Category Archives: Teenage Christmas

400th Post: Palate Cleanser News and a Poll!

Hey, so this is the 400th post of Heathen Critique!


Close enough.

(Seriously, I have no idea why I didn’t care about 100 or 200 or 300.  Anyway.)

So, thought I’d share my decision about the palate cleanser for after Silenced, since we almost three-quarters done.

It is yet another movie that I caught on local Christian television, and GORRAMITALL but I am psyched to do this one:

I’ll just say one thing that strikes me right away: that is a pretty cute “beast.”

This movie promises to be interesting on another level, too: it was a Mormon movie first.

Yup.  See, it was originally called Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale.  Apparently, a few explicitly Mormon lines were cut and the movie was repackaged as Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance.  I haven’t seen the Mormon version yet, but I will, so I can better speak to the changes.

And I come into this as an expert on Mormon entertainment, yo.  I have seen all five seasons of Big Love AND The Book of Mormon.


(It would be cool to be paid for plugs like this.)


And I will leave the final decision of what to do next in the hands of you, my lovely readers.

The options:

1.  Shadowed, the third and final book of the Underground Zealot series.  More adventures in Atheistopia with Paul and Jae Stepola/Apostle and Ranold B. Decenti/Benedict Arnold.

2.  The Europa Conspiracy, the third out of the four books in the Babylon Rising series.  Michael Murphy sets out to find the Handwriting on the Wall.  Yes, really.

3.  Something completely (okay, partially) different: It seems that out old pal Jerry Jenkins has found a new co-writer/pastor to work with—James MacDonald.

For those unfamiliar with him, you can see a ton of his sermons on YouTube.  I won’t link you an hour-long talk, but here is a tiny sampling of him:

I listen to James MacDonald many mornings on my way to work, and what strikes me most is his tendency to play the incredibly extraverted, repeat-after-me game, which ends up sounding like this:

MacDonald: Jesus is perfect.  Turn to your neighbor and say, “Jesus is perfect.”

Unmicced audience: Eee-uh ert.

MacDonald: Again! Because this is exciting!  Jesus is perfect!

Unmicced audience:  EEE-UH ERT!!!

It would drive me CRAZY if I had to do this every week.

It is so cool that I don’t go to church.  😉

This book is brand-spanking new, but I already have a used copy, and there is a BOOK TRAILER, guys!

Kinda sounds Michael Murphy-ish, though I see by skimming the first few pages that the hero is a professor at a theological seminary, not a small Southern university.  Anyway, that bit of skimming aside, I think I would critique this book blind, just like the Christmas novels.

4.  Another something partially different: a focus on movies instead of books for awhile.  I’ve got a little stack of Christian movies here, and could just do a few in a row.  Some examples:

One of the ones that Started It All for me:

More from the Teenage series, including Teenage Conflict (creationism) and Teenage Code (cheating).


So, whaddaya think???  It’s up to you guys!

TSoA: Chapter 19: Crossover!

In addition to reviewing Christian novels, I enjoy reviewing Christian movies.  A few of them, like the recent Time Changer, had an actual theatrical release, but many of them are shorter movies, meant to be shown at church youth events.  Yanno, movies like Teenage Testament, Teenage Christmas, The Pretender, and Second Glance—movies that feature Christian teens facing the sort of moral issues Christian teens face, such as how to drag little kids to church and how to alienate all your friends by preaching at them whenever you see them.

But today, in The Secret on Ararat, brand-new Christian and churchgoer Tiffany (remember her???) has dragged her friends to a Christian youth event out on the woods.

It seems that Tiffany has picked up on the lessons taught at Pastor Bob’s church, exemplified by Michael Murphy, that a lie isn’t really a lie if you just phrase things in such a way that your listeners will be sure to misunderstand:

…even though Lisa and Christy were her two closest friends, Tiffany was beginning to wonder if bringing them here had been a good idea after all.  When she first told them about the retreat, she deliberately didn’t add the word church.  She figured there was no point in frightening them off before they got here, and she trusted that once they did, the experience would be so different from their normal lives that they’d quickly find themselves caught up in it.

Would it really be so easy to keep this a secret for the entire bus ride, plus the first two hours they’re there, as Tiffany does?  Don’t these buses usually have the name of the church on them?  Wouldn’t there be a prayer or some shit before they pulled out?  I wouldn’t know, mind you, but it just seems unlikely…

Also, is this whole thing free to all comers?  Because it seems really awful to ask someone to pay for something when they don’t really know what it is.

Also also, Tiffany has promised Lisa and Christy that there will be cute boys.  Not that retreat-going boys wouldn’t be cute, but the promise of them seems highly manipulative from this brand-new Christian.

Mark is the director of the youth retreat, and you can tell he’s hip with the kids because he wears faded jeans.  He breaks the sad news to the teens that they are there by the Lord’s plan, but that there will still be “crazy fun” stuff to do in the woods.

Christy and Lisa, understandably, are less than thrilled by this revelation:

“You knew if you mentioned the word church it would have taken a bunch of, like, totally wild horses to drag us here.”

You tell her, Christy!

But Tiffany shrugs off the whole lying-to-her-best-friends problem, because church is COOL.

“Yes.  Cool.  About looking at the big picture, and what’s going to happen in the future and why we’re here.”

Sadly, Tiffany’s friends, like all nonbelievers, are hedonists:

“Have some fun and then you die, girlfriend.  That’s the big picture.”

But despite being evil hedonists, and despite being told by Tiffany that they’re risking “everlasting damnation,” and despite being lied to, Lisa and Christy prove themselves to be Good Without God by letting it go.

Okay, I’m not so sure that the lesson is supposed to be that Lisa and Christy are more moral than churchgoer Tiffany, but that’s sure what is being demonstrated.

Needless to say, since this is a LaHaye novel, the retreat works like a charm.  In between kayaking and stuff, Mark delivers “stirring” talks, and the teens’ minds “were open to new ideas and new challenges to the usual way they thought about things.”

Then Mark tells the kids about how Jesus died for their sins.


Something about the way he talked of Jesus as if He was a real person whom Mark knew personally made them feel that He really had sacrificed Himself for each one of them.

Passionate Sincerity!!!  Waaaaaay better than facts and logic!

On Saturday night, Mark instructs the kids that it’s time to go into the woods to do what bears do there…I mean, to have a “Discipline of Silence.”

(Yes, it’s capitalized in the book—is this some kind of real thing that people do?)

Anyway, they’re supposed to go alone into the woods and reflect on Jesus and stuff and “do some business with your Creator.”

Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves.

So Tiffany says the magic words and calls her parents to tell them how much she loves them and loves Jesus and ISN’T THERE SOME SORT OF ARK THAT PEOPLE WANT TO GET AROUND TO FINDING AT SOME POINT???


Palate Cleanser?

So we’re coming up on the end of Soon, and will then move on to The Secret on Ararat

I’m thinking of reviewing one or more movie(s) as a palate cleanser before we dig (C Wut I Did There?) into the secrets of Noah’s Ark.

Some options I am considering:

  • The Daylight Zone, the FIRST FILM EVER by Dave Christiano, the guy who brought us The Pretender.
  • Teenage Crusade, the exciting tale of a 1960 JALOPY RAID to recruit young Christian converts.  Brought to you by these dorks.
  • Escape from Hell–sad sack doctor tries to go to Hell on purpose, long before House made the attempt.
  • The Fountainhead–yeah, I know it’s not fer real Christian entertainment since it was based on a novel written by an ATHEIST and all, but hey, nobody loves Ayn Rand like the RTCs.  Then again, I’m not sure I can be funnier than this…


Teenage Christmas

This is part of the Teenage Crusade series of short films from the late 1950’s/early 1960’s–other titles include Teenage Testament (Question: Is it okay to proselytize at work?  Answer: yes.), Teenage Conflict (Question: Is there a conflict between faith and science?  Answer: No, science just hasn’t discovered that faith has all the answers.), and Teenage Loyalty (Question: Is it okay to blow off youth group activities when you get a part in the school play? Answer: No, that makes baby Jesus cry.)

Family Films presents cutouts arranging themselves to illustrate the theme of the story.

Over at Trinity Church, the youth group sure is fired up, by golly!  They have so darned many things to do, like making a Nativity scene and planning a skating party.  But not everyone is in a good mood—Mitch is sniping at everyone, and poor Sue is “frantic” that she won’t make it through Christmas.  She’s so busy co-chairing the Nativity committee (and I’ll at least give the movie props for having a girl be a co-chair) that she doesn’t even have time to look at Aunt Margaret’s Christmas card!  Sue’s mother is worried about her daughter’s frantic-ness, and suggests she send a joyful Christmas card…to herself.  Oh, sure, mom, give the poor girl one more damn thing to do!

As the youth group is setting up the Nativity scene outside, a couple of little kids wander by with all sorts of questions.  A few of the Christian teens would be delighted to answer, but mean ole Mitch totally blows them off, aided and abetted by Sue.  But the kids will get their revenge, oh yes, they will!

Later that evening, Sue and Mitch are interrupted while decorating Sue’s Christmas tree.  (Wait, wasn’t Sue just whining that she didn’t have any time for anything but youth group stuff?  And why is Mitch helping her decorate her family’s tree, anyway?)  Before we can receive answers to these questions, the phone rings.  Someone’s been throwing snowballs at the Nativity scene!  Oh noes!

The crime

The Nativity scene doesn’t look all that bad, really.  Basically, one of the mannequins got knocked over.  But the kids…oops, I mean the unknown perpetrators…took Mary’s dress.  “It’s sacrilegious!” cries Sue.

Andy, president of the youth group, runs up with some news: the mailman spotted the kids running from the scene of the crime!  He even knows where they live.  Mitch is ready to go over there and lynch them immediately, but Andy counsels caution and that, “anything we do to them, we should do in the spirit of Christmas.”

Judge, jury, and executioners

The kids turn out to live in an impliedly-poor part of town.  Big sister Fay has to take care of them because Mom (gasp!) has to work.  Fay defends the kids, but under the youth group’s interrogation, the kids (now revealed to be named Freddy and Jane) crack and return the dress.

Counsel for the defense

Sue: The figure wearing the dress represents Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Now, you wouldn’t want to take anything like that, would you?

Defendant #1

Turns out Jane snatched the dress as a gift for their mom for Christmas (awww!).  This fact revealed, Sue and Mitch share a few pangs of Christian guilt.  Andy hopes to help the kids out.  Not, you understand, by helping the poor kids get a present for their mom, but by teaching them “what Christmas is really all about.”

Defendant #2

Sue invites all three siblings to Christmas at the church.  Fay declines, saying she is “too busy.”  Although the movie never touches on this, I think it’s worth pointing out that Fay probably really is too busy, and busy with real concerns like taking care of small children and keeping house for a single mom who has to “work until she’s ready to drop.”  Not, you understand, the “too busy” of Sue, whose busy activities include decorating trees, skating, and signing Christmas cards.

But that’s certainly not the point.  The point, explained by Andy, is that “God cares” about Christmas.  Despite Fay politely declining four separate times, Andy’s on an evangelizing roll, here, and he’s not letting up until he’s got these folks in the pews, dammit!  He knows how to pick his battles, though, and convinces Fay to allow Freddy and Jane to go back with the teens and clean up the Nativity scene.  Now that Andy has the kids away from their older sister, he has free reign to proselytize unhindered!  The cleaning lasts for all of five seconds before the teens kneel in the snow and give the kids the whole Christmas spiel.

But despite the opportunity to proselytize to impressionable children, Sue is still in a pissy mood later at home, when Mitch calls her to remind her about going carol-singing.  (First he helps her decorate her tree and now this, eh?  He totally wants her.)

Just before the teens leave the church, they spot Freddy and Jane by the Nativity scene again.  They must be back to throw more snowballs!  The teen gang sneak up to the scene to catch the kids in the act…but it turns out Freddy and Jane have brought Fay with them, and are teaching her the Christmas story (like all nonbelievers, Fay is completely ignorant of the basics of Christianity).  They’ve also managed to internalize some nice Christmas guilt: “Do you think God will forgive us?”

Delighted that the evangelizing has worked, Sue grins (Mainly in Mitch’s direction.  Yeah, she wants him, too.), and proclaims that, “Now I feel like singing!”  So does Mitch.  And I’m sure the knowledge that a couple of spoiled teenagers now feel a bit more cheerful will help Freddy and Jane cope with the fact that they still have no Christmas present for their hard-working Mommy.

Bah, humbug.