This week’s Film Forum contains dangerous material.

Christians are giving mixed reviews to The Nativity Story.

Some of them love it, some of them like it, some of them don’t like it.

Could it be that a movie might fall short of greatness, even if the story that it tells is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

Could it be that a Christian might still have misgivings about a work of art, even if that art is about Jesus?

Or is it a crime to point out weaknesses in a big-screen version of the Christmas story?

*Dr. Baehr of Movieguide tells us that those who have negative responses to the film are liars, and incapable of dealing reverently with Bible stories.

“The most negative responses to the movie reflect a clear inability to accept any movie that deals reverently in any way with beloved Bible stories like the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Dr. Ted Baehr of the Christian Film and Television Commission in a released statement.

“Don’t buy these outrageous, disingenuous lies,” Baehr urged moviegoers in a statement. “‘The Nativity Story’ brings the Gospel alive in a compelling, captivating, entertaining, and inspiring manner that shatters expectations. It has one of the best scripts of the year.”

UPDATE #1:

In my first note, I merely repeated what I have read in other responses to Movieguide: That “Dr. Ted Baehr” does not actually have a doctorate. But this time, I was wrong. And I apologize for the error. Apparently, after years of calling himself “Doctor,” Mr. Baehr has finally received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Belhaven (a school that, incidentally, does not offer any doctorate programs). Earlier, he was just a JD (juris doctor), which is essentially bestowed upon all law school grads, and never used as a title . . . unless you’re Mr. Baehr.

But now that he has been given an honorary doctorate, well, I won’t be questioning the claim… anymore.

UPDATE #2:

I have received a corrective from Dr. Tom Snyder of Movieguide, telling me that Baehr was referring only to mainstream critics, not Christian film critics. And Snyder has accused me of pulling Baehr’s comment out of context.

But here is the article I quoted, which begins: “Some movie reviews of The Nativity Story bashing the traditional portrayal of the Christmas story left one Christian film critic outraged.”

“Some movie reviews” is not specific enough for me to infer that he meant only mainstream reviewers. And whatever the case… is it responsible for a Christian film critic to read some other people’s opinion of a movie and declare to the public that they are “liars” because of their feelings about it? Is it admirable to declare that they have “a clear inability to accept any movie that deals reverently in any way with beloved Bible stories” simply because they found The Nativity Story to be flawed artistically? That’s what I call presumption.

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