When we go to the movies we can experience good surprises (“I loved that twist ending!”) or bad ones (“I can’t believe there was so much profanity!”). But recently I encountered surprises of a different kind when I screened Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters for The Official Plugged In Podcast.
And one of them happened before the movie.
First, the film itself. I fully expected Sea of Monsters to resort to the same randy sexual content that torpedoed chapter one, The Lightning Thief. But there wasn’t any! So kudos to 20th Century Fox. Mysticism and polytheism notwithstanding, the studio and filmmakers deserve credit for scuttling the hook-up humor in this Harry Potter-esque sequel about adolescent demigods battling mythological beasts.
That was the pleasant surprise. A more unsettling one occurred during the previews. One of those trailers pitched the upcoming family film Grace Unplugged, the story of a music minister’s daughter (AJ Michalka) who chases big-time success, only to discover that stardom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Well, as soon as the audience realized this was a faith-based film more interested in celebrating the girl’s redemption than her initial rebellion, ripples of contempt rolled through the crowd. You could hear it. Dismissive laughter. Snarky comments. A man who was seated several rows behind me snorted, “Oh, it’s just some Jesus movie.”
My heart hurt in a strange way. It felt as if I’d absorbed several blows at once. At one level, it stung because I love the Lord and consider Him worthy of great reverence. These people were belittling our Creator and Savior. And Jesus is such a significant part of my life that I couldn’t help but take those murmured barbs personally as well.
I immediately thought of John 15:18-19. That’s where Jesus tells His disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” That made me feel a little better. It reminded me that God isn’t surprised or wounded when lost people disrespect Him. And I shouldn’t be shocked, either. They don’t know any better. OK, shake it off. On with the show… But it wasn’t that easy. Part of my initial ache remained, because I felt a burden for those people. There they sat, each having paid to be entertained by Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, a fantasy about gods, prophecy, self-sacrifice and resurrection. Yet they ridiculed a movie promoting the God of Scripture, who fulfilled prophecy when His only Son laid down His life as our sacrifice before rising again (no golden fleece required). It pained me to think that members of this audience, obviously hungry for a supernatural thrill ride, were rejecting the real adventure.
Only God knows their hearts, though the disdain for something Christian was palpable. What do you think? Was it contempt for the Lord? Perhaps people today are put off by the church after years of Hollywood stereotypes depicting us as gullible fools or self-righteous bigots? Could it be that, between mouthfuls of popcorn, they simply resented a “preachy” film invading their entertainment sanctuary? Anything’s possible. Or maybe they just don’t like surprises.