Why the Trend in Christian Movies is Bad

Russell CroweFor years, Christian movies have doing very well in theaters. Revenue return over cost invested in Christian films are some of the highest percentages in the film industry. This is not just considering independent films, but releases from major studios are experiencing the same results. It seems the better these films are produced (and the less they look “B” grade), the higher the profit margin. So if Christian films are making more money per dollar invested, why is Hollywood not making more? For years this has been the question that American Christians have been asking. Finally, Hollywood seems to be listening.  The current trend in film making is that more and more major studios releasing Christian films. But I have to ask – is this really a good thing? Let’s examine.

As Christians, it is exciting to see Christian films come out of Hollywood. The most memorable release in our recent memory has to be Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. That film, while very controversial, was a huge success both in the eyes of those who saw it,  and in box-office sales grossing well over $600 million. That number made The Passion of the Christ, the highest grossing ‘R’ rated film ever. Since its release in 2004 Christians were screaming “If you make it, we will come”, and wondering why there were not more films released like it every year. After all, there really had not been anything like it since 1965’s The Greatest Story Ever Told starring Max Von Sedow, and then the TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth from 1977 starring nearly everyone in Hollywood, and running 3 and a half hours in length.

The February release of Son of God, started a run of bible based films to be released this year.  Noah, featuring Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Russell Crowe really got the Christian community excitedsonofgod when it was released March 28th. As matter of fact, 2014 has been deemed by some as the “Year of the Christian Film” with God’s Not Dead, Heaven is for Real, Mom’s Night Out already released, and Persecuted due out in just a couple of days. We’d be remiss not to mention the most anticipated Christian film of the year, due out in October – a remake of Tim Lahaye’s and Jerry Jenkins now classic Left Behind starring Nicolas Cage and other Hollywood regulars. Hey, maybe Hollywood finally got the message. Or did they?

Is this a growing trend for Hollywood? Have they turned a new Christian leaf? Knowing Hollywood and their historical moral, social and political agendas up to this point, what makes us think that after 125 years, the film industry has suddenly gained a conscience? With the precedence solidly set, how do we explain this trend? How do we account for the “Year of the Christian Film“? I think I can explain, but I don’t think you’re going to like it.

You see Hollywood really did catch on. They found out that if they make Christian movies, they do not have to be accurate, they do not have to represent the spirit of God properly, they do not even have to tell the story correctly at all, and can insert fictional characters and whole events that never happened…..and Christians will still go – IN DROVES!

Over the past 50 years or so, a very short period of time in Christian history, we have seen a big shift in world view. Yes, traveling through history Christians struggled through the “Enlightenment” and through a Darwinian shift, and still saw a great revival in the ‘Jesus Movement’ among the hippies in the 1970’s. Over 40 years later, those converted hippies are still going strong but society is shifting further and further, and at more rapid speed then ever, to a fully secular world view – post-modern, post-Christian. So now, faced with fewer and fewer choices that satisfy our Christian ideals, anything that even resembles ‘Christian’, or touts itself as ‘Christian’ (movies, books, musical artists, etc.) is consumed by Christians with joy, no matter how much it looks like the world. We like to call these things “Christian alternatives”. These are movies, books, musical artists etc, that look, sound, taste, and smell just like similar items from the secular world. But because they have a ‘Christian’ label, or self-identify as ‘Christian’ (like Katy Perry and Norah Jones once did), most will take those declarations at face value and think no more of it.

When it comes to movies in particular, Hollywood knows that the average Christian will go see the movie Noah (as an example) pretty much without reservation. After-all, it is a Christian story, it must be good. At best they know it will cause confusion and a rift among Christians themselves arguing about whether it should be seen or not – and thereby getting millions of dollars of publicity for free! (follow the money – remember?) At worst, they do it on purpose with the intent to confuse active Christians, and show Christian stories in as bad a light they can, which I submit is the case.  They know that ‘big-name’ Christians will support their work, and excuse their ‘editorial license’ in the name of just getting the movie out. So what if the first thing they say and portray Noah doing when he gets out of the Ark is to get drunk as if he could not wait to do so and was some sort of lush angry at God? Who cares if that’s not accurate. So what if the lead actor Russell Crowe states in an interview that Noah was not the benevolent biblical figure we know of, but rather the cruelest man alive because he “stood by and watched the entire population of the planet parish”. Remember, it’s not the Christian voice in America that is making a difference – it is cash. Money. Profits. This will never change. As long as unsuspecting Christians keep going, Hollywood will continue to stretch its dramatic silence in the name of secularism, and its cause – the humiliation and marginalization of those repressed, holier-than-thou, racist, homophobic, spirit-filled Christians

But here’s the worst part: a large portion of those who would self-identify as Christian, could not tell you whether the movie in question was biblically accurate or not – because quite frankly, they themselves are biblically illiterate.

America has gotten so far away from the bible that the American Christian has stopped reading their bibles. Bible stories cannot be taught in schools, and when studies in institutions of higher learning, Christians are portrayed as the aggressors and haters. A recent study by Pew Research and reported on in the N.Y. Times states more than half of those people surveyed that identified as Christians could not answer even the most basic bible questions. That report stated:

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith. Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

So what is really happening with Hollywood? Yes, directors and producers are creating and showing more Christian films. However, they are Christian films that perpetuate lies about tencommandmentsChristianity, and push stereotypes that are not true – and they are doing it on purpose. Why? Because they know they can get away with it.

The children of this generation will be raised on movies like Noah and Son of God that take ‘dramatic license’ as a means to skew the story, and in many cases go out of their way to tell lies and add events that do not take place. The MGM classics that barely live on  today were not perfect, but they were not going out of their way to present a false story or image of the characters. In fact Cecil B. DeMille took a good 10 minutes before the movie even started to come out on stage himself and offer a speech about the importance of the Bible and the story he strove to tell accurately (watch the full length DVD at home some time and see). Those days are gone, relegated to off prime-time showings on cable networks around Easter, and are being replaced with new Hollywood productions. Ask your grand-kids if they ever heard of Charlton Heston?

To the children of today, these new films like Noah and Son of God will be biblical fact. This is what they know, and it must be true because I saw it on the movie screen or TV. When asked by their children and grandchildren if an event depicted in a film is true or not – they won’t know.

When I was a boy and the Ten Commandments or Jesus of Nazareth came on TV, it was an epic television event for virtually every family. We gathered in the living room with popcorn and a glass of soda-pop, sat close by the small screen – and – we would have our bibles on our laps so we could follow along. We could see the words on the paper of our bible pages come out the mouths of the actors and we knew this was special! Sure, some license was taken, but we as kids recognized it and called them on it! As children! My Dad would follow along with us and confirm our suspicions; “Dad, it doesn’t way that in the bible!’, “You’re right son, it doesn’t. What it really says is…” – but those days seem to be fading quickly in America.

In the end, yes, there is a trend to make more Christian themed movies, but it’s just not a good one.

I am a Mucked-Out Stall

stall_cleaningFarm life, even life on a small farm inhabited with more chickens then any other livestock, cause a man to ponder things from strange or uncommon points of view sometimes. For some reason last evening, just tucked in beside my awesome wife, this thought cam to me. My life is like a mucked out stall.

Raising goats, cows, horses, nearly any farm animal, is going to require sheltering the animals from the weather. For this reason we build barns. Because not all animals are alike, and even those that are do not always get along (something like people), we make stalls. Standing in stalls, a part of life for a farm animal, means that the stalls get dirty. Yes, the animals go to the bathroom in the stalls. The stalls get dirty, and if the animals are to have a healthy life, these stalls need to be cleaned. In farm terms, cleaning out these areas is called, “mucking the stalls”.  In this, believe it or not, I found a parallel for the life of a Christian.

When we are born into this world, we are dirty, we are sinners. Sin is born into us as we inherit it as if it were “DNA” from out forefathers, passed on in perpetuity from Adam to us (Romans 5:12, I Corinthians 15, I Timothy 2). Because of that, it is appointed that each man must die, so that the sin that is in us (our ‘sin nature’, or our ‘flesh’), and our spirit, free from sin, may be made right with God. Then, like the cow in the stable who realizes he’s standing in his own filth going nowhere, we realize that we cannot live healthy life with any hope for the future if we continue life at the status quo. We need a cleaning.

God is often referred to as a farmer; vinedresser, a pruner, He harvests, plants seeds, waters – all references to farming, and honorable profession if there ever was one. But for the farmer to be successful, he has to do more then just throw seeds onto barren ground, and then come back a few months later for the harvest. Vinedressing and pruning is hard work, typically in the hot sun, requiring lots of manual labor all done closely and by hand. It requires a knowledge that would be particular to the farmer, and an understanding of the future. Perhaps most of all, the farmer understands that some things must be cut off and thrown away, burned even, and that because for this, the harvest will be greater.

The farmer also knows that animals left to stand in their own filth will not grow. They will stifle, become despondent, even angry. The farmer knows that if that animal is going to flourish towards the purpose for which it is born, it must be clean.

Jesus is the mucker of our souls. He’s the one that has to do the dirty work. He’s the one that cleans the stalls of our lives so that we can flourish towards our created and intended purpose – to be reunited in spirit with God the Father, cleansed of our sin, not found standing in our own filth.

I’m so glad that Jesus has ‘mucked out’ the stall the stall of my heart. I’m glad I do not have to ever worry about standing in the filth of my own sin. I’m glad that my past, that past that stinks and all the sin within it, is gone, forgiven cleansed – never again to rear its ugly head. Few things are more beautiful to a farmer then a barn, all the stalls spotless. Jesus has done the workd, now we must be diligent in the upkeep of our stalls/tents while we remain here.

Wierd, yeah. But hey, if that’s what the Lord puts on your heart, you go with it!

 

Assessing “Strange Fire” – by Jusin Alfred

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Mr. Justin Alfred

I personally addressed John MacArthur and some his teachings earlier on this site in THIS POST. Focusing on the Reformed Theology teaching, I share my concerns with what dangers these teachings reveal in the real life expression of faith. Recently however, John MacArthur and his ministries hosted a conference titled, “Strange Fire”. During this conference, in the eyes of many Christians, MacArthur’s teachings went far beyond the pale of not only Christian orthodoxy, but decency as well. Below is a reasoned look at these events.

Full credit for this articvle is given to Justin Alfred of Word In Life Ministries for the authorship, and CalvaryChapel.com for its original posting.

For the complete article as it was originally published, please clock THIS LINK: Or you may keep reading below.

 

A Guest Column from Justin Alfred linked from Calvary Chapel.com

On October 16-18, 2013, Pastor John MacArthur held a three-day conference at his Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA, entitled, “Strange Fire.” The conference was focused on a critical assessment of the Charismatic Movement and its espousal of the present day ministry of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  There were ten different speakers, dealing with various topics concerning the Charismatic Movement.

As I begin this assessment, let me first of all say that all of the men who spoke at this Conference are our brothers in Christ, and that being the case, we should pray for them and walk in Philippians 2:1-8 toward them, as we are all in the process of being “conformed to the image” of Christ by our Heavenly Father (Romans 8:28-30).

The Work of the Spirit or Satanic Deception?

MacArthur opened up the Conference with an introduction to the subject matter and focus of the Conference, which is an overall biblical and theological critique of the Charismatic Movement. MacArthur sees much of the charismatic movement as being in the grip of Satanic deception as the following quote indicates:

“When I was talking about this some months ago to our church, I said it’s this severe. Jesus said to the Jewish leaders, “You have attributed the works of the Holy Spirit that I have done to Satan.”  In other words, they said Jesus did what He did by the power of Satan, Matthew 12, and He said you’ve attributed the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan. It’s fair to say that the reverse has happening in many places in the Charismatic Movement. They are attributing to the Holy Spirit the works of Satan. Once they had attributed to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit, now it’s reversed.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Triune God is not to be trifled with.  It is dangerous to all who offer strange fire.” 

MacArthur does admit there are those within the Charismatic Movement who are true believers that hold to biblical orthodoxy concerning the Gospel. But he still contends they are in serious error concerning the work of the Holy Spirit:

johnnymac

John MacArthur

“Do some in the Charismatic Movement believe the truth?  They do.  They do.  Do some in the Charismatic Movement hold a sound theology on some issues?  They do.  But none of those true understandings have come to them through that Movement.  The true understandings have always been there in the long line of godly preachers and teachers that God has used to keep the truth and to keep the church on track.  The Movement adds nothing to that.  It detracts and it confuses.  It is not a source for any advancement of our understanding of Scripture or sound doctrine.”

Nothing coming from the Charismatic Movement has provided recovery or strengthening of the biblical gospel. Nothing coming from the Charismatic Movement has preserved truth and sound doctrine. It has only produced distortion, confusion, and error.

The Do’s and Don’ts of the Holy Spirit

MacArthur went on to delineate what he sees the Scripture teaching regarding what the Holy Spirit does and doesn’t do:

“What is the work of the Holy Spirit?  He convicts, He regenerates, He justifies, He illuminates, He cleanses, He converts, He sanctifies, He adopts, He baptizes…

He indwells, He endows, He empowers, He guides, He delivers, He produces fruit, He secures us.  This is what Scripture says and what it doesn’t say is this, the Holy Spirit knocks us down. The Holy Spirit makes us laugh in a silly way. The Holy Spirit amps up our body heat.  The Holy Spirit gives us the hiccups.  The Holy Spirit gives us convulsions, puts us in a stupor, makes us look drunk, causes us to fall down, speak gibberish, make primal sounds, jump, roll…ridiculous…absolutely ridiculous.

…the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to lead you into the truth, to disclose the things of Christ to you in order that you might be conformed to Christ’s likeness.  Just an amazing simple reality.  The Holy Spirit does in us what He did in the Son, conforming us to the very image of Christ.”

As MacArthur delineates the various aspects of the distortions within the Charismatic Movement under the heading of “what the Holy Spirit does and does not do,” I know that all of those who are part of Calvary Chapel would generally stand solidly with him in the same assessment. Of course we would take issue with the fact that he completely discounts the present day “gift of tongues” that is associated with the Charismatic Movement, classifying it as speaking “gibberish.”  But aside from what he says about tongues, all of us within Calvary Chapel teach exactly what he stated above in his last quote- that is, “The Holy Spirit does in us what He did in the Son, conforming us to the very image of Christ.”

No Place for the Spirit-filled Baptist

As a young man who came to Calvary Chapel thirty-three years ago, I felt like a “square peg in a round hole.” The Southern Baptists didn’t want me based on my belief in the present day ministry of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, I absolutely didn’t fit in with the Word-Faith Movement and its utter distortions and misrepresentations of the truth of God’s Word.  However, when we moved to Southern California for my graduate study, I came and heard Pastor Chuck Smith speak on a Sunday night. When I heard Pastor Chuck teach I felt as though I had found a spiritual oasis in a theological desert, because Chuck taught and believed what I had come to believe! I scheduled a meeting with him at which he invited me to come on staff at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. And thus, I became a part of Calvary Chapel in September of 1980.

A Biblical, Charismatic Church

As a man with a long history with Calvary Chapel, I can tell you that what John MacArthur is describing as the aberrant emphases within the Charismatic Movement are the very things Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel have long been in the forefront of exposing. They confronted such distortions and misrepresentations and preached solid, biblical truth. They saw hundreds of thousands of people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ and begin growing spiritually through the systematic teaching of God’s Word. Converts were continually being filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him to be living witnesses of Jesus’ saving and redeeming power.

Additionally, believers in Calvary Chapel were also ministering in the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a solid, biblical manner. Jesus was being glorified and honored in their exercise of the gifts with the result that true, genuine, biblical evangelism was occurring in all venues of people’s lives.  However, in turn Calvary Chapel’s biblically-framed approach to exercising the gifts actually brought on some serious opposition from the distorted elements present in the Charismatic Movement. But a consistent stand for biblical truth in the face of the aberrant teachings within the wider Charismatic Movement was one major reason for the continuation of effective ministry at Calvary Chapel. And thus, this biblical, charismatic church saw hundreds of thousands of lives changed in and through the Spirit’s ministry through Calvary Chapel.

*View all quotations in their full context here.

The Little Things…

IMG_1642.JPG (2)Sonja and I have a great marriage. I know I’d certainly classify it as great – she gets more beautiful inside and out as each day goes by. But great marriages are not made great by the “big” things. They are made great by doing well at the little things.

I thought I knew my wife when we got married. Boy was I wrong! Noe that i discovered things about her after we got married that I did not like that caused the relationship harm, not at all. just simply that as you live with people, and love on people, you get to know then so much better. And the great news about great marriages, is that this growth never stops! There’s always a sweetness to be found in finding out something new about your wife, or finding something that brings joy into her life that you did not known see, or understand before. These are the precious jewels that keep relationships fresh, and marriages strong. I love that I get to know her more and more all the time.

As an example, my wife Sonja is a stay at home mom. She works as hard or harder then me every day running the household, and does so on a shoe-strong budget. She adds to our income as best she can selling farms fresh eggs that our customers fight over, and manufacturing and selling all natural soaps. She is solely responsible for the homeschooling two of our children (the other is no Phi Betta Kappa at South Puget Sound Community College in large part to her efforts), balances an ever changing budget that has to accommodate increasing taxes and expenses, not to mention three teenagers, and so much more. She is busy to say the least. I have to get up rather early for my job, and I’m out of the house by 6:00 AM. I know how important it is to me to sleep in on the weekends when I need it, and so if I can gift her just a few more minutes of rest I’m happy to do so.

IMG_1554So, I have taken to let the chickens out of the coop each morning before I go to work. It’s a simple task, but a token of my affections for her nonetheless. It’s a small thing – but it is another easy to plug-in piece in a great marriage.

I’ve also learned to keep a small selection of gourmet chocolates in the pantry… 🙂