Jared C. Wilson is an author, speaker, and the content strategist for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s also the managing editor for the website For The Church.
In his post titled “Why Christian movies are so terrible,” Wilson makes a great observation about Christian art and culture:
I tracked this shift most notably in Christian writing (fiction) about 20 years ago. We always wondered why there weren’t any more C.S. Lewises or G.K. Chestertons around. The truth is, there were — they just weren’t writing for the Christian market, because that market does not want art that communciates truth but art that is being used by a message. And there’s a difference. It is the difference between art and propaganda.
I’ve been critical of Christian movies before. I think most of them are, as Wilson also says, terrible. I think they lack nuance. I think that the Christians characters are often unrealistically pious. I think the stories are generally uncompelling. Part of the irony is that these films are usually rated G and they don’t want it to be less family friendly, and so they can’t make the bad guys really all that bad or really get into the grit of human sin. So the movies end up often being pretty silly.
I like how Wilson puts it. It’s propaganda.
It’s not designed to engage a diverse audience: it’s for one audience. It’s for Christians. These movies are made to preach to the choir. And it’s a choir that I think often feels it can’t be critical of Christian art because, well, it’s “Christian!”
In Wilson’s article, he lists several reasons why Christian movies are so terrible. I recommend reading his post, but I want to focus on his last point. Christian movies are terrible because “even the best ‘Christian movie’ will never be cool.”
Wilson argues that even if a movie had a good script, good production values, good performances, theological nuance, it still wouldn’t be seen as cool by the culture. He may be right.
However, I think Christian movies can be done well. The Chronicles of Narnia is a tremendous set of books, rich in Christian themes. So is Lord of the Rings. I think Christian culture is too accepting of bad movies that we call good because they’re “Christian,” and because they’re easy rather than stories that are legitimately great and have meat to them.
It needs to be a piece of art that would realistically appeal to someone besides a conservative Evangelical Christian. Virtually every Christian movie I have ever sat through, I felt like I was being tortured.
There’s no shortage of great artists who are Christians. Christians must do a better job of supporting great art with Christian themes.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.