‘Facing the Giants’ falls flat on its face – Sarah Eucalano

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel spent part of a day recently stopping “Facing the Giants” from being shown to a captive audience of middle schoolers in a New Mexico school. Sarah Eucalano, FFRF’s journalism intern, overheard Andrew working the phones and, out of morbid curiosity, decided to watch a clip of the 2006 movie. Like a rubbernecker at a car crash, Sarah got sucked in and after work convinced a freethinking friend to watch the entire two-hour movie with her.  

The Christian football drama titled “Facing the Giants” is brought to us by Sherwood Baptist Church, the purveyors of other god-awful godly “movies” like “Fireproof” and “Courageous.” It features the character Grant Taylor, football coach at a Christian high school in rural Georgia.

We never learn what Coach Taylor teaches or see him teaching because what good Christian cares about book learning when there is football to be played or nonexistent deities to be praised?

Taylor has fallen on hard times. His car won’t run and things around the house keep breaking. His doctor recently told him he was infertile so his wife can’t have babies. His team, the Shiloh Eagles, hasn’t had a winning season in six years, and he is constantly interrupting conversations about his imminent dismissal. 

What’s a man to do?

If you’re thinking (perhaps, your first mistake), he could take the broken car in for repairs, consider adoption, take high school football less seriously and learn how to do household repairs, you could not be more wrong. The answer provided by this limpid flick is as hackneyed as the book from which its savior will rise: Jesus.  

Sure, his wife could work more than part time as a florist, but a woman’s proper place is in the kitchen, and that’s where she is in almost every scene. All good Christians know that women are too delicate to work 40 hours a week or go to college. And how is she supposed to feel fulfilled when Grant is shooting blanks in the sack? 

Unsurprisingly, he starts reading the Good Book and talking to himself an awful lot (they call this “praying”). And guess what? Everything soon turns around!

He becomes so enthusiastic about his newfound delusion that he brainwashes all of the Eagles. Even the movie’s comic relief, an assistant coach who happens to be the only black character, gets serious about prayer. Yup, the Shiloh Eagles must be the only football team in Georgia where every single player is white. 

Actually, there is one reluctant player to convert — Matt, a problem child at home and in school. He’s only at the Christian school (it’s amazing that they didn’t set it in a public school) because he got expelled from his last one.

Taylor confronts Matt and, Moses-like, tells him he needs to honor his mother and father.

Matt asks his coach if “he really believes in all that Jesus stuff.” Tritely and predictably, Taylor coaches Matt to accept Jesus into his heart. A scene minutes later has Matt accepting Jesus and calling his dad “sir.” Matt’s dad, who has a fancy office job, is so impressed with Matt’s improvement that he buys the coach a new car. (The obvious moral being if you give a child a stairway to heaven, you’ll be rewarded with earthly riches.)

Because Christians love a good “we don’t know how she got pregnant” story, Mrs. Taylor somehow is with child despite Grant’s medically diagnosed sterility. But we all know if you study science, as doctors are wont to do, that you’re probably wrong about everything. Or maybe God moved in mysterious ways through the milkman.

Most importantly, because we all know how much Jesus cares about the outcome of sporting events, the team starts winning. How could the Eagles fail to score with sage advice like “If we win, we praise Him, if we lose we praise Him,” and “Football is just one of the tools we use to honor God?”  

The film ends at the state championship game, where the Eagles face the Giants — state champs for three years running due to their size and skill. All of this is thoroughly repeated just in case you’re too thick to catch the David vs. Goliath allusion the first time around. 

The game ends with team runt David(!) kicking the winning field goal. David originally wanted to play soccer, but the school has no soccer team (soccer is for Europeans and homosexuals). His kick sails through the uprights, with a little help from a miraculous wind shift.  

The unclimactic climax is Taylor’s pep talk to David: “Scripture says wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.” The author of Matthew probably didn’t have field goals in mind when he wrote that, but one can’t be too thoughtful when reading scripture.  

I’m glad God was there to guide the Eagles to a state championship. I wouldn’t want Him to get distracted with trivialities like curing AIDS and cancer or finally bringing us “whirled peas.” That would just be too big a waste of His time.

Freedom From Religion Foundation