I watched “A Matter of Faith” the other day, that Christian movie that’s not the sequel of “God’s Not Dead” but is extremely similar to it. Much of the plot centered on the father’s struggle to protect his daughter’s faith by conquering her professor’s ideology and overcoming his influence on her. It’s almost as if she’s a rope and he’s tugging it to keep it on the Christian side of the line to prevent it from being pulled to the Not Christian side of the line. Instead of treating his daughter as a grown adult with whom he ought to have a conversation, he goes behind her back to have a conversation with his daughter’s professor to question what the professor is teaching her and ends up agreeing to a public debate. Much of the movie is basically this scene repeated in a few different variations: “Dad, I’m calling to tell you that you’re going to ruin me / embarrass me by debating my professor in front of the whole student population of my college.” “I’m sorry sweetie, but Creationism is a very important issue right now. The authority of the Bible, God’s very word is at stake. I can’t back out of this now. I’m doing this because I love you and I want to keep you from losing your faith.”
The thing is, nobody can decide for somebody else what they will believe or how they carry out or act upon their beliefs. You can raise a child in isolation, keeping them from popular books and movies and music by carefully selecting what they read and see and hear. You can instill in them your most cherished beliefs. But that child will one day grow up and become a young adult. They will have to either accept everything they have come to believe, or come to personally own their faith by questioning it completely and deciding what rings truest to them. It’s probably the scariest thing a Christian parent can watch their children go through. Will their baby choose to continue walking the straight and narrow way to Heaven or will they take the exit to the wide and easy way to Hell? Ultimately, parents will have to have faith in their children that as young adults, they will remain true to their own convictions. For some, that looks like walking away from what their parents taught them. For some that looks like joining another religion. For some that looks like having no religion at all.
In this movie, the father never sees his daughter as an adult who should have the right to choose her own faith. It is his fatherly duty to save her from her professor’s non-Christian teachings and the influence they have on her mind. His righteous quest is fulfilled with aid from a young Christian man who points him in the direction of a Christian ex-professor who knows the subject inside and out and could probably help – if he was willing. The young man reminds the young woman that faith isn’t a matter of adding Jesus to your life, but of being properly submitted to him. Only when she becomes right with the Lord is she able to see that her father is doing the righteous thing of getting the word out for the Lord and striking a blow to the enemy’s plan to use colleges to brainwash the youth into doubting their faith by accepting secular teachings. After all, going to college, not reading her Bible, not finding a church – it’s apparently shown her that she’s selfish and it’s selfish to not want other people to hear about God.
It’s sad to see so many conversations about and around the young woman rather than with her about what she believes or thinks – there are more conversations between the young woman’s father and the pastor, or her father and the young Christian man, or her father and the ex-professor then there are with her about what she believes or why she believes it. The young woman over whom so much fuss is made only has the main plot-point of being a young woman whom a not-Christian is dating in an effort to try to get something from her rather than respecting her as a person. But the Christians don’t really respect her either. They talk about her, they talk around her, they talk to each other without consulting her, and the only conversations they have with her is just to point out that she’s wrong, that the debate must go on even if she’s against it, and that ultimately defending God’s word is more important than taking her seriously.