Letter #202: Soul Surfer

April 20, 2011

Dear Hollywood,

“You watch any other movie — like Muhammad Ali [in “Ali”], it doesn’t hold back his religion. Just because I’m a Christian, it doesn’t mean that everyone who watches it has to be. It shares my faith, but it’s not overdone and I think everyone can enjoy the film.” These are the words of Bethany Hamilton, surf icon and the reason I’m writing you today. She is the true story, the walking reality behind your new movie, Soul Surfer.

A few weeks ago, I started hearing about a new, inspirational, true story about a teen surfer getting her armed ripped off by a shark. I think I vaguely remember hearing this on the news when I was 16, but I didn’t know much about the story at all. Bethany Hamilton, here’s her website, survived the shark attack, relearns to surf, ends up competing professionally, wins surfing nationals and inspires millions. Bethany even does her own surfing stunts in the movie post shark attack. All with one arm. All because she only has one arm.

I saw Soul Surfer last weekend and to my surprise loved it! There were definite moments I was thankful Laine was with me to laugh at (mostly that Carrie Underwood needs to stick to singing), but overall this was a story of triumph and perseverance wrapped around a family’s and a 13 year old girl’s faith. Plus, surfing…seriously, what normal human being doesn’t wish they could surf?! Learning to surf is at the top of my bucket list…maybe one day!

The Hamilton’s, specifically Bethany, have become heroic icons in a culture longing for positive role models. After her arm loss, recovery and determination to return to her board, Bethany won an ESPY for ‘Best Comeback Athlete’ as well as a Teen Choice Award of courage in 2004.

I was blown away by the boldness of this film. I didn’t feel like it had been promoted as a Christian movie, just an inspiring, true story. So, as the story unfolded, I was shocked at the transparency of the Hamilton’s faith. Bethany says it best in the opening quote in an interview she did with ESPN; ‘It shares my faith, but it’s not overdone and I think everyone can enjoy the film.’ It’s not overdone. It portrays a solid, Christian family’s reaction to a trial. A girl wrestling with her identity and finding it in Christ. While anyone could enjoy the film, I hope questions are raised about Christianity because of it.

According to this article, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton became Christians after friends got them interested in reading the Bible. Oh, the power of friendship. Bethany learned to surf and accepted Christ around the age of 5. Today, she’s 21 and seems to be as outspoken about her faith as ever. The Hamilton’s were determined for the film to be as accurate as possible, and Bethany claims it’s pretty close. She praises AnnaSophia Robb several times in various articles for displaying her well.

AnnaSophia with a sleeve allowing her to be filmed with one arm; Bethany actually with no arm.

After the movie, I was intrigued as to how much was true and how much was just you being you. I read up on the story in tons of articles, and surprisingly it seems you stuck to the story pretty well. Hollywood, I’m impressed by your willingness to let this movie speak boldly, for not squelching the realities of the Hamilton’s faith. If nothing else, you will allow great conversation spark across the country among young girls and the power of perseverance. I’m hoping for far more than great conversation. I’m hoping for transformation because people come to know Christ.

Inspired by the story of Bethany Hamilton, an inspiration because she lost an arm,

Wondering what my loss of arm story will be

P.S. Any ideas how I can get Bethany Hamilton to speak at Kanakuk this summer?!

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One comment

  1. I love this movie! It made me cry becasue of how much faith she had with just having 1 arm!

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