When a young friend died at the tender age of 15, Kirk Cameron was left wrestling with the perennial faith-breaking questions, Why does God allow suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Matt had lived a full 2/3 of his young life with cancer. His parents were good people. They loved God, even as they had to watch their son slip away. Kirk loved God too, but he had a hard time reconciling the seemingly senseless pain of life on this earth with the Christian doctrines of a sovereign and loving God.
Is it that God loves his creatures but can’t prevent the things that cause suffering? Or could he prevent them, but doesn’t really love people enough to bother? Well, no. The Bible tells us that God is both fully loving and completely sovereign. This leaves honest Christians with something of a personal/theological puzzle. How to reconcile the two absolutely good characteristics of God with the inescapable (and ultimately inevitable) pain of suffering and death in the world?
His most authentic and vulnerable production to date, Unstoppable is the product of Cameron’s search for satisfying answers. Part Bible exposition and part visual diary, Unstoppable dramatizes and records his personal Q&A journey with God. It’s one fruit of his own suffering, if you will.
There’s life and death seriousness in Unstoppable – this man is not one to shy away from something just because it’s hard. But there’s also some comedy: Imagine you were going to make a film about the biblical story of the flood, and the central character was going to be God. From a storytelling point of view, this is a hard sell.
Nonetheless, Cameron dons his Sunday best and goes before a committee of Hollywood big shots bearing “Hollywood Pitch: The Flood.” It goes something like this:
Cameron: The setting for the story is the apex of evil. Humanity is destroying itself. Then God steps in and raises up a man named Noah. He has a heart after God and is blameless in his sight.
Exec 1: Hero, hero –
Cameron: And he begins calling everyone to turn back to God.
Exec 1: He’s the savior –
Cameron: And God commissions him to build a giant ship.
Exec 2: Like a cruise ship?
Exec 3: Oooh, cruise ship; that’s a good idea. We could go with that.
Exec 1: Midnight buffet! (laughing) How many desserts can you have at 1:00 in the morning?
Cameron: Guys, this is not about a cruise ship. It’s a three-story, massive, cargo barge –
Exec 1: [gets a quizzical look on his face]
Cameron: – with Noah, his family, and some animals.
Exec 2: Alright, this is where the family comes in. The animals could talk to each other. Kids love animals.
Cameron: No. You see, there’s a complete deluge of the entire world, and everyone –
Exec 1: Yeah, I can see it. Everyone gets on these floating cities and –
Exec 2: – and everyone forms, like, a republic?
Cameron: No floating cities. One ship. With Noah. And his family. And all the animals.
Exec 1: Where are all the people?
Cameron: [pause] Drowned.
Exec 1: Whoah, whoah, whoah –
Exec 2: It kinda portrays God as the enemy here.
Cameron: The reason God does this is –
Exec 3: If we go back to the boat and the animal thing … the more I visualize this, I see this more as a cartoon kind of thing.
And the beat goes on. The execs like the idea of the family, the adventure, the talking animals, and the rainbow. They really like the rainbow. Exec 3 can already see the spike on Pinterest. But Cameron wants to stay true to the story. In the end, the execs tell Kirk they love him. And they love the story. All except the part about God and what really happened.
Do you see what they’ve done here? They want to rewrite the story according to what works for them. “That’s the story people want to hear,” says Exec 1.
The scene is staged for maximum comic effect. It’s like a scene from The Office. But there’s a very serious point to be made through it. We can be like those execs. After all, don’t we all want to rewrite the story of life according to what works for us?
But then, when the world doesn’t act according to our script, we don’t know what’s going on. We get angry. Or depressed. Or both. We don’t get it. And we gnash our teeth at God. Whether we believe in him or not.
Perhaps we don’t “get” God because we don’t want God. We have not paid attention to what he has already told us. We have instead rewritten the story of our life according to what works for us. And then, when we find ourselves at odds with life, or when tragedy strikes and we reel in confusion, not only do we not understand, we don’t even know where to look to seek understanding. We wrote God out of our story.
Meanwhile God’s story goes on. And it’s not over. God, who is exceedingly patient and gracious, still calls all of us to repent and seek him. Sometimes that happens as a result of suffering. For some of us, it doesn’t happen any other way.
Cameron has produced a beautiful and brutally honest film, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Dedicated to Matthew James Sandgren, May 2nd, 1997 – August 23rd, 2012, the Q&A session between Cameron and God ends with satisfying answers. Satisfying enough, at least, for the time being. The name “Unstoppable“ is fitting, but I had to watch all the way to the end to figure it out.
You should too.