At The Movies
2014-03-31

These past couple of weeks have been unique.  First, Christians flock to theaters to re-watch and pay for a film that they pretty much already saw on TV last year for free.  Son of God starring hot Jesus drew the crowds (albeit not as many people as record breaking Passion of the Christ).  The makers must not have received the memo that the hipster church is so past the medieval blonde haired British-accented Jesus - at least I thought we were.  At the very least we need original languages and subtitles.  

Then, as if that weren't enough, in theaters across America came God's Not Dead.  A ham-fisted film about how a "smug atheist" is going to ruin a young man's faith, or at least his grades.  It's true.  Many atheists are smug.  So are many, many Christians.  I honestly don't want to see the film just based on the trailer and the website.  I am not saying it is a good or bad movie because I haven't seen it.  I just personally don't want to see it for no other reason than it looks bad to me.  Besides anything with the Newsboys singing the title of your movie and having an interview with the guy from Duck Dynasty isn't even trying to be subtle - it's the definition of ham-fisted.  Trust me.  I looked it up.

And now we get to take in Maximus as Noah in Noah.  Sorry Russell.  You will always be Maximus to me...and many, many others.  I have seen Noah and I can tell you in my very subjective, personal opinion - it's not a good movie.  It has great cinematography.  The acting is excellent.  It displays some biblical details in imaginative and fresh ways - and yet the story the director tries to tell is depressing and a big let down.  The director essentially cuts the heart out of the Noah story in the same way that many preachers and pastors cut the heart out of Scriptural passages every Sunday in order to make their own point rather than God's point.  

I was planning to write a review about these movies, but then, I thought for another second - there are people who get paid to write really good reviews about movies.  What I want to write about is my perception of how Christians have responded to the culture in recent weeks.  The bottom line is that if Christians want to stay in the game they will need to rethink their strategy and the implications of their worldview.  Let me toss out a few examples.

WESTERN CHRISTIAN PROBLEMS:  God's Not Dead has good intentions but has anyone stopped to think about the premise and weighed it against what many Christians around the world face?  I have a hard time caring about a college freshman getting bent out of shape because a professor is going to fail him for believing in God when all over the world people are fearing for their lives because they believe Jesus is an actual Savior. I think that the huge contemporary Christian response to this movie is in reaction to the changes that we see taking place in America. Before you accuse me of not being sensitive to the college student's trials - I have faced them too.  I get it.  I went to college in the late 90's.  I had to face hard questions.  These hard questions just prepared me for the harder questions that I would receive from inside the church as a pastor.  In reality, when you face hard questions about the existence of God it usually doesn't end with the Newsboys and celebrities backing you up.  Sometimes, like Solomon in Ecclesiastes you end up with more questions than answers and you're back to faith.  I think it is important for college students to know what they believe and why they believe it.  I think in the end, that is the good that can come from a movie like this.  But why does the Christian community respond so strongly to a movie and yet our response is so anemic to things of greater importance?   

HYPOCRISY.  Noah came to theaters this past weekend and I am pretty sure it will be number 1 at the box office.  Additionally, it is all over the news and in the minds of believers and non-believers alike.  Noah was written and directed by a man who describes himself as a "not too Jewish Jew" who claims that the film was never meant to be a faithful retelling from Scripture.  I have seen Noah, and it lives up to all the descriptions.  It is not biblical.  

How should Christians respond?  I have heard some say that they will not see it because they will not give their money to an unbeliever.  Yet, many Christians wholeheartedly support Peter Jackson with each an every installment of a Tolkien film.  Peter Jackson is not a Christian.  He does not believe in organized religion or eternal life.  Boycotting a movie or art due to an artist's or organization's intent is a hard theology to live by and is extra-biblical (read 1 Corinthians 10 or Romans 14).  It is hypocritical to boycott a movie because an unbeliever wrote and directed it and not apply that same thinking to every other area of life.  It's exhausting to live by non-biblical rules.  Paul never would have been able to preach on Mars Hill had he applied boycott orthopraxy to his ministry.  

WEAK MISSIOLOGY.  Movies are just movies.  A study was done to ascertain how many people changed their views about Jesus after seeing Passion of The Christ.  The study revealed that less than 1% of the people who saw the movie changed their views about Jesus.  The fact of the matter is that these movies will come and go.  There are more effective ways to tell people about Jesus - you.  If you are a Christian, you are called to preach Christ and to live Christ.  Word and deed.  Studies show that a huge percentage of people, regardless of prior religious affiliation, are very likely to attend church when a person who they feel cares about them invites them.  So many Christians are busy pontificating about the merits of movie making when it would be much more fruitful to take someone to the movie, talk about Jesus over a drink, and invite them to a community of believers that weekend.  Movies are weak missiology.  They don't get the job done.  If I were to guess, I would think that the majority of audiences who saw Son of God were already professing believers.  I would think that those who went to see God's Not Dead are younger audiences who need to be encouraged right now that they are not alone in their faith - of course.  And I would venture to say that your biggest opportunity to get a discussion about religion going would be to see a movie like Noah.    

But at the end of the day, you could skip the movies all together, get into other people's lives, love them, care for them, and tell them all about Jesus and how he has saved you from sin by grace alone through faith in him alone.  

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