Monday, February 4, 2008

The Hollywood Emergent

Back when I was in late high school and early college, I decided I wanted to make movies for a living. Or maybe TV shows. Or work in radio. Something telecommunications-related, at the very least. What did I know, I was just a teenager.

But whatever it was that I would be crafting, it would be something decidedly Christian.

Telling someone that you are going to make movies is one thing. Telling someone that you are going to make Christian movies is something entirely different. It's more likely that you'll get some snickers. And maybe a well-timed Kirk Cameron joke.

The problem with "Christian" movies is that, of course, a piece of film can't really be "Christian." It's kind of like that other mass-market misnomer, Christian Music. A G-D-Em-C chord progression is neither Christian nor secular. Someone might write a song with lyrics that speak of Jesus, and we might even sing hymns or worship God with our voices. But a song, like a movie or a painting or a sculpture or a piece of toast, cannot really be "Christian."

Ah, see, but the artist, the creator of that movie or song or painting? Of course, *that* might be a Christian. Or it might not.

Most of us know that what is being passed off as Christian film these days is generally pretty much crap. Granted, there exists a bigger market for that type of thing than ever before, and the movies are probably much better-made than they were 30 years ago. But still, come on, let's be honest.

Crap. Direct-to-video crap.

And a lot of what has come from the "Christian" production companies in the past decade have just been rip-offs of more recent blockbuster successes. A lot of apocalypic thrillers or Bible-as-a-code dramas that either seriously lack any mention of Jesus, or present a false gospel altogether.

But what do I know. I don't really watch any of it. When I get together to watch movies with guys, we end up watching Fight Club or Shoot 'Em Up or films about mutated zombie sheep.

What I have noticed, however, is that there are a ton of mainstream (or independent) films that present perfect opportunities to discuss Jesus and/or Biblical themes. And I'm not just talking about The Passion. I'm talking about The Matrix, and its obvious Messiah themes. I'm talking about The Simple Plan and its overt discussion of materialism and how it affects our real-world relationships. Or Frailty and how we discern "voices from God."

How about something even more direct, like The Apostle? Or The Last Temptation of Christ?

The running joke about the "Emergent label" is that everything is a "conversation." It's about living missionally, baby! And to an extent, this is true. Opportunities for Biblical conversation abound in everyday life. Yet sometimes we miss it. Instead of looking to create relationships and have a conversation about life and Jesus and God's creation, we sometimes think it's too much work. Wouldn't it be easier to just invite them to church?

Anyway, I'm in my 30s now, so my chances of moving to Hollywood to make movies is pretty slim. The opportunity passed me by.

But yet, everyday, there's an opportunity for topical discussion in even the silliest of films.

What films have YOU seen lately that are heavy on the symbolism? What movies do you think inspire The Conversation?


soebeck said...

The Simple Plan and I Am Legend inspired me to think about Jesus. They were both movies that artistically put flesh on the principles of the Way.

Big Doofus said...

What's the deal with all of the emerging church labels on so many of these posts? I'm still not sure what "The Conversation" is.

Artists should be the very best artists they can be. If they are believers, it makes sense that their world view will be reflected somehow. Putting the label "Christian" on music or movies is just a silly as calling my field of work "Christian Marketing" or "Christian Public Relations."

I think just about ANY movie or television show can be used to start a discussion (or is it "The Discussion") about faith. Personally, I find that the newer Star Trek shows (The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise) get me thinking.

Joe B said...

I've sometimes wondered whether tehere are any litereary themes NOT in the bible. Or if all experience common to man folows te contours of scripture.

Hmmm...(rubs goateed chin)

Big Doofus said...

So, I was listening to one of your "emerging" fellas the other day--Eric Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church--and I really liked one of the things he said. "The church needs to take back the arts." (or something like that)

It's not about Christian-rock or Christian-films or anything like that. It's about being a real artist and letting your faith shine through in everything you do.

scott said...

I'm going to assume you mean Rob Bell rather than Eric Bell, unless Rob has a cousin or something I don't know about. Reading Rob's book "Velvet Elvis" a couple of years ago actually really changed my outlook on a lot of things. Great book... Even if the other guys here got tired of hearing about it.

The "Christian" label on everything is something that has driven me nuts over the past 10 years. What other musical genre gets categorized by its lyrical content rather than the tone and tempo of its music?

I wonder if this is a Christian blog...