In recent years, we have seen an upswing in the number of Christian movies that are being made. I am beyond thrilled by this because it is a wonderful way to teach others about the love of Christ or for the Lord to open a door to conversation about Him. Films like “Fireproof”, “God’s Not Dead”, “The Grace Card” and “Courageous” are all powerful films you could bring anyone to and they would hear about God’s love. However, not all movies that claim to be Christian or are touted by others as such are very Christ Like. And this bothers me and has bothered me for some time. Let me explain.
Years ago, there was a movie out called “The Cross and the Switchblade.” It was a wonderful film (though cheesy and dated by today’s standards) that portrayed the true story of a preacher who reached out to gangs in New York. The fact that it was about real people and showed real situations made it powerful. Though it was showing gang life (a tame version I’m sure, but still eye-opening), it did this by not only showing the vicious fighting that occurred, but also by making you use your imagination some. And while I’m sure the gangs in question did not speak like choir boys, there were only a very few swear words in the film. And the movie showed the power of God’s love to change you for the better and how He doesn’t give up on anyone. No matter your background and no matter what you've done, God still loves us and wants us in His family. I still find the film powerful, though it is more than 30 years old.
In contrast, I went to see a more current movie with my brother awhile back. (I’m not going to use the movie name here, but if you ask me I’ll tell you what it was.) And while I was not a really a fan of the person the film was about to begin with, I had heard the name and good things about their talent plus I enjoy biographical films. But mostly, I just wanted to hang out with my brother. It was a treat for me since I rare have that opportunity.
I left the movie having no desire to ever hear anything about or by the person the movie revolved around. My opinion of the person, from that film (and only from that film as I had nothing else to base it on), was that the person was paranoid that people would leave or not like the person, was one of the most joyless people I had ever seen portrayed and was quite selfish. Not selfish where money or time is concerned, but more in the fact that everything had to revolve around him. His needs, his issues, his feelings. If it didn't revolve around him, then it didn't matter. Even the charity work him did seemed to be more to make the person feel better about himself. Now the actual person was perhaps not this way, but that was what was portrayed in the film.
I understand that not everyone is happy all the time and I know that being a Christian does not mean that everything goes well in our lives all the time. But if they were wanting to make a movie about how God’s love can change you, how God’s love is amazing, or how God’s love is powerful, they missed the mark. I’m not saying the person didn’t have a walk with the Lord…please don’t take that from my words. Just that, the movie portrayed this person in a way that made me…well, pity him.
I saw someone online recently talking about what a wonderful Christian movie a certain film was. (Again, I am not posting the movie name, but if you ask, I will tell you.) I had not heard about the film so I looked it up. When I saw that it was rated R and had around 30 F words (according to a secular website) as well as a bunch of other stuff that I wouldn't want to see/hear. I questioned the person about it. They responded in part, that it was a powerful Christian film and that the main character in the film is constantly shown as a light against the darkness around them and was able to speak to them because of that.
That may well be, (I have not seen the film and do not plan to) but here is the bottom line as I see it. When I go to a Christian film I was to learn about Christ. I want to see the difference He makes in people’s lives. And though I know we need to see the difference between those who walk in the darkness and those who walk in the light, I don’t want to be accosted by a barrage of swear words, smut, or innuendo in order for them to do that. And if the screenwriter is any good at all, I don’t need to be.
Many years ago, Dick Van Dyke, was asked by a magazine why his show (at the time he was on “Diagnosis Murder”) didn’t have more sex and violence in it. The magazine felt he wasn’t showing life as it is. His response was, “What’s wrong with telling like it ought to be?” I love that. If he, as a secular artist, felt that way shouldn’t we, as Christians be even more vigilant about that?
We see the bad. It’s all around us. We don’t need Hollywood to inform us that the world is a dark place. We are called to be the light in that darkness. God gives us creativity. He gives talent. I am not a screenwriter by any means, but I know that God has given some people an incredible talent for that. We serve an amazing God. He has overcome the world and we have been called to bring the world to Him. Tell me, how making someone who is already dealing with the darkness around them, trudge through even more of it is a good way to reach them for Christ?
I have often heard people talk about movies being good because they are “real”. Well, “real” is overrated. We all know real. And for some, the reality of life is more overwhelming than for others. We are here to show them the life God has for them. I’m with Dick Van Dyke on this one. “What’s wrong with telling it like it ought to be?”