The Fault in Our Reviews

Last week, I heard a “Plugged In” review of the movie, The Fault in Our Stars , on K-Love. I read the book - a well-written young adult novel by John Greene about two teenagers with cancer - about a year ago, after hearing countless students discuss it. Knowing my students would be talking about the film, I listened to the review with interest.

The reviewer talked about how the movie's one overtly Christian character was portrayed as “a goofball” before going on to say, “The film wonders aloud about life after death. It doesn't have any answers but it asks the right questions. Christianity doesn't seem to be even considered as the answer to life's big questions which is disappointing. The film also applauds physical intimacy outside of marriage, this time among teenagers. Even though there's so much positivity in this film, I can only give it a mere two out of five stars.”

A mere two out of five stars?

I know “Plugged In” - a ministry of Focus on the Family – is conservative but still, two out of five?

When I first heard this review, even though I had not yet seen the movie (which I watched yesterday afternoon), it angered me. It's the epitome of what frustrates me about the “in, not of the world” brand of Christianity.

Here's a book – and movie – that's captured the hearts and imaginations of today's teens. Even the reviewer admits it contains “much positivity”. Yet, rather than celebrate that, it's dismissed because of a scene that “applauds physical intimacy outside of marriage.”

How does such a reaction help anyone?

The fact that so many teenage girls flocked to this movie on opening weekend makes it an important one for anyone who cares about teens to pay attention to. It says something about the values and worldview of many of today's teens and as a result, by watching it, we might better understand teens we care about.

So instead of getting upset with the author of the book, the actors, or the filmmakers for portraying a Christian character as "a goofball", maybe we should instead ask,

- Might the portrayal of Christians in The Fault In Our Stars accurately reflect how non-Christians see us? If so, then what's contributed to that perception?
- What can we learn from the portrayal of Christians in The Fault In Our Stars about how others see us?

Rather than foster resentment between us and them, asking such questions might actually enable us to better relate to the world around us, and in the process, impact it for Christ.

In the end, the reviewer's right: “Christianity doesn't seem to be even considered as the answer to life's big questions.” But why should we expect it to be?

Why should we find it “disappointing” that a film based on a book that never claimed to be Christian doesn't portray a Christian worldview?

Maybe instead of rating this film for what it's not, we should appreciate it for what it is.

As the reviewer said, this movie is one “a lot of ladies are interested in”. It also happens to “ask the right questions”.

So, let's enter into this world of cancer, pain, and tears with our teenagers and use the very questions prompted by this film to point them to Jesus, who will one day “wipe every tear” from our eyes.

We can do that; Even if the movie itself does not. 

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

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