There’s an interesting article over at the Out of Ur Blog expressing concern about the church centered marketing machine that is gearing up for the release of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It should be noted that this is the same blog that brought us the ever so thoughtful, “Why I am not emerging,” article that has led to so much joy around here.
This article, fortunately, has a bit more perspective to it, and I just wanted to add a few thoughts and then open it up for discussion. Here we go, in no particular order.
1) I think people are a little resistant to a Church / Hollywood alliance because they felt burned by The Passion of The Christ. I think we need to realize that we set ourselves up for this disappointment. Mel Gibson made a film that was a highly personal, and, yes, very Catholic version of the story. Let’s realize that our disappointments (should we have them) were self inflicted. We all so badly wanted a film version of Jesus’ life that we could really celebrate and we treated Easter 2004 like it was the second coming. Let’s not blame Mel or the marketing machine for all those banners and posters we put up and left up in our churches. I believe Mel was trying to get as many people as possible to see his movie becasue he was heartfelt. The marketing teams were just doing their job. Movies do not spark spiritual revival, and it’s silly to expect them to.
For the record, I thought the first 45 minutes of The Passion were absolutely brilliant, but I was ultimately unsatisfied with the film as a whole. I don’t think that graphically depicting Jesus’ suffering is an inherently bad idea, I just remember thinking that the film should have been three hours long, intercutting the crucifixion narrative with a thoughtful and artfully depicted overview of Jesus’ ministry.
4) Christians need to vote with their wallets or shut up. I was really frustrated some years back when The Prince of Egypt tanked at the box office. Here was an animated film of very high quality that is, in my opinion, the best depiction we have thus far of the Exodus story, (with apologies to fans of Cecil B.) The Christian community largely ignored this film, and pursuaded Dreamworks to abandon their plans to do an ongoing animated Old Testament series. The sequel, Joseph, King of Ben Affleck, went straight to video and then that was it. If we’re not going to support films that are well made, thoughful, and filled with acceptable content, we have absolutely zero business criticizing Hollywood.
B) I can’t help but laugh when I think that the same hardcore fundies who have been slamming all things media for the last forty years are the same ones who are getting all pissy about Disney trying to partner with churches to sell their product. Which way do you want it, kids? Oh… you just want to be pissed off all the time? Ok, cool. Here’s your blankie and binkie, let’s watch some VeggieTales. You think Bob the Tomato is the devil’s imp? I give up.
Salty) Let’s all repeat this together: promoting a movie as a tool of evangelism is a really bad idea. It’s a movie. It’s entertainment. If it leads to discussion, which leads to interest in Jesus, great! If it doesn’t… well… perhaps it will at least be well done and won’t scare the kids into comas. Can we please get over the idea that anything other then the call of the Holy Spirit is going to lead people to salvation? We’re gonna get much further with our Pre-Christian friends and neighbors with a cup of coffee and good conversation and a lot of love then by tricking them into seeing a “Christian” movie. I can just hear the conversation afterwards… “You know Bob, the CGI feline is really representative of Jesus Christ, would you like to hear the four spiritual laws…?” Why should Disney, or Switchfoot, or Philip Yancey, or whomever, have to do our work for us?
I, for one, will go see Narnia becuase I am a movie buff, and a C.S. Lewis buff. If it’s a great movie, it deserves to make a lot of money. If it sucks, let it bomb. Being wise as serpents and harmless as doves just might include making our own decisions about where we’re going to drop our $10, and not letting a marketing team or (gulp) your pastor make that choice for you. I’m going to drop my $10 because I really want them to get to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, becuase I always thought that Reepicheep was the shizzle.