    Thanks again.

  5. Hi Bandersenz (I’m only assuming this is your name, since you didn’t sign your comment),

    I’m not sure if you’re addressing me or Carmon. For clarification, I wrote part 1 and Carmon wrote part 2 of the Soul Surfer reviews. Carmon said that she would address some of your comments later today, but I wanted to add a few things too. Neither Carmon nor I ever said that it was a “sin” to watch Soul Surfer (though it certainly may be for some people). Also, there is a distinct difference between watching something for pleasure or entertainment, and watching something critically to report on its content. Still, if the movie had contained obscene sex scenes or gratuitous wickedness, we would not have ever reviewed it.

    I’m sure you would agree that there would have been no way for us to review Soul Surfer with any sort of credibility without having seen it first. Or perhaps you’re unhappy that we reviewed it at all.

    Our goal was to challenge Christians to “think through” things. In fact, we received plenty of feedback from people who had already watched the movie, who had to admit what we said was true. One lady said she was all prepared to tell us to “lighten up;” but, after reading the review, she admitted that she had not thought through it all. She had gotten caught up in the story, and forgotten to be alert to the conflicting message she was sending her daughter. Another commenter said:

    I went to see it last night and liked it. So, I was sure I wouldn’t agree with her! But, she opened my eyes to some things I missed and didn’t zone in on. It is a good story and better than alot of Hollywood movies, for sure, but that doesn’t make what she writes about any less true!

    Another commenter said:

    I wanted to say she was being too critical, that she should lighten up and be happy it wasn’t another trashy Hollywood film! But she is right and I won’t be taking my kids to see it.

    In addition, neither Carmon nor I were “promoting” ourselves as “being God’s viewpoint.” That was an odd thing to say. We simply examined a movie that is being heavily marketed to Christians by Christians as some sort of “Christian movie.” Lifeway is even selling “Soul Surfer Church Kits,” complete with ready-made sermons, DVDs, and Bible studies to be used in churches!

    I found it ironic that you think we are somehow “promoting” ourselves by giving our opinion of Soul Surfer, while you freely give your opinion of “our opinion.” You finish your comment with:

    “Your opinion in our opinion is far from beautiful.”

    And then you share your daughter’s contrasting thoughts on how wrong we are, by quoting her on how right you are. But, I’m sure that wasn’t self promotion. ;-)

    My daughter said…”Mom, you can sign it as being from me because it all was my questions and viewpoints. Also, if what this lady said is true, then ten years ago, when you were a runner, in shape, tanned and healthier than you are now I would not have learned to live by conviction the way I do now. It was then that you taught me everything about life and walking in truth…”

    Again, Carmon will address your other comments later.

  6. bandersenz says:

    Hello Stacy,

    Thank you for your reply. Yes, you are exactly right, I was promoting my own self and did not even realize it. By my own deception of pride, I was wrong. However, it made me think even further…if my daughter said it then I have obviously taught her that same quality and I am thankful that you pointed that out.
    I do admit that we all have different jobs to do as Christians and I truly appreciate your book and your ministry. I guess, by your other readers comments, some people don’t actually think about things and do need reviewers. And obviously, by my comment, some people think they DON’T need reviewers and obviously do.
    Thanks again.
    Mrs. Andersen

  7. Dear Mrs. Anderson,

    Thank you for the response to our reviews, though you may have gotten me and Stacy a little mixed up. I believe Stacy addressed the reason why we went to the movie in order to review it. We went knowing, based on the trailers and other reviews, that we would have some concerns about both modesty and content, but we also knew that because of the way it is being promoted as a “strong, Christian film” that we ought to give it a chance and refrain from a public review until we had watched it ourselves.

    You complain that I noticed the appearance of the real Mrs. Hamilton, and that I mention the “tanned” bodies in a disapproving way. I had already seen numerous defenses of the movie’s authenticity as the reason for the bikinis. The point I was making was that if authenticity was the goal, then Hollywood’s choice of glamorous parents would shoot that idea out of the water! You don’t like that I noticed Helen Hunt’s and Bethany’s real-life mom’s appearance, because “God looks on the heart.” The Bible does speak of what is in our hearts showing on our faces (Proverbs 15:13), and the joyful countenance of Mrs. Hamilton during the end credits did give her a sweet, motherly appearance, very different from the way the movie mother looked. This is just one instance in which the authenticity argument doesn’t fly.

    As for tanning…I have nothing against getting healthy sunshine by spending time outdoors! I only noted it in conjunction with showing off the bodies of the actors in the movie, who were often dressed scantily, and not just when they were surfing. Being tanned and in shape has nothing to do with being godly…you are right on that, but I did not say it didn’t, I only mentioned that the exposure of those bodies in a gratuitous way was inappropriate.

    Finally, I want to address your misunderstanding of my call to ALL Christian women to be thinking more deliberately about how they dress by being “trendsetters and problem-solvers who demonstrate what beauty truly is.” Neither Stacy nor I think WE are the last word on how all other women should dress! In fact, I welcome friendly discussions of how we can continue to glorify God in every area of life, including our appearance, which the Bible does speak to in many places, including a very direct command from I Timothy 2:9 that women dress in “respectable” or “modest” apparel. I Corinthians 10:31 says that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is why I mention gnosticism, the idea that ONLY what is spiritual matters (or only what is in the “heart.”) What is in the heart matters most, but it does influence how we live among others, as well as how we relate to God. And what we wear can bring glory to God, or not. It can also cause others to stumble, and we are responsible to exercise caution in our relationships (see Romans 14:20-21) for the sake of others. The inside and outside BOTH matter to God.

    I hope you and your daughter will continue to depend on God for wisdom on how to dress to please Him in every situation, to His glory.

  8. Mrs. Anderson – Thank you for hearing me. Your humble response blessed me today. May the Lord bless you and your family as you diligently seek His face.

  9. billious says:

    Hi Stacy,

    Just a heads-up that there is a documentary available of Bethany’s story, though I haven’t seen it myself. She also has a book of her story, Bible-study materials and other products aimed at teenagers.

    http://www.word.com.au/details.aspx?ProductID=556723

    Regards, Bill Stolk.

  10. fatherof4 says:

    Living near the beach, I don’t see the big issues with bikinis. They are everywhere and as such are not really noticed. In fact, women wearing one piece swimwear stand out, and a woman who wears a t-shirt and shorts while most everyone else is wearing considerably less draws attention to herself. (immodest?)
    I haven’t seen the movie, but I doubt what is shown will be that much more revealing than what I see at the beach.
    I don’t understand why we (as a society) have equated nudity with sexuality. I think this has led to more problems than we realize.

  11. conservativation says:

    Two points…first about the paragraph I pasted below:
    ——————–
    Exercising self-control is an important practice for all Christians. Yet, if we expect our husbands and sons to be functional eunuchs who have an on/off switch when it comes to their God-given sexuality, we may desensitize them in ways that have deeper consequences than we expected.
    ———————-

    I am so very glad to see women strong in faith making this statement. I participate in several online Christian forums, and it has become quite popular to tell men to take our sex drives and “nail them to the cross”. Actually its not just women saying that, its overzealous recovered porn users who, like folks who recently stopped smoking, feel that have a “word” for the rest of us. There is an entire ministry I know of that outright denies that fact that men have a natural intrigue from the nude female form. The man who runs it isnt just saying that arousal is a problem, he is saying that any level of intrigue at the sight of scanty clad or nude women is a conditioned response, not part of male sexuality, and must be purged. I guess he sees a world were we COULD all be nude all the time I guess. And an incredible number of Christian women seem to desperately want that message to hold….that they just KNOW that THEIR husband is not ever thinking of sex (men are reported to think of sex a lot yes?) and basically that their man is EXACTLY like them in terms of sexuality, and that what that means is he has achieved her level of holiness regarding sexuality. Im so weary of being kept back on my heels by Christian women (and men who simply want to please these women) about my actual sexuality, which is something god gave me, and contrary to their claims is NOT an excuse for me to sin. that it exists doesnt mean its an excuse.

    second point, regarding the Christian message in that and other movies.

    I have mixed feelings on that. Those movies that get raved about by church groups, like Fireproof, Giants, Grace Card, all those….frankly the movies are AWFUL. Im sorry, but they are just horrible, the acting, the cliche way the message is presented, the lack of reality and the grit that challenges us daily in the world, the pat answers, the sudden conversions and revelations, its all just terrible, yet without exception when one comes out the churches are renting theatres and saying these are the best things ever, and generally painting an image of us that is just not good. Do not mistake my point, I am not suggesting we need to be secular to be good. Im saying that movies that somehow convey a Christian message AND real life speak to unbelievers far better than Grace Card ever will. I loved Grace card, I cried at it. But, its a lousy movie and isnt accomplishing much more than lathering up church groups.

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