In Defense of Christian Movies
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
You may not know, but Christians and the movie industry have a long history with one another. Cecile B. DeMille (BEN-HUR, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) and other early pioneers had a knack for passion plays and other creative avenues via film to share the gospel. Dr. Baehr goes deeper into this in his book Hollywood’s Reel of Fortune: A Winning Strategy to Redeem the Entertainment Industry. Dr. Baehr notes, “part of the reason for the breakdown of morality in movies and television today, and the culture at large, is that people of faith have retreated from being salt and light in the culture.”
While some may applaud the move of Christians to distance themselves from what many considered a secular industry, it ended up hurting the Christian influence and created a maelstrom we’re still trying to correct. Dr. Baehr continues, “nothing succeeded until Christians volunteered to work alongside the Hollywood studios to help them reach the largest possible audience.” Slowly and steadily, Christians are trying to regain a place of position in the industry that the secular community will see as a formidable force.
Some naysayers against faith-based projects remain vocal about Christian’s attempts in Hollywood. For instance, one writer published a recent blog post, which already has over four-thousands likes on Facebook, citing five arguments about “Why Christian Movies Are So Terrible.” Among the arguments are, “Christian movies are not made by artists but propagandists” and “Even the best ‘Christian movie’ will never be cool.”
This writer’s right to freedom of the speech remains valid. It appears as though he was trying to hold Christians accountable for their work, but, his approach was uninformed and ignorant. With this in mind, it’s fair to counter some of his points on a few levels.
First, if you claim yourself to be a Christian, why knock down a potential opportunity for someone to come to know the Lord through a faith-based movie? Sure, it might be uncomfortable with an invitation at the end of the movie, and it may not be the best storytelling, but if that invitation brings just one person to newness of life in Jesus, we should be supporting that effort, not condemning it (Luke 15:7). One can critique the methods at which the message is presented, but why criticize many Christian filmmakers for wanting to present the message.
Second, since when did becoming “cool” trump trying to be set apart (Romans 12:2). It isn’t until the Holy Spirit comes and starts working in someone’s heart that they then start to see the value in living differently. While we are called to live peaceably among men, we shouldn’t be trying to please man (Matt. 16:26). Christian and faith-based projects in Hollywood don’t have to look “cool” to all audiences because that’s not the goal. Rather, many faith-based projects are made to shed a light on Jesus and His grace and strengthen other believers through powerful testimonies and stories. Every secular filmmaker creates a movie with a specific worldview, or point of view. Christians shouldn’t be ashamed to do so either.
Now more than ever before, dedicated Christian filmmakers are trying to improve their craft in Hollywood to be on a more equal playing field with creative forces. In the piece, he mentions movies like SILENCE and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST as some of the few noteworthy Christian masterpieces for their appeal and compelling narratives. His point isn’t wrong. They’re masterful works, but there’s no need to throw disdain on up and coming Christian movies and filmmakers. SILENCE had its own target audience, and unfortunately even though it was masterfully made, it failed to make returns at the box-office. We need to also recognize that these two directors didn’t come out of the gate with blockbuster hits. Their success accrued with countless efforts to improve and learn, something the “new wave” Christian filmmakers are trying to emulate.
It’s important to point out that only God knows what’s in our hearts fully (Prov. 21:22). The blogger’s arguments are continuing conversations that have already been taking place for decades within the industry, even though it’s not in the most helpful of manners.
Many may say that blogs like the one criticizing all faith-based movies is simply “iron sharpening iron,” as scripture tells us. The only problem is that iron doesn’t sharpen iron without actual contact between metals. One “sword” doesn’t simply sharpen another by trolling on Twitter, writing harsh blog posts, or commenting negatively on Facebook. It requires real-life relationships with those you’re trying to help improve. That’s what Dr. Ted Baehr has been doing with filmmakers and studio executives through Movieguide® for over three decades. Those are the moments when people grow and learn the most.
If you enjoy movies, whether they be faith-based or mainstream that have positive moral, biblical and Christian worldviews, consider supporting Movieguide® as we continue our work to help redeem the values of the entertainment industry.