"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" has sparked controversy due to the religion of its villain – a Russian Orthodox Christian terrorist with ties to 9/11 who aims to blow up Wall Street. Christian reviewers, however, say they are not insulted by this fact, arguing that "there are bigger fish to fry."
"This is not religious terrorism, it's coming from the Soviet Union," Gary Black Jr., chair of Advanced Studies at Azusa Pacific University, told The Christian Post in an interview on Friday. Black argued that, far from insulting Russian Orthodox Christianity, the film ironically praises it. "It's demonstrating the true values of Orthodox Christianity – the best place to hide and not to be seen as a terrorist is a church." The film is not about wacky Christian terrorists but about Russian spies who think the best place to hide is a church. In one scene, an undercover "family" is activated by the priest preaching on Lamentations 2:2.
"If you want to talk about anti-Christian content in the movie Jack Ryan, talk about the six misuses of Jesus' name as if it were a swear word," Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family's movie review department "Plugged In," told The Christian Post in an interview on Thursday. Waliszewski argued that "there's nothing more insensitive that a director can do than misuse the name above every name."
"You can have the Russian bad guy go into a Russian church and pray – that's not half as bad as having the good guy misuse Jesus' name," Waliszewski said. Mentioning the trend in a wide array of movies, the reviewer declared, "I think Hollywood should take some sensitivity training." He argued that they wouldn't use Muhammad's name as a swear word.
Michael Giuliano, head men's soccer coach at Wheaton College, warned against so-called "anti-Christian" trends in Hollywood. "I have serious doubts that the data will back up the idea that Hollywood has a serious vendetta against Christians," Giuliano wrote CP in a Thursday statement.
"It's similar to the idea that the media is all liberal and consistently gives preferential treatment to a 'liberal agenda,'" Giuliano explained. He argued that a financial motive, not an ideological one, lies behind media decisions, citing the Clinton-Lewinsky affair as "the most mentioned 'scandal' of the last 15 years by the media as it was happening."
Don Waisanen, assistant professor of Communication at Baruch College in New York, agreed with Giuliano's hesitation. "When a controversy like this arises, pundits often want to make one movie indicative of a larger trend, without actually pointing to evidence for that larger trend," Waisanen explained. He suggested research into whether or not Hollywood is vilifying Christians.
"The success of fictional TV shows like '24' and historically-based films like 'Zero Dark Thirty' alone show that Hollywood hasn't had a problem with also portraying many Muslims as terrorists," Waisanen argued. He urged caution against "forming opinions about what a single movie indicates about Hollywood or the larger culture."
Dan Gainor, vice president of Business and Culture at The Media Research Center, did not see "Jack Ryan," but listed examples of Hollywood villifying Christians.
"Hollywood's response to the Christian themes in the 'Narnia' movies was to try and deceive viewers with 'The Golden Compass' where the ultimate goal is to kill God," Gainor explained. He also mentioned the movies "Carrie," "There Will Be Blood," and "Saved," which "mock faith throughout," and in which "Christians are either depicted as hypocrites or evil." Gainor also mentioned numerous anti-Catholic films, such as Dan Brown's installments, "Philomena," and "Dogma."
"No matter where Christians turn in the popular culture, they are often the target, not the audience," Gainor declared.
Black also condemned an anti-Christian bias in the culture of "tolerance." He argued that "the only tolerated intolerance is saved for those perceived to be intolerant – Christians, particularly conservative Christians."
Black did not argue that this culture dominates Hollywood, but he did attack the California film industry as having "a tendency to prey on the most despicable parts of human nature." Nevertheless, he praised film itself as a particularly poignant art form, with the ability to capture "both the wonder and tragedy of life."
Black particularly praised "Jack Ryan" for its complex plot involving a true weakness in America today. As a veteran of Wall Street, the reviewer explained that Russia's plan to destroy the United States – by blowing up Wall Street and then selling U.S. Treasury securities – would truly weaken the dollar and drive America into a recession, so long as countries with U.S. securities chose to sell a majority of them.
Waliszewski, meanwhile, isn't too concerned about "Jack Ryan" compared to some of the Oscar-nominated films.
"The Wolf of Wall Street is an NC-17 movie and somehow it got a pass with an R rating," he lamented. "If I was going to sit down and write an article about problems that I see in the current films that are out there, out of a hundred topics, 99<sup>th would be the fact that a guy prays in a church who happens to be a terrorist," Waliszewski concluded.