By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
Seriously though, as a concerned individual, there are far too many shoddy religious movies out there self-purported to be Christian movies.
Okay, got the heretical and “spiritual” movies out of the way.
Let’s talk about those Christian movies with the plot beginning like: an average white suburban kid has a smile all day. Then somewhere in the middle: the average white suburban family that the kid is in experiences a bad day. Then somewhere near the climax: a white person or magic negro (usually older) shows up and tells them about Jesus, even though they already know Jesus. Then: the family gets back together even though it was only one bad day and no one went anywhere. Why? Sunday school boy!
Because Jesus, that’s why.
Okay, if this got you thinking about the latest religious movie you have seen on TBN, the Word Network, or the movie at your last youth group Church lesson when the minister forgot his sermon, then you’re good. If this got you fuming mad about the “sacrilegious” way I presented these moves, you’re good too. Those movies were bad enough to be sacrilegious.
Now, if you personally know of a movie that renewed your trust in God or brought you to your senses, then God bless you. But, from some things that I did take pains to type out, some of us come away feeling disconnected, unaffected, or just downright confused. It sometimes is funny to me as a Christian when I sit and watch some of these movies (which will not be named). I sit and go, well, in real life, the guy would be struggling with personality and identity issues at that age. The suburban environment he grows up in would probably be perfused with illegal drugs. The fact that most persons who aren’t white will be in the background of the movie would be pointed out as decidedly racist if it occurred consistently in any other genre than the pejorative “Christian” label. And don’t get me started with the whole “Because Jesus” formula. That doesn’t even work for me, and I’m pretty sure it is the exact opposite of what 1 Peter 3:15 means in its context of Christians living their lives for the faith.
Okay. Now let’s get to the fun part. I have recently seen some pretty rad Christian films. Note this, all of them have the Gospel in them at some point (which is awesome). And, with the sure creativity and humanity that any real writer can muster, the plots have come to reflect more and more of our real lives. Now, I know that not every one of us grows up being ethnically part of a community outside of the usual mode taken for being “white,” and not all of us don’t grow up in pristine cookie-cutter suburbs. Some Christian people really live those lives, and their story needs to be shown too. But I’m willing to wager that the vast majority of us Christians do not live those lives.
I’ve seen movies like God’s Not Dead, which paints a rather accurate account of some of the challenges that a Christian college student could expect to face in a liberal arts environment. It also provides a great introduction into the challenge of persons who did not necessarily come from a religiously Christian context and who may be struggling in their faith amidst sin and suffering. I’ve seen War Room, which provides great lessons about the real life power of prayer and struggles that every family (hopefully in part) will face one day. I’ve seen Courageous and Fireproof, which much like War Room center around the family and then extend into the other spheres of society. I’ve even seen a television Christian movie called Brother White. Most recently, I have seen Moms’ Night Out, a very good Christian comedy film that brightened my day. All of these movies have diverse casts that reflect a bit more of the American Christian scene than the usual suburbia stunt that I have grown used to seeing.
But, we need much more. What one may notice is that most of these films are produced by the same clique of production companies. Also, these films provide Christianity from the context of persons in the United States. Though this is to be expected, given that the American culture and international culture are somewhat interwoven, it provides another reason for what I am about to say. We need more creators and artists who share the faith to produce entertainment that honors God. It needs not be confined to one genre, but it needs to be as creative as we can reflect God’s creativity. After all, the inspiration of all art is the world around us, and God has given us great stuff to work with. He has made His house full of different cultures and contexts, full of laughter and crying, full of triumph in every set of circumstances. We have the ability to portray even the darkness of real life, and to present the triumphant Light of real life in it all. Even more, we can seize more control over our own public perception. And trust me, that is powerful and exactly what we are commanded to do in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.
But, even in this creativity that we innovate in these modern days, we still should not expect the world to esteem our work so easily. Moms’ Night Out was easily more funny than This Is The End (but look at their ratings on Rotten Tomatoes). Now, my opinion is no doubt influenced by my lack of appeal to very dirty jokes and the blatant attack on religion that ran through the core of This Is The End. My opinion is also influenced by the fact that though both comedies depend upon slapstick situations for laughter, only Moms’ Night Out delivers in allowing persons to enjoy the situations the characters find themselves without having to have explicit sex on their minds all of the time. And this has become the general norm in secular movies: things like sexual deviance and Darwinian evolutionary materialism are assumed throughout. Why can’t and why shouldn’t it be the same with the Gospel of Christ in our films? Surely, the genius is in the way that God’s truth navigates the waves of uncertainty and conflicting faiths, and triumphs in the flood. Sides, the ways that we make the Gospel pervade our stories could be fun within itself, and an authentic reflection of our own lives in real time to the glory of God. Just as a Christian shoemaker wants people to wear comfy shoes, Christian entertainers need to provide excellent entertainment. The world is going to hate us anyways, so why fear the hatred? And such is the way the world is. If we are representatives of the Light, we shouldn’t be worried when the darkness doesn’t esteem us. And that forms the basis of my title.
Also, if you guys like reading a lot of Christian theology in order to develop strong critical skills (then you are one in a million) you can check out this blog site from a friend of mine http://aeromxundes.com/. I’m not kidding about the length, but it does make for good discussion. Maybe take a day to read for each section in order to get through it all; that may be the best method.