Top 10 Faith-Building Films

One man’s opinions, in reverse order:

10. Luther (2003 – Directed by Eric Till), starring Joseph Fiennes (as Luther), Claire Cox, Alfred Molina and Peter Ustinov. Martin Luther (1483-1546) sparked the Protestant Reformation when he refused to disclaim his convictions. Made in Germany, this film covers the years of Luther’s life from 1507 to 1530. Luther challenged the Catholic practices of his day and translated the Bible into German thereby changing the Western world forever.
9. Shadowlands (1993 – Dir. Richard Attenborough), starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. Based on the true story of C. S. Lewis’ late-in-life marriage to an American widow with a son. Love and grief cannot escape each other.
End of the Spear
8. End of the Spear (2005 – Dir. Jim Hanon), starring Louie Leonardo, Chad Allen, Jack Guzman and Christina Souza. True story of a group of Christian missionaries (including Jim Elliot and Nate Saint) in Ecuador who set out to reach the Wadani tribe (a violent Ecuadorian tribe defined by revenge killing). After they are speared to death, their wives and children make an amazing graceful decision.
The Hiding Place
7. The Hiding Place (1975 – Dir. James F. Collier), starring Jeanette Clift, Cyril Shaps and Julie Harris. Faith endures not only a pesky lice infestation but the horrific trials and losses of life in a Nazi concentration camp.
A Man For All Seasons
6. A Man For All Seasons (1966 – Dir. Fred Zinnemann), starring Paul Scofield, Susannah York, Robert Shaw, Orsen Wells and John Hurt. Based on the 16th century true story (sanitized by Hollywood) of Sir Thomas More who faces injustice with a passion for justice that brooks no double standard. Set against love of family, king and country, More’s courage in the face of opportunistic and self-serving politics is realistic and profound. Tremendous dialogue.
Amazing Grace
5. Amazing Grace (2006 – Dir. Michael Apted), starring Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon and Romola Garai. Based on the true story of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) and his longsuffering pursuit to end the British slave trade. He fights public indifference and moneyed opposition determined to keep their exploitation legal. This cause was inspired by his Christian faith and the encouragement of his mentor, John Newton (author of the hymn; Amazing Grace).
Brother Sun, Sister Moon
4. Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973 – Dir. Franco Zeffirelli), starring Graham Faulkner, Judy Bowker and Alec Guiness. Dramatization of events in the life of St. Francis of Assisi from his youth through his audience with the pope, including the founding of the Franciscan order and his friendship with St. Clare. Disillusioned with war and materialism, Frances surrenders all. Soon, other conversions follow. This film had a powerful impact on me as a young man and it still separates the cynic from the sentimentalist in me. It is a beautiful sermon on film combining devotional verse, biblical exhortation, lyrical folk songs, spectacular Italian scenery, picturesque medieval architecture, colorful costuming, and themes of idealism throughout.
Stars in My Crown
3. Stars in My Crown (1950 – Dir. es Tourneur). Joel McCrea, Ellen Drew, Alan Hale, Dean Stockwell, Juano Hernandez and James Arness. A Lincolnesque post Civil War parson has one foot in heaven and the other planted in the real world of a small town in America. His practical faith stands up to hostile skepticism, false accusations, greed and racism; showing the power in trusting in God and loving people. The parson is humble enough about his calling to scrutinize his methods and bold enough to stand up to a senseless mob bringing God’s will to bear.
2. Fireproof (2008 – Dir. Alex Kendrick), starring Kirk Cameron, Erin Bethea and Ken Bevel. In Albany, the marriage of Caleb end Catherine Holt is in crisis and they decide to divorce. However, Caleb’s father, John, proposes that his son delay their separation process for forty days and follow a procedure called “The Love Dare” to make them love each other again. Tagline: “Never Leave Your Partner Behind.”
1. Courageous (2011 – Dir. Alex Kendrick), starring Alex Kendrick, Ken Bevel, Ben Davies, Robert Amaya, Renee Jewell and Elanor Brown. Excellent film about faith, family and fatherhood. More to the point, it’s about courage applied to love. It was produced by Sherwood Pictures (the creators of Fireproof) with many volunteers from Sherwood Baptist Church as cast members. “Just good enough” is not good enough for fatherhood.

Honorable Mentions:

Chariots of Fire (1981 – Dir. Hugh Hudson).
Ben Hur (1959 – Dir. William Wyler) with Charlton Heston.
Sergeant York (1941 – Dir. Howard Hawks).
Tender Mercies (1983 – Dir. Bruce Beresford).
Gods and Generals (2003 – Dir. Ronald F. Maxwell).
Quo Vadis? (1951 – Dir. Mervin LeRoy).
The Robe (1953 – Dir. Henry Koster).
Going My Way (1944 – Dir. Leo McCarey).
The Sign of the Cross (1932 – Dir. C. B. DeMille).


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Hear and Tell: Thanksgiving Thoughts

My love of country grew recently after reading a short fictional story titled, A Man Without a Country, by Edward Everett Hale (Atlantic Monthly, December, 1863; the same year President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of every November as Thanksgiving).

Edward Everett HaleThe Author:

Edward Everett Hale (1822 – 1909) enrolled at Harvard at the age of 13, the youngest in his class, and graduated second in that class. He hailed from a family of famous men (Nathan Hale and Edward Everett; both uncles) and married Emily Baldwin Perkins whose uncles included Roger Sherman Baldwin (Connecticut Governor and U.S. Senator) and Henry Ward Beecher (renown preacher). Her aunt, Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), was more famous than them all. Edward and Emily had nine children. Opposition to slavery ran thick in their blood and Hale was active in anti-slavery causes. He was the proprietor and editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser and later served as the pastor of several churches in Massachusetts. In 1903, he became the Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. He is best known for his story, The Man Without a Country (1863), a patriotic tale that helped promote the Union cause in the North.

The Story:

Hale’s main character in this popular story was a dashing US Army Lieutenant named Philip Nolan who took his country for granted. In fact, he was tried as an accomplice to treason in 1807. His loyalties were conflicted and in a fit of frenzy under questioning, he yelled; “D–n the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!”

The court granted his wish.

Nolan was sentenced to sail the high seas on warships as an officer, but under strict terms that would never permit him to see his homeland or hear of her again! Even his buttons, inscribed with the initials “U.S.,” were removed.

At first, Nolan was brash. He regarded his sentence as a farce and took a devil-may-care attitude. He served well in battle, dined with fellow officers and read ancient classics, like Hesiod, the Bible and Shakespeare. But all talk of home was cut off.

The point when Nolan’s braggadocio melted away came while reading Sir Walter Scott aloud with shipmates. Scott’s classic poem, “My Native Land,” began like this:


Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d…

The pain of Nolan’s loss gripped him and he tossed the book into the sea. He secluded himself for months alone with his burning heart, painfully humbled. Over time, his fate as a man without a country left him sadder but wiser. It became too heavy to shake off with arrogance. He repented of his folly but manfully submitted to his fate realizing he had asked for it. From then on, there was no greater advocate of patriotism to the younger soldiers than Philip Nolan. He learned the worth of a homeland the hard way—by losing it.

From 1807 to his death in 1863, Nolan heard nothing about the United States. But on the brink of death, a sympathetic officer spilled out America’s long unheard story over the last half-a-century to him. Nolan hung on every word as the young officer strained to recall details. Then, he died contented and was buried under a stone that read; “He loved his country as no other man has loved her; but no man deserved less at her hands.”

The Lesson:

Would that we craved to hear and tell our nation’s story so passionately. Taking one’s country for granted is as common as it is ungrateful. On yet a deeper level, we have even greater cause to hear and tell the greatest story of all; that of God’s love for us through Jesus. As with Nolan and his native land, we also love God knowing how little we deserve at His hands. May we so crave the hearing and telling of the old story of God’s love anew every morning—a love for those who are dying, including those who may have renounced it brashly in the past. It is one thing to lose your homeland, and yet another to lose God. No lesson is worth losing God to learn. No story is more worth telling than God’s unfolding plan to call us home.

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The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Worshipping on Eggshells

Strange Fire

Growing up, I often heard the names Nadab and Abihu in sermons. These sermons warned us not to dare to break any of God’s particular rules for worship. These ancient sons of Aaron offered “strange fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1). So God sent fire down to consume them on the spot!

Thus, we had better not try anything “strange” in church!

In the same sermon, you might hear about poor ol’ Uzzah, who touched the Ark of the Covenant during its transport toward Jerusalem. The oxen nearly upset it and Uzzah came to its rescue, right? Nevertheless, as the sermon goes, he broke the law and God angrily smote Uzzah on the spot (2 Samuel 6:7).

Bad Attitudes, Not Bad Accidents

Those sermons hurt us. The message was that nothing could be done in worship that was not explicitly commanded by God. If Aaron’s sons got “fired” for their innovative use of “strange fire” in worship, what will God do to us?

But any notion that Aaron’s sons were just trying to be innovative in worship is misleading. They were well versed in the worship process and theirs was no honest mistake. The text indicates that they treated God as unholy and dishonored Him before the people (Leviticus 10:3). Clearly, they had an attitude! God was upset not over some incidental technical infraction, but over their unholy attitude and dishonoring spirit in worship. Also, the implication in context is that those rascals were drunk (see 10:9) while on duty.

The Bible is also clear that Uzzah was not punished for an accidental impulse. It states that “God struck him down there for his irreverence.” (2 Samuel 6:7).

Irreverence is not an inadvertent infraction. It is a bad attitude toward God.

Hezekiah’s Compromise

As a child, I never heard a sermon, however, on Hezekiah’s worship compromise.

In the days of Isaiah (300 years after David), a good king came to the throne in Jerusalem. Early in Hezekiah’s rule he invited tribes throughout Israel to come celebrate the Passover. His offer was a call for national unity. His couriers were scorned by those who had turned their backs on God, but many others were willing to come to Jerusalem to worship God.

However, they were a month late. They could not keep the correct timing ordinance because too few priests had been correctly consecrated as yet. For the sake of unity, Hezekiah deferred the time required to continue the purification process. This led to first united Passover celebration since the schism between Judah and the north over two centuries before.

Many Israelites journeyed south to worship in good faith, although a bit tardy. The Bible says that “the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered.” (2 Chronicles 30:12). Still, many unconsecrated visitors ate the Passover meal contrary to the law. Hezekiah prayed for pardon, asking God to consider the hearts of the seekers. The purification rules had been broken but God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and pardoned “everyone who sets his heart on seeking God” (30:19, NIV). God considered the cause of unity as higher than ceremonial correctness.

What followed was seven days of “great joy” in Jerusalem. The Levites and priests praised God daily with “loud instruments.” There had been nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon. When God’s people learn that He cares more about purity of heart than mere purity of procedure, we release our divisive demands over procedure and enjoy a deeper unity of heart–where it counts.

Walking on Egg Shells

Too many preachers in our past had their people walking on egg shells and left a legacy of divisiveness in their wake. Our subsequent fearful obsession with “getting it just right” drove a wedge between us and others whose worship styles and methods varied from ours only in tiny technical ways.

In some cases, those old Nadab sermons called for an excessive attention to detail and procedure in worship and distracted us from the central aim. They often missed the point the Bible was making too. Some of us worried more about the what, when, where and how of worship and lost sight of the Who!

We were not meant to approach God with a terrified focus on technicalities in worship. If we tremble, we do so with our focus vividly on Him. We can also approach the Father with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) and with hearts full of reverence and honor, seeking Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). Jesus does not want His bride dancing on egg-shells.

If we dare to embrace those who worship with slightly different methods, we will not be smitten on the spot by fire, at least not by the God we read about in the Bible. Rather, such a godly embrace unites us with fellow believers we once shunned, and God gets a deeper and wider chorus of praise from His deeply devoted subjects. To whatever extent our hearts are filled with genuine reverence and honor for God, He will bless our mutual celebration. That’s liberating to know.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Lift the Fog

I spent most of my college days squinting, living in denial that I needed glasses. When I finally got glasses, I emerged from the optometrist’s office into a crisp new clear world. The fog lifted. Actually, the world didn’t change. I made the change, enabling me to see the world with vivid clarity and distinction.

Because I also don’t always see so well with my heart, I need spiritual glasses too. Without them, the world is far too fuzzy. So, I go to church, pray, study the Bible, and listen to sermons religiously. I also have friends and family to help me clean my glasses. I still have problems but I’ve stopped living in denial.

Jesus has a way of cleaning our spiritual glasses. He said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37).

Jesus is not limiting our vocabulary. He is calling for clarity.

In college, I had professors who thought their task was to blur my vision. I could impress them with words like “ambiguity”, “complexity”, “dilemma” and “inclusive.” I embraced ambiguity and was rewarded with high grades. I confused my fuzzy thinking with “intelligence” and was proud of it. Art majors like me were especially encouraged to throw away our cultural and spiritual glasses and “see” the world for ourselves. That sounds nice in theory but it resulted in a lot of unclear and uninspiring compositions that got us easy “A”s but left us untrained and untaught.

Foggy thinking pervades the art world today, from the classroom to museum galleries, with some fresh exceptions. I follow trends in the arts culture enough to know that glasses are still unpopular. Clear thinking is not cool.

As I write (October, 2011), a “performance artist” named Marni Kotak is preparing to entertain an audience by giving birth in a Brooklyn “art” gallery. A room is prepared for this event and visitors can sign up to attend (they will be contacted when she goes into labor). A 23-year-old woman from Brisbane, Australia, was interviewed after signing up. She echoed the popular no-glasses philosophy when she said, “I’m interested in the blurring of art, of what makes art and what’s life and how they’re converging in the gallery space.”

Forget about art imitating life or life imitating art. Let’s just blur it all together into a big fuzzy wad so we can posture anything we say and do as “art.” Andy Warhol once quipped, “Art is anything you can get away with.” Clearly, he was against clarity.

Kotak also planned to shower for her artsy audience behind a clear plastic curtain during her labor and to breastfeed her baby after the birth. She said she wants to deal, as an “artist”, with taboo issues of sexuality. The local curator, typically called Kotak’s work “daring, challenging and honest.” (For Details: Birth of Baby X)

In college, I was wrong to walk around in a blur thinking I was seeing fine. I’ve learned a lot since then. For instance, you can’t play basketball without clear boundaries. You can’t play football without clear lines to defend or cross. In baseball, a final authority has to have the last word on judgment calls.

The apostle Paul used musical instruments to make the same point. Calling for clarity in worship, he referred to the flute and harp and asked; “…how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:7-8). Paul added, “So it is with you.”

As a minister, I won’t marry a couple unless I get two clear “I do”s affirming vows with no wiggle room. A commitment is a commitment. And in the name of the One who invented marriage, I only pronounce them “husband and wife”, not “husband and husband” and not “wife, wife and wife.” A marriage is a marriage is a marriage.

I conclude with a humble warning. Don’t be tempted by false clarity either. If you don’t know the answer, don’t pretend. Life involves much that is unclear and unknown. That’s where humble faith comes in. A struggle with authentic ambiguity builds character and teaches us how precious real clarity is. Don’t be seduced into legalistic short-cuts to clarity. But don’t disparage true clarity either. It’s priceless! Seek it with a passion. If necessary, wear glasses.


The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.

Book Review: Unprotected

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Grossman, Miriam. Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student. USA: Penguin Group, 2007.


“So many young women at a critical stage of their development come to us in crisis and tell us their secrets… What we say, or don’t say, will have far-reaching effects: the responsibility is awesome.” Miriam Grossman, Unprotected, 2007.

UnprotectedCollege campus counseling centers are busier than ever. Unfortunately, according to Miriam Grossman, author of Unprotected, many campus psychologists and psychiatrists see their job more as an avenue for activism than for helping and healing. Many “health professionals” echo our popular culture by promoting promiscuity, abortion rights, androgyny and alternate sexualities. One consequence is that campus counseling centers are inundated with hurting young people, especially women, struggling with the personal fall-out of sexual chaos, guilt, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), addiction, confusion and depression. Grossman explained, “Radical politics pervades my profession, and common sense has vanished.”

“Heather,” a freshman performing arts major, struggled with depression and withdrawal and didn’t know why. It finally came out that she was in an unsatisfying “friendship with benefits.” She sighed, “I don’t get the ‘friend’ part but he still gets the ‘benefits.’”

This was one of many stories Grossman told of young people dealing with depression, incurable STDs, emotional turmoil, bulimia, self-injury, thoughts of suicide and more. Regrettably, the notion that casual sex is a legitimate lifestyle option is too often reinforced by paid university officials in the name of “health.” Grossman reported on academic studies that demonstrated how sexually active teen girls are three times more likely to be severely depressed and to attempt suicide.

Much of the “health education” materials directed at young people from trusted institutions include the mantras of “sexual rights” and “safe sex” Young people are encouraged by some counselors to give anything “a try” as long as you follow “safe sex” procedures. Our kids are learning to divorce sex from love. This is chewing up their hearts, souls and bodies. Many campus counseling centers are ignoring this trend or even promoting it.

Seeking help from professionals, students are routinely urged to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, wear their seat-belts, abstain from smoking, and make time for themselves. However, healthy advice regarding sex is too often out of bounds. Health professionals raise many of the above healthy ideals high and preach hard to promote them. But when it comes to risky sexual behavior, in too many cases, they tiptoe around politically correct eggshells. Suddenly, “judging” is unacceptable and high ideals are stigmatized as “repressive.” Why do many “health professionals” advocate for resisting impulses on so many levels for the sake of “health,” but not sexual impulses?

Dangerous double standards need to be challenged. Homosexuals engaging in risky behavior, for instance, have a moral obligation to be tested and to stop endangering others. Current laws (imposed by misdirected activism) forbidding counselors from holding them to such responsibilities should be repealed. Such laws leave too many people unprotected.

Grossman also observed great sympathy from fellow health professionals over post-partum depression but not so with post-abortion depression. She hears women pour out their anguish, years after their fateful decision to abort a child. Many are struggling with private memories of disposing of the remains of the fetus they once carried. Meanwhile, many “health professionals” actually compare abortion to procedures like a tonsillectomy.

What about the influence of faith on health? A past president of the American Psychological Association (APA) declared that organized religion is a source of social injustice. Yet, researchers find that church and synagogue attendance has an undeniably positive effect on the health, relationships, attitudes and lifestyles of young people. Standing on clinical and academic grounds, Grossman averred; “Religious beliefs predict behavior more than race, education and economic status.” Yet, most helping professionals turn a blind eye to the positive impact of faith.


“We are not defined by our urges—straight, gay, lesbian or bi… We are defined by something more essential, uplifting and transcendent.” Miriam Grossman.

The campus culture of permissiveness, experimentation, androgyny and spiritual bankruptcy is tasking its toll. Inexcusably, many in the helping professions are fueling the fires. It is time to stop treating young people like animals. We can advise and expect them to mobilize their brains (over their bodies) to resist urges and impulses and aspire to a more healthy lifestyle. We must elevate and inspire our young people with fearless straight talk. For example, when a person feels distressed by their gender and yearns for a change, that does not constitute a mandate for all of society to change its “rigid” definitions of male and female. The implication that all of society must change and the person who “feels distressed” must not is potentially hurtful to both society and that person.

The pressures of political correctness are growing as wisdom hides. Too much of this is happening on our watch, dear Reader.

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The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.