The Fighting Temptations is either a big-screen story about God's grace, or an example of Hollywood's anti-Christian agenda. It depends on which Christian film critic is arguing the case.
Pastor Mike Furches, a regular reviewer at Hollywood Jesus, couldn't wait to take his congregation to see The Fighting Temptations. Furches's inner-city church in Wichita, Kansas, has attracted many former gang members, drug addicts, and prostitutes. He wanted his congregation to see The Fighting Temptations because it was, in his view, a redeeming depiction of God's love. And where the movie showed Christians as hypocritical and judgmental, he used the portrayal as a teaching opportunity for his congregation to change those perceptions. The film also featured rousing music that fused hip-hop with gospel, something Furches says could be effective at his church.
But according to Ted Baehr, the movie's Gospel music soundtrack wasn't enough to outweigh its demeaning portrayal of Christians. And when Baehr considered that The Fighting Temptations was part of a wave of movies marketed directly to Christians, he burned with righteous indignation.
"They are now going to market borderline material and even anti-Christian material in the marketplace by buying airtime on Christian radio stations and finding susceptible Christians to promote this stuff," Baehr wrote on his Movieguide website. "The issue here is control. Hollywood wants to control the church audience."
These diverse Christian reactions to The Fighting Temptations signal the confluence of two trends. Movie producers are making more family-oriented films and often target church audiences in their promotions, and evangelicals are more engaged with movies than ever before.1