If you don’t feel like reading this entire review—which, be warned, is mostly me just yelling—let me sum this up for you: The surprise box-office hit War Room is bad. Not just bad in the acting and the dialogue and the story line. It’s bad in the greater sense of good and evil, light and dark. This movie is bad and dangerous and wrong, and it should not exist. I’m angry that someone made it, and I’m angry that I watched it.
War Room—about a black woman who is taught by a magical old lady, Miss Clara, to solve all of her marital problems through the power of prayer—is even worse than this description would have you think. When I sat down in the dark, half-empty theater, I thought I might be in for some boredom, maybe a laugh or two. I was not expecting to be shaking with rage. Let me try to put into words the things I hated about this movie, from least offensive to “what the fuck!”
• It’s got some pretty decent double Dutch. I didn’t want to vomit during these parts.
• The main character, Elizabeth Jordan (portrayed by Priscilla C. Shirer), has a lovely Michelle Obama–esque wardrobe that I covet.
• Elizabeth runs around the house screaming, “GET OUT, DEVIL!!” And nobody is supposed to think it’s weird.
• A man tries to mug Elizabeth and her magical old lady friend, Miss Clara, but he’s white (plot twist).
• Miss Clara stops the mugger by telling him not to kill them in the name of Jesus. No really, she says, “IN JESUS’S NAME,” and then he’s like, “Um, okay.” Which I would do, too, because it’s hella weird.
• Elizabeth’s husband, Tony Jordan, is not only a manipulative, controlling, lying, cheating bastard—he doesn’t open his eyes fully once throughout the entire movie. Squinting is how you know he’s got the devil in him.
• The music in this film is worse than any music in any soap opera. It’s the music of a 1990s hospital drama, but watered down. I would rather have Kenny G serenade me to sleep every night for the rest of my life than listen to another two hours of that awful music.
• Miss Clara hires Elizabeth to be her real-estate agent and immediately starts asking Elizabeth why she doesn’t love Jesus. Elizabeth is all, “Shut up, Miss Clara,” but Miss Clara wears her down, because Jesus is more important than personal boundaries, religious freedom, and basic common courtesy.
• Elizabeth and her coworker talk about “submitting to their husbands” as if this is a thing you should do.
• When Elizabeth finds out her husband is cheating, instead of confronting him, she prays to God, and God makes him vomit in the middle of his liaison. This seems like a really weak show for an all-powerful deity.
• Elizabeth tells Miss Clara about how abusive and neglectful her husband is, and instead of saying “Leave him” or “Poison his soup,” Miss Clara demands that Elizabeth pray for him, because the problem isn’t that her husband is the worst, it’s that Elizabeth just doesn’t love Jesus enough.
• Through the power of prayer, and learning never to criticize or yell or do anything other than smile meekly at her lying, cheating, selfish, abusive husband, Elizabeth is finally rewarded with the husband she deserves. No, not a new husband with no history of treating her like shit, but the same shitty husband, who has magically become non-shitty and suddenly gives her foot rubs and makes her ice-cream sundaes.
• After everything in Elizabeth and Tony’s marriage is fixed by Jesus, Miss Clara demands that Elizabeth find a young woman to badger into praying all her problems away, so that all young wives can submit to their husbands and stop nagging them all the damn time to stop abusing them and cheating on them.
• Then, in one of the most heavy-handed pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen, Miss Clara demands that everyone in the audience—yes, you and me—spread this horrifying version of Jesus-love throughout the world with apocalyptic images of children praying in public schools, cops praying before going out in the field (probably to shoot someone who looks like one of the main characters in this film), and, lastly, people praying in the White House.
Miss Clara is a pusher—as bad as any drug dealer on the street. Miss Clara pushes Christianity instead of crack. Not just any Christianity, the type of Christianity that keeps women in abusive relationships, that keeps them locked in misery—that makes the humiliation, degradation, and hate they endure somehow their fault.
This kills women. Miss Clara kills women. This movie, it intends to kill women by keeping them in harmful and life-threatening situations by promising that if they just endure long enough, they will be rewarded with a husband who no longer wants to crush their spirit or their skulls.
This movie, which is currently the second-highest-grossing movie in America, intends to see children grow up watching their mothers be abused, disrespected, defeated—not only by their fathers, but by their faith. Right now, as you read this, a woman is dying because she cannot leave her abusive partner. Right now, a man is acting on the belief that he has the divine right to treat his partner like shit because God says she should submit to him.
This movie should offend any person, especially any Christian, who believes that God is a loving God. This is not what love looks like. And this is not what faith looks like. If any movie could make one lose faith in God, this would be it.