>"Saved!" and the Good Samaritan

Posted: 26/08/2009 in Movies, Parables

>One of my favorite movies, surely and older movie by now, is the teen satire Saved! which I watched for the first time back in College. I realized then, and I still think now, that movie is not some “anti-Christian” movie. I think of it more like modern day parable of the good Samaritan. If the movie offends you, you should think carefully why.

The Parable

Let’s start with the Gospel of Luke. A lawyer asks Jesus a question, and Jesus answers with the parable.

25And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 28And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” 29But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Notice how this parable is set up. The Lawyer has an idea of what it is he is supposed to do, but in the fashion of lawyers, he is attempting to be as specific with the letter of the law so he can minimally fulfill the law. The question “who is my neighbor” is only half-way sincere.

Jesus answers:

30Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31″And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32″Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33″But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35″On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36″Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”


There are two things that we need to realize about this parable. First, is how that lawyer viewed the Pharisees and the Levites. Secondly, how that lawyer viewed the Samaritans.

As good Christians, we all know that a Pharisees and Levites were bad people, but that is our perspective. That little lawyer probably had quite the opposite view. In his day, a Pharisee or a Levite was someone who was revered in the same way we revere successful ministers, missionaries, authors and any other type of clergy are today. The Samaritan, as viewed by the Jewish community at the time, were decidedly outside the fold of the approved, morally-upright, and spiritually approved group. They were derided for the ethnicity and for not worship God in the way approved by the Pharisees and Levites. The Samaritans were considered so dirty, that the Lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say “the Samaritan” at the end of this exchange.

This is why this parable is so particularly penetrating. Jesus is using this surprise and this scandal to gently push through the lawyer’s half-sincere question about ethics. Jesus is saying quite a bit here. First, goodness is not automatic when you are part of the approved community. On the flipside, doing good is not the domain of a group. Jesus tells the lawyer, who is well aware that he belongs to approved group, to be like that outcast who is doing the right thing. If you know what’s right, stop asking questions and do what is right.

Saved! (?)

If you haven’t seen “Saved!”, I recommend simply scrolling down to the bottom of this review, buying it, and then watching it. Don’t read the spoilers that are about to come.

The story of saved is set up in a similar way that the parable is. The main protagonist is Mary, who is clearly in the approved group of the conservative, fundamentalist, Christians. She is part of the “Christian Jewels” a singing group at her school. Her mom is on every church board meeting and participates in every activity. She knows Pastor Skip, the school youth minister. She has a wonderful pair of Christian friends namely Hilary and Veronica. Those who are outside the approved group are Hilary’s brother Roland and the rebel Jewish girl Cassandra.
The plot takes off when Mary has sex with her boyfriend in order to restore him to heterosexuality. She finds out that she is pregnant and decides to keep both her shame and her pregnancy to herself. Throughout the story, she becomes increasingly withdrawn from her friends and eventually experiences a crisis of faith. It is summed up best when she stares at cross at her school and utters several curse words ending with, “God Damn.”

It is here that we begin to see the failures of the modern day Pharisees and Levites. Hilary reacts to Mary’s despondency out of spite and pride –even outcasting Mary from the Christian Jewels. There are hints of Veronica own sexual misconduct at church camps. Pastor Skip, though not living with his wife, is in a sham of marriage that is blindingly apparent to his own son, Patrick. Her mother shows her lack of openness and lack of assurances towards Mary when Mary begins to reach out. When Mary’s pregnancy is finally revealed, her mom intends to send her away to a “Mercy House.” Additionally, the mother’s own repressed sexuality reveals her ulterior motives for her church involvement. Everyone is quick to judge and slow to understand. The entire Christian cast displays acts of spite, hypocrisy, and shallowness.

Not so with the movie’s two (maybe three?) Samaritans. Cassandra, the rule-defying rebel, is the first to realize that Mary is pregnant. She gently, but persistently, presses Mary on the issue until Mary relents. She and Rolond help Mary go shopping for pregnancy clothes. The group eventually becomes friends. They are later framed by Hilary and others and kicked out of school. On prom night, these two plan an escape for Mary and buy her a prom dress. Patrick, Skip’s son, becomes Mary’s date and is the third person to accept Mary -pregnancy and all.

Who was Mary’s neighbor? It is quite clear in the movie who. Those cynical outcasts show greater mercy and understanding towards Mary than any of the “spiritually approved” group. Like the Pharisees and the Levites, the spiritually upright demonstrate little more than a desire to avoid the issue of the person in need, but going a step further in actually harming Mary.

Regarding the Christians who disliked this movie, I think a call for concern is in order. Such a movie can be dismissed easily as anti-Christian, but this would be missing the point. If Christians feel offended by such a depiction of Christians, then maybe it is time to think about why those depictions exist. Why get upset about such a film or give it a superficial examination about its message? Why not instead see who truly acts as the neighbor and then go and do likewise.?

Thanks for reading.


  1. Heidi says:

    >Good review, Joel.

  2. >I want to see it again, it's been awhile. And I agree with your evaluation; I don't think it's anti-Christian, but it is a pretty pointed wake-up call to some of the common hypocrisy in Christian sub-culture. One of my profs at APU (taught me Music in Worship) mentioned that a man at his church either wrote/directed/had some pivotal involvement in the movie.

  3. Biomusician says:

    >One of my favorites too, Joel!Also, you're at 3 movie-related blog posts in 5 days. Notice?

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