Summer is here, which means we are facing a barrage of summer movies. Many see it as a chance to sit back and indulge in a little harmless escapism.
However, for some - including Christians - the movie season raises what I think are serious questions: Which movies ought we to see, and why? And how should we interpret them? After all, Scripture teaches that we ought to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.
Many would think that I'm overanalyzing the issue, that a movie is simply a chance for a good laugh or a good cry. It's easy to think that way, but it's wrong.
In his must-read book HOLLYWOOD WORLDVIEWS, Brian Godawa reminds us of a simple fact: What we see influences how we think. That holds true not just for what we read, but also what we see on the screen.
Godawa explains, "There is no such thing as a neutral story in which events and characters are presented objectively apart f rom interpretation. Every choice an author makes, f rom what kinds of characters she creates to which events she includes, is determined by the author's worldview. . . . And the worldview or philosophy of a film is conveyed much in the same way as stories of old would convey the values and beliefs of ancient societies - through dramatic incarnation of those values. In a sense," he writes, "movies are the new myths of American culture."
This is evident to anybody paying attention. Take a recent example: the remake of THE OMEN, the horror film about a child who turns out to be the Antichrist. WASHINGTON POST critic Stephen Hunter points out an "unsettling, disturbing aspect of [both versions of] 'The Omen,' which is in itself a cautionary warning of the power of film to manipulate." He writes that "as the movie rushes toward its finish, it subverts the audience into mobhood; it makes us no longer human. It makes us yearn to break our deepest moral code, and harm a child."
Then there's the infamous example of THE DA VINCI CODE. Many thought Christians were downright crazy for arguing against the film, since it was just "a work of fiction." What they didn't consider were all the people who came out saying, "I didn't know Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married!" or "I didn't know Jesus wasn't considered divine until the Church took a vote!" Fiction, especially when allegedly based on truth, has a powerful effect on both the mind and the imagination.
So how do we counteract the negative lessons that entertainment can teach? One way is to support positive entertainment and learn to critique the stuff that is not positive. I invite you to visit our website at www.breakpoint.org (http://www.breakpoint.org) or call us here at 1-877-322-5527. We'd like to send you an updated collection of movies we believe Christians ought to be watching. These are movies that not only entertain, but also help you think through your Christian worldview. Watch them with your non-Christian friends and neighbors and discuss what you've seen.
And be sure also to pick up a copy of Brian Godawa's book HOLLYWOOD WORLDVIEWS. All this may make your filmgoing experience seem like more effort than you ever anticipated - but it'll also make it a rewarding and redemptive experience.
F rom BreakPoint®, June 20, 2006, Copyright 2006, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. BreakPoint® and Prison Fellowship Ministries® are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.