What Is a Christian Movie?

Connectedness, and the culture of life help. Whether it will sell is vital. But ultimately, it's all about the people.

Excerpted with permission from "Behind the Screen" (Baker Books).

Many godly people think that the goal is for movies to be "non-offensive" in terms of sex, language, and violence. But the problem with that standard is it only describes a void. It doesn't give any creative guidance. A lot of Christians lauded the 2002 release A Walk to Remember mainly on this basis: "It didn't have any bad language, and the two teenagers didn't sleep together." Yes, but it was a banal, predictable story with underdeveloped characters, pedestrian acting, and saccharine dialogue.



There aren't going to be any simple narrative guidelines that make a project acceptable. Sometimes, it will serve the Truth to have the bad guys get away with murder, as in the 2002 film In the Bedroom. This project, which dealt with the spiritual and psychological urgency of forgiveness, was rejected by many Christians because the film's two protagonists kill someone in revenge and don't get caught. "Yes," I groaned to one indignant pastor, "but the characters are insane at the end of the film! No one wants to be them!" He responded, "I just think it would have been better if they had ended up in jail." Ironically, the film is more haunting because the two characters don't end up in a man-made jail but in a psychological prison of their own making.

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While Christian projects will not be defined by the topics they treat, we can expect that certain defining themes will inhere in our projects as the cinematic "aroma of Christ."

Affirmation of Spiritual Realities

The 20th-century Christian apologist Frank Sheed distinguished Christian storytellers from pagan ones by the fact that Christian writers live in a world that is as much driven by spiritual realities as by material ones. He noted, "The secular novelist sees what is visible; the Christian novelist sees what is there."

Created with a Christian sensibility, a movie should be haunted by the invisible world. For believers, everything that we see is a sign of a reality that we cannot see. Paraphrasing St. Paul, all of creation points to the Presence and Nature of the Creator. A movie made with this conviction will leave viewers with the sense that beyond all the chaos and craziness in the world is a Loving Mind that comprehends it all, and is over it all.

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