“Milltown Pride” Review

In the summer of 2009, a small flare-up occurred between Bob Jones University and the fundamentalist publishing house Sword of the Lord. The disagreement was over a book written by BJU faculty member Randy Jaeggli–a book which sought to establish, in the midst of “the barrage of an evangelical culture that promotes the moderate use of alcohol”, BJU’s continuing teetotalism.

Dr. Jaeggli’s book, entitled “The Christian and Drinking”, was pulled from the BJU Store following a scathing review from Sword of the Lord (that review has seemingly disappeared from the intrawebs as well). SoL seemed to think that Jaeggli’s view on alcohol was perhaps too lenient, despite the book’s hardline stance. After the SoL review started to cause some noise, BJU’s resources for “avoiding the appearance of evil”–a.k.a “covering its collective butt” got into gear. The following is from BJU’s statement (page has since been pulled down) on the incident:

Believing every book can be improved in both clarity and cogency and wanting to avoid any confusion and all offense to fellow Christians, Bob Jones University is temporarily pulling The Christian and Drinking from distribution. Our plan is for the author to rewrite and edit those portions of the text that have been misunderstood and reissue the book.

This re-publishing never took place, though. The book is still available on Amazon, but BJU apparently abandoned plans to rescue the book from its public perception.

Instead, we get Milltown Pride. According to producer Darren Lawson, the movie is intended as a “modernizing” of the Prodigal Son parable, but Lawson and the BJU higher-ups must have forgotten to actually read that beautiful passage. Milltown Pride, like so many BJU productions, dabbles in a kind of spiritual reductionism: externalize sin into a “vice” (in this case, a peculiar clear liquid which might be vodka), and equate deliverance from that vice with conversion to “true” Christianity.

Thus, the vast majority of Milltown Pride is spent focusing on the descent of its hero, Will Wright, from obedient, genteel banker’s son to drunk, baseball-obsessed lout. Particularly troubling to Will’s respectable parents is his association with “mill folk”, who, with their grubby faces and connections with baseball and drinking, are emphatically lower-class. Don’t expect the movie to preach against that prejudice, though. Much the opposite: it takes for granted a society eternally split between Good (the wealthy, squeaky-clean Town Folk, who epitomize the Victorian morals BJU prizes) and Evil (the rough-and-tumble Mill Folk, who enjoy a good mason jar o’ the fire water with their roast beef). Anyone who’s spent any amount of time in Greenville can readily see the comparison being made.

You know how this will go. Will falls in love with a girl, but his drinking habit turns her off. He gets saved at a revival meeting, and subsequently gives up alcohol for more wholesome hobbies like playing with kids and reading his Bible. Our hero’s ladyfriend approves, and the movie lurches along to its inevitable climax on the baseball diamond. Does Will hammer the winning run in the Big Game? Does Lawson, playing the part of Will’s tyrannical father, overact the part with strenuous effort? Do all the actors behave as if in a Shakespeare Drama at The Globe, rather than in a historically irrelevant Christian fundamentalist production? Is anyone seen on camera of anything but the staunchest Caucasian descent? You already know the answers…

Milltown Pride is available via the BJU Store for the strange price of $19.96. Not rated, but contains scenes of explicit nonsense and acting which may frighten even the most mature audiences.

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14 thoughts on ““Milltown Pride” Review

  1. lorinda

    Loved the review. “Believing every book can be improved in both clarity and cogency”–every book? The Bible? Pilgrim’s Progress? To Kill a Mockingbird? Gross overstatement.

  2. Dan Olinger

    Just a couple of clarifications–

    1. Dr. Jaeggli’s book is being republished. Watch for it in the next few months.

    FWIW, the brouhaha over the first edition was mostly my fault. His rough draft was considerably more aggressively opposed to any consumption of alcohol from the first page. Thinking of the YRRs in the prospective readership, as the editor I advised him to begin with a more objective tone and hold off the conclusion until, well, the conclusion. My thinking was that some advocates of social drinking might read the first few pages and toss the book aside, never engaging his substantial biblical, historical, and medical arguments. I feel bad that my advice caused him a lot of lost time and hassle that should have been directed at me.

    2. The “peculiar clear liquid” in the movie is moonshine. Due to the exigencies of moonshine production, it is typically not aged in wood, as other whiskeys are; that’s the process that gives them their characteristic amber color. Hence moonshine was often referred to as “white lightning.”

    3. Darren Lawson’s character does in fact reject the bigotry of his thinking and behavior in the early part of the movie. That scene is part of the denouement.

    Best wishes.

    1. BJU News Post author

      Thanks for the extra book details. Kinda scratching my head as to the delay on re-publishing, but obviously that’s up to you guys.

      I don’t buy that Lawson’s mumblings in the last thirty seconds of the movie constitute rejection of the elitist attitudes earlier in the movie. It’s too little too late to be convincing, for me anyhow.

      Best wishes to you, Dr. Olinger.

    2. Bill

      Here we are, March 2013, and the book STILL hasn’t been republished. I checked, because I thought it would be a nice complement to the chapel series this week, which is focused on alcohol, and features Dr. Jaeggli as a speaker.

  3. Blaine Welgraven

    Great discussion going on here, BJUN and Dr. Olinger–thanks for your insights and clarifications both of you. It’s awesome to see Christ-followers civilly discussing various aspects of their respective culture, despite their various ideological or theological variances. Thanks to you both:)

  4. jeriwho

    Why link the Jaeggli’s book to the movie at all? The actual review of the movie, which begins in the fifth paragraph, is spot-on. Ruminating on why a book was pulled, or what will happen to it, etc.,in a post that is a movie review is really beside the point. The actual review of the movie itself is certainly truthful, pointed and definitely witty enough to stand on its own. Now where’d I put that mason jar?

    1. Naomi

      Why not? It’s relevant as the most recent school debacle over alcohol; the heavy-handed anti-alcohol message in a movie purporting to be about baseball and Christianity makes less sense without that context. Bringing in Jaeggli’s book sets us up to better understand the school’s “position” on alcohol over time.

  5. Justin

    While it might be entertaining to poke fun at the movie (we all know it’s cheesy and way too long, etc.), it’s important to remember that many people have been led to Christ as a result of viewing the film. Sure, the film has a lot of problems and isn’t anything close to being considered “art,” but that doesn’t mean that we should bash it just for the sake of bashing it and the University. There is a greater cause that the film has accomplished, and many hours of hard work were put into the production by people who love God and want to see people come to know Him.

    Best regards,
    Justin

    1. BJU News Post author

      So your thinking is

      People have been “led to Christ by it”
      and
      Lots of people who “love God” put many hours of work into it
      therefore
      The criticisms I leveled aren’t valid? Nonsense.

    2. Hannah Goodman

      While it might be entertaining to poke fun at Perry Noble (we all know he’s an abusive pastor who has absolutely no credentials or Biblical training whatsoever), it’s important to remember that many people have been led to Christ as a result of attending the rock ‘n’ roll concerts at his church. Sure, NewSpring Church has a lot of problems, and isn’t anything close to being considered orthodox (in many ways, it is outright heretical), but that doesn’t mean we should bash Perry Noble just for the sake of bashing him and his mega church. There is a greater cause that church’s rock concerts (and its “sermons” consisting solely of FAQs with no Scripture at all) has accomplished, and many hours of hard work are put into the “worship” production every week by people who love God and want to see people come to know Him.

      http://www.letterofmarque.us/2011/07/perry-noble-2011-sheep-beating-incident.html

    3. jeriwho

      In view of Scripture, which says “it pleased God by the foolishness of **preaching** to save them that believe,” the best that a movie is going to do is offer a clunky substitute for evangelism. The Bible emphasizes preaching (backed up by lives that demonstrate a spiritual power the world cannot duplicate) that evangelizes the world, not movies about fictional towns and fictional people.

      If anything, the Fundamentalist emphasis on “evangelistic entertainment” actually slows down the spread of the Gospel and possibly interferes with it. Certainly, the world view presented in MP would alienate (or bore to tears) most people, who would recognize its inherent failure to be relevant to real life (in any era).

      In fact, even Jaeggli’s book would probably muster more genuine interest than Milltown Pride from lost people, who might find the straightforward treatment of alcohol and what the Bible says about it worth reading, considering, and discussing/debating. Why not just slap an invitation onto the last chapter of that as well?

  6. Logan K.

    My family enjoyed Milltown Pride, but something about it bothered me…EVERYTHING.

    By the way excellent review. You have a talent for writing.

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  8. Reynaldo De Leon

    I was more aggravated by the movie’s take with other Christians thinking it’s OK to use alcohol in moderation. I remember a line in there where they made it seem like other groups e.g., Presbyterians as people who never really pursued the Gospel like them good ol’ Baptists do.

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