[su_note note_color=”#d5d5d5″ text_color=”#91201f”]The following is the Letter from the Editor for Volume 3, Issue 11 of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine: “Transformation through Film.” You can subscribe to Christ and Pop Culture Magazine by becoming a member and you’ll receive a host of other benefits as well.[/su_note]

The silver screen has long held our eyes and hearts, projecting characters and stories that pull us into another world for a little while. Movies are often turned to for entertainment and escape, which may explain why Christians have been uncertain how to handle this medium.

Questions follow along these lines: If you have a few hours with nothing in particular to do, is it wise to spend that time in a movie theater? And if it is an acceptable use of time, what sort of film should a Christian choose to watch? Will a regular intake of movies desensitize our hearts and cause us to slip spiritually?

These questions have no easy answers. Some Christians have turned to a strict no-participation rule. Others limit their exposure to movies with a particular viewer rating. Many of us land somewhere in the middle, deciding what to watch based on the film’s redemptive qualities.

In this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine, we offer thoughtful analysis and reflection upon movies, movie watching, and the way films can be a powerful transformative force in society and in our lives. Blaine Grimes provides an excellent case for the usefulness of watching silver-screen stories. In his article, “Irrigating Deserts: How Film Transforms and Causes Us to Love our Neighbor,” Grimes explains:

“When we watch films, in other words, we are temporarily displaced from our own reality in order to participate in another world, which itself bears resemblance to our life—no matter how imaginative and fanciful, and in turn we are better equipped to confront reality at the end of the film. And this occurs as the film’s form and content create, remove, and shift our affections and engage our imagination.”

According to Grimes, movies are stories that tell us deeper truths about life and even our own circumstances. Movies may give us a break from our own hardships, but the suspension allows for a deeper story to enter in and change us. When we return to our reality, we find that even if it hasn’t changed, we have—and that changes everything.

Films offer us a new perspective and tap into our longing for a world that is no longer marred and broken. For the Christian, this hope is an echo of God’s promises for redemption. The stories told on screen often mirror this longing and promise, although rarely with an overt Christian message. However, any story built upon the plot line of hope and promise finds its root in God’s story—the greatest Story ever told. Eric Marcy speaks to this in his feature titled “An Unlikely Knight of Faith: Roy Neary’s Religious Journey in Close Encounters of the Third Kind”:

“Roy’s journey [in Close Encounters] is one of desire and longing for a better world, a more perfect existence, one that is only fully realized at the communion with the Mothership at the foot of the mountain, which features men, women, children, and aliens of all races, tribes, and creeds. It is an encounter that, oddly enough, echoes the nature of film-going as well and holds out hope that film, in inviting us to participate in its own narrative journeys, can help transform us, leading us to pursue that which is both beautiful and unifying.”

I have found this to be true of my movie-watching pursuits: I am changed and recharged by taking them in. A good story from a movie can transform me, reminding me of the plot line that inspires all others, the one written by God in the Story that has been unfolding throughout all generations. Seeing a story unfold on screen reminds me that all stories are complicated and unpredictable—but there is always hope.

We trust all the articles collected for this issue will speak of the potential films have, through larger-than-life on-screen stories, to transform us all.

—Erin Straza

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out his graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.