I expected Focus on the Family’s new feature film, Irreplaceable, to be a myopic harangue against the evil forces of progressivism, designed to rally true believers behind traditional marriage. I was wrong.
While Irreplaceable was written for Christian viewers, it was not designed to unite Christians against a common foe. Instead, it explores the philosophies behind different ideas of family, told through the self-reflective journey of Tim Sisarich, executive director of Focus on the Family New Zealand.
Using interviews with such luminaries as Roger Scruton and Eric Metaxas, Sisarich walks viewers through the ideas that have shaped the course of the family throughout centuries. He traces the conflict over family back to Plato’s idea that children should be reared by the state (contra Aristotle, who championed traditional family structure). In touching on the history of the family, Irreplaceable does more than merely build an ideological foundation for traditional family—it disabuses us of the notion that challenges against the family are new.
Irreplaceable’s ultimate argument is that devaluing sexuality leads to a devaluing of marriage, family, parenthood, and ultimately children themselves. Here it falters, not by virtue of presentation but merely because the film must cover so many ideas in such quick succession that it cannot do justice to them all. Notably, Irreplaceable completely passes over the traditional biblical teaching that marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. But the film is just the tip of the iceberg: Focus on the Family is releasing a new curriculum, The Family Project, designed for small groups to explore the issues raised in the movie in greater depth.
While Irreplaceable does a good job of exploring the philosophies behind different ideas of family, its greatest strength is that it does not attempt to place blame on modern society’s faults or on any of modern Christianity’s popular boogeymen: feminism, secularism, homosexual activism, etc. Instead, Irreplaceable shows through Sisarich’s personal journey that the greatest struggle facing the modern family is not “them.” It is us. Instead of deflecting blame, Irreplaceable encourages viewers to build better families.
Irreplaceable is showing in theaters tomorrow night only.