This is an unsolicited review of Russ Taff: I Still Believe. The 1-hour 50-minute film produced by Fathom Events and Fuseic Entertainment was shown only once, on October 30, 2018. So, here’s hoping I remember details accurately.
Why am I writing a movie review? Because this movie inspired a multitude of rapid-fire thoughts that kept me awake until after 5 o’clock in the morning! I’ve got to capture these thoughts on “paper” to sort them out.
But why publish it here on a website not intended for such? Because, from what I saw, this movie speaks to what this blog is about: Bringing God Home—Real Help for Real Life from The Real God.
The shortest short review I can provide is this movie speaks about two negatives and two positives, or two warnings and two encouragements. A longer version that explores these four points demands more than one post, considering my wordiness. Otherwise, your scroll bar would be the smallest square possible! So, expect a series. I’ll try to highlight key points for readers who need to skim read.
On with the details. This movie is not just about a famous Christian singer and his battle with alcoholism; it’s about so much more.
The Critical Effect of Family, Marriage, and Generational Influences
Immediately, we’re introduced to the shocking truth that Russ’s childhood was filled with various abuses. This is made worse by the fact it was at the hand of both parents, who claimed to be Christians and even became pastors. His father’s own alcoholism exacerbated things.
Oh, the mixed messages that had to be instilling in his mind! To hear about God the Father from the same man who randomly abandons the family for drinking binges and berates you when he’s home. To hear the hymns of faith and gospel music sung by the same woman who beats and kicks you into a fetal position and burdens a child with adult conversations.
A child’s mind is NOT the same as an adult’s. A child doesn’t have the capacity to process such information as logically and rationally as adults. When abuse/trauma happens before someone has the vocabulary to describe it and express feelings about it, such events tend to be repressed—the mind blanks it out. The result is an adult survivor struggling with an unknown entity that often drives them to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
In the 50’s and 60’s, when this was happening, psychology and counseling were anathema in the church. Salvation and prayer were expected to immediately resolve any mental or emotional problems. So, a helpful resource we take for granted today was not available. What else could he do but bury it?
It’s amazing, then, that Russ held to his faith in Jesus! That’s just a testimony to the greater power of God’s amazing grace.
Wife, Tori Taff, is hailed as a stabilizing force that helped Russ to overcome, but she openly shared how his battle was not his own. It wore her down as well. The question she kept asking herself: How long can I stay with this man I love without becoming sick myself (codependent, savior complex, etc)?
Never think that even your most secret struggle/behavior is affecting only you. Your spouse is being affected. This is true when it’s a known secret but also when nothing is being said. Unspoken thoughts are rolling around in their brain, straining the relationship and self-esteem.
Unfortunately, the damage didn’t stop there. Russ and Tori’s two daughters were also affected, particularly the oldest. She speaks of a whole year being blocked out, remembering only snippets, even though her father sought to protect them from his pain and struggles resulting from his parents’ actions.
This brings up the concept popularly known as “generational curses.” I’m not convinced that’s the best wording, so I’m choosing “generational influences.”
Russ’s daughters were not abused by him or by his own abusers (never mentioned in the movie). Yet they suffered under the ramifications of their father’s abused childhood.
How does this cycle of sin or far-reaching wounding happen? Think of us all like dominoes lined up on end. We’re all close enough to someone that whenever we stumble and fall, we exert an influence that is often enough to make that person stumble and fall in some way, which then affects someone they’re close to. And on it goes. Until a stronger, more stable force (namely God) stops the cycle.
Just because someone else may have some influence on our actions, it doesn’t excuse us from responsibility for own actions. But let’s not totally shuck the responsibility of influencers, either, especially of parents on their vulnerable children, who are totally reliant on quality parenting to be healthy in all realms.
My point is NOT to vilify Russ’s parents. The domino effect didn’t start with them. I’m sure they were hurt somewhere in their past and left without quality resources to help them properly handle their pain. Unfortunately, their chosen coping mechanisms only perpetuated the hurt.
“Hurting people hurt people.”–unknown
My point is that this movie spotlights how important it is for parents to be very conscientious about how their interactions with their children are going to heavily influence the next generation and even further generations afterward! Put forth the extra effort to stop the cycle with yourself! Protect—as much as lies within you—the next generation by confronting and properly dealing with whatever pain has been inflicted on you.
Russ Taff did it, even under the pressure of fame, and so can you. We’ll talk more about fame next time.
Thanks for reading!
 “Taboo” is probably the more accurate word to use, based on definition alone, but I’ve chosen “anathema” for its stronger emotional connotation of being abhorred, utterly despised and considered wrong.