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My Problem with Christian Movies
- September 25, 2017
- Sage Blalock
I know this might not be a popular topic for a whole host of reasons, but I just have to do it. I would like to preface by saying that I love movies. A lot. Arguably too much. Well-written/well-acted movies have this amazing ability to communicate life-changing truth without coming off as preachy (Hacksaw Ridge as a fairly recent example). Movies can make you think, laugh, and cry. If you want to get me talking, film is one of the things about which I have the most to say.
As you may have assumed from my previous posts, I am a Christian. I’m one of those crazy fundamentalists that believes Jesus was a real guy who died and came back to life. That fact has been the single most important thing that I’ve ever known. The idea that God loves me so much that Christ would enter into the pain and suffering of our world and ultimately die to pay for my sins gives me all the meaning and purpose that I could ever need in my life.
I know what you’re thinking: “He’s a Christian and he likes movies…he must like Christian movies!” Well, no. I don’t. Now I don’t want this to come off as a blanket statement on every Christian film ever (I appreciated the brutal honesty of Passion of the Christ and I loved Risen). There have been plenty of solid Christian movies over the years.
But I think there has been an epidemic of bad Christian movies over the last ten to fifteen years. I’m not going to name names, but the same two or three production companies keep cranking out subpar films that no one (who isn’t a Christian) thinks is any good. Once again, I am not going to use names (although I want to). That being said, I bet you can guess which movies I’m talking about.
Instead of just saying that they’re bad, I should probably make some sort of argument for why I’m persuaded as such. As a lover of film, I could bring up lazy writing, weak stereotypes, poor production value, or the general lack of understanding of how humans actually interact with each other as reasons to dislike the genre as a whole. But I won’t. My biggest problem with Christian movies today is the treatment of their antagonists. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it basically means the main bad guy who tries to stop the hero, or protagonist.
I’ve read a number of books about screenwriting (and I am currently taking a class!) and they all agree: a compelling antagonist makes a film better. For example, take The Dark Knight. TDK is considered by many to be the greatest comic book movie of all time. The reason so many believe this? Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. The character is so dark and twisted, yet so utterly fascinating that you cannot look away. Because he is such a great, formidable villain Batman’s triumph in the end is made even more impressive.
That’s where most Christian movies mess up. The bad guy is an atheist, maybe even a college professor! He or she (it’s usually he) lacks any real emotional depth. What’s important is that he hates God, he’s a bad husband, and he has no redeeming qualities. Intriguing guy, right? Wrong! The movie makes it obvious that we should hate this guy and be happy to see him fail miserably in the end (maybe they even hit him with a car!).
Someone out there is inevitably saying “But we hate the Joker, too! We want to see his plans fail. Sounds to me like you’re a hypocrite!” But there’s a big difference between The Dark Knight and the anonymous films I have been referring to: The Dark Knight isn’t a Christian movie. It can have certain people be the enemy and that’s okay. But not Christian films. In Christian films, the atheist or the agnostic should never be the enemy. He or she should be seen as a person as in need of the love of God through Christ as each and every one of us.
I’m not saying that non-Christian individuals and organizations are not antagonistic towards Christianity. What I am saying is that, as Christians, we need to constantly remember that even though that atheist lawyer wishes he could destroy God we should never venture to destroy him. Our mission is not to beat up all of the non-Christians in the world because they hurt our feelings. Our mission is to bring the message of love, grace, and forgiveness of sins to a fallen world populated by men and women who these movies tell us should be our enemies. Personally, that doesn’t sound very Christian to me.