I just read an article about a couple in KC named the Pruitts who are starting new careers in the independent film-making world -- creating "movies made by Christians rather than Christian movies". That phrase banged a gong in my mind. My NJ friend Randy and I had a conversation once about not wanting to do "Christian theater", but to be a Christian in theater. Aha -- a kindred spirit, as Anne of Green Gables would say.
The article refers to a book by Paul Marshall called Heaven is Not My Home. A quick reading of a few reviews of the book gives me some concern, but Marshall's ideas that they mention in the article I like. Ideas about art (such as film and theater) and Christians. " . . Most people who watch Christian movies are, well, Christians. Those who aren't are either unaware these movies exist or hate them." True dat.
I always struggled with what to say about Fireproof and Facing the Giants. I kind of enjoyed the movies -- they had some particularly well-done and poignant scenes. But they had some other scenes that were just awful, honestly. Terrible acting -- so obviously amateurish. And the "gospel presentation" is too . . gosh, I can't quite think of the words. Simplistic. Unreal. Preachy. Preachy because it's so obvious that's the real reason the movie was made -- to "trick" someone into hearing a gospel presentation. They are "thinly veiled sermons" that "follow an evangelistic formula." So true dat.
And they do this because "we are impatient with the allusion, the gesture, the suggested, and latent. We want the straight-forward sermon, not the implied question." A-men. But as Marshall continues, a good film is "always allusive, suggestive, and alluring; it hints, it frames, and it touches. It does not come right out and state the case; it does not argue." A-MEN.
As Randy said (and I'm paraphrasing), theater is really good at asking the questions, but it really sucks at giving the answers. And many Christians are uncomfortable with that because they are afraid of leaving critical questions unanswered. We're always afraid that we will miss that one golden opportunity to lead someone to Christ.
Who was it that said, "They don't believe Jesus is the answer because they aren't asking the questions"? I believe there is tremendous value in theater (and film) that draws the viewer to the right questions, even without offering answers. Theater that walks them that one step closer to knowing God. And THAT is the kind of theater I ultimately want to be involved in creating.