(Photo: Screen Grab via YouTube/RettaVisionMP)
An independent film created by the Retta Baptist Church in Burleson, Texas, was recently slapped with an "R" rating by the Motion Picture Association of America for drugs and violence depicted in the film, but the church's pastor contends it was because of its faith message.
The film is a low-budget production called "My Son," which is scheduled for release on Friday. "My Son" is also one of several faith-based films to be featured at the Churches Making Movies Christian Film Festival in New Jersey on Saturday, Oct. 12.
"They told us it was because of violence and drug use portrayed in the film," Retta Baptist Church Pastor Chuck Kitchens told Fox News. "I was very shocked. It makes me sick at my stomach."
"When you look at the facts and see there are other movies that have been rated PG-13 that have more violence and more drug scenes, you have to say there's inconsistency there," said Kitchens.
He then charged that the R-rating had more to do with the movie's faith-based message than the violence.
"A group of people out there don't necessarily like strong evangelical Christianity," he said. "People don't like to hear that it's this one way (to heaven) and nothing else. But if you are a Christian, that's the message. That's what Jesus said. That's what you have to proclaim. People call us bigoted and then they go on the attack."
In an interview with The Christian Post on Thursday, the film's director, Jarod O'Flaherty, said the R-rating turned off some of the Christians they were hoping would view the movie.
"It was very important for us to have the support of Christians who understood our ministry, what we were trying to do so that they could get the word out about the film and could invite unchurched or lost people to the film," said O'Flaherty.
"When we got the R-rating, which we obviously didn't shoot for and was very much a shock to us, unfortunately we found that our support within the Christian community went away with that rating," he said. "I just think that people were uncomfortable going to their churches, going to their congregations and promoting an R-rated film."
He, however, echoed the pastor's sentiments that "My Son" didn't qualify as a conventional R-rated movie.
"First of all, this isn't an R-rated film if you look at it. The content doesn't measure up with what we've come to know as R-rated films," he said.
While admitting that there was "drug use and some violence," it is a very miniscule part of the story and it is only shown briefly and not glorified as a part of the overall story.
In explaining why she chose to feature "My Son" as a part of the Churches Making Movies Christian Film Festival, LaVonne McIver James said the message of faith was more compelling than anything else in the narrative.
"Ultimately, we felt the conversion message in 'My Son' was more compelling and inspiring than the violence was gratuitous. The film is clearly meant to appeal to unbelievers and it succeeds because of its very honest handling of the subject matter. The slow unraveling of the couple depicted in the film is relatable. The film is intriguing for that very reason," she said.
"We are all human and whether we want to admit it or not most of us have made a mistake and in trying to correct that mistake, we make an even bigger mistake. At the root of it, that's what occurs in 'My Son.' What was important for me was that in the end Cadon overcame his mistakes after a gentle encounter with the Lord," she added.