War Room: Dishonouring God — a review by John Ellis (from ADayInHisCourt)
When John Ellis watched War Room, he almost walked out of the cinema when he saw how it depicted spouse abuse. Here are some excerpts from his review of the movie. We hope you read his whole review War Room: Dishonoring God, but be aware that it is fairly long and the power punches which we are quoting below come near the end of Ellis’s review.
Ellis’s review has a ‘reblog’ icon at its end, so we trust that he does not mind us picking out the following quotes.
With its theology, War Room weaves together three serious errors: Manichaeism, name it/claim it, and the belief that evil/sin resides outside of a person and not within. Manichaeism, the dualistic and odd heresy that claims there is a cosmic struggle between the equal forces of good (the spiritual world of light) and evil (the material world of, well, material and darkness), is a kissing cousin of Gnosticism. It’s often worked out in strains of Christianity by the belief that God and Satan are locked in a cosmic dual and that the good side, God, needs the spiritual engagement of His foot soldiers in order to ensure the day to day besting of Satan.
This is obvious in War Room, even beyond the war motif. Miss Clara’s treatment of prayer and Satan reveal that the filmmakers believe that God needs our help to defeat today’s evil; prayer isn’t a humble response and recognition of total dependence before a holy and sovereign God, it’s a battle tactic. The scene in the movie that elicited the largest applause from my fellow audience members was when Elizabeth, enacting a form of Protestant exorcism that reminded me of Poltergeist, chased Satan out of her house by her prayer/non-prayer(?)/incantation. Whatever you want to call it, Elizabeth, by strength of will, went toe-to-toe with Satan and won. Of course, that set the stage for the complete and almost immediate reversal of her troubles. …
Most of War Room’s theological errors may slide by unnoticed by many, but the Kendrick brothers’ main plot device, the heresy of “name it, claim it,” is hard to miss. … [T]he characters of War Room, once they start rubbing the genie lamp disguised as prayer, find that life is great and devoid of consequences. …
… a movie that teaches that real Christians, if they pray hard enough and in the correct way, will see everything answered exactly how they ask, is a movie that heaps piles of guilt on those for whom prayers aren’t answered in the warm and fuzzy manner of the Kendrick brothers’ movie world. … God isn’t Santa Clause, and prayer isn’t a wish list of the goodies and toys that we hope to find under the tree.
Before wrapping up, I want to bring up one more serious concern that I have with War Room – its depiction of spousal abuse. Having read several reviews, I was aware, going into the movie, that many saw this as an issue. To be honest, I was skeptical and assumed that some critics were looking for boogie men behind every tree. I mean, there’s no way that the Kendrick brothers would actually do that, right? Well, when Elizabeth was told, by Miss Clara, that she’s at least partially to blame for Tony’s abuse, I almost walked out. If nothing else in this review convinces you to avoid War Room, please allow the sickening display of blaming an abuse victim for her abuse cause you to wash your hands of this movie. …
Note from ACFJ Admins: Please note that we do not necessarily endorse everything at the ADayInHisCourt website. We have not examined it in depth. But we found this movie review very helpful.
- Posted in: Culture
- Tagged: false gospel, false teachers, guest post, video & movies
One of my children asked to see this movie. But I was aware of the spousal abuse reference and opted to ignore the request and child forgot about it. I was also concerned as to how prayer would be depicted in the movie since that’s its theme. From reading this I see my concerns were justified. If I’m asked again to see it I’ll share this post.
When I went to Ellis’ website I saw this preview of a post:
I needed to see that today. So by God’s providence I was lead to that after a sleepless night. The next time my husband attempts to lay blame on me for his failings–that I made him do it–I will tell him that’s what’s Adam said about Eve and it didn’t work on God then and it doesn’t work now.
I have blamed, too. Did others of you not ever blame your spouse for his behaviors “causing” you to slip into sin? I sure did. Maybe I am the only one here guilty of blaming. I am working on this with God now. Owning my stuff. I know I blamed. Guilty. I think part of my healing is to quit blaming my ex (yes, he was cruel and nasty towards the family) but I know I acted in ungodly ways in response. MY BAD. Not his.
I wonder if Adam would have sinned if the serpent had tempted him instead of Eve. I hate that it was her who first took the bite and the bait of satan.
I have heard it said that Adam’s first “sin” was that of passivity. He was WITH Eve when she was tempted. Did he protect her from Satan’s twisted words? No. Did he step in and stop the conversation? No. Did he knock the fruit from her hand and say: “Don’t do that! Let’s think this through first and whatever we do, do as a team.” No. He was passive. He sat back and let the whole thing unfold. He let it happen…and then blamed Eve (and God).
How like our husbands. They sit back and let the chaos unravel. They do not initiate or lead as God intended with wisdom and truth, in love – protecting their ezer. And…they like it that way…it allows them to blame, guilt-trip, complain, etc. It truly IS the tale “old as time.”
It depends on what you mean by “blamed him.” What exactly did you “blame him” for? Were you abusive to him and then blaming him for YOUR behaviors? Were you responding to HIS ongoing and unrelenting abuse? When a victim responds to abuse, it isn’t always pretty and yes, YOUR behavior is YOUR responsibility, but understandably, living in an emotionally toxic environment creates emotional responses borne out of an inability to STOP the abuser, the need for self-defense, and / or a hopelessness that causes a crying out for justice from the deep places in your soul, seldom sounding “Christ-like” as those who have no clue are quick to point out, completely ignoring the pain of the victim and, by default, siding with an abuser.
My abuser’s responses were there NO MATTER WHAT I DID OR SAID. However, my inappropriate responses were ONLY present (and rarely even then as I tried reasoning, taking blame, apologizing for “causing” him to be upset, and other false “solutions” to a problem that wasn’t mine to solve) under the pressure cooker of abuse. Once I came out of the fog and understood that I had value and no longer tolerated abuse, I rarely have raised my voice. No need. I speak truth and remove myself. Truth is truth whether he agrees or not. He will treat me with respect and value (as I do him) or he will not have my fellowship. Period. Lundy Bancroft’s article here on ACFJ helped me a lot with this. I think it is called “Who is the abuser?” something like that.
I liken it to being locked in a cage with someone who keeps touching you with a curling iron (figuratively in my case but certainly literal for others!). Over and over, a touch here, a touch there, just when you are feeling a bit relaxed, there it is again, ouch! That hurt! You can’t escape, or dont think you should because “Christian counselors” and “friends” say “You should stay and try to work things out no matter what” etc. and so you try to stay out of his way, make him happy, act all loving when you are really afraid, anything to keep the abuse from happening, but when it does, and it always “does,” you can’t get out so what is left? Crying out in pain for help and relief and yes, righteous ANGER! Not standing there like you have no feelings, THAT is not healthy or real. Only when I became educated on abuse did I realize I MUST get out of the cage! Then I was no longer afraid or angry. And in my case, (after a year) my abuser got the message and has made huge changes. It rarely happens that way but this is one example of when it did. But if he hadn’t, there is NO WAY I would have gone back in.
I think the Bancroft post Debby is referring to here is “Who is the controlling one?”
It is at Lundy’s blog Healing and Hope.
Here is the link:
Who is the Controlling One? [Internet Archive link]
The Bible is clear that Adam was standing right beside her when she took a bite. He wasn’t coerced by her; he wasn’t nagged by her. He sinned. She sinned. He tried to blame her instead of owning up to his own sin.
I strongly disagree with John Ellis’s review. I am not a theological expert, but I have been a Christian for 46+ years. I have seen that God has invited me to enter in with him to do spiritual battle not only for myself but for others as well. It is nothing like what John Ellis has described in his review. I saw nothing about name it / claim it, which I am quite opposed to, because God is not our slave at our beck and call. The movie would have to be several hours long to show how not everything does go smoothly in real life, but it is depicting how it can be lived. It does not imply that just because you prayed for it, it is going to happen. Finally, I totally missed any statement saying that Clara was partially at fault for the problems in their marriage. I have been following A Cry for Justice for over a year now, so I understand the terms explained as abuse. Also, I have walked through the counseling of women who have been in abusive situations. John Ellis’s strong reaction to one statement in the movie I consider overreaction. The movie does shows the husband using verbal abuse and disrespect toward Clara. However, Clara “holds her own” with him. Eventually, the “abuser” is depicted as coming to true repentance with much conviction. I believe that John Ellis’s review is “over the top”, and I heartily recommend that every Christ-follower should see this movie.
Hi rlbenne, in your comment you said “I totally missed any statement saying that Clara was partially at fault for the problems in their marriage.”
Firstly, as I understand it, Miss Clara was the wife’s mentor; the name of the wife was Elizabeth. The fact that seem to have mixed up their names suggests to me that perhaps you are confused or haven’t understood John Ellis’s review correctly. But it may have been a typo on your part.
Secondly, I have not seen War Room. Perhaps readers who have seen it would like to point out to rlbenne what was said to the wife character in the movie to imply that she was partially at fault for the problems in the marriage.
Hi Barb; I just watched the movie and frankly I think there is much to love about it. I don’t see any name it claim theology, dualism that makes satan equal to God, or any kind of the other stuff I am seeing described as supposedly being in it. And although truthfully I think in the beginning half before he comes to repentance, Tony’s responses to what’s going on at home make him seem a full of himself, shallow values prick and he is treating Elizabeth coldly and very unlovingly, not to mention the couple’s incredibly precious and beautiful little girl Danielle, I would hardly call it abuse of the kind crying out for justice exists to help with. One can be a real jerk or a cold nag and not be an abusive spouse. One can be continuing in unrepentant sin and not be an abusive spouse per se. It looks more like two people who are feeling each taken advantage of by the other and not respected, think he or she is the one who is right, squaring off against each other and attempting to have some control over things. Here is my review thus far.
Their actions seem fairly usual for marriages that begin to break down from lack of care, attention, idolatry, etc. And both Tony and Elizabeth make all the typical clueless of how the opposite sex sees things kind of mistakes most men and women make when their marriage is not working right. Nothing in this movie looks to me like a pattern of dominance and control or intentional cruelty one would ascribe to a truly abusive man. It looks more like garden variety sins like pride, self righteousness, idolatry. The almost affair that Tony has with Veronica Drake, the very forward executive assistant, is an example of pretty typical thinking people who are being tempted towards another person when they’ve grown weary of their current spouse would indulge in. She doesn’t respect me. This woman sees me for the man I am and admires that. I deserve to be treated better than this. Serves her right, who could blame me for sleeping with the very willing Veronica, after all I’m not getting it at home.
As for Ellis’ comments about God needing foot soldiers and Elizabeth’s declaration to the enemy, not to mention prayer being a battle tactic, it seems to me that he totally didn’t listen to what was said, but rather projected some things onto it. God doesn’t NEED anybody to do anything and yet throughout human history He has chosen to use people to further his kingdom purposes. He used a man to tend his creation He used Israel’s armies to defeat various enemies and establish righteousness. Um, weren’t they, ah, foot soldiers for the most part? He used the apostles and other believers to carry the gospel message and still does. He uses Christians to fight the evils of child prostitution and human trafficking and to reclaim drug addicted bound people from the enemy’s clutches. I dare anyone to tell me that those involved in that work are not God’s foot soldiers and are not involved in a war. Those folks are out there in the trenches dealing with the ugly vileness of sin and the demonic bondages that have made huge inroads into human lives. Armchair theologians know nothing of that quite often.
Elizabeth wasn’t doing an exorcism, for goodness sake. She was serving notice that she was now standing in faith, she knew who the real enemy was and she was confident that Jesus had already defeated him and she was going to stand on that fact and hold her ground. Taking back her turf from an enemy she was passively / blindly tolerating and standing in faith in her Lord. Anyone who has ever experienced spiritual warfare can tell you that as long as he is allowed to, the enemy ENCROACHES. Ironically the “humble dependence” in prayer bit sounds good and I agree that we always ought to remain humble knowing that the power comes from Him not us, and apart from Him we can do nothing. That idea however, and I’ve heard it before, seems to sidestep the fact that Jesus expects us to do SOMETHING as a result of our dependence on Him. Check out 2 Kings 13:18 for an example of God’s readiness to do battle for His people and what a passive approach can cost us. The bible says also that those that know their God shall do exploits, that’s in Daniel I think.
Elizabeth didn’t do anything by will power, she was standing on God’s power; she expressed her surrender to and confidence in Jesus over and over. How could Ellis miss this? If we aren’t in a war, why do we need spiritual armour? And yes, you can bet that the “fervent effectual prayer of a righteous man availeth much”. Sounds rather faith filled and aggressive to me. Prayer is most definitely battle BY depending on the Lord, but the weapons of our warfare are spiritual not carnal.
Of COURSE the answer or solution comes in a short time that is not like real life. It’s a movie. They are two hours long max so there is a time limit on how much can be portrayed. The Kendrick brothers aren’t seasoned directors / filmmakers and it shows and yet in spite of the somewhat amateurish movie making, there is still a worthwhile message in there. The movie doesn’t intend to address real spousal abuse or attempt it It isn’t addressing someone who has already gone down this path and has a truly abusive husband who is resisting God and continuing in unrepentant sin. Could this approach change a marriage with an abusive man? I think there are situations where it could and ones where it couldn’t because the abuser doesn’t want to be helped and he doesn’t want to repent or be changed. Which one a given situation is can only be determined by the one in it and God. I mean in spite of all the miracles done by the apostles there were still people who had to be put out of the church.
I think War Room gives lots of honor to God and I think Ellis’ review really missed it. Thanks for allowing me to add my two cent’s worth to an interesting discussion.
Thanks Kind of Anonymous. Maybe one day I may watch the movie and see what I think of it for myself.
Dear Kind Of Anonymous,
I can appreciate why you like the movie and why others don’t. I think it is a combination of assumptions and focus.
When Miss Clara told Elizabeth to stop talking about her husband and start praying, that sounded victim-blaming to me and upsetting, but those who like the movie may have felt like she’s trying to help. People who like the movie’s end may have assumed the message to be “God could do this if He chose”. People who dislike it may have assumed the message to be “if God doesn’t do this it’s your fault”.
And the scene with the robber with the knife……ohmygrsh Pentecostal weirdness……if one assumes that it’s the exception rather than the norm they’ll like it. If one assumes that “if you can’t do the same thing you have no faith” it’s both name it / claim it and victim blaming.
If one assumes that Elizabeth’s telling the devil to leave is relying on God’s power they won’t see the same concerns as someone who assumes other motives.
Whether Tony is a jerk or abuser depends on if you assume that he does worse than what the movie shows. Elizabeth does pray for Tony to stop sinning, but in abuse cases she could pray for wisdom about when to stay and when to leave.
Because it was funny, I liked that Tony’s fidelity was saved by barfing.
Kind of Anonymous,
I love your review! I agree with everything you you so beautifully articulated. I almost didn’t see the movie due to Ellis’s review. I became biased and chose to believe him instead of watching for myself. However, after watching it (waited for it to come out on Netflix) I repented of my bias, of which I realized was based on my own bitter anger for life not happening the way I wanted it to. My impression of the movie was that the Kendricks were heralding a trumpet call to all apathetic church-going Christians to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, to stop merely being labeled a believer and start walking empowered by His Spirit. Elizabeth was such a character – she went to church but never read or studied her Bible, nor did she pray. She viewed her husband as the enemy rather than the Enemy as the enemy – her perspective as a result was skewed and darkened. Clara doesn’t blame Elizabeth for Tony’s behaviors and hard heart, she instead refocuses Elizabeth’s attention from murmuring and being on a gerbil wheel of negativity and bitterness about her hurtful marriage and begin using the equipment God gave to partake in change. Like a fat person always whining and complaining about being overweight and their poor health rather than taking personal responsibility and doing something about it.
The movie was a great wake up call for me in this respect; I have over the years, out of hurt and bitterness, spiraled downward into the complaint / murmuring mode instead of choosing to obey what the scriptures call me as a Christian soldier to do. As a result I became cynical and angry and negative, and even faithless – I became everything I tried so hard NOT to be! Prayer DOES change things, even if in my own character and perspective. I thought this movie did a great job of uncovering our tendencies to be murmuring wilderness Israelites. The movie does not depict serious abusive marriages, but I can understand how those in one would decry this movie as their perspectives may overact and cause them to be bias.
I was shocked that my husband wanted to see it – he cried the whole way through and at the end he confessed that he sees himself in Tony’s character. So where my words have failed in the past, God used this movie as my husband’s mirror and picture of himself. Ever since watching the movie, he has made steps of personal change and I am so delighted to see God at work in his heart and life. As for me, I can’t express the the kind of joy that squeezed through all my suppressed emotional toxicity, not because I see my husband changing but because I’ve repented from choosing to live in those dark spaces of cynicism and complaining – and that is EXACTLY where Satan has been so successful in keeping me a prisoner for a loooong time. This movie was my wake up call – the fact my husband was moved by it too is a bonus.
As I read the reviews of this movie, I’m baffled by the reality that Satan can so easily use a Christian movie to divide the church, bring it into unneeded bias and nitpicking. While I can appreciate Ellis’s concern for a discerning eye, there seems to be something dark and biting underneath his overly-harsh review.
Hi Better Equipped, you know how we talk a lot on this blog about how the use of language is important? And how (to quote Allan Wade) there are no impartial accounts? Well I need to gently point out to you that some of the language you used here is likely to be hurtful or confusing to some victims / survivors. You said:
Your use of the adjective ‘serious’ is problematic. It suggests that a victim who is in just an abusive marriage, not a serious abusive marriage, wouldn’t decry the movie because her situation isn’t serious enough. Do you see how that inferring a distinction between ‘abuse’ and ‘serious abuse’ is likely to confuse victims and set them back on the mouse-wheel of self-scrutiny and self-blame: “Am I really a victim of abuse? Was it really abuse? Was it serious enough for me to object to it? Maybe I was ‘too sensitive’? Maybe I need to just suck it up and be more long-suffering?” etc. etc.
Also, did you realise that by saying I can understand how those in one would decry this movie as their perspectives may overact and cause them to be biased would be heard by many of our readers as a victim-blaming statement?
The victim-blaming is embedded in the words ‘overreact’ and ‘biased’. Please remember that there are no impartial accounts. The judgement that a victim might be overreacting or biased, is a judgement in the eye of the individual beholder only. If the beholder making that judgement were to talk courteously and respectfully to the victim, gently asking her to explain and lay out all the back-story, I bet the beholder, if they did not have too many negative presuppositions about “what victims are like”, would come to realise that the way the victim reacted made pretty good sense in the context, and the attitudes and beliefs she had were not biased when you considered the whole situation and how she had been abused, disbelieved, stigmatized, etc.
I hope you can give thought to what I said. I’m very glad the movie was helpful for you. But please be careful that you don’t confuse or pathologize or blame other victims / survivors. 🙂 And I honour your courage in submitting your comment. 🙂
I am not “baffled” that many Christians overlook War Room’s depiction of spousal abuse…because many of them AGREE with this lie, that an abuse target MADE him (or her) do it.
My h sounds something like this (when I finally separated after 2 decades, NOTHING before that, mind you): “When I was under such pressure (from work, life, whatever) I put pressure on you, and I should not have.” This is a confession of abuse?! No. This is a confession of a person having a “bad day” in a normal relationship in which the behaviors are RARE, acknowledged as WRONG, and quickly followed by a true, heartfelt APOLOGY with no strings attached.
I said, “My editor ‘puts pressure on me’ to meet my deadline. No abuse tactics used. My principal ‘puts pressure on me’ to have my lessons done by a certain day.’ No abuse tactics used. When you ‘put pressure on me,’ you use abuse tactics: anger, false guilt, minimizing, demeaning, Bible-verse throwing, etc. and you’ve done it over and over again for over 20 years. That’s called ABUSE, not ‘putting pressure on someone.’ ”
But church friends would hear this kind of “apology” and say, “Gee, you’re not being very forgiving. That’s not of God, seventy times seven, forgive if you want God to forgive, yadayada,” completely taking God’s Word out of context and having no clue about the abuse cycle which would show that this “apology” is a shift in tactics, not a true change of heart.
The absolute hardest part of living with abuse (besides seeing my children’s spirit crushed) was being blamed for my abuser’s abuse. My only “fault” was seeing myself as having no value and allowing someone else (my SPOUSE no less!) to treat me as if that were a fact.
I have felt like I have no value or the ability to stand up for myself this entire time in my marriage. I have felt like there is no possible way I could ever voice my opinion or challenge what my husband says because I have made him more big and powerful than God himself. How do I get out of this bondage that I dont deserve to stand my own ground? Wow how sad.
Hopeful, while victims / survivors of domestic abuse have a lot in common, we are not identical. We each have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. More to the point, although men who abuse their partners have a lot in common with each other, they each have their own peculiarities. And they each have their own individual nuances in the array of abuse tactics they employ. I’m saying this to encourage you not to compare yourself too closely with other victims / survivors and come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with you because you are more (whatever) than the rest of us.
I am sure that you have been resisting the abuse in ways that felt safe for you. All victims of oppression resist the oppression. Not all forms of resistance are obvious to others. And very often the victim herself is not seeing how much she actually IS resisting the abuse. We encourage all readers to read this pdf Honouring Resistance. (click on the link and it will give you instructions about how to access the pdf.)
Just because you may not have verbally stood up to your abuser, doesn’t mean you are deficient! You have probably chosen to not verbally stand up to him because your gut feeling told you that it would be unsafe to do so. But you will have resisted his abuse in many other ways in order to guard your safety, your dignity and your personhood. 🙂
I was the same during my marriage. And no wonder, my husband had made himself bigger and more powerful than God himself! Now I find myself more able to voice my opinions and stand my ground, so I refuse to accept that it is my personality that is deficient.
I can’t remember a supposedly Christian based movie that I actually didn’t pick apart. That being said, I had no intention of seeing War Room. I couldn’t imagine it was going to be any different than the rest. Personally, I’d rather watch an old western.
I still hear how I need to own my part of the abuse that took place in marriage. I am not perfect and I do own that, but causing the abuse….that was a choice made by the xh, not by me. I cannot own any part of that. I can own that I allowed it to continue far too long while in the fog and not seeing what was creeping up on me. The scales are removed from my eyes now. The fog is gone.
My part in causing the divorce was getting married in the first place. The minister being 2 hours late and not having the date in his planner should have been enough to get me in a car headed down the road.
Thank you for sharing; I do not mind at all.
I am baffled (although I probably shouldn’t be) and am saddened by how many professing Christians are willing to overlook ‘War Room’s’ depiction of spousal abuse.
After Fireproof, I have no desire to see another Kendrick brothers’ movie. Their understanding of abuse is abysmal.
I saw people “love it” who don’t believe in “genie in the bottle” theology and who don’t blame the victim and I was confused. When I respectfully shared what worried me while acknowledging the good parts I learned how they were thinking. Some people weren’t thinking that they liked the theology, but they were just not thinking about the theology when they got happy at Tony’s change of heart and were reminded of what God has already done for them. Then I said I don’t want to discourage your rejoicing at what God has done AND I don’t want to cause discouragement to people who would feel discouraged by the movie. It’s complicated because not every lover of the movie is malicious toward victims and therefore I don’t want to sound accusatory when I share concerns. However, I still shared a little and I hope that does some good. I’m not expecting to make people hate the movie but I do hope they will consider a victim’s perspective in future situations.
I think that’s very wise of you, M&M. I know that not long ago, I would have been one of those enjoying and recommending the movie. I would have been very offended at anyone criticizing the movie, mainly because Christian movies are few and far between and celebrating one of “our own” is something that gives us acceptance, or adherence with the “ingroup’ and delineates us from the world, or “the outgroup”. Criticism of the group we align with feels like criticism of our very identity which feels like rejection and a kind of death.
So I don’t blame Christians for blindly rejoicing at the movie and becoming defensive when the movie gets a critical review. What you say about some people rejoicing because Tony changed his heart is quite concerning, though, because it’s only a movie and the story is not real! In real life, perpetrators do not change without years, maybe decades, of hard work and specialized intervention. And prayer as well, naturally. The movie is not showing what the Biblical solution is, it is simply telling us what the directors feel the Biblical solution is, and that is precisely what is up for critique. I don’t see why Christian movies have to be exempt from critical examination. And if concerns are aired, why are they not given due consideration besides the standard “I don’t see anything wrong with it.” which doesn’t address the objections.
I went to this movie with my husband and my son and there was nothing offensive in it. We are human beings and are not absent of sin. The movie depicted real life with real issues. It actually was very helpful for us to open up and to talk about some of the things that were addressed in the movie.
I am a Christian and was not one bit offended by what was portrayed. The daily news is much more offensive then the “War Room”
klajoyeredus, I am inclined to think that if you found nothing offensive in the movie, you need to be much better informed about a) domestic abuse and b) what constitutes sound theology.
Perhaps you saw Tony not as an abuser, just a grumpy person- I can see why people feel that way. However, I’d like to explain why he could be an abuser. If we assume that he never did anything worse than what’s shown and that he sometimes listened to Elizabeth then “just grumpy” could be accurate. At the same time, a victim may infer that Tony is worse than what we see and never listens ever because what we see reminds her of an abuser. Therefore, Miss Clara should have listened instead of lecturing.
Barbara, you nailed it! And may I say, those NOT offended by War Room have NO clue what domestic violence entails. My understanding of this blog, ACFJ, is a platform for those willing to call EVIL for what it is. Anyone who wants to sugarcoat or turn a blind eye to domestic abuse and the sheer horror of being a victim along with the devastating effects it leaves behind, only further enable the abuser.
I appreciate ACFJ addressing the concerns regarding this movie. I have not seen it- primarily due to reading the valid concerns. I have read various issues regarding this movie on different blogs. What I find noteworthy is that there are many who have spoken up against it who have not focused on the abuse angle. Their concerns have been purely based on the inaccuracy to scriptural principles. I would hope that this would sound the spiritual alarms of discernment for all committed followers- whether or not they share in their concerns for the abuse angle. Yet it seems the sheep enjoying the fellowship of other sheep and follow the herd without ever stopping to assess the safety of their surroundings. It is deemed safe just because other sheep are there too.
Who decides when a movie is deemed a Christian movie? Do we not have enough discernment as committed followers to do some Berean searching beyond the exterior presentation? I find it interesting that when theological concerns are raised, the scoffers do not point to the scriptural veracity of the claims but instead paste a general sticker of “divisive” on the forehead of anyone who is acting in good faith to the command to “test everything” (1 Thes 5:21). If there are unfounded claims regarding a religious teacher or body of work, then please use scripture to refute the alleged veracity of these claims, not just a blanket rebuttal concerning the dissenter’s character.
I wrote on another blog that it is my personal opinion that the draw to this kind of theology is rooted in pride. We want to believe we are in charge of our own destiny. We claim allegiance to God but enjoy the self righteousness and autonomy we get when we believe we can push play on a series of buttons to elicit the desired response from Holy God. The misplaced result is having faith in our faith.
We were all created to be in Heaven with God which is why I think we all want “happy endings”. Jn 14:14 “Ask ANYTHING in my name….” Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord hears the prayer of the righteous. James 5:16 says, “”The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”.. etc etc etc. The Bible is repleat with verses that support praying for what we want….. and so we all ask for HAPPY ENDINGS. We go to movies for HAPPY ENDINGS. We place our faith and hope in the happy ending of eternal salvation.
I believe, we will get what we ask for IF IT IS IN GOD’S WILL, so keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking. But keep your boundaries just in case it is on conflict with God’s will. Sometimes our prayers of “but deliver us from evil” are in direct contrast with “please save our marriage”. Sometimes it takes years to realize this and accept that God DID answer our prayer of “deliver us from evil” in exchange for “please save my marriage”. His plan IS to prosper those who LOVE him and (while I haven’t yet seen the movie) I do hope that the main goal is to encourage and move people to LOVE the Lord with their whole heart soul and mind and to love their neighbor as themself. And if they would NOT inflict abuse upon their neighbor, then they should not allow abuse to be inflicted upon themself. Thankfully we do live in a society that allows us to stand up to abuse and not in the society that prevents victims from getting out (such as the 1 Pet 3:1 crowd that was burned under Nero’s rule within months of that prophetic writing.) Exhaling our last breathe with our faith intact is the main goal of communicating with God on everything and following his directive whatever that looks likes for each individual child of His.
For me, getting out was harder than staying in this marriage and I do believe that laying my husband on the altar was the greatest sacrifice I could have ever given to my Lord. For others, staying and praying may well be the hardest thing they feel called to do. I am grateful that this website supports the victims at whatever stage of their journey they are at in listening to God’s call on their lives. Bless you all
What occurs to me after reading the responses on various sites about this movie is the lack of discernment shown by many. When I read many of the positive reviews, these reviews seem to be pointing toward the emotional aspect. “It made me feel good. It made me feel closer to God.” Interestingly, abuse survivors are the ones often criticized for being overly emotional. When anyone teaches about God in any capacity (which this movie does) there is a responsibility to ensure it is biblically accurate. It is disconcerting to me that those who take issue with less favorable reviews of the movie don’t express concern over the theological issues raised. It isn’t a problem for them . Therein lies the problem. Truth is truth. Biblical inaccuracy isn’t purely subjective.
Coming out of abuse in a way that makes you spiritually stronger involves discernment. Targets of abuse spend a considerable amount of time honing discernment skills out of necessity. Survival. The abuser trains us to subtly look for cues, clues and hidden messages. We are constantly processing why our “gut” feels off about what we are experiencing and this takes discernment to flesh this out. Having to come up against spiritual opposition within our own churches also forces us to exercise discernment.
What can be bad about a movie which has a theme of praying more to God? I find the issue can be this: exactly what God you are praying to? Throughout the movie assertions are made as to the nature of God and who He is. If this does not line up with scripture then the God we pray to isn’t the God of the bible, though we may call them by the same name.
I like your post Valerie, especially the comments about discernment. I found them helpful as I tend to question myself when I’m sensing cues, clues, and hidden messages. I often wonder if I’m being abusive by making assumptions about my husband’s motives? Yet, that nagging sensation in the pit of my stomach never goes away.
When I was diagnosed with Hep C (which attacks liver cells), someone wise said to me “Treat your liver as your friend.”
So I shall rephrase this. “Treat that sensation in the pit of your stomach as your friend.”
CrazyisCatching … Your reply to Valerie and Valerie’s insights on discernment are so timely for me!
But even 15 minutes ago, after a couple of rough days, I was thinking … Maybe it is me, in reading blogs like ACFJ and reading into things, making myself a victim when it’s really husband who is my victim of my checking out of this marriage emotionally, avoiding the sexual intimacy he wants, being afraid to accept and trust the good things he’s doing lately for me.
I just about convinced myself that I am the crazy one, destroying our marriage. Then I came to ACFJ as I often do when troubled, and saw both your comments.
You see, there was an incident in the last few days that has had my gut twisted in knots. It’s actually been going on for a few months. Husband did something that I wanted done around the house, but in his own way, not the way I hoped for. It actually made things a lot harder for me, even though on the surface, it looked as if he honored my wishes and did good.
I finally had the courage to talk to him about it on Sunday, because he was about to continue on it, making more “improvements”, spending more time and money on something that was not working, not making life easier. I was respectful and said in as gentle and nice a voice as I could that I appreciated all the time and money and effort he’d been putting into this for me, but it just wasn’t working the way we’d hoped, it was making things harder to do and removing valuable space from an already small space. I said that I thought it might be better to rethink the project before we spent much more time and money on it. When I wanted to discuss it further, come up with options, he just kept cutting me off with “I understand”, then went into his home office and didn’t talk to me for three hours. I asked him if he was mad and he said no, and again, I tried to talk to him about it and he again cut me off with the “I understand” (and unspoken: now shut up, I don’t want to talk to you about it) and ignored me for another few hours.
I had asked that we put things back the way they were originally, but with a slight improvement. I came home from work very late Monday to the original configuration … as substandard as it was and most of the contents spread out over the counter.
He never fixes things that need to be fixed that fast … ever. My take was … yes, he was very angry I asked him to put things back and I was being “punished” by having to live with the same problem I hoped would be fixed by the project in the first place. And I had to clean up the mess before I could use it again.
He says he’s not mad, but I “discern” over years of experience with this kind of thing, I’m being made to pay for speaking up. My gut has been in knots of anxiety since Sunday. On the surface, I guess it looks like I’m the ungrateful one who is never satisfied and he does so much for me and I just don’t appreciate it.
But in my gut, I know I’m not wrong. I’m not an ungrateful, unappreciative person at all. Sigh. Tired. So tired.
[eds. note: slightly editing to comment to protect identity.]
Anne, clearly a control technique is being used. Your words “I finally got the courage to talk…” is telling. That comment / feeling should maybe be present if you have done some egregious wrong to him and feel guilty and approach with trepidation. You should not have to get up the “courage” to talk to him about home maintenance. You told him you appreciated his effort, you were respectful and cordial. His response is now HIS problem. My h used this same technique on me and I was falling over myself to assure him how MUCH I appreciated what he had done, even though the TRUTH was that he had made things harder.
In a healthy marriage, you should not have to get up the “courage” to speak truth. That’s why your stomache is in knots, the way a KID would feel having to tell mom or dad that he broke the vase. But you are not a kid and he is not your parent. When you have done everything you know to speak in a mature manner, the problem is with HIM at that point.
I stopped taking responsibilty for how my h responded. I was still sympathetic “I’m sorry you feel that way about it. I should be able to be honest if we are working together to solve this problem, etc” But I would assure him once, maybe twice and leave it at that. I did not wait for him to agree with me or wait until he was “happy” any longer. And the knots went away. And finally, he stopped using that one on me. I think what we often do in these situations is we wait for him to stop doing what he is doing and THEN we hope the knots go away but that is depending on him to do the right thing. Once I realized I could stop the knots by not falling for the trick, the knots went away. THEN he got the message and stopped. I hope that made sense!
Thanks so much, Debby and Barbara. I’ve suspected he was covert aggressive since I read “In Sheep’s Clothing”, but it’s good to hear a neutral third party say it.
Yes, I do understand what you mean Debby. I just wish I could get from knowing on one level that I should be able to talk to him about normal everyday stuff without guilt and fear. I tell myself not to let him do this to me, but I’m still scared and still feel guilty for things I shouldn’t. Why so scared, I don’t know. He’s never hurt me physically, but just the act of saying anything to him always requires me building myself up, gathering my courage, and yes, I often feel like a naughty child … and for what? Harsh words, looks, the games he plays, just destroy me. He rarely yells, rarely calls me any nasty names, just gets really quiet and / or ignores me or says snide little things with just enough truth that I doubt myself once again and it reduces me to a quivering puddle on the floor.
I hate it and sometimes I hate myself for not being stronger and able to fight back. I want not to care. I want to hate him … and then I just want this all to be a terrible nightmare so I can wake up and be in the arms of the person I always thought he was, safe and happy. I’m just stuck in this place and seem not to be making any progress lately.
I AM trying to do things I love again, no matter what he thinks, so there is that. I’ve taken a few day trips with friends or dinners out and have started doing a few hobbies I love again, at least a little bit.
One step forward, two steps back, I guess.
What your husband did there is an example of covert aggression.
Here are a couple of posts on this:
Thursday Thought — Overt and Covert Aggression
Covert aggression is not the same as passive aggression
Thank you all so much for your comments, reviews, concerns, scriptural insights and trigger warnings, etc. I had been wondering why this movie War Room had not appealed to me in the least. Lots of talk, lots of hype, others around me going, opinions of some who had gone, and generally positive comments concerning it. However, I see now that the Holy Spirit was sending a message to my ‘gut’ gently ‘no.’ Surviving an abusive marriage with my N h of 34 years is a very misunderstood journey by most, but not by God. He has delivered me and is ever watchful over me to protect me from further harm. He amazes me everyday and I am grateful and thankful that He carried me, (footprints in the sand), and sometimes there were long lines in the sand…..that’s when He had to drag me! But, He did whatever it took, thank you Jesus!
If anyone here would like further information concerning the War Room movie go to: lighthousetrailsresearch.com they have a search engine which will bring up other concerns. Just type “war room movie” in the search engine box. I have known this Christian publishing company and discenment ministry for fifteen years now. They warn of a little leaven getting into the whole lump of dough. God bless you all.
thanks sf, I respect the discernment ministry of lighthousetrails. I went to their site and have found this:
NEW BOOKLET TRACT: Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer and Why War Room Should Not Have Used Them [Internet Archive link]
I have not yet read the article but will do so. Because of my confidence in Lighthousetrails, I’m sharing it here even though I haven’t yet read it.
Thanks Barbara, that was a great article you found, very informative. I had not heard of this contemplative prayer practice, but I was surprised to see Rick Warren from Saddleback Church’s name mentioned, is there anything else to know about him or that church? I have been there many times and know several others who go there not only to attend but to lead worship, etc.
I suggest you search on the Lighthousetrails site if you want more info on Saddleback and Rick Warren.
These links show how appallingly Saddleback Church treated a victim of domestic abuse some years ago. This story hit the headlines not long after I became a writer & victim-advocate on how churches respond to domestic abuse. At the time, I had email contact with Charis the victim-survivor mentioned in these links.
Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome: Christian Women and Domestic Violence, by Kathryn Joyce [Internet Archive link], June 18 2009 (Religion Despatches)
Does Rick Warren’s Church Condone Domestic Violence? [Internet Archive link] by Kathryn Joyce
Rick Warren and Saddleback Church on Domestic Violence [Internet Archive link]
Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce [Internet Archive link]
btw, Danni Moss, the author of the second and third linked articles, is no longer alive. She died of breast cancer.
I read the article from Lighthousetrails when SF mentioned it up thread. I was turned off by Beth Moore when her women’s ministry told me that they do not take a stand on abuse and/or domestic violence in any way. I found that to be a huge negative for a women’s ministry. This puts her in an even lower light for me. I stopped going to Bible studies that she has written or churches where they are viewing her broadcasts. We really need to weed out what we are reading and look deeply at what is being taught.
I will soon be taking a hiatus from the subject of abuse for a time. I will be spending time with my daughter who is 20 weeks pregnant and on total bed rest until baby comes. She has frequent infections, has had a surgery to close her cervix and has weekly injections to prevent premature labor. I will be there to take her mind off of losing another child earlier this year at 23 weeks. She needs to get past this grievous time and concentrate on as much time keeping this little one as safe as possible beyond 24 weeks and Lord willing much further.
After that I will be having 2 procedures in the hospital that could potentially become surgeries. I would appreciate your prayers for my family, wisdom for all of the doctors involved and for peace to fill our hearts, minds and souls. Also, please pray for my special friend who will be with me through these procedures. May God shine and reveal Himself to him that he might accept Christ as his Savior.
Oh Brenda, thanks for telling us all this. I am glad you are focusing on caring for your daughter as she goes through this very anxious time, and taking the time to attend to your own health needs.
Bless you and know that I will be praying for you. And for your friend.
To everything there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3).
Have not seen War Room, and have heard rave reviews from all my friends. I appreciate this heads up on the blaming the victim mentality, and the “name it and claim it” prayer philosophy. I wondered about this just watching the previews, because I now now know the truth, and am easily triggered by blame – I recognize what you are talking about here.
Healing from the emotional and financial abuses and manipulations (which he got away with, still hiding money), alienation of our children, and secret life and betrayal of my adulterous, porn-addicted, yet outwardly charming and charismatic, ex husband have been the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, and I can’t tell you how many ministries and “friends” insist on making sure they say I “at least had a part in it”. Or “it takes two to lose a marriage or to save it”. They just don’t get it. You have to go through it to understand it.
Sad to hear about all the blame. I would think it’s just logic that it only takes one to ruin a relationship. It shouldn’t require experiencing the same thing for them to know that one person can do great damage because that should be obvious I would think. It only takes one drunk driver to cause damage on 2 cars.
Ugh, This movie became available on TV in my area and recently while I was at someones house it aired.
My friends husband thought we would enjoy the movie, since both my friend and I are Christian. Wrong.
I tried to warn my friend, but since her husband was so excited to share it, she felt inclined to watch it.
Miss Clara is a kind woman but a sincerely misguided Christian, delving out bad advice just like many women in the church today.
Her advice to pray a little harder, and then-Presto,- God will do thus and thus to save your marriage is wrongly applied theology. With a typical abuser who knows exactly what he is doing, and masquerades to others as a saint, it is down right blind theology.
Putting all the responsibility on the woman partner in a marriage to enact God’s power to transform her husband’s behavior is wrongly expecting God to change someone who has clearly shown the fruits of choosing to practice evil.
God gives us free will to choose to serve evil or good, and we cannot expect to pray evil out of another person’s heart.
This is the dangerous implication in the movie.
This “just pray and wait on God” can be especially damaging when young children are involved that are growing up within this type of marital warfare.
To be told to just pray harder, instead of getting out of the bad marriage, also causes children to accept, and adjust to the abnormality of the relationship.
When children are continuously subjected to a dysfunctional environment they themselves may very well repete the cycle.
Their little minds are being messed with as the are being subjected to the verbal assults and watching their mother being devalued.
Oh how I’ve listened to this wayward and futile type of advice, only to loose what was precious and valuable to me.
(Which ultimately was the loss of my children’s charactor, and their respect for me, as they were constantly subjected to my abuser’s deception, and bad ways.)
No this movie has a “feel good appearance” – but the message behind it is dangerous to the truth seeking Christian.
For that reason I give it two thumbs down.
I’ve responded to your reply to my post here cause there wasn’t a reply button on yours. I liked the barfing part too; it was pretty funny. It would have been even funnier if Tony barfed on Veronica right in the middle of her “come to my apartment” pitch!
I’d have to say the only parts of the movie I really disagreed with was the way that Clara spoke kind of harshly to Elizabeth; I understood her to be saying that Elizabeth needed to focus on an effective response, not waste her hour on rehearsing / airing her anger against Tony, though she did it a bit ungraciously; I think when ministering to others one has to earn the right to speak so directly in a rebuking way. Calling someone’s feelings whining the first time they are expressed is something I don’t think is right though I cut Clara some slack for being elderly and having a clear line of sight born of experience and wisdom which may be why she was impatient to get to the point. Maybe after hearing it repeated over and over again it might be an appropriate rebuke.
And the incident with a knife concerned me a bit too though maybe for slightly different reasons. It’s not something I would tell someone to do if they didn’t have the genuine faith to do it out of their walk with God and not because they are trying to use Jesus as some kind of rabbit’s foot. I have actually heard a fair number of testimonies where people have done something very similar and the burglar or assailant became confused and frightened and fled. I think it was perhaps a bit unwise of the Kendricks to put that into the film without some spiritual counsel version of “don’t try this without adult supervision” in case someone thinks they can put God to the test by trying something stupid and dangerous, like running into a biker bar and shouting “You can’t touch me, I’m washed in the blood” or something.
Thanks for engaging with me on this in such a nice way; appreciated your thoughts. Blessings sista.
I appreciate reading this discussion between the two of you. 🙂 Thanks
First of all, a disclaimer. I have a gentle, loving husband, but grew up in an abusive home. So unlike many of the readers of this blog, I’ve never been married to an abuser, but I know what it’s like to live with one.
After reading the reviews, I did not want to watch War Room, but a relative of mine got it and wanted to watch it together. Here’s my take:
–Tony is verbally and financially abusive. He tells her not to take a penny out of their bank account without his permission, yells about how much more money he makes compared to her, and forbids her to help her sister. He also yells at one point “Do you wanna keep living in this house?” I’m not sure if he is implying that he will kick her out of the house if she helps her sister, or implying that they won’t be able to make their house payment if they help her sister. Either way, he is threatening her security.
–Tony’s repentance seems fake. Even in apologizing to his wife and daughter, he is very vague, and does not specify all the ways he sinned against them. He is especially vague with his daughter: he says “I haven’t been a very good father,” when he should have said, “I’m sorry I’ve ignored you, not listened to you, not been a part of your life, and yelled at and belittled your mother in front of you.”
–We see Tony asking God and his family for forgiveness, but we do not really see him getting saved / coming to faith. So are they implying that he was a Christian while he was doing all that horrible stuff?
–Clara should have been advising Elizabeth to open her own bank account. Instead she just tells Elizabeth she needs to pray harder and examine her own life for sin. This is an example of sin-leveling.
–I also found the part where Elizabeth chases the devil out of her house to be quite creepy. We are to pray to God, not the devil.
–I also thought the part creepy where the retired pastor who buys Clara’s house says he can tell that “someone has been praying in this closet” — as if God’s presence had soaked into the woodwork or something. God is everywhere. This scene seemed animistic to me.
–I agree with Ellis’s analysis that the movie is promoting a “name it and claim it” mentality to prayer. Everyone likes a happy ending, but I think the movie would have been much more meaningful in demonstrating Elizabeth’s faith if Tony had NOT repented — if he had cheated on her, and / or left her, and / or gone to jail for the dishonest things he was doing at work. Perhaps if he had left or gone to jail, Elizabeth would have a chance to let her head clear and start to heal, and start building a new life for herself and her daughter. (I’ve known a number of women who got out of abusive relationships while their husband / boyfriend was in jail for something unrelated.) Then we could have seen Elizabeth step out in faith as a single mom.
Thank you, Wary Witness 🙂
One more thing. Standsfortruth said “We cannot expect to pray evil out of someone else’s heart.” This statement basically sums up much of my childhood. My mother and siblings and I prayed for so many years for our abuser to get right with God. We thought that would make our home safe and happy. But you know what? He never did. Instead God graciously removed him from our lives.
Good catch, Wary Witness, I had forgotten about the financial abuse. Although I think the early church apostles spoke directly to the demons that they cast out, they also had more clarity about from where they cast out demons. It looks like Elizabeth was just guessing. Although I see some biblical basis for “commanding demons to leave”, I agree with the fact that you’re cautious. I can understand people who saw that scene as a reminder of victory in Christ, but I share your “creepy” feelings about those who assume that demons are everywhere causing everything. You are right to put your focus on God when you pray Luke 10:20. 🙂
Hi everyone…I’ve been doing Bible studies from Beth Moore for a couple years. I was always feeling like “I’ll never be like her. She talks about all this breaking free and binding and loosing but I’m not free at all!”
Anyway church is doing Armor of God by Priscilla Schier (spelling?) Have it but won’t be doing it now. Why is there so much confusion out there? I feel lost about God, life, this abusive marriage, etc.
Anyway what about scriptural affirmation? What do you all think about that? Like in Laurette Willis.
Has anyone seen her workout DVD?
Thoughts? Is this the same thing as name it / claim it?
One of the deacons at the church here stood up and with great emotion told the whole church to see this movie. Glad to hear about it here. I get confused that there’s so much stuff like this out there. What mixed messages everywhere. It’s really so incredibly bad for everyone watching and listening.
Thank you so much for writing the absolute truth about this movie. It was well made, but the theology was so wrong I wanted to cry. God is not santa claus. God does not need us. We need to be in His presence. Period. His will be done. We don’t need to show up with a wish list that we ‘name and claim’.
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