Faith, film, and the Gospel
Why Christians should see the latest Bible-based films, and quit complaining
I want to make an admission before I delve into the subject: I have not seen any of the Christian or Bible-themed movies out right now. I haven’t seen Noah, God’s Not Dead, or Son of God. This, therefore, is not a movie review.
I rarely see movies, not because I am a curmudgeon or a hermit or a prude, but because I have a job, a wife and two small boys. You see, I like to see movies with my wife, and therefore they are expensive…$30 for the movie and $50 for the babysitter. That’s why I don’t see them too often.
I am not a filmmaker, script-writer, producer, or actor. This is not any kind of commentary on those professions, their limitations, or the aspirations of the artists or the craft.
Still reading? Good.
I’ll make my point right up front:
Go see all these films, and bring your non-Christian friends. Pay for them. Buy them popcorn and a Coke. If they don’t like the movie, they’re out nothing but a few hours with a friend. But share the Gospel, because most non-Christians these days are so Biblically illiterate they may never have heard anything about Jesus other than His name used as a cussword.
I have read two interesting posts about the films out these days, and the growing genre of what’s being called “faith-based films.”
The first, “What’s Wrong with Christian Filmmaking” by Nate Fleming is from an artist’s point of view, with great advice from an artist to an audience. A four point sermon: it says that we (presumably the Christian audience) need to permit our artists to take more risks, challenge us, realize that art and the pulpit are separate, and know that movies don’t provide all the answers.
I expect those points from a filmmaker. What artist would want a risk-free, unchallenging, preachy, packaged film?
There are better movies that are preachy too. A herd of animal rights films, led by Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Don’t get me started on the phalanx of anti-war films, too many to count, from Avatar to The Hurt Locker.
We can watch movies with a message, a Biblical worldview, and good production values. I think it takes more courage to make that kind of film these days in Hollywood than to make a formula blockbuster or a sappy low-rent Bible flick.
I am in more agreement with the second post, “Good vs. Bad Faith-Based Films” by R.J. Moeller. But he misses the point in a major way. His point is that movies should be something the audience wants to watch, and therefore movies with a Christian worldview have to appeal to a non-Christian audience.
The first part of Moeller’s point is “duh” – nobody is going to shell out hard earned money for a movie they don’t want to see, unless it’s a boy on a date seeing a chick-flick. Movies have to have some kind of appeal, and on this point, he’s right. Many Christian movies are simply “save me” testimonies with little compelling emotional value, predictable plots, and horrendous acting. Even the Kendrick films, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous, have some production value issues, ham-fisted acting, and formulaic scripts.
Moeller is wrong in two ways.
First, why do movies with a Christian worldview need to appeal to a non-Christian audience? I realize that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey made Son of God with the intent that non-Christians would see it. That’s the same reason they made the miniseries The Bible. But you can’t tell me that Christians should be happy with the fare that’s been churning out of Hollywood, or want to see movies like The Saw (and Saw II-VI). I would rather watch a movie that lifts and reinforces my faith than something that “challenges” me in a negative way.
I am glad that Hollywood has made some Bible-themed movies. I think that Christians who pore over these movies with a fine-tooth comb are the same ones who complain about the carpet color and the music at church. Critical spirits. Then again, if a movie claims to be themed on the Bible, it should have some modicum of Biblical accuracy–it can’t stray so far that it loses the essential elements of Biblical subject matter: that God is Lord, not nature, or Karma, or the stars.
But the problem is precisely this: no one who doesn’t already believe in God will go see Son of God. And many who do believe in God and who do go see it are, like me, plopping down $14 or $15 purely from a sense of solidarity with the well-intentioned creators of such projects. There are other, better “Jesus movies.”
This is also wrong. The spirit of this world is in opposition to the Spirit of God. The same God who leaves the 99 for the one lost sheep can draw even the most hardened sinner. I know pastors who have told me they preached what they thought was the least inspired, most boring, bland, and unexciting message, and received a huge response at the altar when the call to follow Christ was made.
Any movie that makes the call to follow Christ (I believe that Son of God makes this call from what I’ve read and heard), and is made with the intention of drawing the sinner to repentance, is worthy of support from the Christian community.
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Showing Jesus lifted up on the cross is the most powerful imagery possible in conveying the Gospel. This one event changed history, forever. Believing in the Cross and Christ’s redemption is the only cure for the lost soul.
I am all for great films, great art, and great music. I do not believe that the message of Christ should be compromised to make films, art, or music. If your presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ lacks power, impact, relevance, or life, then you’re doing it wrong.
Evangelism is the call for every Christian.
A woman once approached the great evangelist D. L. Moody to air a grievance.
The woman said to him, “Mr. Moody, I don’t like the way you do evangelism!”
“Well, ma’am, let me ask you, how do you do it?” Moody asked.
She replied, “I don’t!”
Moody responded, “Well, I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it!”