Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Christian Films: If You Can't Fight, Go Home

Now that I've read this article by Randall Colburn, I'm burning inside. I need to respond.

I'm a Christian. But first, my deepest thanks to Randall Colburn for this glimpse into the secular perspective. If a Christian reads this - especially a Christian in film - please go read Colburn's article now. Then come back and read this. For years I've been silent on this subject, in the vain hope that reactions like this wouldn't come. Now they have, and I want to address everyone involved.

To the Christians:

This is war. It's spiritual war, against cosmic powers (Eph 6:12). It's Dr. Tackett's "Cosmic Battle" between truth and lies, the conflict of worldviews at the foundation of reality. It's Jesus' stated reason for incarnating (Jn 18:37), and it rages hottest where it rages hidden - like in entertainment media. Real souls are being won and lost when we make films. If you know this, why aren't you taking it seriously? If you can't fight, go home.

God's Not Dead came out in my sixth year of misery in secular college, and I can tell you there's no reality to it. First, "God is dead" is not a worldview claim, it's a rhetorical device. And it doesn't pertain to popular atheism. Second, no professor would ever initiate a worldview confrontation. Their trouble is exactly the opposite: they're postmodern pluralists who value peaceful silence, leaving Christians no opportunity to speak. Jesus is the one who offends (Mt 11:6; Lk 20:17-18; Jn 6:60-61; Jn 14:6; Rom 9:33), not atheists. Their shocking kindness is the worst of it.

So from beginning to end this movie is nonsense. But then it shows its atheist antagonist get hit by a car, and accept Jesus as he lies dying in the street. ... Really? This is infantile and petty. You brought your thumb-sucking spite to a blood-soaked battlefield. Go home. This is not how you reach lost people. This is not how you reclaim culture. This is how you make us look like monkeys, so stop it and grow up. You wanna fight this war? You need two things: discernment and craft. If you don't have these, you're more helpful butting out and leaving it to those who do.

Discernment allows you to see the battle. It's "not against flesh and blood" (Eph 6:12), remember? Without discernment, it's invisible and you're fighting blind. It's about perceiving good and evil, truth and lies, reality and fiction. It's about separating them and keeping fiction in its place. It's about portraying truth in the subtext of a story, not the text. You're creating artwork, not a sermon - and certainly not reality! That's what makes entertainment powerful, because you get to preach to people who would never sit before a pulpit. So you have to code your truth into the special, built-in payload of narrative art. Nothing should show on the surface but art. Which brings us to ...

Craft. This is almost just as important as discernment, because the viewers of the world are actually extremely savvy connoisseurs. Not only does craft buy your audience, but it buys their ears and hearts too. It's the bread and butter of the battle, and competition's stiff. The world is full of talented unbelievers. If you're outmatched, you're outmatched; hone it or hang it. Trying in vain is more embarrassing than letting them win.

Why? Because God can't be eternally defamed. If we're losing the culture, did you ever consider the shocking, unthinkable, sacrilegious possibility ... that God isn't failing his military goals? Listen to your captain, soldier! Don't panic and improvise your own strategy! That's the worst thing you can do. God will have the last word someday (Php 2:9-11). Trust me.

To Randall Colburn and the World:

Yes, I said war. Conflict at the foundation of reality. It's a vast, yawning chasm running through all time, bisecting all humanity - just like you complained of Miracles From Heaven doing. You used some Scripture, but might have missed the part where Jesus also draws this separation (Matthew 25:31-46). You can't escape it. There's no fence to sit. And there's no uniting sides.

Saying "ambiguity" is a "hallmark of great cinema" is an overextrapolation. It's a hallmark of the secular experience, and the antithesis of the true Christian experience. Yes, doubt and inconsistency can be a "beautiful and relatable" part of it, but not if that's the destination. That's not Christianity (John 8:32). Despite the climate of postmodernism, Christianity is true, and we will not apologize for asserting our beliefs "with ironclad conviction."

So you see, all this time that you thought Hollywood was being sympathetic and inclusive, it was alienating and trampling us. Yes, every indecent sex scene and every compromise on Scriptural authority is a slap in our faces (kudos on the use of Matthew 5:28). If you think not every movie ever filmed is "propaganda," then you're wrong. Good propaganda doesn't look like propaganda. But we feel it. It woke the sleeping beast of foolish, IQ-100 Christians (I'm sorry to say), and now they're mobbing. To what bitter end, I dare not guess.

But while there is day, I plead with you: don't base your opinion of the Christ on everyone who claims his name (Matthew 7:21-23).

[Edit 2018/09/10] See Also:

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