Over the last year I’ve taken two courses on “theology and film”. I did so because these two subjects are some of my favorite things in the world. I love studying theology and learning and talking about God in new ways. I also spend a LOT of time watching movies , talking about movies, reading about movies, etc. If you want to be my best friend, your best chance is to have similar theological convictions and movie tastes as me.
What I’m interested in, really, is where those two subjects converge; the ways that theology informs film and that films inform theology. Film is the youngest of the arts, and yet it is the most popular. People go to the movies in droves, and I’m coming to believe that it’s more than just escapism. People go to movies the same reason people used to go to church: to be a part of and experience a story bigger than themselves. And the sad reality is that for a long time, the church in America wasn’t telling a story worth engaging. But I do believe that the true Christian story, the whole, is the best story ever we could ever tell or hear or enter into.
All movies tell a story, and beneath every telling are inherent beliefs, truths (or untruths) that are often implicit to the reality presented on the screen. And these are the stories that our world shares, talks about, and interacts with.
A book I read says it this way: our world is having theological and philosophical conversations at the cinema instead of the church, and Christians are rarely present, or even invited.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, mostly because I can’t think of anything to say. I don’t have “aha!” moments all that often. I don’t preach very often, so I can’t really post sermons. So, the direction I would like this blog to take for now is a dialogue between theology and film, especially entering the summer movie season.
A couple notes: these movies will not be inherently “Christian” movies. Most will not have explicitly Christian themes, and some of them may never say the word “God” in them short of an expletive. But finding God in the secular is an important practice, and a biblical one for that matter.
Secondly, it should be noted that some of the movies I will review may be rated R (maybe even NC-17). To say it bluntly, I believe in the power of God to speak through films that contain language, violence, sexuality, etc. But different people have different levels of tolerance for such things and I respect that, so please take any movie recommendations with a grain of salt. Just because I think that the movie Gran Torino can teach us a lot about atonement theory doesn’t mean you should gather the kiddos around the tv for it. Similar things could be said about bible texts like Song of Solomon.
This is going to be fun. I look forward to the comments and discussions that this will bring out moreso than my other blog entries. I’ve been thinking over the last couple weeks that if I could invent the position of “Pastor of Cultural Engagement”, I might be uniquely qualified to do it… We may be a long way from churches having such a position, but I honestly think it’s the direction we’re heading in, or at least ought to.
If anyone has any movie suggestions, I’d be open to suggestions. As it is, I’ll probably hit the big summer movies as they come along and any older movies that catch my eye in between. I may even do some television or music eventually. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Look for my first “theology and film” post this week on “the Avengers”.