Three Things That Make Terrible Christian Movies Great

1. Bad movies eventually make for better movies.

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” poet Muriel Rukeyser once said: Your story, my story, all sorts of stories. Our stories bind us together. And because we’re so attuned to storytelling, we’re naturally drawn to the stories in our culture—the books we read, the movies we watch and so on. We understand how profound, how life-changing they can be.

On top of that, we Christians believe that all of our stories are part of a greater story, one written by God, the ultimate Storyteller. And we believe the tale that He’s telling—in all its multiple facets and iterations—is the best, most riveting, most glorious, most life-changing story of all.

So it’s super-frustrating to us when that story’s botched in translation. Bad storytelling makes our beautiful story look ugly.

But storytelling is a skill: We learn by doing. We find success only by finding failure first.

From the time we’re in preschool, we’re told to learn from our mistakes. We’re reminded that the best basketball players miss 50% of their shots, that hall-of-fame baseball players whiff 70% of the time. “I’ve not failed,” Thomas Edison said. “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I just reviewed a movie, The Last Word, that had plenty to say about the importance of failure. “Are you willing to take a risk to do something stupid?” says the film’s protagonist, Harriett. “Are you willing to take a risk to do something great?”

But no matter what our culture tells us about failure on the theoretical level, it says something else on a practical one. Failures have always been subject to ridicule, but our online, always-on culture has exponentially magnified our fails. We take pains to not look the fool, and I think that’s particularly true for Christians. We forget that those foolish moments can pave the way, as Harriett says, to something great.

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