'Soul Surfer' opens after fights over depicting faith
"Soul Surfer" is a feature film about Bethany Hamilton being attacked by a shark and getting back in the water
April 12th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

'Soul Surfer' opens after fights over depicting faith

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

"Soul Surfer," the feature film based on the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton being attacked by a shark and her journey back to surfing, opened last weekend in the fourth spot on the box office charts - partly a testament to its appealing family-friendly message and a marketing campaign that heavily targeted religious groups.

But even though Hamilton and her family's faith plays a key role in the film, many audiences would be surprised to learn that the question of how to show their religion in the film caused huge debate on set.

"I think to get anything in the film was a battle," said Sarah Hill, Hamilton's youth group leader at North Shore Christian Church, who was played by Carrie Underwood in the movie.

"Basically, what you're doing is you have all these people who want to make a movie about Bethany and they don't know the Lord and they don't have a personal relationship with Jesus. For what we have in the movie it was such a battle."

In one scene, Hill's character is shown counseling Hamilton as she struggles with living as an amputee. She reads from Jeremiah 29:11 " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' "

The morning they went to shoot that scene, said Hill, who was on set often, "Twelve producers, me and the director were all sitting at the table and they all are just adamant about the Scripture not being in the movie. And they were saying at least let's not have the reference in it."

"For me it was a hill worth dying on to keep God in the movie," she said.

Tom Hamilton, Bethany’s father, said, “In my heart of hearts I wanted as many Christians as we could get to play parts in the movie. They just have a different spirit about them. ... Craig T. Nelson, who is a really strong Christian and goes to our church in Kauai, I called him and begged him to be in the movie.

“A lot of the producers didn’t want to go too overboard because they thought Christianity doesn’t always sell well,” Tom Hamilton said.

Kevin Sorbo, who plays Holt Blanchard, the father of Hamilton's best friend, said, "Sony (Pictures, the film's producer) was afraid to throw in the word Jesus. They said you can have God but not Jesus. They were worried about that.

"The studios, you can't really fight them," he said. "Hollywood screams for freedom of speech but only if you agree with them. It's a very two-faced industry."

Sorbo said Sony wanted to take out another scene in which Bethany Hamilton wakes up in the hospital. Her father, played by Dennis Quaid, is shown reading a Bible. He reads to her from Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through him who gives me strength."

Tom Hamilton said the studio rented a house for the family during the filming so they could be on set every day.

“They changed the script a lot,” Hamilton said. “Dennis Quaid would come up to say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t sound right, we need a Scripture here.’ The script was in constant motion, it changed on the set even.”

“They listened to us. We had some pretty heated discussions. Everyone saw how passionate about it we were, getting the message we wanted out there,” he said.

Rich Peluso, the vice president of AFFIRM Films, a division of Sony Pictures, said the studio made no efforts to whitewash the Hamilton family's faith for the movie. He points out that Jesus is mentioned twice in the film and that the family's faith is central to the plot.

On set, he said, "There were certainly lots of discussions," specifically about the inclusion of Hill's character quoting Jeremiah.

"There were some that voiced the opinion that may have made it sound too faith-focused," Peluso said. "The counter-argument was, 'Well, if her character uses those words and doesn't attribute them to the Bible it seems like she's stealing them.' We came to the agreement the best thing to do was to use the Scripture there."

The biggest question the movie's producers were trying to determine was, "How do we have it come off (in a way) that is authentic to the family's faith and doesn't push it too far so that it appears to the viewer to be forced in?" he said. "We didn't want it to appear we were pushing in faith to appeal to the faith community."

The studio made a big push to attract faith leaders to the project, setting up screenings for pastors and ministry leaders. But it's hard to characterize "Soul Surfer" as a Christian movie.

Like the hit movie "The Blind Side," though, the characters in "Soul Surfer" are decidedly Christian.  The movie opens with Bethany Hamilton rushing into a beachside church service because the Sunday morning waves were just too good to pass up.

"It's not that it's a Christian movie, it's an American movie," Peluso said.

In 2003, when a tiger shark attacked the 14-year-old Hamilton near Kauai, Hawaii, the story gripped the nation. Just three weeks after the attack, Hamilton was back in the water learning how to surf with one arm. A year later, she won a national surfing title.

Battles over how to portray religious themes in movies are becoming more common, as Hollywood becomes more open to addressing faith and marketing movies to religious audiences but worries about alienating nonreligious audiences or viewers from other traditions.

“After all the back and forth - and there’s always back and forth - it’s always best to err on the side of authenticity,” said Michael Flaherty, the president of Walden Media, which has helped produced the Chronicles of Narnia franchise and other Christian-themes movies.

“It actually is not in your commercial interest to secularize something like that, people will reject it,” he said of “Soul Surfer.” “People think they are making these decisions to broaden their audience but what they end up doing is narrowing it.”

But Flaherty said he thought “Soul Surfer” struck the right balance. “To see a movie where she wasn’t talking about her faith … it would have flopped,” he said. “It’s silly to narrow (the family’s faith). It’s like someone saying, ‘Let’s make a movie about Bethany but not talk about surfing.’”

Today, Bethany Hamilton is a professional surfer. In 2010 she was ranked 23rd in the world. "The shy kid has gone on to have a legit pro surf career despite her massive physical impairment," Joel Patterson recently wrote in Surfer Magazine, "and, in the process, she's inspired uncountable people struggling against cruel twists of fate."

Hamilton has long been outspoken about her Christian faith and the positive role it played in her recovery.

"We work with a lot of films, but the Hamiltons have to live with this for the rest of their lives, so that balance was important to us," AFFIRM's Peluso said. "I think we threaded the needle after a lot of work."

Tom Hamilton said Peluso constantly went to bat for the family with the movie, adding, "There was some give and take, but everything that was very important for us to portray ended up in the movie. We were very happy over all with the movie. We just wanted the real story told.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Movies • United States

« Previous entry
soundoff (2,051 Responses)
  1. Observer

    Whether you agree with her religious point of view or not, the movie should have been honest about what happened.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • notafraid


      April 12, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Absolutely, some of these issues should have been worked out before the contract was signed. Then the studio could decide whether they wanted to market a religious movie or the writers could take it to a studio that wanted to.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Bill Schrank

      Absolutely right. The story isn't about us, the audience, the producers, etc. It's about what happened to HER and what motivated and inspired her to recover. The same may not be true for others in their life experiences, but the movie isn't meant to be a debate about religious views.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • jps

      That's really the bottom line, isn't it? I'm actually proud of Sony for doing this and hopes it pays off for THEIR bottom line. Then maybe we will see more uplifting movies for adults, Christian or not.

      April 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  2. jm999

    "The studios, you can't really fight them," he said. "Hollywood screams for freedom of speech but only if you agree with them. It's a very two-faced industry."

    TRUTH. And its not just Hollywood, its just about every liberal, conservative, human, whatever.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Freedom of speech is about protection from government censorship/control, nothing more. Somehow the right wing always seems to completely misunderstand the 1st amendment. It protects a person's or a private corporation's free speech rights from government intrusion. It has nothing to do with the interaction of non-governmental bodies(i.e. a writer and a movie producer).
      Bringing "freedom of speech" into this is pure ignorance.

      Am I repeating myself? Yes. But this ignorance is so wide ridiculously widespread.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Sirena

      No sir its about making money! Why would someone buy the rights, produce a movie, and knowingly include something that would push a lot of viewers away!?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • fran glass

      mark i am all for you continuing to repeat yourself. I might even follow your lead.

      April 12, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  3. Jonathan

    I wanted to see the movie until I found out about the " Christianity" business. It's nothing to be proud of, it just shows Bethany is a brain washed sheep like most all Christians. Christianity is a man created myth. Christians are very ignorant of the origins of their religion.......and no I am not an atheist. We have to protect our children from these Christian messages so a new generation does not fall prey to this destructive myth.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • jm999

      You may want to spend your time protecting your children from the filth that these fat cat studio producers are marketing to them. Or how about drugs?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Wow, that's a pretty strong way to refer to 'Soul Surfer'. filth? I mean, I know it has a Christian message and all that, but show a LITTLE tolerance!

      April 12, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • notafraid

      (to jonathan) all i hear is wah wah wah. why dont you let people be who they are. she didnt ask for a movie deal. if someone wants to tell her story (obv for a profit and/or to show the world a positive message) they should tell it like it is.

      i find it amusing that you feel so threatened by "brainwashed sheep." quick. "hide ya kids, hide ya wife..."

      April 12, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Bella

      Not an atheist....but you need to protect your children from Christians? HAHA! THAT was good.
      Youre a joke.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Connecticutian

      Yeah, too bad she isn't as free-thinking and open-minded as you.

      April 12, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • Jonathan

      Organized religion is something we all need to work together to help end. It's origins are man created, and has nothing to do with God. You are basically teaching your children a story which never happened, and presenting it as truth. It is never right or good to teach lies to your kids as well as there out dated, primitive worldview.....so yes it is very important to protect our kids from these messages, teach them about history, and stress education. It has nothing to do with being "open minded", that doesn't make any sense. Learn Christian history and it's origins. Learn how the Bible was created.......God has nothing to do with this myth.

      April 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Jonathan

      ...and why wouldn't you want to protect your children from a cult?....and that's exactly what Christianity is. It doesn't matter that it has alot of members and has been around longer than say " Heaven's Gate cult".....it doesn't change the fact that it is indeed a cult. truth does matter and our kids should not be misled....I'd say that was pretty dam important.

      April 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  4. jim

    What we really need is a movie about a girl who got her arm bitten off and had enough sense not to go back and play with the sharks again.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Jesus

      That would make too much sense. I had a friend who was a victim (just barely survived) of a white shark attack (crushed his rib cage, spleen ruptured, and lung collapsed). He never went back into the ocean. That's not even worth a 15 minute short in Hollywood.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  5. ALG

    As someone stated here, 'freedom of speech' is two faced in this country. It is okay for the non-believers and others to express their view, but not okay for the other side to be heard. I am sick and tired of of my beliefs being snuffed out while the opposite view is loudly heard.
    Amen to this film, and I thank the Hamilton family for not caving in.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Freedom of speech is about protection from government censorship/control, nothing more. Somehow the right wing always seems to completely misunderstand the 1st amendment. It protects a person's or a private corporation's free speech rights from government intrusion. It has nothing to do with the interaction of non-governmental bodies(i.e. a writer and a movie producer).
      Bringing "freedom of speech" into this is pure ignorance.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • chuck

      Mark, Yes it is "Freedom of Speech". If this was about a group worshiping Satan, then the film producers would have shown it and let them say Satan over and over. Satan is one form of a bad person and fly's in the face of their argument about mentioning Jesus as one type of God. This is all political and wanting to be politically correct. Anti-Christianity is politically correct these day's and you would never see the ACLU coming to the defense of them using Jesus in a film.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Where is the government involved in this???????
      The 1st amendment on has to do with the government. NOT private speech. You can go into your church or on any street corner and spew hatred and condemnation on anyone you wish or Praise god or whatever. No one will stop you. So what are you complaining about? A private organization has the right to choose what they produce.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • MarkinFL

      BTW, the ACLU does not have anything to say about what anyone is allowed to say in a movie. God or Satan or Jesus or Moses.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • fran glass

      Tsk tsk Chuck. Is it possible you didn't even read what Mark wrote regarding "freedom of speech"? Shocking. Glad someone is pointing out the CONSTANT over use and misinterpretation of the 1st ammendment. I am Mark's biggest fan today. haha

      April 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  6. mike


    The reliance on faith in an invisible boogeyman undermines the otherwise impressive triumph of the human spirit.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  7. Staceyann Dolenti

    Why make the movie about true events if you don't show what really happened to help this girl make it though this experience.

    Staceyann C. Dolenti

    April 12, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Sirena

      Stacy how can you prove that her faith was the reason she is where she is today. No one knows what REALLY happened in that girls mind sooo trying to show that jesus is the reason she is where she is today is not justifiable...

      April 12, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Well, since the girl says that her faith helped her through it, I'd say it was important. It should be in the movie. I'm an atheist, but that has nothing to do with the story. Its her story, she is Christian and it was an important part of her recovery. The studio's sole motivation is money. Its not specifically anti-Christian, its pro-marketing to the broadest possible audience they can reach. They know that frequently movies that are perceived as overly religious do not do as well.

      Oh yeah, and what is this "you can't fight the studio" BS. They clearly pushed the studio to include a fair amount of the religious aspect and met the "halfway". Sounds like a pretty successful fight. No one gets everything they want. Ask Job.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • fran glass

      hey Mark, i'm an athiest as well and i agree with you completely. Looks like a few are trying to make us all look bad on here... but then again the religious folks should be concerned about the same thing. People on both sides are coming across as complete nut-jobs.. as always. 🙂

      April 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Izzisgirl

      SHE says it's why she is where she is today. Are you calling her a liar?

      April 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  8. shay dollaz durham

    wow why dose she get a movie just because a shark bit off her arm and she decided to take her ass back in the water where is kayla pratts movie deal where is a lot of inspirational peoples movie deals at if she was black she would not have a movie deal this really some b.s its very ridiculouse it was her fault in the first place. please.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • fran glass


      April 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Izzisgirl

      wow! Why dose? She get a movie just because! A shark bit off her arm? And she decided to take her ass back? In the water, where is kayla pratt's movie? Deal! Where is a lot of inspirational peoples? Movie deals! As [typo] if she was black! She would not have a movie deal; this really some b.s. It's very ridiculouse it was her fault. In the first place . . . please.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  9. Staceyann Dolenti

    Freedom of speech goes both ways. I'm glad the family tried to keep it as real as possible.

    Staceyann C. Dolenti

    April 12, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Freedom of speech is about protection from government censorship/control, nothing more. Somehow the right wing always seems to completely misunderstand the 1st amendment. It protects a person's or a private corporation's free speech rights from government intrusion. It has nothing to do with the interaction of non-governmental bodies(i.e. a writer and a movie producer).
      Bringing "freedom of speech" into this is pure ignorance.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  10. Theodore

    Anyone who writes about herself/himself is certainly self-absorbed enough for Hollywood. I don't think she has any basis for her hubris, but I wish her well. She could do something a bit more important than surfing, but anyone who rebounds from adversity should feel good about it. Those who think their rebound is more notable than everyone else's needs an ego check.

    April 12, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • My own surfing soul

      It seems you have not tried to surf with TWO good arms. To practice that sport as well as she does with only one arm is a testament to her drive to recover from the attack.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Steve

      i would say the sony came to her about wanting to make a movie because it was a fairly large story at the time and that brings in $$, second what do you do with your life that is so important that you have time to comment on stories about surfing?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • chris

      yea theodore. youre a total joke. not doing anything with your life. dont get on this girl because she actually does something difficult and meaningful in women's surfing. Shes an inspiration to millions and millions of people across the planet. You sir are an influence to no one.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  11. g

    If she has creative control over the film she can show whatever she wants, faith or whatever.
    I also vote for a harp-oon arm. With explosive heads. She could blast a shark to smithereens. We would all love to see that, right?

    April 12, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • Carlton

      Yes, very yes.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • HeavenSent

      g, God gave you the right to stay the fool. This woman is showing her belief in Jesus' promises that no matter what happens to her on earth (in the physical world), she will keep her focus on His truth and dwell with Him for eternity. Her wisdom is spiritual which transcends the carnal.


      April 13, 2011 at 7:04 am |
    • GrammarNotSeen

      "Bite THIS off, you ugly son of a b!tch!" *KABOOM*

      April 13, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  12. CW

    I have read some of the comments and I just have to say silly silly silly people. God has our very lives in his hands and can sn-'uff our lives out just like bl-'owing out a candle. Many of you refuse to see this but you will one day...I just hope you find the Lord before its too late.

    @ Jesusfreakazoid,

    You talked about the story of Job and how "That loss and pain will always be there and any god that would do that to someone to win a bet or to test one's faith has the mind of a psychopath."

    Let me first say our Lord never promised anyone a life filled with a bo-'wl of ch-'er-'ries. Second in the story of Job our God DIDN'T take Job's kids away...The devil did. Third if you read the very end of the story you'll also know that God gave him back more riches than he had before, more kids than he had before, and a better life than he had before. Yes nothing could replace(his kids) what he had before...BUT...our Lord DOES give us something better than we could have ever hoped for....hence the ending of the story of Job. The simple fact is that the story of Job offers many lessons...one being that we must put our faith in God and p-er-s-e-rvere even at our most broken points in our lifes b/c if we will do this during the many trials in this life it will teach us that God is the Almighty and he is enough.

    April 12, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The lesson is that he can do as he pleases with you, so you better put up with his BS if you want to get anywhere at all. No matter what kind of monster he acts like or what kind of monster he plays silly games with at your expense, you better love him and thank him and say "Please hit me again, because when YOU do it it feels good!". Apparently God is a dominatrix trapped in a deity's body.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Observer

      God sat around and watched the death of most of Job's servants; the stealing of Job's 500 oxen, 500 donkeys and 3,000 camels: and the killing of 7,000 sheep of one of his loyalist supporters just to win a bet with Satan. Just think what would have happened if Job wasn't considered by God to be "a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil."

      April 12, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Zarjo

      Thank you CW. Hope all these lost souls find the lord.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • chuck

      Great job CW! I could not have said it better myself. Our life on this planet is short in comparison to eternity. Do they want smoking or non-smoking for eternity? God has used this situation in a great and mighty way and plenty of people will not only be saved from physical death, but also spiritual death. They can say and show anything in films, but they treat Jesus's name as if it's poison. As the church lady say's in SNL "Could it be Satan?".

      April 12, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • phorse

      What color is the sky in your world?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • richunix

      what was the name of your GOD again?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Kada

      Why are all god's that man invent really nothing but seemingly spoiled children that constantly throw tantrums and display the worst in humans beings? All through any religious text it shows these so called gods murdering and raping across the land while they support the blood thirstiest of people and their evil deeds. Religion and faith is a sickness that needs to be evolved past. When you stop thinking for yourself you are no longer your own self. These "gods" are nothing more than means to control populations though tyranny by using your own humanity and fear of death against you. Christianity is NOT America. Christianity is a cult gone wild. Christianity is so widespread because they made sure it was by murdering anyone in their path that wouldn't be converted. Givin the chance they would burn me at the stake for being a free thinker while screaming WITCH!

      April 12, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Megan


      It is nice to see fellow Christians on here defending our beliefs. It makes me sick to see the horrible things that people can say about our maker. Thanks for your comment.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • NL

      People usually don't need to say anything about God that isn't already said in the Bible to be critical.

      April 12, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • RichG

      Funny thing is you actually think this happened.

      April 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      CW, I hope you have an oil can ready to help these dry bones out while twisting and contorting scriptures the way they do while thinking/believing in their carnal ways that give them no eyes to see, nor ears to hear His truth.


      April 13, 2011 at 6:59 am |
  13. NL

    Quit judging people, we were all that age once. I probably would have made the same choices and found comfort in the same things when I was her age.

    April 12, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Old Man Simpson

      Got any old-age folk remedies or recipes to share with your fans, NL? 😀

      April 12, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • Jesus

      You're right! I used to believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and God...but I've grown up now, got a decent education, and can separate myth from reality.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • NL

      Old Man Simpson-
      There's no remedy for getting older, except eventually dying, I suppose.

      All I'm saying is that we wouldn't have appreciated being cast for the rest of our lives based on who we were in our teens, right? I'm not saying that she needs to grow up. What I'm saying is that we never stop growing. I'm old enough to accept that my mind has changed several time during my lifetime, and may change again before all is said and done. Claiming anything else is an admission to being closed-minded, yes?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Old Man Simpson

      No recipes?

      April 12, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • NL

      Old Man Simpson-
      No recipes other than keeping your mind active, and part of that is never allowing it to settle in one place for too long.

      April 12, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  14. Reality

    With respect to god's "plan": (assuming there is a god)

    As per the famous, contemporary theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx, God is not omniscient. Please read, pause and contemplate the following:

    from his book, Church: The Human Story of God,
    Crossroad, 1993, p.91 (softcover)

    "Christians (et al) must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history."

    "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human activity there is possibility of free choices. Therefore the historical future is not known even to God, otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings.

    For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."

    April 12, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Izzisgirl

      His opinion.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality, Christians keep telling you that you're the one perverted.


      April 13, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  15. Theodore

    Lose an arm surfing, and you are not as good at your favorite sport and you have to give up your dream job as a typist.

    Lose half your brain to an IED in military service, and most careers are no longer possible.

    I can tell you which film on heroism I would watch.

    April 12, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Jesus

      Especially if you lose 1/2 of your brain to an IED as a result of some moron being elected President. Remember him? He's the guy who had no concept of middle eastern history and how we, the infidels, are hated with our Christianity and so-called democracy, He's the guy that ignored good intelligence reports and hung his hat on a bogus one to send YOU to Iraq to search out those WMDs. He's the guy who is reclining on his porch in Texas while you the wounded spend the rest of your lives suffering for his stupidity.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Howaboutthat

      Oooh! How about the one where the elected President promised to close down Gitmo and get all of the soldiers back home and has instead started a new war in a Middle Eastern country??

      April 12, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Bella

      Thats not fair...she was a kid. I agree with the militarty comment and yes they are DEFINITELY heroes.....but cut the kid a break.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Observer


      Speaking of promises: Bush promised that if he was elected president, the United States would not get involved in nation building.
      Speaking of promises: Republican presidential candidate McCain said that he knows where bin Laden is and how to get him. How's he doing on that promise? Or was that ONLY if we elected him?
      Speaking of promises: Bush promised to get the person responsible for 9/11 and then later said that he wasn't concerned about bin Laden.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Howaboutthat

      @Observer – Calm your Liberal rants down, I never claimed to be sticking up for GW, just pointing out that the almighty chosen one has made the exact same errors and lies and he's not being called out for it above.

      April 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Observer


      Why not make just a little effort to get facts straight? Bush STARTED a war. Obama DID NOT START a war. We are NOT at war with Libya or did Congress declare it? We are helping NATO forces in a war that already was being waged. Research would sure help in the future.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Izzisgirl

      You're not as good at your favorite sport? She's 23rd in the world.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  16. SurfinUSA

    She should have a harpoon-arm. That would be totally cool! Yes!

    April 12, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  17. Jack Jeckel

    God is great and I hope my faith is tested with a horrible tragedy.

    April 12, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • Colin

      That tragedy being caused by your god, sure.

      April 12, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Jesus

      Perhaps you could jump off a ten story building and see if "Gawd" will save you. Maybe if you survive, they'll make a movie about you.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Eric

      Maybe we can help you with that.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Dan

      Good luck with that horrible tragedy.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Gawd

      Don't worry. I'll catch you Jack.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • HeavenSent

      God tests the righteous.


      April 13, 2011 at 6:49 am |
    • NL

      "God tests the righteous."
      Ah, the Job syndrome, eh? Make a commitment to follow God and he takes notice enough to throw a personal crisis or two your way, just to experiment in how you cope and if you reject him for it.

      Problem with it is that those of us who never had one, or gave up our commitment to God, get the same allotment of personal crisis in our lives. So, either personal crises are as random as we atheists understand them to be, but you ca still have God simply 'using' them, or God considers everyone righteous enough to test, right? Sorry, but the idea that a 'loving' God would do this to a young girl on purpose to test her and her family, or to make an example out of her life just seems like a ridiculous notion.

      April 13, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  18. AtheistSteve

    Whatever...if her faith helped her to overcome the horrific shark attack and buoyed her determination to continue surfing then good for her. As long as the movie isn't blatantly proselytizing or suggesting that without faith such a comeback would be impossible then fine.

    April 12, 2011 at 5:20 am |
    • Apophis

      Seriously, who cares if the movie is "blatantly proselytizing or suggesting that without faith such a comeback would be impossible" ... ?

      As an atheist, this movie is not for me. But do I object to it being in theaters? Of course not.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • S.A.M.

      And exactly why would it be so bad that the movie focused on her faith or even shared the truths of Scripture? No one is forcing you to go see it, so why do you have any say in what the content should be? I am really curious and would like you to explain why one simple movie is such an affront to the faith you have chosen.
      With all that Hollywood puts out that pushes the other extremes of life, I'm not sure why you'd be so worked up over a story about a girl and her faith and how it helped her get through tragedy. Millions of Christians will see it and be encouraged.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • PCT

      Perhaps, for her, a comeback would have been impossible without her faith. Are you not ok with that?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • ShaneB

      Thank you Apophis for being reasonable. I think its wrong to try and change a story of someone's life just to remove religion or lack of it out of fear. It'd be like having a biography about A.C Grayling and not mention he is an Athiest.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • QS

      "And exactly why would it be so bad that the movie focused on her faith or even shared the truths of Scripture?"

      S.A.M. – I don't care that a movie based on real events focuses on the truth of that person and their story...what I take issue with is your assertion that scripture is "truth".

      This is the arrogance that so many of us Atheists often speak out against because it only adds to and builds upon an already existing self-righteousness inherent in religion.

      If you believe it to be the truth then that's fine....for you. Just don't go around insisting to everybody else who may not happen to believe as you do that they must also accept it as truth.

      April 12, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Izzisgirl

      Why not? The movie isn't saying "look what this girl did with the help of G-d" . . . the movie is saying "look what this girl did!!!!".

      April 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      This will likely not post as a reply to my original post on page 1 but I'll try it anyway.

      Funny...I started off by saying "whatever"...this isn't a major issue for me...I might like to see this movie...man-eating sharks, surfing and babes in swimsuits...all I said was if the film was all preachy and stuff then it would tick me off. If it keeps the religious rhetoric to a minimum then I could look past it and still enjoy the movie. I was only stating my opinion of what might be the content in the film.

      Nonetheless preachy stuff ticks me off a lot and I think I'm justified in my view. Religious references are everywhere in our society. It's so ubiquitous that you believers probably don't even notice it. For every single atheist publication a dozen or more religious counter novels pop up. For each atheist billboard there are hundreds of placards, signs and billboards for Jesus. And for every free thinker meeting a thousand sermons, street proselytizers and dimwits knocking at my door. Barely a handful of representatives for atheism in primetime TV like House, Brian the dog and Bill Maher. Cripes I can't even watch a Nascar race without having to sit through a prayer for the drivers wellfare(like thats gonna do Jack). I've had to develop a pretty thick skin against this onslaught of theist drivel. Persecuted christians my ass. Atheists are a minority of scattered, mostly unorganized individuals drowning in a sea of irrationality. If it wasn't for the heroic struggles of very courageous groups and individuals(including moderate christians who understand the need to maintain separation of church and state) protecting our schools and political systems from dogmatic theist ideology this country would inexorably degenerate into theocracy. So much for your personal rights and freedoms then.

      April 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  19. Jesusfreakazoid

    This reminds me of the story of Job. This time God has had a bet with the Devil that Bethany will still be faithful even after God sends a shark to bite her arm off. She has remained faithful so maybe God will give her arm back like he gave Job more children.

    Just like in Job this story does not have a happy ending when you think about from a faith point of view. Bethany doesn't get her arm back and you can't replace the loss of Job's children with more children. That loss and pain will always be there and any god that would do that to someone to win a bet or to test one's faith has the mind of a psychopath.

    That being said, in the real world Bethany appears to be an amazingly strong person. Apparently in her case her faith may have had something to do with this. Some people need to believe in a deity in order to find their inner strength. In this story you could remove God and insert Allah, Buddha, Krishna, Thor, or hard work and shear determination and get the same results.

    I guess I'll wait for the movie to debut on TBN before I see it.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:31 am |
    • jim

      I think I'll wait 'till hell freezes over!

      April 12, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Bruce

      Actually, if this was like Job, Bethany would have lost an arm and God would have rewarded her with two arms after showing her faith, for a total of three...

      April 12, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • cheefsfury



      April 12, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Bill

      The correct parallel to Job would be that God allowed Satan to send the shark. A very inspiring story.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • HeavenSent

      freakazoid. Wrong, wrong, wrong. God did not bet with satan. Satan bet with God that Job would buckle under the destruction that satan caused in his life and rebel against God. No matter how much evil satan brought into Job's life, Job still loved and followed God.

      That's what you get for not having eyes to see scriptures or ears to hear His truth.


      April 13, 2011 at 6:46 am |
  20. Jeez

    Sounds like a great movie . . . to miss.

    April 12, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • Bill Schrank


      Afraid, huh? Open-minded but not that open-minded to listen to another person's perspective, or know what really matters to the real person the movie is about?

      April 12, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Todd

      Thanks, but that same buy bull is used to take away my rights and treat me like a second class citizen. Her "test of faith" was caused by getting within biting range of a hungry shark.

      How about if she caught a communicable disease from treating a patient, got shot while out on police patrol, or got mugged walking down a street, or caught HIV from a lover/husband? Those might be called tests of faith.

      Getting mistaken for white meat by a shark in an ocean isn't a test of faith, it's just stupid. And being a surfer again. Well whoop-dee-do. That will surely help humanity.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Jesus

      What if this girl was Muslim and quoted versus from the Koran?

      I seriously doubt the Christians would get the story. They need a religious crutch to prop this movie up.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Chris

      Agreed. Any film that tries to push it's belief system doesn't need a place in my vast library.

      I can't believe that there is still such a following of this so-called "God". How archaic, selfish and naive of the human breed to still believe that THEIR God is real and affects their place in this world.

      She healed because SCIENCE allowed her to. Healing, like many other things in the body, is dependent on internal wellness, and if this came from her believing in God or the Tooth Fairy ... good for her. Whatever works I suppose.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Bill Schrank

      Todd, the test of faith is courage and will to recover from a calamity – however it befalls a person – that can significantly change one's life. Your examples are all such events, but so is any event that causes serious injury to a person. The test is how one chooses to deal with adversity. As for being a surfer, I'm hesitant to judge and prioritize people by what they do for a living. The good in people is not defined or limited by what they do for a job. For many, their job or profession is a vehicle or means to another end, not an end in itself.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • NL

      When I originally heard of her story there was a lot more emphasis on her athleticism and the spirituality she felt in surfing aiding her recovery. Seems a bit like it all got hijacked by a different interest now.

      April 12, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Izzisgirl

      No one has said G-d **healed** her. Her belief in a higher power helped her to deal with the situation. How many people would have just given up? How many people would have said "poor me . . . now I can't do anything . . . give me Social Security Disability Income" for the rest of my life"? How many people would have sunk into a depression? How many people would have never gone in the water again? Her belief in G-d helped her get past all that and living her life again.

      April 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • NL

      If you were a fellow surfer you might take her story as testimony to the lure of the sport, right? Any serious surfer knows that the dangers of shark attacks are just part of it, and there have been books written about the spiritual nature of riding waves. Books to match any spiritual position like these offered at Amazon:


      The desire to get back on the board then may appear completely normal as well as inspirational outside of the Christian context.

      April 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Colon

      yo mama

      April 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Nancy

      Aw the success of multiculturalism.

      April 12, 2011 at 11:34 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.