God in Hollywood

This may come as a shock, but I’ll say it anyway: God’s method of speaking is not Hollywood movies.

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Maybe that didn’t shock you. Maybe you think, duh. Why would anyone think that?

But let’s consider what some churches and parachurches and Bible studies and whatever are doing in order to attract people and be more “relevant.” They want to engage people and bring them in to hear what God has to say, which is good. The problem begins when they think the gospel in the Bible isn’t interesting enough to draw people to their church/event, so they decide to use movie clips to illustrate biblical truths and advertise this as a “movie night” or just call themselves “cool” and “hip” and “relevant.”

To be fair, God can and does speak through whatever he wants. He’s not bound to just one method of speaking because he’s God, and he does what he wants. But I think it’s a problem when people try to find spiritual lessons in movies instead of just reading the Bible.

As someone who learned how to write popular fiction and make movies in college, I can say with confidence that 99.9% or more of Hollywood movies are primarily made to make money. That’s it. They don’t want to help your in your life, and they especially don’t care if you learn a spiritual lesson from it. Maybe the script writer or director had noble intentions at the beginning, but by the time you sit in a movie theater or hold a DVD in your hand, you’re looking at a product that’s made only to get your dollars in a studio’s pocket.

Once I was in a discipleship program at a place where I worked where we had to go to a staff service once a week, and our pastor always insisted on showing us 15-30 minute movie clips and then using them to explain a spiritual lesson in a roundabout way. I appreciate what his intent was, and I’m glad he was trying to be relevant or whatever to us college students, but I would have learned a lot more (and, frankly, be a lot less bored) if he had just opened up the Bible and taught from it.

Movies don’t have spiritual lessons. Maybe a plot point can shine a light on something about your life – maybe – but it’s usually stretch. And it especially bothers me when people use them in churches.

There’s probably a rare exception for this, and maybe I’m not being fair about it. But I’m sick of people trying to find “spiritual content” in a movie that’s designed purely to entertain you and get your money.

Perhaps this bothers me so much because it points to a bigger problem in churches and ministries. People want so badly to lead others to Christ, which is good, but they don’t let Christ do the leading. They think it’s up to them, so they start watering down the gospel so they won’t offend people. It’s easier to watch a clip of Les Miserables and say how bad Inspector Javert is rather than pointing to Romans 3:23 and saying to the people in the room that we’re all a hopeless sinners without Christ.

So next time you want to find spiritual content in a movie…why don’t you pick up a Bible, instead?

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