I wrote a post recently about my love of Horror movies and how they connect deeply with my faith. There aren’t too many other movies that we Christians lose our shit over, more than Horror movies.
Except movies with a bunch of sex. Or violence. Or anything that makes us laugh or cry. Even cartoons aren’t always safe.
This leaves us with slim pickings. Superhero movies are the exception because they save Pastors time and energy having to think of sermons. Why spend time exegetically deciphering Leviticus 28 when you can compare Iron Man to Jesus?
So with the recent release of the movie, Fifty Shades Darker and the upcoming movie depiction of The Shack, I’m sure there won’t be a lot to comment on.
Our instant reaction to anything be it movies, books or music that we’re cautious of, tends to be to criticize it without actually having experienced it ourselves. Famously, many denounced Rob Bell’s Love Wins without reading a single word. To be fair, many criticized it after reading it too but it’s still extremely common for us to close ourselves off to something without giving it a fair go.
This is why when Christians decide to review such things, they can come in for criticism for doing so. Recently both Martin Saunders, the film critic for ChristianToday and Craig Gross, of xxxchurch have both had to endure this for actually paying to see Fifty Shades Darker. Even though both generally came to the same conclusion that it depicted a relationship characterized by “abusive, controlling behavior”; this didn’t stop many having their say. Not so much about the movie itself, but about the fact two prominent Christians paid to see it.
Contrary to this, blogger Tim Challies recently wrote a post detailing why he believed even going to see The Shack would be sinful. Growing up I was under the impression from various sources that we had to be afraid of the world. Anything “of the world” or “secular” was dangerous. Playing football on a Sunday was going to send me straight to Hell.
Thankfully, I had a mum who wasn’t afraid of the world and who encouraged us to explore it and be intrigued by it. There wasn’t a sense that going to a concert of my favorite band was going to turn me into a devil worshipper. I remember when she even tried her best to get my friends and I into the Empire to see Therapy? soundcheck since we were too young to actually go to the gig. Quick Mum brag.
We were too young, but we went anyway and it was awesome.
All that being said, I understood that the world was ok. There were experiences to be had, some that may be frightening, sad, discouraging but also ones which were hopeful, exciting and full of Love.
They’re all part of the deal.
The Bible itself is full of verses and stories about not being afraid.
Yet, fear is the most prominent emotion for many of us. It’s so engrained in our subconscious that we’re blissfully unaware of it.
Fear of the other is a regrettable characteristic for many in the church today. Despite the examples that Jesus set where he constantly and frustratingly for the religious elite, spent time and energy with the very people who were believed to corrupt everything. The very people that were set on the destruction of His faith.
He spent time with Roman Tax collectors, he healed Roman soldiers kids, He rebuked the religious for attacking a prostitute. And, He never went to Church.
When our goal as Christians is to get to Heaven and to avoid anything, be it movies, music, tv etc that could get into our minds and corrupt us, our reactions should not be that surprising. But this is not a life of freedom and is simply another version of legalism.
That’s all very well you may be thinking, but what if this stuff does seep in and change us. This still doesn’t negate the question of why we’re afraid that will happen.
Things like meditation and yoga, which have been taken up by many in the church and have helped develop their spirituality and faith are seen as dangerous. The risk of becoming possessed by something dark is real, we’re told. Yet, what does this tell us about our belief in God and His power? That if we exercise or if we close our eyes and be still, He is powerless to the Devil?
I think most of us would consider this kind of ridiculous. But it’s a belief that is pervasive to many.
The purpose of being “set apart from the world” is not one where we try and shelter ourselves from anything that we decide is harmful. Being set apart means we have an alternative that is better.
If we don’t like the way relationships are portrayed in the Fifty Shades series, we can’t complain unless we’re offering a better way of discussing relationships and sex.
If we’re afraid of how God is depicted in the Shack, we need to ask ourselves why do so many resonate with the view it does portray, and why is the story we’re telling not helping more people find meaning in life, including all the joys and suffering it allows.
Christianity’s view of itself is often that we are on the winning side. But when you are the winner, you don’t need to constantly defend yourself. You don’t need to keep attacking. You don’t need to keep justifying. You’ve won.
If only there were some topical example I could use.
This is why we do not need to be afraid of movies or books or comedy or cartoons or music or anything else. Maybe these things are gifts that allow us to go deep and question the doubts we have about who God is to us. Is he a God that is afraid or one that doesn’t need to cower?
We attack because we feel threatened, not because we are strong. We attack because we doubt, not because we’re sure we’re right. We stop dead at criticizing without offering anything better because we’re not really sure there is anything better.
Only when we’re honest about this are we able to actively engage with the world from a place that desires to offer Hope and Love and something different. Because we’re actually experiencing it ourselves for once.
That is the true message of Christianity. A gift that is not ours to hold onto to solidify party lines or denominational differences or borders, or even to close ourselves off to that which frightens us.
A gift that is only useful when we engage with the world. Not because we want to save it, but because we are it.
So you’re safe. The devil won’t get you.
Until the Love Wins movie comes out that is.