Movies Are Prayers by Josh Larsen, Free for CAPC Members
In Movies Are Prayers, Josh Larsen exemplifies how critical engagement with a film can be an act of neighbor-love.
On Friday, we published a post called “Whatever is Pure” by Alan Noble about Movieguide’s Faith and Values Awards. You’ll want to go ahead and look over that to get the full context.
To our surprise, the first comment was a response from Movieguide themselves, particularly from their editor, Tom Snyder. While we have some issues with the tone of the response, we have decided to publish it in full at the end of this post, in order to give them a sort of equal opportunity.
After reading Tom’s response along with others, we have decided that this issue is one which deserves a more in-depth discussion. It is made up of several foundational issues. What makes a good film? Can a film be both good and immoral or bad and moral? What does Philippians 4:8 really mean, anyway?
Over the next week or so (following our regularly scheduled podcast on Monday), Christ and Pop Culture will publish a series of posts by various writers that address some of these questions. Our aim is that the series will end with an email interview with Movieguide themselves. We have yet to approach them, but Tom’s comment below implies that they are willing to discuss these issues with us.
We aren’t out to get Movieguide, hopefully in the same way Movieguide isn’t out to get us. Instead, we just want to cultivate a good discussion about Christians and their relationship to film.
Stay tuned, and for now, here’s that response we were talking about:
Alan Noble’s biblical exegesis here is poor, and he did not really look at MOVIEGUIDE®’s Annual Report, or our awards lists, fairly, carefully or even very intelligently.
Regarding his Old testament verses, Jesus Christ has overcome the world and our duty is to preach the Great Commission and transform the world (we are ecumenical Evangelical Bible-believing Christians at MOVIEGUIDE®, so we do not buy into the doom and gloom approach of Dispensationalism, which is a controversial end-times construct that is a very recent addition to Christian theology with disputable, highly dubious connections to the apocalyptic prophecies actually recorded in the biblical documents).
Secondly, MOVIEGUIDE® looks at family movies and movies for mature audiences. Just because the secular movie critics and secular elites in Hollywood don’t like some of the movies we pick does not mean that they are really bad movies within the categories in which we pick them. In that sense, ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS was a very entertaining, uplifting family movie that kids would enjoy. The mainstream critics trashed it, but the American audience, many of whom still have strong vestiges of their Christian heritage, even though not all of them may understand essential Christian doctrines like the sinlessness of Christ and the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, not by works, seemed to like the movie very much. Furthermore, ALVIN is not one of the movies with “very strong Christian, redemptive worldviews,” so its box office is not included in our charts showing that movies with very strong Christian worldviews like SPIDER-MAN 3, AMAZING GRACE, I AM LEGEND, BEYOND THE GATES, THE ULTIMATE GIFT, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, SEPTEMBER DAWN, THE LAST SIN EATER, and NANCY DREW averaged the best box office of all dominant worldviews, and did three times better than movies with very strong immoral, non-Christian or Anti-Christian and Anti-Biblical worldviews. The same is true if you just look at content and not just the dominant worldview of a movie. Here, in these stats, we are not only judging production and aesthetic quality plus entertainment values, but actual content and worldview. Thus, SEPTEMBER DAWN, THE LAST SIN EATER and BEYOND THE GATES did not make the cut of the Top 20 movies for families or mature audiences, which is content driven and age appropriate driven first, then quality second (for instance, I am personally not a fan of BELLA quality wise and thought other movies made similar points in a more compelling fashion and believe that LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD was more entertaining and aesthetically pleasing than TRANSFORMERS and PRIDE, but I do not look at most of the movies a second and third time on DVD as Dr. Baehr does).
Thirdly, Alan is contradictory. He uses Old Testament verses to trash the world, but then talks about Paul’s admonition to pursue excellence as if we are judging by the world’s standards of “excellent” movies like THERE WILL BE BLOOD, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, JUNO, MICHAEL CLAYTON, THE KITE RUNNER, ATONEMENT, THE SAVAGES, THE ASASASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, etc. Well, I am not impressed with either of the first two movies mentioned. And, we thought JUNO was a little choppy and not fully credible (the lead character was a bit too precocious for her age) but JUNO is, admittedly, a borderline case that could have been rated four stars and put near the bottom of the top ten for mature audiences. All these other acclaimed movies mentioned we rated four stars though each had some problematic negative content and worldviews.
Finally, Alan never talked with Ted or I to find out the various pros and cons of our selections, much less about all the content and quality factors we consider when we write and edit, and mull over, our reviews and our Annual Report. If he had looked at the Report and talked with Ted and I, he would not have embarrassed himself with such a sloppy, pseudo-intellectual column with so much poor biblical exegesis.
Tom Snyder, Editor
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