Los Angeles Times

A Christian critic wrestles with new biblical films and the hope of a better 'faith-based' cinema

At one point in the hit musical biopic "I Can Only Imagine," Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley), a Texan singer-songwriter touring with his up-and-coming Christian rock band MercyMe, receives a rude awakening from the industry he's trying to woo. "You're just not good enough," says one record-label rep, inadvertently echoing the cruel words of Bart's abusive father (Dennis Quaid) and triggering a wave of flashbacks to the boy's traumatized upbringing.

Those flashbacks made me roll my eyes, but they also filled me with a strange sense of guilt. As someone who considers himself both a lover of cinema and a follower of Jesus Christ, I must confess that the words "You're just not good enough" have generally summed up my own opinion of the many, many Christian-themed independent productions that have sprung up since the smash success of "The Passion of the Christ" 14 years ago.

That may be a harsh judgment to render against pictures that, at least in their broad range of genres and stories, would seem to resist easy pigeonholing. Companies as different as

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