What does “Pro-Life Film” Mean? (With my top picks)

This past Sunday, I went to the opening of October Baby – a well-done pro-life film. It was especially well-done because it was not full of moments where you felt that you were being persuaded that abortion is wrong. Rather, it gave powerful portrayals of people trying to make sense of the past, to pick up the pieces and heal from the guilt and lingering emotional effect of a failed abortion twenty years earlier. The story taps into the transcendent beauty and power of repentance, forgiveness and healing. This puts it on my list of top pro-life films – at #4.

And what, you ask, are the three that surpass it? Well, they my surprise you, since two of the three have nothing to do with being anti-abortion. That’s right, I’m not using “pro-life” in the narrow, politically-charged sense. I’m thinking of movies that put a high value on life because life itself is a miracle, a gift from God, and that we can fight to preserve and value it with much. So my next pick is the Italian-made Life is Beautiful for #3.

It’s remarkable the way this movie continually dances between hilarity and tragedy, as a father shields his son from the dark realities of life in a concentration camp while making great sacrifices in the struggle to preserve the one he loves most. This one could readily be switched out for The Boy in the Striped Pajamasa flick set in the same era. However, since the former has the distinction of being the first movie that moved me to tears, and the latter gave my wife nightmares….well, I think you follow. But watch them both.

The next is a South African film.  In this one, a hardened street kid known as a criminal and killer accidentally steals a car with a newborn baby in the back seat. This starts him on a journey that forces him to think about life differently than ever before – as more than just survival.Coming in at #3 is the remarkable Tsotsi.

By the time you finish the last three recommendations, you may be tired of subtitles. Which is why I’ll recommend one that’s mostly in English, with only a few scenes in subtitles as the top pick. While this one deals with the topic of abortion versus life, Bella is a far cry stylistically from October Baby. 

The opening of the story moves a bit slowly, and many scenes leave you to observe and infer, rather than spelling everything out in dialogue. But if you sit back and enjoy the camera shots, you will be caught up in the breathtaking cinematography. This one takes you inside the mind of a young woman’s struggle to respond to a pregnancy she knows she’s not ready for – and takes her silent-but-strong friend on a journey into the guilt of his past. In the end, they find that the challenge pushes both of them toward the redemption they need. Much of the movie takes place in a restaurant, so I recommend that you enjoy this one in combination with some high-quality Latin American food (since if you don’t, the movie will make you hungry for it anyway).

        There are my picks – now give me yours in the comments. 

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The Arrogance of Church-Bashing

It’s quite frustrating for those of us who profess to be Christians, and therefore part of the Church, to see others who call themselves “Christians” and go to church fall short of the teachings of Jesus. When I see things done in the name of religion, supposedly in the name of Christ, that either misrepresent or grossly contradict the example of Jesus and the teachings of Scripture, I feel a poignant mixture of emotions. There is the sinking feeling of dismay over the way unbelievers are perceiving my faith and my savior. And there is the anger that makes me want to scream out that this is not the faith I follow, and does not reflect the savior I believe in.

Those who experience these feelings commonly engage in church-bashing. They criticize these failures and hypocrisies in a way that lets those who have been wounded by the church know that the speaker identifies with them. A distinction is often made between being “religious” or part of the church and being a follower of Jesus, focused on relationship with him.

This distinction recognizes that Christianity is a religion which is centered around personal relationship with Jesus, and the church is a community focused on worshipping and reflecting him. But I think there are two fatal flaws involved in these criticisms.

First, they can give the impression that the individual speaking is set apart, different from all those people who hurt others and misrepresent Jesus. The honest critics will recognize that they themselves are bound to fail in similar ways at some point in their lives.

Second, it surrenders the words “church” and “religion” to those who do the worst job of embodying what they are supposed to mean. Perhaps a better option is to share ways that the church is living out Christ-honoring community, and use those to show how church ought to be. Describing Christians who are practicing “religion that God accepts as pure and faultless” refocuses the word on what it should be. And no one has a problem with what the Christian religion is supposed to be. People are only turned off by the examples that claim to be, but don’t pass the smell test.