I can’t recall such a season of “Christian” themed films gracing the vast frontier of the silver screens of America. God’s not dead at the box office, apparently. Christians, atheists and whatever else one may call themselves are debit and credit card swiping away to America’s pastime (sorry baseball) in faithful numbers to drift away for a few hours into a non-reality that shapes their reality—no, really. From The Son of God, to Noah, to God’s Not Dead, to Heaven Is For Real, to (still to come) Exodus, nearly the entire Bible is covered in movies. Is this some sort of sign of spiritual renewal in America? Is the Bible breaking through to Hollywood? Is the great experiment to redeem the arts for Jesus finally showing signs of fruit bearing? Nah, there’s just lots of money to be made. Oops, I let it slip.
Movies are made to make money. What about artistic expression and grand storytelling you say? Meh, those films lose money (most anyway). Movies are a business just like your local mom and pop shop is. At the end of the day movie studios have to make profits just like any other business does. They need to find ways to get customers to spend money on their product. Movies are made for that express purpose. Just throw away your grand thoughts of movies being insulated from a business plan. They’ re not. Movies are a business plan — snarky but true.
Let’s think this through with some of some of the current movies out there. Noah? Now that there film was made to make money. Big budget, big name actors and a cutting edge director tackling the Bible? Ooh this ought to get media hype, which means…wait for it…money. Heaven Is for Real? Out of this world receipts await at the “pearly gates” of Regal theaters. A little boy, heaven and a feel good story– why that is the stuff of box office Trinitarian theology. Why? Because Hollywood knows the Christian community (and there are millions of them!) is hungry and yet a bit hesitant for a reason to go to the movies. But…they also know they can’t make a truly biblical movie because the rest of America won’t go (or so they have themselves convinced). So the business plan is to make a movie that is just “Christian” enough to draw the religious types and yet worldly enough to let everyone else know it is o.k. to be seen at a movie that bears the name of a biblical book or deals with a biblical idea (heaven). In other words, the business plan is to try to have the best of both worlds and apparently, it is working.
Where does this leave the Christian? By Christian, I mean a born again, God-fearing, Bible believing, church going dude (or dudette). Are we supposed to have the best of both worlds? Are we supposed to be about the Bible and yet worldly enough to let everyone know it is o.k. to hang out with us? Well, about that. In the case of the two movies mentioned: Noah and Heaven; they are not biblical. Let’s just be honest. They’re not. So, they leave people with a misunderstanding of God, his Word and His heaven. Is that what we are to be as Christians? When people hang out with us will they see Jesus clearly or will they see our “artistic interpretation” of Him that somehow just doesn’t quite line up with the Jesus of the Bible?
You see, movie studios are free to dabble in both worlds. It is good business. At the end of the day they control the content and they have your money. We are not free to dabble in both. I do not mean we are not free to go and see a movie. We have liberty to do such. I mean we do not control the content of our faith. We are not free to alter the Word of God. We rightly understand that we lose more than our money if we do so; we lose our soul. That understanding needs to be carried into any theater we may go into. We are free yet bond servants the Apostle Peter says. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon (money).” Make no mistake, the movie studios are not serving both. Neither should we. Always follow the money.