Last Ounce of Courage is the story of a small town pharmacist and part-time mayor who bonds with his teenage grandson over a plan to celebrate Christmas, not in the home and the church, but in the school, the town square, and the federally funded veterans’ facility. Unlike the vastly superior Christmas with a Capital C, which addresses the same issues with insight and compassion — and better acting and more believable characters, this movie almost literally demonizes anyone who thinks that publicly funded venues should respect every faith (or absence of faith) of its citizens. Anyone who objects to a cross or a Christmas tree on public space is portrayed as an enemy of freedom. The idea that the imposition of one religion’s symbols, including a “Jesus Saves” cross, on the entire community might be insensitive, unfair, or unconstitutional is portrayed as anti-freedom. Infringing the freedom of those who do not want to see those emblems is not considered. While a character says he respects the rights of Muslims and Jews to practice their religion, the fact that he is taking over the public space with his symbols does not seem to to bother him and despite his being the mayor of the city and thus the representative of all its citizens, he makes no effort to find out what anyone else thinks. Military music and references to fallen soldiers (and an angel and a family reconciliation) are used to obscure the complete distortion of the law and history of the separation of church and state. It is worse than inaccurate — it is condescending, manipulative, thuggish, and hypocritical.
The people in this story who have no understanding of the meaning of Christmas are those who think it is about forcing one particular idea of how it should be recognized on those whose beliefs are different, or that the most trivial symbols matter more than the message of hope, peace, and goodwill, much less the importance of good deeds and humility. Unlike “Christmas with a Capital C,” there is no recognition that Christmas is about kindness, compassion, generosity, and love. Instead, this film perpetuates a disheartening and divisive stereotype, not just “us and them” but “us versus them.” In an era when there is such an avid audience for faith-based films and we have been lucky enough to see so many that are genuinely moving and inspiring, it is too bad that this film is so over the top it almost constitutes a parody of the the ideas it most hopes to communicate.
I mean, the main character has to be named Revere, right? And the school is so committed to secularity that it decides to have a nativity play(?!?!) but substitutes aliens for the wise men and shepherds and a pot of gold for Jesus. ‘Cause that happens. And the teacher in charge of the play is a little bit effeminate, while the good guys are all hog-ridin’ he-men. All of the people on “our side” are righteous and all of the people who are not are stupid or just waiting to be enlightened. And God must be on our side because an angel shows up to let Revere know that his grandson came through.
This is bigotry masquerading as leadership, thuggery claiming the banner of freedom, braggadocio pretending to be strength. It is arrogant, smug, and superficial, with no evidence of generosity, tolerance, empathy, or kindness. Saddest of all, it is about reinforcing those beliefs instead of reaching out to try to share with, connect to, or understand others. They talk about their respect for the Bible and the Constitution, but do not seem to have read either one.
Parents should know that there is brief wartime footage and a brief image of an accidental self-inflicted gun wound, some smoking and drinking, and insensitive portrayals of the rights of everyone but the movie’s heroes.
Family discussion: Have there been any debates about the separation of church and state in your community? Read some of the history of this issue and look in the news for current discussions and controversies.
If you like this, try: “Christmas with a Capital C”