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Disney's latest movie is inspired by a real-life Christian couple

Disney’s latest film “McFarland, USA” — due out Feb. 20 — is based on the true story of Jim White, a cross-country coach who brought a farm town’s Latino high school running team from zeroes to heroes. Although the film leaves out much of the religion of its main characters, the real-life Jim and Cheryl White, a religious couple, still endorse the film.

According to The Christian Chronicle, the Whites are devout members of the Church of Christ and used their faith to inspire the high school’s runners. But this doesn’t show up in the movie. Instead, just one prayer is said in the film.

McFarland residents and friends of the Whites told the Chronicle that both of them constantly went to church and used scripture when speaking to others.

“He was a man of God, and he shared his faith with the kids,” Ryun Fisher told Christian Chronicle of Jim White. “I know some of them became believers because of him.”

But “McFarland, USA” doesn’t focus on that. White motivates his runners and is nice to his family, but the prayers, scripture and church elements of his real life are left out.

This isn’t the first time a character's faith has been left out of a film. According to the Religion News Service, many of the faithful aspects from Chris Kyle’s memoir were left out of the “American Sniper” film. Even though Bradley Cooper’s Kyle carried the Bible with him throughout the film, there were discussions about God and religion in the memoir that weren’t in the film.

This could be because of a shift in film culture. As Deseret News National’s Mark Kellner reported, the Oscar nominees this year left out many faith-based films, even though this was a year when biblical stories such as Exodus and Noah hit the box office.

Still, the Whites said it’s important to remember God in times like these, even when the producers don’t get the story straight and faith doesn’t make the final cut.

“They only showed one prayer in the movie, but at least they showed that,” Cheryl White said, according to The Christian Chronicle. “We know that this is totally God’s blessing. We’re just country bumpkins. We’re not used to all this media and all this attention. How do you explain this? It’s a God thing.”


Twitter: @herbscribner