It’s not often that I see a movie that prompts me to think, Every family with teens I know should see this. But last year’s I’m Not Ashamed, the inspiring, tragic story of Columbine victim Rachel Joy Scott had that effect on me.
I’m revisiting the film now for two reasons: One, it was a strong contender for Plugged In’s own Best Christian Movie honors: Risen eventually won the prize, but we didn’t want this movie’s strengths to go unnoticed. And two, it recently came out on video. So if you missed it the first time around—which is likely, as it was in and out of theaters in a blink last October—you’ve got another shot at it.
Not Ashamed isn’t, admittedly, Oscar-caliber art. Still, I think the story of Rachel Joy Scott—one of the 13 people who died during the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo.—is one that many Christian teens will likely relate to on multiple levels.
Before she becomes the first victim of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that fateful day, Rachel grapples with just about every teen struggle under the sun: boys, insecurity, peer pressure, bullying, rebellion, compromise, the allure of suicide, strained friendships and trying to reconcile all of those things (as well as her parents’ divorce) with her faith.
Rachel isn’t perfect, and she doesn’t pretend to be. Neither does the film unrealistically sanitize the issues teens wrestle with. We see them smoke and drink, make reckless decisions and make out at parties. The film never glorifies those choices. But it does effectively put us in Rachel’s shoes as she grapples with those typical teen issues. Slowly, falteringly, Rachel’s faith becomes the anchor of her life, one that gives her meaning and purpose and joy—before two teens who don’t have any of those things tragically and horrifically take her life from her.
For families with older teens, I think I’m Not Ashamed could be a great conversation starter. It begs all kinds of questions that parents and/or youth leaders could ask teens. If you’ve seen the movie, here are a few to get you started:
- What did you relate to most in Rachel’s story?
- Have you ever wrestled with doubt in your relationship with God? How did you respond? Who (if anyone) helped you work through those doubts?
- Where do you find purpose and joy in your life?
- What forms does bullying take at your school? Have you or someone you know ever been on the receiving end of bullying (or dished it out, for that matter)?
- How much would you say you’re aware of friends or peers seeking to find meaning in reckless, dangerous or immoral activities?
- Do you think the film accurately represents the struggles teens face? What does it get right? What does it leave out?
- Do you think you could stand up for your faith even if making that choice meant being martyred, as Rachel was? Why or why not?
- How did Christian community help Rachel in her personal spiritual journey? How do you think relationships with other Christians have helped you with the questions and struggles you experience?
I’m Not Ashamed touches on all of those questions (and probably some others I haven’t thought of). As such, it’s one of the best movies about teenage life and owning your faith I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a significant, potentially catalytic story just waiting for your family or youth group to engage meaningfully with it.