by Warren Moore
You may remember the story of Bethany Hamilton, the surfer from Hawaii who lost an arm to a shark in 2003, and has made her way back to riding the waves. Her inspirational story has made its way to your local multiplex, in the form of the new movie Soul Surfer. However, keeping the “soul” in the movie was a challenge in itself, as CNN reports.
Hamilton credits her Christian faith and the support of people at her church for overcoming her injury and returning to her surfing career. In particular, one important scene in the movie involves Hamilton’s youth group leader, Sarah Hill, counseling her in the wake of losing her arm. While Hill is likely pleased to have been played by Carrie Underwood, she was less pleased with what nearly happened on set:
In one scene, Hill’s character is shown counseling Hamilton as she struggles with living as an amputee. She reads from Jeremiah 29:11 ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ “The morning they went to shoot that scene, said Hill, who was on set often, “Twelve producers, me and the director were all sitting at the table and they all are just adamant about the Scripture not being in the movie. And they were saying at least let’s not have the reference in it.”
Actor Kevin Sorbo adds,
“Sony (Pictures, the film’s producer) was afraid to throw in the word Jesus. They said you can have God but not Jesus. They were worried about that.[...]
Sorbo said Sony wanted to take out another scene in which Bethany Hamilton wakes up in the hospital. Her father, played by Dennis Quaid, is shown reading a Bible. He reads to her from Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
Apparently, filmmakers were afraid such scenes might scare away secular audiences (although it’s worth remembering that The Blind Side, another inspirational film with characters who are openly Christian, seemed to do pretty well). However, the fact that the Hamilton family’s faith plays such a significant role in their lives makes efforts to downplay smack of a kind of Bowdlerization.
The CNN article claims that Hollywood is becoming more comfortable addressing issues of faith and appealing to religious audiences. However, in the light of this story, perhaps we should let Sorbo have the last word:
“Hollywood screams for freedom of speech but only if you agree with them. It’s a very two-faced industry.”