No satirical movie since Saved has the ability to grab ahold of the church the way that Believe Me can. With a solid, winsome cast of young people, a strong script aimed at peeling back the layers of Christianese and specifically Christian mission fundraising, the overall ‘take’ is a highly insightful film that is as encouraging as it is critical. While some in the religious community may be threatened, the film is clearly a tool by which Christians and churches should consider how they appear outside of ‘the bubble,’ or even to those inside the community who dare to challenge and ask questions.
Sam (Alex Russell, Chronicle) has a problem: his focus on the fraternity has allowed life to slip up on him, and his scholarship has run out. [This news is delivered by scene-stealing Sean, the academic advisor played by Nick Offerman. The other ‘scene stealer’ is Lecrae as Dr. Malmquist in the movie-within-the-movie’s inspirational orator.] Soon, he and his buddies (Miles Fisher, Sinqua Walls) rally to the idea of hatching a faux mission to Africa, “Project Get Well Soon,” that is as similar to actual Christian missions to third world countries (charity: water, Food for the poor, to name a few) as it is nefarious. These frat brothers have no intention of letting the money slide by them, and they’re soon aided and abetted unknowingly by the “Cross Country” fundraiser (Christopher McDonald, The Nutty Professor).
Believe Me points fingers at Christianese decision-making that others have highlighted but not everyone (outside of Tim Hawkins fans) have heard.
-Christians don’t drink… except for non-alcoholic beverages.
-There are essential hand raising techniques for showing off in a praise service.
-Bibles can be ‘treated’ like blue jeans to reflect aging and use artificially.
-Christians hate swearing… but love to swear. [Shorten or substitute words, use letter abbreviations, begin with “pardon my French,” etc. and it suddenly becomes okay.]
Writing partners Will Bakke and Michael B. Allen (Beware of Christians, One Nation Under God) deliver a script that is caustic, painful,… and true. I’ll admit it: I laughed out loud at times, and wanted to duck for cover at others. Whether it’s the way that the ‘worship leader turned rock star’ Josh (Zachary Knighton) ‘prays’ for Sam as a way of delivering a message to leave Callie (Johanna Braddy) alone, or the flexible ethics that Ken uses to ‘protect the faith of their followers’ and still make money, the way that people of faith change their tune is called out in a major way.
The film wraps with a brief mention of ‘the rich young ruler,’ and ultimately asks us to consider what we believe in, what we value, what we would sacrifice anything for, and who tells us what truth is. Those are epic issues, and ones that the young people represented in the movie ask, as millenials, but we’d all be better off if we’d ask them, too. Believe Me holds up the issues and demands we look at them for the length of the movie. The truth is, our hearts have been wrestling with those questions for as long as we’ve been consciously seeking answers.