Finding God at the movies starts tonight...

Tonight we initiate a new film series at church: Finding God at the Movies.  It is a five part look at both select films and an introduction to critical thinking from a Christian theological perspective. I have always loved the movies, but it wasn't until Martha Baker introduced me to serious art films during my freshman year of college that I began to consider their deeper significance. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy entertainment as much as anyone. And, there are times when the artistry of the cinema can take me to a deeper place. So, tonight we'll start a conversation about acquiring some tools and resources that might assist others in going deeper, too.
We'll kick things off with the prologue and opening sequence from "Godspell" both because it is so much fun and because I want to ground our exploration in a Christian worldview.  It suggests that in the midst of everyday life, the call of the Lord is shared with us.  Sometimes we have ears to hear, sometimes not, but the call continues to invite us deeper and is extended to everyone. My hope is that this will give us an encounter with the "still speaking" insights that will guide this series.

From "Godspell" this week, we'll move into Kieslowski's "Decalogue" next week with other serious motion pictures to be explored with the group.  I am working as part of a team for this series with another clergy person; I will share the film clip and the theological and critical background notes and he will lead a group sharing discussion.

Session number one includes the following: Considering a Christian Perspective for Evaluation. We will present and discuss a few tools for evaluating movies through the lens of our Christian faith. 

One set of questions explores the tension between God’s glory and human sin:

+  God is at work in the world and a spiritual realm is real:  how is this depicted in films?  Where are there examples of love, justice, truthfulness, courage and truth in your favorite films?

+  Human sin is real and evil exists:  how is this depicted in films?  Can you think of movies that show a loss of innocence – evil – or a conflict between what is true and noble and what is expedient?

+  God offers forgiveness and the possibility of redemption:  where do you see this in films old or new? 
Another lens to consider comes from the God is Still Speaking perspective:

+  Are there spiritual implications that point to God in movies that are not explicitly Christian?

+  What are movies with strong villains – and why are they so appealing?  What do they tell us about the nature of evil?

+  Can you think of movies that use images and metaphors of chaos, injustice, pain, suffering and alienation to suggest a broken world?   What does this tell us about sin?

+  Why do so many people want only happy endings?

A third lens to evaluate the presence of God in a film might include these considerations:

+  Does the film promote and celebrate individualism or the common good?  What values are implicit in either perspective? 

+  What does melodrama teach us about reality?  How does this connect – or not – to the deepest Christian truths about human nature?

+  What do our films teach us about love of money and love of God?
And yet a fourth lens might include the following:

+  How do films invite us to be awake and engaged in the present moment?

+  How do films help/hinder our ability to affirm the mystery of other people?

+  How do films depict the transformation of conflict?

+  How do films encourage us to search for unity?

During the first two years of this ministry I offered three different film series:  1) Chocolat for Lent (using the film "Chocolat" as a starting point); 2) The Power of Small Choices (Hilary Brand's guide to "Shawshank Redemption" and "Babette's Feast); and 3) A Quest for the Beautiful (a series including "Pay It Forward," "All Across the Universe" and "Koyaanssqatsi" among others.) Folk have been eager to return to these resources and I am excited to give it a go.Two excellent, albeit very different, resources include: In a New Light by Ron Austin and Eyes Wide Open by William Romanowski.

We'll see who might show up?


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