Can “Fireproof” Save Marriage at the Ballot Box in November?

Mon Sep 29, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

Commentary by Patrick Novecosky

September 29, 2008 ( - If I’ve learned anything from watching the past few elections cycles, it’s that politics follows culture. Candidates tend to take their cues from what they see and hear around them. From their perspective, they stand a better chance of getting elected by following the popular culture than sticking to their own beliefs or firmly established notions of right and wrong.

Yet every once in a while, the common folk take control of the culture and decide a key political issue. This fall, voters in California, Florida and Arizona will choose whether or not to amend their state constitutions to protect traditional marriage, the union of one man and one woman.

Twenty-seven states have constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex "marriages" - 11 approved by voters in 2004, when the issue became a central part of President Bush’s re-election, and seven more in 2006. Another 18 states have statutes on the books protecting traditional marriage, but those statutes tend to be overturned by activist judges, as happened in Massachusetts and California, the only states that recognize same-sex "marriages." Homosexuals in those states have lobbied hard to redefine marriage to suit their misguided purpose.

Hollywood has been behind these efforts every step of the way for more than 25 years. Occasionally, however, Christians rise up to do battle on the big screen for traditional values. On Sept. 26, the makers of Facing the Giants brought their latest movie Fireproof to theaters. The low-budget Christian movie shocked Hollywood, opening in fourth place while playing in only 850 theaters, right behind the Samuel Jackson flick Lakeview Terrace, which was playing on more than 2,500 screens.

In Fireproof, veteran film and television actor Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains, Left Behind) stars as firefighter Caleb Holt, whose seven-year marriage to his wife Catherine (Erin Bethea) is on the rocks.

Before the couple can file for divorce, Caleb’s father challenges his son to a "Love Dare," a 40-day spiritual guide that uses scripture to reveal what true love is. Caleb begins the program more for his father’s sake than for his marriage. Each day, his father’s Love Dare book challenges him to express his love for Catherine, but his half-hearted efforts fall flat.

When Caleb finds out that that the book’s daily challenges are tied into his parents’ newfound faith, his already limited interest dissipates quickly. Frustrated, he finally asks his father, "How am I supposed to show love to somebody who constantly rejects me?" When his father tells him that this is the love God shows to sinners, Caleb makes a life-changing commitment to love God. And, with the Lord’s help, he starts to understand what it means to truly love his wife.

Produced by Alex and Stephen Kendrick of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., the film has won rave reviews and garnered powerful endorsements from Catholic and Protestant leaders alike during screenings across the country this summer. Filmmakers have partnered with Christian marriage organizations to use the film as a tool to strengthen marriage by revealing God’s purpose for "covenant" or sacramental marriage rather than simply a secular contractual marriage.

Despite some weak acting, the film is beautifully produced and connects on many levels. Neither of the lead characters - Caleb and Catherine - are people of faith. Neither understands the sacredness of matrimony or God’s purpose for marriage. In that regard, Fireproof is an education for the uneducated. For those who understand the sacrament, it’s a reminder to recommit daily to the work it takes to love their spouses unconditionally and sacrificially.

In contrast to Fireproof, the film Milk will hit theaters in December. With 30 times the budget of Fireproof, the dramatization of slain gay activist and San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn, is already drawing considerable buzz in California. Milk will certainly draw more press than Fireproof, but if the Kirk Cameron flick catches fire like Bella did among the pro-life community last year, it could have a significant impact at the ballot box in Florida, Arizona and California when Nov. 4 rolls around.

By redefining marriage as something other than an exclusive life-long relationship between one man and one woman, the courts have begun to destabilize the fundamental building block of society: the family. The law is a great teacher. It sets norms for society and tells us what is right and what is wrong. When the courts, for example, sought to redefine when human life is protected under law with Roe v. Wade in 1973, they opened the floodgates to the wholesale slaughter of unborn children. Similarly, if the three states with upcoming amendments fail to protect marriage, they will open the door for the courts to change fundamentally the definition of not only marriage, but of family and First Amendment rights.

Some say the culture has already spoken. Same-sex "marriage" is a done deal. It’s a lost cause. But for those of us who struggle daily to live according to biblical principles guided by the Church, it’s not a done deal even if the culture says otherwise. When ordinary people stand up for fundamental human values like traditional marriage, the culture will change and politicians will follow.

Patrick Novecosky is the editor of Legatus Magazine. He writes from Naples, Florida.

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