I’ve seen my share of awkward Christian movies. The content is clean. The plot is predictable. And there is an overt message that the makers of the movie do not want you to miss. So many Christian film makers seem to think that a Christian screenplay should be some sort of elaborate sermon illustration. It may have something to do with how we’re enculturated to think about and do evangelism in our churches. I suppose I should be surprised that more Christian films don’t have altar calls and a 24-hour prayer line in the credits.
I appreciate the motivation to win souls through media. And I understand that strong biblical messages have a legitimate place in both Christian sub-culture and in society at large. Nevertheless, I believe that a film will have more impact for the kingdom of God when the filmmaker spends more time on plot and less time on preaching.
Again, the fault may lie in the church. How many of our preachers, teachers and evangelists take it upon themselves to change people’s hearts and minds? Is that not the role of the Holy Spirit? Is not their role simply to be faithful to clarify and communicate what God has said in His Word and then leave the results to the Spirit? Yet, so many ministers try to singlehandedly convince minds and convict hearts rather than focus on conveying the truth of God’s Word and letting God take it from there. And Christian movie makers often follow suit.
But just as a sermon should be true to Scripture, so should a screenplay be true to life. When a screenwriter honestly captures the drama of the human experience, God can speak through that. When a cinematographer artfully frames the beauty of a scenic countryside, God can speak through that. When a composer scores compelling soundscapes that draw you in and stir your soul, God can speak through that too. Just as God speaks to us in the circumstances of our lives, so can He speak through story and the art of film.
None of this is to say that movies should not have spiritual themes or biblical messages (and, yes, I realize, that some are called to make specifically evangelistic movies). Rather what I mean is that they should not be contrived in order to manipulate a response. Ironically, movies that preach and nag do not get good responses. Good movies do not lecture us on what to feel and how to think. But they do indeed make us think and feel. And, when they stir us inside, we become aware of our humanity and of the divine. Good movies, like any good art, create in us moments when truth becomes clear and we must respond to it. They create in us a space where the Spirit can move. So what can a Christian movie-maker do but offer his work to the Lord as worship and ask Him to use his humble offering as a means of grace to those who see it?
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” – John 16:13
Has God ever spoken to you through a movie? Was it a “Christian” movie?