We were astounded. And NOT in a good way.
"Appalled" is actually a more accurate definition of our reaction to this "save your marriage" film purporting Christian values. So here are the Fireproof lessons for building a lasting marriage:
- Men must be completely faithful to their wives, but if you are a woman and your life is difficult, you do not need to be faithful to your husband. This movie makes a big deal over how looking at porn is infidelity and how God considers it adultery to lust in your heart. But Catherine, the wife, has begun seeing a doctor from her work and no one bats an eye. She and her husband aren't getting along and her mother had a stroke, so that makes it OK for her to lust after another man. Try as I might I have yet to find anything in the Bible that says that women who are having problems are exempt from the seventh commandment. Maybe the Sherwood Baptist Church where the writers hail from is using a different edition than I (and the rest of the Judeo-Christian world) are unfamiliar with. Furthermore, the first person our hero Caleb confronts about the affair isn't his wife, it's the doctor, but I guess in a world where women bear no responsibility for their actions, this makes sense because obviously the infidelity all the mens' fault.
- Being a good husband means giving your wife everything she wants- but wives are under no obligation to do anything for their husbands. As part of a "Love Dare", Caleb sets about tidying up the house and doing all the odd jobs that Catherine has complained about in the past. He also brings her flowers and plans candlelit dinners. He even spends the money he was saving for a boat ($24,000) on buying Catherine's mother a special wheelchair like she wanted him to. And she responds with sarcasm, an affair, criticism, and divorce papers. Wow. Here I was thinking that marriage was more than indentured servitude. I thought marriage was supposed to be two people both sacrificing their selfish desires to help each other. Apparently it's enough for just the man to sacrifice his selfish desires.
- If you can just get rid of the computer, you will be able to avoid lusting after other women. Ah yes, the big porn scene. Of course this is handled by Caleb taking the computer out and smashing it with a sledgehammer. Because we all know that if we could just get rid of those nasty computers, then no man would ever have lust in his heart again. Ever. Even though lust, adultery, and porn have been around since the beginning of time. No, there's no need to get into why a man is looking at porn, since issues like molestation and an unhealthy and uneducated attitude about sex that is often cultivated in conservative religious environments are irrelevant. Just get rid of the computer and pretend that there are no other computers anywhere in the world.
- You only need to have one conversation with your wife to save your marriage- just make sure you reveal that you've spent an enormous amount of money to give her her little heart's desire. Here I was thinking that communication was foundational to a good marriage! Apparently all the deep, meaningful, and sometimes even painful conversations Malamute and I have had were some how crucial to our relationship. Apparently, we've been flapping our gums for no reason. Catherine and Caleb only have one real conversation to save their marriage, and that's the one where Caleb reveals that he sacrificed his boat money to pay for Catherine's mom's medical expenses. Then she believes that he really wants to save their marriage and isn't putting on an act of some kind. Don't get me wrong, the idea of helping her parents with their expenses is great, but especially at $24,000, it's something I would want to discuss very seriously together. All the other issues this couple has like money problems and sex are never discussed. And apparently there's no need as long as a man sacrifices his boat money.
- You don't actually need to have anything in common- except the judgement of your family, friends, and fellow church congregants- to stay happily married. What even brought this couple together besides the fact that Caleb is a firefighter and in a (really weird and rather creepy) first scene it is established that Catherine wanted to marry her Daddy when she was a little girl and he was a firefighter? What the heck are they going to do for the rest of their lives besides talk about Sunday sermons and Bible study? In fact, the biggest reason that they have for staying together seems to be that their family, friends and church are against divorce in general. Where is the love? You know the love of two people who are best friends and can rely on each other and really connect?
- "Unconditional love" always means staying married. And of course, they begin trotting out the homilies on how Christ had unconditional love for us and so even if your spouse doesn't love you and treats you badly, unconditional love means staying with her. Let me be clear that far too many couples do call it quits too quickly and expect marriage to be all sunshine and roses. But the unfortunate reality that this movie never addresses is that some spouses- even Christians- are abusive, violent, or bad influences on children. There are a number of very difficult situations that people face after marriage and staying married isn't always the best or most compassionate answer. While there are many couples who break up on whim, there are far too many people who sacrifice their dignity and even their health and safety and that of their children to stay in a marriage- often using the excuse that divorce is against God's plan to change themselves from cowards to martyrs. Sometimes, unconditional love means saying "no".
There you have it. The Fireproof guide to holy deadlock- I mean a "happy marriage".