It’s what happens when God shows up. Woodlawn is a story about God. It’s a story about racism and desegregation in the South. It’s a story about football. It’s a story about love. It’s a story about what happens when God shows up. It's another example of how when Jesus is involved things don't just stay the same.
And it’s not just another made-up Hollywood story. This is based on a true story about the football team at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, AL. It was during a time when the climate was changing, and schools were no longer to be classified as “white” or “black”. Naturally there is some resistance to the new way of thinking, not just at Woodlawn, but throughout Birmingham and Alabama.
The school is torn apart, the football team is anything but a team, the coach doesn’t know what to do, and in limps Hank, product of a Christian crusade. Coach gives him 5 minutes to talk to the team, and an hour later MOST of the team is committing to Jesus. (Hey if everybody had accepted the invitation there wouldn’t be any tension – or any movie.
It wouldn’t be high school without a romantic interlude, and one of my favorite lines comes after a game when an attractive fellow student comes up to congratulate Tony Nathan. Tony's momma cuts right to the chase: what church do you go to? – I don’t go to church. – you’re going with us. She goes on to make it clear that anybody who plans on marrying her son is going to church. And by the way, momma is going to fatten this girl up, how else is she going to give her grandbabies. (Tony eventually married this high school sweetheart and they’ve been married for 35 years.)
There is lots of football action as the story plays out, and anyone who follows high school ball knows how those rivalries lead to excitement. Love prevails. This is a great look at the culture of another era, one that many of us can still remember. One that needed to change, and thanks to a culture that wasn't afraid to share faith, (although there is a little bit of the law says you can't do that) things did change.
It would be nice to be able to write the "and they all lived happily ever after" ending, but racism still exists. There are people who don't know Jesus; there are people who mock Christians (as well as mocking Religious Others), so there is still work to be done.
The team Chaplain came t faith at a Billy Graham crusade, and to bookend the story, the public is invited to learn more about how they can participate in some way in an upcoming crusade. Why not, there are altar calls in the film, perhaps a virtual altar call after the film will be just as effective in 21st century as face to face altar calls were in the 20th century.
Tony Nathan, a name you football fans might recognize, (Does ‘Bear’ Bryant sound familiar? ‘Bama?) is played by newcomer Caleb Castille. Mr.Castille left college football after a couple of seasons because he sensed God calling him to acting as a higher purpose. The film also stars Jon Voigt and Nic Bishop among others. Directed by the Erwin Brothers, and produced by Kevin Downes. Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are executive producers.
You might have guessed by now that I liked this film. It's an unabashedly Christian film that doesn't try to change the story to pander to peoples carnal appetites. It's designed to meet our spiritual needs coupled with a desire to point out that racism still exists and needs to be eradicated. And it will be, because that's what happens when God shows up.
My friends at Grace Hill Media have given me some books associated with the movie that I can give to a blog reader. There's also an XL t-shirt. Comment on the blog, and next week I'll pick a random reader to get the books.