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Christian Films: Do We Need To Rethink The Old ‘Formula’?

Christian films in recent years seem to have been produced according to a formula, whether fiction or non-fiction.

That formula is a storyline that introduces characters, they confront a horrendous set of circumstances, they either find faith or exercise existing faith, pray, consult Scripture, and then, bingo, happy ending. Faith is strengthened, and faith is sometimes a new discovery for the characters. And all that is great. Yet it looks and feels sanitized. Characters rarely display raw emotion, as in real life. Language is sanitized. Violence is expunged. In short, reality takes on a sheen of unreality.

Audiences often walk away with mixed feelings: inspired yet confused, encouraged yet stereotyped.

In real life, horrendous situations are not always ironed out. Often, many wrinkles remain. People don’t always respond to the Gospel. In fact, they frequently reject it, violently. Diseases are not always cured. Relationships sometimes remain ruptured. There is not always a happy ending guaranteed on this side of the Second Coming.

I think Christian filmmakers need to take on tough issues, focusing more on the lost. We need to address them and their concerns directly, just as our Lord communicated directly.

I think we need to explore the difficult issue of evil, that sin is lethal, and we are defenseless without Christ. Who has the guts to do a docu-drama addressing the fact 50% (at least) of our pastors are addicted to pornography? The people making hard-hitting movies about the abortion atrocity are at the forefront of Christian film making today, in my opinion. Attacks by secular media and censorship prove the point: the enemy is riled up by this kind of film making, and the Lord is honored!

Life is not simple and fluffy. We are in a war. It’s tough. It’s tragic. It’s exciting, even thrilling. We cannot avoid violence under the pretense we must avoid an R rating. We must be real, vital, penetrating, even raucous, like John the Baptist!

While classical art seeks truth and beauty and inspiration, it also shows the courage to delve into complexity, paradox, and ambiguity. Christians films should have more grit and less glitz.

I also think we should be taking on tough issues within the church.

The American church is deeply crippled by cultural Marxism, secularism, worldliness, and compromise. The American church is afraid to take a stand for righteousness in the public square. As the attacks against Christ and His church escalate, do we honor Him by remaining silent?

And, I think we should delve into history and be brave in exploring the mistakes Christians have made in their sincere attempts to reach the lost, or the mistakes we have made allowing unrighteous rulers to use the church for sinful purposes. We must be brutally honest about our past mistakes, and the mistakes we make today if we are to have credibility in the marketplace of ideas. Leading the way by example in repentance will forward revival!

Christians have been gifted the Truth. We should, therefore, be on the front lines fighting the good fight. Instead, we are too often found cowering or retreating or surrendering.

It’s a disgrace.

Allan Erickson

Allan Erickson---Christian, husband, father, journalist, businessman, screenwriter, and author of The Cross & the Constitution in the Age of Incoherence, Tate Publishing, 2012.