Lessons from a Fighter

colson2Here at BreakPoint, we get our fair share of e-mails and letters from this or that filmmaker promoting this or that so-called “Christian” film. But one thing we did not expect was to hear from the marketers of the recent release Rocky Balboa. Yes, that Rocky Balboa, the final entry in the series about the boxer with a heart of gold. Suddenly, we were hearing about how Rocky is “a spiritual journey” and how Sylvester Stallone was telling pastors about his personal Christian faith. The statement we received from Motive Entertainment read, in part, “This isn’t a ‘Christian’ film, but there’s some pretty cool stuff that you can relate to faith and values.” Many of us here were taken by surprise. The Rocky movies had their virtues, but faith is not the first word they bring to mind. And the whole issue of faith in film is more complicated than it appears. Remember, ever since The Passion of the Christ cleaned up at the box office, many film companies have had dollar signs in their eyes whenever they looked at Christians. We are now considered a group to be marketed to—but that status can have its price. It can tempt us to go along with and endorse things we shouldn’t, simply because it might help us keep our power. As John Fischer wrote on our website,, we must be careful, for the sake of our message, not to let ourselves be “used.” So we have some tricky questions to answer: Are the film companies calling pastors and e-mailing ministries because they genuinely think they have something good to share with us? Or because they’re hoping that they can put enough of a Christian “spin” on their latest product, whatever it is, to earn the Christian dollar? That brings us back to Rocky Balboa. Now, in this case I was pleased to discover that the marketers were not just making things up. Rocky Balboa is no more an overtly Christian film than its predecessors, but Motive Entertainment had a point in calling it “spiritual.” The story concerns Rocky’s controversial return to the ring when he’s well past his prime. But the images that linger are those of a strong man helping and protecting the weak (in this case, a single mother and her teenage son), and being a wise and encouraging father to his own troubled son. “The world,” Rocky tells his son, “is a very mean and nasty place, and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.” But Rocky consistently demonstrates compassion, selflessness, and loyalty, showing the best way to respond to a “nasty” world. That sounds like a pretty good reflection of the Christian worldview to me. So I’m glad to be able to recommend Rocky Balboa as a good film, one that Christians can enjoy watching. It demonstrates that a film, while not using overtly Christian themes or employing Christian jargon, can still teach Christian values. It is rated PG for violence and mild profanity. A note of caution: We can’t jump on the bandwagon to call something “Christian” just because the world tells us it is. If we needed discernment when the film industry was largely hostile to our faith, we need it all the more now that Hollywood is seeking to draw more and more Christians into the nation’s movie houses.
Today's BreakPoint Offer
Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment by Brian Godawa.
For Further Reading and Information
Steve Beard, “Sly Goes One More Round,” BreakPoint Online, 26 December 2006. Alex Wainer, “Stallone Woos the Christian Crowd,” The Culture Beat, 14 November 2006. Peter T. Chattaway, review of Rocky BalboaChristianity Today, 20 December 2006. Kathryn Jean Lopez, “It Takes a Man,” National Review, 5 January 2007. Hanna Rosin, “Can Jesus Save Hollywood?” Atlantic Monthly, December 2005. Catherina Hurlburt, “Give Sly a Chance,” The Point, 6 December 2006. Catherina Hurlburt, “Hollywood, Trying to Succeed Where Capitol Hill Failed,” The Point, 16 November 2006. Learn more about Motive Entertainment. Luke Burbank, “‘Rocky Balboa’ Born Again in Christian Theme,” Day to Day, NPR, 20 December 2006. Joe Garofoli, “An Unexpected Pair: God and ‘Rocky’,” San Francisco Chronicle, 20 December 2006. John J. Miller, “The Sixth Coming of Rocky,” National Review, 20 December 2006. Chuck Johnson, “Stallone Proud of New ‘Rocky’ Flick, Says It Links to Original,” USA Today, 15 December 2006, 8C. John Fischer, “On the Courting of Evangelicals,” BreakPoint Online, 16 November 2005. Brian Lowry, “Can H’wood Make Friends with Evangelicals?” Variety, 2 January 2007.


Chuck Colson


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