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Film / Gold Through the Fire

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In the Soviet Union, Russian teenager Pyotr Smyslov is harshly persecuted along with his family for being Christians. After the police arrest his parents for illegal printing of Bibles, he's sent to a juvenile detention center. Pyotr decides to leave. Escaping the center, he crosses the border to Finland, and gets asylum at the US embassy. Flown to the US, he's taken in by an American couple with the help of a Christian organization. They are also Christian, but much less than him. Pyotr, now known as Peter, finds it difficult to fit in. He's mocked by kids in high school not only for his accent, but also due to being outspokenly Christian. Along with them, the school principal rebukes Peter for holding Bible classes while on lunch breaks, along with voicing his creationist beliefs in biology class. Peter refuses to sign an apology over the latter or stop doing either of these things, and is suspended. He convinces his foster father, a lawyer, to sue the school and the case ends up in court. In the meantime, he's also harassed by Soviet KGB agents who try to coerce him into returning by threatening his imprisoned family. Peter also tries to draw his foster brother back into the fold, as he's no longer interested in Christianity.


  • The '80s: The setting, as the film was released in 1987, and it shows. Not only with the fashions, but the very Cold War politics.
  • An Aesop: Faith is the most important aspect of a person's life, and the US barring religious expression from public schools (though the film portrays this wrongly) isn't right. As a result, it's not that different from the Soviet Union's anti-religious policies.
  • Artistic License History:
    • Christians are portrayed as completely underground in the Soviet Union and persecuted simply for printing the Bible. While persecution indeed occurred, it wasn't this systemic and extensive (by the time of the film at least).
    • Peter's lawyer claims that separation of church and state isn't a concept that came from the Founding Fathers, implying it was invented later by anti-religious secularists. In fact, it was coined by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, though granted it didn't have the same applications.
  • Association Fallacy: Basically the entire film attempts to equate US secularist policy with the Soviet Union's open antireligious persecution, as a means of attacking them. It relies heavily on historical and legal errors doing so.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The title is derived from Revelation 3:18, "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." It's the quote at the end of the film.
  • Author Tract: There is every indication Peter's a Protestant (likely Evangelical, based on his stated beliefs), while most Russian Christians are Orthodox-Protestants there make up a very small minority. He also voices many views that are common to American Evangelicals, such as opposing separation of church and state, or evolution. Eastern Orthodox are more often supportive of it-Theodosius Dobzhansky is among the modern evolutionary synthesis's founders. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the film's creators were American Evangelicals. It's quite clearly a vehicle for these views, rather than just decrying Soviet persecution of Christians.
  • Corrupt Church: American Christianity gets portrayed this way. Christians are more interested in money and social conformity than religion. This dismays Peter, a Russian Christian refugee who's actually suffered for his Christian faith.
  • Dirty Communists: The communist Soviet Union is portrayed (accurately) as persecuting Christians, though this goes into demonization territory as the KGB even threatens, kidnaps and tries to kill Peter in the US apparently just out of malice for him as a Russian Christian who fled.
  • Dull Surprise: Charles Harlan, who plays Pyotr Smyslov, doesn't emote much, and his acting is pretty wooden. This also goes for the cast in general. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was his only acting credit.
  • Easy Evangelism: Peter manages to easily bring his foster brother back into the fold. It's somewhat justified as he'd been raised as a Christian, while being pretty impressed by Peter's courage and steadfast faith. On the other hand, even the KGB assassin sent to murder Peter refrains after just hearing them talking, lowering his sniper rifle with a smile.
  • Hollywood Atheist: The Soviet authorities, of course, who violently persecute Russian Christians. At least that is Truth in Television,note  yet the American teachers and a parent who opposed Peter's preaching in school are also portrayed as simply anti-religious bigots (especially the latter, who makes spurious accusations in court).
  • Hollywood Law: The film claims US law bars any preaching or even expressing religious beliefs in public schools, with Peter being disciplined for this. However, that isn't the case. Only the teachers are forbidden to do this. The students are free to, provided this doesn't rise to disruption or harassment. While of course violations such as the film shows occur, this isn't in compliance with the law: the case wouldn't set a precedent as is portrayed. It's also stated that separation of church and state isn't from the Founding Fathers or a legitimate part of the law. Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father, in fact coined it, and it's been a well-established legal doctrine for years, often because Christians brought cases over things such as being taught a version of the Bible or doctrines they disagreed with by a public school, not just anti-religious people (unlike what the film implies).
  • Illegal Religion: Christianity gets portrayed this way in the Soviet Union. However, it wasn't actually outlawed, although persecution and restriction did happen.
  • Malicious Slander: A lot of false claims are made against Peter in court, saying he had forced his religion on others and harassed them.
  • Secret Police: Peter is threatened while in the US by KGB agents, demanding that he return or they'll hurt his family (who are imprisoned). After he refuses even so, they kidnap him. He escapes, so at the end an agent is sent to kill him. Upon hearing Peter speaking with his foster brother about what Russian Christians endure, the agent puts down his rifle with a smile, deciding not to.
  • Straw Character: The irreligious mother who objects to Peter's preaching in school gets portrayed as a hysterical bigot who despises religion, accuses Peter of giving her daughter a rash due to stress, and wholly ignorant that "separation of church and state" isn't actually a phrase found in the Constitution or Bill of Rights (this is well known to secularists-it was coined to describe the First Amendment's protection).
  • Title Drop: Near the end when talking to his foster brother Peter uses the title phrase when describing what Russian Christians endured.