Christian Film: Beautiful or Banal?

33


film reel.JPGWorking for Plugged In has its perks. Take today, for instance.

We had the chance to listen and talk with screenwriter/professor/Christian Barbara Nicolosi, perhaps one of Christianity’s most eloquent, most provocative voices when it comes to faith and film. Adam Holz had a chance to interview Nicolosi for an upcoming story and podcast, so I won’t go into great detail here. But I just had to share a couple of her thoughts.

She argues that, rather than bemoaning all the filth that the secular film industry churns out, we should rather marvel at how good it often is—and how it’s getting better. She says (and I agree) that we’re in a golden age of children’s films, thanks in large part to the brilliance of Pixar. A new generation of filmmakers is replacing the industry’s baby boomers, and many of this new guard reject the selfish hedonism that the boomers helped usher into society.

But she also wonders why Christians are so obsessed with making nice, inoffensive and (in her words) inartistic films when, we, as Christians, should be able to speak in more truth, and with more beauty, than anyone. While the secular film industry tells its lies with powerful works of art (she’d argue), we too often speak truth with trite banality. “In my world, the barbarians are coming over the walls,” she says. “I don’t think ‘Precious Moments’ are going to fix it.”

So, with that in mind, let me ask you, point blank. What sorts of films should Christian filmmakers be making? Do you watch Christian film now? If so, why? And if not, why not?

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  John:

Hmmm.  Chronicles of Narnia?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lupinskitten:

One of my favorite activites to do while  watching movies is to find spiritual parallels, especially in films  whose makers did not even consider that there stories could be ministry  tools. I have found stuff in (and I'm sure I will be scoffed at because  of these film choices) Shrek, The Princess and the Frog, Harry Potter,  and Mulan.

One cannot deny the spiritual parallels and alligorical aspects of Harry Potter. The books have ten times as much religious symbolism and references in them than the movies do -- but even the films are highly symbolic, primarily because Rowling understands the nature of evil and uses her insight to bring forward intelligent messages about good. There are smaller lessons contained within about simple issues of morality, racism, etc., and more profound, obvious references to her appreciation of C.S. Lewis in the representation of a sort of Christ figure in Harry -- sacrifice for his friends leads to rebirth and consequently, the death of the very evil that attempted to defeat him. In my opinion, the initial panic over Rowling was tremendously overrated -- if anything, the books are the next great fantasy apologist series, and while they will never be as memorable or as un-controversial as Lewis or Tolkien, they are certainly the next best thing.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Crossdive:

I am definitely agreeing with Yuppie_Word. (And btw, if that is a reference to the Switchfoot song, you officially ROCK! )

I think Godsgrl made some significant points, and I guess when it comes down to it, some people are going to be reached by "Facing The Giants" who won't be reached by "The Book Of Eli", and the reverse is equally true. I think different kinds of movies have their own time and place and both the G-rated and the R-rated fare can be used by the Lord. Yeah, some movies are trash, but while I am by NO means encouraging or promoting seeing or supporting them, I will say that God has definitely caused good to come from my seeing some of the worst movies I've ever watched. The movie is still rotten, but He spun the even around for His glory in the end (even just in that having seen it I can really encourage people AWAY from it from a very informed point-of-view).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  godsgrl:

     As a young aspiring filmmaker and a devout Christian, I have most definetly given this subject a lot of thought. Firstly, I would like to stand up for Facing the Giants, over which there seems to be great controversy. Think about the power of God at work here: there was a church (granted, a very big church) who just decided to make a movie that would hopefully touch people in such a way that it would make them think about God and look what happend: it was shown at theaters all around the country. The Kendrix brothers were probably not disappointed that their film did not smash up the box offices, or that it wasn't really a mainstream movie. I believe that God sent people who really needed to see that film to their various movie theaters and rental places. While it is definetly not my favorite movie of all time, it is still in my top five and I try to encourage people to watch it, especially those who are aspiring filmmakers , because what God did through that movie was amazing. I have yet to see Fireproof or the Book of Eli, however.     One of my favorite activites to do while watching movies is to find spiritual parallels, especially in films whose makers did not even consider that there stories could be ministry tools. I have found stuff in (and I'm sure I will be scoffed at because of these film choices) Shrek, The Princess and the Frog, Harry Potter, and Mulan. God did not specifically tell us that we had to only use Christian filmmaking to reach people. It is not the methods that we use that matter, for I have been able to get a good discussion going based on both Facing the Giants and Shrek alike, what should matter is that the content we are giving is accurate and not sugar-coated. God will call those who need to hear what we have to say to us, we just have to be ready to use whatever methods He gives us, and those methods may surprise us!     It is refreshing however, that Christian filmmakers feel the need to put clean cut content into their films. It makes a filmmaker have the need to be more creative about what they show and what they leave to the audience's imagination.    

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  yuppie_word:

I agree 100% with Barbara Nicolosi; if the whole goal of Christian filmmaking is to show non-believers the power of the gospel, we're not doing a very good job with the current crop of films. Films with overt Christian messages like Fireproof and Facing the Giants aren't going to win many people over for Christ because they're too sterile and present an over-simplified version of life (one thing that stood out for me in Fireproof was that even the "non-Christians" listened to CCM music... really?) Plus, they just aren't that good, quality-wise, when compared to many current Hollywood films. As Variety said in their review of Facing the Giants, "By preaching to the converted so heavy-handedly, the filmmakers fumble an opportunity to reach beyond their target demo of devout churchgoers." In other words, many of today's Christian filmmakers are so concerned with keeping everything "clean" so as not to offend any devout church goers that they're alienating the very people who they're trying to reach out to--and the quality of the film usually suffers as a result. I'm not saying that movies need to have graphic violence and sex to be considered quality filmmaking, but sometimes you need to be a little offensive to get an audience. As my English teacher said, "If you're going to reach out to the broken, then you'd better show some broken people." In other words, none of the world's broken masses are going to pay to see a movie that shows a perfect sterile world, because that's just not the way it is. And I hate to break it to all of you, but none of us are perfect--we all say and do things we later regret, that's what makes us human. Sometimes we need to see characters who sin on screen in order to know what's right and what's not. I think we need to see more films like The Book of Eli--yes, it has enough violence and language to offend the "devout church goers", but it presents an honest view of faith without being preachy--I loved the honest, innocent presentation of faith the film took. Plus it had enough mass appeal to bring in an audience of people who'd probably never been to church in their lives. We need more films that are willing to show us the world and its people for what they really are--yes, it's going to get messy at times, but that's just life. We can't just wander around pretending this stuff's not out there.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Crossdive:

I have seen some Christian-themed movies I LOVED. I really liked "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy, "The Chronciles Of Narnia" movies, "The Prince Of Egypt", "I Am Legend", "Ben-Hur" (1959), "The Book Of Eli", "Signs", "End Of The Spear", "Bella", "The Blind Side", "Henry Poole Is Here", "Shiokari Pass", and quite a few others. But as I'm sure you have observed from that list of examples, brothers and sisters, that most of those are not my-church-got-together-and-made-a-video-with-my-dad's-old-video-camera films. To be fair, I did like the Sherwood movies (primarily "Facing The Giants" and "Fireproof"). And I do plan to see "To Save A Life" and "Letters To God". But the often low-budget, poorly acted, artless approach of most Christian-labeled movies puts me off heavily. I feel like in ways they do me more damage than good as they often present a white-washed, 2D, simplistic message (often a good message but with a poor presentation). It all so often feels like suit-and-tie-only, turn-off-that-Christian-metal,-we-only-do-old-hymns-here material that sends people screaming the other direction (me included, not running from God, but from the legalistic-feeling, plastic-people format that they often seem to present). I think if they put some serious effort into making a heartfelt story that actually had some meat in its message and not just milk, and carried a genuinely human feeling about it, I would be more inclined to watch these movies. But as it stands I honestly get MUCH more out of watching something like "Superman Returns" (my favorite movie EVER because of how deeply the symbolisms of Jesus were used to touch me) or a score of others that don't bear the officially-a-Christian-movie label. Its sad that most that do are so lacking in their presentation, but then maybe, hopefully, this is just the beginning, where these guys are trying to find out how to make good movies that share the Gospel in a deep and real way. I'd love to see overtly Christian movies that have a big budget, a big imagination, and a big place at the theater where people will actually WANT to see them, rather than feeling strong-armed by a feeling of obligation to go and so something that won't really do almost anything to build them up where their at. And I guess as it is, we can be thankful that we have the movies that have been used to reach us, and that somewhere out there, there have got to be people reached where they are by the small-budget, Christian label movies that have come around.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  jewelz0931:

I too am one of those who is somewhat frustrated by Christian movies (and media in general actually).  I find it bland, and Christianity is anything but bland!  I agree with lupinskitten, I am not overly fond of Christian movies or fiction, at least not the stuff that comes out today.  Where are the C. S. Lewises or J.R.R. Tolkiens of today?  I am glad their books are getting and have been made into movies though, even if the Narnia ones disappointed me a bit.

I do think that depth and beauty can be attained without being too graphic, especially sexually, as I do believe that watching graphic, gratuitous sexuality is wrong. Gratuitous violence bothers me as well, but historical or war time violence doesn't as much.  I think it depends on the reaction I have...if someone dies and my first reaction is to laugh, then I think somethings wrong.One of my favorite films is "The Mission," which I think is a beautifully made movie with an incredible amount of depth.  It is rather violent, and definitely not one for small children, but I highly recommend it to adult Christians in search of a serious movie to watch.

I tend to just look for truth and uplifting content in secular movies, but still use discernment in what I watch.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lupinskitten:

It's hard for me to enjoy "Christian" movies because often they cannot compare to secular projects. It's not that the messages are not good, because they are, but because a limited budget resticts the use of truly good actors. There are a lot of movies (such as "Facing the Giants") that are really great, but the bad acting involved makes me really hesitant about recommending them to non-Christians. Some of the most magnificent "religious" movies were not done by Christian companies -- like the underlining themes and messages of Les Miserables (Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush), or Amistad by Stephen Speilberg.

Personally, I do not see much difference between Christian movies and Christian fiction, and I am not overly fond of either one because it seems like the only emphasis is on being "clean" rather than telling a good story. I don't approve of explicit content in any medium but since Christians DO know what genuine threats and evils there are in this world, we should do our utmost to tell the truth -- and that includes not shying away from "depth" to our stories.

I am glad that there's a little shift in Hollywood in not removing Christianity completely from movies (or trashing it) but was surprised how little of it remained in The Blind Side. One or two references to being a Christian family and that was it! They were never shown attending church, rarely prayed... I understand it's a step forward to even have the word "Christian" in there at all, but from all the excitement about the movie from religious groups, I expected more!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  swlf:

Though this might be overly academic, from a critical / film buff standpoint, some of the greatest films of all time carry Christian worldviews and were made by filmmakers from Christian backgrounds. Though Robert Bresson, Carl Dreyer, and Andrei Tarvoksky may not have made commericially accessible English language pictures they are all well-respected by both secular and religious film scholars and inject challenging spiritual content into all of their films. On a more mainstream note, there of course have been many artistically satisfied Christian epics from "The Ten Commandments" to "Ben-Hur" to "The Passion of the Christ". The question is, with few exceptions, why has there been a severe lack of intelligent Christian films and filmmakers in the past few decades since Christians have proven themselves more than capable of making brilliant works of art throughout the centuries?

I see no reason why Christians should feel that adding or removing "offensive content" from their films would make them more or less artistically fulfilled. The fact that that is even part of the debate or a point of contention makes me feel that Christians have their priorities in the wrong place. The majority of great Christian films have been works of art intended to glorify God and reflect upon his place in the world, not to impress a niche market or be tracts on celluloid. If Christian filmmaking truly desires to be for the greater glory of God, playing it safe or toeing some imaginary line content-wise seems to compromise the emphasis that should be placed on opening the audience's eyes to the transcendent wonder of the divine. I don't believe Christian films should be "nice" and "pleasant", because nothing in the Bible or in the world itself suggests that life as a whole is nice or pleasant. They should instead be artistically, intellectually, and spiritually provocative. The Arts and Faith website has a list of excellent spiritual films, many of which are explicitly Christian. I would suggest those interested in film as art check that out to see what Christian filmmakers are truly capable of.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  19852003:

I've not seen The Blind Side or Fireproof, but I have seen Facing the Giants and some other Christian movies, and I have to say while some are enjoyable, most are not, and none rank in my top 10 favorite movies. Hollywood's motives are almost always questionable, but they certainly know how to make a good movie from time to time. But then, the studios have the money and resources to pull it off, and quite often, Christian movie makers are working on a much more restrictive budget.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Brian1131:

Up is a great example of how amazing and artistic a film can be and be commerical as well. I remember reading in a previous plugged in thread though how some Christian families were upset however with all the violence and the themes of death in the story. It kind of boggled my mind. Here we have a family film with a great message and a great entertainment and yet someone was unhappy because there were "dogfights" and a senior citizen dealing with his wife passing away. Would the people who didnt like the film enjoy it more if Carl's wife didnt die? or we simply glossed over that fact? or that there were no fun action sequences on the zeppelin and sword fighting with a cane?

If your going to make any movie Christian or secular make it the way you feel lead to artistically and spiritually. There are always critics who will say its too bland, and then there are folk who will say its filled with too much offensive content. Make a movie that you would enjoy watching. And if you want to fill it with violent content, sex scenes, language, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. And if you want your film to be as pure as possible, you better make sure its a really good story and not a snoozefest.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  sosmallgirl:

First of all, I believe that God can speak through movies to people. But he does it differently for every person. He can use R-rated films that speak truth to people, as many have commented here. He can also use Christian films that don't have any swearing or sexual innuendo to touch the hearts of people. I don't mean to say everything is right for everyone. It depends on the person and their relationship with Christ and the movie measures up to God's Word. Right now, I think that people are responding to the universal themes of truth and love  in movies such as The Blind Side or even Up. In those movies, people can clearly see aspects of God's character, although they may not realize it. Movies like that give people a sense of hope in the midst of tough times. I think Up was incredibly powerful in that Carl suffered a huge loss. But he was able to find hope again. That resonates with people and has certainly resonated with me. Thus, I am appreciating movies such as those that aren't labelled Christian but certainly have aspects of God's character in them. For me, personally, I don't like seeing gratuitous sex or violence unless it there is a major amount of redeeming qualities to it. As for Christian film makers, I think they should do what they feel in their hearts God wants them to do. I would like for them to make movies that deal with those universal qualities of God but that don't have an easy way out, cause life isn't easy.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  BigPoppa:

skatones2121: Congratulations on an excellent, insightful post.

I think Christian filmmaking is at about the same place now that Contemporary Christian Music was in the early to mid-'80s. I can remember my parents dragging me along to the Christian bookstore to buy me music cassettes. U2 (pre-Unforgettable Fire) was in stock, and pretty much everything else was "Sounds like" artists. They had a chart my parents loved to go over with me with "evil secular bands" down one side and lists of  "sounds like bands and artists" across the top. Examples: "If you like Pat Benetar/Stevie Nicks/Joan Jett, try Amy Grant!" and "If you like Judas Priest/Scorpions, you'll love Servant/Petra/Rez Band/whatever!" Are you kidding me? Shortly thereafter, CCM listeners started to demand a higher standard. I think that's what's going on now with film and television. Why should we as Christians settle for "looks like/sounds like, but isn't quite as good as...?"

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kady82:

You make a really good point about The Book of Eli. While it had a great deal of violence and strong content, it nonetheless had spirituality at it core. It may not be for everyone, but there are big budget, Christian movies being made in Hollywood.

There is a documentary coming out this summer called the Nature of Existence. I've seen some trailers about it on You Tube. The filmmaker asks questions about God and what is the meaning of life to a wide variety of people, from the director of The Empire Strikes Back, to religious scholars etc.. It looks really interesting.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kady82:

I agree that a story is important, one that doesn't necessarily preach but contains christian values and is moral, and lets the plot unfold.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Brian1131:

I hear that all the time that classic films were great even when they didnt show any objectionable content. They would have if they could have and that is the truth. The reason Hitchcock had to slyly imply many things was because he wasnt allowed to show it at all because of the Hayes Code. In Psycho I am sure Hitchcock would have made the bathroom scene a bit more violent if he could.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  JuliChristine:

I definitely think Christian films need to up the actual movie-making skills, and I agree that we should be willing to show life in its messiness, to a point. However, if you watch old movies (the really good ones, Classics) there was such a thing as implying something in a classy way, without leaving nothing to the imagination. In fact, I think this shows much better skill. Hitchock films are just better in every sense of the word than nearly any modern horror movie. Old war movies, as somebody mentioned, get across a point in a very poignant way without the having the camera never blink. It takes far more skill to portray a story in a way that lets the watcher know what's going on, and makes him think, without showing everything. Now granted, I'm not saying current Christian films are doing that, but I think that's what we should be aspiring to, not just dumping more "objectionable" content into the films to make them more "realistic." Movies are an art.

One side note, as well: I am firmly convinced that biblically speaking, gratuitous violence and gratuitous sex are two very different things. It is possible to watch gratuitous violence and not be sinning. I don't think it's possible to watch gratuitous sex and not be sinning. If you had been there in a biblical example of violence (the previously mentioned Ehud, for example), you would not necessarily have needed to turn away and not watch (in order to be obedient to God's commands). If you had been there during David's rendevouz with Bathsheba, you would have needed to not watch in order to be obedient to God's commands. The truth is some things are different when you read facts about them and when you watch them in living color.

It's very possible to tell a story, depict reality, and get a point across and still allow the viewer to fill in the gaps himself. When done right, that kind of classiness honors the Lord, and increases the quality of the film. If we're talking about how to improve Christian filmmaking as an industry and art form, let's aim high!

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Ryskon:

I find it encouraging that even in the darkest, filthiest corners of human existence the cry out for God can be discerned by a careful listener.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Brian1131:

I agree with Barbara Nicolosi. Christian films are afraid to put too much objectionable content in the films and what it does is dilute any message or problem that charactes are facing in the story. In the FIREPROOF movie the filmmakers gave very tiny hints that Kirk Cameron's character is struggling with pornography. Eventually he takes a baseball bat to his computer. Thats not real. Thats an easy way of skipping over a huge problem. The filmmakers I believe were afraid to be mature and really show the struggles of addiction with pornography. Instead of doing of expressing this problem in a mature cinematic artistic fashion they chose the easy way out and a baseball bat took care of the rest. Life is a bit more messier than that.

In the film The Stoning of Soraya M which has a great message even though the majority of characters are Muslim critics slammed the film for being too violent. It needs to be violent, an innocent woman was stoned! To gloss it over would be an insult to the real story that went down.

Movie review sites like Plugged In are great but often times they criticize movies too much for content that has its points. In The Lord of the Rings reviews that Plugged In did they were upset that the Hobbits drank ale at the pub, Gandalf smoking and that there were ghosts stuck in some sort of purgatory.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  icicle:

I will probably incur the wrath of certain Christians in saying this, but as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, "Someone may say, 'I'm allowed to do anything,' but not everything is helpful. I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything encourages growth."

I don't know that there's a movement in Christianity that bothers me more than those who say "it's okay (and even desirable) for me to watch movies with graphic violence and sexual content because the Bible would be rated R if it were a movie."

God didn't make a movie, did he? He wrote a book.

A book that talks "about" things that happened. It does not describe them graphically. There's a difference between Solomon delighting in the wife of his youth (yes, even her physical characteristics) and portraying a sex scene or gratuitous nudity visually. Adam and Eve noticed that they were naked and were ashamed. Ever since that day, clothes have been a mandate - Noah's sons got in trouble for sneaking a peak at their old man au naturel - and that wasn't even in a sexual context.

Graphic violence? Sure the Bible talks about it. But talking about Ehud sticking his dagger up a fat king's gut is different than getting a full-on torture sequence or gory massacre in all its full-screen glory.

Here's what, for me, is the bottom line. The Bible doesn't shy away from the facts. We shouldn't shy away from the facts either. The world is a terrible place, filled with sexual sin, violence and obscenity. We can't escape it.

But the Bible doesn't glory in it. The Bible doesn't give us the visuals that (to humans who aren't already desensitized) nauseate us and/or seduce us. It says David and Bathsheba committed adultery. Okay. A movie like North By Northwest gets that point across via dialogue and some intense kissing - nobody's in doubt about what happens, but it doesn't have to be shown.

Classic war movies like "The Longest Day" or "Gettysburg" give a good story and good acting, and leave us in no doubt that thousands of people die, without having to show gaping head wounds and buckets of blood.

I wish there were more "high quality" Christian films. Facing the Giants was great, for its purpose. The Blind Side was very good, and contained plenty of allusions to Christianity, but didn't hit us full-on with a gospel message (not that every film needs to do that). The "Christian" film market is not an incredibly good one (obviously), but let's focus on making Christian and Christian-themed movies better, without forgetting what sets us apart.

We're called, as Christians, to be different, right? Then why try to justify (and even encourage) our filmmakers to conform to the world's standards, then use the Bible as a justification for watching and producing the repulsive material that has saturated our society completely?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  CaptKrks7:

I have read the article and all of the comments, and I must say that I am truly disappointed. Yes, Scripture is offensive, but that is because it tells people that we are sinners and that there are consequenses for our sin. The Bible is not offensive by using language or sex to push its message. So many of the comments want to be much more overtly Christian rather than be in your face with Christianity.  The Bible is anything but an example of "sugar-coating the Message so we can reach more people." Now, I do agree that there can be more action, better actors, and better quality Christian films than are currently available, but that does not mean that we stop being direct about the Gospel that we have been commanded to preach to the uttermost parts of the world. If we forget why we are doing it... to promote the Gospel of Christ... and instead are just concerned about being entertained, then we are no better than Hollywood, and we might as well join in with them. Please know I do say all this in love. I encouraged you my brothers and sisters in Christ that we are not on this Earth to be entertained, but to reach others with the Gospel as Christ has reached out to us in all His love.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lolibbitb:

i read an article ages ago that was similar to this, but instead of wondering why Christian films aren't the most artistic, it was wondering about Christian comic books/graphic novels. the theory they came up with, i think it was, is that it's hard to force art. if you sit down and go "okay, i'm gonna write a Christian screenplay!', it's just not going to come as naturally as "i'm gonna write a screenplay!" now, if screenwriters are working from a Christian worldview, the screenplay could very well end up looking pretty Christian. but there's a disconnect between making art, and forcing it.

(it's not just Christians with this problem! tim burton sets out to make "creepy" films, and lately, it's boring. etc)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Mr_Tweedy:

The Book of Eli is easily my favorite Christian film.  It was one of the few I've seen that was genuinely engaging on its own merit, not something I felt compelled to watch because it was Christian.  Its message is simple, direct and powerful, and the level of "offensive" content in it is easily in line with what you'd find in any number of Old Testament stories.  ("Eli" probably resembles a story of one of the old prophets than anything else in literature.)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  skatones2121:

My father and I saw "The Book of Eli" a few months ago, a post apocalyptic thriller starring Denzel Washington.  Eli is a traveler on a mission who must protect the last remaining copy of the Bible from those would like to dispose of it or even worse pervert its meaning and use it as a tool to govern with complete authority.  Along the way, Eli must defend the book and himself, using violence when necessary.  "Eli" is completely fictional, but is filled with scripture, divine presence, and great Biblical illustrations.  It also has double digit 'F' words as well as multiple decapitations.  The film was excellent and in my opinion very much in line with what a Christian film should look like.

I've given "Christian" movies a shot since "The Omega Code",  which was a sorry excuse for a film about the rapture that probably did more to harm the case for Christ than it did to help it.  "Christian" filmmaking graduated to movies like "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof".  These last two films are what most consider to be the height of Christian film.  While those movies have their place and purpose, that purpose is not  in mainstream cinema because they are far from on par with today's film making quality and they stand out because of it, and not in a good way.  It's almost as if classifying a movie as one that is "Christian" means that it will have good Christian messages but be second rate in production value.  No longer is that the case, as "The Book of Eli" represents the full potential a Christian movie can have.

I think the base problem is that most Christians share the belief that a Christian film should be void of strong content like profanity, sexuality, and graphic violence.  I guess that presupposition has been implanted in the heads and hearts of Christians over the last century but I honestly don't know what the basis for that argument is.  Most people cite Psalm 101:3 that says we should "set no worthless thing before our eyes" and I agree completely.  Something that is "worthless" or "wicked" depending on your Bible's translation is a far cry from a film that contains strong language or sexual content.  Look at the scripture for example. What do you think a film about Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah would be rated?  What about one based on the Song of Solomon?  Or how about David and Bathsheba, or David in any battle?  I could go on but the point is this: it's not the content that's the problem, but the glorification of the content that could be. The bottom line is that the Bible offers a message of grace and redemption, but also one of the complete and utter depravity of man.

We as Christians have the ability to effect culture positively by finding grace and redemption within the depravity of this world and using it as a tool to reflect the ultimate grace and redemption of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To do this, it may mean that along with a positive Christian message we also show what real depravity looks like.  How can we effect change in our culture when we refuse to be a part of it?  How will people see something different if we're not there to see?

The answer to those questions is to follow the example set by Christ himself.  Jesus spent a lot of time not with the clergy or Pharisees, but with the publicans and sinners.  In Mark the Bible speaks specifically of Jesus dining and “reclining” (Mark 2:15) with those around him.  This term “reclining” spoke of the specific eating style of the day, but more importantly it showed that Jesus didn’t try to separate himself from those who weren’t his followers, he sought them out.  In Matthew 9 He is questioned about this and says, "They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.  But go ye and learn what this meaneth, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice', for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."  Christ not only sought out sinners but sought out ways to be with them, befriend them, and show them love.  He calls us to do the same.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Unblack89:

I'm probably gonna feel the wrath of someone in saying this, but I think that we need to stop make bland, cliche (and in this case) unbiblical films like "Facing the Giants."  This movie essentially says that if you cry out to God and have faith that things will start going great.  Sometime things turn around when we do this, but a lot of times it doesn't.  I won't get into details, but my family and I have been to hell and back many times.  I find movies like this very offensive since they oversimplify spirituality.  We definitely need Christian family movies, but we should not throw the complexity of things out the door.  The quality standard needs to rise (and it did a little with "Fireproof").

I would also agree that we shouldn't shy away from anyting that might be offensive.  Some subject matter should not be sugar-coted to make it "fun for the whole family."  Although "Book of Eli" was very violent, despite its flaws, it had a message that resonated with me.  Not saying every Christian film has to be as extreme as "Book of Eli," just saying that we shouldn't necessarily shy away from things that might make people feel uncomfortable.  (Keep in mind that the Bible is incredibly offensive in its own way.)