Recently I wrote a piece for Ministry Matters, where I’m an editor and writer, entitled “American Sniper or Selma: How Christian is Your Movie Choice?” It was doing well in its first few hours of internet infancy. It seemed to be getting views and likes and shares through Facebook, decent clicks from the home page…the waters were calm, and I felt good. ‘People are getting it,’ I thought. ‘They’re getting it, maaaaan.’
Then Sojourner’s graciously ran the piece, and a wave of fury broke upon me. Suddenly I was no longer an American, just another naive member of the "extreme left" with thoughts of sugarplums and non-violent action running through my head. I was “comparing apples and oranges,” I was "misguided," I “got it all wrong,” and I even found out that I “wouldn’t survive a day of Navy SEAL training.”[^1] I was basically the devil.
Except when I wasn’t. Plenty of people felt like I’d done a perfect job letting them know which movie was the Christian option, which one was for Christians and which wasn’t. Only that wasn’t my point. I wasn’t trying to hold one “faith film” against another in order to measure which one was more Jesus. Although if you’d like me to do that, I can.[^2]
Neither flick is a Kirk Cameron special, some shallow made-for-TV movie about how to radiate the best American Christianicism. One is a war biopic, the other a historical biopic. Both have social commentary subtext. Both have a goal. The thing is, one is about a man doing something very Christ-like, and the other is about a man shooting people in the face. That’s the basis for talking about these movies as religious commentary. Subtext. I realize it’s not the easiest to find, down there in the sub.
For posterity, the point of the article was that a current formula running through entertainment is “sell violence wrapped in patriotism, and you’ll capture a large chunk of Christians eager to bring their religious fervor to the product.” A few readers caught that; a surprisingly few few.
I couldn’t care less which movie you see. See ‘em all; you develop taste and standards that way. But when you do, think about the message you’re being sold. Also think about the worldview you’re imposing on what you’re seeing, since that has just about as much, if not more, to do with what you’ll take away. If you’re a Christian, ask how Christ would call you to react if you were in the contexts of both films. What would Christ call you to have done before you ended up in those contexts? What does Christ call you to do in your actual context that looks similar or different to the narratives of the men in those two films?
The answer you come up with is what I was asking for you to find when you read the original article. It’ll show you the version of Christianity you hold dear; it’s up to you to figure out how Christian that version actually is.
[^1]: No duh. [^2]: Selma. Selma has more to do with Jesus.