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Why Christian Movies Are So Terrible

Thankfully many Christian movies don’t follow those rules anymore, but they still prefer narrative tidiness over nuance. There is a kind of prosperity gospel that pervades contemporary Christian art. It’s there in CCM radio, of course, and it’s all over Christian movies, including the ones based on true stories. The team has to win. The sick person has to defy the odds. (If you can get a sick person and a sports team in the same story, you’ve hit Christian movie gold.) The atheist prof must get owned. The unbelieving spouse must be converted. On and on it goes. Why? Because “if you just believe,” you can win.

Christian movies have embraced a theology of glory rather than a theology of the cross. This is why, apart from inauthentic dialogue and stilted acting, Christian movies ring so untrue to ears tuned to reality. We know real life doesn’t work this way — even for believers. The world of Christian movies is uncomfortable sitting in the ambiguity of suffering, confusion, or chaos for too long. But if we must have Christian movies, they above all others should be brave enough to tell us the truth, which is messier than what the market usually wants to hear.

4. Christian movie theology must be contained in platitudes.

Every prayer sounds scripted. Every dramatic moment sounds cliched. The pastors sound like the phrases on motivational posters. Christians speak to non-Christians in “gotcha” wisdom, delivering Jesusy fortune-cookie bon mots to souls apparently just a few well-turned phrases away from conversion. The theology of Christian movies can be scribbled on the back of a napkin. It’s Christian bookstore coffee mug-level philosophy. It’s Christian T-shirt-level aphorizing.

Christian movies are typically made by the same folks who produce weekend services full of applicational pick-me-ups and fog-and-laser inspirational easy-rock. There’s not a lot [of] depth in them because there’s not a lot of depth behind them.

5. Even the best “Christian movie” will never be cool.

If you’re still reading, you’re either agreeing with me or just looking for more evidence of what a heartless curmudgeon I am. But here is something to consider that may surprise everybody: Suppose we actually had a Christian movie that was aesthetically excellent and artistically authentic. It was written with a writer’s sensibility, theological depth, the nuance of reality, etc. And then suppose it had clear Christian content in it. Do you think it wouldn’t strike so many of us as out of tune with what we expect good movies to be?

This is a question every armchair critic of Christian movies — like me or maybe you — ought to consider: is it just the aesthetic and dramatic quality of these movies we find embarrassing? Or is it the strangeness of hearing the kinds of things we say on a regular basis in church suddenly flung up on the big screen and aired out in front of the world? (Is it possible that the dialogue is realistic and we just stink at speaking well to one another?)

Or let’s consider this: The gospel always sounds offensive to the world. Maybe Christian movies that articulate faith content clearly are destined to be laughed out of the theater, regardless of the excellence of their cinematic context, if only because the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

What if there isn’t a way to make the gospel sound cool? That’s something worth pondering for Christian moviegoers and Christian movie-makers alike.

In any event, if your movie’s gonna get laughed at for being Christian, maybe at least make sure it’s because of the cross and not because it’s corny.

Jared C. Wilson
Jared C. Wilson
Jared C. Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, Director of the Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church, and author of numerous books, including Gospel Wakefulness, The Pastor’s Justification, The Prodigal Church, The Imperfect Disciple, and Supernatural Power for Everyday People. A frequent preacher and speaker at churches and conferences, you can visit him online at jaredcwilson.com or Twitter.

Jill Duggar Dillard Suffers Pregnancy Loss, Announces Stillbirth of First Daughter

Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband Derrick Dillard are grieving this week after suffering a heartbreaking pregnancy loss. The couple announced Saturday the stillbirth of their daughter, Isla Marie Dillard.

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"Several minutes later the same man who had just taken our picture walked up to us, in tears, and asked if we had a moment. He promised he wasn't creepy and introduced himself as Scott and his wife as Sally."

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