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WATCHING MOVIES TO THE GLORY OF GOD

Dixon Kinser

I love movies. I love going to the movies, watching movies in my home, and making movies (on a very small scale). My passion for movies connects with my day job. I’m an Episcopal priest. At my church, I teach a class called Film School in which we watch classic and contemporary films and use them as a springboard to explore what God is doing in our lives.

Every once in a while, I run into someone who gets cranky, wondering why I give movies so much airtime in Sunday school. I explain that movies are more than entertainment. Movies matter—not simply because they get our attention but because, in a way, they are sacramental. They are outward and visible signs that point to spiritual truths. All movies, even the bad ones, point to something larger than the stories they tell. They are a way of talking about some of life’s biggest questions. Therefore, movies also matter to God.

Asking Big Questions, Opening Space for God

Every culture in human history has told stories—about gods on Mount Olympus; about a trickster coyote who learned lessons the hard way; about a spider, a worm, and their silk; about a child wearing a red hood, skipping through the woods to her grandmother’s house.

Hurt Locker2All these stories serve the same purpose: They give people a way to talk about their fears, to pass on wisdom from one generation to another, and to make sense of what is happening in their lives. As G. K. Chesterton said, “Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

Movies are the way our modern-day culture tells stories; movies offer us a way to express our fears, to pass on wisdom and insights, to make sense of our lives. Two years ago, Hurt Locker won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Why? Because it portrays an ongoing conversation in our country about what wars are doing to the men and women who fight them. The Dark Knight, a popular comic book movie, asks: “How do we defeat evil without becoming evil?” Is any question more relevant to our culture post 9/11?

Dark Knight2

Because movies grapple with big questions, they matter to God, who has an opinion on these subjects. God also tells a story about how the world works, where our lives are going, and what makes life worth living. When people engage in conversations that ask big questions or wonder about the meaning of life, they open space for the Holy Spirit to change hearts and to speak truth. That is why all movies, no matter how silly, have a place in the way God is rescuing the world.

DIG DEEPER

If you want to start watching movies in a way that matters, keep an eye on the ways three stories overlap.

  1. Pay attention to the story the filmmaker is telling. What is the message of the movie? How is it communicated?
  2. Think about your story. How are you reacting or relating to the movie? Why? What is going on in your life, past or present, that connects with the film?
  3. Consider God’s story. What are the connections between the stories of scripture and of the church and the story being told by the movie? Looking for the connections will help you start watching movies to the glory of God.

 

Hurt Locker Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment © 2008 Summit Entertainment. All rights reserved.
The Dark Knight Photo: TM & © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.

Dixon Kinser of Nashville, Tennessee, is a husband, father, speaker, author, musician, amateur filmmaker, and Episcopal priest who works in youth and young adult ministry, rides his bike when he can, and takes movies and TV way too seriously. His first book, Exploring Blue Like Jazz with Donald Miller, was released in November, 2011.

—from devozine® (November/December 2011). Copyright © 2011 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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