Last night we watched Higher Ground, a well made and quite believable movie about the challenges that come to faith as a person matures.
Set in the Jesus / Hippie era it tells the story of a woman who grows up in a devout and fairly fundamentalist church community. She is happy enough until she begins to ask questions. A good friend gets a brain tumour and becomes a virtual vegetable, her role as a woman is constantly being scrutinised and her marriage falls apart in the process of her faith questioning.
Its a pretty accurate portrayal of that kind of church life and is doesn’t suffer from being a caricature, a cyncical jab or from presenting everything as rosy. I found myself recognising some of the characters from my own upbringing, and recognising the issues from my own childhood.
Corrine is both believable and likable and the movie depicts what many experience but don’t know how to articulate – a real faith struggle by someone who isn’t seeking to exit faith, but is seeking better answers than they currently have. And yet the quest for answers has her bouncing out of her tight knit community as her only way of grappling with the issues. Sad.
I have met plenty like her and I have had some of her experiences. Some days I still have them and that can be disturbing for a leader. Her pastor in the movie is a man with faith like a rock. Towards the end she tells him that she admires his faith – and I think she genuinely does – but I don’t think she wants his faith. While there is something attractive about a simple faith, to anyone who has asked questions there is also a strong degree of dissatisfaction and little desire to go back there.
These days I find myself with very strong convictions on what I consider core issues, but I am also open to new ideas when it comes to questions that don’t have easy answers.
In some ways Higher Ground was a trip down memory lane and yet not an unattractive one. The genuine love for God and desire to follow him from the people in the church wasn’t cheesy or awkward and in that the church looked attractive. But the issues that go with a more fundamentalist approach to faith, were noticeable and did grate on me.
Its not a ‘wow’ movie, or a dud, and it does move quite slowly, but for those who are in that place of asking questions it could be a helpful story to engage with.