Why Christian Movies Should Be Left Behind

I have a problem with “Christian” movies. Actually, I have several problems with them.

Why do we try to put the label “Christian” on the arts (movies, TV, music, books)? We have attempted to make a separate category for “Christian” stuff.  Why can’t we just make movies, TV shows, music and books that are “Christian” without having to put it in that category. Frankly, when we put something into the Christian category, we have given people a reason to pre-judge it before they experience it.

In addition, Christian arts try desperately and shamelessly to compete with the arts in non-Christian categories. Which, in most cases, they just can’t.

Take Christian movies for example. This is probably where you find the greatest disparity between Christian and secular (which is a false dichotomy anyway).  I’m talking about movies like “Facing the Giants”, “Left Behind” and “God’s Not Dead”. There are a lot more of these moves than you might think. There are whole production companies dedicated to making these movies.  These movies are “Christian” as defined by the predominant Evangelical idea of Christian. Which means they are morally clean, promote a civil religion, and portray America as the gatekeeper of all things righteous. It would be more accurate to refer to them as “American Civil Religion Movies.”

Photo: The Babylon Bee

The truth is that there is a big market for these types of movies, because there are a lot of people who belong to the American civil religion. In short, these movies make money. And since they make money, don’t expect them to go away anytime soon. The makers of these movies may have good intentions when they say they want people to get saved watching their movies, but it’s not the unsaved who are watching them.

Here are some of the issues I have with Christian films:

They suck

This is the first problem with Christian movies. Christian movies vary little in quality, but the entire range is below the range of any other group of movies. The best Christian films are some of the worst films.

The people who think these movies are really good, are mostly church folks who don’t watch many movies unless they’re rated G or PG.  They really don’t know anything about good movies. I’ve talked to a few people who went to see a Christian movie in the theater and that was the first time they had been to the theater.

These movies are cliche, campy, corny, and they lack nuance. Which brings me to another problem I have with Christian movies…..

They force a “gospel presentation”

Nearly all of the movies I have seen that are self-categorized as “Christian” had a cringe-worthy moment in the film where someone presents the gospel. By that I mean, someone gives the American Evangelical presentation of “you are a sinner, Jesus died to forgive your sin and you need to pray this prayer.”

Some of these scenes are a real stretch and you can tell that they had to find somewhere to put this in. Because if they didn’t have that, the people who went to the theater for the very first time would probably be upset and not go back. They try to find creative and unique ways to put this in the film. It’s kind of like Law and Order trying to find a creative and unique way for the dead body to be discovered in the opening scene of each episode. Most of the time, it doesn’t work, and the audience knows what’s coming anyway.

This is what happens when you have a hyper-literal interpretation of the Bible. You make hyper-literal movies that present the gospel without allegory or imagination.

They have bad theology

For example, “Left Behind” (both the original and the remake) is based on awful eschatology (so were all of the books). Most of these movies portray a retributive God. In “Facing the Giants” it’s understood (and basically said) that if the players become really good Christians, they will win; and, of course, they do. Sports teams who start to pray together are not going to start winning games. It doesn’t work that way. Especially if you’re praying together so that you will start winning.

Christian movies are just like other movies in one way….they always have a happy ending. Not every situation in life has a happy ending. The happy ending comes when our life is over.

There are some great movies that are Christian but don’t have the label. And for good reason; they  don’t suck, they don’t contain a forced presentation of the gospel and they are not filled with bad theology.

Here’s a short list (which movies would you add?):

  • The Matrix
  • The Book of Eli
  • Passion of the Christ
  • Les Miserables (either version)
  • The Apostle
  • Silence
  • Amazing Grace (the story of William Wilberforce)
  • Dead Man Walking
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • Shadowlands
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
Which ones would you add to this list?

About Matthew Thisse

Matthew Thisse is a Jesus follower, single father, associate pastor, and corporate trainer. He is a former Evangelical and a failed fundamentalist.

Leave a Reply

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com