This time of year always brings a flurry of faith flicks on which to spend our hard-earned frog skins. As one Hollywood Producer said regarding our Easter festivities, “There’s an untapped and profitable market here.”
Profiteering from religion aside for the moment, what should we make of these kinds of movies?
One of the more recent ones was a movie entitled, “The Son of God”. Producer Mark Burnett said, “It is Jesus for a whole new generation.”
This makes you wonder what the problem was with the Jesus of the previous generation, which leads me to the point of mentioning any of this in the first place. How many Jesus’ are there, and where can I go to find the real one?
There is only one Jesus, and in this movie (like all others of the same genre) this guy isn’t the One.
The Jesus we are being offered in this movie is an unsurprising, effeminate and anaemic mystic. He is not the firebrand we meet in the Bible.
Jesus (the real Jesus) said, “Follow me.” But not many are likely to follow this soap-dodger with a weird British accent up an escalator, let alone trust that He can raise the dead.
The Passion of Christ (released back in 2004) had a go at delivering a more robust Saviour, or at least, a more robust bloodletting. Many in the church got on board.
When Gibson was interviewed about his “passion movie” by Christianity Today magazine he had this to say:
“I’ve been actually amazed at the way I would say the evangelical audience has – hands down – responded to this film more than any other Christian group. What makes it so amazing is that the film is so Marian. Mary is a tremendous co-redemptrix and mediatrix.”
Make of that what you will.
Billy Graham said that the movie had forever changed the way he would now read the gospels. Hearing that, incidentally, was what convinced me not to go and see it.
The last thing I need is Hollywood colouring my thoughts and joining my dots when reading the bible.
I also find it ironic that, back in the day, Romans paid good money to enter the Circus Maximus and watch Christians die. Today, Christians are paying equally good money to watch Jesus die.
Speaking of the money…
Lee Strobel said prior to the Movie’s release, “The Passion will stun audiences and create an incredible appetite for people to know more about Jesus.”
But, according to Barna Research Group, “Among the most startling outcomes…is the apparent lack of any direct evangelistic impact by the movie.” Despite marketing campaigns labelling the movie the, “greatest evangelistic tool of our era.”
Millions were spent on marketing, bible study material, promotional gimmicks paid for by churches and more. So what happened?
In the Sydney Morning Herald, August 2004, Mel Gibson was asked how the success of his religious epic had impacted his own life? His response, “I don’t have to answer any of these questions any more. All I know is that I’m a hell of a lot wealthier than I once was.”
How is it that these films and so many like them tend to be successful, especially given that most thinking Christians would not even bother going?
They are successful because we want a Saviour. We want someone to beat the system. We also want the cathartic and atoning experience of watching someone else spill some blood in our place.
We want someone to crush the oppressor and deliver us from our enemies and this Jesus – the Jesus of Hollywood – is easier to say yes to.
The problem is that all these Jesus movies tend to latch on to the wrong enemy and, consequently, the wrong Jesus.
The enemy is not the environment, political corruption or toxic masculinity. The enemy is sin and only the real Jesus can deliver from its eternal and very real consequences.
People will argue that these movies help us enlarge our vision of who Jesus is. I would argue that their Jesus is way too small.