The Resurgence in Theatrical Christian Films Probably Won’t Last

If you’re a fan of faith-based cinema and can’t get enough of movies like Mom’s Night Out and God’s Not Dead, then you’d better enjoy the current and soon-to-be-released offerings while you still can.

Just as the Bible says in 2 Corinthians, “…the things we see now will soon be gone.” (NLT)

Of course, the Scripture is referring to our troubles here on Earth, but I believe the same can be said for faith-based films in theaters. Heck, if we’re brutally honest, a lot of Christian movies are troubling for their sheer lack of quality, so it may not be such a bad thing if they stayed primarily on DVD until filmmakers can deliver better and more competent work to the big screen.

The Ten CommandmentsI’ve been watching a lot of older Bible-based and faith-oriented movies lately, and overall, the quality and storytelling of these films trumps most of what you’ll find in Christian bookstores today.

I’m not just talking about classics like The Ten Commandments or The Robe, either. There were a slew of fantastic titles back in the 1950s and early 1960s that weren’t only centered on the Bible, but there were selections that dealt with faith-based living and the triumphs and struggles that went along with them. A few that come to mind: Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, The Nun’s Story and Elmer Gantry (all of which received critical acclaim).

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, a lot of stories that revolved around Christian characters were so well-written, many of them went on to One Foot In Heavenachieve Academy Award nods for Best Picture. Take, for instance, Boys Town, One Foot in Heaven and How Green was My Valley.

Obviously, you don’t see any movies with faith-based characters receiving critical acclaim or nominations for Best Picture anymore. You could blame that on the changing mentality in Hollywood, but my thought is that there simply aren’t enough skilled writers and filmmakers to produce those sort of movies in this day and age (at least, not from what I’ve seen on the UP and TBN networks).

Also, if you look into the history of previous faith-based releases, you may notice a trend of Christian-themed movies coming out in lengthy spurts. You’ll find there’s an uptick in Christian-related films that lasts for a few years, but then it tapers off and then reignites several years later.

The Passion Of The ChristThe latest spurt seems to have started with The Passion of the Christ, which helped to revive the faith-based genre after a long hiatus. Since The Passion was released, Christian movies have obviously been strong in sales as far as DVDs go, but the uprising of faith-related films hitting theaters is just recently gaining its momentum.

More Bible-based and Christian-themed films are slated for release in theaters relatively soon, including the Left Behind remake and Exodus. But, unless faith-based moviegoers come out in droves to support these films consistently, the faith genre won’t stick around in theaters for long…and then it will inevitably be confined to a lengthy stint on DVD and Netflix.

However, since history does tend to repeat itself, this also means there will eventually be another resurgence in Christian films in theaters. The catch: you may have to wait another 20 years or so before it happens (if Jesus doesn’t come back first).

So, what are your thoughts on more Christian films hitting the big screen? Could it help filmmakers regain the ability to create engaging faith-oriented plots and make Hollywood take notice? Or, will the stereotypes of Christian films being full of preachy predictably and void of intriguing content continue to plague us?

Sound off in the comments section below.

Should Christian Movies Really be Focused on God?

Be honest. When you looked at this headline, your first thought was probably, “What a dumb question. Of course Christian movies should be focused on God. Otherwise, they’d just be regular movies, you idiot.”

Well, just hear me out before you get carried away. Naturally, you’d expect Bible-based films (such as The Passion of the Christ, Son of God and The Ten Commandments) to be focused on God. Their stories are all based on the original source.

Sherwood Pictures LogoI’m talking about ideas that come to Christian filmmakers that they think will give viewers a heaping dose of God’s Word through a modern-day story. (Any of Sherwood Baptist’s movies come to mind, or perhaps God’s Not Dead?)

Granted, many audiences love these movies and dance a little jig as they leave the theater because they thought they were so good. And as you might have guessed, most of these people are Christians. They walk away feeling uplifted because there’s a film that speaks to them and they didn’t have to put up with gobs of unneeded profanity or sexual content.

That’s all well and good, but when you stop to think about it, are these movies really that great? If you took away the Scriptures the characters quote to one another and the “you gotta have faith”-related sound bites and so on, how much of a story is left? Is there enough left to fill half an hour, or even 20 minutes?

On the other hand, if you subtract the parts that don’t feel outright “religious,” how long would the movie be? Long enough to fill a Sunday School lesson or an outright sermon? If that’s the case, couldn’t you just go to church and hear the same thing?

And I know what some of you are saying to your computer screens: “Hey, if you take away God from any story, you’ll have nothing left” and “These movies can reach those who don’t go to church or who have fallen away.”

Alright then, let’s look at it this way. There’s no doubt that a lot of these films are designed to reach the lost. But, how many sinners have you known that were truly saved by being preached to incessantly or by having a Bible shoved in their face? And truthfully, that’s exactly what many of these films do. So, while many Christians enjoy them, many of the lost do not.

The Apostle PosterTo be honest, the most effective faith-based films I’ve seen are the ones that focus more on the characters, but still allow you to see God working in their lives.

One prime example is The Apostle. Yes, the main character is an evangelist and he talks with God constantly and preaches to practically everyone he meets. However, he’s deeply flawed and can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble. He doesn’t always listen to what God is telling him and often satisfies his own selfish desires. And for each action, there’s a consequential reaction. Unlike most Christian films, though, the plot isn’t dumbed down so that it’s explained to us through dialogue – we can see it for ourselves. And you never know where the story is headed, so it keeps you engaged from the first until the final frame.

Sister Act is another example of letting God work without explanation. You’ve probably seen this one: a troubled club singer is forced to join a convent for her own safety. But, while she’s there, God uses her talents to resurrect the nuns’ choir and revitalize the church. You don’t need a sermon to see what’s unfolding, and although the ending is predictable, it’s still an engaging plot.

In both of these movies, the story is focused more on the characters instead of the Lord. We can sense God in what’s happening, but just like in our real lives, He’s letting the charactersSister Act Cover enact their own will and allowing them to learn from their mistakes. Again, the actions speak for themselves without us having to be lectured.

Now, these movies may not be outright responsible for saving thousands of souls, but they stick with you long after you see them, and open the door for discussions with friends and those in the Christian community.

But, here’s the sad thing: neither of these films are available in Christian stores. My guess is because they don’t fit the normal “Christian movie” mold.

So, should typical faith-based films continue to attempt to be a mouthpiece for God? Or, should we let God speak for Himself?

Think about it the next time you’re reading a plot outline for a Christian film on Netflix.

Agree or disagree? Offer your own opinions in the comments section below.

Hollywood May Not Portray Christianity Accurately, But Neither Do Christian Films

According to a recent poll, around 43 percent of Christians feel that Hollywood doesn’t accurately reflect religion. After years of listening to the grumblings of people around me and to hear so many conservative commentators sound off about “anti-religious Hollywood liberals,” I’m surprised the percentage isn’t significantly higher than that.

But, if Hollywood is putting a false spin on religion, then I believe that Christian films are doing the same thing – only on a different level.

Hollywood SignIf you’re like many Christians I’ve encountered, you may be a firm believer that faith-based movies do a fine job of depicting a relationship with God or the Christian lifestyle.

Some of you may say, “Faith-based films are accurate because they remind us of how good God is and they show how He can work in our lives and how He’s in control of everything and these movies are a blessing to all who watch them and I love Sherwood Baptist and Kirk Cameron and I hope they make a Fireproof 2 and there needs to be a 24-hour Christian movie channel that shows a new Christian movie every day and David A.R. White is my hero and Son of God was the best movie since The Passion of the Christ but I didn’t like Noah because it was made by an atheist and it strayed from the Bible and God’s Not Dead should win 10 Academy Awards every year.”

And at least part of the rant is true – faith-based films can reflect God’s hand at work and the impact He has in our lives.

But, in the 100+ Christian movies I’ve seen over the past few years, these inspirational stories almost always show God giving the characters exactly what they want, often times how they want it and, in many cases, at the moment they ask for it.

In essence, God is portrayed as a powerful force…that caters to our every whim.

In reality, God does help us. However, from my experience, it’s usually been on His terms, unless he answers my prayer the way I want it to teach me a lesson on how wrong I can be.

This aspect is never reflected in faith-based cinema.

Think back on any number of Christian films you’ve seen. How many times have you witnessed the typical happy ending, where all of the main character’s (or characters’) prayers are taken care of according to their satisfaction? Did they have even a fraction of the struggles as we do in the real world before any of their prayers were answered?

Of course, the characters are grateful to God for the positive outcome, but what did they really learn other than “I’ll get what I want whenever I want it”?

You know, the Rolling Stones were right when they sang, “You can’t always get what you want – you get what you need.” The truth is, if God always gave us what we wanted, we’d be Old Movie Itemsspoiled and immature, both spiritually and emotionally. We’d be like every person you’ll find on any MTV show (except maybe without the cursing and heavy drinking).

Is that how God wants us: throwing a tantrum or scheming when we don’t get our way? Absolutely not.

Now, that’s not to say that God won’t give us what we want if it will better us as His followers or if He sees that we’ve worked hard for it. I’ve seen this happen, and even experienced it myself.

But, this notion that God is here to grant all our wishes isn’t right. When non-believers see this message and then come to Christ only to find out that a walk with Him isn’t as easy as they were led to believe, they may decide the Christian life isn’t for them and never return.

Plus, from a storytelling standpoint, giving characters what they want without them really having to fight for it or without going through extreme circumstances before their goals are met just makes for dull, one-dimensional writing.

And with the popularity of Christian movies on the rise, this inaccuracy could become a bigger problem.

It’s not just Hollywood that needs to take a second look at how religion is portrayed – it’s all of us.

Is Too Much Publicity Killing “Duck Dynasty’s” Message?

Let’s face it: like them or not, the gang from Duck Dynasty is immensely popular. No one – not Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, William Golden of The Oak Ridge Boys or even Santa Claus himself – has made oversized beards as trendy as these guys.

And with their massively popular TV show, viewers have been exposed to a family of faith, who genuinely love (but have a hard time tolerating) one another.

Each episode ends with a family prayer around a giant dinner table full of enough food to feed a small country. It serves to drive home the point that no matter what they’ve gone through in the episode, the Robertsons are still thankful for each other and for God’s blessings.

Which begs the question: can people be too blessed, at least financially?

Duck Dynasty Animal TailsObviously, the show, books and appearances by the Duck Dynasty crew have changed lives. But, with each new item that comes out, it seems like it’s less about the underlying Message and more about, well, publicity.

Take a look around your local Christian bookstore. Once you get over the shock of how overpriced they are, scan the aisles to see how many Duck Dynasty products are on display.

Take no more than two steps into any Walmart and you’re bound to see an abundance of their items. Whether it’s a new book of Robertson-isms, a new batch of DVDs, rugs, sunglasses, shirts, bobble heads, bandanas, or anything else that’s not actually a duck call, it doesn’t matter. A new Duck Dynasty product will be for sale the next time you walk in – similar to how there’ll be a new Tyler Perry movie out the next time you visit the theater.

For instance, I recently stumbled across an article revealing that in October, Phil Robertson and his son, Alan, are releasing a Bible titled The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible.Duck Dynasty Talking Duck

(If you’re not familiar with Alan, he’s the only one of Phil’s boys who doesn’t have a beard. Not too long ago, he gave up his role as pastor of a church to be on Duck Dynasty.)

So, now these guys have their own Bible coming out? Is it really necessary? Isn’t it enough that they have their own line of dog biscuits?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great when God blesses people who do His will. But it’s really got me thinking: how much of this is actually for the Lord, and if somehow it’s all supposed to bless Him and His followers, how much of its meaning is being lost due to extreme overexposure?

I mean, are we supposed to get a blessing out of an Uncle Si Chia Pet?

Duck Dynasty Duck Fart CandleOn the other hand, eventually we may learn that a good chunk of the profits for these knick-knacks are for a worthwhile ministry that needs help, or the money goes to provide for those who can’t provide for themselves.

In which case, yes, I’ll buy a bundle of Duck Dynasty scented candles and a “Happy Happy Happy” travel mug.

But in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder if my Duck Dynasty paper plates and bearded lollipops are truly making a difference.

Any thoughts? Go ahead and sound off in the comments section below.

“It Takes a Church” to Play Matchmaker

Churches – most of them, anyway – are known for sharing the Gospel, using God’s grace to save the lost and serving others.

At the same time, they’re known to be an interactive part of their congregants’ lives. This can often be helpful, but unfortunately, it can also lead to gossip and meddling, particularly when the wrong people get involved.

This is especially true when it comes to dating and relationships.

So, what better way to kickstart the meddling with a strong possibility of gossip than with a reality show?It Takes a Church Logo

Starting June 5, GSN’s It Takes a Church will visit a different congregation every week in order to find the “perfect” match for single church members. Judging by the previews, it doesn’t look like they’re searching beyond the walls of the building, either.

According to a press release from GSN, the show will feature “one unsuspecting single who has a desire to find a mate” who “is surprised to learn that their church is coming together to help them find love, led by their own Pastor, who speaks to the situation and gives advice on the potential suitors.”

So, as if dating isn’t awkward enough, a person finds out the members of their church have talked to a national television show’s producers and will now be put in a situation where they will pick a person to date.

Yep, this has “meddling” written all over it (although a lot of Christians would call it “love” or “concern”).

Now, suppose the person being set up doesn’t want to go out with any of the people chosen for him or her? What if they take one look at someone picked out for them and they mistakenly burst out laughing or act insulted? What if they cry, realizing they can’t do any better?

Not only could everyone being set up feel like losers, but all of the participants’ families are also apparently involved in this whole thing. So, it’s not only one person possibly getting rejected, it’s their entire family – on national television.

Then, if this ordeal actually does play out in just one church per episode, what do you think will happen once the cameras are shut off after a rejection?

GSN LogoGossip and drama. And that’s just what more churches need.

Of course, there’s the alternative, where everyone lives happily ever after. But then again, how many successful relationships or marriages have you heard of that started on reality TV?

Naturally, GSN has partnered with ChristianMingle.com to help in this matchmaking game. So, you can expect a barrage of ChristianMingle.com tie-ins throughout the entire show, complete with a string of “Find God’s match for you” ads.

Surprisingly, the producers managed to nab Natalie Grant as the program’s host. So, if the episode does totally bomb, maybe she can sing us out to a commercial break…which will be full of ChristianMingle.com ads. [sigh] We just can’t win.

Obviously, GSN is hoping It Takes a Church will ride on the coattails of the wildly popular The Great American Bible Challenge, which is a quality program.

Of course, I could be proven totally wrong and It Takes a Church could be an entertaining and addicting show. I guess I’ll just have to cave in and watch it to find out.

Feel free to check out the previews for it below and judge for yourself.