Specials: Sermon contest! 100 spiritually significant films! Gibson sues CleanFlicks (for Jesus’ sake)! Ebert loved Oprah!

Monday’s specials:

In other words, can your pastor be bribed into lacing your Sunday morning worship with Hollywood propaganda? What’s that? Is that the sound of a whip lashing in the foyer? And who’s that bearded guy with the whip?
Come on. Let’s keep Narnia propaganda where it belongs! Which leads me to my next story…

Will you be using Narnia toilet tissue?
Mmmmmm. Soft as Aslan’s fur….

The Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films?
According to a vote of a large crowd of Christian cinephiles, these are the 100 films you should take the time to explore, contemplate, and discuss. (The full article is at Looking Closer. An abridged edition is at Christianity Today Movies.)

Mel Gibson sues CleanFlicks for editing The Passion of the Christ!
Yes! I hope he wins. And that many other directors follow. If it’s not suitable for children, then don’t show it to your kids. Don’t go cutting it up and teaching your children that art should be custom-altered based on personal preference. That’s an invitation to the censors, and to an eventual damaging of films that offer profound visions of truth. (via Chattaway’s FilmChat.) For more on this subject, re-visit this.

How did Oprah get her start? Dating Roger Ebert.
Who knew?

And today’s genius award goes to…

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ted V.

    In regards to Michael and Marc’s comments about showing Mary and Joseph being “intimate” … all that one has to do is look at the word used in the gospels to describe the “brothers” of Jesus. The word used is a word that was often used to describe any kin. In fact the same word was used to describe the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist (who were cousins).

  • Jeffrey Overstreet


    You mean…

    Are you talking about yourself?!

    Because, well, that would be cool!

  • Paulina

    How about Paulina Plazas-Perugini. I think she read for the role. She is perfect for it. She is young, ethnic and really talented!

  • Marc

    It’s interesting how a post like this can generate theological discussion. Thanks to Matt for pointing out the “stable” issue. I tend to go with the cave explanation that Peter gave.

    While my idea for “smell-o-vision” may be a little overboard for some, it can emphasize the point that Jesus went from Heaven where it always smells good, down to a stinking mudball just for us. In the great scheme of things, it should not matter if it was a cave, a stable or a guest room with animals, but that He had a humble and lowly beginning to life here on Earth.

  • Tim Frankovich

    I doubt they’ll have Joseph get her pregnant, but… considering that the scriptwriter wrote this after reading Time & Newsweek, the script probably includes a third character (possibly a Roman soldier) who will be the implied father of Jesus. The movie will probably make it just ambiguous enough that you can go either way.

    The question for America is: will the Mormons raise a fuss, since they believe God actually DID have sex with Mary?

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Nah, Kilcher is 15 and, thus, already too old!

    As for the “brothers” debate, note that there are at least three traditions here: The Orthodox and Catholics have always said that the “brothers” of Jesus were actually step-brothers or cousins, not half-brothers; and it is only in the last 400-500 years, if that, that Protestants have come to believe that the “brothers” of Jesus were the children of Mary (though most of the early Protestants, like Luther and Calvin and Wesley, were believers in Mary’s ever-virginity themselves). Click here for more details from an Orthodox perspective.

    As for the “stable”, Matt is absolutely right that the word itself never appears in the text. That said, I believe the Orthodox tradition is that Jesus was born in a cave, which may or may not have doubled as a “stable” in some sense.

    Oh, and the Catholic concept of “immaculate conception” is not a reference to the Virgin Birth. It is a reference to the conception of Mary, which most definitely did include sex.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Oooooh… Q’orianka Kilcher…. yes! Good call, Marc. I can’t think of any known screen actress who would be better.

  • HB

    I have no one that I can think of to play the Virgin Mary. But, you know, I would not be at all surprised if they cast a Muslim woman since Muslims do believe in the virgin birth. If pushed, though, on who might be right for the role, I’d probably go with Portman also.

  • Matt Page

    Actually, I think the whole “stable” thing is a bit of a romanticised idea in itself. (Note the word is not actually in the text).

    IIRC houses, and the like used to have a raised faimily sleeping area and a lower area where the animals used to sleep in over night (remember most of these people were peasants), it was also the culturally done thing to have space available to accomodate visitors. The word translated “inn” is the greek word “kataluma” which doesn’t really have a direct equivalent, but is basically such a space – for visitors to stay, so it could be an inn, but it could also be just a part of the upper part of the house.

    The story actually never mentions a stable so it is at least as likely that the “guest space” was already full, so M& J had to sleep in the lower part of the house with the animals. The smell would probably have been a bit out of the ordinary by our standards, but by theirs it wouldn’t really be much worse than normal.


  • Marc

    “… if the movie shows Joseph and the Virgin Mary being intimate later in life (as most Protestants believe)?”
    How else would Jesus have brothers, by multiple immaculate conceptions?

    I realize this would be costly and not many theaters would want to do it, but I like the idea of a “smell-enhanced” film. My family visited Disneyworld last year, and several of their films would have different odors timed to something on the screen.

    A “barnyard smell” would make a tremendous impact for the stable scene. We tend to sanitize it and think of a clean manger with fresh straw. Our Lord was born into an “animal house”, with all of the dirt/mess and smell that goes with that. To help people get over the stench scene, the producers could include a happy scene at the end and pump in some pine smell (evergreen). Smell-o-vision!

    As far as an actress choice, my first thought was Portman, though she’s a little long in tooth. My next choice was Dakota Fanning, but the blond curls and puppy-dog eyes get in the way. How about that actress from “The New World” (Q’Orianka Kilcher)?

  • Matt Page

    Thanks, yet again, for the tip off. One day I hope to have some news on my blog that you find interesting, before you get it from somewhere else. I can dream eh?

    As to the actress who’ll play Mary, I mentioned in my earlier blog post on the script that I’d be keen to see this film go down the route of a BBC documentary did and portray her as a young semitic (looking) girl. If I had Hardwicke’s address I’d send her the tape.

  • Michael Rew

    I wonder if Catholics will riot if the movie shows Joseph and the Virgin Mary being intimate later in life (as most Protestants believe)?

  • Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer

    In my opinion, it should be a relatively unknown actress. Not someone with a body of previous work. She should be young. She should look semitic. Possibly an Arab actress. She could be pretty or plain, but she should not be sexy. My two shekels on the question. If I had to choose someone well known, I’d say Natalie Portman with a dark tan.

  • Thom

    “What you’re promoting is artistic arrogance at the expense of parental control.”

    Hardly. Parental control is still there. You can skip the offending scene. Or not let the child watch the film. Or we can buy the software and edit them ourselves. Jeffrey is hardly advocating anything over parental control.

  • Travis

    Mark’s got a point there…

    To edit a work of art is to interfere with what the artist intended, and in changing what the artist deliberately crafted, you change not just the effect, but the meaning.

    So? I fail to see what the inherent badness is here. I edit fairy tales when I want to teach my daughter something other than the original author’s intent.

    And about this artistic integrity… God is the only true artist. We’re all editors — and poor ones at that. I say if a parent thinks they can tweak a story so it reflects the Author’s intent better, they should go for it. What you’re promoting is artistic arrogance at the expense of parental control.

    Used to be if you wanted to blank out part of a film, you just popped the VHS tape in (with some tape over that hole) and recorded over the offending parts. Viewers lost that ability with DVDs.

  • mark


    To compare Art to Holy Scripture is a road I don’t think you want to travel.

  • Martin

    Let’s send a big roll of Narnia toilet tissue to Phillip Pullman. I’m sure he’d enjoy wiping his butt with Aslan…

  • jasdye


    Here, here!

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    If my pastor makes references to Narnia from the pulpit, and I’m sure he will, I have no problem with that. The story is full of rich metaphors. If I find out, though, that he did it so he could enter a contest that’s been planned in order to help promote the movie from the pulpit… that would make me sick to my stomach.

  • Glenn

    Two comments today:
    1) Excellent review of “Walk the Line.” I haven’t yet seen the film, but it’s on my to-watch list. You have framed it perfectly in context and given the viewer everything he or she wants to know going in, without ruining it. And that’s why newspapers and “old media” are losing people to folks like you. You aren’t afraid to take your time getting into a subject with depth, something that’s sorely missing from most of pop culture.
    and #2)
    Lay off the self-righteous Narnia stuff. “whip cracking”? I mean, come on. You sound as self-righteous as the people like Pat Robertson you love to come down hard on. C.S. Lewis was a Christian and for Christians to be inspired and dazzled by the story of redemption found in TCON is what, a bad thing? Come on. Someone wants to preach a sermon related to Narnia and you have a problem with it? What if there weren’t a movie coming out next month? Would you still have a problem with the same sermon? Methinks you’d be calling attention to it for a different reason.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    To edit a work of art is to interfere with what the artist intended, and in changing what the artist deliberately crafted, you change not just the effect, but the meaning.

    Otherwise: Hey, let’s just edit all the references to Jesus out of Handel’s Messiah… you know, so secular audiences can enjoy it too.

    Why not follow Thomas Jefferson’s example, and publish versions of the Bible that cut out the parts that make readers uncomfortable?

    In teaching kids that it’s fine to splice up art, we’re teaching them to disrespect the artist, and to avoid considering why the artist made the choices he did.

    Here’s more on the subject:


  • Travis

    Don’t go cutting it up and teaching your children that art should be custom-altered based on personal preference.

    Why not? How come a studio can edit the “artistic vision” of the writer, director, producer and actors all they want? Because they’re paying the bills, that’s why. From where I’m standing, they wouldn’t be able to pay those bills if we (the consumers) weren’t paying to watch the final product.

    So really, we pay the bills. Every one of us is an editor; it’s just a matter of whether we’ll do our jobs or not.