Movie Write-Up: Christmas with a Capital C

Christmas with a Capital C is a 2010 Christian movie produced by Pure Flix Entertainment.  It was on TBN last night.

The movie is about a lawyer, Mitch Bright (played by Baldwin brother Daniel Baldwin), who returns to his hometown of Trapper Falls, Alaska.  Mitch and the mayor of the town, Dan Reed, were rivals when they were growing up.  The competed about everything—-sports, clubs, and Kristen (played by Nancy Stafford of Matlock), who would become Dan’s wife.

Mitch is an atheist, and he legally challenges the town’s display of a nativity scene on public property.  He also encourages local businesses to say “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” rather than “Merry Christmas.”  Mitch decides to run against Dan for the mayor’s office.  Dan wonders why Mitch has returned after all these years, and why he is launching a war on Christmas.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is a typical Christian movie about the Christmas wars: oh, woe are we Christians, for we are persecuted because people wish us “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” and we can’t display our nativity scene on publicly-owned property, even though we are allowed to display it on our church’s lawn!  And, yes, the movie did have some of that Christian conservative rhetoric.  It particularly came from Dan’s brother Greg, who is played by conservative comedian Brad Stine.

But the movie was not your typical Christian movie about the Christmas wars or the separation of church and state, for three reasons.

First of all, there was some recognition on the movie’s part about legal nuances in Establishment Clause cases.  The law allows Christians to display nativity scenes, as long as it is not on taxpayer-supported property.  Under the prevalent interpretation of the Establishment Clause, the government cannot promote a particular religion, but private individuals and groups can.

Second, there was some acknowledgment in the movie that this is all right.  After all, Jesus is still Lord, and Christmas is still about him, whether or not there is a nativity scene on the public lawn.  Kristen and the pastor propose that Christians in the town make Christmas about love and service rather than making a big stink about an atheist taking away their “rights.”  The movie alternates between this meeting and Greg telling the Christmas story to his niece, nephew, and his nephew’s girlfriend: Israel expected a political messiah, but Jesus would be a messiah who would show love one person at a time.

Third, the atheist is not exactly demonized.  Mitch thinks he is too sophisticated for Christianity and is upset at the hypocrisy and smug attitude of Christians he has known.  He is also lonely, has no family, and has had financial setbacks, notwithstanding the prosperous image he tries to project.  Mitch has also helped people in the past.  Granted, a Christian movie will depict the atheist as deficient, in some sense, but this movie’s portrayal was not entirely negative.

The movie was still cheesy.  The singing was bad.  The dialogue was predictable, in places.  Greg came across to me as a Robin Williams wannabe, as endearing as his character was.  And, yes, the movie has been compared to How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Still, for a Christian movie about the Christmas wars, it was refreshing to watch.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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