"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Bad Sign for Christian Cinema

Screenwriter and script analyst Barbara Nicolosi is extremely disappointed by the Christian-produced film Facing the Giants. I have not yet gotten around to seeing the film, but I suspect that Ms. Nicolosi is quite right. She points out that Facing the Giants is the cinematic equivalent of Contemporary Christian Music, bland nonsense meant to make Christians feel good and thereby bring in a steady stream of money from a highly defined market segment, what is known in the entertainment business as a cash cow.

In addition, Nicolosi argues, Facing the Giants is animated by a devotion to what is known as the Prosperity Gospel, a decidedly perverse notion prevalent among some Evangelicals, which holds that God wants believers to be happy and prosperous in this world (which is surely true to some extent), and that he will give believers such earthly success to the degree that they believe in Him and accept his promises. That is an absurd, unbiblical doctrine that is derived from Puritanism but puts an optimistic, positive spin on it. It is an idea, as Nicolosi notes, that utterly denies numerous direct statements in Scripture, especially the words of Jesus Christ himself.

In sum, the Prosperity Gospel is a very bad thing indeed, and it is clear that the story of Facing the Giants manifests it entirely. Given that even the film's defenders are not making any claims of aesthetic value for it, this surely suggests that the film is unworthy of people's admiration.

Now, not everything has to be great art, of course, but if a "message" film has a bad message and little to no artistry, it cannot be said to have much going for it.

As noted on this site earlier and as cited by Ms. Nicolosi in her article, the Fox studio has embarked on an effort to create low-budget theatrical films for the Christian market. The important question at hand is whether the model will be indie films that challenge current atheistic cultural perspectives or a bland and manipulative Christian Contemporary Cinema that uses religious tropes to snag an ignorant and complacent audience.

Right now we have no idea what the answer will be. As I noted earlier, however, Fox will undoubtedly follow the audiences' lead, giving Christians more of the type of film to which they respond with the most support, financial and critical.

The responsibility, then, is now most certainly with the audiences.

From Karnick on Culture.

3 comments:

mark said...

The problem with Art critics such as Barbara are that they look at Art itself as some sort of god and as such they are its defender. Yes, by man made cinematic standards “Facing the Giants” is a lousy movie. Speaking as someone who was childless for 13 years and has lost my job on more than one occasion for doing the right thing this movie was delightfully refreshing and emotionally moving and uplifting. In other words, while it might be disappointing to a true believer such as Ms. Nicolosi, it did exactly what the makers of it intended. I certainly hope they don’t let the pseudo intellectuals discourage them.

Michael Simpson said...

While it's true that something can fall far short of being real "art" (e.g. by being poorly crafted) and still be worthwhile, there's nothing lost, I think, in criticizing a film like this for being bad artistically. Indeed, part of the problem in being bad artistically is that it misrepresents the promises of the Gospel, in ways (as S.T. notes) that are similar to the awful, awful prosperity gospel preachers all over television these days. (I'm looking at you, Joel Osteen). I don't think filling people up with hack sentimentality does anyone any favors - it's certainly not very compatible with the picture of Jesus I read in the Gospels.

As a side note, I wonder with these low-budget films whether Fox is going to try to do something that studios seem to do with American black audiences, where they make stupid, awful films with popular black actors. That seems like a bad thing to me...

mark said...

Michael,

I'm not sure if I'm one that you refer to as "filled up with hack sentimentality" but that was not what this movie did. Nor did it in anyway present a prosperity doctrine. What it did was show that God loves us and is eager to meet our needs and our desires when we commit ourselves to Him. How many times in those thirteen years did I cry out for a child only to hear "My Grace is sufficient for you." The same could be said of my profession and ministry, why must I suffer like this when all I am trying to do is serve You. Those were the prayers going up in this movie. Not please give me a new truck and a winning season. But as Jesus said, so you will know that I have the power to forgive sins, take up your bed and walk. So that you know that I love you as you toil in my service, here is your son Jonathan Edward. That was the point of movie for those not blinded by the spiritual gift of critisism.