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The Christian West

West to Eden
West to Eden
carl richardson

Scrounge around a little and one can find movies so independently made they do not register on imdb.com. At least this one did not when I checked. Its title is Let God (2013). It is extremely streamlined, low-budget, bearing no resemblance to the opulence accustomed to in the majors. It has even less than what is usually encountered in traditional Indies. Yet it is not sub-par, not by any means. It is sold in Christian Family stores, yet shows little of Christianity except insofar as there is a bible so large the lone, lost woman, the film's protagonist, has trouble fitting it into the box she lugs. It is, however, Christian in the sense that it describes in a sequence of scenes that faith is, upon occasion, amply rewarded. The outcome is just the same as if all the knowledge of the sciences and cutting edge technology had been expertly put to use. Like Gravity (2013), which basically involves a single actor, Let God is a mostly solitary journey from a dangerous wilderness setting back into the relative safety of civilization.

The lure of gold motivates the woman's husband to travel westward. It is not her choice. She would rather teach school. Naturally, given the time-frame, after a short conversational struggle, she acquiesces. As it turns out, only the lure of gold, not gold itself, determines what is in store for them both. 17 Miracles (2011) shows the opposite scenario in that the quest for a new Zion motivates an entire entourage of believers. Once again, the West is realistically portrayed as inhospitable, unyielding, indifferent, and a poor alternative in terms of practicalities to wherever the sojourners had come from. But for some uncanny reason, it makes perfect religious sense that one might find Christian solace in an unsettled realm rather than the more comfortable, populated world. Religions very often go against the grains of logic. There are countless stories told in both the Old and New Testament that take place in deserts and along mountainsides. Some chapter and verse admit the luxuriant courts of Pharoahs, Kings, Queens, and the empowered appointees of Emperors, but these places are not always where it's at. The film's portrayal of an arduous trek in 1856 not through Outer Mongolia or Western Australia but the mid-section of the United States is worth seeing on the screen if only for the sake of learning a few details concerning an odd but significant piece of American history.

Even the skeptic will have to admit that the westward wanderers were so unprepared, inept, and inexperienced that if not miracles, then unaccountably enormous good fortune, got a remnant to their destination. In The Redemption of Henry Myers (2014), it becomes apparent that Christian cinema is able to gain on the mainstream. Westerns already belong to a bygone era so that their occasional reappearance always makes one wonder. Big bucks, stars, and legendary writers, directors, and producers cannot make the grade. But a Christian theme, centering in this case on forgiveness and the ability to change, infuses the movie with enough of a novel angle to allow for a decent, short-lived, cinematic "revival". There is also the earnest goodness of the family, especially the scripture-minded mother, that takes in the desperado. It rivals to some degree whatever else the slicker films offer to redeem the viewer from having to watch the same-old-same-old: tied-down gun-belts, alpha-male swagger, shooting, shot glasses of whiskey, card cheaters, saloons, galloping horses, bank robberies, hideouts, and harsh language. Redemption is thoroughly watchable for anyone predisposed toward either Westerns or movies with an old-timey dimension. At the very least, it was made in New Mexico, the bona fide West.