What if Jesus went to the movies? Would He be an extra butter type of guy? Skittles or Starburst? Reese’s Pieces or Peanut M&M’s? Coke or an Icee?
More importantly, how would He view movies?
Among Christians, the verdict varies extensively. To some, Jesus would have had a difficult time watching rated G movies because of the subliminal messages. To others, Jesus would watch anything that isn’t rated R unless it’s about Himself, of course. In other circles, we find Christians that are against an inch of skin being shown but still enjoy watching people get shot and blown up; I’ve never quite understood that crowd.
For the most part, the church seems to distance themselves from much of pop culture due to fear of “getting dirty” or being influenced by sin.
Imagine if Jesus would’ve walked into the 1st century speaking American English, wearing 501’s and a Ramones t-shirt, rocking Chuck Taylor’s and hipster glasses while listening to Mumford and Sons on His white iPhone 5s through His earbuds; wouldn’t He be just a little out of place?
Jesus and Paul Engaged Culture
In the opening chapter of John’s gospel, we see that in order for Jesus to reach out to sinners, He became like them in both nature and appearance (John 1:14). We also see in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus was quite familiar with the culture of His day. He used the popular sayings [i. e. “you have heard it said”] and language as a means to evangelize (Matthew 5:21, 27, 38, 43). This is why when Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:14-18, He said that His people are in the world though not of it.
Similar to Jesus, Paul also was extremely familiar with the culture of His day and used it as a means to identify with the people. Luke describes for us in Acts 17:22-34 a time in which Paul addresses a group in Athens. In his message to the people, Paul 1) quotes the rockstar of their day, 2) shows how through idolizing this rockstar, they’re life is void and meaningless, and 3) how Jesus fills this very void. Just like Jesus, in order for Paul to reach the people, he became like the people.
So this begs the question: how would Jesus view and use the movies of our day to reach the people of our day?
Engaging Movies with Jesus
Paul encouraged the Christians in Collasae to do everything in their daily lives for God (Col 3:17). We, too, are to do as such; this includes watching movies. When seeking to watch a movie through the lens of Jesus, there are two questions to ask:
- How and where is Jesus in this?
- If He isn’t, how and where is Jesus missing?
By asking these two questions while watching a movie (or watching tv, listening to music, reading a book, etc), we are able to identify how the movie is either a portrait of a redemption with shadows of Jesus or a storyline void of any lasting joy, hope, and meaning. Here are two examples:
Harry Potter and Jesus
Though in the past, the book and film series has received much criticism from the church due to the story’s witchcraft and wizardry, J. K. Rowling’s series is actually a shadow of God’s story of redemption. Harry is portrayed as a Christ-like archetype who takes on the Satan-like archetype Voldemort. In the end, Harry conquers his enemy (Voldemort) and his army of darkness by dying and resurrecting from the dead. Aside from these few key and striking similarities between Harry Potter and God’s story of redemption, there are many more throughout the series that identify the books and movies with the bible.
Regardless of the witchcraft and wizardry, we as Christians must not neglect to use one of the biggest and most famous book and movie series of all time for the sake of the gospel. There’s a reason why so many people hold these books and movies near and dear to their heart; the hero of the story is a shadow of Jesus, the maker and satisfier of their heart.
Gatsby Missing Jesus
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, which was recently adapted as a film, is a key portrayal of life’s meaninglessness and hopelessness apart from true and lasting love. Gatsby is a man with a culturally-deemed picture-perfect lifestyle, owning anything and everything he wants and yet is still missing something (or someone). He seeks joy, companionship, comfort and love in the long, lost love of his life, Daisy. In the end, Gatsby never does find fulfillment through his relationship with Daisy and unfortunately loses her and his life to the cause.
Many people resonate with The Great Gatsby because, like Gatsby, their lives are left hopeless and void of meaning a part from true and lasting love. Similar to him, people seek fulfillment in things and people other than Jesus only to be left dry, empty, and depressed; Jesus is the only person that can truly satisfy one’s soul.
Don’t just watch movies; view them through the lens of Jesus, engaging both His heart and mind to connect with not only the people who made the films but also the people who find glimpses of joy and hope in watching them.