Well it’s here. The series that is harder to kill than one of those sexy vampires that are all over the screen these days. So get your INVITE ON! Your friends will be intrigued and maybe even confused, but it’s a great point of connection. The arts especially film and other forms of story telling are meeting places.
Since this is a unique series, let me take a moment and clear up some confusion and maybe answer a few questions.
GOD AT THE MOVIES IS NOT (There are few of these that I should probably mention):
- It’s not a critique of a movie: This is not a “here’s what’s right and here’s what’s wrong with a given movie. There is a place for that. It’s just not what it is.
- It’s not a lightweight series: This is not where we take a break from talking about serious biblical stuff and have a little fun. I’ve noticed over the years that some of these messages have been the MOST theologically laden talks I’ve given. That may say more about me, but that’s for another time.
- It’s not an endorsement of everything in the movie, anything anyone making the movies says or stands for. We look at the movies as a story a piece of art.
- At least right now, it’s not an “all time best or most redemptive movie” series. After the first God at the Movies, we decided that we would only do movies that were more or less current, (have come out in the past year). One of the main reasons is availability.
WHAT’S UP WITH THIS? WHY DO WE DO THIS SERIES?
As I stated about the arts are a meeting place, a place where the imago dei is on display. We believe that art, almost all art displays this image, that every work of art has both the fingerprints of the Image of God AND the tinge of the FALL. A series like this not only gives us a chance to invite people in to a common Imago dei place, it also teach us and exercises us in NOTICING. We notice where God’s story creeps in even unintended or uninvited. One of the cool things that happens every year during and after this series is people suggesting other movies to consider, songs to think about, TV shows where they notice God. This is the art of noticing. But still there are questions.
Having said that, there are a few lingering questions that have come up along the way.
Q: How can you use R-rated movies in church?
A: I get at least one of these every year. I understand the point being made. We have to keep in mind that the choice to use a particular movie is always a judgment call. There is a team of people that work with me in planning out the services. We ask ourselves what the redemptive value of a particular film is. In asking that you also have to think about the negative elements as well. Sometimes a film that has a wonderful redemptive message has enough objectionable elements that cannot use it. Sometimes there are movies that don’t have anything that people would be offended by (rough language, violence, sexual themes and content etc.) but really have nothing to say. Then there are the very tough judgment calls. At that point we pray, discuss and debate. So far, I can honestly say there is not one movie that we have chosen to use that I regret.
Q: But why R-Rated?
A: O.K. let me speak more directly to the rating thing. The people that rate movies are not rating them as redemptive pieces of art. When you simply go by ratings you may expose yourself to messages that are horrible and miss amazing and biblical and beautiful. Since when are a bunch of people that work for the motion picture industry more capable of deciding what you should see than you. One great example of this process was in year one of GMAT. We decided to use “The Shawshank Redemption”. It has some pretty gnarly stuff related to prison life. But is also has a truckload of biblical themes and is one of the most beautiful stories of hope that I’ve seen on screen. The next week I received an anonymous scathing letter about using a movie with that much profanity. Right along side of that I received a card from a woman who had been a Christ-follower three months. Her husband came with her for the first time because that was his favorite movie. He has been coming to Journey ever since.
Q: Are you saying my family and I should watch these movies?
A: NO! We all have different sensibilities. No one is telling you to watch movies that will offend your sensibilities. The website ScreenIt is a good resource that allows you to check out the content before watching. Also, there are things that kids are not ready to see. I wouldn’t show my preadolescent the film Crash, but my college age kids and I loved it and cried watching it.
Hopefully this will get you ready for the series.
Oh, one more warning: if you are going to see the movie do it before the service. We reserve the right to ruin the ending! Pass the popcorn!