National Catholic Register


‘Fireproof’: Babyproof?

BY Tom Hoopes

| Posted 1/11/09 at 12:51 PM


What’s not to like about Fireproof? Ask a Catholic father of 10. His letter to the Register raises some harsh questions.

April and I saw the movie Fireproof and appreciated its earnestness. Here on the Daily Blog, I agreed with Matthew Lickona‘s refusal to harp on its quality issues.

“Disappointed in Oregon” has a different approach:

“I found Fireproof entertaining, but also the same old rehashed cliches: bad husband, poor wife who doesn’t get her needs fulfilled, never mind they
have zero children and she works outside of the home.

“And he is an idiot that must kiss her you-know-what so she won’t commit adultery. My wife and I have been married 23 years, have 10 children, one in the seminary and two with God, and my wife has been able to stay home all those years because I have worked my behind off — and we still don’t have a place like that to live in.

“Trust me. I know plenty of men who have had their wives leave them so they could go out and have fun. Why, oh why, does the white Anglo male always have to be the stupid thoughtless bum?”

The letter is too harsh: The mere fact of working outside the home is not incriminating evidence against the wife. As Fulton Sheen said, women have worked throughout history (and in modern times, too. Pope Benedict XVI’s mom was a cook, Pope John Paul II’s mom was a seamstress, St. Therese’s mom was a lacemaker). If he had said: “the wife is career-driven to the exclusion of children, presumably to afford the mini-mansion she lives in” his point would hit home.

Also, the film is very much aware that the wife has her share of flaws, too.

The anti-pornography message in Fireproof is worth the rental, and I especially appreciate the fact that the filmmakers put my “Breaking Vows” article in the supplemental materials they offer Catholics on their website.

Nonetheless, I think “Disappointed in Oregon” has a point. The couple is childless, which itself isn’t incriminating evidence — but that their childlessness means nothing to them is problematic.

For a Christian, childlessness always means something. It’s either a cross from God, or an attempt to flee a cross. Only the first option is spiritually fruitful.

A French poet once said, “True love isn’t two people staring into each others eyes, but staring in the same direction.” The movie supplies one direction for the two to stare: God. But, practically speaking, I’ve found it’s much more effective to have lots of children to avert a couple’s gaze from self-absorption.

God is like the ocean. He draws your gaze, but something as small as a book can block him out. A house full of kids is impossible to ignore. You and your spouse grab on to each other for dear life as wave after wave of frenetic energy swells around you and threatens to knock you over or pull you under, and squeals and shrieks, like attacking gulls, drown out your thoughts of “me.”

— Tom Hoopes