God in the Movies

It is rare for me to comment on movies I have never seen. It is rarer still for me to mention a movie, and then warn readers away, otherwise I’d be writing negative articles all day long. After all, Hollywood insists on churning out a product that is either unsuitable for Christian eyes and ears, or simply not worth our entertainment dollars. Rare exceptions in the last few years have included silver-screen adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. Tolkien and Lewis standout because of their profound commitment to a theistic world view (although not to New Testament Christianity as such).

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Philip Pullman. If Lewis’ Narnia is an allegory of the Gospel, Pullman’s trilogy for children is an allegory of the anti-Gospel. His first installment, The Golden Compass, looks like a glitzy family movie. At first glance, he seems to have the Roman Catholic Church in his sights, what with references to priests, cardinals and the like. Keep in mind, however, that militant atheists don’t care whether one church is closer to the Bible than another. As far as they are concerned, all religion is bad. Now that the movie is out in time for Christmas, Pullman is trying to be oh-so diplomatic, but he has been crystal clear in the past. “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief,” he told the Washington Post back in 2001. “My books are about killing God,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald in 2003. Indeed, by the end of the three-part series, the weak and incompetent god-figure perishes in a gust of wind. Screenwriters have tried to soften Pullman’s harsh rhetoric, but we don’t need to fund his openly anti-God agenda.

The other disappointment this holiday season is Beowulf. Trailers promise an action-packed adventure, and I was looking forward to seeing this old epic brought to life on the big screen. Unfortunately, virtual nudity and other inappropriate themes demonstrate once and for all that “PG-13” has become the new “R.” Further, in this Hollywood version of the story, Christianity is consigned to the cowardly and cruel. Tolkien, who almost single-handedly revived the study of Beowulf for modern audiences, would have been shocked. In the original version, characters refer to God in a very positive light, and some writers have speculated that the story introduced pagans to Christian ways of thinking. Again, each of us can send a message to Hollywood by spending our entertainment dollars elsewhere.

(This article appeared originally in the December 9, 2007 edition of Banner of Truth — the weekly bulletin of the Alkire Road Church of Christ.)

Update 1. Links to various online resources and comments about these movies:

Note: The inclusion of a link in the above list should not be taken as an endorsement of the content provided by the external site.

Update 2. Score at rottentomatoes.com (as of 12-11-2007), and opening weekend receipts from boxofficemojo.com

TITLE RATING RELEASE RT RECEIPTS
The Fellowship of the Ring PG-13 12-19-2001 94% $47,211,490*
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe PG 12-9-2005 76% $65,556,312**
Beowulf PG-13 11-16-2007 70% $27,515,871
The Golden Compass PG-13 12-12-2007 44% $25,783,232

* 55,698,361 adjusted to 2007 dollars

** 70,133,503 adjusted to 2007 dollars

Update 3 (2016). Here we are, nine years later, and despite Hollywood lacing some of its big franchises with profanity, like Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, PG-13) and, of all things, Men in Black 3 (2012, PG-13), the money is still on family-friendly movies  (movieguide.org, 2 Feb 2016).

© 2007 – 2016, Trevor Major. All rights reserved.

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