Category Archives: Teenage Testament

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 Testament

Next in our Teenage Crusade movie series: Teenage Testament.


I briefly mentioned Teenage Testament when I visited Teenage Christmas over the holidays.  Like Teenage Christmas, Teenage Testament answers a vital question facing every teenager, to wit: Is it okay to proselytize when you’re working at your aunt’s business, even when it drives away the customers, and even when the income from the business is supporting you and your sick mother?

The answer, unsurprisingly, is: Yes.

Two teenage boys are working in Gertie’s Malt Shop.  A significant close-up of the radio reveals that the lame elevator music is not the soundtrack—the characters can hear it too.

The two boys are Roy and Chuck.  Exposition reveals that Roy is staying with his aunt, Gertie, and his cousin, Chuck, while his mother is in the hospital.  Gertie is delighted that Roy is “really pulling his oar” in the malt shop, though Chuck laments that Roy can’t stop “putting his oar where it doesn’t belong.”  (Saaaaaay…) 

Nah, all he means is that Roy just can’t seem to stop proselytizing to the customers.

Roy, our proselytizing hero. As usual, unable to stop talking.

In fact, while his aunt and cousin are expositioning, Roy is busy proselytizing right now, to one of the regulars—cab driver Josh, who is suffering from an ulcer.  Josh is cranky about it, but in a sort of lovably curmudgeonly way.  Though Josh does not ask for help in any way whatsoever, Roy feels obliged to tell Josh about a friend of his, who got rid of an ulcer by “getting on the right diet, the right food for his body and the right food for his soul.”  Wow, subtlety is really Roy’s strength, isn’t it?

Josh immediately says that he doesn’t want a sermon, but Roy just can’t STFU, and tells Josh that his problem is that he’s “mad at the world.”  First, it’s always nice (not to mention winsome) to tell someone “what your problem is.”  Second, cool that Roy managed to get a medical degree at the tender age of sixteen, eh?

Gertie rushes out to break up the conversation and send the boys off to school.  As they leave, Josh is actually incredibly nice about the whole thing, and basically apologizes to Gertie for “being hard” on Roy.  Because telling someone that his proselytizing is not welcome is being hard on him.  However, at least Josh has enough spine to say that Roy should knock it off and stop alienating customers, given all that Gertie is doing for him.  Turns out Gert isn’t just taking care of Roy, she’s paying all of Roy’s mother’s medical bills.  Josh also informs Gertie that a new malt shop may be opening only a block away, and that Roy’s preaching is going to drive the customers right to the competition.

At school, the persecution starts against poor Roy before he even walks in the door, as a couple of “wise guys” ask Roy to pray for good grades for them.  Wow, it’s really just like Jesus, isn’t it?  And Roy takes it so stoically, too (“There are always people who think being a Christian is a joke.”), though Chuck warns him that he brings such comments on himself because he doesn’t “act normal.”

After school (wow, that was a quick day!) Roy is working alone in the malt shop, and young Marian all but jumps him as they rejoice about the awesomeness of their youth group.

Marian. That's her come hither look.

Local barber Ed shows up.  Ed’s character bit is that he has a sick wife.  Unlike mean ole Josh, however, Ed has taken Roy’s proselytizing to heart, and is planning to read the Bible and meet Roy’s pastor.  He asks Roy’s help to find a verse, but Gert overhears and later gives Roy a talking-to.

“But Ed was asking for help!” Roy whines.

“Maybe.  But Josh wasn’t.” Gert points out.

It’s well worth pointing out that Gert is entirely correct here, but Roy plaintively whines that he didn’t think he was “really bothering Josh.”  I guess Roy is so used to people’s complaints that he literally doesn’t hear them—words like “lay off” and “I don’t want a sermon” don’t really mean that the listener wants Roy to lay off and stop sermonizing.  Brat.

And no, he still won’t shut up, listen to his aunt, and let the issue drop. 

Gertie tries to tell her nephew about her own business. But Roy knows best.

Roy: Aunt Gertie, if a guy came in broke and hungry, wouldn’t you feed him?

Gertie: That’s entirely different.

Roy: *long significant pause, leans back, eyes Gert condescendingly*  Is it?

I have to say, Gert is extraordinarily patient with Roy, pointing out again and again and again that he should just please listen to her, since it’s her damn business, thank you very much, and she has an obligation to do something when loyal customers like Josh complain about service.

The next day, Roy finds a new ear to whine to—the ever hopeful Marian.  Marian (and I know you’ll be shocked at this) is firmly on Roy’s side, pointing out that, as Christians, “Aren’t we supposed to witness whenever we can?”  Yup, even if it drives business away from the person and place that are supporting your sick mother.  Asshat.

And then, Roy goes home to proselytize—to Gertie!  Gertie is worried about the new malt shop, and Roy tells her that “I know the Lord would help you and Chuck…if you’d only let him.”  Yeah, it’s your own dumb fault, stupid woman who’s taken me in and is paying for my mother’s medical care! 

Ah, the fifties.  Josh’s ulcer is still bothering him, and “the sooner they drop the bomb, the better.”  Ha!

Roy starts to give Josh an actual apology (!) which Josh takes with a laid back fugedditaboutit.  Now, the smart thing to do here would be to let the whole issue drop, but as we’ve learned by now, nothing can stop Roy’s mouth once he’s started.  “I wasn’t preaching,” he whines at Josh, “but man can’t live by bread alone.”

Josh: “I’ll eat what I want, see?”

Okay, Josh rocks.

So once again, Gert has to yank Roy out of the malt shop and give him a talking-to.  (She’s actually starting to get pissed now.  And good for her.)

“I didn’t mean to upset him!” whines Roy.

Gert is about as sick of Roy’s antics as I am by now, and she actually lays down the law: no more religious talk to anyone while he’s working. 

Roy once again finds Marian to whine at her.  (I’d say they’re trying to pad out the film, but the film is only 29 freakin’ minutes long anyway!)

“You’re sure in a spot,” Marian commiserates.

“I just don’t know the answer…I can’t change the way I feel,” whines Roy.

Hmmm…this is a difficult problem.  Let’s see, on one hand, you proselytize to people who don’t want to hear it, thus alienating them and driving business away from your aunt’s shop, the income of which provides the only means of support not only for your aunt and your cousin, but also for you and your sick mother.  On the other hand, if you don’t proselytize while you’re working, you…um…feel bad?

Surely, this is a puzzle for the ages.

Roy prays about it, asking God to help him “know what to do.”


Okay, that part didn’t happen.  Still, it would be cool if it had…

Later, Ed the barber shows up.  His wife isn’t any better, but he talked with the pastor, and thanks Roy for his “help.”  Roy, trying to be obedient to his aunt (bit late to the party on that one, bud), rudely brushes off the thanks and runs away like a toddler.  Brat.

Ah, but that’s not what this is really about, is it?  See, Roy is right and Gertie is wrong!  The proselytizing is helping people!  Fuck Josh and his ulcer!

The next day, the malt shop is hopping!  But there’s trouble afoot—the two guys who were persecuting Roy about his faith at school are there…to persecute him again!  They ask Roy to bless their malts (okay, I admit it—I snickered), and then snatch his New Testament from his breast pocket!  They sarcastically ask him to preach, but then calmly sit to listen when Roy (shockingly) jumps at the chance.  Yeah, boy, that’ll sure teach him—letting him take the floor.

Roy whines out a little speech:

I suppose you think it’s pretty funny, my carrying my Testament around with me.

This book has the only answers as to why we’re here, and what we’re supposed to do with our lives.

Methinks Roy is just a tad unfamiliar with the world’s other religious texts.

That book says, “These things are written that you might believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you might have life through his name.”

Quick proselytizing tip for Roy: quoting the Bible doesn’t mean a lot to people who don’t actually think it’s an authoritative source.

And Roy petulantly stalks out of the malt shop, never to be heard from again.

Or not.

Hours later, Roy has not yet returned, and thus succeeded in worrying his aunt and cousin out of their minds.  Gertie takes it as her own fault, because she “sounded off.”  Yeah, Gertie, how dare you run your own business the way you want to!  Bitch. 

They’re just about to organize a search party when Roy wanders in, with no apology for worrying anyone.  What a nice, considerate guy Our Hero is, eh?  Roy has decided to martyr himself and leave his aunt’s home (Really, pal?  And where do you think you’re going to go?).  But Gertie has other ideas: “Chuck and I are the ones who should change!”  See, Roy’s magical proselytizing has worked!

The Finale: Roy and Chuck are giving the malt shop a fresh coat of paint, while Gertie plays hymns on the radio.  Josh walks in and comments that he’s not there for hymns and sermons, but for food.  “Well, you old coot, from now on you’re going to get food for your soul!” declares Gertie. 

Nice job #1, Roy:  You’ve managed to turn your sweet, patient aunt into someone as obnoxious as you are.

And Nice Job #2, Roy and Gert: I’m sure Josh won’t take his business to the new malt shop.  Or express his opinion on the merits of each malt shop when the customers of his cab ask for his recommendation. 

So I guess that’s today’s fun lesson, kids: Preach at the customers, whether they want to hear it or not, until you have successfully driven them all to the competition!  Because if you don’t, you make Baby Jesus cry.