Esther Harris, a young woman praised for her virtue and devotion to Warren F. Vanderbilt's Prophetic Watchman Ministries, has been given the opportunity of a lifetime - to attend Vanderbilt's Kingdom Bible College and to marry Phillip Sawyer, the son of a minister and a Kingdom student being groomed for the ministry. When the fundamentalist Christian sect falls on hard times, Esther looks for employment at a local health food store to supplement the group's income. At the store, Esther gets a chance to share her faith with her new manager, Gabriel, a devout skeptic and preacher's kid, and his roommate, Mark, a college drop-out who finds Christian television to be great entertainment. Shot entirely on location in Southern Indiana and Austin, Texas, Paradise Recovered attempts a modern-day retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan while addressing the important topics of faith, tolerance, and spiritual abuse in modern culture. Written by
Great Warning v. the Harm Fundamentalism Does to Faith
I'm a pastor. Whoever wrote this movie has been on the inside of Christian, legalistic fundamentalism, so the film is insightful. Not all fundamentalism is exactly like this, of course, but it's some version of it, whether more or less extreme. I define Christian fundamentalism as a Christianity in which man-made rules (as opposed to Biblical commands) are held to be on par with Scriptural commands. Legalism comes in when a breaking of those man-made rules or Biblical commands is made the basis upon which a person is viewed (judgmentally) either as a "good Christian" or a "bad Christian." Having been in ministry 27 years, including a stint as a campus minister at Indiana University (at which the graduation scene of this movie is filmed), I've never seen legalism or fundamentalism turn out well for those who've been under it--never. The most anti-Christian students I ever talked to about the gospel on campus were not those with no religious background or with another religion, but those coming out of Christian fundamentalism. In such an environment, the attempt of the parents or pastors is to keep those under them faithful by adding rules and threats. Ironically, the result is always disillusionment and crises of faith as the persons in these environments begin to see the inconsistencies and lack of love that is part-and-parcel of these environments. Those who grow up in this environment either leave the Church altogether permanently or for at least two years go through a rebellion stage before returning. This film examines this rebellion/leaving from two helpful angles in the characters of Esther and Gabriel. While the film doesn't get to a helpful conclusion of the necessity of rejecting mad-made rules and embracing Scripture's actual directives in an environment of grace, it is a very-healthy and needed warning against the backfiring nature of beyond-Scripture regulations. I appreciated this movie greatly, and will be recommending it to lots of folks.
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