Why Christian Movies Are Bad
I stumbled onto a video by Josh Keefe titled “Why Christian Movies are Bad”, sometime after watching God’s Not Dead.
My first impressions of the film was that it deserved a less gracious rating than the 14% it received on Rotten Tomatoes. I felt this about most of Christian movies I’ve watched and started avoiding them as a matter of principle.
I grasped at my annoyances with Christian films but could never quite put my thoughts together eloquently enough to say why I felt so strongly that Christian movies are bad. But then I found this video and thought I’d transcribe it for those with limited data packages.
I’ve imbedded the video at the end of the transcription – I highly recommend watching it because of Josh’s excellent ability to explain his arguments with visual cues.
Why Christian Movies are Bad (In Summary)
If Christian movies are supposed to be films, artfully made, to express a truth they fail on both the “artful” and “truthful” front.
In spite of reasonable budgets, they are poorly made and though they present themselves as sermons, they are untruthful in their portrayal of faith, Christians and the world.
I believe Christian movies are bad.
I don’t mean they’re so bad it’s good. Although there are a few of those
I mean bad as in low quality poor execution and just wrong.
[00:00:26] But I’m not sure I can do that. I feel like.
But before you just like click away allow me to share why I believe that is. I would like to start off by establishing film as an art form. Film is powerful as Jason Silva puts it:
[00:00:52] The aesthetic and intellectual power of cinema to me seemed like the most powerful medium in the world. There was nothing that existed that was better at conveying the human experience particularly the interior human experience from the point of view of a character from the point of view of a person. The inner subjective life world of the other as cinema was as simply the greater communication technology that had ever been made. You know you could talk you could sing you could paint cinema combine all of the you to put you inside of someone else’s world. And so, as an engine of empathy as a way of stepping outside yourself as a way of witnessing someone else’s life I just I was always moved by cinema.
[00:01:29] It’s more than just pointing a camera at an actor. It’s a director with an idea who expresses it via cinematographers, who use the placement lenses and settings of a camera in creative, complex ways to tell the story visually.
[00:01:43] Actors being truthful under imaginary circumstances an editor arranging individual clips and sequences into a grand story. All of that and so much more is what makes film, film. It’s a creative art form and I love it. Unfortunately, the Christian movie industry takes this art form for granted by rushing through it, which results in poor execution.
[00:02:06] This video will go into why Christian movies come across as Sunday sermons masquerading as movies.
“God sent Jesus to the cross and take the punishment for your sin. Because he loves you.”
Now I know that not all Christian movies are guilty of this. There are some really good ones. Risen had the best depiction of Jesus. “Passion of the Christ” was beautifully made. “Believe me” is a hilarious and entertaining eye opener. However, I’m afraid there aren’t as many good Christian movies as there are good Christian songs.
A huge majority of these movies just aren’t believable. But no one is saying anything about this. I understand he’s said to speak with love, but I don’t think that means never critique anything because it’s means. As a child I always disliked the quote from Bambi:
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
Because if nobody ever said anything constructive which many people take as mean, nobody would get better. I believe the silence has gone on for long enough.
[00:03:07] The only way to improve is to notice your mistakes. If someone is arrogant of their mistakes they will not improve.
[00:03:18] One of the infamous things Christian movies are known for is their low quality. You can usually tell just by looking at them. I originally thought this was due to their small budgets. The Christian movie industry is mainly independent or so I thought.
When I watched “God’s Country”, I debated incorporating it into this video because I thought it had a really low budget. I mean look at this, but I was shocked to find out it had a budget of:
[00:03:42] Dr Evil: “One million dollars.”
[00:03:45] Now that is still considered a small budget when it comes to movies. But for something of this quality there are movies with budgets way smaller that look and sound better. Money does not equal quality.
God’s Country except
“Whoooooo! Paris Hilton aint got nothing on you girl.”
End of except
[00:03:59] If you’re interested in seeing how much money Christian movies make, which is a lot, I have a link to a video in the description that goes into that in detail. Money isn’t the problem. It’s the execution.
I said previously cinematography an actor’s performance or composer score should all help tell the story.
Here’s an example of storytelling through editing. In this scene from whiplash, a film about a passionate jazz drummer. The main character is on a first date. They exchange some lines of dialogue about themselves and then he asks:
Excerpt from Whiplash
[00:04:25] “What do you do?”
“I go to Fordham.”
“What do you study?”
“I don’t have a major yet.”
“Like what do you want to study?”
“I don’t really know. I don’t know yet.”
“So, Fordham was just like a random school.”
“No. I applied to a bunch of schools Fordham let me in. Why did you pick Schaefer?”
“It’s is the best music school in the country.”
End of excerpt
[00:04:50] Did you catch that? Let’s pay attention to the shots at the start of the scene. We are given an establishing shot, which gives us information about the venue and where he is and where she is.
Once they start talking, we cut to a closer shot of the individual. Here they engage in small talk about what they have in common.
Then he asks this question, “What do you do?”
Now it cut to a close up. In film language, when it comes to a close up it means it’s important. That applies to this, but it also tells us they’re getting closer with each other until… “Why did you pick Scheafer? It’s the best music school in the country.”
Now it cut back to the medium shot and then back to the establishing shot. It’s awkward between them. You can watch the scene with the sound off and still understand what is happening just by the cuts. That is good visual storytelling. Let’s watch a scene from a Christian movie.
[00:05:39] Excerpt from Film (Unknown)
“Yeah that’s Christmas. Don’t, don’t, do… I love your sister. I love her to death. She loves, she loves doing this, she loves… But all the lights up. But I look at what Christmas is, in an effort to collect myself and what God wants.”
How boring. Shot, reverse shot. Shot, reverse shot. Shot, reverse shot.
[00:06:20] This isn’t the result of a low budget. This is the result of laziness. Good editing can be achieved by a 13-year-old with a phone and i-movie. It doesn’t take any money to edit like that. What he does take is creativity and a love for the art.
[00:06:41] I brought this up in part one, but I’ll say it again. If Christians believe in a limitless creative God, then why are we making unimaginative movies of such low quality.
Money is not the problem. They have plenty of it. The problem with Christian movies is that they seem to be made by preachers not filmmakers.
Excerpt of Thomas Torrey Speaking
[00:07:00] “There’s two men named Alex and Stephen Kendrick. They make movies; “Courageous”, “Facing the Giants”, Fireproof. Whether you like their movies or not is not the point. These men are preachers. They are not filmmakers.
They will tell you; I know them, I have worked with them; they will tell you we are not here to make art. We are not here to make movies. We are here to build up the body and preach the gospel. We use film to do it. As a result, they are gaining influence. Where? Not in arts entertainment, they are gaining influence in religion.
They have great favour in arts, but their influence is in religion because that is their calling. It’s not about one being right and the other being wrong. Bad Art happens when we miss identify our calling. They know they’re calling they’re sticking with it.”
[00:07:43] In essence Christians, like the Kendrick brothers, are not filmmakers. They are basically preachers who use film to send their message. I understand and respect that. Once we approach these sermons and not as movies, we can see the message more clearly.
[00:07:54] If there even was one in the first place. But if these are sermons then what are they preaching? I believe preachers and filmmakers have something in common to show the truth.
Excerpt from Film (Unknown)
[00:08:05] “We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. We sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad worse than bad they’re crazy.
[00:08:22] It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all we say is; “Please at least leave us alone in our living rooms.” Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel belted radios and I won’t say anything just leave us alone.
[00:08:38] Well I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad.”
[00:08:42] This is where Christian movies specifically, Pure Flicks, gets it wrong.
Excerpt from God’s Not Dead
“I just feel like, God wants someone to defend Him.”
[00:08:49] Who was God’s Not Dead made for? Let’s entertain the thought that it was made for atheists, Christians already know God’s not dead, right? Do you think an atheist is going to convert after watching it? I believe not. Here’s why.
[00:09:01] How does God’s Not Dead depict Atheists?
Excerpts from God’s Not Dead
“There is a God and I’m him.”
“I have cancer. This couldn’t wait till tomorrow. Grow up, Amy.”
“Nina, this this one is awful.”
“I hate God.”
“But I actually believe in God.”
“All I have for him is hate. She’s a work in progress, so.”
“We’re going to prove once and for all, that God is dead.”
[00:09:24] “You know what hate Tom is. I’m not talking about the fairytale stuff; I mean real hate. I hate what people like your clients stand for.”
“If you ask me the religious extremists we need to worry about, are the hardcore Christians.
“Socrates put it over two thousand years ago: gnothi seauton.”
“Looks like it’s Greek to her.”
[00:10:02] They depict them as the most self-centered inconsiderate, greedy, uncompassionate, human beings on the planet. Now how do they depict the Christians?
Well they’re the happiest group of understanding loving caring perfect people. But in my own experience, and in the experience of many people I know, it was actually quite the opposite.
So how is an atheist going to take God’s not Dead? Most likely as fake and disingenuous. It’s honestly disrespectful. It’s the equivalent to slapping someone and saying how righteous you are that you don’t slap people, immediately after slapping them.
By the way I’m not saying what could happen if atheists see it. Many have actually seen these movies and they laugh at it not for being Christian, but by single handedly insulting an entire group of people.
If it’s not made for atheists then it’s for Christian families, right? I don’t even believe Christian families should watch these movies. Here’s why.
What these movies depict is not true at all. If you show these movies to a young child, they’re going to grow up thinking that all atheists are the scum of the earth. Trust me I know. I am proof of it. I grew up watching Christian movies and thought it was my job to disprove every atheist by arguing in YouTube comment sections.
Once I realized not every atheist was out to stream me from the faith, I felt incredibly stupid and humbled. These movies don’t encourage you to think for yourself. They have to tell you what to think, in order to be a good Christian.
They treat you like a child, having to hold your hand and explain to you what to think and how to feel. Which I find disrespectful. If I recall, didn’t Jesus leave a lot of room for his audiences to think?
That’s what makes his teaching so memorable. You learn better via personal experience rather than someone just telling you.
Another thing that is not true is the situations where the characters have to defend their faith. The Christian persecution in these movies, doesn’t exist.
[00:11:51] “If you ask me the religious extremists, we need to worry about are the hardcore Christians.”
[00:11:56] If you want to see a movie on real Christian persecution go watch Silence. It’s an amazing film for Christians especially, missionaries.
“But what about those cases of the credits?”
Not a single one of the cases shown in the credits have anything to do with the movie. As a matter of fact, they do more harm than good once you actually research them. Most of them are just about gay wedding cakes and birth control. Two things the movies never go into.
There are more videos and articles that go into the improbability of the legalities of these movies. The links for those are down in the description. Some would argue that the movies don’t actually have any negative impacts on Christians, but I’ve seen firsthand that that just simply is not the case.
You see a couple of years ago I went to a Newsboy’s concert. Right before they played the song, God’s not Dead, they showed clips from the movie. But whenever the atheist was on screen, they booed no matter what he said. Whenever the Christian was on screen, they cheered. The atheists would return, and so with the booing.
It felt like the two-minute hate from George Orwell’s novel 1984. Imagine for a second an atheist teenager who was invited to a Newsboy’s concert during the concert.
[00:12:58] He began thinking to himself, He might just start believing in Christ and then all of a sudden, a bunch of Christians boo at who he is. Would he think Christians are loving and not judgmental?
[00:13:12] Before I end this video, I’d like to show you a movie called Inherit the Wind released in 1960. Inherit the Wind is about a teacher who teaches evolution in a small conservative town, ends up getting taken to court and having to defend his beliefs against an old hateful Christian.
[00:13:27] Sound familiar?
The message of these two movies is not about science or even God, it’s us or them. Why, as Christians, do we feel the need to demonize those who believe differently than us?
Last I checked wasn’t Jesus against the whole us or them mentality? Should Christians support this?
Let me first ask you this. Would you support a Sunday sermon that taught you that atheists are evil and it’s your job, as a perfect Christian, to argue with them victimize yourself and defend your beliefs? Even though they were never attacked in the first place?
That God can’t defend himself and needs you to do it for him? And that you’re not a Christian if you think otherwise?
Whether or not these are the intentions of Pure Flicks is beyond me. This could all be one big misunderstanding. However, the impression is these movies have made still stands.
[00:14:16] As fans continue to support these movies, free of criticism, Pure Flicks will continue to make movies free of critical thinking. The problem with most Christian movies is that they aren’t movies. They’re video sermons.
[00:14:28] Now whether or not you agree with the sermons is entirely up to you. That’s between you and God. I’ll get out of here and let you think for yourself. Thanks for watching.