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HOLLYWOOD JESUS NEWSLETTER #16
Thursday July 27, 2000
Greetings from David Bruce, web master

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Contents:
MOVIES ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL WORLD DO WELL
1. Why are 'What Lies Beneath' and 'Scary Movie' doing so well?
2. Movies about Things Spiritual do well
3. Movie houses are full and churches are not.
4. A review of "What Lies Beneath" (click to go, review not on this page)

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1. Why are 'What Lies Beneath' and 'Scary Movie' doing so well?

There really is something going on in our culture. Movies that deal with Things Spiritual are attracting big audiences. There are two current films that underscore this fascination. 'What Lies Beneath' and 'Scary Movie.'

Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford in the spiritually provocative and frightening What Lies Beneath came in at the number 1 box office spot with over $30 million on its opening weekend . This is incredible.

And believe it or not, 'The Perfect Storm' by its 4th week fell below the low budget not-so 'Scary Movie'! 'Scary Movie' is a spoof on spiritually-oriented films like 'Sixth Sense' and 'Blair Witch Project'. By it's third week it had grossed $116 million (compare this to 'The Patriot' at 92 million in it's 4th week).

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2. Movies about Things Spiritual do well.

Actually, this box office interest in Things Spiritual is a universal trend happening all over the world. For example, in 1999 'Sixth Sense' grossed an astonishing $293,501,675 world wide. Second only to 'Star Wars Episode I' ($431,065,444), which many consider a profoundly mythical and spiritual tale. Another spiritually provocative film 'The Matrix' came in at 5th place with a very respectable $171,383,253. This year in the DVD format it held the #1 sells position for weeks and the miraculous 'Green Mile' was been a video store rental sensation.

So it is little wonder that 'What Lies Beneath' opened to such a big box-office. And that, 'Scary Movie,' despite the bad reviews, poor script, and gross content, has done so well. Youth love scary films with a spiritual dimension.

Did I say "youth?" Did you see all of those kids lined up by the thousands to watch the magical spiritual Pokemon 2000? It opened with over $19 million in the #3 position. And this was at the discounted children's ticket price!

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3. Movie houses are full and churches are not.
ARE CHURCHES MISSING SOMETHING?

This past Sunday morning I drove passed a number of churches with near empty parking lots and then later that afternoon I passed a cineplex with a packed parking lot. More people saw a movie last Sunday than went to church. What are the churches missing here that Hollywood is exploiting for hugh profit?

By the way, I did not notice any church sign that mentioned Jesus, spirituality, miracles, new birth, hell, heaven, or any other Spiritual Thing.

One church I drove by was called "The Family Life Center" and their sign announced a message entitled: "How to Make Your Marriage Work." Hmmm. I was wondering why this church avoided a name such as "The Christ Life Center" and a message entitled "How Your Spiritual Gifts Work"?

I tend think that too many churches have replaced Jesus with a sort of pop psychology that is couched in a Family centered (not Christ centered) perspective.

And with that last paragraph I suppose I'll will get a dozen cancellations to the HJ newsletter. Oh well...! But I speak truth here. In the midst of this great cultural spiritual curiosity you would expect the churches to be benefiting. But they are not. Leonard Sweet in his book Soul Tsunami says God is hot everywhere, except in the church.

As I am writing these words, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. (NYSE: MGM) today reported its fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year profitability. Revenues for the quarter were up 39% to $295.4 million. You might wonder, what movies are currently in the works to maintain such profitability? Well, here are some titles:
'Original Sin' with Angelina Jolie and Antonio Banderas.
'Hannibal' starring Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore.
'Windtalkers' starring Nicholas Cage and directed by John Woo.
'Ghost World' based on the cult comic strip with Thora Birch

So, MGM names a movie 'Original Sin' and churches seem to avoid such language and topics.

What is going on?

I would like your feed back on this matter:
Click here:
mailto: Newsletter16_E-mail

I will post all comments on this page. Bookmark and return.

BULLETIN BOARD

HOLD HOLD HOLD
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2000
From: Jeannie

Sir, It is because of your honesty...I enjoy reading your page. I personally believe we are moving into a time period we christians have all read about and said was coming. Now that it is here, I believe there is a sense of fear among believers that the words of God Word are not just words anymore but are a reality, whether we are ready or not. There is no turning back. Labor pains, spiritually we are having labor pains, it is seen in our culture as you say. Sometimes my only comfort is knowing that Jesus is raising up believers and training them in the true spiritual sense of warfare...He is just saying, HOLD, HOLD, HOLD...(just like in Braveheart). What you sense is true, we must pray and train and that is what you are helping us do. Our Lord of Armies would not send us to battle without training and plenty of warning. You have an awesome job. I thank you for being obedient to our Lord.
With all His Love, Jeannie
P.S. I loved the book Soul Tsunami

ON CHURCH AND ENTERTAINMENT
Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2000
From: Rev S S J

Yes, I agree that some churches are no longer focused on God, but have become centered on "family values" rather than "faith values." But do you know which churches have full parking lots? The ones which entertain people--with upbeat loud music and a message that tells people that they are okay--that everyone else is messed up. Isn't that what movies do also? People go to the movies to be entertained, not to have their spiritual life improved.

NOT SO MYSTERIOUS
Subject: Comments on newsletter
Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2000
From: Nick

Hello. Allow me to play Devil's simpleton. The reason why "Scary Movie" has been so successful is because the previews show it being funny, and word-of-mouth says that there's more raucus bits behind the previews. The fact that Scary Movie parodies horror films (what you term spiritual) is incidental.

The reason why "What Lies Beneath" has been so successful is the Hitchcockian premise with big budget stars and a good director, in a field with no other thrillers of this sort resides. The preview was also effective and eerie, and Michelle Pfieffer drew a big women's market. This film has a spiritual undertone, but plays it for chills. Like the former has a spiritual undertone, but plays it for gross-out humor. (Response: Actually the two big stars did not do well in their previous movies and this is why the movie posters for What Lies Beaneth did not feature their pictures. The studio played to the mysterious -David).

Suppose a church goes through its service plan but plays it for chills. Or gross-out humor. It goes without saying that it just wouldn't work (remember I'm playing simpleton here). Further, and this is the real point, people go to the film, but don't expect to greet the strangers around them, aren't expected to be challenged, aren't expected to participate in some foreign way. People can be intimidated by churches with a structure that can different from their upbringing. But with cinema, you pay for your ticket, you have the option of popcorn and soda, and you sit and watch.

You say people are flocking to the movies because of the lure of mystery. I couldn't disagree more. (Response: Actually my point is the explotation of "spirituality" by Hollywood and the lack of it in many churches -David). There's nothing mysterious about that routine. There's something far more mysterious in the goings on in church, like at a baptism, or at communion, or at an altar call, than at a multiplex. (Response: You are right about this!) Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast. Therefore let us keep the mystery in church, and not reduce it to the entertainment level of a thriller or comedy. THEREFORE, let us somehow use cinema to draw attention to the deeper mysteries. As you at HollywoodJesus have done so well.
Nick.

SECULAR MOVIES TO REVIVE A FLESHY CHURCH
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2000
From: Gabriel A Justus

Hey David! Man, what you said about lack of spirituality in the Church is right on! Don't worry about me cancelling!! That kind of hard ball review is what a flesh filled and religion entangled church needs to hear! What ever happened to the relationship with a supernatural God? I think we've replaced it with an organized series of ethical and moral behaviors and caged our perception of God from omnipotent "I AM" to a mediocre "I wish I were". Nobody has it all together in their walk with God, but it doesn't take a doctor of theology to see these things. We say we believe that God can do anything, but I wonder if we really expect Him to back it up by revolutionizing our lives? I wouldn't put it past our God to use secular movie media to revive a fleshy Church. He certainly could if it was what He willed! Stay Strong! Gabriel Justus (16)

I WOULD NOT BE A CHRISTIAN IF IT WEREN'T FOR JESUS
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2000
From: Amy

Just read your comments/responses for MI2 and What Lies Beneath. WOW! All I've got to say is PREACH IT BROTHER! The question has been raised, "Why are our churches emptying as our movie houses (cultural centers) are filling?" (see Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16) Because our churches are losing touch with the reality of our world. We need to find out what our culture is doing and take the message to them instead of the typical church reaction - batton down the hatches and clutch our comfort zone close to our chest....and if anyone threatens what is comfortable then well, they're just plain wrong and we'll prove it by throwing scripture at it, while the organ plays all 975 verses of Just As I Am. I would suggest that after everyone looks up fidelity and monogamy, they spend some time reading the gospels and see just how Jesus did it. He didn't sit in a building and wait for society to figure out it needed him.... he took his show on the road. Leonard Sweet also writes of a young man who states "I wouldn't be a christian if it weren't for Jesus." A rather sad statement on his local church. Keep up the good work!

MOVIES ARE A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE REAL THING
Subject: Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2000
From: "Kath & David Wells"

Why are cinemas full and churches empty? Very simply because movies are entertainment, and church is about a life committment, life change. It is far easier to look at a movie about spiritual things than actually encounter God in church. The movies are a substitute for the real thing. We have known that for years. We live in a voyeuristic society. Church asks something of us. Movies don't. The real question is what are full churches doing that empty churches are not doing? Find that out and you will start finding answers. Kath Wells, Raumati Beach, New Zealand.

IRON SHARPENS IRON
Subject: Like the way you think
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000
From: -Bob Jackson

Far from asking you to remove me from the list, I want to keep hearing your ideas. I must confess that many do not appreciate my references to current movies when I preach, but your warning against pop-psychology and the need to preach Christ and faithful doctrine, is a challenge I frankly need and want more of. Even if I disagreed with you, I would still value your views. As Iron sharpens iron . . . . ;^)
-Bob Jackson

NOT SURPRIZING
Subject: Movies and the search for spirituality
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000
From: Pastor Harold Bender lutheran@rnet.com

I cannot speak for other churches, I can only speak for the church I serve and what I proclaim from the pulpit. I don't think that our church is "Missing Something." The truth of sin and grace, of God's wrath and God's free gift of salvation are proclaimed here at St. John. The word is read. The sacraments are administered. People are taught the Christian faith and empowered to live repentant, faith-filled lives.

The fact that movie houses are packed and church parking lots are not is not really a surprise. Movies tell people what they WANT to hear, not what they NEED to hear. Movies appeal only to the emotions when "teaching" spritual things. Movies allow people to make god out to be whatever they want him to be; they do not (or very rarely) give an accurate picture of the God of Holy Scripture.

In the movie entitled "Original Sin", I seriously doubt that it taught original sin from a Biblical perspective. Most spirituality in the movies is from a pantheistic, new age, or near eastern mysticism sort of bent. (2 Timothy 4:3-5) Tell me what YOU think the churches are "missing." Is the church supposed to do big-time hollywood-type "Jesus" productions to draw people in.

Greco-Roman Theatre was BIG in the first century, but in the book of Acts you don't see the apostles setting up shop to do a BIG production. You see them going from place to place, sharing the truth of the Gospel in word and deed. Then you see them baptize. And let's face it, the sacraments aren't about a big, showy production: A little water, a few words; a little bread and wine and a few words. It is almost as if big productions are so far beneath the awesome mysteries of God and the Christian faith. And we always must remember that FAITH is about things we CAN'T see; people go to movies to SEE something.

That's why I am just going to keep on preaching the word that promises to do its work. (Isaiah 55:10-12) That is why I am simply going to preach the gospel of Jesus lifted up on a cross to save us from sin, trusting that He will truly draw people into a saving relationship through that simple but deep message. (John 3:14-18) I will not bow the knee to the Baal of Hollywood Productions to bring the crowds in; that would be to deny the power of the word of the gospel. After all, if you have to do something besides "Preach the Word" (2 Timothy 4:2) to bring them in . . . they are probably not coming in because they want the truth of God's word, but something else. There are my thoughts. Hope they are helpful for your thoughts.
In Christ's Love, Pastor Harold Bender
The Lutheran Church of St. John Quincy, IL lutheran@rnet.com

MORE OF GOD
Subject: Jesus in Hollywood
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000
From: Margaret

I agree, they should have a lot more of God and Jesus than all the other garbage they show.

NO COMPETITION FOR THE MOVIE INDUSTRY
Subject: Re: What Lies Beneath and Scary Movie.
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000
From: Don Ciesielski

Dear David: Thank you for your insightful comments regarding the popularity of 'spiritual' movies-Vs-the church. I find it interesting that the churches that seem to prosper in our day are the ones who provide a kind of pseudo rock concert atmosphere, with bands, lively songs, and fundamentalist preaching. That the Gospel is somewhat watered down does not seem to bother the people who throng to these churches. Yet even they are no competition for the movie industry, with people filling the theaters and keeping video rental businesses flourishing. As someone has said, "The church usually arrives on the scene breathless and a little late."

Some are trying to provide a fast paced program that will resonate with a generation reared on MTV and commercials that change the image on the screen every five seconds or less. Interest spans are short, and anything that will 'grab' a young person today has to be short, fast, and, preferably (to them) outrageous. Anything else is simply labeled as 'bor-ing'. . .an unfortunate fact in our day.

I think you are on the right track attempting to point out the theological and sociological ideas being expressed in contemporary films. They may be the best source for continuing to teach people the value of life and faith, even when it may be by means that appear negative.

Another kind of prophet in our day is the standup comedian, who points out the foibles of our society and religion, and lets us laugh at ourselves and see how foolish many of our rigid ideologies may be.

Best Wishes! Don Ciesielski
(a retired Lutheran pastor) El Paso, Texas

ARTS ARE BETTER COMMUNICATORS
Subject: Cinema vs. Church
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000
From: "Rev. Randel Myers"

Just some thoughts about your commentary:

1. The cinema, like the novel and short-story have more texture than doctrine or psychology, both ways in which we're communicating religion these days. Jesus used parables, not propositions.

2. As Robert Short noted in The Gospel According to Peanuts, the arts are better communicators and retainers of truth than plain theology.

3. We long for drama, for tragedy, for adventure, and for comedy. Give me something that will make me "feel" something any day over an argument! I became a pacifist after watching "All Quiet on the Western Front" (with Lew Ayers).

4. The 21st century may very well be rejecting the therapeutic that the church has embraced. Didn't Kierkegaard note the same in his day?

Thanks for your work. I think you're on target. The return to story is a return to our most primal roots. It is story that gives life meaning.

Peace, Randy Myers
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Taylorville, IL

OUR CHURCH IS FULL
Subject: Re: "What Lies Beneath" and "Scary Movie"
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000
From: Romi

Hi, David; I read your newsletter with great interest--especially the section about Churches being empty and theatres being full. I am Roman Catholic and I can tell you that our Church is full on the weekends. Our Priests are not afraid to mention Jesus and to drive home the fact that our lives should be Christ-centered. We have six Masses on weekends (one on Saturday evening) and five on Sunday. Why so many? To accommodate the many members who attend. I agree with you--many clergymen/clergywomen are skittish about stepping on anyone's toes, but as my favorite Priest says, "We have to call a spade a spade." I enjoy your website and newsletter. Thank you. Romi

MANY CHURCHES ARE NOT CHRIST CENTERED
Subject: Are Churches missing something?
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000
From: "Chad Hoover"

Hollywood Jesus guy-
Yes, I totally agree with you that many churches today are family centered and not Christ centered. Your comments are exactly right on. Good for you and speaking the truth. The problem, I feel, is this. Movies are entertaining. People are wowed, dazed and amazed. Church service, I'm sorry, are not meant to be entertaining. Many churches try to entertain first then slip in some morals and Gospel.

However, that is not the purpose of the Church. The Church's purpose to preach and teach the Gospel - straight out! You are forgiven your sins and you will live eternally with Chirst in Heaven - not because of what you have done, but because of what Christ has done for you. Many don't preach that message. I think that's the problem.

Christianity is misperceived in our society. When churches try to entertain people and then slip in some mixed up, whacked out form of the Gospel message, or family morals - society gets the wrong message from churches.
That's all, Chad Hoover

CHURCH IS FREE, FILM IS NOT
Subject: Re: "What Lies Beneath" and "Scary Movie"
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter #16
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000
From: Gordon Stromberg

Hi again: Maybe part of the success of the film is that it's not free. What would happen if there was a minimum 'contribution' in a church of $6 to $10 per service? That would start with a realistic note for a large number of people who think they are tipping God with a one or five dollar bill each Sunday. For many, this is all that can be put in, but that is not true for most people. It would certainly make a level playing field.

Gordon Stromberg

SWEPT AWAY BY THE SELF HELP INDUSTRY
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter 16
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000
From: Eric Bramlett, Creative Arts Pastor,
Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL

David, you wrote: By the way, I did not notice any church sign that mentioned Jesus, spirituality, miracles, new birth, hell, heaven, or any other Spiritual Thing. One church I drove by was called "The Family Life Center" and their sign announced a message entitled: "How to Make Your Marriage Work." Hmmm. I was wondering why the church avoided a name such as "The Christ Life Center" and a message entitled "How Your Spiritual Gifts Work"? I tend think that too many churches have replaced Jesus with a sort of pop psychology that is couched in a Family centered (not Christ centered) perspective.

I think that moving towards the future, you may be right, and there may be a need to move towards a more deliberately, unabashed challenge to the spirituality. But such a statement grossly underestimates how our current culture is also completely swept away by the "self-help" industry, as evidenced by the constant weekly visits of such self-help gurus on Oprah Winfrey (who, ironically, seems to have tapped into both the self-help and the spiritual without truly finding Jesus in either!) Regardless, to say that a marriage-help talk and strategy is completely not speaking to a felt need in our culture is unfair at the very least. I saw "What Lies Beneath" last night, and it really just seemed like a morphing of the films "Ghost" and "Fatal Attraction", both 80s heavyweights. Not all that different, really. So I am not sure that such a film automatically speaks to a brand new wave of spirituality in our culture. Though I do think the postmodern culture is more in tune with spirituality. They are no longer asking "Does God Exist?" They think he does - they are know asking "How can you show me through experience that Jesus is the only way to God?" Since there are so many options, and Jesus is merely one to choose from.
Them's my thoughts...
Eric Bramlett, Creative Arts Pastor,
Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL

THE GREAT FAMINE OF INTIMACY
Subject: The thirst is always there
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter 16
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000
From: Rev. Wesley Channell

David, It's funny, but in Jesus' day, the Pharisees were promoting principles for religious living and the Saducees were working out principles for successful living. Then Jesus comes along and spoils it all by talking about relationships with both God and man. I think the great interest in spiritual things at the movies is indicative of the great famine of intimacy, both spiritually and personally in our culture and world today. Romance doesn't play as well at the theaters anymore because of the huge cynicism toward the idea of love. Sex and nudity continue to show themselves as reactions against personal intimacy and as continued overt misanthrope and misogyny. Special effect movies just keep trying to push the limits higher and higher, lest the audiences yawn. What's left but spirituality? Unfortunately, many of us in the church are clueless to the that fact. Not only are the churches foolish just talking about principle living, character, and success techniques, but look at any Christian bookstore and see the same useless pandering. Yet, in all this, Jesus points to relationship with God as the primary point of life (this is eternal life that they know me--John 17:3).

Our culture is like a thirsty person who keeps drinking salt water and thus thirsts more. Unfortunately, the continued drinking of salt water is fatal. Yet, instead of bringing the water of life, many in the church are threatened with this interest in other spiritualities and attack the seekers (perhaps exposing the church's own lack of relationship with God). Instead, we should learn from Paul's example in Acts 17 and meet these seekers where they are and push them further on to the well of life as you do in your fine website. Keep up the good fight!
Sincerely, Rev. Wesley Channell

HJ NEWSLETTER ADMIRABLE
Subject: Re: What Lies Beneath and Scary Movie.
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter 16
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000

Hi, I am a Christian who has been employed as a film critic for almost 25 years. Everyone can use a pat on the back at times, and I'd just like to say that I really enjoy the hollywoodjesus newsletter. The thought and care that goes into the writing is evident and admirable. Keep up the good work.
Bill Kerns in Lubbock, Texas

UNFAIR GENERALIZATION
Subject: Hollywood Jesus Newsletter 16
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000
From: Brian Rudesill, Hidden Valley Community Church hiddenv@mhtc.net

Dear Mr. Bruce, First, let me say I'm not canceling my subscription to your newsletter. I enjoy your movie insights. However, as a faithful reader, I was somewhat upset by your comments about the church.

I'm sure you didn't mean to imply that preachers shouldn't speak about family issues (How to make your marriage work), but it appeared to come across that way. (You are right, I am not -David) The reason those messages are so important is because that's what people are asking about. Yes, they want to know about spiritual things, but they also want to know what God has to say about how to build their marriages, how to strengthen their relationships, how to find meaning in their work, how to raise their kids, how to handle conflict... The Bible specifically addresses these issues! I believe (and I know you do to) that the Bible - God's word - contains all the secrets we need for wise living. And it's not Biblical principles presented without Christ. The bottom line in every message I preach is Jesus. Biblical principles work - even unbelievers can see that. They can apply the Biblical principles and see their marriage get better, their reputation improve, their anger problem begin to get better. However, as I explain each week, they way to experience life to the fullest is by surrendering to Christ.

I know that every church doesn't do it this way, but that's what I think was the biggest error of your e-mail. You generalized and implied that churches that address those topics are using "pop psychology" and ignoring Christ. I feel that's an unfair generalization. (Actually my thought is, the lack of spiritually when talking about such topics. -David)

Here's what we've seen Christ do. This church I started had it's grand opening 15 months ago in a rural town in WI (population 4200). We're averaging 130 over the summer. We have a dozen unsaved people coming every week and another dozen that bop in and out periodically. Everytime they come, they hear the gospel and see the relevance of God's word to their lives. Several of those unbelievers are in small groups and I'm discipling one of them myself. This doesn't even take into account the fact that we've already seen 12 adults get saved during those 15 months. A good chunk of those 12 have entered into a one on one discipleship program we offer. (Bravo -David)

This is just the tip of the ice berg of what we offer and what we've seen God do. So, you can understand my frustration when a generalization like yours paints all of this as "pop psychology" and "missing out on God".

I believe you are asking the right question - "why do people like to go to movies more than church? What's the general public's perception of a movie theater? They view it as fun, positive, enjoyable. Are those the words they associate with the church? Not in WI. So, for a church to recreate it's image in the eyes of society (an image of boring, irrelevant, money-hungry - an image we've created by what we've done), it has to do some things differently. As Sweet also says in Soul Tsunami, "If you always do what you've always done, you always get what you always got." I know that you understand that the Church in America isn't working. But, I don't think the problem is that too many of us are addressing real life issues in relevant ways (biblically relevant), but that far too many (the vast majority) are stuck in a time that hasn't existed for 50 years. We sing songs that few people like or understand (waft it on the rolling tide??? here we raise our Ebeneezer??? casting down our diadems???), we speak about topics that few people are interested in (This week at First Baptist..."Who are the Jebusites" or "The meaning of dispensationalism") or we cling to traditions that have ceased to fulfill any purpose in the church. Where would movie theaters be today if they were still silent pictures? If they weren't air-conditioned? If they were still black and white? Where would they be if they had looked at T.V. and said "it's a fad...nothing will change"??? But, the church has done that. "After all, if hymnals and S.S. were good enough for Jesus and Paul, they are good enough for us." I believe that attitude plays a major role in the death of the church in America.

Certainly some churches do cross over and talk about life issues without talking about the life-giver. I know there are some that are all fluff and nonsense - no scripture, no Jesus, no power. But, not all of us that speak about life issues fall into that category. My sincere desire is to win people to Christ and grow them up to maturity in Him.

Anyway, I hope this helps you understand my perspective a little better. Keep up the good work with your Newsletter. I do enjoy it.
In Christ,
Brian Rudesill, Hidden Valley Community Church hiddenv@mhtc.net

MOVIES AND THE CHURCH
Subject: Re: "What Lies Beneath" and "Scary Movie"
Hollywood Jesus Newsletter 16
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000

I think by the word 'moments' you probably meant the word 'comments'. Although responding to you does take time.

1. I'm always a little cautious of people/writers who use the term all or none in describing churches. How could you possibly be in all the churches to make the assumption that covers the US and at the end of the e-mails received-probably the world?

2. Yes, people and their marriages are hurting, so it's good that pastors try to discuss this topic from the pulpit- although that must be hard to accomplish without sounding like you're focusing on a specific couple/family... especially in a small church.

3. Yes, films are a very powerful media. They are more powerful than a sermon in holding your/my attention, not for 20, 30, 40 minutes, but usually for 2 hours if in a movie theater. At home I can stop the film and go to the washroom or turn on the popcorn.

4. So, that is why our church uses film in a series of 4 or 8 classes. The students attend the theater or see the video at home, then a carefully planned discussion with handouts occurs after the viewing. A few sections of the film are shown to be able to refresh attendees about what to discuss. Have you tried this? It is more powerful than a newsletter or a phone call. I CAN ASSURE YOU PEOPLE WILL ATTEND.

The issue is "we've never done this in church before." The issue is how much nudity and sexuality can be shown in church. Can we discuss sex in church at all? Did Jesus address this issue? How powerful are the eyes to see events vs. hearing the Word? It returns to the issue of The Last Temptation of Christ. Did Jesus sit with those who were about to have sex with a prostitute? It wasn't until recently that I finally saw this film. I don't think the producer has any kind of knowledge of Jesus from the Scripture. BUT how much knowledge do we have as Christian believers of the ways of people in Jesus' day so that we can best relate Scriptures to what Jesus was really saying/meaning.

How many churches have films in their library? for children? for teens? for adults? How are they used? are they out of date? By how much? Hollywood has figured out a new interest level of the US public. We need some powerful messengers that know the Word and who will write scripts well, negotiate script changes well, use Hollywood's product wisely ... if it can be used.

Consider the excitement of watching Prince of Egypt, vs. the reality of knowing the correct details of the life of Moses. What person who went to the theater knows the difference? A chunk of the stone sphinx or pharaoh couldn't possibly fall off by Moses' brushing of his elbow. Visual 'Biblical/cultural' rubbish!

Let's teach film history in church.

What is the role of women from a truly Biblical point of view from Luke's perspective, vs. O.T. 'lower than a dog in status'? How has the role of women on the screen altered the US.... women's rights, etc. What other changes has film raised that churches would not? Were the films correct? Were the churches correct? It's impossible to lump all churches together here.

Thanks for listening. Film seminars for seekers and Christians. We need them-probably as weekend conferences sponsored by a major ministry like B. Graham with a recognizable name. Some need to be for men, others for women, etc.
Cordially, Gordon Stromberg 773 275-9449 Fax 275-9991

CHURCH AFRAID OF DRAMA, MYSTERY AND PARADOX
Subject: Newsletter 16
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000
From: Peter Wall

Greetings. Films give us drama, mystery, and paradox, but the church runs from those things. In my opinion, that's because the church is afraid of what it would mean to embrace those ideas. If churches admitted that faith is more about drama, mystery, and paradox than it is about mental assent to established doctrines or submission to rigid systems of thought and behavior, they might be as full as theaters.

Even those churches that call themselves "Christ-centered" often times are not because they only focus on one side of the Christ mystery. Some churches emphasize the divinity of Jesus, others emphasize the practical immanence of his teachings. I wouldn't call either one "Christ-centered" because they have both avoided the mysterious nature of divine incarnation and preached a gospel that is what I might call "finished" in that everything is resolved and laid out in the open. Gutted like a fish, more like.

But films offer unresolved paradoxes and strange juxtapositions that leave people feeling disturbed and inspired. I'd bet those are the same kind of feelings that were originally at the center of Christianity, but we've long since hammered them out of our churches. The church as become an existential wasteland, and people know it. Nobody goes to church to feel inspired anymore. We go because of duty or obligation, or we like the sermons or some other incredibly rational kind of thing. It's like a giant machine and we're all unthinking, unfeeling cogs.

Films allow the viewers to think freely and contemplate their own experience of the drama. But the church has put itself in a position to have a stranglehold on everything its members think and believe. Most Christians today have no idea of what it's like to have a true spiritual experience of our own because we're not allowed.

The church has set up an authority system that precludes any kind of individual experience. If you're Protestant it's the authority of an inerrant Bible; if you're Catholic it's the authority of the church; if you're Orthodox it's the authority of tradition. All that authority gives the impression that everything is cut and dried. Why would anyone want to keep going to church once they get all the "fundamentals" figured out? After that, it just becomes either a social club or a weekly ethical reminder or rebuke. Yuck.

But movies are inspiring and freeing. Give me a movie over a church service any day. Anyway, those are my thoughts on your newsletter, fragmented though they feel.
Peter Wall peterj@madnet.net

SOMETHING IS MISSING
Subject: well said
Newsletter 16
Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000
From: Sherri

David, I very much understood that point you were making about the cinemas being full but not the churches. True, something is missing - other than the people I mean. :) I think our churches sometimes walk a fine line between pop culture and feeding the spirit of man. A hard way to walk.

As one who was part of the "opening weekend" statistics for "What Lies Beneath" I can say it was an excellent movie on many levels. Especially in what if left *unanswered* - what it was that was making the door open, the photo fall, etc. in the house. I just wonder if the average consumer is too blind to see it or if they only see the entertainment and not look at what lies beneath. I can say that people do not think of attending church in terms of entertainment. Maybe churches with excellent choirs or music need to point out that it is not only praise music, but it is entertaining to hear and join in with the music. Just a thought. Certainly big churches have drama ministries and seek to entertain as well as enlighten. But small churches often don't have the resources for that. Okay - that is my two cents worth.
Sherri, Milwaukee, WI

 

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