The reason you find Christian films boring

Originally published at: The reason you find Christian films boring | Boing Boing


There are good movies that examine Christian faith (First Reformed springs to mind), but any movie trying to proselytize ends up preaching to the choir by putting forward narratives that reaffirm the worldview of already devout Christian viewers in a way that goes beyond what one would call pandering.

That all said, I highly recommend the movie Luther.


Wasn’t it Sam Goldwyn who said “Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union”?

Message movies in general are often crippled right out of the gate because all the things that make a movie interesting end up subsidiary to hammering home the message. The same is true in other forms of art, such as novels.

Another possible factor is that most message movies are promoting some particular kind of orthodoxy, and creators who want to promote orthodox viewpoints often lack that wild spark of creativity that allows them to make a great (or enjoyable) work of art. They’re the fussy little bureaucrats of artistic creation, and it’s no wonder that what they make turns out stilted, ponderous and dull.

There are honorable exceptions, but these tend to be the work of rare geniuses, sui generis creators who’d have done something remarkable whether they were peddling Christianity or soap powder.


Evangelical Christianity is a fear-based worldview. Fear is antithetical to creativity.


I always feel like there needs to be a Christian version of Darren Aronofsky where they’re more about telling a story from the point of view of a Christian rather than telling a Christian story in terms of a film. But that’s hard to do considering how especially American Christiandom actively hobbles creativity. Like I couldn’t imagine a Christian painter, writer, or director being given the freedom needed to actually depict their point of view with respect to their faith as being a lens by which they see the world. American Christiandom is very much a suffocating environment today that really needs someone to shake it out of the grasp of mediocre evangelists.


Lucifer was really ahead of the curve.


Judaism has a long history of debate, academic and philosophical exploration and rabbinical opinion and contemplation. It’s pretty clear that this is the well that Aronofsky was drawing from. I can’t imagine discourse like that evolving from evangelicalism even with another 2000 years of growth.


Yep, he’s explicitly stated in interviews and commentary that he viewed his film Noah as a kind of midrash.

For other quality “Christian” movies, check out Terrence Malick’s stuff. I’m not any kind of Christian, but I find The Tree of Life intensely moving.


It’s not as if 90+% of movies out of Hollywood aren’t already Christian, even the ones made by people who aren’t Christian. It’s the baseline assumption. Even Woody Allen movies at their most “Jewish” assume the world is Christian. The problem with the movies in question here is that they assume that a) their superstitions have some basis in reality, b) the people who don’t believe that stuff are going to burn in hell, and c) somehow you can make an interesting movie based on a & b.


I thought Dogma was pretty entertaining.



More short format, but I am a big fan of Veggie Tales. I like that it subverts the stereotype that Christians are joyless scolds.

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For me Luther was…ok, but Peter Ustinov was a joy in it, he basically saved the movie. Without him the film would have been pretty bleak. It’s like he was inhabiting a different universe than the rest of the characters, who were all actors while he was a real person. In that way he broke the 4th wall without actually doing so.


I love me some epic Hollywood religious films from the 50s and 60s.

Just the other night we watched Francis of Assisi(1961). Great movie.

You see a few of them this time of year but Easter is epic religious film season

Barabbas, King of Kings, Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, Joan of Arc, Ten Commandments, Greatest Story Ever Told, etc…

Oh, and The Life of Brian.

As for messages in films, I’ll pass, I just like to be entertained. I don’t want to leave a theater trying to figure out what the lesson was. Occasionally I’ll get sucked into a movie on UPTV but I get sucked in because the story is good. Same thing with ISPN. There are some good wholesome movies on those channels but they’re not preachy and I don’t feel they are trying to convert me.


That was amazingly well done
Too bad those that need to hear it wont listen


From an art perspective, it’s very simple: they don’t ask any tough questions of themselves.

From a commercial perspective, it’s very simple: they are a niche product, they serve their customers very well.

I also hate Kenny G as much as Pat Metheny did, but there’s room for his pap.


Scorsese’s "Last Temptation of Christ.’

For all the anger and vitriol the American Taliban hurled at that movie, I came out of the theater feeling uplifted, maybe even proud that I was raised a Christian, even if I didn’t really consider myself one anymore. Contrary to what they would tell us, it made me reconsider my faith the other way– “hmm, maybe I am a Christian after all.”


I think part of the problem is they aren’t trying to proselytize - the “Christian movies” I’ve seen bits of just ended up trying to make their target audience feel smug about being “correct” in their worldview.


There are lots of good movies made from a Christian or otherwise religious perspective, even those explicitly about those religions or specifically examining faith.

Thing is those aren’t capital C “Christian Movies”. Just as your gospel tunes, or the Violent Femmes aren’t “Christian Music”

A large part of the issue here is this explicitly for the Christians media is primarily only meant for proselytizing or re-enforcing particular religious teachings. It’s not really allowed for some one to attempt something else.

That’s because they grow out of a (primarily American) Christian context where this is the only acceptable use for art. One of the primary reasons this whole shadow industry exists. Is because of an ideology that views mass culture, and pop media as a vector for sin and lost faith.

So they can’t examine things. They can’t really tell any other sort of story. And critically they can’t involve anything else. Good media tends not to be about just the one thing, explicit and fore fronted. You can make some pretty good stuff based on, or retelling biblical lessons or whatever. They just tend also be about other stuff at the same time.

We had that recent post about Tyler Perry. And I always like him as a counter example on this. He’s also coming out of a specifically Christian, church background. His films also seek to re-enforce Sunday school lessons, and pander to a religious block. They’re also lower budget, quickly and poorly made.

But the context is different. He’s coming specifically out of Black Churches, in the South and Midwest. He’s not running through the Evangelical alt industry. And we don’t generally consider his stuff “Christian Movies”.

The church stuff (and lets be clear biases) run through all of it. But they’re always primarily about something else. Infidelity, custody battles, deaths in the family. There’s non-moralistic shit in there. His films are generally better made, at least competently shot and edited. They’re often pretty entertaining. Sometimes inadvertently, sometimes in their own right. Often a mix of the two. And in contrast to Kirk Cameron and Ben Stein, they’re massively successful.

And really important. He attracts some serious talent from mainstream culture to participate. For more than just an easy pay check.

It’s still schlock for a church crowd. But there’s a massive, massive difference as goes tone and approach compared to Evangelical media.


A lot of Christian media doesn’t tell the story about what makes living a Christian life interesting or compelling. They tell the story about what makes living a nonChristian life inadequate. They focus on what’s not there rather than what is. That’s not an artistic strategy with a high chance of success.


I think there are just too many constraints involved with Christian media. The audience is just too varied and pretty much any depiction of something is going to upset certain sects, whether is be how much skin is shown, people drinking alcohol, course language, dancing, kissing,… the types of things that a filmmaker is going to have to think twice about including in their movies. So considering the expense of making a movie, I think it’s just easier to make safe watered-down pablum than try to create something interesting and creative.

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