Have you ever seen a movie and then wanted to talk about it with one of your Christian friends? And then you ask them if they’ve seen it and they look uncomfortable? Then they awkwardly tell you they would never see it because they’re Christian, or they’re saved, or they believe Jesus died for more then our love for Hollywood. Or perhaps your friend is nicer, less judgmental and they just say they haven’t seen it, but you know there is more to that story by the way their eyes got big and how they swallowed hard when you asked.
The truth is we are at different points on this Oregon Trail that leads us all to the same saving Jesus. Movies are responsible for creating one of society’s largest melting pots. Think about it… in a way movies transcend age, culture, class, race, even time.
Movies can also be extremely influential. So how do we balance what hits the big screen? How to we label what comes from L.A.? How do we tastefully digest what we get tickets to see?
There are a few different theories pertaining to how we consume the recordings of the camera. Robert K. Johnston organizes the narrative of Christian approaches to cinema in his book Reel Spirituality. Johnston describes:
5 Christian approaches to film:
Avoidance: The boycott mentality. Movies are largely moral stumbling blocks for Christians; frequent movie going inhibits the spiritual impact of a believer. Abstinence is the best policy.
Caution: Christian viewers can watch movies, but the should do so carefully and with great caution and discernment, with evaluative attention focused on the ethical, religious, and moral content of films.
Dialogue: This approach attempts to bring film and theology into a two-way conversation. It emphasizes thoughtful consideration of film and resists snap judgments or dismissals of film based solely on objectionable moral content.
Appropriation: Recognizes that movies can offer insights for the Christian life. More than just being willing to “dialogue,” this approach calls for Christian viewers to be open to encountering spiritual truth through film. Letting a film enlarge our theological understanding.
Divine Encounter: The notion that movies can at times have “a sacramental capacity to provide the viewer an experience of transcendence.” This approach focuses on aesthetic beauty and believes that even if a filmmaker doesn’t intend it to be, a film can be a celebration of grace.
Throughout the years culture has shifted from judging film based of moral criticism to in later years putting more of an emphasis on aesthetic criticism. Time does that. It causes the pendulum to swing from one end of the grandfather clock to another. I think we would be remiss to think we could use one with out the other.
Perhaps moral criticism is more helpful than just counting four letter words in film and perhaps aesthetic criticism would help us see the beauty in film over whether or not the protagonist follows the storyline of Moses or not. The audience of a movie theater should look a lot like the congregation of a church; a melting pot that transcends age, culture, and race.
Whatever your approach to consuming film, may it bring you closer to the living God who loves you.