This week’s Monday Movie Review pick Believe Me comes from the Christ and Pop Culture Podcast #93. In this episode, alongside Derek Jeter’s curtain call and Bill Simmons’s suspension from ESPN, the podcasters speak highly of this film on several levels – mainly that it isn’t your average “Christian” film (like God’s Not Dead and Noah…heh heh).
In fact, CaPC’s Wade Bearden got to interview Believe Me‘s director Will Bakke, so check it out here if you’re interested.
Believe Me: This Is An Engaging Story.
The premise of the plot is simple enough: a college senior is on the verge of going into debt before graduation, and in order to keep that from happening, he establishes a fake charity to dig wells in Africa with his three friends and then takes advantage of the Christians willing to donate to this fraudulent cause. The “God Squad,” as the group proceeds to call itself, really has nothing to do with digging wells in Africa; they just want to make that money.
The story revolves around the dynamics of this four-man group. Sam is the indebted speaker, Pierce is the country-drawling hype man, Tyler is the reluctant sound technician, and Baker is the goofy merch man. The thing about these characters is that they are not Christian. Hence the drama: non-Christians pretending to be Christians to play on gullible Christians.
Furthermore, the plot branches out to include Sam’s romantic interest Callie who actually has been to Africa and actually has done what the God Squad claims to do. Of course, when Sam enters her world, she’s already romantically involved with the zealous Christian rock star Gabriel who has it in for Sam.
All of that while trying to keep up the pretense of a legit charitable organization, and both comedy and drama ensue.
Believe Me: “It’s Not A Sin Unless You Get Caught”
The film’s tagline sums up the idea behind the story: “It’s not a sin unless you get caught.” I know I sometimes personally use this line of thinking to justify certain less-than-honorable actions (unspoken prayer request), and it was convicting to see this modus operandi played out on the screen.
It was also refreshing to see a faith-based film that has “worldly” things in it. Consider the language in the film (hence the PG-13 rating). The non-Christian (and occassionally the Christian) characters cuss, whereas the majority of the Christian “fans” substitute the full word for an abbreviation, and the film draws on the similarity between those within and without the faith in how both sides deal with problems in the same “expletive” way.
Even in the picture above the first heading, we see beer bottles strewn about the hotel room; however, the team is not supposed to partake of alcohol while touring with the traveling ministry.
What’s ultimately encouraging for me is what happens with the group throughout the film.
Even though the “God Squad” doesn’t believe in the Christian God, they know that they have to “know, love, and serve” Him in order to perpetuate the illusion to convince the people with the money to “give in a way that reflects the faith they claim.”
In order to keep this illusion going, the group actually starts reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping. How mysterious that as they’re just pretending, they are still affected by God’s word and presence, which ultimately prepares them to face the consequences of their actions.