Some of my recent conversations about Christian movies have helped me flesh out something.
Often fans of the Christian movie-sermon–a Christian movie that serves as a 1.5-hour sermon illustration–will praise the movie for that aspect. And critics of the genre, such as myself, will say or come across as saying that we dislike movies that act as sermons.
The complaint goes out: “Christian movies shouldn’t be like sermons!”
Actually I believe I disagree.
For now let’s concede that it’s fine if all/most Christian movies–certainly the most popular ones–are like sermons.
But why must the movie-sermons be almost exclusively about shallower and/or spiritual-milky sermons?
When will audiences be naturally and enthusiastically ready to want to see other movie-sermon styles and themes?
Perhaps themes that are not limited to family, or moral practices, or potentially simplistic happy ends?
How about a Christian movie-sermon that shows (more than tells) some strange and incredible aspect of the gospel?
Like the nature of God himself? Like the nature of Jesus Christ today with all its awesomeness? His wrath and mercy, his compassion and discipline, His love and holiness, His divinity and humanity, His infinity and our personal relationship with Him?
But where to find source material?
A filmmaker could broaden his sermon preferences. Find other pastors. Find more-challenging sermons.
How about this excerpt from a sermon by John Piper? This could make for an amazing Christian movie.
Even a Christian movie that acts like a sermon.
This excerpt has everything to qualify for a God-exalting story and fiercely human drama:
- An epic spiritual battle
- Potential for a fantastical edge
- Obvious yet nuanced villains
- Organic international diversity
- Strong words a la Old Testament prophets
- Greed, wealth, prosperity–that lead to ruin
- Broken humanity broken further by suffering
- A potential Jesus-exalting hero who fights pain for his ultimate goal–God Himself.
Here’s the clip and transcript.
I don’t know what you feel about the prosperity gospel–the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel?
But I’ll tell you what I feel about it: hatred.
It is not the gospel. It is being exported from this country to Africa and Asia. Selling a bill of goods to the poorest of the poor! “Believe this message, your pigs won’t die. Your wife won’t have miscarriages. You’ll have rings on your fingers and coats on your back.” That’s comin’ out of America!
The people that ought to be giving our money and our time and our lives, instead selling them a bunch of crap called “gospel.”
And here’s the reason that it is so horrible. When was the last time that any American, African, Asian ever said, “Jesus is all-satisfying because you drove a BMW?”
They’ll say, “Did Jesus give you that?”
“Well I’ll take Jesus!”
That’s idolatry! That’s not the gospel. That’s elevating gifts above Giver.
I’ll tell you what makes Jesus look beautiful.
It’s when you smash your car and your little girl goes flying through the windshield and lands, like dead on the street. And you say, through the deepest possible pain:
“God is enough. God is enough.
“He is good. He will take care of us. He will satisfy us. He will get us through this. He is our treasure.”
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And on Earth there is nothing that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart and my little girl may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
That makes God look glorious, as God, not as giver of cars or safety or health.
Oh how I pray that America would be purged of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, and that the Christian church would be marked by suffering for Christ.
God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him in the midst of loss, not prosperity.
Which leads to the question: If someone did make a movie like this–creatively and professionally–would most Christians want to see it?