I’m an avid movie watcher.
It’s not at all unusual for me to quote a line or even play a clip from a meaningful film during a sermon if it helps move a thought forward or at least provokes the imagination “God-ward.”
That is why I have been intrigued, if not baffled, by the number of faith-based films being released in 2014. Have you noticed the trend?
“Son of God,” “Noah,” “Heaven is for Real,” “God’s Not Dead” as well as “Exodus” and “Mary, Mother of Christ” to be released later this year.
Lauded by some. Loathed by others. All of the movies are getting mixed reviews. It depends on who’s holding the popcorn, I suppose.
The one thing possibly more curious to me than the sheer number of these films is the passionate (albeit, predictable) public debate over their accuracy and even efficacy.
Take “Noah,” for example. It’s been amusing to sit back and observe the posturing of critics on both the right and left in anticipation of the film’s release.
Some decried it as blasphemy and refused to see it for a myriad of theological reasons. Others have celebrated and advocated for it as if God were co-director. Or at least key grip.
I plan on seeing it as soon as I can. I’ll see anything with Russell Crowe in it. As long as he doesn’t sing again. I’m still not over what he did to “Les Miserables.”
Whether you cheer or jeer any of the many faith-based films this year – or even see them at all – remember two things:
1.These are movies.
The purpose of most movies, whether stated or not, is to make money and entertain audiences. And pretty much in that order.
This sounds cynical, doesn’t it? But it’s not, really. It’s just what the entertainment industry is supposed to do.
And while there are always some filmmakers who are rare exceptions to the rule, let’s not forget that Hollywood is not a church. It is not driven by the same truth-claims as we are.
Hollywood makes movies. Sometimes, great movies. But that’s what they are. Movies.
2. Movies can inspire our faith, but it is our responsibility to nurture it.
The truth is, both of my boys have expressed an interest in a few of these films. And why wouldn’t they? The trailers look great. So we’ll go to as many of them as possible.
But here’s the catch: We will talk about what we see over dinner, in the car or somewhere else after watching them.
If we see “Noah,” we will read and discuss the story of Noah from the Bible together. That narrative, by the way, is found in Genesis 5:32-10:1.
I will teach them to read for themselves what the Bible says and doesn’t say. They need to know this because it is their responsibility to own their own faith.
Even the movies we see that may not be about the Bible, but appear to be faith-driven, will still require some unpacking, discerning follow-up conversations about the assumptions being presented as faith on the silver screen.
After seeing “God’s Not Dead,” for example, I fully anticipate talking with the boys about the relationship between faith and reason, and how both are required for this journey.
In the end, watching movies and discussing them in light of our faith requires that we do as Paul has instructed in Philippians 2:12. It requires that we responsibly “work out our own salvation in fear and trembling.”
Shaun King is the senior pastor of Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on the John’s Creek blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter: @PastorShaunKing.