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The Decade’s Top Ten: Religious or Spiritual?

posted by Douglas Howe

If you are one of those who hangs out at the intersection of faith and culture, I’m sure you’ve seen a few of the “Top Ten” lists about religious and/or spiritual films. Of the “Decade’s Top Ten…” lists, these are the ones I find most relevant.
I’ve found that most, like this one, are more about religious themes than spirituality itself. Some stretch what “religious” means quite far. A few even mention Jesus in them! Ther is even a comprehensive “Top 100″ list!
Everyone is on their own journey, and mine is certainly one that begins and ends around the person of Jesus Christ. Who He was, who He is and His relevance today is a thread that impacts just about every major religious system. Those issues are certainly vital to our individual spiritual road maps. And in a time when more and more people who’re interested in Jesus are not going to organized churches, it is even more important to identify cultural work that is excellent and relevant,
I have not found the list I’m really looking for–the one that identifies the best moments in films where deep and reflective thought is given to spiritual matters in a way that doesn’t seem preachy. I loved the scene from “I, Robot” when Spooner is asked if we were put here by “The Maker” for a reason. Or the one from “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” when the scientist asks “In the beginning, didn’t God create Adam to love Him?”


I think one of the finest scenes in recent memory came from “Angels and Demons,” when Tom Hanks’ Robert Langdon is askedof his belief in God. “My mind tells me that I will never understand God…my heart tells me I am not meant to.”
As to the question of faith, posed by Ewan McGregor’s Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, Hanks’ Langdon is humble and authentic about not having yet received that grace.
Moments such as these are winsome and provoking. Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was filled with them. It wasn’t as much about religion as it was the act of Jesus and the spiritual questions posed for each of us. Like most, I wouldn’t choose to have endured that amount of graphically portrayed pain, but that was the point.
I hope the new decade will bring us less films about organized religion and more films about the spiritual journey. If that Top Ten list was out there this year, I didn’t find it.
Tom Hanks



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