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Monday, January 09, 2006

Why Does The Church Not Support Some Films?

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—4. Cast and Crew
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—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections

Yesterday I watched the DVD of The Gospel, the first time since writing the original review for the movie. I must say that I enjoyed the DVD as much as the movie and was drawn into the story as much as ever some months later. There are little things about DVDs that I like: primarily the special features and the search for "Easter Eggs." (For those that don’t know, "Easter Eggs" are the hidden features on many DVDs.) Unfortunately I haven’t found any on the DVD of The Gospel, but the DVD is loaded with wonderful special features, including uncut and unedited song versions, and a "Making of" feature.

While watching the DVD yesterday with my wife, who had not yet seen the movie, I was struck with a resounding question: Why did the Church not get behind this film and support it as they have virtually every other “religious” film of recent years? I was troubled by that, and I still am, especially considering that this is a rather thought-provoking retelling of the Prodigal Son parable from the Gospel of Luke. While the story is contemporized, the reality is that the story is just as thought-provoking as ever, and addresses various spiritual themes that one would think the Church would actively support.

Are there easy answers to why the Church didn't support this film? I don’t think so. One of the most obvious answers, which I would hope is not true, is that the movie is centered around the Black Church; yet other movies, like Diary of a Mad Black Woman, did at least garner the support of many in the Black Church. Then there are others such as Woman Thou Art Loosed, which was an excellent film that depicted the conflict between abuse and faith (among other themes) and received very little support from either the churched or non-churched movie-going audience. With all of the recent films dealing with faith, and particularly the Black Church, few have done so in as positive a way as has The Gospel. It is a film with wonderful music, a well-told story that both believers and non-believers can enjoy, and a compelling cast. The film does not compromise the integrity of the Christian faith, yet it tells that story in such a way as to not be preachy and derogatory. So again, the question: why didn't the Church get behind and support this film?

Fortunately, the church has the opportunity to make things right with the release of the DVD. I seldom promote a movie to this magnitude, but will—without hesitation—for The Gospel. After my second viewing, it is a film that I will use—one that I look forward to using—for various film discussions.

My direction in discussion, though, would be why the Church openly and actively supports some movies and not others. We often talk about the opportunity and even the need for the church to drive the entertainement industry: film, music or whatever. There was a day when the Church did just that. Many of our greatest artists, musicians, and contributors to society were Christians, or were certainly influenced by faith. Fortunately, as George Barna describes them in his latest book, Revolution, there are those who are "infiltrating the arts" and using their gifts and crafts to produce a quality product while at the same time offering insights into spiritual issues such as the need for social action and redemption. Yet for many of those things, the Church seems to be lagging behind in what it does or doesn't support. My hope is that people of faith will take advantage of the opportunities that are given them.

In that regard, the movie The Gospel is deserving of our support. It is a shame that it didn’t get more of it when it was initially released. Until the Church starts putting its money where its mouth is, I don’t suspect we will see the number of quality Christian films increase. Hopefully when making decisions as to what to support or not support, we are not influenced by large marketing campaigns. When we are, we are unfortunately letting others tell us what to think, instead of thinking for ourselves.

Overview (multimedia)

6 Comments:

Blogger Tim Spanburg said...

Mike -

Great point. I heard nothing of The Gospel spoken of in most churches, but my home church is currently doing a sermon series on the Chronicles of Narnia. Not to discredit Narnia, a great book, but I think it speaks to the difference between the white, surburban, upper middle class church and the African American church of today. There are too good books out right now, one called Divided By Faith, the other United by Faith. Divided by Faith chronicles Christianity's hostile relationship to race relations in American church history. It deals with the fact that although we may have helped end slavery, Christianity was used to justify slavery, and then it took Christians 100 years to believe in any sorts of equal rights. Apparently, we have still not bought into 'equal churches.' United by Faith is a wonderful book, detailing the attributes of a multi-racial congregation, arguing that is the Biblical model. Those are books worth checking out for all who are interested.

But back to The Gospel, I have no idea why it was not supported beyond the racial segregation in churches. I am not sure why Christians were not challenged to go, considering it depicted with such reality teh hope of anyone's return to Christ.

There is a movie called Second Chance coming out in February. Since it stars Michael W. Smith, I am guessing that the white churches will get on board witht his thing. I hope they do, because based on my limited research, it is going to deal with the gap between suburban Chrisitans and urban Christians. More importantly, it is going to deal with the gap between white Christians and black Christians.

Great points Mike. I encourage you to keep challenging Christians in issues like this. It seems like we hear Christians clamoring and crying for good, wholesome, movies all the time. Then, one comes out, and, well, uh, I guess they were busy.

1:09 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Tim thanks for the comments and the reference to the two books. I will be looking for both of them as well as the movie with Michael W. Smith in it, especially due to the subject matter. There was another fairly good film recently released to Video, The Christmas Child with Steven Curtis Chapman that was worthy of a view. It will be interesting to see if any of the "Christian Bookstores" a strange combination in itself, will carry and promote The Gospel.

1:40 PM

 
Blogger Chris Utley said...

There wasn't a big push from "mainstream" (predominantly White) churches for "Diary" or "Woman"...let alone this film. As most HJ'ers found out at HJAG 2005, I didn't like "The Gospel" at all. But I still found it strange that the TBN crowd didn't get behind this and the aforementioned films as much as they did for "The Passion", "Narnia", or even their very own "Omega Code". I was too much of a chicken to initially label the "mainstream" churches' disinterest as racism, but, as the saying goes, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

2:54 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Chris, one can't help but think about this if doing any kind of thought process.

12:09 PM

 
Anonymous zane anderson said...

Barna's best-selling book "Revolution" will be discussed this Friday night (2-3-06) on the nationwide Moody Broadcasting Network. "Open Line" is a call-in show which is aired at 8-8:55 pm CT. The phone number is 312-329-4460.

For station and time of broadcast information see http://openlineradio.org.

The programs are archived for download if you're unable to tune in.

4:26 AM

 
Blogger Chris Utley said...

For the record, I didn't see a big church push for "The Second Chance" (was only showing in 1 theatre by my house) or "Madea's Family Reunion". The good news: the lack of mainstream church endorsement didn't hinder "Madea" from making over $30 Million bucks during its opening weekend!

9:26 AM

 

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