‘I’m in Love with a Church Girl’ or Ja Rule, the Politics of Image Makeover, and Christian film.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or care little for the fate of popular mainstream rappers from the early 2000’s, the release of Jeffrey ‘Ja Rule’ Atkins after a two year prison sentence for illegal gun possession and tax evasion has come up once or twice in the newsfeed. What to expect now from the man behind hits like ‘Mesmerize’ and ‘Put it on Me’ is a worthy question. More music focusing (though not limited to) gun play, infidelity, and drug use? Not so fast: that is the old Ja Rule…and I’m in Love with a Church Girl seeks to prove it.
I’m in Love with a Church Girl follows Miles Montego, an Old School Funk show promoter and possible drug kingpin. Miles lives a life filled with earthly pleasures, like fancy cars, money, and women. The life is good, but something’s missing. His Mom thinks it’s church, but Miles doesn’t want to hear that. It isn’t until one fateful day, after a beautiful woman walks through his path, does a change of heart come. Her name is Vanessa, and Miles can’t keep his cool self when she’s around. There is one problem, though: she’s a church girl, and needs Miles to find faith before a relationship can continue.
Surely this still happens, but during the early-mid 2000’s, a multitude of Screamo and Metalcore bands, like Underoath and As I Lay Dying, were in contract under Christian music labels. No problem there except the music – especially the lyrics – hardly reflected non-secular thought or values. Again acceptable, as some subtly of faith is generally preferred in entertainment. Yet as the multitude of these howling so-called spiritual musicians grew, so did the elasticity of the definition it seemed. South Park even evaluated the question in the episode ‘Christian Hard Rock’, when Cartman forms a Christian rock group – by inserting ‘Jesus’ into mainstream love songs – in hopes of cashing in on a top selling market. There is an question, nay concern, that by faking faith I’m in Love with a Church Girl would a not-so-subtle vehicle for Ja Rule’s post-prison image maker.
Inherently theme based work requires explicit mention in execution. If there is one thing to be said of I’m in Love with a Church Girl: divinity is not understated. In Ja Rule’s journey to find faith – which is not so different from the true story – tests of wills and patience are administered. Similar to the trials of Jesus Chris Himself (and screenwriter Galley Molina) keeping the faith is not easy. Yet Rule stays committed, and out acts everyone else in the film.
Since his release, rumors have swirled linking Ja Rule to homosexuality, Illuminati, divorce, but according to the rapper-actor, it’s attending NYC’s megachurch Hillsong that caused the discernable change of character. It repaired the “black-eye” of Christianity after a strict Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. Ja Rule seems so clean that he acquired openly Christian actors Stephen Baldwin and Christiana Bailion and stamped the movie a PG rating. If the lighted path is what Ja Rule actually wants, he certainly acts sincere on camera and off. And let’s hope so, as lead singer of As I Lay Dying was indicted for the attempted murder of his estranged wife, consequently during the debilitating loss of faith in Christianity.
I’m in Love with a Church Girl is ultimately a Christian genre film, but not a very good one. The script is too loose and production cost too small for the grandiose style needed. While the film certainly achieves the Christian objectives it aims for, the style suffers a miscommunication in performance which drowns the presentation – but, it should be emphatically noted, not because it is a Christian film.