For the title of this discussion, I chose “movie Christians” and not “Christian movies” because my focus is not on a specific genre of movies as much as the nature of the moviegoers. You see, attacking a specific movie is not going to have very much of an effect—even within the Church—in this day and age. The change needs to come about in people.
Recently, Fifty Shades of Grey came out in the theaters. Now, I have not seen this movie, and I do not plan on seeing it. I do not know a whole lot about it, but from what I do know, it does not interest me, and I do not really want to support it. However, it is not because I am ultra-conservative or super-spiritual. I have seen numerous movies and TV shows that would cause frowns, gasps, and heart palpitations in many Christians. (For example, I have seen all of the Harry Potter and Twilight movies). However, there are some times when I have walked out of movies, wished I had not seen a movie, or chosen to not see a movie. In this case, I need to speak to the discernment—or lack thereof—that I see in the Church. Now concerning the Fifty Shades Of Grey movie, there are plenty of warnings on Facebook presently that deal with why Christians should not see this movie, so anybody who is interested in reading about the issues can easily do so. I want to discuss something else. Just recently, a Christian came out with an argument for why Christians should not have an issue with the movie. This is not surprising and was fully expected. You see, there is no movie that could ever come out in the theaters that some Christians will not have an issue with for some reason, and no movie will ever be so anti-God, anti-church, anti-morality, and anti-truth that there will not be some Christians somewhere who argue that it needs to be seen for some reason. It is the nature of the Beast.
During my time in college, The Last Temptation of Christ came out in the movie theaters. The premise of this movie was about as heretical as anything in Hollywood at the time; however, large numbers of Christians went to see it. Most of them claimed that it was “so we can have conversation with the world” about it, and I am sure that some of them actually did go see it for that reason. Nevertheless, I think the majority of Christians who saw it did so simply because they wanted to see what it was about and because the quality of the production was more important than the message. As another example, I recently went and saw the movie Exodus. I will be honest: if I had not gone to see it with somebody else, I would have walked out within the first 30 minutes. From my opinion, the premise and message of the movie is an affront to Christians, Jews, and the God of the Bible that has not even been reached in horror movies. Nevertheless, I have heard many Christians talk about how much they liked it. Likewise, I enjoyed the movie God Is Not Dead even though I would never expect it to win a number of Grammy awards. Still, I am distressed when I hear Christians describe it in terms of a class B movie. They are missing something. You see, we have become a culture dependent upon our senses being delighted more than our hearts being inspired. For example, I remember when Star Wars came out in the movie theaters. I doubt that any movie since The Wizard Of Oz has had as much of an impact on society and culture as it did. However, movies today focus on the perfection of movie magic, special effects, and realism. The underlying message is often missed. Today, many Christians actually equate the message with the plot. Our imaginations—along with our spiritual discernment—have become two-dimensional.
The purpose of my post is to promote a new way for Christians to evaluate movies. Now, this is not to say that Christians should not evaluate movies based upon production value, acting, plot, etc. However, the value of the movie needs to also incorporate what the movie actually says about the nature of things. Regrettably, this is something that large parts of the Church as a whole do not even incorporate into their evaluation of morality, politics, and social issues . . . so it is not surprising that it is lacking within the realm of media. However, perhaps it is easier to start with the media because that may be the least emotionally-charged of them all.
Today’s Church is preparing for retirement. What do I mean by that? When people get into their 50s, their bodies and minds change. Even good eyesight gives way to the need for reading glasses. To an extent, near vision and far vision are lost. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments operate a little bit slower, so it takes a little bit longer to move from a resting to an active state. The palate is less discerning while being more set in its ways so that spices are craved or avoided. In some significant ways, the Church has entered old age. During the first few centuries of the Church, Christians were young. They had excellent eyesight to see near and far, recognizing and discerning how immediate events related to far-reaching results. When the faith was challenged, they would immediately jump into action. Their senses were trained to discern good and evil. Any student of Church history knows the patristic writers sometimes took years debating a single word or phrase in their creed because they recognize how it applied to the bigger picture. When an alarm was sounded, the entire Body of Christ would immediately join together. Those days are past. Today, every issue is discussed, debated, and evaluated according to how it affects the individual in their immediate context and personal experiences.
Returning to the topic, Christians largely watch movies the same way. A new category is necessary. You see, Hollywood is not known for promoting Christian values. However, they are very good at what they do. There is literally no perspective, approach, or ideology that cannot be presented in a positive light. In comparison, Christian movies are relatively young. If Christians continue to evaluate all movies with the same set of criteria as the world, what will separate them from the world? If our faith does not affect our sight, then we will not see what we believe. What we have to offer to the world is a new perspective that must incorporate a greater range of vision than those who still see with veiled eyes. It is an eternal perspective that will enable the Church to develop and produce movies with messages that will be so deep and connecting with absolute reality in such a profound way that Hollywood will be left in the dust. It may take some time, but practice makes perfect. As Christians, we need to think long term about the ramifications in the movies we promote, both by what we approve and by what we finance. We need to begin to critically think about the ramifications of the underlying meanings in media. In other words, we need to consider not where the bullet starts but where it will end. Until we become true movie Christians, we will never really see Christian movies.