by Candice Watters
In a day when a young, pregnant, abortion counselor films her own abortion in an effort to lessen post-abortion guilt for other moms, and the New York Times Society pages is adding a divorce column called Unhitched to celebrate the stories of faithless couples who have called it quits, Focus on the Family has produced a bold documentary that shows the beauty, strength, and essential nature of the first institution created by God: the family.
On Tuesday evening, we headed to our local cinema along with people nation-wide for the one-time screening of the feature-length documentary, Irreplaceable. The film was true to its promise, demonstrating, first with expert-interviews and then personal stories, how central a role the family plays in human flourishing. Hosted by Focus on the Family New Zealand’s director, Tim Sisarich, the premise was that he–a married father of five–would journey all over the globe to find out “what’s wrong with the family?”
He talked with Eric Metaxas, John Stonestreet, Jonathan Last, Frederica Mathewes-Green, neuropsychologist Dr. Anne Moir, Professor of Law Helen Alvaré, National Center for Fathering CEO Carey Casey, Michael Medved and many more. I loved hearing from these experts who explained, from their fields, why the family matters, why it’s in such peril, and what to do about it. Carey Casey’s segment was most heart-wrenching and most compelling. Casey told about countless men he’s mentored–many of them professional athletes–who weep over their lack of a dad to cheer them on, to tell them they can make it in life, and that they’re proud of them. From his segment, devoted to the nature and centrality of Fatherhood, the film pivoted toward the Fatherhood of God.
It was here, that we met an elderly man uncommonly driven to serve others. He visited other seniors, many seemingly younger than him, in hospitals and in nursing homes, listened to them, loved on them. He told Sisarich his story of unfaithfulness. How he had an affair that nearly destroyed his marriage and his family, but how, with God’s help, and a committed wife, he rebuilt the wreckage. At this point, the story turned personal for Siserich, too. He confessed his own father’s unfaithfulness, including embezzlement of company funds, his mom’s unwillingness to divorce even when his dad went to prison, and his dad’s attempt to rebuild what he so nearly destroyed. It was clear at this point that much remained to be settled, and forgiven, in Siserich’s own heart and family.
Enter the prison. Sisarich interviewed inmates about what role their family situations, and especially their relationship–or lack of one–with their dads played in their lives. To a person, it was clear that lack of input, love, and in many cases lack of any relationship at all, was a big part of what when wrong. But one inmate, a woman, was full of joy as she talked about meeting the Lord in prison, of being forgiven and being able to forgive others, even her abusive father. She said she was “blessed” to come to prison, because it was there, by the power of God, that she was set free.
The Gospel was subtle, but present, and by the end, it was clear that the only hope for the family is a right relationship with the Father, made possible by Jesus’ death on the cross. Only He can save what He created.
As the credits rolled, the audience applauded. Many theaters were sold out and in some cities, people were turned away from sold-out venues. In response to the film’s enthusiastic reception, Focus has scheduled a national encore performance on Thursday, May 15. You can find theater and ticket information here.
It’s well worth your time and the price of admission to support this timely, well-produced, and much-needed film.
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