'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. Justareader

    Well, once again, the Moral Majority proves that it is neither!

    July 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  2. JLS639

    I learned a new word: "Pharisaical."

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

    Wow, God lead you to remove a movie from stores that contains un-bowdlerized, realistic language. You must feel you are very important. How Pharisaical.

    I am reminded of school districts removing "Huckleberry Finn" for racist language. This incident should be put on the TV Tropes web site under the "Viewers Are Morons" section which contains many examples of executives, moral guardians and others who thought viewers are unable to comprehend what behaviors in films, television, books and comics is appropriate or inappropriate.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • McCave

      Wow. I learned a new word too. Un-bowdlerized. Thanks.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Silo

    Best movie I have seen in a long time. Great acting. Wish these activists would get a real job or worry about something worth worrying about.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Reality

      Said book is so heavily embellished and fictionalized that it should have been banned for those reasons alone but doing that said bookstore would have to stop selling the bible.


      July 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Silo

      its a story. semi true, but still a story. freedom of speech. you dont want to hear or see it, dont. but do not prevent others from making their own choices. God wants his children to make choices, not follow blindly like lemmings.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Reality

      Who is preventing anyone from seeing the movie? And for those who have, is there a note at the beginning that said move has been highly embellished and fictionalized in many parts??? (i.e. "semi-true")

      July 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  4. jk

    This is the best result we could ask for. Not only does the movie have profane language but it has a black person living in the same house a white person.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • solex

      What is sad is that I cannot tell if you are being sarcastic or not.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  5. Cellstrom

    Um, had they used the N word, I suggest many of these "christians" would have been ok with it then. Ridiculous. Our country, and the American Taliban. Embarrassing for us all

    July 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  6. kg550

    Even though I thought this was a terrible movie, the amount of stupidity exhibited by these people is tremendous. This rodney baker dude needs to smoke a J and chill out.If you don't like the movie because of a few cuss words then don't buy it. People talk just like that and much worse every day.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  7. Loyal Nothern Democrat

    And the moral is.... never give blacks anything, even help.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Puckles

      Sadly, this is what this racist preacher would choose.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • solex

      There's nothing moral about your statement at all

      July 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  8. Puckles

    Hypocritical African American "preacher" cannot stand the fact that a movie was made (which was factual) about a white family helping a black kid to succeed. He would rather the movie have been about a black family helping a black kid to succeed. I am sure this preacher watches his share of other profanity- laced movies. HYPOCRITE.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  9. Sabrina

    Granted the store has the right to sell whatever they want, but I think they're being a little short sighted and appear over-sensitive. The Blind Side is far more of a better thing for people to purchase from a Christian bookstore than some of the silly, gimcrack-y, overly sentimental pablum that truly has nothing to do with Christianity.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  10. Terilyne

    Another good reason to be an Athiest. Religion = Keep um uniformed and closed minded = just do what we tell you and blindly be led. Stupid.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Sabrina

      That's a cop out.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Joe

      Religion relies on copouts. The #1 answer to anything is God's Will. "Thanks for making me well God but I'm sure you had a reason for those millions of other people to die."

      July 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  11. Mike

    So, regardless of the work's message, if a story contains any kind of behavior that would be inappropriate for good Christians to engage in, then the entire thing must be thrown out so as not to influence the young or offend the old.

    Makes sense.

    OK everybody, hand in your Bibles!

    July 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  12. liz

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

    And there are other good Christians who were lead by God to oppse it

    July 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Happy Jack

      Can't god make up his mind?

      July 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  13. dman

    It seems the rationale here is offensive language. I would suggest Southern Babtists look at the language they use every day to express their hate of those who don't think like them. We are all going to hell because we are not in the right church. I was raised by this church, and i know of where i speak. Stop hating first, then criticize others.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • liz


      July 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Sabrina

      Not to mention the fact that if they actually read the Bible, they'd realize not all the language in in the Scriptures is pretty. It can be pretty direct and in-your-face.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  14. mcskadittle

    Do be fooled, it being attacked because the story is about a white family adopting a black boy.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • TOBIN

      I could not agree more!

      July 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  15. blah9999

    Christians is so craaaazay

    July 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Sabrina

      and no one else is?

      July 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  16. TOBIN

    The ban of this movie has NOTHING to do with profanity. It has to do with race. The African American preacher did not like the fact that the movie was about a white family helping a black youth. Plain and simple.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Iberight

      This preacher should fight to stop welfare too.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Melanie

      The pastor who proposed the resolution is WHITE, not African American . . .

      July 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  17. El Hombre Priest

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

    That's the point of the article to some degree. Some whack-job preacher who can't think beyond his nose is able to dictate what is permissable to be sold in a public store? Same deal with all the predators in the local parishes...the bishops, cardinals, pope, etc., just turn a blind eye, (they still do, trust me,) while all the parishioners are confused as to why it's still a problem. Maybe if about half-a-billion parishioners left the church, and took their donations with them, it would wake them up.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Fred

      This is not publicly held store; it is a privately owned store and their leadership is making a decision about whether or not to carry a particular product.

      July 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  18. Reality

    Said book is so heavily embellished and fictionalized that it should have been banned for those reasons alone but doing that said bookstore would have to stop selling the bible.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Reality

      The real story: (how some poor football players are recruited)

      "After playing football his freshman year at a pu-blic school in Memphis, Oher applied for admission to a private school, Briarcrest Christian School, at the insti-gation of acquaintance Tony Henderson, with whom he was staying temporarily. Henderson was sending his son to the school in order to fulfill the dying wish of the boy's grandmother, and thought Oher might as well come along. The school's football coach submitted Oher's school application to the headmaster, who agreed if Oher could complete a home study program first. Despite not finishing the program, he was admitted when the headmaster realized that his actions had the consequence of having removed him from the p-ublic education system.[1]

      Oher was living with several families and a football teammate at Briarcrest for a year and a half or so until Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy, a couple with a daughter and son at Briarcrest, allowed Oher to move in with them and began taking care of his needs after becoming familiar with his difficult personal circu-mstances. "

      They also connected him with a t-utor, who worked with him for twenty hours a week.[1] At Briarcrest, he was named Division II (2A) Lineman of the Year in 2003 and First Team Tennessee All-State.[2] Scout.com rated Oher a five-star recruit and the #5 of-fensive lineman prospect in the country.[3] Oher eventually brought his 0.6 grade point average up to a 2.52 GPA by the end of his senior year by getting all A's and B's and staying on the Honor Roll, which brought his GPA up to 2.05, which he then was able to raise above a 2.65 so he could attend a NCAA Division 1 school by enrolling in some 10-day-long internet-based character courses from Brigham Young University which finally raised his graduating GPA over the required limit.[4][1][5]"

      "College career

      After receiving scholarship offers from the University of Tennessee, Louisiana State University, the University of Alabama, and the University of South Carolina, among others, Oher ultimately decided to attend the University of Mississippi, the alma mater of Leigh Anne Tuohy and Sean Tuohy, with whom he was living at the time.[6] His decision was not without co-ntroversy. The National Collegiate Athletic As-sociation suspected that the Tuohys had taken Oher in and added him to their will in order to secure his services as a player for their favorite college, but an investigation did not affect his eligibility.

      [1] Oher's high school coach Hugh Freeze also created the appearance of possible impropriety by taking a job as UM's as-sistant athletic director for external af-fairs twenty days after Oher signed a letter of intent with the school. Freeze claimed that the offer was not an example of quid pro quo for encouraging Oher to attend Mississippi, but rather the result of a pre-existing relationship with Mississippi offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.[7] The NCAA later ruled that Freeze had committed secondary violations by contacting Memphis-area prospects on behalf of the school before he had officially become an employee.[8]

      Oher started in 10 games as a guard during his first season with Mississippi, becoming a first-team freshman All American. He shifted to the position of left tackle for the 2006 season, and was named to a variety of preseason All-Conference and All-American teams.[9][10] He was named a second-team SEC of-fensive lineman after his soph-omore season and a first-team SEC offensive lineman after his junior season. Oher was also successful in an academic sense at Ole Miss, and his IQ increased 20 to 30 points between when he was measured in the p-ublic school systems growing up and when he was measured in college.[1]"

      July 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Who invited me?

      Thank you so much for your brevity Mr. Castro

      July 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • JLS639

      The fictionalization of real people to show fictional examples, presented as if they were real, of how real people should behave. That, not profanity, is what is wrong with many movies. Put the movie alongside Amistad and Braveheart filled with fictional characters in real life places with real life names.

      July 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  19. Darth Cheney

    More insanity from the nattering nabobs of nincompoopery.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  20. Crazybusy

    What a great movie. Loved every minute of it! Posted by a Christian.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
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About this blog

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.