You Know Who Doesn’t Like Christian Movies? Christians.

A new post by my very good friend and Patheos colleague Benjamin Corey, a preacher and blogger, shines a spotlight on the sad state of Christian moviemaking. One of his early-on conclusions:

[M]any well-meaning Christian families who are making an honest attempt to let their children watch something good, might actually get duped into showing their kids crap.

Evidently, Corey is not alone. Since the days of Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments (1956) and Fred Zinnemann‘s A Man For All Seasons (1966), Christian movie fare hasn’t exactly been burning up the box office. (In saying that, I realize I’m using box office receipts as a proxy for quality. Let me know if I’m missing any masterful Christian flicks by that admittedly imperfect criterion.)

Here’s how bad it is: If you make a Christian movie and it grosses a measly five million bucks, you’ve already entered the list of Top 20 Highest-Earning Christian Films of all time, if this article from 2011 is any guide.

Mel Gibson‘s torture-porn The Passion of The Christ is at the top of the list with $370,000,000 — although Wikipedia says, next to a “citation needed” flag, that the gross reached $600,000,000 (the discrepancy may be between U.S. gross and worldwide gross).

The next three spots are occupied by installments of Disney’s The Chronicles of Narnia, with the third movie in that series earning only 36 percent of the first, which doesn’t bode well for future episodes four through seven. Incidentally, my now 11-year-old daughter read C.S. Lewis‘s second Narnia book a few years ago, and was surprised to learn, when I just asked her, that there are allegorical Christian references in it at all. It seems that the covert Christianity in the series is so slight as to escape detection by all but the most tuned-into-religion readers and viewers.

By highest-grossing Christian film number five (The Nativity Story, $37 million), we’re down into low-ish double-digit territory. Numbers 13 through 20 all grossed substantially less than $10 million.

Especially for the aggressively pious United States, a country where three in four adults are self-professed Christians, that’s a poor showing indeed. Even the aforementioned Chronicles of Narnia flicks, beloved elsewhere in the world, were a bit of a dud domestically.

It would appear that American Christians love watching Christian fare about as much as they love reading the Bible.

Corey has some theories as to why that is, beginning with the humorous “Because there is a really, really, really good chance that Kirk Cameron is one of the main characters.”

But he’s also hesitant to let his daughter watch Christian movies because

I want my child to know that a critical mind is something you never turn off, and that you can’t simply compartmentalize art as “Christian” or “not”. I want her to know that all truth is God’s truth, and all beauty is God’s beauty, and that you can find every bit as much truth and beauty from 8 Mile as you can from a Kendricks brothers flick. I want her searching for beauty everywhere she looks — I don’t want her thinking that good stuff exists “here” but you won’t find God “there”, wherever “there” is.

Though I obviously don’t share his God-belief, I agree with him on that. As atheists, too, we are poorer for sure if we dismiss religious art as somehow less worthy of our consideration. I still remember visiting the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon in 2004 and being floored by the heart-rending beauty of its Islamic art. I can lose myself in Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan‘s mystical music, have stood in awe inside cathedrals in half a dozen countries, and reliably get something in my eye when playing Eliza Gilkyson‘s Requiem, a sung prayer to Christ’s mother that manages to simultaneously express personal devastation, inner calm, and the never-ending hope for a better future.

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All the same, I’m at a loss to explain why religion-themed movies don’t appear to have made much of a mark on my art appreciation or my psyche — or on Corey’s for that matter.

And why do they tend to bomb at the box office? Excessive preachiness? Bias in Hollywood? Substandard production values? Scoffing secular critics?

If you have a theory, hit us in the comments.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • LesterBallard

    Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins as C. S. Lewis was good, but then Hopkins is a good actor.

  • http://penciledinexistence.wordpress.com/ Carly Jurica

    In my experience, it’s because they are not very well made in one way or another. They tend to be corny and dumb. Also, many are made in smaller studios with lower budgets, lesser-known (and often terrible) actors, poorer production, very little publicity (outside of Christian book stores), and very limited releases.

    Would “Book of Eli” count as a “Christian” film? That one was pretty decent.

    Of course, when I was in the church, I was taught that it was because Satan is in charge of our godless culture, especially in the media, which snubs Christian media because they hate Christians.

    • MNb

      I thought Book of Eli silly and cheesy.

      • http://penciledinexistence.wordpress.com/ Carly Jurica

        Meh, it kept my attention for two hours. And if I was given the choice between watching that or “Narnia” again, I’d choose “Eli.” Explosions, action, sweet little old people that end up being cannibals, and Mila Kunis, who may or may not be on my “I’m allowed to sleep with these celebs” list, haha.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Mila annoyed the hell out of me on That 70′s Show, but when I saw her outside of it, hey, she turned out to be smart, witty, and likable! I upvote your list choice.

    • Belaam

      Book of Eli was a remake of Zardoz that destroyed the original movie’s message. Trying to remain spoiler free, but In the original, the “holy text” was just people giving religious value to a text that didn’t deserve it. … which is probably not what they were going for in the remake..

      • http://penciledinexistence.wordpress.com/ Carly Jurica

        That sounds super interesting. Is it any good?

        • WillBell

          My understanding is it’s ‘so bad it’s good’ territory.

          • moose

            I just found it really bad–I saw it in a college class and everyone was just really embarrassed by it (the actors looked ashamed, too). To me, it didn’t rise to the level of “so bad it’s good” in the way that, say, Plan Nine from Outer Space did. The “so bad it’s good” ones tend to encourage audience participation in the form of snide comments. Zardoz just inspired squirming and a lot of “what the fuck is this?” comments.

            • The Other Weirdo

              You have to watch it stoned or drunk. It’s way better that way.

              • Spuddie

                It doesn’t help. Too slow moving to keep a buzz going,.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  It doesn’t hurt, either. Zardoz as a movie is nothing more than an excuse for Sean Connery to run around half-naked on screen wearing a red diaper and be a little rapey on-screen. That, and I read somewhere they were all stoned when they made it.

                • Spuddie

                  True enough

                  John Boorman was inspired by hippie communes when he wrote the script. So that was probably the case.

                  It was a weird time for Connery. He was doing a ton of offbeat stuff throughout the 70′s and early 80′s. I would be surprised if he wasn’t getting baked now and then.

        • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

          Zardoz is a younger Sean Connery in…well have a look for yourself!

    • The Other Weirdo

      Well, the BoE had one great line in it that perfectly described the Bible, so probably not a “Christian” film.

      • MichaelNewsham

        Yeah, a movie where the premise is that the King James Bible is impossible to get a hold of. Paging the Gideons.
        (also “The Road”- in a collapsed world full of violent cannibals, the best thing to do is push a shopping cart down the middle of the highway.)

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    Escape from Hell (2000)
    It was entertaining and enjoyable because it was ridiculous and awful.

    EDIT: Is there a way to link a YouTube video without it being embedded here?

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      *gapes*

      I SWEAR I heard a crewmember laughing in the background for a couple of seconds at one point there.

  • Conspirator

    I read up on the Narnia movies a while back as I was surprised with how quickly the second and third films faded from view. Turns out there’s some issues with the rights and studio ownership and such now, which is the actual delay. But compared to the cost of those movies I’m thinking that third one’s revenue probably hurts the chances of going forward.

    I read the first few books as a child. I didn’t get the religious concepts in them myself. But I was disappointed by the third or fourth with the lack of the characters I knew from the first book, so I stopped reading them.

    What really shocks me with those movies and books, particularly the second, is the violence. Strange how Christians think that’s so good for kids to see. Also, I’m surprised with the talking animals, magic, etc., that Christians like them. They’re often opposed to that kind of stuff. Shouldn’t they be offended by having a talking lion representing Jesus?

    • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

      My sentiments exactly. Its an epic fail at evangelism if that was what it was meant to be.

    • James Stevenson

      Bit hard to seriously portray a talking lamb tear the white witches throat out… doesn’t exactly solve the violence angle of it.

  • coffeecat

    The Last Temptation of Christ was excellent. Anything fresh and new or anything offering a different perspective is considered blasphemous by many Christians, therefore, they ensure all Christian movies will be bad or rejected by bible-believing Christians.

    • alfaretta

      I finally saw The Last Temptation within the last few years and (though I shouldn’t have been) I was surprised that any Christian would object to it. I mean the whole “secret” of the things that Jesus does in the film are right in the title, FFS.

  • Mick

    I’ve always assumed that most American Christians have simply accepted Pascal’s Wager. They believe in God just in case.

    They’ll go through the motions of regular church attendance in order the avoid the fires of hell, but they are not even slightly interested in learning any of the technicalities of their religion — and much less interested in spending any of their hard-earned cash on some namby-pamby Christian movie.

  • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

    I was also surprised when I heard that the Narnia books had Christian undertones. I read them as a kid and never noticed anything either. Even the movies though they are not great don’t seem to contain these Christian themes, except if we accept that good triumphing over evil is a Christian theme only. Narnia are just fun fantasy novels and even if Lewis was a Christian, I think these books were not his best attempt at evangelism.

    As for Passion of the Christ, It only did one thing. That was its portraying Jesus as God, after all any person that lost that much blood would have been dead after 10 minutes in the movie. It was like you say “torture porn.”

    • Belaam

      This actually ruined those books for me in rereading them as an adult and I loved them as a kid.

      The Last Battle in particular is a mess of anti-muslim and anti-evolutionary claptrap. I mean, the end is brought about by a chimpanzee named “shift” who tells people he has turned into a man and leads them away from salvation.

      About the only benefit is that some of the plot holes apply to Christianity as well (i.e. why does Aslan let everyone suffer before showing up after letting evil run things for ages?).

      • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

        Agreed, It really did mess the stories up for me. But there is so much more in it that makes me not worry about the undertones. If anything if you read it rationally you see that God is bad as you pointed out.

      • Anathema

        Oh, The Last Battle. I read all of the Narnia books with my Dad as a kid. I was aware of the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments in the Narnia books (mostly because my Dad pointed it out). But, despite that, I really liked all of the Narnia books. Except for The Last Battle. I hated The Last Battle.

        The thing that really got to me about The Last Battle everyone (save Susan) dies . . . and yet somehow that’s considered a happy ending. The end of the world is treated as a positive because everyone gets to go to heaven. Even as a little kid, I found that message incredibly disturbing. I couldn’t get my head around the idea that the end of the world was a good thing. I could not enjoy a book that killed off all of the main characters and expected the reader to accept that as a happy ending.

        • LesterBallard

          “The thing that really got to me about The Last Battle everyone (save Susan) dies . . . and yet somehow that’s considered a happy ending.” Christianity is a fucking death cult.

        • Anna

          Totally agree. The Last Battle really disturbed me. I read the others in the series multiple times as a kid, but I only read that one once.

        • Finn Nicolas

          Susan doesn’t die, does she? The way I remember it is that she died with them but didn’t get to go to Narnia because she had stopped believing in it and become more interested in “boys and makeup” (not the exact quote). Basically Susan becomes an atheist and is sent to hell for being a slut. Yay children’s books.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            It’s kind of unclear. I always read it as that she didn’t die but was the only survivor. Neil Gaiman wrote a short story that I want to read called “The Problem of Susan” about how someone who may or may not be Susan survived the train wreck that killed her siblings changes her life, and how she lives the rest of her life.

      • http://ma-sblog.blogspot.com/ Alice

        We have the Narnia movies, too and I always kind of thought Aslan was jerking everyone around.

        • Anna

          I haven’t watched the movies, but in one of the books there’s a moment where Aslan purposely hides from everyone but Lucy. He’s basically acting like a jerk and testing everyone else’s faith to see if they’ll trust that Lucy really sees him.

          • http://ma-sblog.blogspot.com/ Alice

            There’s a scene like that in one of the movies, too.

    • houndies

      I loved the Narnia books as a kid and the Hobbit/LOTR as a kid. Once I grew up and they became movies, the xtians laid claim to them. Despite the fact that both series had been in print long before the xtians even took note of them, to listen to them you’d think the books were written just for the xtians. A couple of local churches even had bible study classes about the LOTR. Anyway, it really wrecked those books for me. Typical xtian behavior though, making everything about them. I wonder if the xtians I knew would have been cheering so hard for Gandalf/Jesus if they’d realized Ian McKellan is gay.

      • http://iamchristianiamanatheist.blogspot.kr/ Christian Kemp

        I am not so aware of the LOTR christian references. I don’t think they are as obvious as are presented by Christian groups. I have actually heard people use them as spiritual guides, but not Christian beliefs.

        • houndies

          Where I live you’d be shocked at the number of xtians who completely paralleled the LOTR books with the bible and the return of Christ.

          • MichaelNewsham

            Tolkien himself said he revised LOTR to make it not only more Christian but specifically more Catholic. One of the reasons for his later estrangement from Lewis was he thought Lewis was anti-Catholic (Ulsterior Motives”)

            • houndies

              That’s interesting. I have a copy of the Hobbit from the 70′s with a forward that states the books weren’t meant to be allegorical just fantastical tales to enjoy. Who knows. I just know I liked them more before the fundies turned them into “it’s all about us” literature.

            • Spuddie

              Well that and his experiences in World War I informing the characterizations. Hobbits and Orcs = British salt of the Earth types and “The Hun”.

      • Periphrastic

        C. S. Lewis was a Christian Writer; there’s probably more dispute about Tolkien. It’s not something other people made up, though. C. S. Lewis was also the writer of The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce. Tolkien was quite religious but I’m not sure he really intended his fiction that way, at least not necessarily any more so than any author does. Narnia was much more overt. Either way, I see it like–I’m not a Mormon and I have no interest in Mormonism but I’m not bothered by BSG integrating some of it. Integrating a bunch of religious symbolism doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed without believing the essential truth of those symbols. Tropes are tropes for a reason.

        • baal

          Both authors were in a writing group called the “Inklings”. Lewis intentionally wrote christian ideas into his stories but without the usual jargon to show how ‘universal’ and ‘right’ christianity was.

          • Periphrastic

            Which of course much of it is universal, but–BRB, I just realized that TV Tropes may in fact be the real and inspired word of God.

  • KMR

    I’ve seen quite a few Christian movies and without a doubt the vast majority have sucked. There are numerous reasons but I’m guessing the biggest is the “preachiness” and self censoring that happens. When art censors itself, whatever that art is, it becomes less automatically. This “less” (or crap) art will not attract high dollar sponsors, actors, writers, directors, etc. So you get movies like the Left Behind series, books like the amish novels, and songs that make you want to vomit (“and heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss”). There are a few works of art with Christian themes that in my opinion are good, but they don’t go after the Christian label and thus haven’t censored their material.

  • 0xabad1dea

    The subtlety of the religion in Narnia is deliberate. I believe the author even explicitly stated his intent was to emotionally attach the young readers to the *premise* of a righteous savior before they were old enough to properly understand Christianity.

    • Anna

      LOL, it didn’t work on me. I didn’t like Aslan. And I had no idea about Christianity when I first read the books.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      So to manipulate and indoctrinate. Unsurprising. And here I thought I didn’t have enough reasons to dislike Lewis. :P

      If he really said something like that, it was a presumably unintentional admission that his apologetics were weak.

      • Anna

        He actually throws the “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” argument into one of the early books!

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Must…resist… temptation… to reread…

          • Anna

            I started, but after the first two or three books, all my childhood memories were starting to be ruined, so I decided to stop.

  • MNb

    This one was pretty good (no masterpiece though):

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0243415/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    Hypothesis: The list is nonsense. Evidence: it does not have Jesus Christ Superstar in it.

  • Rain

    I don’t want her thinking that good stuff exists “here” but you won’t find God “there”, wherever “there” is.

    There is no “there” there. Someone had to say it. Now nobody else has to say it. You’re welcome everybody.

    • NateW

      Not to argue, but I think you misunderstood. He’s saying “I don’t want her thinking that only “Christian” stuff is good and that everything else (secular stuff) is evil.”

  • Rain

    And why do they tend to bomb at the box office?

    Judging from what I’ve seen, I would say they think their audience are idiots.

  • Brian Westley

    Although I haven’t seen it, “Tender Mercies” starring Robert Duvall won some Oscars and is considered to be pretty good.

  • Kiwi Dave

    I thought Jesus of Montreal, which I saw a very long time ago, was a terrific film and vaguely remember enjoying the soundtrack a lot.

  • Gofa

    Haven’t seen it yet, but I hear “Saved” is good. Does that count as a Christian movie? Also, A Walk to Remember. Couldn’t tell you what the movie is about, but it’s got Mandy Moore in it, so I’m on board.

    • The Captain

      “Saved” is really more of a anti-christian culture movie. It scorns the closed mindedness and judgmental nature of US christians.

      • 3lemenope

        “I just crashed my van into Jesus!”

    • Jim Charlotte

      It is anti-Christian-subculture but it actually isn’t anti-Christian. In the end of the film the main characters reaffirm their faith, event though their faith is a non-quite-mainstream-yet-gay-accepting Christian faith.

    • Timothy R Alexander

      I’ve seen a walk to remember. it was nothing special and Mandy Moore adds nothing of value to it other than a famous name.

      • Gofa

        Like Megan Fox adds nothing to Transformers, but for some reason I find myself watching it…

  • Ross Thompson

    The 1956 version of The Ten Commandments is a remake. Cecil B. DeMille first made it in 1923, just for the record.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ten_Commandments_%281923_film%29

  • 3lemenope

    I tend to like non-standard portrayals of Jesus. Hal Hartley’s The Book of Life was good (Martin Donovan as Jesus), as was Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal in The Second Coming.

    Then again, I’ll also readily admit that I enjoyed The Passion of the Christ and thought that while some of the historical details were pretty wacky, the aesthetic choices were very good and the theological choices were…interesting.

  • The Starship Maxima

    I think if we take the focus on Christianity out of the picture, the explanation is that in any genre of film, there will be a few at the top that set records, while the majority are merely pedestrian.

    In Science Fiction you’ll have mega blockbusters like Star Wars and the Matrix (both with somewhat Christian allusions in varying degrees), but the vast number of sci-fi movies fail to earn back their budget.

    The variance will be obvious in the Christian movie genre because there are so few of them released compared to other genres. It’s not as if Hollywood makes a ton of Christian (or even religious-themed overall) movies, whereas there’s sure to be at least ten sci-fi/superhero movies released in the summer alone. So yes, of course you’ll have 20 sci-movies in the top 100 grossing movies, 34 superhero movies, and maybe three Christian movies.

    In closing; while I actually enjoy your anti-theist insights, your broadbrushing of Christians is occasionally grating. Popular to contrary opinion, Christians are like most movie-goers, we’ll pay to watch The Avengers or Finding Nemo multiple times, not because the story of a fish trying to rescue his son evokes the Bible or because a group of disparate personalities trying to save the world evokes the Disciples, but because they are both really awesome movies and they each add up to two hours of quality entertainment. We actually can separate our faith from our desire to have fun.

    And yes, many Christians haven’t studied the Bible. That’s a problem. But then again, I’ve met many evolutionists who know less about radiometric dating and the fossil record than I do, and I’ve met pro-choicers who clearly haven’t studied any of the abundant research on the subject. Just sayin’.

    • David S.

      In any successful genre, there will be a steady stream of good movies, which the science fiction genre has. I seriously doubt that the vast number of sci-fi movies fail to earn back their budget; Hollywood accounting makes most movies, no matter how successful, as unprofitable on paper.

      The fact that there are so few Christian movies released with large budget releases is probably a consequence of the lack of Christian movies in the top grossing ones as much as a cause. I think it important to look for the Evil Dead‘s of Christian movies; where are the no-budget Christian movies that still manage to wow?

      • The Starship Maxima

        You make an excellent point David. I’ll have to reconsider that.

  • The Captain

    So I’m going to leave aside any “Hollywood” industry movies and focus on independent christians movies.

    First the claim that christian movies are stifled by the industry is false. If anything as an independent film maker, christians have a huge advantage in raising funds and getting publicity that other “secular” filmmakers do not have. They have a network of publicity through christian media and church fundraising that would make most independent artist envious. Outside of Horror films, getting a christian movie made is much easier than any other type of film.

    Now why are they so bad? Well christian films share a lot of problems that christian rock has. Namely preachiness, and a lack of nuanced subject matter. But beyond that a lot of the christian films I’ve seen frankly have really bad writing. The characters tend to be stereotypical and predictable. The good guy is good, and the bad guy is bad. There is very little room for nuance and grey ares to explore. Morality is just too black and white. The conflict and character archs are just too predictable and any characters that “fall” can’t keep any sympathy after they turn “bad”.

    The dialog doesn’t help either. Personally I feel this is because the writers frankly come from a backgrounds too grounded in christian wholesomeness culture to really know how to write compelling characters that don’t talk and act as if they stepped out of a 1950s sitcom. There is no “grittiness” in most christian films since the writers don’t have any experience in that world. It’s hard to write what you don’t understand, and christian filmmakers have shown they don’t understand the world outside of a wholesome christian worldview.

    Another problem is that christian filmmakers tend to lean too much on the “happy ending”. Most christian films have this predetermined “all is going to be fine” ending that is so obvious from the beginning that the rest of the film becomes meaningless for the viewer. No christian film is going to have a “No Country for Old Men” type ending.

    There is also the problem of character redemption. For christian filmmakers that try to use self conflict of the main character as the story driver, the “redemption” is always the accepting of jesus. In secular films, the characters “redemption” can be anything from finding out what happened to a friend (good or bad), coming to terms with something internally, sacrifice of something meaningful (usually the main character themselves), revenge, or any number of things. But for christian films it’s always the finding of jesus. It’s just doesn’t make for compelling stories.

    Also they main underlining focus of christian films is the relationship with god, as it is to christians in real life. Thus the characters interactions and feelings towards each other all is secondary to their relationships with god. So when two characters reconcile in a christian film, the focus is never really the reconciliation of the characters themselves, it’s always a reconciliation towards god. Thus the personal relationships of the characters is just fake window dressing. Also not great storytelling.

    There’s a lot more but this is becoming a long post.

    • The Starship Maxima

      I have to tell you that as a Christian, and someone interested in screen writing I’m saving this post as a useful referent.

      Thank you.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        Tell interesting stories with interesting relateable characters. And avoid the traps of cliched formulas. That’s my advice. The problem with most of these movies (and most movies come to think of it) is cardboard characters and predictable plotlines. I shouldn’t be able to tell you the rest of the story five minutes into a movie. 90% of the time or more I can and you probably can too. Tell your truth. Or track down someone else’s. The Blind Side was a good film. The characters were interesting and it was a story that hadn’t been done a gazillion times already. It was a big hit, and not just with born-again Christians.

      • The Captain

        And good luck to you too!

        One thing I also thought of that kinda gets to the root of a lot of my points is that most Christian movies, like most of christian life, fundamentally have “god” as the main character. “God” ends up being the main character of the story… but is usually never actually IN the movie. You can’t have every on screen characters actions in a film be motivated by a character that the audience has and will never meet. (this can be pulled off, but it’s hard, and shouldn’t be the defining feature of a genre).

        The greeks had lots of” gods” in and as the focus of their plays, but the “god” was always an actual character that the audience saw. That works. The “gods” had interactions, emotions, and most importantly lines! That’s what allows them to be part of the story. Most christian films today though still has god as a character in a story, but no lines, interactions, or anything that makes a character in a story interesting. Without that, the other characters interactions with each other become meaningless, and shallow to the viewer.

    • ichuck7

      Well said.

    • Pamastymui

      I have grown up watching Mexican tele-novels. Some are circulating in the TVs right now as they appear to be cheap way to fill empty hours.
      Through the years I have noticed that the relation to religion is treated better in those novels(putting aside cultural differences) than the one in the Christian movies.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Exactly. My objection to Christian rock is that most of it just isn’t very good music. Even worse the “praise choruses” that plague most churches these days. The Christian nature of something shouldn’t make it of lesser quality. Handel’s Oratorios on Biblical subjects are of the same quality as his operas on Greek and Roman history and mythology (basically pagan subjects). Bach’s church cantatas, passions, chorale preludes and other religious themed music are considered among the greatest music in the Western tradition. it’s not the Christianity that’s the problem. It’s the dumbed-down nature of fundamentalist Christianity that makes for such unwatchable and unlistenable tripe.

      • The Captain

        “praise choruses” Yep, that’s exactly the problem with christian music in a nut shell.

        Once on a long road trip and a having run out of CDs (the stone age of pre iPod) I saw a billboard for a “Family friendly”christian radio station and I just assumed that “Family friendly” meant, well, just not Slayer. But no, every single song was about/to Jesus/God. There was NO other subject matter explored. I’ve since made it a road trip hobby to listen to christian music and I’m still amazed of the lack of subject diversity.

        The “praise choruses” of US evangelical christianity has really crippled christian art in the US. If you watch a popular christian band playing a concert they’re not even trying to make “art”, or “entertain” anymore, it’s basically just a long worship service. Even their rock concerts are long worship services! Couple that with the way US christianity has wrapped itself in conservatism (the philosophical not just political kind) and what you get is 6 year old pop music with one subject matter. Rubbish!

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          And there’s not even any attempt at any musical variety. (It’s amazing how many of them have the same chord progression, tempo, everything. But, I guess I shouldn’t scoff. I’m getting paid pretty well this week to sing on a demo of one of them. LOL. Hey, a gig is a gig.

    • IDP

      That’s perhaps the best summary of why Evangelical Christian media (movies,books music) is so terrible that I’ve ever seen. Thank you.

  • Jim Charlotte

    Blue Like Jazz wasn’t a terrible movie considering it was mostly funded through Kickstarter. That being said, I do fondly remember reading Donald Miller’s memoir of the same name back in the mid 2000′s when I was still a Christian, so I suppose I still have a bit of a soft spot in my heat for the movie based on it. I was and may still be on Netflix.

  • Raghu Mani

    I’m sorry but if the list does not contain either “The Ten Commandments” or “Ben-Hur,” it completely lacks any semblance of credibility. Those two movies made around 60-70 million dollars each but that was in the 1950s. Adjusted for inflation, they are both among the top 15 movies of all time.

    http://boxofficemojo.com/alltime/adjusted.htm

    The list also does not include “A Man for All Seasons,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Quo Vadis,” “Charriots of Fire” and many other Christian-themed films, all of which were a lot more successful than most of that sorry list.

    Not to say that your thesis is false but that list you linked to isn’t any kind of evidence.

    • Jim Charlotte

      Point taken, but if you can count “It’s a Wonderful Life” you can count “Constantine” as they both have ridiculous caricature of angels in them.

      • Pamastymui

        Do not forget “Dogma”.

        • Alierias

          My husband just made me watch Dogma — yeah it wasn’t good…

      • The Other Weirdo

        How are they caricatures?

    • Brian K

      “Prince of Egypt” omitted too.

    • Spuddie

      Except Hollywood Biblical movies are made on a much different level and sensibility. They were actually pretty cynical in how the Bible is treated.
      The point behind doing them was that you could show all manners of depravity and violence for the first acts as long as the pious come out on top by the last one as lip service to those who want to see something “Biblical”.
      All of the sins of Sodom, Rome, Babylon, Herod’s Palace… for an hour plus which the audience wants to see and five minutes of the nominal heroes becoming martyrs or being “redeemed by the Lord” to keep the censors off your back

  • The Starship Maxima

    A question to consider is, by what measure do you label a movie a “Christian” movie?? Superman is well known to be a metaphor for the Son sent by his father (Jor-El) to save all mankind and is a a cash cow character, all the Superman movies including the latest, Man of Steel, were successful. But, nobody really calls Superman a Christian character.

    • David S.

      Establishing that the protagonist of a random story is really a Christ figure is part of Literature 101; that someone has called Superman a Christ figure is unsurprising but not really edifying. (Note that Jor-El did not send Superman to save humanity; he sent Superman away from home to save Superman.)

      • The Starship Maxima

        To David, Conuly, James, Alierias
        Upon further thought, yes, it seems one need not automatically assume a Christ-analogy.

    • Conuly

      You think two Jews deliberately made their superhero a Christ figure?

    • James Stevenson

      Mmm not sure I’d agree with it being built from the ground up as a Christ character, being created by Jewish writers and all, closer to a Moses allegory there in my view.

      Never really got it myself though especially all the hub-bub about the new man of steel film. People going on about the ‘you can’t control me’ line to refer to Jesus. And his father, as you say, going on about ‘saving’ us… frankly I just found that horrifically bad writing. If that was a deliberate attempt to shoe horn a Christ-aspect to the character it was very ham fisted.

      Maybe that’s just how it is though with Christian film… take your base story, hell lets even assume its a really nice story that deserves to be portrayed. Take a random aspect, tear it out, crudely shove a Jesus metaphor and forced redemption message in there and presto. Terrible film.

    • Alierias

      I was deeply disappointed in the “Man of Steel”
      El, the surname of Superman’s family, is the original name of the Hebrew god btw; you can find it sprinkled throughout the oldest writings.
      And Henry Cavil was born to play that role, MmmmMmmMMmm! But the writing was just SO bad and ham-handed, it made it well nigh unwatchable, which is bad for DVD sales…

  • LesterBallard

    Kirk Cameron is the most underrated actor in history. He should have gotten the Oscar for Fireproof. And multiple Emmys for his Way of the Master work with Comfort.

    • allein

      For comedy?

  • Mario Strada

    Terry, Eliza Gilkyson‘s Requiem is OK, but if you want religious music, you have to try this for size:

    http://youtu.be/hO1pn6D-t4M

    Although, Verdi was an atheist and the Church wasn’t really appreciative of the piece, it’s still a Mass.

  • Kingasaurus

    As others have said, hard to classify what a “Christian” film is. Yes, Kirk Cameron’s church-basement film festival qualifies, but there’s an incredible grey area when it comes to the allegorical stories.

    “The Shawshank Redemption” has an amazingly good reputation pretty much everywhere (including with me), and it’s a blatantly obvious Christian allegory. I suppose you can watch the film without seeing these undertones and themes, but once you DO see it, it’s impossible to un-see it.

    Is it a “Christian” film? Depends on who you ask.

    • Kiwi Dave

      Do you mean The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile? I found the former quite enjoyable, but the latter’s use of the holy fool with supernatural powers a la Christ so blatantly implausible and manipulative that the film’s good points were quite overwhelmed.

      • Kingasaurus

        No, I mean Shawshank.

        Great film, blatant allegory.

        • Bill Haines

          Great film, yes. Blatant Christian allegory, no. You see it that way because you want to see it that way. Here’s how someone else might see it:

          The prison is religion, administered by self-serving hypocrites and their violent underlings. Andy, the nascent Humanist, is enslaved by his own willful lack of engagement with reality (remember him saying he actually was guilty of neglecting his wife and the happier life they could’ve had together) and wrongfully convicted by society’s belief in his guilt without a shred of actual proof for it (Inquisition, anyone?). We see that bad things do happen to people who don’t deserve them, and not for any higher power’s reason, but simply circumstances and our own failings.

          The warden is every corrupt religious leader pretending to be righteous. Andy, an educated man, is familiar with religious scripture and uses it against his captor with devastating sarcasm, though this becomes clear only after his escape. He doesn’t realize just how evil the warden is until Tommy’s murder, and this knowledge is what motivates him to put his long-conceived plan into action, eventually bringing down his oppressors.

          “Andy’s basic function as a character in relation to his fellow inmate friends is to tell them that there’s always hope, and that there’s more to reality than the prison. Free your mind, and all that. Remember the opera singer over the loudspeakers?” (This is Andy fully becoming a Humanist: you have the ability to maintain hope, there’s more to reality than the prison [of religion], education is the key to freeing your mind, appreciating the beauty that people create is one of life’s greatest pleasures, etc.)

          Brooks doesn’t try to challenge himself or others in his role as librarian, but just accepts his fate and hands out whatever pablum his ignorant charges want, so demoralized by the prison system (religious worldview) that he can’t adjust to life outside it, even though that life offers him freedom and personal responsibility.

          The Mexican beach that Andy tells Red about is a metaphor for ataraxia, the mental state of freedom from strife, the knowledge that the only purposes in life are the ones we assign. Zihuatenejo is where Andy lives out his remaining days in Epicurean simplicity and peace, and not only because he’s reached a mature Humanist understanding of life, but — very much unlike Jesus — because he’s taken a great deal of stolen wealth from the hands of those undeserving who abused him so terribly.

          The empty cell certainly is not analogous to Jesus’s empty tomb — Andy was not rescued by any supernatural agency, he broke out by his own effort over many years of painstaking labor and planning, cunningly using natural forces (thunder and rain) to his advantage in disguising the evidence of his passage and washing himself clean of the prison’s (religion’s) shit.

          Red is paroled because he stops trying to live according to the rules, accepts reality and just tells the truth (remember his scene with the parole board). He avoids Brooks’s fate because Andy’s example has given him hope that he can live out the rest of his own life happily, according to his own purposes.

          And I’m sure someone of another worldview could see it some other way as well, but for me, as the saying goes, sounds like Humanism. :)

          • Kingasaurus

            See my reply above.

            The empty cell being analogous with the empty tomb isn’t much of a stretch.

            The Warden even derisively mocks “It’s a miracle!!” when he notices that Andy is missing from his locked cell.

            The use of the Bible, “Salvation lay within”, etc. The movie is peppered with that stuff. The title of the film is “Redemption.”

            Andy doesn’t have to do or say exactly everything that Jesus might do or say for him to qualify as a Christ figure. Not just Christians have noticed these parallels. I don’t think the film is a Rorschach test in this area. Even the director Frank Darabont said that the Warden qualifies as a religious hypocrite figure, and Andy’s religion is more genuine. They both know the Bible, but one of them is a phony, and one isn’t.

            Yes, great films can say different profound things to different people. Ultimately, you can stretch any narrative like taffy and make it say whatever you want. But I don’t think the Christian symbolism of Shawshank qualifies as a case of that, however.

            I had no innate desire to notice Christian symbolism in this movie. I simply couldn’t help but notice it.

            Obviously, no narrative has a complete, one-on-one correspondence with earlier material. That would be trite and boring. But the symbolism I’m talking about isn’t really imagined only by the viewer. Andy is at least as much a Christ figure as Cool Hand Luke (if not more), and that one wasn’t very hidden, either.

            • Bill Haines

              But the character of Andy Dufresne being analogous to Jesus is rather a stretch, as I outlined above, and the stuff you’re talking about works as well or better in my Humanistic interpretation than your Christian one. “Salvation lies within” means the use of the hidden rock hammer, not the words of the scripture, and other references to religion easily can be taken as mockery rather than metaphor. I know the Bible too, but not because I’m Christian. ;) I’m not saying Stephen King didn’t have some Christian symbolism in mind when he wrote the story (which the movie follows fairly closely) but it’s not “blatant” as you claim — “Shawshank” doesn’t count as a “Christian movie.”

              • Kingasaurus

                “I’m not saying Stephen King didn’t have some Christian symbolism in
                mind when he wrote the story (which the movie follows fairly closely)”

                Well, I guess that’s part of what I AM saying, and I don’t think it’s that controversial. YMMV.

                We just have a disagreement over what qualifies as “blatant.” So be it.

          • Kodie

            I look up song meanings sometimes and there is always someone who understands the symbolism in the lyrics to be all about Jesus. Any song.

            It just seems to me that it’s a popular hope that one guy can help the rest of us out here and show us the secret shortcut. It’s the theme in many movies and stories. It’s the theme of Christianity. I don’t think it’s a coincidental parallel. When cobbling together Christianity, they went for this popular trope. Since I comprehend it as fiction, of course Jesus would save the day. You don’t set up a protatgonist to fail. You’re rooting for him to win the whole time, and then what? Then the lights come up and you go back to your car and your regular life in your regular world, and drive home and none of it was true, none of it is that simple, but maybe all of it is that simple.

            It’s also my understanding of Christianity that they love for things that pay homage to Christ’s life, and they like to see everything through that filter, but then they don’t like it sometimes. When Jesus is the only one, they don’t always like it when a “fictional” character in a movie takes over the role of Jesus and becomes Jesus for the characters in the movie. The story of Jesus is just not original.

            I haven’t read almost everything Stephen King ever wrote or seen most of the movies based on his stories, but from what I have seen, he’s pretty much into the symbolism. Religion is wishful thinking, black-and-white thinking, good guys, bad guys, and being an author, you get to make all the circumstances that lead to the ending you want. I only see the story of Jesus as following a similar template of hope and wishful thinking, just a popular trope in storytelling.

            It’s people who think that Christianity is the real thing and Jesus as the first and only character of his type, and everything refers back to it, that are the kinds of Christians who think everything an atheist might say is really a god-shaped hole, something missing in our lives that Jesus fulfills. So, I also have a Superman-sized hole, it’s not emptiness, it’s the wake-up to reality that as much as you might wish for a magical solution to every problem, there isn’t one. You can’t just stuff that hole with fiction and call it a day.

            • Kingasaurus

              “It’s people who think that Christianity is the real thing and Jesus as the first and only character of his type,”

              I’m with you there. Jesus clearly wasn’t even close to the first character of his type.

    • Ploon

      Please don’t ruin The Shawshank Redemption for me. It’s my favourite film and I have no idea what that “blatant allegory” is, and I would have liked to keep it that way. I may have to look it up now.

      • Kingasaurus

        Sorry to ruin it for you, but it’s pretty obvious.

        Spoilers, obviously…read at your own peril.

        The prison is the fallen world full of guilty people (administered by evil forces), and Andy (the Christ figure) is the only truly innocent man there. The Warden is a Pharisee who pretends to follow religious teaching but is actually corrupt in his heart (Andy surprisingly knows Scripture as well or better than the Warden does, which is another Jesus trope).

        Andy’s basic function as a character in relation to his fellow inmate friends is to tell them that there’s always hope, and that there’s more to reality than the prison. Free your mind, and all that. Remember the opera singer over the loudspeakers?

        The Mexican beach that Andy tells Red about (where the ocean “has no memory” and forgets all of your past misdeeds) is the “heaven” analog.

        The absolute low point of the story is the night where Andy’s friends are convinced he’s going to die (“that was the longest night of my life” -Red), and the next morning the absolute best thing happens instead, surprisingly. The empty cell is analogous to the empty tomb. Andy “came out clean on the other side”. Andy’s “resurrection” and disappearance from the prison upsets the entire ruling order and overthrows it.

        Red is paroled and where does he go? The Mexican beach (heaven) to see Andy.

        There’s more details and symbols that fit, but that’s enough to make the point. It’s pretty much all out there.

        Great movie.

      • allein

        Well, I never thought of it as an allegory when I first saw it. I later read something about that and I can see how it can be viewed that way, but I’ve seen it a million and one times and I still don’t watch it through that lens. Still one of my favorites. So don’t think of it as ruined. ;)

  • (A) Thinking Christian

    My theory is that it’s because of the media’s influence.
    SHOCKING, I know.
    But seriously. When has the media (those people who sit in desks thinking on how to balance entertainment and profit) ever succeeded in making a movie tied to religion? Just think about Thor. I have an unnamed pagan friend who loved the movie but found it equally frustrating how they demonstrated the god’s action and personality. He looked awesome, but to the Norse (I think it was the Norse, right?), he was also very offensive. This is the perfect example as to what the media does- remove as many offensive things as possible but keep a basis of the actual religion.
    This doesn’t account for the full out Christian movies that hadn’t been looked over for offensive material- the things that kept them from getting to much profit was just that…well, anyone who’s gone to Sunday school already knows that stuff, so it’s more like a review for a test than an enjoyable tale of old.
    The third and final reason (for me) is simply that people can’t really get into something that openly (and frequently) proclaims ‘I’m Christian! You are too!’. It sends a signal that you’re a good Christian or something just because you watched a movie, which is bullcrap, seeing as you’re (remember, not you, just a metaphorical person) a good Christian through faith (by the religion I’ve learned) and not by the amount of screentime you get.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Well, to be fair, the Marvel Avengers movies are based off the comic book hero Thor, who is only “inspired by” the Norse god Thor. The Thor in the movies isn’t really supposed to be the Thor of actual Norse mythology.

    • Spuddie

      When has the media (those people who sit in desks thinking on how to balance entertainment and profit) ever succeeded in making a movie tied to religion?

      Pretty much from the silent era up to the early 1960′s.The genre died when people no longer had to cloak violence and sex under Biblical pretense in order to get a film shown. The Passion of the Christ showed that Christians are willing to shell out money for low budget gore films under the right circumstances,
      Blaming “the media” is the laziest excuse for an argument one can make. Media is amorphous by nature. In many ways it tends to defy attempts to control and define it. If there is a market for something, it will be met.

  • ichuck7

    A few reasons: they are not well acted for the most part. They usually are corny and so preachy that they are hard to watch unless that’s what you’re looking for. They usually end a bit too happily ever after. But mostly the preachiness.

  • NateW

    As a Christian I entirely agree. In general, “Christian” is a terrible adjective as it almost always implies a fundamental division of the world into sacred and secular realms.

    JRR Tolkien was a devout Christian, very close friends with CS Lewis, but the two disagreed sharply on how to incorporate Christian themes into their work. As has been said, Lewis tended to use more or less straight up allegory. (ie Aslan=Christ) but Tolkien felt that Christ was better shared by bringing people into an experience of Him through abstracted stories. Lord of the rings is not an allegory, and Christ is not named, but his essential character is present within the central themes of the books—humility, self-sacrifice, death, resurrection, rebirth, hope, etc. Rather than teaching through 1:1 symbolism, Tolkien sought to give an experience of Christ that could be understood and applied within any human context, even if not known by name.

    Seen this way, there have been MANY great “Christian” movies, movies that illustrate the principle that self-giving love, denying one’s own desires for the good of another even when it is clear that it will mean one’s own suffering, is the place from which love and joy are resurrected.

    Les Miserable is probably the clearest portrait of the heart of Jesus Christ that I’ve ever seen. “To Love another person is to see the face of God”

    • MichaelNewsham

      Is that why it was on the Catholic Church’s list of forbidden books for a hundred years?

      • NateW

        No, pretty sure that was because it was seen as being pro-revolution, anti-clergy, and dealt with themes of prostitution all of which were distasteful to those in power who wanted to stay there.

  • Kodie

    I was going to say because they’re hokey, but a lot of hokey movies are successful in the theater, but then most of it is geared for family viewing, i.e., meant for children. It’s my impression that Hallmark channel movies are almost always Christian, but I don’t know. Uplifting corny shitty tv-movies about adults being boring and heartfelt appeal to a lot of people. I know this isn’t counted in box office receipts. I think what it must be is that there is a devoted audience for this type of output that does just well enough to make Christian movies a successful niche, like, on tv, where people can consume this garbage as much as they want; there’s enough story material for a 2-ish-hour-long movie, but nobody goes to see an unfunny rom-com dramedy of adults resolving conflict with the help of their lord and savior.

    The ones that seem to do well seem to be actually about bible stories, and are major studio endeavors. There seem to be 3 (at least) kinds of Christian stories in Christian movies, which is why this category is confusing.

    1. An epic bible story with all kinds of blood and special effects and amazing sets and a big name actor (Mel Gibson, Charlton Heston, etc.)

    2. An allegory – the themes of the bible are of a story that is timeless. It is a common plot, which is why Jesus is such a hero, so it has to be on purpose. I didn’t know until I started reading blogs that the “Narnia” books were Christian stories with different characters, but I only read on and we were shown the animated movie in school. If people are saying It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christian movie, it’s not just because it’s about Christmas or features an angel. The main character sacrifices his dreams and touches nearly everyone he ever met, and fights the demon, Mr. Potter, even as he’s almost finished himself, outwits the devil by being more popular just for being his generous self.

    Well, hell. That’s a popular position to put a protagonist in, isn’t it? Does having a protagonist make a movie a Christian allegory? In this case, maybe, but not in all cases. George Bailey isn’t exactly wise or set out to gather people around him to follow his example. He is mostly a chump because he’s so nice, and that’s about it, but people notice. Of course the “what the world would be without Jesus in it” is kind of glaring, if it was supposed to be an allegory. Is Star Wars an allegory?

    Whoever is the protagonist is going to be the one without whom the story wouldn’t have happened anyway, so they’re bound to make a remarkable difference to all the other characters. Otherwise, it’s just a random ensemble, and there are those kinds of stories too, and they are allegories of a differently structured plot. I think the protagonist structure exists, and the story of Jesus is a popular version of it, and bound to resemble Superman in a lot of ways.

    3. The kinds where adults, usually actors nobody has heard of outside of watching daytime soaps, face challenges in life, and have a particularly Christian solution to that problem. #3 is the kind nobody wants to watch unless it’s on tv.

  • baal

    I couldn’t listen to the video. Too much piano.

  • Brian T Hall

    I have a couple of theories, first one is…. when you make a piece of art, you have to practice the art form, over and over and over… well when your a religious nut or a religious person, you might not have enough time to practice an art form, you tend to think you have a cool after life, and that particular Religious person might be thinking If I want a big budget, maybe I would wait till I die and go to heaven so I can make a movie their were the money is plentiful… the next Theory is… Religion really kind of destroys the Idea of mastering an art form, I mean look at there value systems from an artist point of view to an Religious persons Value systems… an artist Values family and friends first, then second values practice the art form, then third hobbies and on the bottom of the list superstitions and religions.. A Religious persons Value system is like first on the list Superstitions and Religions, second on the list family and friends, then third Hobbies, then near the bottom Practicing an art form…

  • John Conolley

    Part of the reason Christian movies are so bad is the basic story is terrible. The Judeo-Chrstian myth is boring, boring, boring. I’ve tried to read “Paradise Lost” by Milton a couple of times, but I just can’t hack it because the story is so lame.

    • MineApostasy

      The first parts of it are, ultimately, the best. Creating an actual character in Lucifer is one of Milton’s greatest contributions to literature. The work in its entirety is flimsy.

  • Jennifer L Smith-Clark

    Other than the ones made when Charleton Heston was young every christian themed movie usually was really ultra corny. Besides most of the people who go to the movies are young and they do not want to be preached at they want to see bright colors, explosions, and boobs thats why Michael Bay movies might be bad but they will make more money. That and Bay would never put Kirk Cameron in a movie and for that we are eternally grateful.

    • MichaelNewsham

      I remember reading Gore Vidal reminiscing about his time as a Hollywood screenwriter and saying the big Roman/Biblical epics were referred to as “teats and sand” movies.

  • Msironen

    Does Life of Brian qualify? Maybe not a huge box office hit but certainly a classic!

  • DreadCanary

    At least part of the problem is that Christian movies don’t have ways of making characters stereotypically “awesome.” They can’t be violent (sin), can’t be a ladies man (sin) can’t resort to trickery to defeat difficult obstacles (lying is a sin).

    I think it has been proven that well-written protagonists have flaws, well-written villains think they are protagonists, and somebody is going to “sin” onscreen OR the story won’t emotionally connect with the audience.

    • IDP

      The hero should also be an obnoxious zealot, despite the fact that this actually makes the protagonist less sympathetic and appealing to the rest of the audience, not more.

    • Spuddie

      That and the New Testament is not very exciting visual drama. Other than a gruesome death at the end of the Gospels and LSD tripping with Revelations, it is a tough boring slog.
      The OT has all the fun stuff.

  • moose

    The Day the Earth Stood Still (besides being a wonderful film) has strong Christian metaphors. Klaatu arrives on earth from somewhere “up there,” he brings a message of peace and love that humans ignore, he speaks of peaceful worlds beyond our planet and of how that peace could be ours, too; he is “killed,” put into a stone holding cell, and miraculously arises the next day, and returns to the sky. The scriptwriter added the symbolism without telling the director he was doing so–he hoped it would be subtle enough to be missed. It definitely was subtle, as Robert Wise didn’t see the metaphors until after the film’s release. It was one of my favorite movies as a kid (I always loved SF and fantasy), but it wasn’t until I watched it in a college class that I saw the metaphors.

    Which is a key issue in this whole discussion.Many films could be seen as containing “Christian” messages or metaphors. One of the reasons for this is that themes like redemption, love, sacrifice, etc. are “Christian,” but they are not EXCLUSIVELY Christian. Despite what many Christians claim, their religion is not completely unique–those themes are timeless, human themes and Christians just co-opted them. The Day the Earth Stood Still was released during the Red Scare and could just as easily be read (as I read it as a kid) as a plea for political sanity and finding a way toward peace on earth.

    • Kingasaurus

      Yes.

      Not to mention the wink-wink that Klaatu’s Earth alias is “Mr. Carpenter.”

      • moose

        Oh yeah, as I was writing that, I was thinking there was a carpenter reference, but couldn’t remember for sure! Anyway, great film.

  • AdamKuntavanish

    Internationally, there’s a rich history of Christian-suffused art films from the likes of Bergman, Rossellini, Tarkovsky, Bresson, and Dreyer, but even these are rarely unambiguous; there’s just as powerful a vein of explicitly anti-religious movies from Pasolini (who still made one of the most interesting Jesus films in THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW) and Bunuel, among others.

    Horror movies have been using Christian ideas and iconography for quite a while now, from THE EXORCIST to this year’s THE CONJURING.

    • TychaBrahe

      The Fallen
      Knowing
      The Rite

      and let’s not forget Dogma.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I enjoyed The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. That was very well made and acted and had beautiful special effects. The sequels less so, but in part because the quality greatly diminishes through that series.

    Personally I think you should put The Blind Side in this category. It was certainly marketed to Christians and did quite well (including an Oscar for Sandra Bullock).

    • TychaBrahe

      The Superman remake was marketed to Christians, which was disgusting considering that Superman’s creators were Jews and the children of European immigrants who had fled pogroms, and were trying to give a voice to the voiceless. Superman, the nebbish everyman who is secretly possessed of great inner strength, is based on Moses.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        It was kind a stretch, that marketing campaign.

        You are right about the creators of the comic book superheroes and not just Superman. The artists (and most of the authors) were Eastern European Jewish refugees. There are a couple of books on this topic, and some documentaries, but for a fictional look at this period I recommend Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. (The film version seems to be going nowhere, sadly.) Chabon did tons of research and interviewed as many of the golden age artists and writers (like the legendary Jack Kirby) that he could find and who were (at the time) still alive. it’s a fascinating time. They writers and artists created a new (though based on other sources) American mythology that seems to be renewed in every generation. (The second wave of Marvel silver age characters is still highly popular as well.) It nice to see these original creators honored since they originally worked in sweatshop conditions (they were paid by the page). Sorry, I could go on about this all day. Yes, I am a geek. GEEK PRIDE!

  • Brian K

    OK, that movie list is immediately suspect. The Prince of Egypt grossed over 200M worldwide. The Ten Commandments grossed over 55M , and that’s not even adjusted for inflation.
    Films called “Noah” and “Exodus” come out next year, I’ll be curious to see how they preform.

  • Ed Selby

    Can I first say that, although I have truly been an atheist more than half of my half century on this planet, I absolutely love the Chronicles of Narnia. I have read them more times than I can count, and read them aloud to my son when he was growing up. And while I see religious allegory, that allegory only strengthened my “Joseph Campbell” atheism – the entity known as God exists throughout all cultures and mythologies, and is, therefore, as diluted as a homeopathic sleep aid.

    Any time Hollywood goes out of its way to make a “message movie” it usually sucks. The story can have a message, but if the message has to be spelled out in an end-of-film revelation, then the story is probably weak from the beginning – as all of the latest Kirk Cameron attempts have been.

  • TychaBrahe

    One thing to keep in mind is that there aren’t many good Christian anythings. No decent Christian musicals, few decent Christian television shows, few decent Christian novels. What great books are there in the genre of Christian literature? Pilgrim’s Progress? Blech!

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      How about that crappy Old Testament and the Marty Stu fanfiction attached to the end of it? Deepak Chopra makes more sense than the Bible.

    • MichaelNewsham

      I understood Dante’s Inferno got some good reviews. And Paradise Lost. But I guess the musical didn’t make it.

  • Jacqui H

    The 10 commandments was my favorite movie, even as a kid. Part of why I loved Easter (other than candy) was that it would be on TV (I never thought about passover)… People think this is insane because even as a kid I was pretty vocally and logically agnostic/atheist. I guess I just knew a good fantasy story when I heard it.

  • Aer

    I strongly dislike religion, but I absolutely love the Ave Maria. One of my favourite songs.

    • allein

      I like O Holy Night, too.

  • dcl3500

    “…that there are allegorical Christian references in it at all. It seems that the covert Christianity in the series is so slight as to escape detection by all but the most tuned-into-religion readers…”

    I have always wondered at that too, granted I read the series when I was around 11 also and had been a self-admitted atheist for at least 3 years, so I was hardly a finely tuned religious reader, but I just have never got that from the books. Perhaps I should reread them at 48 years old to see if I would see the allegory now.


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