The First Step is to Watch Where You're Going

Should I see this movie? That question is the usual opening line to most folk’s thought processes towards cinema. The question has a couple of meanings depending on where one stands. The non-Christian could mean “Do I have time to see this movie?”, “Do I want watch another Chick Flick” or “It’s got Ben Affleck in it, do I want to see him publicly pretend that he can act for two hours?” The Christian when they pose the question can mean these things as well. They can also mean “Will this film sully my soul, sour my resolve and propel me on a theological downward spiral from which I will eternally plummet?”

As it turns out, Christians tend to have more going on than if Ben Affleck can act or not.*

Christians rightfully look at film through the lens of their faith. We know that the consumption of some films will indeed harm us or worse insult God. It is correct for a Christian to approach the cinema with the same caution they do television or other media. If you believe something will cause you harm or will lure your mind in an unhealthy direction; it is wise to avoid that thing. Concerning film, we should be as careful as when we consider reading a book, watching a television show or talking to the lady down the street who pukes out gossip at you like a mother bird feeding her young. Making judgements is good. It’s when one stops making judgements, that things usually start to get a little wonky. The judgements we make towards film tend to push us into three different Christian audience types.

1. The faithful can, and in my estimate too often do, avoid any movie that even sounds remotely controversial. These G-Rated Christians have the Ned Flanders view of the world and avoid conflict and temptation at all costs. While it is a positive to avoid things that will tempt you, many Christians have become too comfortable throwing out the baby with the holy bathwater.

2. The less discerning amongst us will simply try drinking from the cultural fire hose. The gluttonous will consume any crummy morsel Hollywood tosses in their direction. This libertine approach isn’t a hallmark of those who are stringent in their faith but is usually seen in the CEO (Christmas and Easter Only) Christians.

3. The more moderate approach is probably the most common. Most Christians are rightfully cautious when selecting entertainment products. Publicly they will scorn the foulness of Hollywood and then go home a watch CSI that displays a murder investigation into the death of a transsexual stripper who was shot up outside of a S&M juice bar. The moderate carefully nibbles away but often gets sick from the guilt over what they’ve seen.

Moving forward, we will look at each of these approaches and consider their pros and cons. Is avoidance the righteous choice? What about the argument that “Its only a movie?” What does it matter what I watch?

Next, I will look at the pros and cons of being a G-Rated Christian.

* - He can't.

Opening Salvo

Welcome to my site.

I have put this site together as a means to look at film within a Christian context. Over the years being involved in theater and film I have seen many Christians react to entertainment media with dismissal. To many Christians, Hollywood is a snake pit whose only purpose is to poison the world. Usually the relationship between Christians and Hollywood is one of mutual spite and irritation. This sour relationship didn’t happen overnight and both sides have reasons to want to snipe at their supposed foe.

In reaction to Hollywood some Christians have built their own mini film industry. This industry is heavily littered with low rent productions which choke out the good works. Many of the productions cater to the most sensitive members in the audience. Christian filmmakers usually expend so much effort not saying anything offensive that they end up saying nothing at all. On the flip side of the screen, Christian audiences, while eager to denounce Hollywood productions are far too lenient with filmmakers who put their word “Christian” on their work. Listen, Christian film stinks. It stinks but it doesn’t have to. The problem with Christian film isn’t distribution or budgets. It’s not even a lack of talent. It is a lack of proper storytelling and most importantly a continual inability in telling the truth. Christian audiences are left turning to a mini-industry that only serves to support the most legalistic thinking in the church rather than opening their minds and hearts to the beauty in God’s creation.

In truth, this blog owes its existence to On his site, Tim Challies railed against the recent film Evan Almighty. Challies threw scorn on this film which retells the story of Noah, but with a modern twist. The tone of the attack was indignant. It was sinful for the filmmakers to portray Noah in a comedic light (although Bill Cosby and others have been doing this for decades without equal scorn) and it was blasphemy to represent God on screen, or at least in the context of this production. 

Tim Challies post isn’t anything new and I’m not necessarily going to throw my lot in with Evan Almighty – unlike Challies, I’ll reserve my judgments for things I’ve actually seen (I’m silly that way). 

What struck me were the comments to Challies post. Over and over again Christians beating themselves up for daring to watch (and enjoy) the original Bruce Almighty film. Over and over again Christians laying out legalistic arguments and denouncements of the unfaithful. Threats of audience members being cast into hellfire and then there’s the gnashing of teeth and cries of sorrow…

Click on the poster to view the trailer
As a Christian, a film reviewer and screenwriter, I believe I have the background to speak to the issues that surround Christians and the cinema. I believe that it is merely an issue of ignorance. I don’t use the word ignorance to mean stupid, it means uninformed. Christians have been sold a bill of goods about movies and its time they see it for what it really is – a societal tool. I will explain filmmaking and more importantly storytelling and look at what films are teaching us. I hope that Christians will gain a new viewpoint on the cinema and learn to distill the good from the bad on the screen.

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