A new family film featuring miracles and a pro-God theme has earned a rating of “PG” from the Motion Picture Association of America due to fears it might offend people who have no faith or a different faith.

The decision surprises many who believed the “parental guidance” warning was reserved for the likes of violence, foul language and nudity.

“Facing the Giants,” the story of a Christian high-school football coach who uses his undying faith to battle the giants of fear and failure, was given the rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, the group which brands films according to their content.

“The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance,” the MPAA says of its rating system. “There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. … The PG rating, suggesting parental guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents before deciding on its viewing by their children. Obviously such a line is difficult to draw.”

“It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about,” film spokesman Kris Fuhr told the Scripps Howard News Service.

Fuhr noted the association “decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions. It’s important that they used the word ‘proselytizing’ when they talked about giving this movie a PG.”

The movie was made at a cost of $100,000 by Provident Films, a division of Sony Pictures. It was co-written and co-produced by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the associate pastors of media at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.

The plot includes numerous prayers being answered, a medical miracle, and a mystic who delivers a message from God.

A scene which may have drawn extra scrutiny includes a discussion between a football coach and a wealthy brat.

When the coach said the student needed to stop bad-mouthing his father and get right with God, the boy said, “You really believe in all that honoring God and following Jesus stuff? … Well, I ain’t trying to be disrespectful, but not everybody believes in that.”

The coach replied: “Matt, nobody’s forcing anything on you. Following Jesus Christ is the decision that you’re going to have to make for yourself. You may not want to accept it, because it’ll change your life. You’ll never be the same.”

Alex Kendrick, who plays the coach in the film, told Scripps: “Look, I have those kinds of conversations about faith all the time and I’ve seen young people make decisions that change their lives. The reason we’re making movies in the first place is that we hope they inspire people to think twice about their relationships with God.”

The PG rating for the film is already sparking discussion on Internet messageboards. Among the postings:

  • “This is just another example of trying to ‘ghetto-ize’ Christians. No other group is treated as such. Whoever is on that board needs to hear that this is not going to be tolerated unless the religious beliefs of every other group – including New Age, atheist, Wiccan, etc., are treated the same way. How sad that we have descended to this. Make no mistake, this is a very disturbing sign of a sick and potentially dangerous culture.”

  • “It is demonizing Christians and that is no different from the demonizing that was going on in Germany before the Holocaust. First, there is the laughing at, then the demonizing, then blaming and finally, punishment that everyone accepts as normal and good. Sit and allow this to happen and that is the road we are going down.”

  • “Nowadays, a PG movie means it’s family friendly! Heck, ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ is PG. No one complains about its PG rating when the family’s Greek Orthodox religion is explicitly shown. So why should people complain that ‘Facing the Giants’ is PG? It might get people to take it seriously. If it had a G rating, people might be likely to think it’s a cute little kid’s movie.”

  • “I think it kind of makes sense. Look at it this way. If a movie is based on proselytizing atheism and promoting atheism, wouldn’t you like it to have a PG rating? As a parent, you don’t want children taught ideas that you don’t feel are appropriate. If a movie is pushing the idea that God doesn’t exist, even if it is the cleanest movie in the world, many Christian parents would want to guide their children regarding that film. The same might be said about Muslim or Buddhist families not wanting their children to have instruction that they do not agree with.”

  • “I’d like to see the rating system really be put to serious use if movies about the Bible are going to come out. I, for one, would not want to go to a G-rated movie based on Scripture and then have to watch as actresses playing Lot’s daughters get busy with their dad. That is an NR [Not Rated] movie if there ever was one.”

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