Sunday, October 18, 2009

Authors: Fireproof intended for ALL Marriages, Not Just Abusive Ones

Now that I dissected the Fireproof movie, I wanted to see what the authors intended, so I listened to their commentary. I came away from my first listen-through amazed that God used the Kendrick brothers to say so much that they never intended to say. LOL! Isn’t God great! What a sense of humor He must have!

Alex and Stephen Kendrick prayed about this movie, and wrote what they felt God was directing them to say. Yet what they thought they were saying and what they actually said are not necessarily one and the same. The Kendrick bothers wanted Caleb and Catherine Holt to represent any and all marriages. They wanted the relationship to be so bad in the beginning so that those in the worst marriages could identify, and so good at the end so that every couple between the two extremes could identify with Caleb and Catherine’s marriage. However, in doing this, they made the movie about couples who are dealing with abuse, something Alex and Stephen Kendrick never intended.

According to their comments, they tried to put their own viewpoint into the movie. Their criticism of Catherine, for example, stood out to me. One of the brothers commented that a wife who loves as she should would assume the best about her husband until it was proven otherwise.

I find his criticism unwarranted. After all, Catherine HAD been believing the best of her husband for six years, until it became clear that he was ruled by selfishness. We get a peek into their lives AFTER Catherine has finally admitted to herself that Caleb does NOT have her best interests at heart. Caleb had ALREADY shown her over and over again for a number of YEARS that she could not assume the best about him.

The brothers repeatedly kept referring to Catherine’s “bitterness.” On the one hand they kept talking as if her “bitterness” and mistrust were out of line, but on the other, when they commented how Caleb, like many husbands, thought he could make up for years of trampling on his wife with one dinner and a few kind gestures, they point out that it takes much more than that to rebuild trust. On the one hand, they seemed to say wives should forgive and then be so stupid as to hide their heads in the sand and pretend all is well even though it isn’t, and on the other they said husbands have to consistently continue with loving behaviors for a long period of time—possibly even two to three years—before they can expect their wives will trust them again. What the authors refer to as “bitterness,” is actually mistrust that is based on reality over time.

Several statements in their comments, when put together with the Evangelical view of marriage do not add up.

First, they point out that Caleb and Catherine were going in 2 different directions and did not have joint goals. The problem with this is that when evangelicals hear that, the blame would immediately be placed on Catherine, who was not getting behind her husband to support him and submit to him.

But wait! Do they really think the Holt family goal should have been saving for a boat, like Caleb wanted? According to Christian doctrine, Catherine should have hardened her heart about the hospital equipment her parents needed, and joined her husband in his selfish pursuit of a leisure-time boat. The Kendrick brothers don’t go so far as to say that. But that is the conclusion a Christian wife—especially an abused Christian wife—would draw from their statement, since they do not point out that Caleb's goal is taking him in the wrong direction. If they omitted specifying this because they thought scriptural principles make it obvious, they underestimated the effect of their statement on both abused wives and on their counselors, who tend to elevate the "wife submit" doctrine above most other scripture, except those acts that are CLEARLY sinful, (Piper's words) like killing, stealing, and adultery.

The end result for abused Christian wives who hear the Kendrick brothers saying a couple should be going in the same direction, would be a wife who drops her own desire to help others, so that she can "do the right thing" and support her husband in his goals. Her husband would end up free from confrontation about his selfishness. Because he would feel entitled to get whatever his heart desires, sermons on self-sacrifice would go over his head. In his mind, his income-producing job and his contribution of 2/3 of his income to support his family IS self-sacrifice and so much servitude that no more should ever be required of him.

It is usually the wives who listen to and do what pastors recommend in self-sacrifice to make their marriages work. If Catherine did as the Kendrick brothers recommend, Caleb would have had everything going his way so much that he never would have come to the place of having to choose between divorce or trying the love dare, nor would he have had any reason to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.

More on the Kendrick brothers commentary in the next post.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel,"a story about a woman who grapples with her husband's demands that she submit--no matter what. Please visit


  1. You know, Waneta, my ex and I did watch Fireproof. Now I realize that he did take something out of it - he thought that tears, dinners and gifts would do it! In our early turbulent years, he would never have done that; instead he would give me the silent treatment until I apologized, or he would suddenly snap out of it and pretend nothing had happened if he wanted sex.

    The trouble with Fireproof and other great materials about resolving conflicts or dealing with issues is that abusers take that information and use it for their own purposes. It doesn't change them - it just gives the spouse false hope that they will "see the light" and change. Smart abusers do remember and internalize the information, but don't apply it in a deep way to themselves. They either quote it to prove they are "enlightened", quote it to the abused partner to show where she is wrong, misinterpret and twist the information they learn or simply demean the source with some spurious statistic from an expert.

    Mine decided that imitating Caleb would bring results. I had a lot of dinner invites, gifts and apologies with tears. At first they worked. But after a while and lots of confusion, it became clear that the heart was the same. How many lots of sorries am I supposed to put up with before I decide that sorry is not enough? Interestingly, an abused friend of mine who also tried the Love Dare, remarked that I was unreasonable in not reconciling - she said, "He said sorry, what more do you want?"

  2. Anonymous,

    It sounds like you need to start educating your abused friend--a thimbleful at a time, though.

    I suggest you ask her how many times the village should have hopped to when the boy cried wolf, and there never was one? If a person smacks you (physically, verbally, or otherwise) and says he's sorry, smacks you again, apologizes, does it again without any real effort to mend his ways, how long are you going to walk with him before you acknowledge that he is only sorry you are onto him, but not sorry he did it?

    Lundy Bancroft in his book "Why does he do that?" gives this great analogy, which I used in my batterers group. It made an impact. If you cut down your neighbor's beautiful shade tree, where they often held picnics, etc, what is it going to take for you to reestablish a good, trusting relationship with your neighbor? I'm sure an "I'm sorry" accompanied with tears wouldn't regain any trust at all. Adding chocolates and flowers wouldn't help much either. And if the next time he was gone you cut down his favorite rose bush, he'd have your number for sure by then, and it is likely he would never trust you.

    No, you'd have to pay restitution. You'd have to buy the biggest tree you could find to replace the one you cut down. One of those half-grown ones, that you'd have to hire someone to dig up with a machine and carry to the neighbor's lawn in that cone-shaped thing, and plant. And then you'd have to carefully water the tree, fertilize it, tend it for at least a year while the roots take hold, and you'd have to baby it along for years after that until it was as big as the one you'd cut down. And if that first tree dies, you'd have to buy another one and tend that one. You'd also need to buy picnic furniture, whatever the neighbor values/wants to show your goodwill and your repentance and restitution. But even then there is no guarentee that your neighbor would ever like or trust you--or forgive you. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not foregone conclusions as abusers think they ought to be--from other people, of course.

    Somehow, putting it into word-picture form that men understand helps at least some of them "get it." Hopefully, it will help your friend and pastor get it, too. BTW, I do recommend Lundy Bancroft's book "Why Does He Do That?"

    My novel, Behind the Hedge, may also help. Both are available on Amazon and bookstores. Mine is available at local stores, but has to be ordered. It is also available from my website and from Christian Book Distributors, but you probably have to do the search function to bring it up.