Is a Film Christian if There is No Christ?

ORLANDO, Fla. – What exactly makes a Christian film?

That was one of the questions addressed during two seminars at the National Religious Broadcasters’ (NRB) National Convention, the largest nationally and internationally recognized event dedicated solely to assist those in the field of Christian communications.

The two seminars at this weekend’s annual event also discussed how film is involved in Christianity and how films are supposed to impact society.

The speakers at each of the sessions had fairly opposite takes on what needs to be in a Christian film and whether a film is Christian if it does not talk specifically about Christ.

“I became a Christian, because I heard about Jesus Christ,” explained Dave Christiano, producer of the first ever primetime Christian drama series. “It’s not a Christian film if you don’t have Christ.”

The point of the first seminar speakers - which included Christian filmmakers and twin brothers Dave and Rich Christiano and Facing the Giants director Alex Kendrick - is that movie makers are creating media that is taking out Jesus Christ and replacing him for good morals. It is not good morals that save people, however, but Jesus’ name.

“You have things coming into the church and bookstores that are just making things lukewarm,” said Rich Christiano. “I think God would prefer movies to be either Christ movies or porn movies. Let’s separate them, hot or cold.”

People have criticized overtly “preachy” films in the past, saying that they do not reach a large audience, and that they only target churches who are already Christians.

“People tell me, ‘You’re just preaching to the church,’” Rich noted , “but I’ll say, ‘The choir’s not all saved.’”

The directors also noted the importance of telling people about Christ, even if they do not want to listen. They explained how people have a natural tendency not to want hear about Jesus, but Christian moviemakers have to present it to them anyways. Through that, they can become transformed people and change their hearts.

“Everyone wants God to bless our projects,” explained Kendrick, “[so] should we kick out Jesus in the end? Don’t compromise.”

At the second seminar, Hollywood guru and producer Ralph Winter, who has produced blockbusters such as X-Men and the Fantastic Four, discussed how story telling is a more important focus that can reach people.

“Christian filmmakers don’t know their audience,” explained Winter, who was enlisted by Twentieth Century Fox to improve the quality of its faith-oriented releases. “They rob them of the light that shines in the darkness.”

The Hollywood buff went on to talk about how well written stories have more impact on people. They remember those stories that give them strong emotions, and they allow people to start questioning certain things.

“Christianity is more than G-rated movies,” expounded Winter, who produced the recently-released thriller Thr3e under the FoxFaith banner. “Where’s the sense of mystery in our story telling?”

There are three things that the keynote speaker noted that Christian moviemakers need to be effective. First, they must be master storytellers. Secondly, they must make their works with integrity. Finally, there must be marketability so that the movie can reach an audience.

Through these things, Winter said, Christians can get the culture into a meaningful dialogue and talking about spiritual things. What motivates people is passion.

Both parties did agree that Christian influence in media is a must for the years to come. They disagreed, however, on the extent of that influence.

Kendrick summarized his argument, stating: “If you want to glorify God with your movies, make that the first priority.”