- 2017Mar 24
Some time ago, the blogger Rod Dreher released a book called The Benedict Option which quickly enthralled Christian readers. For those of you still wondering what The Benedict Option is actually about, the term was first coined by a philosopher named Alasdair MacIntyre. MacIntyre predicted there would come a day when Christians could no longer participate in mainstream society, and should thus seek out communities of their own. As the book’s title suggests, Dreher believes that time has arrived, and encourages his readers to find new ways of living as Christians. This will likely involve withdrawing from modern culture, along with all of its music, movies, and television.
To some Christians, this doesn’t sound so bad. The recent inclusion of gay characters in Beauty & the Beast and Power Rangers have angered traditional viewers. Few places in entertainment still espouse a conservative worldview, and threats of boycott from religious groups have become common. Yet regardless, pop culture has pushed forward without us. It’s hard not to take this as a cue to go our separate ways.
For my part though, I believe withdrawing from modern culture, specifically pop culture, would be a mistake. Whether through the medium of music or film, pop culture has always been about sharing stories, and stories are a vital part of how we as humans connect to one another. Stories help us build empathy. They create heroes to inspire us, and ideals for listeners to pursue. They remind people what it means to be a flawed, and encourage us to seek something bigger than ourselves.
Just take the parables of Jesus as an example. Throughout his ministry, whenever Jesus wanted to convey a significant message to his followers, he would sit them down and tell them a story. These weren’t just common fables either, these were narratives his audience could relate to. They came right out of daily life and involved situations his listeners could understand. In short, Christ used early pop culture to spread the gospel.
How does one explain the Kingdom of Heaven to those who don’t know it?
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:45-46
How does one describe the matchless love God has for humanity?
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’" – Luke 15:4-6
And what about grace?
“‘Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’ ‘You have judged correctly,’ Jesus said.” – Luke 7:41-43
We live in a world that is decidedly unchristian, and that means believers will always struggle over what we see and hear in the media. However, shutting out pop culture won’t make us better Christians, it will only make us worse. We’ll lose the ability to connect with others and covey the gospel to our neighbors. Instead, we must become masters of discernment and learn from the artists in our midst. Let us become storytellers in our own right, and share the message of Christ’s sacrifice to an audience straining to hear us.
- 2017Mar 24
Batman v. Superman may not have been the titanic success DC was hoping for, but that hasn’t done much to dampen their spirit. The comic giant recently announced it would be releasing a new trailer for the upcoming Justice League this weekend. As a way to tie fans over until the big reveal, small teasers have been dropping all over the internet which featuring different members of the iconic team.
There’s Jason Momoa’s Aquaman
Ben Affleck's Batman
Ezra Miller’s Flash
And the latest to be featured, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
While there’s no sign yet of Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher) or Superman (Henry Cavill) it’s possible the two will make an appearance before the day is out. Currently, Justice League is set to release globally on November 17th of this year.
- 2017Mar 22
Documentaries have always been one of the more unusual genres in filmmaking. They exist more to inform than entertain, and their subjects can range from crime, to faith, to everything in-between. Oddly enough, this straight-edged approach has proven beneficial for faith-based viewers. With documentaries, what you see is what you get, and this allows Christians to approach new topics with both eyes open. Recently, author and journalist Warren Cole Smith published a list of powerful documentaries he believed Christians should be watching on Netflix. Below, you can find a few of Smith’s top selections, along with several others worthy of consideration.
Here are 5 Netflix documentaries Christians should consider watching!
In an age where commercial consumerism is at an all-time high, Minimalism offers a different approach. “Minimalism” is the cultural belief that life is happier when humans aren’t pursuing material wealth. In fact, the movement encourages viewers to give away possessions they don’t need and subsist only on what’s necessary. Though this idea has been thoroughly debated in Christian circles, most agree that the movie itself is highly refreshing. Ultimately, Minimalism helps viewers contemplate what’s truly important in their life, while reflecting on Christ’s message in Matthew 6:19.
“Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (the makers of “Jesus Camp,” below) brought us this 2012 dystopian tale of a hollowed-out Detroit. It won a bunch of awards, and it does a great job of illustrating the brokenness of Detroit at a moment in time, specifically the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial crisis. What I find frustrating about this movie is that it tells only half the story in order to make ideological points. What “Detropia” doesn’t tell you is that even while the filmmakers were there, church leaders and social entrepreneurs were working to bring Detroit back. It is not fully back today, but what has happened in the five years since “Detropia” released is the real story of that city.”
The Ivory Game
Poaching can seem like a small problem compared to all the other troubles in today’s world, but The Ivory Game dares to draw a line between extinction and international crime. This Netflix film chronicles a group of activists, reporters, and law officials as they tackle the rising tide of elephant hunting in Africa. Elephants are widely prized for their ivory tusks, and as a result, the creatures have been hunted nearly to extinction. The Ivory Game hopes to show viewers how the illegal sale of ivory goes on to fund criminal activity worldwide. One part shocking, one part heartbreaking, this film may be the last hope for one of Earth’s greatest living wonders.
“If you are a Christian, especially if you ever went to a church camp, you will find this documentary by turns deeply frustrating, deeply disturbing, and—we might as well admit it —vaguely familiar. The Jesus Camp of this documentary is NOT, repeat NOT, representative of many of the great Christian camps I know, but neither is what you’ll see here unique. Christians should see this documentary, if for no other reason than to know what the ‘other side’ thinks of us.”
Director Ava DuVernay, who is currently helming the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time film, first made waves with this startling documentary on the American prison systems. Known for her vocal approach on the subjects of race and equality, DuVernay comes at her viewers full-force, comparing modern incarceration to early slavery. Viewers are challenged to think critically on questions of truth and justice, while receiving an inside look at the legislation which governs American prisons. Described as devastating and profound, 13th is not for the faint of heart, but is nonetheless a story which needs telling.