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.
BY: Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi
Coined by Pope John Paul II, the term "the culture of life" encapsulates the attitude toward human persons that defines Christians. Pope John Paul II distinguishes the reverence with which believers approach the human person from what he calls secularism's "culture of death." A society has bought into the culture of death, the pope notes, whenever it concludes that the resolution to a social problem can be found in the death of a person or group of people.
A Christian project will emanate the certainty that men and women are the summit of everything created. If rareness makes something valuable, then human beings are precious in their uniqueness. Human beings are not valuable because of what they can do but because of what they are: vessels of love. Love called forth to be poured in. Love seeping out on those around.
Humans are a unity of matter and spirit, making each person a mystery. And so a Christian movie will reflect a reverence in its bearing toward the human person.
Our reverence to persons will dictate not only the kinds of stories that we tell but also the method in which we tell them. We will not ask actors to violate themselves for our art, because Christians reject that a person can ever be used for any purpose-even for drama. Further, we can't manipulate, coerce, propagandize, or deceive.
Juxtaposition of Joy and Suffering
The weirdest thing about Christians is the way we can hold both terrible suffering and joy in our hands at the same time without any sense of contradiction. Good Friday is at once the worst thing that ever happened and the best thing that ever happened. In every death, we see the seeds of resurrections, and so our grief can never be complete, as in despair.
Because of this, our stories are always going to emit an aroma of hope. Comfortable with this mystery, as the human creature's lot in life, we do not have to resolve every conflict in our stories. But our unresolved conflicts will always reflect our conviction that, as screenwriter and novelist Karen Hall has said, "I may not understand the reason why, but I know Someone does."
But Will It Sell?
The capacity for a product to sell: this is a primary paradox for Christian writers and producers in Hollywood. On the one hand, we have vital stories and themes that we want to see produced. A writer who isn't passionate about the material will not be able to weather all the sacrifices and obstacles the project will require.
On the other hand, professionalism demands that we offer a product that will be saleable. Too often writers who pitch me movie ideas will be stymied when I ask them the necessary question, "What will drive millions of people to the movie theaters to see this story?"
This doesn't have to be a paralyzing problem for Christians in Hollywood. The answer to the problem of commerciality is to find the intersection of our themes with the current cries of the world. What is it that the people of our world are worried about today? What are the most urgent fears of this generation? These are the "signs of the times" for the church in this age, and particularly for those of us who are storytellers.
People, Not Projects
The principal reason for the moral confusion that ends up on the screen is the paucity of happy, well-catechized believers in the entertainment industry. We do not have enough witnesses to Christ living and loving and working alongside the witnesses to Mammon or secular humanism that have overrun the creative community. We do not have enough thoughtful, godly filmmakers who can draw compelling stories from a mature faith experience.
The world does not need a "Christian cinema" so much as it needs Christians in cinema.