The Washington Post Metro section has an article about a pastor who uses movies to bring spiritual lessons to his congregation.
For a special series of sermons this summer, Senior Pastor Rob Seagears at Christ Chapel Mountaintop in Prince William County tied his sermons to whatever movie was top at the box office that week, often appearing in costume. This presented him with a daunting challenge as the summer was filled with blockbusters featuring a lot of violence and bad language.
“It’s kind of risky to be watching to see what the number one movie is going to be and figuring out how to flip this thing for God,” he said.
Sometimes, as with “Tropic Thunder,” he was able to tie the movie to an important message but sill ended up recommending that the congregation stay away from the film. For that movie, by the way, he appeared in church as Kirk Lazarus, the white actor portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. who has medical treatment to darken his skin so he can play a black man on screen. Pastor Seagears began with a joke about being a black man pretending to be a white man pretending to be a black man. While there have been some objections, the pastor’s series proved to be very popular with the parishioners and a draw for new worshipers as well. And it was especially appreciated by teenagers.
If there were an Oscar for sermons, Seagears would be a contender. There’s his “Dark Knight” performance, when he roared up to the pulpit astride a Suzuki motorcycle, dressed like Batman. And his whip-cracking Indiana Jones, and his green-suited Hulk.
Perhaps most memorable was when he bumbled out wearing a ratty wig and a blood-red smile across his face, ranting like a maniac.
“When I went into the church as the Joker, there was complete silence,” Seagears recalled fondly. “People were stunned because I was acting as if I was evil.”
For those who complain,
Seagears responds that preaching through movies allows him to meet people where they are and is similar to Jesus’s use of parables.
“It’s all about engaging your audience,” he said. “That’s what Jesus did, telling stories.”
The Sunday New York Times had a great tribute in honor of the 60th anniversary of one of the most lyrically lovely movies ever made, The Red Shoes. As the title indicates, it is inspired by the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about the enchanted shoes that cannot stop dancing even after the person who wears them becomes exhausted, even if it kills her. It is the story of Victoria (played by the exquisite ballerina Moira Shearer), a dancer who is torn between her love of dance and the longing for a life outside of the demands of this most demanding of professions and obsessions. She is cast in the lead of a ballet called “The Red Shoes” and its story and its exhausting steps echo and underscore the conflicts she feels. Despite this bleak portrayal of the life of a ballet dancer, the movie inspired a generation of girls, including future prima ballerinas and other professionals, to study dance. And despite its melodrama, the movie transcends its storyline to become a poetic meditation on all of our conflicting desires, thanks to the skill of writer-directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
And I am so pleased to find that one of my favorite books, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, has been filmed in a fine BBC production, starring “Harry Potter’s” Emma Watson. I love all of Streatfeild’s books (remember Meg Ryan talking about them in “You’ve Got Mail?”) but my favorite is Skating Shoes. I am hoping the BBC decides to film that one and go on to do them all.
My other favorite ballet movies include Robert Altman’s The Company, a neglected gem starring Neve Campbell, who also produced the film, and of course The Turning Point, with Shirley MacLaine, Anne Bancroft, and real-life dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Leslie Browne. As with “The Red Shoes,” ballet is a powerful symbol of the demands of love.
Kevin McCarthy, aka BDK, interviewed me on this radio program this weekend and we talked about a wide range of topics from Metallica to whether it is ever appropriate to use the n-word to Clint Eastwood as actor and director. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to returning to talk to him again in two weeks.