I’ve written about the peculiar Christian practice of arguing over films before, and find it interesting that we as Christians are so ready to pull out the knives and have it out over a movie.
That’s not to say that the representation of God in culture, and the understanding and application of good doctrine are insignificant and not worth discussing. The opposite is true, and works best when we are discussing and instructing, not just fighting. As iron sharpens iron, our knives can be quite effective when used to sharpen one another, but are dangerous when used with the intent to cut down. Sadly, I have seen too much of the latter in recent days.
. . .
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that I am the average American guy who does not attend church. I have some good moments in life and some bad ones, and I work hard all week while looking forward to the weekends. Basically, I just want to live a decent live, filled with a little bit of happiness and something worth believing in.
If this is me, what exactly is it that will draw me to become a member of a local church? What is it that makes me drop everything and become a Christ follower?
Is it because Christians have taken up positions against a movie that I don’t really know or care much about? One that kinda looks like it might be a ‘chick flick’ ?
Is it because they are boycotting Beauty and the Beast?
Truth is, probably none of the above gets me to a point where I am suddenly excited to be out of bed and dressed at 8:00 on a Sunday morning and driving to church. Yet, I still need something to believe in and a way to spend my Sundays, so it’s a good thing the NFL/MLB/PGA doesn’t really get going until noon. I can believe in that stuff, and it keeps me arguing about who is a heretic and who isn’t because of their thoughts on a religious movie.
. . .
The last few years have seen these kind of debates emerge over movies, fast food, politics, books, and even the whole ‘who-should-use-which-bathroom’ nonsense. By the way, I don’t care who you voted for and whether you agree with the theology of ‘The Shack’. I don’t care which celebrity Christian you are quoting as your expert on whatever thing it is you are bent out of shape about at the moment. Well, perhaps I do care, but I’m not willing to sever relationships over it.
The one thing I do care about is being a knife that sharpens and not a knife that cuts.
The Shack is a movie, and it is a popular movie, as was the book. No more and no less. It is an artistic expression that not everyone is comfortable with, but clearly many people closely relate to. That said, I suggest we can do one of two things: 1) Fight and argue about the theology of the thing, or 2) use it as a conversation starter to encourage, grow and strengthen.
I propose we use it as a conversation starter; a means to speak love to those who are hurting and a means to sharpen one another as believers. Why in the world are we willing to divide the body of Christ over a movie? It occurs to me that while Jesus called out people for their behavior, He never threw around the word ‘heretic’. Why do we? Over a movie? The truth is, I kinda liked the book (the book is always better). It made me think outside of the box and consider my own beliefs about forgiveness, redemption, and pain. It made me reconsider if I still think of God as a fellow with a long white beard, forever sitting on a cloud painted on the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel. It drove me back to Scripture to examine the nature of God through the words of God.
The Shack is a moving story of healing and forgiveness. It is a fictional narrative that considers God’s deep love for humanity, what it means in real life, and as Christians we should all be interested in that kind of thing.
As to those outside the church, do they know us by our love, or by our opinions? Do they see how the love of Christ compels us, or do they see a bunch of people arguing over culture and politics?
The thing is, there are those who think the movie is fantastic, and there are those who think it is terrible. I submit to you that pulling the knives out and fighting one another over it is a ‘no-win’ scenario, just good people tearing into other good people over something that is ultimately not that big of a deal. If you hate the Shack or if you love The Shack, let’s decide to not devour one another. It is the role of Satan to devour and destroy, and if we decide to take that job over for him, we are in much worse shape than we care to admit.
We must remember that all people everywhere are always going to be interested in learning who God is because we are each hardwired with a desire to do so. We are designed to worship, and just like Mack in ‘The Shack”, we are all in need of healing when we endure painful situations. We all want to know that there is a power greater than ourselves out there somewhere, we all want to know that there is a God, we all want to know that He can be trusted, and we all want to know that there is a chance to find real hope and real peace apart from the lousy options that this world offers us.
Movies tell stories. As people of faith, we should embrace people of film as the storytellers they are, and be willing to engage in the conversations they tee up for us. That is, after all, at the heart of why they do this. To tell a story that will get us talking, and thinking. So let’s talk, and let’s think, and let’s use put our thoughts to work as iron sharpens iron, build one another up, and present to the world what it looks like to be thoughtful, loving people of God in the process.