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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. Bert0529

    How great can redemption appear when rock bottom is like the Disney Store? This backward censorship mutes their own message. If I was in the business of selling religion, I'd make redemption look like something worth all the hassle.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  2. Josh

    God directed me to write this pointless message.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Lycidas

      And pointless it is.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Bert0529

      God just directed me to go buy a Baconator and an Oreo Frosty. Amen.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • dataman

      Well done my good and faithful servant. Ha Ha.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Lycidas

      And it shall no doubt be good Bert.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Thursdayness

      God directed me to reply to your message. Have a blessed day.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin™

      LET's Religiosity Law #8 – If you habitually and incessantly say things like, “have a blessed day,” or “god bless,” or “prayer changes things,” or “amen,” without regard to the recipients’ beliefs or disbeliefs then be advised all I hear is “Heil Hitler!”

      July 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  3. It does not matter

    I wonder if God even recognizes curse words. I mean after all they are man made words not divine. Man make a lot of things up then slap a name on it and tell everyone else "it is to go against God if you say or do that." If man knows so much about God and what He wants us to do and say, than why isn't this world a better place by now?

    July 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Thursdayness

      I agree with you in that – the words are inconsequential....its the meaning and intention of the person saying them that matter. So if there is a curse here and there, who cares....you should care if they are used to hurt, abuse or slander someone. In this case, I don't think so....WASTING TIME PEOPLE.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin™

      "Man make a lot of things up then slap a name on it and tell everyone else "it is to go against God if you say or do that.""

      I hope you can recognize the irony ...

      July 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  4. Bobjohnjames

    "What happened was Hollywood got hold of it"...

    What a dumb comment, I'm absoutely sure that no one ever uses the Lord's name in vain or racial slurs in real life, That's just a creation of Hollywood!!

    I think what he meant to say was "What happened was we didn't get a chance to censor the movie to portray a fictional world view that we espouse".

    July 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Fred

      Evidently you don't have a clue how Hollywood works. I learned a lot about the industry while working with an corporation that laid the groundwork for digital cinema. Most of what they make is aimed at one of two markets (although some aim at both): immature boys and themselves. Sure, the 'boys' are aged 14-25, but the key is that they are adolescent irrespective of their physical age. They live in a dream world of self-centered, narcissistic hedonism fed by roll playing video and internet games, "reality" TV, and "realistic movies. (You can easily see pick out the narcissistic comments in this comment chain.) Movie goers have voted with their dollars, but Hollywood continues to target the adolescents to fund their 'deeper, thought provoking message movies'. (The typical American has watched less than two first run movies/year/person for over a decade now – and the trend continues downward.) Nonsense? Hollywood movies a business more than an art. (They make the films for themselves to convince themselves that they are always an 'art'.) The truth is that the directors, producers, and/or studio executives intentionally manage the content to maximize their profits by targeting a given movie rating. Adding or removing language, violence, nudity, partial nudity, religious content, on screen deaths, and etc.. (An on screen death is an easy PG-13 rating. Even if it is just an old person that falls asleep and dies, if it is on screen, it's an automatic PG-13.) The "reality" of today's Hollywood is more of a crass illusion than its handful of regular customers believe.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  5. saclunch

    Sad that Rodney Baker has such a small mind. You think you can keep people in this little box protecting them from the world, but you can't. Your children have heard every word in the book by about the age of 10. This is why when most kids leave the nest in these "protected" worlds they don't always have the skills needed to navigate the real world. I had a friend who would date girls from a Christian school because they went crazy once they were out of their repressed homes. BTW – I'm sure the language in the real life story of Michael Oher was far worse than what was depicted in this film. Hollywood most likely toned it down.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  6. dataman

    Religion was created for three reasons:
    1) To scare people into being good – you will go to a h-e-l-l if you are bad.
    2) To make people think there was something after they die – you will go to heaven if you are "saved"
    3) To make money – preachers, evangelists, singers, churches, etc are all in it for the money.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Bert0529

      ..and it worked because it gave people a simple rule book to follow and the ability to assert their righteousness above their neighbors'.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Jez

      I agree – its unbelievable that so many people buy into it.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Lycidas

      That's a bit simplistic.
      "To scare people into being good – you will go to a h-e-l-l if you are bad."

      Not all faiths even have a concept of h e l l or a final punishment.

      "To make people think there was something after they die – you will go to heaven if you are "saved""

      Not all faiths have an end result that is dependant on you being "saved". I am guessing you are thinking solely on Christianity with these.

      "To make money – preachers, evangelists, singers, churches, etc are all in it for the money."

      Most throughout history have not been in it for the money.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • El Hombre Priest

      Not just the money...the boys too!!

      July 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • michael

      absolutly correct

      July 19, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Lycidas

      El Hombre Priest- "Not just the money...the boys too!!"

      Now you see...that's you just being a jack@ss.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • El Hombre Priest

      Lycidas – You think I'm wrong? It's daily news about some catholic priest molesting boys....get over it.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "You think I'm wrong?"

      Yeah. One, there isn't "daily news about some catholic priest molesting boys".
      And second, what a few priests do does not d@mn the 1 billion+ members of a faith.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • El Hombre Priest

      Faith in what? I have faith, but it's not in a church, it's in God. The catholic church is *not* God, nor is it the only faith. It is however an excellent venue for predators, and yes, it is almost daily news. In general, society is filled with billions of "followers" of many faiths, who are too blind to question what is right in front of them, and too cowed to think for themselves and make their own moral choices. They want it dictated, which the church is more than happy to do for you, for a price. You don't need a church to have faith or conviction. Which are you? A follower, or an independent person of faith?

      July 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Another reason religion, and belief in deities evolved in humans – it's much easier to rally your tribe to go over the next hill and kill the other people and take their stuff if they believe their god wants them to do this.

      It is also a way to explain thinks youn are too primative to understand.

      Thunder and lightening? Gods.

      Floods? God is unhappy with us. We need to sacrifice a virgin or a goat.

      Volcanos? God is unhappy with us. We need to sacrifice a virgin or 2.

      Earthquakes? Drought? Blizard? Disease? God is angry.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "The catholic church is *not* God, nor is it the only faith."

      It's not God...and therefor those that worship God should not be held accountable for those of the catholic Church.

      "A follower, or an independent person of faith?"

      Independent person of faith. I thought you were one of those that try to condemn all faith by the wrong actions of a few.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      primewonk
      or in other words...we do not know, therefore it must be god
      or in other other words
      ignorance=god

      July 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Of course though Prime...that is a very simplistic view on religion. Not all ppl of faith, now or in the past, looked at religion in those ways.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Lycidas

      "ignorance=god"

      Of course not. For some perhaps but not for most ppl. There have been many ppl of faith that were scientists, archaeologists and other professions that held a faith. I would not call them ignorant.

      Let's be clear here...ignorance can be attributed to those that lean on what the news or scientists say. I've known ppl that are quite ignorant but think they are not because they agree with what a doctor or scientists says.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      lycadis
      if you look to the very beginning of all religions, you will find someone asking a question....the answer to the question should be "I don't know"...instead the answer is created and most often it is associated with god
      ie...Grandpa...where does lightning come from?...It is god (should have been I don't know")
      attempts to answer ignorance leads to unjustified conclusions which spawns gods, which spawns religions.
      ignorance=god.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @ Lycidas – that is how religion and beliefs in deities began. The irony is that this is an evolutionary trait.

      When hominids moved into areas with earthquakes, their gods evolved to cause earthquakes. Whwn hominids moved to areas that had volcanos, their gods and religions evolved to cause earthquakes.

      Often tribes would "borrow" gods from other tribes and incorporate them into their beliefs. There were numerous minor deities worship by tribess in the Middle East 6000 years ago that got cobbled together to form your version of a god. And since these tribes lived near bodies of water thet flooded. Your god evolved to cause a destructive flood that kills all but the "true" believers.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      Primewonk
      I don't have time to find the proof but there was an island in the pacific that we accidentally dropped a jeep to during WW2. Many years later someone visited this island and found the local tribe had begun worshipping it.
      They had no idea what it was, so they assumed it was from god...I think that this story had something to do with the inspiration for "The gods must be crazy"...again, I do not have time to do the back-research but you might find it interesting...the latest example of man creating god out of his own ignorance.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Lycidas

      ignorance=reliance on whatever doesn't know

      July 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  7. Dave

    I love this movie religion did not come to my mind one bit and who cares about religion why should that matter about a movie..kid had no life and now has a great life because of a great family and what they did for him....god would want that..so why do these idiots care?

    July 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  8. Peter

    This doesn't bother me so much, they are self regulating. Now if they would just stop there instead of trying to control what movies I chose to watch and buy we could live together amicably.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • joe

      I agree with this, I can choose to buy the dvd anywhere if I wish. But DO NOT tell me what movies I CANNOT watch.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • DriftSS

      @Peter...I hope you equally champion that the gov't shouldn't tell us/force us to buy medical insurance, interests groups and the gov't shouldn't tell the BSA or others who they should allow into their private organizations, etc. Works both ways...

      July 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Peter

      I don't think that anyone should tell the boy scouts what to do but I also think they shouldn't be allowed to use public property for free (schools, parks) or at a reduced cost as long as they discriminate. They can't have it both ways.

      As far as the health care law, I find it an imperfect solution. For decades those that have been refusing to buy health care have passed their costs on to me and others when they get sick/injured and are unable to pay the bills. I have payed $2500 for a medical procedure that cost me $40 overseas, same equipment and overseas the procedure was done by Mayo clinic trained doctor while here it was done by a tech. Insurance companies have departments that employee people who's only task is to find ways to avoid paying benefits that they are contracted to pay. The most common method being putting up to much red tape for them to go through until they die. A friend of mine died because the insurance companies denied her coverage for treatment of leukemia three times. The company later admitted that it was standard practice to do so...So yes I support the imperfect health care law. I am tired of freeloaders, individual and corporate.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Mike

      Because it's impossible for having medical insurance to be a GOOD thing?

      July 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  9. uysfl

    Nothing like the religious extremist to tell you what is moral.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  10. ART

    Lets all wellcome the American Taliban, shall we.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  11. pUCKLES

    The reason they wanted the movie pulled is because the focus of the movie was on a black male. I bet it was a bunch of white old people who complained. The movie showed them up for the bigots and HYPOCRITES that they really are. They used profanity as an excuse. I am sure they watch all kinds of profane laced movies. This one just hit a nerve.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • WASP

      @puckles: i agree, if you want to see every profanity known to man, just flip through the bible. it has almost all of them written in it. you should have heard what would roll out my southern baptist preachers mouth during sunday service, it would make the "devil" blush. lmao needless to say i'm not religious any longer.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • RLG

      Why does it aways have to go back to the race card? You need to get over yourself. The "race" ramblings are getting real old...that's why no one pays any attention to you anymore.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Jensen

      @ Puckles: Did you read the article? If you had you would see that an African American Pastor is the one that initiated the discussions regarding the content of the film that ultimately caused the film to be removed from the shelves of LifeWay. Maybe next time you should read the article before bringing race into the discussion.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  12. jjay

    It seems that of all my friends, throughout my life, the only ones that say they will never set foot in a church again are Baptists and conservative Catholics. I mean...what do they DO to their kids in there that make them so vehemently against organized religion as adults??? Well, this is Exhibit A, your Honor.....

    July 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Rebecca

      This is the sort of garbage that alienates everyone who isn't a religious wingnut. Seriously? While I disagreed with the protesting of Dogma, that was at least understandable. The Blind Side is the sort of movie one should want associated with religion. It shows the best and worst of humanity, but the best wins out in the end. These people can't see the forest through the trees.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  13. Big Cat Daddy

    Next thing ya' know, they will ban Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and all Mark Twains classic novels......classic books that give meaning to life........they are already trying to ban To Kill A Mockingbird in schools systems across the U.S.A.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Fred

      Where have you been? The educational establishment banned Twain's books years ago.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • fintastic

      fahrenheit 451

      July 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  14. Bob

    This is a classic example of how the Christian equivalent of the Taliban is alienting people - especially young people - from Christianity in general. As a faith It is increasingly associated with extremism, intolerance, rigidity, bigotry, and just plain hate - much of it spewed from pulpits. I think Jesus would be appalled at what is being done in his name.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • clevercandi

      You're absolutely correct, Bob. In fact, if Jesus (who was just a man, NOT a god) knew people prayed to him rather than "the Father" (as he always instructed), he would be very disappointed.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • DriftSS

      I agree! Extremists of all religions make the "religion" itself look bad.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  15. Lewis

    Southern Baptist (I work at a church in central Alabama) and my wife and I really enjoyed the movie. I guess I see where they're coming from, but a dozen people? Twelve people complained and that's all it took? That's sad...

    July 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  16. Joe citizen abroad

    "Pharisaical" is a far kinder characterization than our Lord Himself might use. If the Southern Baptist adults cannot withstand a few offensive words in a drama representing the real world, how do they expect to go out into that real world and relate to people who say...and do...far worse, every day? Christianity isn't about isolating yourself from reality. It's about immersing yourself in it. Because reality is truth. And the truth, as Jesus said, will set you free.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Mass Debater

      "how do they expect to go out into that real world and relate to people who say...and do...far worse"

      They don't, they expect everyone else to either die and go to heII or become just like them, cold and dead inside waiting for a salvation from an imagined terror which seems always just around the corner but never comes. It's a sad and pathetic life, but they wallow in it and pretend they like it just like trapped pig's in a septic tank.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  17. Tim

    Religion is just so screwed up...the world would be a great place without it.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      imagine there's no heaven....it's easy if you try........

      July 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  18. George

    Southern Baptists separated from other Baptist denominations because they strongly believed that slavery was the will of God.

    July 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • *facepalm*

      Well, if you're going by the bible, the southern baptists would be right.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  19. archerydad

    As a devout Christian and father of two, I have no problems showing this movie to my family. Yes, there is profanity in it. However, I think it is important to understand, we live in a fallen world. There is good and bad in everything here. That does not mean we should turn away and shun something because it is infected by a representation of sin. I think all too often, we are too quick to cast away something that is not 100% "safe" for our children. But I say that does them a disservice in not allowing them to understand the world's sin. It raises them in a bubble. When they do finally reach an age they can make their own decisions, they are left ill prepared to face a world corrupted by sin. If we let evil out weigh the good in something, then we lose the good all together. That is something I am not prepared to do.

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

      I usually don't write on these but I'm so irritated with people trying to wipe out the parts of life that they don't like but are real and ever present. Do they realize where this kid came from and what was said in the movie was nothing to what he heard? This is life and when you decide to meet it headon IT WILL NEVER CHANGE.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Toni Wright

      Well said!!! I agree 100%.

      July 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Fred

      That's all well and good, but this article was about whether a church related organization should be selling a movie with this content, not whether you should be able to choose to show it to your family. The language in this film is there because those that made the film were manufacturing a "reality" that they were selling. A more productive way to teach lessons about the realities of this world would be to take you children to the real inner city. (That's what I did and am doing.) Movies only valuable in opening the door to teach since even so-called docudramas are fiction. (Next time you watch a movie, watch the credits too – including the disclaimers.)

      July 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  20. lance corporal

    morality: doing what is right regardless of hat your told
    religion; doing what your told regardless of what is right

    I always thought Jesus was PRO controversy
    I don't remember the sermon about not making waves......

    July 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Joe citizen abroad

      Good point. It's not called the "Sermon on the Molehill."

      July 19, 2012 at 2:25 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.