War Room

war room movieMy wife and I have been hearing about the movie War Room for months and finally made time to watch it together, this past weekend.

There were things I liked about the movie, as well as areas of concern.

My favorite theme was the focus on prayer and God working through the prayers of His people.  I also liked the depiction of prayer tending to first change the heart of the person praying.   I have certainly found this to be true in my own life.

Another favorite theme was the need to focus on right relationship with God and total dependence on Him, rather than focusing on human relationships and trying to fix other people’s dysfunction.  This powerful truth was portrayed well in the movie.

My primary concern with the movie is its perpetuation of the false and dangerous myth that all marital issues can always be resolved through prayer.  While one could argue the movie depicted a single scenario without explicitly stating it applied to every situation, this is a very common theme in most Kendrick Brothers movies, and the repetition reinforces the myth.  A survey of movie themes leaves a strong impression Kendrick Brothers is highly committed to this unbiblical myth and very intentional in proselytizing others to embrace their perspective.  Whether intentional or not, this is certainly a primary message most viewers will receive from a Kendrick Brothers movie.

In a nutshell, this perspective tells a troubled spouse that if they will just pray fervently enough, believe deeply enough, humble themselves lowly enough, and love sacrificially enough, God will always miraculously heal their marital relationship.

Frankly, that’s a lie!

It is a very dangerous lie holding too many abused spouses in bondage to their abuser for too many years. Click To Tweet

Yes, God does answer prayer in miraculous ways.  Yes, God will bring healing in relationships where both partners are committed to seek Him and pursue His heart.  However, God will not violate human free will.  If one spouse is determined to go their own way, rebelling against God in violation of their sacred covenant vows, God will not conquer their heart by force.

If prayer, faith, humility and love were guaranteed by God to always result in healed relationships, the Apostle Paul would not have instructed the Corinthian Christians to allow an unbelieving spouse to leave the marriage (1 Corinthians 7:12-15).

God has not promised to heal every human relationship. Click To Tweet

Jesus made it very clear He did not come for the purpose of healing every relationship.

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.  (Matthew 10:34-36)

I was also disappointed by the unrealistic reconciliation portrayed in the movie.  The husband was depicted as being very antagonisticly aggressive in interactions with the wife and daughter.  Yet he converted to a completely repentant change of heart without any boundaries having been defined or enforced by his family.  And, he had no further episodes of abusive behavior…no temptations to slide back into old patterns of behavior…just a completely new humble godly character.

While I hesitate to call anything impossible when we’re discussing the miraculous, to say the least the portrayed scenario is way outside the norm.  Most antagonistic aggressive character disordered people will never change without first running up against very strictly enforced boundaries.  Even then they are unlikely to change, and if they do, it will be over an extended period of time with strict accountability.

You know what I’d really like to see Kendrick Brothers produce? Click To Tweet

I would love to see them produce a really good movie depicting a realistic scenario of an abused wife learning to see past the lies, deceptions, and manipulations of her abuser.  The movie could show her learning to understand how much God loves her and how highly He values her.  It could show God redeeming her from that abusive marriage, protecting her through the divorce, and delivering her from the false doctrine that held her in bondage for so many years.

Now that would be a realistic movie with a solid Christian theme!

What do you think?


[Linked to Messy Marriage, Wild Flowers, Redeemed Life, Tell His Story ]


28 thoughts on “War Room

  1. Joe, that would indeed be a great film.

    The best Christian film I have ever seen is “Fury”. The producer made no bones about the message he wanted to send, and the quoting of appropriate Scripture in extremis is as affecting as anything I have ever lived…and yes, I can relate to the situation depicted at the end.

    Barbara saw War Room; I’m no longer well enough to go out. But she did tell me about it.

    I think your criticism is justified, and speaks to a larger failing in the ‘modern church’; Jesus is seen as sort of a spiritual Bob Vila, who, when asked politely, will fix all temporal problems. You just have to have faith!

    Rubbish. We live in a world in which not only people, but ‘natural processes’ have free will, or its analog. Cancer does not leave Christians because o their faith, nor is it ‘sent by God’ (a view which makes me apoplectic). It’s a part of the world in which we are free to choose sides, and exists, in its random attacks, for that reason. I have no doubt there are miraculous healings, but these, as the ones shown in the Gospels, fulfill a larger purpose. The recipient is the means to an end, and the end is the furthering of a message.

    Bad things happen, and it’s a requirement of the call for us to choose God, and not turn away. They’re not ‘sent’. They’re not designed to move us ‘into His arms”.

    They happen, and He is waiting to help us through.


    • “Jesus is seen as sort of a spiritual Bob Vila, who, when asked politely, will fix all temporal problems. You just have to have faith!”

      Well stated, Andrew!

      And when we are overly focused on spiritual solutions to temporal problems, we miss the whole point. That it is all about relationship with Christ. That everything in this life is temporary. And that what God does promise is to be with us through all of life’s difficulties.

      Thank you!
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

  2. Thank you for sharing your insights, Joe. Very well stated.
    I agree that a more realistically based movie should be produced. It should also show the difference between a true church and a false ‘c’hurch. Many have been further scarred from spiritual abuse especially with pat phrases like, “We’ll pray for you.” … and then send you back into the abuse.

    • “…pat phrases like, ‘We’ll pray for you’… and then send you back into the abuse….”

      So true!

      I am reminded of this passage in James 2:

      “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?”

      People can be so blind!

      I am so thankful God does not leave us helpless. Rather, He redeems and delivers us from abuse and bondage!

      Thank you, HIH!
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

  3. Thanks for your insight into the movie and for seeing some good in it. You bring out some thoughtful perspectives. I liked it as an inspirational escape film. You now something of a Christian fantasy that took me away for awhile. I have seen the power of prayer. But you’re right. There should have been a depiction of the couple’s working through their difficulties, perhaps through scenes that showed counseling or well set boundaries.

    • I certainly don’t have anything against good escape fiction, whether in book form or movie form.

      However, it seems to me that fiction with an overtly Christian theme has a resonsibility to offer more. When we purport to present God’s truth, we have a responsibility to present it well and meaningfully…in a way that leads us to think outside our predefined paradigms.

      Actually, this is the very reason I tend to not read much Christian fiction. I expect it to hold a higher standard than many authors aspire to.

      Thank you, Katie!
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

    • I should add, this is what I liked best about your novel, ‘The River Caught Sunlight.’ You did not settle for a normal status-quo depiction of conventionally viewed Christian living. Rather, you challenged readers to step outside their paradigms and see life from a different perspective…with a little less legalism…and a bit more grace.

      I expect this even more from movies with an overtly Christian theme. Such movies should take advantage of their broad popular appeal to challenge us. If all they do is speak to a 99% conservative Christian audience to reinforce existing paradigms and prejudices, then what’s the point? Nothing is really accomplished and everyone goes home seeing things exactly as they saw them before watching the movie. IMHO, movies with an overtly Christian theme really should do more than provide an entertaining fictional escape.
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

  4. I loved your post about this Joseph and I agree. I myself left a 14 year abusive marriage where the man himself does not believe in God. So how can I expect prayer to fix this. Not saying I have not tried. I did forgive him and release him to God as he is out of my control and I have prayed daily over him. Sadly he has not changed and this has been since last June. He is amazing at finding all the faults in me but yet sees none in himself. I don’t recall all the times he ever beat me because the last and major time he beat me with a SAFE. Multiple blows to the head leaving huge bumps on my head for weeks. My memory is not what it used to be because of this event. It didn’t entirely wipe it out but my children remember the details of the event more because they witnessed it. This was the final straw that broke the camels back when I walked out last June 2015 never to return. I have found strength in God now and leave the rest up to him because all I can do is forgive and asked to be forgiven of my sins. I don’t know how you feel about tattoos but I thought it interesting the title above said Redeemed. I have that tattooed on a cross on my wrist. I would love to connect with you so feel free to friend request me on facebook. Links below.

    • Amanda –

      Welcome to the blog!

      I am so sorry you had to endure such abuse! I am so thankful God has led you and your children out of that bondage, and trust He will continue to lead and guide you.

      I love the tatoo! I love Christ’s redemption!

      You might enjoy reading my page titled, “What is Redemption?” That word has come to mean a lot to me! http://josephjpote.com/what-is-redemption/

      Blessings to you!
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

  5. I haven’t seen the movie, but I think the key is both in a marriage seeking God to help overcome issues. If both aren’t seeking relationship – then I would think overcoming these marital challenges would be overwhelmingly difficult. I like how you say, “God will not conquer their heart by force.” I’ve always told my boys that God is not like their mama. Their mama will just bulldoze in to try to solve a problem, but God waits for you to ask him. In terms of movies (and literature), I think we need more movies with redeeming endings rather than movies that leave its characters in a pile of hopelessness. Too many movies are like that today.

    • I absolutely agree about the need for redemptive endings!

      However, the overall message needs to be realistic enough to be beneficial to viewers who are in a situation similar to that depicted by the movie.

      In this case, the movie starts with the depiction of an abusive marriage. Then it resolves it with an unrealistic fairy-tale resolution that virtually never happens in real-life. That is neither helpful nor hopeful to viewers in abusive marriages. In fact, one of the reasons people stay in abusive relationships as long as they do is exactly this sort of thinking…that if they can just pray harder, try harder, love deeper, somehow it will all work out.

      Movies with an overtly Christian theme should do better!
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

      • Thank you for this reply.
        I’m still ‘here’ after many years because of: “… one of the reasons people stay in abusive relationships as long as they do is exactly this sort of thinking…that if the just pray harder, try harder, love deeper, somehow it will all work out.”
        I’m emotionally and physically exhausted; the thought of moving is overwhelming but I would love to if I had a better support system … this is my ‘reality’ and am praying for a way to be released from bondage.

        • I also stayed way too long in an abusive marriage due to the “I just need to try harder” philosophy. That’s an over-simplification, of course…but in a nutshell that’s what I was doing.

          HIH, are there any women’s shelters in your area? Some of those are really good at providing support when leaving an abusive marriage. If you’re not sure, the Domestic Abuse Hotline may be a good place to start.

          Praying for you, this morning, that God will provide wisdom and insight, and will open doors of opportunity to you.
          joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

    • I really liked this post, Joe! I read another one on ACFJ and when I shared it, wow, I got quite an unexpected backlash. I realized Christians don’t like anything that interrupts their fantasy with facts.

      On another note, I think it would be good to caution those of your readers who are maybe just learning about abuse, that often those in the church are duped by the offender showing outward signs of “seeking relationship” when really they are looking to maintain or regain control, and they may be pressured into reconciling before (or if) the time is right to do so. Although I am past that point, I clearly remember when I first landed on an abuse website 2 years ago, I was reading every word and taking every word to heart because at the time, I did not realize how extensive my education would be!

      • Very good point about the abuser’s manipulative deception, Debby! Thank you for pointing that out.

        It’s hard to cover every aspect well in a single blog post, but I do address the abuser’s deception and ally-gaining on other posts, including this one: http://josephjpote.com/2016/02/cynical/

        Thank you, for bringing that important aspect into the discussion!
        joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

  6. I loved the movie War Room and yet I understand your concerns. If I were counseling someone struggling with his/her marriage I would point out all that you mentioned.

    I would support the movie you are advocating – I wish someone would pick up your movie ideas and your teaching about marriage.

    Miracles happen every day and what happened in the movie absolutely could happen but like you my heart would be broken if someone stayed in an abusive situation or felt like a failure because his/her prayers didn’t get the same results.

    I love your writing!!!!

    • Yes, God can act in a manner consistent with the movie…and sometimes does. And, yes, we do need those testimonies of God acting in a powerful way to restore a marital relationship.

      However, for abusive marriages, restoration is not the most common way of seeing God act in a powerful way to aid His child. More often, the abuser’s heart is too hardened for true repentance or sincere reconciliation…and we see God move in a powerful way to redeem His beloved child from that abusive relationship, delivering them through the divorce, and drawing them close to Himself as He guides and protects.

      In modern Christian culture, we have too much emphasis on restoration stories and not nearly enough stories of redemption and deliverance from abusive bondage.

      Thank you, so much, Jolene! 🙂
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

      • I agree completely. In my 20s I was in two abusive relationships (one divorce and one annulment). It was devastating and a rougher journey to wholeness than it had to be because of everything you mentioned.

        I would so support your movie – let’s pray that doors get opened. Until then you are helping get the message out with your writing.

  7. I’ve been reluctant to see this movie—exactly because of the reaction you had to it. I appreciate Christian films and do hope they succeed, but they must drop the “everybody is totally happy” endings. It actually does the teachings of Jesus a disfavor when we depict following the Way as a magic genie who will fix all our problems. As long as we are in relationship with other human beings here on earth, we will have difficulties.

    Granted, I definitely believe Jesus helps us make those better! But not every marriage is going to be saved through prayer, nor child healed, nor job obtained. Those aren’t the things Jesus promised, but rather peace, joy, and love in the midst of whatever life brings.

    Thanks as always for your honesty, Joe. I still may see the film sometimes; I know it does have redeeming qualities and many of my friends were inspired by it to pray more frequently and fervently.
    Lisa notes recently posted…When you want to, you’ll be enabled toMy Profile

    • Yes, I initially had little interest in the movie, for the same reason. But when my wife suggested renting it, I replied, “Sure! Either we will really enjoy it or I will have a good topic for a blog post.” 😉

      Yes, I completely agree that we do the gospel message a great disservice when we act as though the purpose of a relationship with Christ is to resolve all our temporal issues. That is, in fact, a false gospel…whether intentional or not.

      In many ways, more secular movies, such as “Steel Magnolias” or “The Color Purple” are actually more faithful to the gospel message, by showing the presence of God’s comfort and peace through horrific circumstances.

      Thank you, Lisa! I always appreciate your comments, my friend!
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

  8. I liked your review. I saw the film recently and I enjoyed it but I did think it was unrealistic that everything was tied up so neatly and I totally agree that it’s dangerous and untrue to give the idea that all relationships will be fixed by one person praying. This is the only Kendrick Brothers movie I have seen so I wasn’t aware that it was a common theme but I share your concerns and I like the alternative movie plot you suggest.

  9. Joe I alway enjoy hearing your thoughts on everything you post. Curtis and I saw this movie and loved it. We agree with you about the praying in the move and the other things you have said. You have also give me some thing to think about too. Thank Joe you are very good are a very good writer. You alway give one food for thought. Thanks.Your cousin Betty Jean (Pote) Hartman

  10. As always, I love your voice and thoughtfulness, Joe! I especially liked your clear statement about families setting boundaries and prolonged periods of accountability. Have you read the book, “Unclenching Our Fists: Abusive Men on the Journey to Nonviolence,” by Sara Elinoff Acker? Fascinating, sobering, and exactly what you said! From former abusers themselves.

  11. Hi Joe,
    I agree with this post. I’m sick of thinking I didn’t pray enough or have faith enough for God to move and consequently for the x-anti-husband to change. And I spent years begging God and the x-anti-husband to show me my sin and what exactly I was doing to cause abuse toward me. NO ANSWER. Must have meant I was so evil that I couldn’t hear the answer, right? Wrong. I was in bondage by a liar.

    God knows what I need. Of course I’ve call out to Him and of course more than once! People here on earth have a RESPONSIBILITY to do what is right and that’s largely just NOT happening IMO. God IS Judge. He’s not some hippy who loves everyone. He sees EVERYTHING. And if the seething wickedness in this world is very apparent to us – how much more to Him!

    Also praying for people who refuse to repent and do right is no longer what I do. I ask God for justice and I run the other way. I see evil and I HATE it. I don’t have sympathy or empathy for it and I certainly refuse to make friends with it or excuse it. I call evil evil and good good. But the “church” says I can’t do that. Interesting.

    Your idea for a new movie is right on IMO. Id add throw a feel good cliche filled pastor or two who shame her in there and show the secret personal life of the judge too. Perhaps hear the thoughts of other women in church an community as they condemn her and gossip but smile to her face. And hear the thoughts of government agency workers and police as she pleads for protection and they make excuses and flat out refuse.

    This IS reality folks and we cant just sit back and say “it’s God’s will, He can do this or that!- so because He hasn’t acted then it must be their sin that’s causing this problem. Good day!” THATS NOT RIGHT!!! God is RIGHTEOUS. People are responsible to do RIGHT. And those who belong to Him DO! Thank you.

    • Anony,

      I spent years thinking if I could just pray more fervently…just believe more deeply…just love more sacrificially…that somehow, someway, God would intervene and heal my marriage.

      I did see God work in powerful ways. But God will not violate human free will.

      I eventually had to face the horrible reality that the woman I was married to was intentionally malicious in her behavior toward me. She wasn’t trying to be loving and failing miserably at it. She wasn’t hoping to be godly and falling short. She wasn’t being defensive against unexpected triggers. She was intentionally malicious…hurting me on purpose just to hurt me…just because she could.

      It takes a long time to adjust to such an unexpected reality. And when ‘helpful’ Christian ‘friends’ keep giving advice on the assumption that the situation just needs more prayer, patience, love, and faith, it just prolongs the misery. That sort of ‘help’ is not helpful.

      I am so glad you escaped that abusive environment! God is faithful!
      joe recently posted…War RoomMy Profile

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