Yes, Pollyanna. The movie. I watched it. (Short version of why: An agnostic employee said he’d start reading the Bible if I watched it. Let’s just say that the list of things I’d do to get someone to read the Bible is pretty long.)
It had some interesting religious themes. I’m not sure if it was what the producers intended or not, but they did a good job of showing the importance of balancing grace and truth. Karl Malden, the town preacher, originally gave exclusively hellfire-and-brimstone sermons, with only a passing reference to being born again. They weren’t necessarily untrue, just out of balance. There is nothing wrong with preaching the bad news — in fact, it is necessary. But you need to get to the Good News. In the same way, you can’t just teach about God’s love without people failing to realize that they need his grace.
It also showed the importance of reading the whole Bible. Just picking your favorite verses is a bad idea.
More importantly, it mocked those who don’t really believe that the Bible has the power to transform lives. The pastor and Pollyanna’s Aunt, the town leader, agreed on the harsh sermons because that was the best way to scare people in behaving for at least a couple days before the sermon wore off. That isn’t the theme of the Bible at all. It shows a distinct lack of faith in the power of God to transform people through his word.
The term “Pollyanna” is typically used to describe someone with an irrational optimism, but I thought the behavior of the character (an orphan of missionaries) was biblically grounded. She seemed to live out the meaning of turning the other cheek and of Philippians 4:12-13:
Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.