Believe Me (M)

In a word: Questioning

 

Director Will Bakke gently pokes fun at modern Christian practices by offering satirical insights into the oddness of the Christian ‘culture’ we’ve come to embrace in the Western world...Yet he doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and, once all the ridiculousness is stripped away, Believe Me still conveys a sense of the earnestness of those Christians seeking to live a life built around following Jesus Christ as best they can."

“Sometimes people do want to be lied to.” So thinks Texan Frat boy and college senior Sam Atwell (played by Australian Alex Russell of Chronicle fame), a born scammer who enjoys the good life thanks to his manipulating ways.

But he finds himself in desperate need for tuition money for law school after discovering his scholarship had expired. Attending church with a friend for purposes other than seeking God, he hears of how the church is raising $20,000 to fund a mission trip.

It’s that which leads him, along with his three closest friends – Pierce (Miles Fisher), Tyler (Sinqua Walls) and Baker (Max Adler) - to come up with the idea of exploiting the generosity of Christians to raise money for a fake project - aimed at bringing clean drinking water to people in the African nation of Lesotho - and then pocketing almost all of it.

“The sadder the cause, the higher the price,” says Sam. “And what’s sadder than kids in Africa without clean water?”

So, complete with some rather bad taste PR materials, they launch Project Get Wells Soon, challenging Christians to put their money where their faith is. But the money that comes in isn’t enough and the boys soon find themselves drawn into a larger game, in which they’re now carrying out their scam on the national stage as part of a Christian tour known as "Cross Country".

Inexperienced in "Christian" ways, they soon find themselves in hot water and are forced to step more deeply into the world they’ve come to inhabit to keep the scam going. You can see where this is going. Along the way, a fake faith starts to become a real one as Sam and his buddies are convicted about what they’re doing – particularly when they see people earnestly following their leading as they seek God’s will for their life.

Along the way, they encounter some interesting people including distraught college counsellor Sean (Nick Offerman), the always upbeat Cross Country tour director Ken (Christopher McDonald), Gabriel (Zachary Knighton), a worship leader (just don't call him that) whose one song Jesus is simply His name repeated over and over and over (it's actually quite catchy!), and Gabriel’s girlfriend, Callie (Johanna Braddy), who plays a key role in showing Sam the reality of a life in which Jesus is at the centre.

Director Will Bakke gently pokes fun at modern Christian practices by offering satirical insights into the oddness of the Christian ‘culture’ we’ve come to embrace in some parts of the US-emulating world (these include the four hand-raising techniques, Christian ‘swearing’ practices and some well-worn preaching techniques) as well as the gullibility Christians can show as we embrace everything bearing the name of Jesus without really questioning what it's actually about.

Yet Bakke doesn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and, once all the ridiculousness is stripped away, Believe Me still conveys a sense of the earnestness of those Christians seeking to live a life built around following Jesus Christ as best they can.

At the end of the day, there’s a serious message underneath the comic veneer and it's something all Christians would do well to wrestle with – why do we, as the church, do what we do in the way that we do it, what is the purpose of any ‘cause’ that we’re involved with (to feel good ourselves or to serve the purposes of the Kingdom of God?), and who is at the ultimate centre of our faith: God or ourselves?

Believe Me deliberately sets out to challenge us about what being a real Christian is. After all, the rest is just pretending.

~ www.believemefilm.com

Believe Me is available on DVD from 4th November.