Surprisingly, this movie is on YouTube. I’m not going to link to it, because last time I linked to a YouTube movie it was taken down.
YouTube has it conveniently split up into
4 parts 6 parts, so that gives me nice starting and stopping points for posts. Each post will be one part, good lord willing and the homework don’t rise.
Unlike most movies we watch, I am actually very excited for this. History is one of my favorite things to read…sometimes. Adventist history in particular is interesting. I almost wish Adventism was more popular just because I would love to know what medical science thinks of Ellen White and her condition. I would also love for a group of psychologists to weigh in on the mind set that would have been running rampant throughout The Great Disappointment.
This movie was put out by the Adventist church, so we are having none of that. However, this movie still has the potential to be interesting. On their website, they say that it was reviewed for historical accuracy by 3 people who I’ve never heard of, one of whom is from The White Estate.
So, it will probably be historically accurate… but it is still going to be a very skewed perspective.
I go into this movie with high hopes, but also knowing that it will be heavily biased and the truth, whatever that is exactly, will be swept under the rug.
THE RELUCTANT PREACHER
We open with some shots of hot air balloons with signs saying “Jesus is Coming” on them. Like seriously can anybody even read those from the ground? Can they read them from other hot air balloons? Why are there hot air balloons? How popular was hot air balloon travel in the 1800s? Is this some kind of hot air balloon festival?
The words “Exeter, New Hampshire-1844” flash across the screen. Well, logical place to start, I guess.
A boy trying to sell newspapers is shouting, “Read all about Christ’s return!” Two ladies walk by and look up at the hot air balloons. We get a shot of a blue hot air balloon.
Lady 1: I’d like to see the view from up in those clouds
Lady 2: You will soon enough. We all will.
Does that mean that hot air balloon rides are being offered to the general public? No, of course not. It’s clunky exposition. They’ll all be in heaven is what she really means.
To make my life more difficult, subtitles have not been included. I apologize for the confusion this is inevitably going to cause.
A man buys the boy’s newspaper. He says something about people finding… word I can’t make out in the story of Jesus’ return.
Paper Boy: People want to read about the end of the world, sir.
Yes. Yes they do. This is why doomsday books and movies are so popular. This is probably the truest thing they will say all movie.
The man (spoiler alert: he’s William Miller) makes some interesting facial expressions as he buys the newspaper, and then we cut to the opening credits. I kinda like the music. We are told this movie is “based on actual events.”
After the opening credits we cut to the Miller family farm–28 years earlier, in 1816.
Really? Did we have to go that far back? I feel like a good portion of this could have been cut. It’s not particularly interesting, and we easily could have started in 1844 and missed nothing. If they felt a need to go back and explain, they could have made like, 2 minute long flashbacks throughout the movie.
In any case, We are shown William Miller in bed, tossing and turning. He’s having a nightmare about his time in the war. We see a bomb explode really close to him, while someone calls out, “Captain? CAPTAIN!”
His wife tries to comfort him as he wakes up, panting.
Ok, so William Miller had some PTSD from his time in the war of 1812. I could believe that.
Now we are in Low Hampton, New York, 1816. Still on the Miller farm? I think so. William Miller is reading the bible as he walks trough a field. Sheep walk by. Mrs. Miller comes up and asks him to spend some time with the children. He gives kind of a non response.
Mrs. Miller: And what are we thinking about today, Mr. Miller?
Miller: Voltaire. Voltaire believes in a supreme power, but not that God has anything to do with us personally.
Is this the Voltair to which Miller is referring? He is quoted as saying he believes in a supreme being, but the all knowing Wikipedia says that Voltair favored Hinduism. An odd choice to quote in a Christian movie, but let us not get hung up on it.
At first it looked to me like there were snowflakes whirling around this farm in the middle of summer, but it’s probably just pollen.
Miller: I survived that battle at Plattsburgh Lucy, and I have to know why.
Because you got lucky. Sometimes, that really is all there is to it.
In any case, I wanted to know more, so I looked it up. On William Miller’s Wikipedia entry, this is what it says about his time in the war.
At the outbreak of the war of 1812….. Miller spent most of the war working as a recruiter and on February 1, 1814, he was promoted to captain. He saw his first action at the Battle of Plattsburgh, where vastly outnumbered American forces overcame the British. “The fort I was in was exposed to every shot. Bombs, rockets, and shrapnel shells fell as thick as hailstones”, he said. One of these many shots had exploded two feet from him, wounding three of his men and killing another, but Miller survived without a scratch.
Sometimes, when someone has an experience where they could have (maybe even should have) died, and didn’t, we as humans want to know why. Why did everyone around me die, yet here I am? Why aren’t I dead?
These are very normal questions to ask, and these are absolutely normal reactions, even 2 years later. However, to me these things are proof that God does not usually interfere in the lives of humans. Miller survived, but what about all those other people? Did God not care about them? Did he sit there and think, “screw those other people, I want Miller to live so he can lead millions of people to believe I’m coming back in 1844, even though I’m not?”
We cut to a shot of Miller in the local bar with his friends, who say pretty much the same things I do.
Man1: God coming down to the battlefield to interfere with the lives of men? It’s not logical
Miller: If you’d seen the bombs… that day, you’d know the only explanation for our victory was some kind of divine intervention.
You’ll notice that, throughout history, a lot of people have gone to war saying, “God is on our side.” You will also notice that this is said by people on both sides of the conflict, often talking about the same God.
To me, the only divine intervention that doesn’t make God look like a colossal asshole would be if God took away all your weapons, put all of you in a corner, and made you talk it out like rational adults.
Abner: And what of the men and boys who died around you? was it the hand of god that put them in the grave?
Abner has a point. I am surprised this point was allowed to come up at all, and I would like to see it better addressed. Instead we get Miller saying he doesn’t have a good answer for that, all he knows is that he should be dead and he’s not, and he has some angst about it. He’s also a terrible actor.
One man says that the bible is a book of fairy tales, that there’s no evidence the stories are true. Miller says that no one has any proof that the Bible is not true, either. Both views, he says, require a leap of faith, and deserve equal weight.
All of which might have been true in 1844, but in case you haven’t noticed, it’s not 1844 anymore. It is almost 2044, and there are people who still use this argument, despite the fact that the historical accuracy of certain bible stories has been called into question.
Adventists here aren’t trying to show the mindset of the time period of the movie. They are inserting this conversation partly with the idea of reaching the unsaved. They think that a heathen is going to sit there and think that these are good arguments and that Miller has a point. And that’s just not how people think anymore.
Anyway, Abner says that, while Miller seeks answers, he seeks another drink. I like Abner.
Next we are shown Miller and his family in church. Miller is asked to read the sermon, which is apparently written in a large book which is kept on the pulpit. I am a tad confused. Did pastors just write down their sermons in books, and then have people read them to the congregation? I’ve been to Baptist churches before, and visiting pastors or speakers just gave their own sermons, which had usually been prepared well in advance. They didn’t just read something that the regular pastor wrote.
In any case, Miller starts reading, and it’s something about comparing parenting to God’s relationship with his children. He gets about two sentences in, stutters a bit, then gets off the stage and sits down with his family. Everyone in the teeny tiny church starts talking and looking at him. Like, what the fuck Miller, really? Miller looks like he wants to hide, and I honestly don’t see why he doesn’t just walk out of the sanctuary.
It’s been a while since I’ve read an SDA history book, so I had to look up what this was about. Per the all knowing Wikipedia:
Suddenly the character of a Savior was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a Being so good and compassionate as to Himself atone for our transgressions, and thereby save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a Being must be; and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such a One.
There’s a montage of scenes of Miller reading the bible, with voiceover of him reading the passages. The verses he reads are the parts that talk about love and Christ’s death on the cross. Lots of shots of the children.
Then the montage ends and we have a scene where the little girl finds a dead bird. Miller and the girl give the bird a funeral, and we get a conversation that, at some point, all children have.
Girl: Papa, I don’t wanna die
Miller: Oh my precious one. *hug* You will yet live for many many years. But each of us must one day pass from this earth.
Girl: Aren’t you afraid of death?
Miller: No, not anymore, for I have found a friend in Jesus.
10 points to Adventism for not turning this into a “you will never die because Jesus is coming in your lifetime” conversation. They lose 30 points, however, for thinking that having Jesus as your best friend doesn’t make you scared of death.
As a Christian, I knew what death was. However, I was still terrified. Not of dying, mind you, but of being dead.
I am still afraid of being dead, because I never came to terms with my own mortality. Thanks, Adventism.
It’s now 1818. Miller has been studying for 2 years. We get a voiceover telling us how he now believes that most of the prophecies in the bible have been fulfilled. This… is ok. It’s still a bit of clunky exposition, but it’s better than them spending like, 2 hours watching Miller study the bible, which they probably saw as their only alternative.
We cut to a scene of Miller reading the Bible out loud to the family. The part about the 2300 day prophecy in the book of Daniel. I get distracted trying to figure out how many years that would be before giving up and going back to the movie. Miller says he thinks it’s longer than 2300 days. He thinks it’s 2300 years.
The way he figures it, the sanctuary represents the earth. I don’t know where he is getting that, so moving on. The cleansing of the sanctuary, Miller says out loud, must refer to the cleansing that will happen at the second coming of Christ. Again, citation needed.
I get that the whole point of this film is that Miller was wrong. However, Adventists don’t believe that Miller was wrong about the date, just the event. So when he says, “each day represents one year,” it kinda jolts me. “The sanctuary represents the earth…the cleansing represents the second coming…oh and one day represents a year.”
Adventists, today, believe that last one, but not the other 2. It is, therefore, kind of odd that they would lump in something they believe is fact in a list of “facts” that, clearly, Miller pulled out of his ass.
As to what Adventists believe the sanctuary is, we’ll get there, I promise. By the end of this 2 and a half hour long movie.
“If each of Daniel’s days is one year and then the 2300 days will be 2300 years till the second coming of Christ… and the time period begins in 457BC as indicated in Daniel 9 and confirmed by historians, then that brings us to…. 1843.
Christ is coming in 1843!
In case you are wondering where Miller is getting this day to a year principle, here’s an explanation. Why would verses scattered throughout the Bible, parts of which may not have even been written in Daniel’s day for all I know, apply to Daniel? Because God coded the bible, that’s why. He didn’t mean for people to figure this out until the time drew near, so he encoded the Bible, scattered a few verses throughout to explain the code, and then revealed the explanation to certain people (Miller being one but not the only one) at the beginning of the 19th century.
It’s all very confusing. To be honest, this is one of the things I never really understood. How did we know that a verse in Ezekiel applied to Daniel 9? Every time I asked this in bible class, I was chastised for having a bad attitude. Either that or the teacher suddenly decided we were changing the subject.
So back to the movie. We get a rather pointless scene of Lucy telling William to come to bed.
“God’s word has endured for centuries. It will still be there in the morning.”
The camera fades to black, and the words MANY YEARS LATER, EARLY 1830S pops up on the screen. I am irked that they will not give me precise dates, but set that aside.
Miller is ranting to his wife about Jesus coming at the beginning of the millennium foretold in revelation, not the end. I’m only halfway positive I know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t clarify so let’s move on.
Lucy tells Miller that he needs to spread this message. Miller argues that he is only a farmer, pushing 50. What he doesn’t say in this movie is that he also didn’t have much in the way of post secondary education, Which may have contributed both to his reluctance.
Miller finally ends his argument with Lucy by saying,
I shall make a covenant with God: I shall speak if I am asked.
Lucy isn’t satisfied and storms off.
The very next scene we are shown, a teenage boy comes over and says his parents were hoping Miller could give the sermon at the local baptist church while the preacher is away. Specifically, they are hoping to hear about the prophecies Miller’s been studying in the Bible.
Miller immediately runs out of the house and into the woods, screaming, “No! God! No! I CANNOT PREACH! I’M NOT QUALIFIED! NOR AM I A WATCHMAN! I BEG YOU DO NOT PUT THIS BURDEN UPON ME SEND SOMEONE ELSE!”
In his defense, this is probably how I would’ve reacted if anyone ever asked me to preach the sermon.
But Miller has made a promise, and a promise he will keep. So come Sunday morning, he preaches that Jesus is coming soon–1843, to be exact.
The faces of the crowd look…interesting. Most of them look ready to get out the pitchforks. One of the men whispers that Miller has gone mad.
We then get a montage of Miller preaching in various bible study groups and churches.
I accidentally inhale a fly and have a coughing fit. Also, GROSS.
The music fades, and we get a scene of Lucy and Miller having a meal. Lucy asks Miller if it’s really necessary for him to be away from home so much.
Miller: Are you disappointed in me?
Lucy: How could I be? You are answering God’s calling.
Miller says he wishes that things were different sometimes, and Lucy says that heaven will be vastly different. The scene fades to a church in Exeter-1839, where Miller is preaching about the 70 weeks prophecy.
When he says, “the 2300 days prophecy will be fulfilled in 1843,” the audience erupts. One woman shakes her head and says, “no!” loudly. She gets up to walk out. Several people follow her.
Why are people walking out? Do they realize that Miller is talking nonsense? Do they think he’s right but don’t want to acknowledge it? Do they think he’s outright wrong and are enraged that he is preaching nonsense in their church? Of course the movie won’t tell us, because the movie thinks it’s that middle one.
After the sermon, Joshua Himes* comes up to Miller and asks him to preach at his church in Boston.
Himes: How soon can you get to Boston?
Himes: Very well, we’ll make it 3 weeks. The good pastor here knows my background.
Miller: But I’m just a farmer
Himes: a farmer with a message that must be heard!
Peter was a simple fisherman with no higher education. In fact, if I recall correctly, most of Jesus’ disciples were uneducated. Why is no one bringing this up? You don’t need a theological degree to be able to share the Bible.
The good pastor, who’s name I don’t know, says that Himes’ church in Boston is important because Himes has been at the center of the temperance movement, among other things.
Pastor: [His church is] a sight to see. Calvinists and dunkers, muggletonians and agrarians, Quakers mixed with Unitarians and philosophers. They all come to seize their moment. It’s a place where people come to preach, pray, and……protest.
Don’t ask me what all those things are, because I don’t know and I don’t actually care.
The scene flashes 3 weeks forward to Boston, where Miller is sharing his message with the congregation that Jesus will return “in 4 short years.”
Himes comes up afterward and tells him how great he was. We cut to a scene of Miller dining with Himes’ family. I get that the movie wants to be as historically accurate as possible, but the clinking of the cutlery in this movie really grates on my nerves.
Himes’ little boy asks Miller to tell him about the war of 1812.
Miller: A shell exploded no more than 3 feet away from me, about as close as I am to your mother right now. I thought certainly it was my end. But when the smoke had cleared, I was spared by the power of the loving God.
Himes’ daughter asks if the story is actually true. Himes is offended, and Mrs. Himes sends the children to bed. As they leave the room, Himes asks Miller if he actually believes what he preaches. Which is a really odd question to ask, because why would he be preaching it all over the place if he didn’t believe it? Is he receiving money for doing this? We aren’t told one way or another. If he was getting money out of all this I could see why you would ask that, but if he’s doing it for free…
Miller says he believes, and Himes ask him why he’s sticking to small town churches. This message is so important, why hasn’t he tried to reach the bigger cities? Miller admits that he needs help. His words, not mine.
Himes: On the strength of your conviction, I am willing to lay all I have on the altar of God to help you, only answer me this: will you stand right at my side if I take this on?
Miller: Indeed I will
Himes: then prepare for the campaign. If Christ is to come in 4 years, there’s no time to lose!… it is here, brother Miller, that I begin to help.
So, here’s the thing. You should never base your beliefs on the conviction of the one who tells you things. Because it is possible to be very very sincere and very very wrong at the same time. Exhibit A: William Miller. Always read the word of God for yourself.
My second thing is: Why do people need to prepare for the 2nd coming? Christians are always supposed to be ready for Jesus to return. Every single second. As a Christian, your heart is always to be ready to receive Jesus the moment he comes. And if there’s some sin that you forget to confess before you die? If you get hit by the hypothetical bus? Well, that’s where God’s grace comes in.
The minute that your readiness for the 2nd coming depends on that second coming being in the near future is the minute that you’re not really ready.
And that is why Jesus has said “no man knoweth the day nor the hour, not even the angels of heaven.”
We get another montage of Miller preaching, this time with Himes at his side.
This is where episode 1 ends. Join us next time to see how young Ellen Harmon (who looks way hotter than she ever did in real life) reacts to hearing the message.
I have to say, all this was…rather long and kinda boring. I feel like a lot of this could have been cut, but I also feel like perhaps a lot of it was cut. I have a feeling there’s a lot more footage they cut for the sake of time, which is why, despite the fact that it’s long and boring, it also feels short and choppy.
Whoever they got to play William Miller was cast well, though. He looks just like him (or at least, I think he does. With prosopognosia(sp) it’s hard to tell.) I can’t post pictures right now because photobucket is down. If it’s back up by the time I make my next post, I’ll do a comparison photo so we can see if the actor looks as much like the character as I think he does.
*I literally thought it was “Vimes,” because there are no subtitles and I’ve been reading too much Terry Pratchett.