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'The Blind Side' too hot for Christian bookstore
Sandra Bullock arrives at the premier of "The Blind Side." The film was recently pulled from Christian bookstores.
July 19th, 2012
07:23 AM ET

'The Blind Side' too hot for Christian bookstore

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - "The Blind Side" was a heartwarming movie about a real-life Christian family who adopted a troubled teen with a knack for football, helped him get into college, and eventually all the way to the NFL. It was nominated for a best picture Oscar, won Sandra Bullock the best actress Oscar, and it won over Christian audiences who for decades have said they were slighted and misrepresented by Hollywood. But all that was not enough to keep the movie on the shelves one of the country's largest Christian bookstores.

LifeWay Christian Resources, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, had been selling the DVD at its 165 stores for two years with a sticker warning its patrons of strong language. There were rumblings about a resolution last month at the denomination's annual conference, and complaints from about a dozen people prompted LifeWay to remove the film from its shelves and online store.

At issue was the film's use of profanity, a racial slur and taking the Lord's name in vain.

That decision sparked outrage among some prominent evangelicals Christians who said pulling the movie over foul language was "legalistic" and "Pharisaical."

"What we have here is a clear case of straining out a gnat to swallow a camel. The blind leading the blind," best-selling author Eric Metaxas said to CNN using language Jesus charged against religious hypocrites in the Bible. Metaxas has been leading the charge against the film's removal.

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"We agree the movie as a whole promotes Christian values and a redemptive message; however, it does contain instances of street language and racial slurs against African-Americans," Marty King, LifeWay's communications director, said in a statement to CNN.

"LifeWay decided last month to stop carrying it because of the likelihood it would be the focus of debate and division at our annual denominational meeting. We were electing the Southern Baptist Convention’s first African-American president, and did not want to distract from that historic moment."

In June, the SBC, which had at one time advocated for slavery, elected Rev. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Street Baptist Church in New Orleans.

In the lead up to the convention, Florida pastor Rodney Baker submitted a resolution titled "Maintaining Appropriate Content in Products Distributed by LifeWay Christian Bookstores" for consideration expressing that the convention "expresses dissatisfaction with 'The Blind Side' and any product that contains explicit profanity, God’s name in vain, and racial slur."

“I love the movie, the theme of the movie as far as adoption and deliverance of a young man,” Baker told CNN. “In terms of the theme, I’m with it 100%. What happened was Hollywood got a hold of it.”

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Baker, who pastors the 2,000-plus member Hopeful Baptist Church in Lake City, Florida, and who has nine children, bought the film at another Christian bookstore in 2010. “When I started watching it and heard the Lord’s name in vain, it I thought, ‘I hope LifeWay isn’t selling this.' ”

Baker said he first submitted the resolution to his state Baptist conference in 2010. He never asked for the film to be removed and doesn't think it should be removed from other stores. His concern, he said, was an SBC-affiliated bookstore carrying a film with language that the convention teaches is inappropriate.

“These people are not idiots, and they’re not making bad points," Metaxas said. "The idea that cursing in a movie is unnecessary or bad is a sensible sentiment 99.9 percent of the time.”

"When Hollywood does that incredible rare thing and portrays people of faith in a positive light, it’s such a rare thing, we have to be grateful," he said and not push to have the film removed from stores.

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John Stonestreet, a Christian speaker writing for Breakpoint.com, said the controversy highlighted a popular point about Christian art in some evangelical circles. "We’ve created for ourselves a kind of 'artistic ghetto,' and are willing to preserve it even at the cost of quality."

“There’s this kind of complex dance that we do as people of faith in this world and sometimes it means accepting something that’s not perfect," Metaxas said, “I think the reason this rankles, not just for me but for so many people, it reminds them of Pharisaical thinking, it's legalistic. I would say it’s misunderstanding the holiness of God.”

Baker said he was caught off guard by the push back against his resolution by other Christians.

“We have Christians who are upset with other Christians who are upholding a standard, that by the way doesn’t change,” Baker said.

“I am a small-town pastor who was lead by God to write this resolution,” he said.

Baker said the heart of the resolution is not a point on which he is willing to compromise.

“It’s not compromising. It’s called strategy and wisdom,” Metaxas said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Movies

soundoff (475 Responses)
  1. Observer

    Get a life. So you would condemn one of the few movies that actually has a positive message and not have it shown because your ears are too sensitive to be subjected to a little profanity. It can be very dangerous to shield yourselves too much to the realities of the world.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • cdgfla

      Shielding people from reality is the stated goal of faiths of all kinds. The more exposure to the real world, history, opposing viewpoints, etc a person receives, the less likely they are to buy this 2000 year old hogwash, most of which was ripped off from myths preceding the Christian Era from societies of Egypt, Asyria, Greece, Phonecia, and city state nations in Mesapotamia and Anatolia.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  2. Bhawk

    Perhaps the CDC should look into this group. They seem to spreading an airborne psychotic behavior.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  3. silly christians

    need I say more...

    July 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  4. gnoll

    “I am a small-town pastor who was lead by God to write this resolution,” he said.

    I think any human that says they speak for God, is taking God's name in vain, I don't really think God cares about swearing. I'm sure he frowns upon racial slurs though.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • plastic man

      How are you sure about what god thinks?

      July 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • silly christians

      good on you mate.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Joshua

      I agree. What we condiser swearing is actually just against social norms – not the bible. And the whole speaking the Lord's name in vain is based on calling oot God's name when you don't mean it. You think people that say "God d*mn" are actually wanting God to damn someone to hell for real. No – it is a meaningless swear phrase no different than others. They all go against what society considers norms of morality. That is why the church doesn't like hearing it. There are several things that some churches are against that are not necessarily biblical – alcohol and dancing come to mind at the moment.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • stan

      One of the ten commandments in the book of Exedus, " Thou shalt not take the name of The Lord they God in vain." You will see that one day all of us will stand before a just and holy God and be judged on more then just works and how we treat and love others, that isn't enough, first we must love and honour Him and all the rest flow out of that.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • fintastic

      Stan, I want some of those meds you're taking.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  5. Are we surprised?

    LifeWay has the right to sell or pull off its shelves whatever it likes. (forget 1st amendment rights and our forefathers for a moment)..
    Observers have the right to call this narrow minded and delusional view as for what it is: pathetic. small, and fundamentalist. I don't like movies or books either that constantly use 4-letter words. But the occasional use to illustrate a real story, a christian theme on top of it, jeeeezus geeeeminee, get real people. The film showed how a young man from a bad place learned to get away from this kind of environment. The world is not a clean or perfect place. You make it duller and more unreal on top of it all with petty decisions like LifeWay did.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Fred

      Why forget the 1st Amendment? Lifeway is covered by the entire amendment 1) free exercise of religion, 2) freedom of the press (they are free to publish or not publish), and 3) freedom of expression.

      July 19, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  6. LT Fang

    American Taliban strikes again.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  7. knoxgirl

    Take a look at the church website. You can tell by looking at the photo of his family (a dozen or so children) that they are one of "those" kind of churches. They also still have Sunday evening services. Very progressive! Ha.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  8. JohnnyAnonymous

    Wait so they stopped selling this in 165 stores based on complaints from 12 over sensitive....

    July 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Maybe they forgot to add a decimal and its really 1.65 stores...

      July 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  9. HT

    Nothing is ever good enough for the holier than thou crowd. Hollywood produces a movie about a Christian family taking in a homeless person and it even wins an Academy Award for Sandra Bullock. But it wasn't sugar coated enough for them. By their standard the Bible shouldn't be sold at LIfeWay stores either as it's hardly G-rated.

    But thanks for this. It reminds me why I left the Baptist Church years ago.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  10. cdgfla

    Southern christians are the scourge of intelligence and a blight on the face of humanity. Utterly amazing that they could find fault in even this, a story meant to promote their belief in a sky fairy for grownups. The only question is, who or what faction of this cult of christianity stands to gain financially from this so called ban. Someone, somewhere, is getting paid for this. After all, it is the Christian way to fleece the sycophants out of cash somehow.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  11. A

    Baker has a 2000 member congregation and thinks he's a small town pastor? Hardly!

    July 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Ryan in Texas

      What, they can't edit movies anymore? When they put a movie on regular TV, they always edit out language. Can't they just sell an edited version?

      July 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  12. North of the 49th

    Unbelievable.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  13. Plush

    What exactly is the Lord's name, that is being taken in vain? People think that people just saying God, that that is in vain. I thought it actually meant about those that used to agreed to contracts, etc, and saying that I swear to Go, etc.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  14. Exodus

    Reminds me of something Gandhi said. “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    July 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Cate

      Amen!!!

      July 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Anon

      I'm a Christian, and I wholeheartedly agree with Gandhi here.

      July 21, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  15. Brandon Brown

    I'm an evangelical Christian. I do not fear science, I do not fear truth, and I do not fear common sense.

    I do fear naked bodies simply because it is an oppression of treating women with dignity and respect and as persons rather than objects.

    I'm definitely not afraid of dying.

    And I don't love Christ because he saves me from hell. I love him because he is beautiful to me.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • OOO

      You do actually FEAR naked bodies?

      July 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      Not as part of marriage or something costly. But on a movie screen yes. It devalues the worth of women.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • OOO

      It may de-value them. But how does that lead to actual fear?

      July 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • OOO

      Also, Can I ask how Christ has been beautiful to you?

      July 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      He's beautiful to me because in spite of my wickedness and imperfections and his purity and perfections, he went to the cross for me, and reached down and grabbed me out of my sin.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Mike

      How does a single naked body devalue an entire subset of humanity?

      What if it was a male naked body – does that devalue men?

      Are classic Greek statues therefore devaluations of humanity? What about Renaissance paintings of Adam and Eve showing them both wearing little to no clothing?

      The human body is a beautiful, natural thing. If seeing one devalues an entire gender for you, then perhaps the problem is you.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • OOO

      Mike,
      Good points, but I am still interested in how this leads to actual fear.

      Brandon ?

      July 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      Notice to Brandon here "Naked bodies" means "female naked bodies" and not just nakedness in general. We only became ashamed of our bodies after eating of the fruit, maybe it's the being ashamed art thats wrong and not the nakedness.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      art = part...

      July 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      Brandon Brown
      Firts you say "And I don't love Christ because he saves me from hell. I love him because he is beautiful to me"

      Then you say
      "He's beautiful to me because in spite of my wickedness and imperfections and his purity and perfections, he went to the cross for me, and reached down and grabbed me out of my sin."

      So you don't love him becasue he saved you, you love him because he's beautiful
      then you say he's beautiful because he saved you

      hypocrit

      July 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Francisco

      What about nudity in other media. Does the Venus de Milo cheapen women?

      July 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      Who invited me?,

      Let me clarify. Most people love Jesus because he saves them from pain in hell. I love him because he saves me from seeking to make much of myself and frees me to make much of him.

      Thinking he is beautiful because he "grabbed me out of my sin" is not the same as thinking he's beautiful because he "saved me from hell or eternal pain", there's a big difference there.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      Brandon
      You don't have to explaiin your relationship with your imaginary friend to me...just pointing out your own statements are hypocritical.

      Your relationship with your delusions are your own business.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • LinSea

      @Mike, as an artist and a person of faith, I can give you my perspective. Yes, the human body is a beautiful creation of God. What matters is how and why it is presented. In the classical sculpture and the Rennaissance paintings you mentioned, the body is displayed out of respect for its beauty and sacredness. In most of the movies, advertisements, magazines etc. that are out there today, it is displayed to shock or for cheap thrills and giggles, which is disrespectful and demeaning.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Mike

      @LinSea – thanks for your reply! I have another question, though – if the sight of nudity and near-nudity causes shock and giggles – what does that say about us as a society? After all, it's not like most of us have never seen "parts" before, so it's not really anything new.

      Perhaps the objectification of the opposite gender has already happened *before* the sight of unclothed bodies? That would certainly explain how merely showing humans in the altogether can cause shock and giggles. And, if that's true, then it's not really the nudity that's demeaning; that's merely a symptom of the larger issue at hand.

      And, yes, I think women objectify men as much as the other way around – women are just far better at hiding it than we are.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  16. WhackyWaco

    If it was not for religion you all would not be here. Your momma said "Oh, my God" when you were conceived.

    July 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • WhackyWaco

      And, your Daddy shouted "Oh my Lord, I'm coming".

      July 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  17. john

    How many of these 'christians' leave church, go home and beat their wives, pets, kids , use gods name in vain and all that and then go back to church and act like they are 'good' people ? I bet a lot of them do that and more . Get a life .

    July 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  18. CJ

    I'm not going to comment on "Jesus freaks", etc. However, Don't movie companies overdub to "sanitize" the language all the time for videos?

    July 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • stan

      No CJ they don't. My wife and I are chistians up here in Canada, and have the movie. It is just the way it was done. While I feel that that kind of language isn't needed to make a good movie, I have a copy and have watched it and will watch again. we have other chrisian themed movies that might have a word or two, and we still watch. Blind Side and Soul Surfer both about two real people have great messages.

      July 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  19. rockysfan

    Good God, the morals in this story far out weigh a little profanity. I'm shocked, not pulling your typical fear mongering routine? Please!

    July 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  20. My name is legion

    I am the boss of all of you, as I am the phony of all of you. HeavenSent me to be your guide, rejoice in my interpretation of what you think you have posted. Stay away from the movies they are a trap of Satan, to drag you into the worms and flames and your fat will be feeding the flames, thank you lord, thank you jesus, thank you HeavenSent for your wisdom and guidance. Sorry, I have to take a break to puke.

    Amen

    July 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.