Why “Field of Dreams” Is the Best Christian Parable in Movie History

The classic Kevin Costner film is more than a crowd-pleaser: it’s the perfect parable of what Christians believe it’s like to hear God’s voice — and obey.

If someone were to ask me how God speaks – how he guides and leads his followers – I wouldn’t try to exegete Scripture, unpack theology, or even offer up my own personal experience. Instead, the best answer I could give is four simple words:

Watch Field Of Dreams.

The classic baseball fantasy from 1989, starring Kevin Costner at the peak of his career (when he was a better Gary Cooper than even Gary Cooper ever was) is nothing short of the greatest Christian parable in movie history. So on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary, along with the start of Baseball’s Fall Classic, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the ways The Voice parallels The Spirit, and how it actually stands in contrast to the “follow your passion” dream chasing that has become a common theme in so much of American Christianity.

Field Of Dreams is the story of Ray Kinsella, a humble Iowa farmer with a loving wife and young daughter. One evening while strolling through his cornfield, Ray hears a whisper from out of thin air: “If you build it, he will come.” The Voice repeats itself, quietly but firmly confirming its presence. The Voice does more than grab Ray’s attention; it stirs Ray’s soul.

This leads to an exchange between Ray and his wife, Annie, that is all-too-familiar for anyone who feels they’ve heard the Spirit’s leading:

ANNIE: What else did he say?

RAY: Nothing.

ANNIE: I hate it when that happens.

RAY: Me too.

This stirring leads Ray on a journey that requires much more than a leap of faith; it mirrors the full extent of what Christians call the Walk of Faith. It’s a walk that does not call us to pursue our own passions or desires; rather, it calls us away from them. It calls us to mortgage those dreams, to sacrifice them, to risk them all for the sake of what The Voice would have us pursue instead.

For Ray, his actual mortgage hangs in the balance. To build a baseball field — that has no apparent purpose — on the very land he grows his crops is foolishness, and it’s certain to cost him the very land he feels led to transform. But he follows The Voice anyway, because it’s about what The Voice wants on The Voice’s terms. Ray makes a decision to submit, and it’s a decision to which he must continually resubmit in the face of mounting reasons not to, including his own bitterness about how things work out (or don’t).

This is how I’ve experienced God speaking and leading. He coaxes and compels, mystically and in mystery, not spelling out details but just giving the necessary morsel in a spiritually profound way, at the time I’m ready to hear it. Every time I watch Field of Dreams and see how The Voice speaks to Ray and how Ray responds (both in compulsion and frustration), all I can think is, “Yep, that’s exactly how God works.”

Like The Voice, The Holy Spirit often leaves us guessing. He leads people not by convincing but rather provoking to do things that make no sense — like build a baseball diamond right in the middle of a cornfield. The Spirit doesn’t merely point us in the right (albeit bizarre) direction; he gives us the courage to go there. Or, as Ray puts it, “Until I heard The Voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.”

One key lesson for Ray is that his journey is not just about him reaching his necessary healing, but also helping others reach theirs. I’ve found that the only way God often gets me to help others in the first place is to cause me to initially think these people were meant for my journey, rather than me for theirs. We each love to see ourselves as the lead in Our Story, but The Voice likes to cast us as the supporting catalyst in other people’s stories.

The Voice doesn’t call you to your bliss, but to other’s burdens. It doesn’t call you to your dreams; it calls you to ministry. It calls you to your life’s true purpose — which, by the way, both your passions and your reason are distracting you from. That’s why it takes supernatural guidance to lead you there.

Much like Ray, one of the biggest struggles we have is in wondering why The Spirit doesn’t speak more clearly. Why can’t God just make his desires and intentions plain? In Ray’s case, had The Voice laid out the path upfront, it’s unlikely that Ray would’ve even let him finish explaining it. The Voice’s authority and purpose can only become clear in the context of the pursuit, not prior to it.

The people that Ray has been led to help end up receiving the very benefit of the field’s mystical powers that Ray has longed for. But he’s left in the bleachers — not even on the bench — watching and not participating. When he’s not invited to join the others on the field, his anger and frustration explode at Joe, one of the field’s beneficiaries:

RAY: No, wait, I have done everything that I’ve been asked to do! I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it; and I haven’t once asked, “What’s in it for me?”

JOE: What are you saying, Ray?

RAY: I’m saying . . . what’s in it for me?

JOE: Is that why you did this? For you?

The Voice knows what we need more than we do. That’s why we should trust it.

And of course that final shot, from who Ray is with on the field to what sprawls out from it deep across the horizon, is the image of what ultimately happens when we listen to The Voice, and obey. It’s what reconciliation looks like. It’s an image of what The Voice has done with Ray’s life, and it’s a vision of what God wants to do with ours.

Jeffrey Huston
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  • bdlaacmm

    Thanks for this article! I’ve always loved Field of Dreams, but never once thought of it as a “Christian” movie. But I can really see your point here. My favorite line is where Dr. Graham (Burt Lancaster) recalls his one and only inning playing with the majors, not knowing at the time that that single inning would be the high point of his baseball career. His exact words:

    “We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening. Back then I thought, “Well, there’ll be other days.” I didn’t realize that that was the only day”

    • Jeff Huston

      Thanks, appreciate the feedback! And yes, the Moonlight Graham scenes get me every time.

      GRAHAM: Is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?
      RAY: What would you say if I said yes?
      GRAHAM: I think I’d actually believe you…

  • jpcarson

    Permit me to differ, at least in part. If this was so, there would be many more vocationally privileged Christians as we “suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake” in confronting institutional evil – such as corporation or gov’t agency law-breaking, corruption and dysfunction – even at the risk of their operative “gods” – their professional standing and economic security. Then our civilization would have a better chance to reach year 2100 more-or-less intact, instead of the too possible collapse, which will be Satan’s “best day/season on planet earth, since crucifixion, if not flood.

  • gladerunner

    This, from another movie, is also similar to that voice from God:
    Oracle: OK, now I’m supposed to say, “Hmm, that’s interesting, but… ” then you say…
    Neo:…”but what?”
    Oracle: But… you already know what I’m going to tell you.
    Neo: I’m not The One.
    Oracle: Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you’re waiting for something.
    Oracle:Your next life, maybe. Who knows? That’s the way these things go.

    If you break it down, the Oracle told Neo. . . nothing. And what he thought she meant, wasn’t actually, eventually correct or incorrect.

    It’s all about vagueness and non-specificity.

    My horoscope for today:
    “You’re laughing at all of life’s little irritations today — which could
    make you the life of the party! Your social energy is great for turning
    frowns upside-down, so get out there and have fun!”

    Vague, generic, mysterious, mystical. . .

    it can be taken many, many ways.
    Thus, horoscopes persist.

    On the other hand, Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Heaven’s Gate ‘cult’ was very specific as to when and what would happen in 1997, so he and his followers, believing that a UFO trailing a comet was going to give them a lift to an afterlife, committed suicide so their souls could be taxi’d to the hereafter.
    We consider that man and his followers to be nuts.

    Harold Camping was also very specific as to the ‘End Times’ date May 21, 2011 . . . he missed the mark several times then and again, and was assumed to be nuts. . .

    Yet when a ‘real’ minister says the end times will be ‘soon’ . . . well, we’re okay with that, that’s completely rational, even though ‘real’ preachers have been saying this, in vague terms, for several centuries. . .
    When God speaks to us, it is ‘mysterious and mystical’, it is never with clarity. . . Oh, please.
    When we think we hear God, and it is not clear, then we follow what we think we hear and it turns out good. . . Voila!

    If it doesn’t turn out well, well then, we must have interpreted it incorrectly. . . or we were not open to it, or we lacked the faith to make it happen. . .

    Belief systems that are without objectivity or accountability simply last longer. It doesn’t mean they are more correct than Camping’s or Applewhite’s, they are just absent any form of certainty and clarity with which they can be measured.

    “May it be God’s will”, “God moves in mysterious ways.” Is just another way of saying we have no real idea what is supposed to happen or will happen if we do or don’t do a certain thing. That makes it no better a gauge for knowing what is to come than those that have no faith in that god.
    I’ve done some big things for wobbly reasons. . .sometimes they turned out well, sometimes they didn’t. You could call it a voice, a hunch, an intuition, or even a gamble. . . it’s all the same.

    Uncertainty with one’s choices and ideas is universal. Resistance to change is universal. Anxiety and self doubt concerning going against the prevailing flow is universal. . .
    I am not saying the writer is ‘wrong’ I’m just saying that he does not make a compelling argument for a skeptic.
    ‘Field of Dreams’ was after all, fantasy, it never pretended to be anything more. That a movie/novel utilized the concept of ‘deferred dream realization’ is hardly unique. It took the ages old ‘values’ of patience, faith and perseverance to the silver screen.