It’s tough to be a dad today. Fathering has never been easy, but it just seems today that men face so many pressures and temptations that their children often get pushed to second place or worse. No guy gets up in the morning and says, “I’m gonna be a rotten father today.” I mean, neglecting our kids isn’t a conscious decision we men make. We simply don’t pay attention—to our kids, our lives, our future, or what our selfish decisions end up costing the people around us, especially the ones most dependent on our attention and guidance. And the result of our lifestyle is a generation of kids who don’t know their dads or are wandering around through life trying to make it on their own without the fatherly guidance that’s essential for success or are so deeply wounded by their dad’s neglect that they’ll live the rest of their lives in pain.
I’m not just making this stuff up. The various statistics that measure societal dysfunction, whether incarceration rates or drug addiction or tendencies toward violence, all track back to absent fathers. A home without a dad is a recipe for failure.
For years numerous groups and agencies have devoted a whole lot of time and a great many resources to addressing absent fathers. The well known Big Brothers Big Sisters is one such program. Others abound, with differing rates of success, I think. It’s hard to take complete strangers—even those passionate about fatherless kids—and put them in a position where they can make a real difference. There’s really no effective substitute for fathers themselves. Whatever solution there may be to our mounting national problem, it doesn’t lie in mobilizing an army of volunteers who can somehow fill the hole in our kids’ hearts left by a generation of sorry dads.
The movie “Courageous” takes all this on in a straightforward way, but with a particular twist. The film is unapologetically Christian and casts the challenges of fatherhood in the larger, context of a relationship with Jesus. It’s more than a good fit. Given the fits and starts that most of us make with our fathering; and the mistakes, failures and missed opportunities along the way, the redemptive promises of the gospel are the main source of hope any of have in fathering to begin with.
“Courageous” follows a group of sheriff’s deputies through a series of personal and family crises that lead them to make a formal commitment to fathering their children. All the men were decent dads to begin with, but through the course of the movie they come to the conclusion that their kids require more than just casual attention. The needs of children today demand much more. “Courageous” ends up being a call to all fathers to give our children the best that we have.
Adam Mitchell (played by the film’s director, Alex Kendrick), a sheriff’s deputy in Albany, Georgia, is a decent man, a good husband, a fine law enforcement officer and an indifferent dad. His professional and personal commitments intersect with those of his co-workers, and the four of them come to a common commitment to make a deeper impact in the lives of their children. I won’t give away the details, but Mitchell and his family suffer a tragic loss, with the ripple effects touching more lives than they would ever have imagined.
The film is a little clunky at times and has a few plot devices that you can see coming a mile away. Still, by the end I was caught up in the message. For mainstream Hollywood to distribute such an overtly Christian film is quite a testimony, not just to its potential profit but, much more importantly, to the hunger in the American people for real answers.
“Courageous” was produced by Sherwood Pictures, the same team that made Flywheel, Facing the Giants and Fireproof. Get your husband, your father, your friend, to go see it. You’ll be glad you did.