I love movies. I always have. I’ve seen more of them than I care to admit. Some of them have moved me beyond words, while others had me laughing so hard I’ve giggled like a little girl. They have made me feel fear, joy, anger, sadness, hope, and even emotions that I can’t put my finger on.
Movies have also been one of my greatest areas of struggle. I love to get lost in someone else’s world, in someone else’s story, but some of the stories I have seen, I’m not too proud to have experienced.
So today I want to take a minute to talk about a few movies that have been out recently and how Christians are handling them.
First, let’s talk “Frozen.”
I was both frustrated and embarrassed by the reports from media outlets some time back regarding Disney's movie "Frozen" having a subcontext supporting gay marriage/rights.
(My daughters love that movie! I mean, we've been singing "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" and "Let it Go" on a daily basis for 5 months now!)
What a load of crap. Has Christianity slipped so deep into the realms of paranoia that we have to create social and cultural conflict when there isn't any? Listen, I get it. Disney's track record with Judeo-Christian morality isn't the best. And OK, of you want to insert a "pro-gay" agenda into the context of Frozen's storyline I guess you could make it fit. But come on ... In talking with every Christian parent I know I have yet to hear any of them say, "Oh goodness, my 6 yr old, 10 yr old, 16 yr old daughter was confused by Elsa's not having a Prince Charming!" or, "The part of Kristoff being played by a gay actor (Jonathon Groff) upset my kids!” If you add up all of the kids connected to every household of every Christian person I know who was influenced or disturbed by anything in this movie, that number would reach the staggering total of ZERO.
But these days many Christians are more interested in fighting against instead of fighting for, even when there is nothing to fight against! I know, I know, there is a morality battle going on around the issues of gay marriage and gay rights and I understand that people are divided. I acknowledge that the Church itself is struggling, but let me say this clearly: I am certain Jesus does not want His Bride to be known for picking fights with people. If I recall, He spoke the exact opposite.
It’s about here that many of you will stop reading and start yelling, “Yeah, but we’re supposed to stand up for the truth!” Agreed. But Jesus NEVER empowered us to pick fights with people. In fact, He taught quite the opposite in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 … a lot about being humble, hungering and thirsting for justice, and being peacemakers.
Second, let’s talk “Noah.”
Folks … it’s a movie … made by Hollywood. Hollywood exists for two reasons that we should not forget: to entertain people, and to make money! While I understand the anger some people have over the film, at the end of the day why is anyone shocked?
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, the film’s creator and director, Daren Aronofsky, who grew up in the Jewish faith, answered the question, “You take some creative liberties; do you expect some pushback?” Here’s what he had to say:
"Where are there liberties? Find me a contradiction in there that can’t be explained. Of course there’s liberties, I mean, we’re making a movie here. If you read the four chapters that the Noah story takes place in, Noah doesn’t even speak. How are you going to cast Russell Crowe and not have him talk? Noah’s wife and his sons’ three wives aren’t even named in the Bible. If you read the story of Noah, it’s very straightforward. The character of Noah just builds the ark and collects the animals. But the struggles, the effort of building an ark, of being responsible for all those animals, being responsible for your family, it’s not explored at all. So how exciting to actually say, “Oh wow, here’s this great story, how do we put human emotion into it?”
Aronofsky never claims the film to be an exegetical study of scripture or even a theological discourse on the life and times of Noah. It’s a movie. To entertain. And make money!
That being said, Christians will get bent out of shape because it’s not an accurate representation of the true story.
Remember the movie “Remember the Titans?” (One of my all-time favorites.) It is a pastor-favorite for quotes and movie clips, and Christians generally regard it as a great film because of the morality that is displayed and taught through it. But most filmgoers don’t recognize that it is based on a true story; it isn’t the actual story. In fact, it isn’t even CLOSE to the real story! (You can check out the differences here.) I don’t ever remember hearing a Christian stand up and dispute the film as not being “true” enough.
“But Michael, ‘Remember the Titans’ isn’t a story from the Bible!”
True, but I didn’t hear many Christians getting upset at the creative license taken in the recent and much loved “The Bible” mini-series. Which translation is it that has angels trained in martial arts, David dancing naked in the streets to impress Bathsheba, or Mary Magdalene on the storm-tossed boat when Jesus walked on water?
Again, don’t forget that Aronofsky isn’t presenting this as a Christian telling the story from a Biblical account. His background is Jewish and very well may have been influenced from the Kabbalah and/or Gnosticism. (Read this article for more on that.)
I guess my point on “Noah” is that the best way to stand up for the truth is to just not support the movie. If you don’t want to see the movie, don’t go see it. Accept that there will be some good dialogue about the story and the content of Noah, jump into the conversation as one who believes the Scriptures, and be ready to share your faith then instead of blasting people online or picketing at a movie theater.
Third, let’s talk “God’s Not Dead.”
I saw this film over the weekend with my family and several other families from church.
First, let me get this out of the way, it is a Christian film, written by Christians, produced by a Christians, starring Christians, about Christians, FOR Christians. This film couldn’t be more Christian. The message was as blatantly Christian as it gets. It had everything you'd expect:
Christian music (including a cameo by the Newsboys) Someone who is dying Someone who is persecuted Someone who is struggling with their faith Someone who is Muslim Someone who is an atheist A pastor who seems to be aloof and unsure, but lovable and appreciated And a missionary, of course, to keep our 1st world problems in perspective
Boy was this a cheesy film! The acting was marginal, the plot was thin, the characters were underdeveloped, and the pacing was a mess. Rotten Tomatoes has given “God’s Not Dead” a 20% rating from the critics, but the audience has it reviewed at almost 90%.
Do you know why the audience rating is so high? Because Christians are the only one’s going to see it.
During this movie people around me were groaning and uttering “yes” and, “um-hum” and “amen” throughout. There was even one lady with hands raised and “amens” flowing like a church service was happening in the theater!
If you talk to Christians, this movie should be up for an Oscar for Best Picture next year, but it really isn’t that great of a movie, even though it has a solid Christian message. Christians love it because it “fits” them. It defends them. It empowers them.
Actually, the point of God’s Not Dead is the point of this blog. The characters in the movie never picked a fight, they simply lived their faith and defended it when necessary.
So that’s it for now on the movies. I recognize this is a very subjective post, and I’m sure there are a lot of people who will find a lot to disagree with. I’m OK with that. I just want to encourage everyone to walk away with this simple thought:
We fight the good fight by living a good faith, which in my opinion, is the best way to share the only story that really matters.