When discussing film with other believers I run across two main veins of thought. The first being less prevalent than in years past, but continue to leave a stain on the Christian sector, the idea that all ‘secular’ forms of culture, usually corrolating to the arts (specifically movies and music) is affected by the Fall and therefore should be avoided at all costs. The first statement is true: all things have been radically affected by the Fall, the second is false: our holy command is to live in this world, not of it. There is a tendancy within our Christian sub-culture to only appreciate or interact with works of art that only confirm our worldview. A presupposition like this assumes that in general, Christ is against culture and so believers should also view culture, or the things our culture produce as a negative affect of the Fall. These people are affectionately tagged ‘cultural anorexics’. Brian Godawa writes “Not only do they miss the positive values that do exist in many movies (emphasis mine), but also those who would completely withdraw from culture because of its imperfection suffer a decreasing capacity to interact redemptively with that culture. They don’t understand the way people around them think because they are not familiar with the “language” those people are speaking or the culture they are consuming”. Cultural anorexia sounds noble, and as I’ve observed those who fall in this category I do admire their desire to pursue holiness, yet I would argue that pursuing holiness and understanding the languge of your culture should work together, not apart. Cultural anorexics live in a small world and do not understand that they “endanger their own humanity”. The arts (which include movies), are a God-given capacity to express our humanity. The creation of art, even in a flawed form, relfects the creativity and beauty of our Creator and therefore, to reject any aspect of the arts is to reject the imago Dei and is essentially rejecting the image of God in humanity.
The next and far more popular view of the arts is the idea that movies and music are “just entertainment”. This view sees no connection between the art they consume and the worldview behind it, so much that they can be deemed ‘cultural gluttons’ and consume art too casually, with little thought to discernment. Frequent thoughts of the cultural glutton are: “It’s just a movie”, “Sex and violence don’t affect me”, or “I don’t want to think about it, I just want to enjoy it!” Their only interaction with movies is one of disengagement, where they sit back, check out and let the film just wash over them. This method is not only dangerous and unhealthy to the believer’s growth, but is lazy at its core. As Scripture reminds us we are to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (II Tim. 2:15). I doubt God would call us to be such passionate students of the Word, but not in understanding and conversing with the worldviews of our culture. These viewers merely want to check out for two hours and consider movies as merely entertainment, and nothing more. However, for the believer that is never an option. Believers should have a very different interaction with movies and the culture at large than unbelievers. Colossians bodly reminds us that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisble, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together…For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Here we are told that a) all things were created by God, visible and invisible and b) all things (even movies) were created through him and for him. If all things were created by our Creator, then humanity’s capacity to produce cinema and tell stories is an expression of the creative fingerprint of God and should be brought under the submission of his Lordship and Scripture.
One of greatest fallacies that fuel both these misperceptions of movies is the belief that within this universe there exist two diametrically opposed forces of matter: sacred or spiritual. Read that sentence again. This lie has crept through the church and has done significant damage to how many members of the body of Christ live out their short existence here on this earth. Instead of viewing this universe like Calvin did being “God’s theater” for where he works out his redemptive plan, many believers compartmentalized in their ideology and theology regarding what belongs to God and what is theirs to keep. There is no dichotemy, every aspect of our lives, no matter how insignificant belong to God. It’s all his, every second, every penny, every breath. Everything has significance to God, from what we eat to what we watch. “Film is not just mass media art or pop culture…Film is the modern –day equivalent of philosophy. It is an artistic representation of what we believe, what we dream of, what we hope for – indeed of what we are in the core of our being. Film is the celluloid frame of our waking dreams.” Film is significant, not because it tells the story of our lives, but because God reigns over every inch of the universe. In light of this, we critique, observe, enjoy, celebrate, create and engage in the conversation our culture is having. This is living the imago Dei.