Hollywood makes polemical movies all the time. When they’re liberal, everyone says, “Great movie.” When they’re Christian and/or politically conservative, suddenly they’re “preachy.” When a “Christian” movie has bad theology (_Noah_), Christian critics (rightly) complain. When a “Christian” movie has theology, it’s “Bible thumping” or “boring” or “unrealistic.” When a movie has language, sex & violence, Christian critics complain. When it has none of those, it’s too unrealistic or insipid. . . .
Meanwhile, Hollywood has taken its agenda full-steam the past 8 years and has gone beyond brainwashing to using its economic might to strongarm elected officials.
Seeing on the horizon what the late Justice Antonin Scalia predicted last summer, several states have recently drafted legislation trying to back up the First Amendment protection of religion. Bills that say, for example, that ministers cannot be forced to participate in weddings that go against their faith, or that religious organizations cannot be forced to hire people who do not practice their faith, have been cast by the media as “anti-LGBT hate laws,” and the consistent, age old principle that marriage is between a man and a woman for the sake of procreation is now being cast as equivalent to some Christians’ previous justifications of opposing miscegenation and supporting slavery.
So, Disney headlined a list of major corporations that threatened to boycott the entire state of Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal signed its religious freedom bill. Whatever happened to “big business” being supposedly “conservative”? I know people who still cling to the myth that “Republicans are the party of the Rich,” even while Hollywood elites are using their money to pressure elected officials and manipulate the Democratic Primary itself (with those “superdelegates”).
So, speaking of “super” people, while Disney made headlines, Warner was another company behind the threatened boycott. Last month, I bought a restaurant.com deal that came with 2 emovie tickets that expired March 31. I saved them for Easter break. I hoped the opportunity would come up for a “date,” or else I’d planned to see _Batman v. Superman_ and let my wife see whatever she wanted, as we did when the kids were really little. Instead, I decided I didn’t want to see _Dawn of Justice_ in the theatre because I’d rather watch it when I can fast forward or multitask through the violence. I didn’t want to see _Zootopia_ because I don’t want to give Disney any money, and as with most “kids” movie trailers, I was uncomfortable with some of the jokes they highlweighted.
So that left _God’s Not Dead 2″ and “Miracles from Heaven.” Since I’d put it off so long, we had to go together and bring the kids. We also had some fantastic news on a few fronts this week, and a bit of family celebration was in order.
Since we saw the first one, and all the kids enjoyed it and paid attention (which is unusual for them with live action movies that aren’t in the superhero, sci-fi or musical genres), we figured #GodsNotDead2 was “safe.” We’re glad we went, and glad we spent the money on the extra tickets, instead of spending it on Disney.
1) ok, it’s not “high cinema.” It doesn’t pretend to be. It has its place.
2) As Eliot said, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” As a character in _Twin Peaks_ says, voicing David Lynch’s Eliotic formalism, “This is a formica table.” Much of what makes the pilot and first season of _Twin Peaks_ “quirky” and “strange” is that it’s not. I was struck, rewatching the series a few years ago, by a scene where Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman are in the hospital to interview a suspect, and the sheriff tries to adjust a rolling desk chair to his height, and he struggles with it. It’s funny to watch. It disturbs our sense of narrative structure, so we call it weird, but it’s actually *real*. It’s what really happens to real people. People in movies toss ropes across ravines and catch them perfectly. I toss a dog leash across the room to one of my kids, and it falls in the middle between us. If the latter happens in a movie, though, we call it “unrealistic,” and depending upon what amounts to a biased perspective, that may or may not be “artistic.”
So with both _God’s Not Dead_ movies and similar Christian films. They might be unrealistic from a fiction-writer’s or a cynic’s perspective. They might not do the best job of depicting their characters, but they do reflect the real experiences of real people. I read an article yesterday that looked back on the first movie and said it’s unrealistic for a freshman to take on a college professor. *I* did. This movie is about a teacher. I know several educators, myself included, who have had incidents in their careers like what happens in the movie.
So view them as quasi-documentaries of us weirdos who do think our faith should be more than just 1 hour on Sundays and should impact other parts of our lives.
3) Maybe they will attract or convince non-Christians to convert. Maybe they’ll provide fodder for cynical non-Christians to mock or deride Christianity (but so wouldec, for example, an honset adaptation of _Narnia_).
But that’s not the audience.
Sometimes the choir *does* need to be preached to. When we face challenges in the workplace or the classroom, we need to be prepared to give an account of what we believe in.
Action Movies tell us that one guy can take down a group of terrorists, aliens or supervillains. Romantic movies tell us that it’s simple for the guy to get the girl or vice versa. Dinosaurs, zombies, vampires, or people who get superpowers instead of cancer from radiation run amok, and that’s fine. But when a movie tells us that a Christian can stand up and witness his or her faith in public and win the challenge, suddenly that’s escapist and unrealistic.
I appreciate the critique. I appreciate the call for movies that do what the works of O’Connor, Tolkien, etc., do. But we also need the cinematic equivalents of C. S. Lewis and A. J. Cronin. So I don’t get the absolute vitriol directed at this genre by Christian critics, especially the ones whom I otherwise respect.
The goal of the movie is to encourage its intended audience, and I think it achieves that goal. I came out not only strengthened and encouraged but also having learned a few things.
Meanwhile, there’s the wider economic front looming in the culture wars.
Hollywood has now made its complete contempt for Christianity public with this campaign against Christian freedom. We’re told we’re paranoid and backwards and hateful and ignorant and accused of violating every principle of the Inverted Natural Law for saying that bathrooms should be about plumbing, and that having gender-assigned bathrooms and locker rooms is about people’s privacy and safety. If a feminist complains about ogling, she’s speaking out for human rights. If a Christian does so, she’s being outmoded and bigoted.
By pressuring governors not to protect ministers, they’re saying–by implication or even overtly–that they *do* plan to go after ministers and churches directly.
And we want to give these people our money *why*?
If you go to the movies this weekend, see _God’s Not Dead 2_ or _Miracles from Heaven_. Better yet, put the money in the collection basket.