The Liturgical Failure of Red Dawn

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Last week the remake of the 1980’s classic “Red Dawn” opened in theaters. I was eagerly awaiting the remake. The original is my favorite movie and provided many day dreams (and nightmares) for any child coming of age in the nuclear-scared 80’s. I am pretty sure TNT ran it every other Saturday afternoon, and me and my buddies would plop down in our Transformers bean bag chairs and watch it.

But the remake was a let down. Yes, I wasn’t hoping for to much—but it was bad. The reason I say this is best described as a “liturgical trainwreck” and I want to spend the next few moments explaining what the Church can learn from it.

I use the word “liturgical” to describe any work of the people. It is a worship term most often used to describe high Church (fancy) worship, but the fact is all churches are liturgical. They have stories they tell, ways they tell them, and certain actions are used repeatedly in the public telling of this story.

The remake messed with the story—in a big way. In their mess-ups, we can find a narrative that helps us as we think about Christian worship

They Forgot the Meat of the Story

The production team of the new Red Dawn had a fantastic story to work with, filled with catch phrases, memorable scenes and complex characters. They had everything they needed. Instead, they chose to take a basic sketch and redo everything. In the midst of this quest, the baby was thrown out with the bath water. In its attempt to contextualize the story, the memorable elements were lost. Without them, you get a weak story. The original was loved because it was pretty straightforward. No sibling angst or teenage love. It tugged at the heart strings in only one way—sheer fear and total rebellion as response.

Essential pieces were left out. The only original nod we had was the classic “Wolverines” shout, but even that was watered out with an enthusiastic crowd participation moment afterwards. In the attempt to make the insurrection look like a modern (and violent) political movement, the weight of the original was lost in favor of a more “we’re all in this together” chant.

How often in our own attempts to wow congregations do we chuck out what really matters most? Can we join in the songs of an ancient Church without saying the words of an ancient Church? Can we talk about grace without lifting up the stories of grace existing in our own churches? Can we talk about living excellent lives without talking about the ardor endured by people in Scripture as they grow close to God? Do we cheapen worship in attempts to make it more relevant? Do we actually put the necessary work in to make sure we are telling the story in the best way possible?

Red Dawn missed the mark because it forgot where it came from. It was an adventure in missing the point.

The New Red Dawn had no “Avenge Me” scene…can we call worship worship if we don’t cry out “Come Lord Jesus Come”?


Chad is the associate pastor of Contemporary Worship at

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