There's so much trite and recycled in Keeping the Faith, a romantic comedy that plugs a priest and a rabbi (ha ha) into a love-triangle formula, that it's hard to believe the film scores the minor coup of being the first mainstream recognition of today's "seeker church." Father Brian Finn (Edward Norton, who also directed) and rabbi Jacob Schram (Ben Stiller), friends since childhood, begin to attract crowds to their respective places of worship with a combination of energy, humor, and Ross Perot-style straight talk. (Schram even brings in a gospel choir to help teach his congregation sing with more pep.) While these stunts might be over the top, they do replace the common images of withering religion with those of resurgent religious communities working to stay relevant to a rapidly changing culture. It's a quite accurate peek into the modern American church, which has entered a "difficult yet exciting period of transition from modernism to postmodernism," according to Eric Stanford, a contributing editor for Next-Wave, an online magazine that serves church leaders pioneering this transition. Keeping the Faith reflects many of the trends Stanford identifies in today's church, including "innovative new alliances in missions, social service, and every other kind of Christian work … a decreasing inclination of people to get exercised over secondary theological differences … [and] the growth of indigenous Christian movements that are dynamic yet in some respects make other Christians uncomfortable."Even more remarkable is that the film doesn't ignore these tensions between old-school and newfangled philosophies. Schram's determination to reinvent the image of his synagogue gets him in trouble with his superiors, who explain ...1
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