The debate on teaching the Theory of Evolution has been an example of a culture war in the United States for several decades. The criticism behind the teaching of Evolution stems from the fear that teaching Evolution to students morally corrupts them and makes them atheists. Many parents want their children to see Creationism taught alongside the Theory of Evolution in the classroom and many feel that it will confuse their children.
The Supreme Court has turned down many attempts for Creationism to be taught alongside the Theory of Evolution because, according to the courts, it does not follow the first amendment of the Constitution. The courts have interpreted the First Amendment as mandating a ‘separation of Church and State,’ and teaching Creationism would bring the Christian religion into a classroom that may contain students of other religions and Christian denominations that do not believe in Creationism. There are many articles you can read about the debate, but nothing visualizes a debate like a film.
The 2014 film A Matter of Faith, directed by Rich Christiano, focuses on the story of a Christian girl named Rachel going into her freshman year of college as a Biology major. Rachel, played by Jordan Trovillion, learns about Evolution in her Biology class with the school’s beloved Biology professor, Professor Kaman. Professor Kaman, played by Harry Anderson, is comedic and loved by students at the college, but he is firm in his belief in Evolution.
Rachel begins to question her beliefs while in Professor Kaman’s class and her father begins to notice. Before Rachel went to college, she read her Bible avidly, so her father slipped $50 into her Bible as a surprise. When Rachel returns home, her father checks the Bible to see if Rachel saw the money and the money is still there. Rachel’s father, played by Jay Pickett, goes to the school to confront Rachel’s biology professor once he learns about what she is being taught. Rachel’s father, Stephen, is challenged to a debate by Professor Kaman on Creationism versus Evolution. Rachel’s father accepts the challenge and they both begin to prep for the debate.
Rachel’s father finds out from one of Rachel’s classmates, named Evan, that there was another Professor who was fired after Professor Kaman was hired at the college. The professor lost his job because he taught Creationism in the classroom. This professor, Professor Portland, left the school 12 years ago and hasn’t returned since he lost his job. Professor Portland, played by Clarence Gilyard Jr., refuses to help Rachel’s father and Rachel’s father is left to prep on his own.
Not only do Rachel’s father’s sources fall through, but he is also losing his relationship with Rachel because of the debate. Rachel enjoys her class with Kaman and believes he may be right. Not only that, but Kaman also encourages her to be her own person, something that her dad does not do. Evan, played by Chandler Macocha, helps Rachel with her spiritual struggles by showing her she was never really committed to Christ. Rachel and her father eventually make up before the debate, but that doesn’t make the challenge any easier for her father. Rachel’s father has no experience debating and Professor Kaman has years of experience. The proof that there are students who support Rachel’s father’s cause and the support of his daughter is motivation for him to keep up the debate.
When debate time rolls around in the film, the suspense begins to build. The college auditorium is filled with people from both sides of the debate. Both Professor Kaman and Rachel’s father are asked for their opening statements. The opening statement goes well for Rachel’s father, but after that he gets frustrated and struggles defending his points. Professor Kaman begins to spit out facts that Rachel’s father can only respond to with a need for faith in God.
There is a shocking turn of events when Professor Portland shows up in Rachel’s father’s defense. Portland, previously being a biology professor himself, is prepared to combat the facts that Kaman is throwing out. He challenges Kaman’s belief in a big bang and complex life coming from cells. Kaman combats these points by saying simple organisms can be made into more complex organism in a lab. Portland retorts that people made that life though, and it is not intelligent. The two go back and forth until Kaman is left in silence after being questioned about his belief. The verdict is reached that both Creationism and Evolution should be taught to give students a choice in what they believe.
While I do not agree with the outcome the Professors come up with in their debate, I do believe there are some key points viewers can take away from this film. A Matter of Faith shows that you can be faithful to God when being taught Evolution in the classroom. Evan is one example of this. Evan took Professor Kaman’s biology class and did the best he could, but he did not let the teaching of the Theory of Evolution affect his beliefs and relationship with God. This film shows that, when a situation is presented that conflicts with your faith, it is your strength in your faith that determines if you lose faith in God. Rachel’s problem was not that the teaching of Evolution was corrupting her relationship with God, but that her relationship with God was flawed prior to learning about the Theory of Evolution.
While people of faith and disciples of science share more in common than most of us would think, the focus of our public awareness in our culture is often on the smaller points of contention. This film seeks to explore what is at the crux of these differences. A Matter of Faith is a wonderful film for anyone struggling with issues, like Rachel, when it comes to the teaching of the Theory of Evolution.
(1). A Matter of Faith. Directed by Rich Christiano, performances by Jordan Trovillion, Jay Pickett, Harry Anderson, Chandler Macocha, Clarence Gilyard Jr., and Barrett Carnahan, Five & Two Pictures, 2014.