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When Hollywood gets God and virtue right

Actors Chris Evans (R) and Sebastian Stan (3rd R) pose for photographs with a man dressed as Captain America on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 1, 2014.
Actors Chris Evans (R) and Sebastian Stan (3rd R) pose for photographs with a man dressed as Captain America on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange April 1, 2014. | (Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

Imagine if there were a fun way to raise your kid’s interest in God while imparting some of the most important virtues every Christian parent wants their children to learn. There is. You can use an unlikely source that will help you get your point across without you sounding all “preachy.”     

Pollster George Barna found that young people get their theology more from movies than the pulpit.  So why not use the power of Hollywood to give them good theology where you can? Stories inspire and instruct more vividly than commands, which is one reason why Jesus not only gave commands but also told stories.  

Yes, I know. Unlike Jesus, Hollywood’s stories often glorify much that is immoral. But Hollywood’s most successful movies often tell inspiring stories of sacrifice that borrow from the greatest story ever told. These movies also provide biblical life lessons, even movies not made by believers.   

Here are a few kid-friendly examples. 

If you want your kids to have the courage to stand for the truth even when the world is against them, watch any movie with Captain America. Steve Rogers (a.ka. Captain America) is the poster child for what we look for in a hero. He’s the leader of the Avengers despite clearly being outclassed in power by most of the other heroes on the team. His most important trait is that he is morally incorruptible — a trait he had even when he was just a scrawny kid who was too small to enlist in the Army in World War II.  Once his mind is made up about what the right thing to do is, nothing will stop him. The guy is even willing to fight the evil supervillain Thanos and his entire army in Avengers: Endgame BY HIMSELF.

If you have kids who tend to impulsively follow their hearts, look at the moral progression of Iron Man. He starts off as a selfish playboy but is transformed into a hero who eventually sacrifices himself to save the world. Tony’s transformation requires him to stop impulsively following his heart, as the culture promotes, and to start guarding his heart as the Bible commands (Pr. 4:23). This is beautifully illustrated by the device implanted in Tony’s chest that is literally guarding his heart from encroaching shrapnel. When Tony guards his heart from distractions and his own selfish desires, he can focus on what’s really important — the responsibilities he has to others.    

If your child isn’t the most popular or strongest kid in school, watch TheLord of the Rings. The heroes of Tolkien’s Fantasy Masterpiece are those who are weakest physically but the strongest morally. Sam and Frodo are three-foot hobbits who are dwarfed by everyone else. But weakness turns out to be a strength for them because it gives them the humility to ask for help. Tolkien is highlighting the biblical truth that when you are weak you are strong because when you are weak you rely on God for help (2 Cor. 12:10). Of course, Tolkien intended for The Lord of the Rings series to present a Christian worldview  — including the fact that there is a God who often works behind the scenes — so watching the series will be rich theologically and morally in many other ways as well.

If you want your kids to see the beauty of grace, watch Wonder Woman. In her first feature-length movie, Wonder Woman spares an evil war criminal who is kneeling in repentance even though she is being egged on to kill this war criminal by her opponent Ares who wants to kill everyone because he thinks human beings do too much evil. Ares screams at Wonder Woman that people “don’t deserve your protection!”

But Wonder Woman responds, “It’s not about deserve; it's about what you believe. And I believe in love.”

That reflects what God believes and did for us. God loves so much that He sent His only son to take our punishment so when we believe in Jesus we will not get what we deserve — we will not get paid back for the evil we’ve done — we will get grace, love, and eternal life. 

It’s not just the movie franchises of Captain America, Iron Man, The Lord of the Rings, and Wonder Womanthat can help parents reinforce Christian truths and virtues. So do other franchises such as Star Wars, Superman,Batman,andothersas we show in our new book Hollywood Heroes:  How Your Favorite Movies Reveal God.    

Your kids are probably watching those movies anyway (if not, they are hearing about them from their friends or online). So why not use the aspects of these films that convey truth and virtue to reinforce those things in your kids?  Knowing these movies will also give them launch points to direct their friends toward Christ. Knowing them can help you do the same with your friends. And the best thing about all of this is that having movie night is often a lot more fun and effective than getting all “preachy.”

Dr. Frank Turek is the President of and co-author of the new book, Hollywood Heroes:  How Your Favorite Movies Reveal God.

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