By the looks of recent television commercials, we are in for a summer full of movies funny and sad, bombastic and thoughtful. With blockbuster season right around the corner, perhaps we should take note now–and discuss with our families–how to watch movies from a Christian point-of-view.
Watching a movie through a Christian “lens” is decidedly different than, say, watching a movie for watching sake. We assume that since Christ is Lord and that we are to take every thought captive, we should ask questions about a film’s lessons for faith and for society.
Our Christian lens allows us to engage the underlying moral and ethical themes in the movies we watch, as well as analyze them with an eye towards God’s redemptive work in the midst of artistic expression.
It is important to approach movies cautiously. Families with small children can peruse websites that “grade” movies based on violence, language, and sexual content. Those with older children or teens can watch a movie together, and then discuss how the movie makes an audiences come to conclusions related to faith and morality.
Check out some of these thematic elements that can inform a family discussion as it relates to faith:
We have a whole new line of hero-based movies hitting the big screen, from Thor to Captain America. Many of these movies help us recognize that honor and courage are important attributes in life. Yet, they usually glorify violence and revenge, so-called virtues that conflict with God’s word.
It will help families to recall that Jesus explicitly opposed violence as a means of revenge. Violent content in comic-book movies are usually entertaining, but not very redeeming.
Another unfortunate thematic element found in most movies is sexual exploitation. I’m looking forward to watching the third installment of the Transformers franchise next month, but I know that director, Michael Bay, has a shallow approach to how he portrays his female characters in his films.
Bay’s movies often degrade women to the status of sex objects or “boy toys.” Morphing cars are cool, but we may need to discuss how this movie among others mistreat women in general.
Other, more nuanced movies will reach for Academy Award status by portraying humanity in all its candor. These movies usually have deeper messages than do action flicks, but they too can become important conversation pieces in Christian circles. Many times these films explore the tensions between faith and science, fate and destiny, hope and grief, and lostness and redemption.
These films can actually become resources to point others to Christ. Remember last year’s Academy contender, “Up in the Air,” starring George Clooney? The film’s theme centered around an executive who had no real relational connections and very little meaning in his life. The movie ends on a depressing note. The movie made me wonder: What if Christ were to take all of the Clooneys of the world and show them that an abundant life is possible only when one relates to God?
I’m looking forward to “Company Men,” which explores the lives of a half-dozen executives who lose jobs during the recession. It is timely, but it is an important film that echoes “Up in the Air” because it reminds us that family and relationships are more important than prestige and social status.
Despite the downturn of the economy, we can be sure that movies are still cash cows. As Christians, however, we are called to engage movies with a critical eye towards faith and art from a uniquely Christian perspective.