Faith on the Silver Screen

I’m a movie watcher.
Of course, you know that by now. It’s not at all unusual for me to quote a line or even play a clip from a meaningful film during a sermon, if it helps move a thought forward, or at least provokes the imagination God-ward.

That is why I have been intrigued, if not baffled, by the number of “faith-based” films being released in 2014. Have you noticed the trend?

Son of God, (20th Century Fox)
Noah (Regency Enterprises)
Heaven is for Real (Sony Pictures)
God’s Not Dead (Pure Flix)
Exodus (to be released later this year, by 20th Century Fox)
Mary, Mother of Christ (also to be released later this year, by Lionsgate)

Lauded by some. Loathed by others. All of the movies are getting mixed reviews.
Depends on who’s holding the popcorn, I suppose.

The one thing possibly more curious to me than the sheer number of these films, is the passionate (albeit, predictable) public debate over their accuracy and even efficacy.

Take Noah. Please.
It’s been amusing to sit back and observe the posturing of critics on both the right and left, in anticipation of the film’s release. Some decried it as blasphemy, and refused to see it for a myriad of theological reasons. Others have celebrated and advocated, as if God were co-director. Or, at least key grip.

I plan on seeing it as soon as I can. I’ll see anything with Russell Crowe in it.
As long as he doesn’t sing again.
(No, really. No singing. I’m still not over what he did to Les Mis.)

Whether you cheer or jeer any of these films; or even see them at all, remember two things:

1.These are movies.
The purpose of most movies (whether stated or not) is to make money and entertain audiences. Aaaand pretty much in that order.

Sounds cynical, doesn’t it? But it’s not, really.
It’s just what the entertainment industry is supposed to do.

And while there are always some filmmakers who are rare exceptions to the rule, let’s not forget that Hollywood is not a church. It is not driven by the same truth-claims as we.

Hollywood makes movies. Sometimes, great movies. But that’s what they are. Movies.

2.Movies can inspire our faith, but it is OUR responsibility to nurture it.
Truth is, both of my boys have expressed an interest in a few of these films. And why wouldn’t they? The trailers look great. So, we’ll go to as many of them as possible.

But here’s the catch.
We will talk about what we see over dinner, or in the car, or wherever.
We will read and discuss the story of Noah together. Which, by the way, is found in Genesis 5:32 -10:1. (You probably already knew that. Just saying.) I will teach them to read for themselves what the Bible says (and doesn’t say). They will know. Because it is their responsibility to own their own faith.

Even the movies that may not be about the Bible, but appear to be faith-driven, will still require some unpacking. Some discerning. Some gut-checking, follow-up conversations about the assumptions being presented as faith on the silver screen. After seeing God’s Not Dead, for example, I fully anticipate talking with the boys about the relationship between faith and reason, and how both are required for this journey.

In the end, it requires that we do as Paul has instructed in Philippians 2:12. It requires that we responsibly “…work out our own salvation in fear and trembling.”

Shaun King
Senior Pastor
Johns Creek Baptist Church

9 Comments. Leave new

  • Well said, Shaun!
    And I say that because you are echoing my own sentiments when it comes to movies/culture and where it stands next to our faith. (Actually – it was well said even without my agreement – I just get tickled when the learn-ed seem to be thinking along the same lines as me. Gives me a feeling of vicarious validation, I suppose!)
    I. too. taught my boys to appreciate a variety of movies for what they are – entertainment – and nothing more – definitely not a representation of acceptable or normal behavior. I remember saying things like, “You may hear some words we don’t like to use in this movie, and if I hear you using such language, then we won’t be seeing anymore such movies.”
    Of course, after announcing to the congregation that I knew the name of movie David’s illustration came from – “Taxi Driver” – I’m sure I’ve fallen in the eyes of some. 😉
    When I teach Sunday School, I tell my kids you don’t always have to avoid or ignore the things in life that are not part of who we are as Christians, as long as you remain strong in what you do believe, and what you know to be right.
    As for “Noah”… I may have to wait for Netflix. I just don’t know if I can pay $15.00 to see an alien Adam and Eve and Rock-Men fighting with King Cain. (so I’ve been led to believe from reviews I’ve seen.)
    Give me “The 10 Commandments” or “Ben-Hur” any day of the week! C.B. deMille was the man!!
    See you at the movies – and in church!
    Tres

    Reply
  • Carole Smith
    April 2, 2014 3:42 pm

    As usual very well said
    I plan to see Noah also.

    Reply
  • Awesome take on movies of faith wriiten in Hollywood. I plan on seeing as many as I can as well just to see Hollyw

    Reply
  • Jack Gillian
    April 2, 2014 3:51 pm

    Shaun you are right about seeing movies, however there are some movies that should not be seen., You are also right about it being a business, money first, entertainment last. Can you imagine if we Christians kept out money on these awful movies, how long it would take for Hollywood to change their motivation and direction for movie making. I understand a movie is on the horizon depicting Jesus and others as homosexuals. Should we see it? For me and my family we will not. Another gripe I have with Hollywood is the language of some movies. I am not a pious man but some movies have such bad language I stop viewing it. Don’t get me wrong everyone has the freedom to see what they want but we Christians could help Hollywood change the road they are traveling. Thanks for listening, Jack

    Reply
  • Darlene Barnwell
    April 2, 2014 4:39 pm

    I love Christian movies. I plan on seeing the ones coming out this year. Strange though that so many movies about the bible are being written for the box office. I still have my favorites. Evan Almighty, Bruce Almighty, and even Liar Liar, Forrest Gump, The Bucket List, The Lion King….even though not written using scripture…..they are wholesome messages that motivate me to be a better person.

    Reply
  • Thank you for the insight.

    Reply
  • Marsha Hunter
    April 3, 2014 7:36 am

    Having seen Noah, I can attest to the immediate conversation and Biblical exploration of those with whom I saw the movie. There are some strange elements to the film – definitely the writer/director’s intrepretation – but much of the criticism of the film comes from those who either have not read the full Biblical account or do not see the film’s interpretation conforming to their interpretation. I love the fact that it has brought on discussion, examination, and a definition of our personal beliefs, not only in the story of Noah, but in the nature of the God we love and trust. To join in the discussion of the film, seeing it is key. Trust God to use the film as a tool – He can handle it!

    Reply
  • Susan Y Gilbert
    April 3, 2014 8:46 am

    When a movie is based on a book, THE BOOK is always better!

    Reply
  • Kathy McWilliams
    April 5, 2014 11:24 am

    ^^^ Couldn’t agree more with Susan Gilbert’s comment!

    Reply

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