“Courageous” Subtly Promotes Male Headship and Racial Stereotypes

My ideological critique of “Courageous” is written from the perspective of a Christian feminist who fully supports the belief in Biblical gender equality. As Benjamin Titus Roberts, the founder of the Free Methodist Church, said in his book “Ordaining Women”:


“The greatest domestic happiness always exists where husband and wife live together on terms of equality. Two men, having individual interests, united only by business ties, daily associate as partners for years, without either of them being in subjection to the other. They consider each other as equals; and treat each other as equals. Then, cannot a man and woman, united by conjugal love, the strongest tie that can unite two human beings, having the same interests, live together in the same manner?” (p.36)

If you don’t agree with my position that is fine, all I ask is that you read the film critique in the spirit of intellectual engagement.

Courageous attempts to address some important social issues. Even mainstream newspapers such as The Los Angeles Times acknowledge that absentee fathers are a problem in American society. However, the problem is so complex and has a variety of sociological factors which cause it that it’s difficult to address the issue well in a film. Especially a film that has chosen to focus not on a single family but on a large ensemble cast which makes strong storytelling even more important. Thus, two primary issues emerge in the film. The first issue is stereotyping. Whether intentionally or not, the Kendricks’ resort to some very disturbing stereotypes of Latino families. Secondly, the Kendricks’ are Southern Baptists, a denomination not known for its support of Biblical gender equality. While I am not arguing that we don’t need strong fathers, I am concerned with how the film elevates the role of the father and makes the wives in the film secondary characters. Good parenting requires two strong parents to lead the home –not one.

Stereotyping in Courageous

Javier Martinez (Robert Amya) is the one man in the film who stands out and who, I feel, is used too much for comic relief. The other three men in the film are cops, but they live in middle class suburbs and don’t appear to be hurting for money (with the exception of Shane Fuller’s character Kevin Downes who resorts to theft to make a little extra money). Unlike the other men Javier struggles for work. He is Latino and a construction work (can we be any more stereotypical?).  Javier’s family lives in a working class neighborhood and in small, slightly rundown looking house.

He is continually laid off at the beginning of the film and trusts God to provide him employment. His faith in God is a joy to watch and through a series of events he ends up working for Adam Mitchell (Alex Kendrick), helping him build a shed in his backyard. Adam introduces Javier to the rest of the gang and they “adopt” him into their group, helping him get a steady job at a factory.

One of the most disturbing scenes in the film is when Adam, Kevin and Javier are headed to lunch and the two cops (Adam and Kevin) have to respond to a gang related call. Javier begins joking about how he was in the Snake Kings gang and the two unsuspecting white cops believe him. Javier cracks up and says the Snake Kings were nothing more than his three brothers chasing snakes in their neighborhood. A fairly harmless story, but it begins to cross a line when the cops have to take a gang member arrested on drug charges back to jail before lunch. They ask Javier to pretend he is a real gang member and freak out the teen gangster. Javier sits in the back of the cruiser muttering about what he will have for lunch in Spanish. No one understands what he is saying and the teen in the back with him begins to freak out, thinking Javier is going to kill him. Everyone gets a good laugh out of the deal, but at the expense of Javier.

Disturbing scenes like this continue. When decisions have to be made and Adam asks what Javier’s opinion is the other guys say “Oh, you know he’ll go along with whatever we say.” It often seems that the filmmakers attempt to make Javier fit into white American culture is at the expense of his own cultural heritage. Other disturbing things with Javier’s interplay with the rest of the cast include Adam asking him he had “work papers” before hiring him to build his shed and Javier’s wife Carmen (Angelita Nelson) worry that they would have to “go back” if Javier lost his job. The stereotypes go on and on, and Courageous’ portrayal of minorities is often painfully oblivious to how offensive the film is actually being. From the perspective of stereotyping alone I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking non-Christian friends to see the film.

Gender Roles in Courageous

While the primary theme of the film is encouraging men to be hands on fathers (a commendable goal), the film continually puts women in the background. I firmly believe that God expects both parents to take leadership and responsibility in the home and that the husband is not to bear this burden alone. Yet, Courageous continually pushes the idea that men should step forward and shoulder the burden for the whole family. This theme is very subtle and if I hadn’t taken six pages of notes while watching it I might have missed the many places the Kendricks’ throw this idea of male-headship into the script.

The theme of male-headship becomes clear after a heartbreaking tragedy happens to Adam Mitchell’s (Kendrick) family. Adam’s wife Victoria comes to her husband in tears and asks him to “make sense” of the tragedy for her. I’m sorry, but shouldn’t she be going to God with that question? Her husband, a simple human being, can’t answer the question for her. However, Adam feels he’s failed the family and goes to their pastor for counseling. Next question – why does only Adam need to go to the pastor for counseling? His wife is clearly emotionally distraught. Shouldn’t they be going together for help and support? No, it’s up to Adam to fix the problems and heal the family. The family tragedy leads him to develop a resolution about being a good father. At first, asks his friends just to support him in his endeavor and then eventually to join him in making the resolution. The pledge begins with the following:

“I resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife and children. I will love them, protect them, serve them and teach them the statues of God as the Godly leader of the home.” It then goes on to include pledges to seek justice, mercy and love, ending with Joshua 24:15 “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

On the surface it is commendable to pledge to seek mercy, justice and service to God. However, several things about this pledge disturb me. First, this resolution should have been tailored for both parents. Why only the husbands (the answer is obvious if you believe in male headship, but since I don’t; I can’t accept the fact that women weren’t included). Second, the Kendricks’ subtly disguise the male-headship premise in this pledge by including elements we can all agree upon – that mercy, justice and love are crucial elements to being a Christian parent. The single line “as the Godly leader of the home” is easy to miss in the larger text of the resolution.

The final scene only further emphasizes the Kendricks’ belief that the men should lead and the women follow or act as a “helper” to their husbands. Adam Mitchell gets in front of his mega church congregation and continually uses the pronoun “I” for a very long monologue about the role of fathers. “I will do this.” “I will protect my family.”  “I will lead my family”, etc. The wives only smile tearfully in the audience. They aren’t even on stage with their husbands who stand up their proudly and the macho leaders they are supposed to be.

I’m sorry but I cannot endorse a film where responsibility for parenting is put only on one parent’s shoulders. The Kendricks’ acknowledge in Adam’s monologue that women try to hold it together without a father present but they can’t do it. They also briefly mention the importance of mentors when a father is absent. Although both of these points are true and deserve mentioning, there isn’t enough attention drawn to these elements in the film. The role of mentors deserved more than a passing reference.

The emphasis on male-headship makes this film problematic and not something anyone who believes in Biblical equality should be shelling out dollars to see.

26 thoughts on ““Courageous” Subtly Promotes Male Headship and Racial Stereotypes

  1. The male headship ideology is even more overt in the tie in material to the film. For example, The Resolution for Men, a book intended as a supplement to the movie, argues that, “God’s word commands husbands and fathers to lovingly lead their homes. As men we are to walk in honor and integrity and embrace our responsibilities as shepherds over our families. We are called to model a loving, Christlike example for our wives and children…. If your wife has been calling the shots in the family and has her hands on the wheel, then very likely its because you have not. Regardless of what she does, God has placed you in the driver’s seat and wants you to lead. You need her deeply; but leading is your God ordained responsibility, not hers.”

    Truly disturbing stuff. None of this excuses husbands and fathers from being absent in the home. As Wesleyans, though, we believe it is possible to return to the gender relations of the Garden before sin – where man and women were co-rulers over creation. This equality has been restored by Christ in the new covenant and this is something we should celebrate and promote – freedom in Christ for Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female – what a liberating ideal! We need not promote male headship to promote healthy families – we just need to promote the saving message of freedom in Christ.

  2. I support the values of feminists, but I feel that this critic has missed out on greater truths in the movie, being a very opinionated person that she is.

    I’ll touch on the subject of family values as portrayed in the movie, and my disagreements with this author’s points in the article.

    (#1) “I’m sorry but I cannot endorse a film where responsibility for parenting is put only on one parent’s shoulders.”

    This movie….. is not a movie “where responsibility for parenting is put only on one parent’s shoulders.”

    This movie…. IS a movie “where responsibility of fatherhood rests on the shoulder of the FATHER.”

    There is no way one can infer from the movie where either the father has a larger role than the mother, or the mother has a larger role than the father. It’s beyond me how it was concluded that this movie espoused “responsibility for parenting is put only on one parent’s shoulders.”

    In the movie, the mothers are also actively involved with caring for the children. There is no indication where the mother is doing more than the father, or the father is doing more than the mother.

    The inspiring thing about the movie, is that the FATHER WANTS TO DO MORE….. something with many fathers in modern society lacked. The author makes no mention of this, which I believe she genuinely failed to see that motivation as the hammer that hit the anvil for the five men’s resolution.

    (#2) The Kendricks’ acknowledge in Adam’s monologue that women try to hold it together without a father present but they can’t do it.

    I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. But in conjunction with the whole sentence above (quoted in #1), the author makes an implication that Kendricks is treating the women as the “weaker sex” without the presence of a father.

    That is not the case. I can equally argue that the Kendricks will acknowledge equally that if men try to hold it together without a mother’s presence, they can’t do it as well. The author’s argument is purely ideological and one sided without presenting a bigger picture.

    (#3) They also briefly mention the importance of mentors when a father is absent. Although both of these points are true and deserve mentioning, there isn’t enough attention drawn to these elements in the film. The role of mentors deserved more than a passing reference.

    “Passing” reference is subjective to the author’s interpretation. There was multiple conversations at different points in the movie to understand that Nathan Hayes beat the gloomy statistics of a broken home by having a mentor. At the end of the movie, there were flashbacks that he even became the mentor of the 17 year old kid in jail.

    A passing or fleeting, this is not. From a movie maker’s point of view, there’s no need for substantiate the notion. No need for more flashbacks, or add more characters to film a flashback, or even go back in the past. The focus was on the present, and what they can do for the future–for the family, for themselves, and for God.

    (#4) The emphasis on male-headship makes this film problematic and not something anyone who believes in Biblical equality should be shelling out dollars to see.

    It’s encouraging to me that my male agnostic and non-Christian friends are actually challenged at the end of the movie. I fail to see how this movie, with an emphasis on MORE male-headship, would make this movie problematic, especially if it presents a positive challenge even to non-Christians to society.

    (#5) And allow me to place my two cents on “racial stereotypes” which the author found disturbing. Why did the non-white actors not object to acting out the roles of “racial stereotypes”? There is a motivation to expose the broken society, and “racial stereotypes” do the perfect job to increase understanding and racial and social sensitivity. One would fail to grasp the the complete facets of society if we are so politically incorrect and afraid to tackle the truths presented in “racial stereotypes.”

    Even Chris Rock does a good job exposing “racial stereotypes” by mocking them, allowing African Americans to rethink for themselves, at the expense of a few laughs on themselves as well.

    1. Andrew,
      I appreciate your thoughtful critique of the review. However, two things I would like to point out is that male-headship is a slippery slope. If we buy into the ideology that men are the leaders in the home then we are allowing Christian women to not develop as leaders both in the home and in the church. Secondly, it can allow women to say “Well, my husband has the final say and I”m okay with whatever his opinion is.” Therefore, it can stifle critical thinking and our ability to develop as strong Christians capable of participating on an intellectual level with the world.

      Secondly, if you look at my follow up post about the Kendricks’ associations with Vision Forum, you’ll see they chose to associate and support groups who don’t take even a moderate position but a very radical position on gender roles in Christian society. There is no room for differing opinions. Women who are caught in the Christian patriarchy movement are to submit to their husbands, often not pursue higher education and to be prepared to only be a wife and homemaker. By watering down these ideological positions the Kenrick brothers make the film see okay and acceptable.

      No one, including my own non-Christian friends, argues that absentee fathers isn’t something we should be concerned about. However, unless we are dragging people into the theater, I really don’t think many people outside of Christian culture will want to see this film on their own. As Christians we should be creating edifying, moral movies that don’t have to hide behind a Christian label and can stand out because of their brilliant story telling and film making. I don’t think we challenge ourselves creatively when we try to make a movie a sermon. Some of the best Christian storytellers are the ones who are not overt in their messages.

      I don’t wish to engage in endless debate on this point. People are welcome to post comments that respectfully disagree with my critiques. Consider this post my response to everyone 🙂

      1. >> However, two things I would like to point out is that male-headship is a slippery slope. If we buy into the ideology that men are the leaders in the home then we are allowing Christian women to not develop as leaders both in the home and in the church.

        The article did not substantiate it with an indisputable example from the movie to support the claim that “it’s not allowing women to develop as leaders.”

        You gave an example of Victoria going to Adam during he confusion, where you argue that she should be going to God first. True. But seeking counsel from another person is entirely natural. What’s more natural than going to your spouse? Just because it’s the wife going to the husband for an explanation to her confusion, that’s an example of “male-headship”? He was portrayed to be equally confused.

        As for Adam being the only person going to pastor for counsel, I have to agree with you to an extent. The writers may have just as well included the wife in the scene. However, your sarcasm, “[sic] Shouldn’t they be going together for help and support? No, it’s up to Adam to fix the problems and heal the family” put the significance of Adam’s personal action in a pejorative manner. A substantial number of men DO NOT go to their pastors for counsel. That scene is a wake-up call to men, that they can confide in pastoral counsel, much to the chagrin of society where the male counterpart is stereotyped to be dreading any and all forms of counsel.

        I am saying, there’s no indication in the movie where the importance of women is undermined. I fail to recall any part of the movie where it presents support to the slippery slope of male-headship in specifically your context that it “does not allow women to grow in leadership.” I can, in turn give specific examples of the movie which portrays the role of the wife in having the significant upper hand of encouraging the man to strive to be greater.

        >> Secondly, it can allow women to say “Well, my husband has the final say and I”m okay with whatever his opinion is.” Therefore, it can stifle critical thinking and our ability to develop as strong Christians capable of participating on an intellectual level with the world.

        That’s marginally speculative at best, and it is an argument of a “passive wife” that’s mutually exclusive from the “male-headship” argument. Passiveness is a quality that’s neither inherently male nor female, and such as argument brings an unsubstantiated argument of a “passive” wife that’s not portrayed in the movie. All married wives in the movie are actively involved in their husband’s decision. They make decisions together, such as the dating situation. You may bring the argument that Victoria was passive in allowing Adam to give the final say for allowing their daughter to go the birthday party. But she was actively involved with the decision making process, because both she and her husband has criteria for Emily’s behavior before she could attend the birthday party. She was decided okay with it, but it’s not a full affirmation until the father says it’s okay as well. Both parents played active and vital roles which does not prove the argument of a passive and weak wife.

        >> Regarding Vision Forum

        I did look it up prior to replying this time around. I will look further into them, and more on the “Christian Patriarchy Movement.” I have little idea about them, and it is my speculation that the title of the movement is mainly an academic one, as I am having trouble looking up substantive material about it on the net.

        I appreciate your ideas, even if I disagree with many of the points. Your arguments are insightful in many regards.

        I’m actually supportive of many feminist values of self-reliance, independence, equality, and many others. Even if we agree to disagree, I would like our disagreements to be regarded as peaceable. Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion on this comment.

  3. Here’s what I sent to my Facebook friends who wanted to know whether I’d seen the movie: “Christine and I went, and enjoyed it very much. Except…. she’s the spiritual leader in our household. Actually, we work well together as a team… : )”

    That was my way of putting an egalitarian spin back on things. Truthfully, you’re right: the movie preaches to the choir; touches on an “abandoned” chord in men’s hearts; plays on racial, class and gender stereotypes; asks men to buck up and be better fathers in the household; and neglects entirely the call upon women to do the same.

    Sadly, it’s what we’ve come to expect of most “evangelical movies” but, in my mind, this film is better than most.

    I think the women smile in the movie and in the audiences because they’re grateful for any relational help they can get (not to mention household help). Sadly, this is probably more the case in the “men as sole spiritual leader” households, because the whole family is literally on hold until “the man” pronounces God’s will for them.

    This is a cooptation of a most vital and truly legitimate role for a good father –to be used of God to assist in Jesus’ call into maturation with regards to their growing children’s own increasingly freely-made choices. Too many men assume their role is as the mediator between the family and God, which puts them “in persona Christi” with regards to them. A father’s call, like a mother’s, is to equip, not to dominate.

    Unfortunately, the “male headship” model is too often used as a subtle support for the notion of a highly-dominant “senior pastor” church model. The only legitimate pastoral calling is to equip, not to coopt. Each believer’s relationship with the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is what makes a church flourish and grow, not the iron stranglehold of an overcontrolling senior pastor.

    Fortunately, the movie does explore the notion that true leadership comes from incarnating and modeling true humility in a servant role. It’s not as bad as most, and has many positive virtues. It would benefit greatly from less stereotyping, more exploring of the wive’s side of things, and not focusing so exclusively on the coming-of-age issues that are a natural tension between father and son.

    So, what would a good “mother’s version” of such a movie be like? And, could we have a version which doesn’t depend upon “killing off” the daughter in order to make a point?

  4. I haven’t seen the movie, but the first point in that Resolution is a recipe for family dysfunction. One of the first things a recovering codependent (like myself) learns is that you can’t take responsibility for anyone except yourself. It’s most likely to result in either micromanaging your family or checking out, overwhelmed. “I take responsibility for you” is the first tenet in codependency.

    Of course, as parents we are responsible to meet our children’s needs, and we must take legal responsibility for a minor child’s actions outside the home– but we must teach them to be responsible for themselves. And our spouses, of course, are full adults and must be treated as such.

    I’m all for fathers stepping up and really being leaders in their homes (as co-leaders with the mothers)– but THE spiritual leader of the home? That has so much potential for being bad for everyone concerned.

  5. Andrew, thank you; considering how there are men out there almost insanely insulting and dismissive of women, I think this film is a bright spot, not a dark one. You need to pick your battles about equality, and this isn’t one of them. However, the article’s dead-on about the racism stuff; maybe this was shown to demonstrate their spiritual weakness? And it also shows the subtlety of abuse that falls on men who shoulder all the responsibility. As for the wife wanting the husband to explain it, this is very natural for a distraught person to do. Many women do try to put men in place of God, but the film was not promoting this.

    “The wives only smile tearfully in the audience. They aren’t even on stage with their husbands who stand up their proudly and the macho leaders they are supposed to be”

    That’s because their husbands were the ones “coming home” so to speak.

    “Truly disturbing stuff”

    VERY irritating. But all that disturbing? Oh my friend, you’ve seen nothing yet.

  6. “(#2) The Kendricks’ acknowledge in Adam’s monologue that women try to hold it together without a father present but they can’t do it.”

    What a load of hooey! Single moms have been raising their families and doing well for a LOOOOOONG time. Just to keep it in the Christian family, Timothy’s mom comes to mind right away. And Naomi kept it together for Ruth. What a ridiculous assertion.

    Moving on to modern times, at this late hour I can think of three presidents of the USA raised by single moms, my personal favorite being Ronald Reagan.

  7. Interesting perspectives.

    Well, I raised my daughter from age 6 months through college as a sole single parent, am a police officer/ rescue specialist/ medic and am now married to an extremely passive man who has left the two (birth) daughters from his first marriage behind. As an evangelical Christian (a decision made in college away my Catholic faith), my non-traditional career choice and single-parent status made me quite the pariah for many years. The greatest hurts were in having a stay-at-home mom say, as she lifted my then 8 month old child in her arms, “Well, you don’t look SO BAD, considering that your Mommy leaves you in day care all day” or the helpful comment made 9 years ago when I was having marital problems (yes, a different marriage than the one I’m in now) and a different woman from the same church, knowing absolutely nothing about my life, said, “Well, the problem is that you’re not being submissive enough” as a matter of fact. It’s been quite a ride.

    That said, I did not take issue with this movie. Perhaps it’s because I have seen how my daughter, as confident and well adjusted as she is, still, at age 25 longing for the father that she never had. She still tears up when she sees girls referred to as “princesses” by fathers that adore. She still wonders who will walk her down the aisle IF she ever chooses to get married. I saw my husband, who I have trouble respecting for the ways that he has let us down, in tears at the end of this movie, convicted for the first time of the damage that he did to his two daughters and to mine by his lack of love and indifference. Perhaps if my dad had been like any one of these men- instead of the abusive father that I grew up with, who eventually abandoned me and my whole family by suicide when I was a teenager- maybe I would have made right choices, wouldn’t have had the love hunger that nothing could quench until recently, who married 4 times to try to get it right. And that legacy continues- no matter how much I wanted to make it stop with me. I was not equipped in time.

    There is a companion book to this movie mentioned above called “The Resolution for Men” and there is also a book for women. The women’s book is quite detailed about just how many responsibilities that a woman has, whether in a married household or not.

    In a moment of great loss and hurt in our family, in the midst of despair, I cried out to my husband a similar sentiment, “make sense of this for me” and not in any way was I expecting him to fix things. I was emoting and venting, and yes, I went to God with it afterwords as it should be.

    In a world of movies that devalue the man in the home, this is one of the very few that I can remember seeing that asks a man to really see what worth he has. I also have to speak to the concerns about the racial sterotypes. In the scene where Javier is in the back seat of the patrol car, exaggerating his pretend role in the “gang”- he was full-on into it as a friend of the cops and was enjoying it every bit as much as they were. The law enforcement officers scenes, the joking, the “brotherhood” (which I get to participate in even as a female)- they were all very realistic.

    I have not yet really landed on which side of the fence I sit- egalitarian or complementarian- but I do know that to tear this movie apart does a real disservice to those who need the message of responsibility and involvement.

    1. Daisy,
      Thank you for your perspective. I appreciate you adding to the discussion on this movie. I haven’t had a chance to read either the male or female leaderships books written in conjuncture with the film. However, coming from a Biblical egalitarian perspective I wish the filmmakers would have written one book for both wives and husbands – both should have similar duties and equal responsibility.
      As you noted the absentee father point in the film is valid. I won’t argue with that. It is a major social problem and I am glad the film has drawn attention to the issue. I just wish some of the points they made had been left out.

  8. Actually the more subtle the “the man/husband is in charge” messages get, and the more they are mixed in with positive messages, the more disturbed and actually distressed I get. There’s so much good there, and the bad doesn’t sound…all that bad (and in fact the negative messages will be missed by some)…I fear the sexist ideas will be accepted by more people, in an effort to get the good stuff.

    I’m an editor: the type who works with words, so I’ll speak briefly from that perspective.
    If the husband is to be the leader of the family/the marriage…”the” is singular. “Leader” is singular. It does not leave room for the wife to lead, since the husband isn’t “one of the leaders”. That’s not right: I don’t know what else I could say about that situation. Other than I also believe it is unhealthy, and is less than God’s ideal.

    Re: The materials written in conjunction with this film. I have a long-held distrust of separate messages being giving to males and to females. Yes, we have different words for “male parent” and “female parent”, but the only parenting differences between mothers and fathers that are set in stone without some sort of medical/scientific intervention are in the creation, incubation, and breastfeeding of the child. That’s it. Both parents nurture, teach, care, and provide for the child in many ways, including setting examples of appropriate behavior.

  9. Courageous bothered me too. Especially the father that wouldn’t let his daughter date. She was 15 if I remember correctly? In my opinion, that’s old enough to make your own mistakes and learn from them.

  10. While your summary shed light on very obvious racial stereotypes, I feel it fell short when you didn’t mention that (if my count is somewhat accurate)
    -over 70% of the African American men were portrayed as criminals & cowards
    -less than 1% of the Caucasian men were portrayed as criminals
    None of the stereotypes were necessary for the movie to achieve it’s “goal”.

  11. Every ones way to focused, in the aspect of criticizing this movie of being way too promotive in male leadership, and everyones losing focus in how this movie promotes stereotypes amongst black and latino males. I saw this movie yesterday and it bothered me deeply.

  12. People that I have talked with that have a problem with roles of men in this movie seem to have had negative experiences with poor male role models when they were younger. Perhaps in their formative years experiencing an absent or abusive father/ male role model. It’s natural, and understandable that they shy away from male leadership, even positive healthy ones. People need to be “courageous” enough to heal from their wounds before they criticize such a powerful, Godly, and hugely successful movie! This film is changing our country in a very powerful way, for the good, and it challenges men to step up, and women to recognize they need to give their men permission to lead, and not try to take it all on themselves. It’s a team effort, and men have a vital role in this epic story!

    1. Sorry, I have to disagree here. I had a fantastic role model as a father. My objection is based on my objection to the doctrine of headship, which is unBiblical.

  13. I totally agree that the lack of women as responsible parenting and household leaders – who make mistakes too – was a serious injustice to the American Christian family. Also, the other glaring stereotype that is getting REALLY OLD REALLY FAST is that the most unlikable doofiest characters are always white males. Which three fathers were knowingly acting poorly…the weasel who skipped out on his daughter, the evidence thief and the father who chooses to avoid interaction with his kids. That’s all three of the white guys. The other two dads of color are doing everything in their power to just get by, and they don’t make a single mistake in the whole movie – wow, that’s realistic. Hmmm, who are the doofuses in the Geico commercials, the TMobile commercials and the Budweiser commercials? It’s always the same – you’ll find very few counter-examples. It has become tiresome and disappointing. At least make it equal. Three lame white dads and not a single minor mistake by either of the other dads is so lame. Otherwise- great movie & great messages!

  14. I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but there was another glaring instance of sexism that bothered me as much if not more than the male headship was how being a good father to a boy and being a good father to a girl were two totally separate things. For a son, it meant teaching him to be honest, faithful, and a well-rounded, good person. For a daughter, it meant making sure she knew that she belonged to her father until a boy was found that he approved of, who he would then give his daughter to. The sexism here was so obvious and disgusting I spent the rest of the movie fuming.

  15. As a black man and a Chrisitan, i feel many here are missing the point of this film. I never had an issue with black men being portrayed as drug dealers or joining gangs or coming from fatherless homes, because like it or not it happens. Obviously, i’m not saying all or most black men are drug dealers or fatherless, but to cry stereotyping becasue they are portrayed as such is bogus IMO. I would not have had a problem if they were black, white, latino, asian,or even dreadlocked jamaicans, drug dealers are drug dealers.

    Regarding male headship, i believe that the bible does teach that, but i understand if you don’t share my view. The Kendricks are simply presenting the word as how they understand it. It is in no way degrading or minimizing the role of women, it is simply calling fathers to what the writer of the film believes God’s is calling them to be. As a man who has seen the image of men truly degraded over the past few years i say kudos to Sherwood films for not portaying men as bumbling fools who can’t get out of their own way. I fear that in an effort to promote strong feminine characters, most have gone out of their way to belittle men.

    Ultmately, i see Couragoeus as a call of arms to men. A call to become more than we are often taught or portrayed to be. Men are not living up to their potantial, and i beleive this is an attack from the devil. Any media text that helps to encourage men to be all they can be is something to be lauded not nitpicked. Is it a perfect film? no. Do i think they intentionally meant to steryotype or marginalize anyone? No. This film’s message and values outweigh any percieved flaws. You mentioned that “The emphasis on male-headship makes this film problematic and not something anyone who believes in Biblical equality should be shelling out dollars to see” I’d like to know what films you deem worthy of shelling out dollars to see? What movies do you enjoy, christian or otherwise?

    1. Lincoln–Thank you for your response. It is wonderful to see a man say these things. My husband bought a copy for 2 of his best friends after seeing it. It has truly brought so many things to light they never considered or thought of. The years are short and fly by quickly, in which you can influence your children Every kid needs a DAD in his life…not to say he doesn’t need a Mom, But honestly people, I’m a teacher and see it ALL THE TIME. The usual issue is not the Moms being absentee or uninvolved, it’s that the Dads are. Hence the reason this is such a great movie…love what you said about a Call to Arms to Men…exactly!

  16. gender role, 1 Corinthians 11:3 ” But i want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God”

  17. To the original author of “Free Methodist Feminist… ‘Courageous’ Subtly Promotes Male Headship and Racial Stereotypes'”…

    I am totally incredulous as to your posting regarding this God-inspired family movie. I pray that you would take the time to read and study your Bible (…and that would be from an “original version” of God’s Word and not just “The Methodist Discipline”), and prayerfully consider the fact that man was indeed endowed by God the Creator to be the protector over his home. That is not to say that man is to “lord it over” his wife and children, but to be directly under God’s umbrella of protection, with his wife directly under him, and their children under both parents. That is God’s plan for the family.

    Some people don’t want to admit what God’s Word teaches about various subjects by pooh-pooh-ing whatever they PERSONALLY do not want to believe by excusing it with the trite saying, “Well, that was under the OLD Testament / OLD Covenant / The LAW,” etc., and that Jesus died to save us from all that Old Stuff. Well, then, how do we explain the following verses which are found in the NEW Testament (that would be AFTER Jesus’ birth, sacrificial death for us, and His bodily resurrection)…

    22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Ephesians 5:22-23 KJV


    In other words, if you don’t personally like something in God’s Word, then either say it doesn’t apply in today’s world… or find another “version” of the Bible (or, better yet, write your OWN version!) and just LEAVE OUT THOSE VERSES… or “translate” them into other words that don’t say what God told the holy men of old to write down for us to read and learn from.

    I am in total amazement that a person who claims to represent a CHURCH (denomination) would write such derogatory, misleading things about this movie. The men who wrote this story and made the movie have used their God-given talents over the years to bring to the general public stories that glorify God and His love for us, and help us to want to serve Him and live the kind of lives that He can bless.

    I pray for you that you will come to know the God who said in Revelation chapter 22 (also, by the way, in the NEW Testament)…
    18 For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    I definitely did NOT have the time to sit and write this, but I could not just keep quiet after reading your distorted blog. That would make me like the person who has become “lukewarm” in God’s sight… by just reading and becoming somewhat upset over some untruth, but then not taking the time to share the truth—and causing Jesus want to “spew (vomit) [me] out of [His] mouth” (Revelation 3:16… also from the New Testament). I CANNOT BUT SPEAK THE TRUTH!!!

    For those who have not seen the movie “Courageous” by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, I pray that you would not let the original tirade in this website turn you off or taint the message that the film portrays. Go see it after praying that the Lord will speak to your heart about the true purpose of “Courageous.” THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR TAKING TIME TO READ THIS and prayerfully consider what I have shared from my heart… definitely not intended to hurt or offend anyone, but to share what the Lord put in my heart for you…

    PS – (Why is there no authorship of this article claimed by anyone? If the person who wrote it has their name anywhere in this blog, even after careful searching, I am unable to find it. Are they ashamed to put their name on this?)

  18. It is feminism that is un-biblical. Men & women have very different roles. Both are needed in God’s plan. The fact that you or anyone else, does not agree with God’s perfect plan, does not negate it’s truths. A true Christian is a Christian first. Not a feminist first. This review is nonsense, and somewhat destructive, and most of all, un-biblical..

  19. A true Christian cannot help but be a feminist. As far as I can see, Jesus was – He valued all human beings. Simply stating that the review is un-biblical doesn’t make it so. Giving reasons as to why the egalitarian position is unbiblical and why leading proponents’ exegesis is flawed may be a start.

  20. You forgot about the portrayal of African-Americans as well. Javier is totally bad and pretty overt, but so too is the idea that ALL of the villains in the movie (save for ONE) are all black gang members. It’s almost like the black cop is only thrown in there so that people can say, “Oh, no, it’s not like that… there’s a black guy that’s a good guy too,” but it’s still the idea that all the “negative” and “bad influences,” in the movie… are all black people.

    All of them.

    The exception is the one cop who steals. But even he is just sort of dismissed and let go. But the black gang members and such… there’s something strange about the fact that the movie only makes a passing glance at a white man’s betrayal and can’t seem to stop focusing on the bad things all the black people are doing.

    Likewise, they sort of hit the point that this is about men being better fathers for their sons a little too harshly. Namely that it felt like the only way to do it… was to kill the daughter. It’s almost like the movie is saying, “If we just have better men, we’ll have a better society.” As if it’s the mother’s job to do right by the daughter and the man’s by the son. The movie quite literally kills off the young girl so that the father is FORCED to focus on his son. Instead of giving this idea that men should just be better fathers all around there’s instead this idea instead that promotes this idea that it’s the responsibility of the men to hold responsibility for other men. Teach your sons to be good, but don’t worry about the daughter. Apparently because she’s a little girl she’s “pure.”

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