Miracles From Heaven

Can an atheist such as myself give an unbiased review of a movie with a distinctly Christian bent?

For reals: I don’t think I can. And I’m doing everything I can to be fair here, trying to look beyond the bible-thumping to find something else to focus on, and maybe even, to enjoy.

Okay, let’s talk about Jennifer Garner. It took me a long time to come around to her. Back in her Alias days, I kind of disliked her, for not big reason that I can relate. She married Ben Affleck in 2005 and that softened her for me. And now that they’re divorced, I like her even more, for being stoic and strong and not running her mouth. For putting her family first. For helping him get sober even as he runs around with a new girlfriend. For being a good person, too good for stupid Ben Affleck. I suppose her loving a man who didn’t deserve her makes her pretty damn relatable. And now that she’s “free” she’s a little more present on social media – and she’s funny, and dorky, and unselfconscious. She’s also very hands-on with her 3 kids, taking them to school, to get ice cream, to church.

So I suppose this movie kind of makes sense for her – it’s family-friendly, and it’s churchy, MV5BNDJjNjM2ZTQtMGZlOS00ZDAxLWEyZTMtODMwODY1MGM3MmU3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc3MjUzNTI@._V1_as evidenced by her rather large, Texan hair and the lively church services she attends, the kind with the “funny” pastor and the earnest rock band praising jebus. She plays a real-life mother of 3 named Christy Beam who goes through one of the very worst things a mother can experience: a sick kid. A very sick kid. Her middle daughter, Anna, comes down with one of those mystery illnesses that doctors can’t diagnose so they ignore, while a little girl writhes in pain and wastes away. And only because her mother is persistent does she eventually get a prognosis that isn’t very helpful: she has a severe and incurable disease where she basically doesn’t process food, and she will die from it.

So that’s terrible to watch. If you have kids, or, scratch that, any loved one at all, you know how hard it is to watch them be so sick when you are powerless to help. Even 24 hours of vomiting can undo a family – imagine if that became your life. [And side note: does everyone have a “sick bowl” – that special bucket that Moms seem to keep on hand specifically for those times you can’t quite make it to the toilet? Is that a thing in other families?]

So Christy’s faith is tested, because why would a loving god allow her innocent child to be sick? And her faith is further tested when other “Christians” accuse her of deserving it – whether through her own sins, her husband’s, or potentially even Anna’s. It’s the kind of thing that makes even a hardened atheist such as myself roll her eyes and whisper “Oh lord.” Even poor little Anna is starting to wonder why god hasn’t healed her. Is it possible he doesn’t care (or, um, exist?).

But no. This is a Christian movie, destined to be screened by church groups and almost no one else. So of course, a miracle must occur, and if possible, perhaps even the voice of god himself could make itself known. And if that doesn’t stun you into prayerful submission, someone will offer that miracles are god’s way of letting us know he’s here (don’t ask yourself what god is telling us when he lets other little kids die left and right).

So as much as I might praise Garner for her performance, I can’t really look past the message of this film, which is preaching to the choir at best, and downright insulting at worst. They wring this story for all it’s worth, and while I was sorry for the real Anna’s pain, and happy that she survived (make no mistake: there is no doubt that she will survive – the only question is how long they’ll string us along for first), I find it dangerous to label something a “miracle from heaven” when it really seems like a “coincidence on earth” and “an accident in an old tree”. Because otherwise we’d have to ask ourselves what makes one child more worthy of a miracle than any other, and I really, really, really hate where that takes us. That kind of fear and competitiveness makes nice, casserole-toting, big-haired church ladies into real bitches – so where would that leave the rest of us?

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31 thoughts on “Miracles From Heaven

  1. Trev Jones

    It must be hard to review a film like this as an Aethiest. I’m one myself and I think I would have lost interest not long after the start. Still, there are plenty of believers that will enjoy the film.

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  2. Katrina Morrison

    Hi Jay😊
    This was a tough one to review and remain impossibly objective. As you know, not every movie is for all audiences. I have avoided this because I can’t stand “syrup” movies. Due to your review, now I want to see it. Others told me that they, surprisingly, liked it; but, I didn’t trust it. Oh, before I forget, yes my Mum had a “throw up bucket” however there were seven kids LOL

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  3. Dan O.

    I was nice to this one. It meant well and didn’t try too hard to throw its agenda around like all the other faith-based movies. But seriously, what’s up with Jennifer Garner’s career? It seems like after divorcing Batfleck she’s been subjected to just mommy roles.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I was actually sure she’d done another churchy movie but nope, it’s just these mommy roles are adding up in my head and I can’t differentiate!

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  4. J.

    I couldn’t watch this. Not because of the heavy Christian leaning or anything, but because of the content. I can handle a whole lot, but I’ve found over the last few years that movies with sick kids and the likes really get to me (life stage and all).

    Anyhoo, to lighten things up, “So of course, a miracle must occur, and if possible, perhaps even the voice of god himself could make itself known”. Morgan Freeman?

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  5. ninvoid99

    I’m a lapse-Catholic who hasn’t been to church in years though I would mind spending a Sunday at church. I’m just not fond of these religious-based films as I always feel they are heavy-handed and want you to believe in this idea rather than another idea. I’ve grown to have an immense disdain towards Christianity and Evangelicalism as of late due to a lot of the corruption and exploitation they have on third-world countries to try and get them to believe this and make claims they’ll be saved.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, I don’t dislike movies like this simply because I don’t believe. I also don’t believe in vampires or zombies or soul mates, but I can still enjoy a well-made movie. These movies just tend to be so Hallmarky and syrupy that it’s hard to digest.

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  6. allthingsthriller

    I’m a Christian, albeit one that doesn’t like “Christian” movies. I’d love to see a recent good one–if one existed.(Here, I’m a skeptic.) That “said”, the Charleton Heston “Ben-Hur” is excellent, IMHO. Oh, by the way, I had a barf pan for my daughters. They’re in the twenties now so I’ve thrown it out.

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  7. calensariel

    This was a great review, Jay. You already know I am a person of faith (though what flavor has always been up for grabs), but this movie depicts everything I HATE about Christianity. I can only take comfort from knowing there are millions of church folks out there who don’t subscribe to that kind of bitchiness and one-up-man-ship as they try to make themselves feel more spiritual than everyone else. Seems they miss the humility part of the Bible. I have some choice words for them I can’t type on here! I’d be an atheist, too, if these people were all I had to throw my lot in with!

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    1. Jay Post author

      So true. I mean, there are obviously bad people across all faiths, and lack thereof, but I always think the point of christianity is to love thy neighbour. I’m glad you’re out there to balance things out. But of course, movies about nice people doing their best aren’t exactly a big draw.

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    1. Jay Post author

      No she does not. I can’t tell you what she really had, it was a disease I’m not familiar with, but basically she couldn’t process food at all, so she got all bloated and sick.

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      1. Jay Post author

        At the time it was Sister, by Rosamund Lupton. It was about genetic therapy\engineering for babies (fetuses) with CF.
        Which is funny because I then watched The Titan, which was about another kind of genetic engineering,
        Movies and books seem to tie together for me, totally accidentally.

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  8. Liz A.

    Ah, Christians… I have mixed feelings about them. I have a feeling this movie might make me cringe. (I’m not an atheist. I’m what I think is called a New Ager. So, I can explain why some get their miracles while others don’t, and it has nothing to do with “deserving”.)

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    1. Jay Post author

      Maybe I just have a problem with people monetizing miracles?
      Like, saving their daughter is not enough, they’d also like to get rich, thankyouverymuch!
      Of course, I also dislike criminals who monetize their stories.

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  9. C R Flamingbush

    Well, I’m a Christian and I liked the film. Maybe that’s because I believe miracles are real. I believe Anna really got her miracle and so on and so forth. However, I can (by faith) put myself in your shoes and imagine how hard it must be to watch the film from the viewpoint of an atheist. I have to credit you for watching the whole thing and taking the time to review it. Coincidental accident in a tree? I guess it can’t really be proved either way, can it? But I do know one thing: Your honesty inspires me to be bolder with my own faith. Thanks so much!

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