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“I’m not ashamed” and Columbine’s Rachel Scott

I can probably count on two hands the number of times I’ve been in a movie theater in the last 20 years. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-movie. I just prefer to watch them from my couch, where I can work my way through a load of laundry that needs to be folded and a thinga-majig on our DVD player can catch any language that reviews failed to mention. 

So how I ended up at a matinee at the Malco in Madison last week is hard to say. I can only tell you I kept hearing talk of this movie called “I’m Not Ashamed” about Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim in 1999’s Columbine massacre. Part of what I heard wasn’t good. Usually that’s not a selling point for a film. In this case, maybe it was. 

On Sept. 30, The Washington Times reported Google was finally allowing a trailer for “I’m Not Ashamed” to run on YouTube after blocking it from the site for months. Why would Google block a movie trailer, you might wonder. The film’s producers did, too. In addition to banning the video, YouTube had also removed the account owned by the film’s production company, Pure Flix, best known for bringing the pro-faith drama God’s Not Dead to the big screen in 2014. Although Pure Flix’s battle with YouTube eventually resulted in the trailer’s reappearance on the site, the primetime for “I’m Not Ashamed” pre-release publicity had passed.   

Atheists, it turns out, weren’t too happy about the new film, either. Atheism-is-Unstoppable bashed it, posting a ranting report concerning it on YouTube (which wasn’t blocked, by the way). Their main complaint? A scene near the end of the film in which Rachel is shown conversing with her killers.

“Do you still believe in God?” she is asked.

“You know I do,” she answers.

“Then go be with him,” Eric Harris is depicted as saying, just before pressing a 9 mm pistol to Rachel’s temple.

Some argue that the scene isn’t mentioned in police reports from the events on April 20, 1999. The dialog, however, is based on statements made by Rachel’s fellow student Richard Costaldo, who was nearby when the killers opened fire. This much appears confirmed by all involved: Rachel Scott was shot and injured in one volley of gunfire, and Harris later returned and said something to her before firing the fatal shot.

Intercut with actual footage from the aftermath of the school shooting, “I’m Not Ashamed” is more than a retelling of that terrible event, however. It’s a moving portrayal of the angst of teenage life, based on Rachel’s personal journal entries. It’s also raw and real Christianity, allowing believers of all ages to relate to her missteps and strides as she attempts to live out her faith in a world that is quick to reject it (and sometimes her). These candid words from her journal, used as a voiceover in the film, capture her conflict: “I don’t understand why having a walk with God is so hard for me. I’m so weak. At school, with friends, at work.”

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas calls “I’m Not Ashamed” one of the best films exploring issues of faith that he’s ever seen. “The actors are credible, the direction and screenplay excellent and I would not be ashamed to take anyone I know to see it, especially nonbelievers. It deserves to be seen especially by teenagers who struggle with the notion that no one loves them, or they don’t fit in,” he writes.   

NFL player Benjamin Watson adds his own recommendation: “I’m Not Ashamed is a powerful film that will encourage millions to stand for the Lord in an honest, if sometimes imperfect way. I really enjoyed it. Even in death and years later, God is still using Rachel. “I’m Not Ashamed” encouraged my faith in a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile to God.”

I need to point out that “I’m Not Ashamed” isn’t a sanitized, kumbaya type of movie (thus the PG-13 rating). There’s smoking and drinking. Compromising situations. At times Rachel is shown to be influenced by the very crowd she is attempting to influence.

There’s also repentance and restoration, and a solid commitment to leaving a lasting influence in Columbine’s hallways.

And it’s obvious commitments like Rachel’s are in dire need still today, if Time magazine’s latest cover story – “Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent” – is any indication. The feature paints a disturbing picture of youth characterized by psychological issues and parents who look to anyone but God for help in dealing with them. I suppose that may be part of the reason my daughter and I had the whole theater to ourselves at the 4:20 “I’m Not Ashamed” showing. So if you want to see “I’m Not Ashamed” in the theatres, rather than six months from now when you’re at home folding laundry, you better make plans pronto. It may not be in theaters long.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.