There seem to be two types of Christian film sites these days. On one side, are the watchdogs of Hollywood. Those banging down the doors of their local cinema at the latest blasphemy of the week. On the other, are those looking out for families. Websites counting up swear words, sex, and violence and giving a recommendation based on content.
We don’t feel called to either camp. The protest group troubles us. It’s hard to love your neighbor when you’re shouting at them. The content critics are valuable, but there’s more than enough to go around. We think it’s time for a third type of Christian film site – one willing to move beyond the surface and engage with a movie’s soul.
If content critics are what you’re looking for, they’re only a couple clicks away. Sites like Screen It and Plugged In are doing an admirable job of tallying up content and helping Christians make educated viewing choices. But we need to remember that God hasn’t called us to live in a bubble, cut off from the world and things that ruffle our feathers. He’s called us to be salt and light. And where there’s light, there must be darkness.
Every movie shouldn’t be a sanitized depiction of the world, because that isn’t true. And as Christians, we’re called to focus our attention on things that are “true” (Philippians 4:8), not false. As appealing as our bubble is, it doesn’t do the world any good.
Christians of all people should know this, for we have a book that paints an honest picture of humanity at every turn. Pick any chapter in Judges. Or the sordid tale of David and Bathsheba. The Bible, just like modern day films, isn’t afraid to depict fallen people doing fallen things in a fallen world. But neither the Bible or good films end there – they also point toward redemption and the hope of a world set right again.
Good films depict broken human beings put to the test by extraordinary circumstances, and arriving on the other side changed forever. Take the movie Schindler’s List. In the beginning we meet selfish entrepreneur Oskar Schindler. Oskar doesn’t care about anyone or anything. The only thing he really does care about is making money. Lots of money.
But through the extraordinary events of the Holocaust, Oskar undergoes a profound transformation. All of the sudden, this man who only cared about amassing wealth, actually creates a factory designed to lose money so he can save as many Jews as possible. In one of the last scenes, Oskar Schindler – the proud, arrogant, selfish character we first met – is reduced to a sobbing wreck because he realizes that his whole life prior to the Holocaust was a waste. Even with all the good he did, he still could have saved more.
That’s redemption, and that’s coming from a film which is about as extreme as it gets in terms of language, violence, sex, and nudity. A film that most Christian film sites – judging the film on content alone – would demand you don’t see. But we would urge the opposite. Schindler’s List is an essential film. A classic. A modern day parable of truth.
Some will cry foul. After all, Oskar Schindler doesn’t undergo ultimate transformation. There isn’t a scene of him bowing on one knee and giving his life to Jesus. But is this necessary for a story to have value? Did Jesus’ stories contain explicit Gospel teaching? Where is the Gospel directly stated in the parable of the Prodigal Son? Or the Good Samaritan? Or the Lost Sheep? No, those were powerful illustrations pointing to a greater truth. In the same way, films contain pieces of the truth, not the whole. It’s up to the church to fill in the gaps.
We want to be clear. We have deep respect for other websites judging films based on content alone, and we would encourage everyone to utilize them. Don’t take our recommendations for granted. People need to make personal decisions about the movies they watch based on research, preference, and conviction.
But when you do see a film you enjoy, come back here and talk about it. That’s what we want to be – a community where people can come together and have meaningful discussions about film and faith. Don’t worry about fitting in. This is a diverse community. Our writers all land at different points in the conservative-progressive spectrum. But we’re united under the core belief that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
At Cinema Faith, instead of pointing people to the darkness of Hollywood, we want to point people to the light. Because more often than not, when we see a movie, we see truth. We see redemption. We see the very words of God calling out from just beneath the surface. And we think that’s worth talking about.
Will you join us?