Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Film and Theology

Over the past few days I have had some interesting conversations about the difference between secular and sacred. All too often, especially in suburban, Christian culture, we tend to quickly label things as Christian or not. For example, we have Christian schools, stores, radio stations, books, clubs, etc. etc. I honestly hate the label. According to the bible only people can be Christians so I am not sure why we choose to label buildings, institutions and lyrics as such. Anyway, my friend Dion wrote a recent blog which deals with this issue as it relates to films and how they should be evaluated. Check it out:

Just this past week, a student in our ministry had this posted on his Facebook wall: “Robin Hood was terrible. Save eight dollars and watch the version where Robin is a fox.” His reasons: the movie lacked character development, the acting was so-so, and the dialogue was weak. While I don’t entirely agree with his assessment of the movie, it did raise a couple of questions for me:
8 bucks??? My ticket cost $10. Since they have student discounts doesn’t it only seem fair that they would have teacher discounts? What about pastor discounts?
What determines whether or not a movie is good?
For the purposes of this blog, we’ll ignore #1 (even though I think it is a great idea) and deal solely with #2. For the student posting on Facebook character development, acting, and dialogue obviously determine whether or not a movie is good. For some, a movie is good if it allows them a couple hours of escape, while others enjoy movies that make them think. Other criteria includes whether or not a movie was visually pleasing, whether or not a movie was entertaining, funny, or sad, and whether or not there was a lot of bad language, nudity, or violence. These are often the criteria highlighted in the responses people give when asked whether or not they liked a movie.
Unfortunately, what often is overlooked is whether or not what the movie presents to be true lines up with the Bible says is true. Take Avatar for instance. Visually, it was amazing. It didn’t have the best acting, but the acting was tolerable. And, it’s rated PG-13 so that means it is government approved for students to see. However, the movie is also filled with the lie that God and nature are one in the same. It presents a religion that is paganism at best. Or take just about any romantic drama commonly referred to as a “chick flick.” While these movies may not have a lot of cussing, lack gruesome violence, and stir your emotions, almost all of them end with a girl committing idolatry by finding her identity in a man other than Jesus.
Does this mean that we as Christians should ban all movies except for the likes of Fireproof and Facing the Giants? I sure hope not or else I may not watch another movie in my life. However, what it does mean is that the way we watch movies and the questions we ask afterwards need to change. It is not good enough for us to just ask whether or not we liked a movie. We must ask why we liked that movie and whether or not what we liked lined up with the gospel. We must ask what lies the movie presented as truths. We must ask whether or not the movie celebrated sin or accurately showed the effects of sin. In short, we most watch movies with Romans 12:2 in mind:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2
If we aren’t careful, a seemingly “good” movie can lead to us copying the behavior and customs of this world instead of being transformed by God into a new person. Movies that do that should be considered “bad” regardless of how great the acting is.
- Joseph

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