Here’s today’s email…

I post this simply because a few people have asked me recently if there are still Christians out there who hold onto this condemning reaction to art and culture. They seemed certain that if there are such people, there are only a few isolated folks out there who think this way, and I should just ignore them.

But I am convinced that there is still a vast community out there who write off movies (and other forms of art as well) as “a lost cause” … as so corrupt and evil that “true believers” will have nothing to do with them.

If we just ignore this unnervingly common perspective , or hope it wil go away, very little will change. In fact, when I do interviews on the radio about movies, I often get questions from listeners who seem genuinely bewildered about why a Christian would ever bother to set foot in a movie theater at all.

I remember having a similar perspective when I was very young. I’m grateful to great Christian writers like C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Philip Yancey, G.K. Chesterton, and D. Bruce Lockerbie who took the time to teach me, and helped open my eyes to the revelation of God’s glory in art. In fact, I’ve become convinced that there would be a lot more great art, more beauty, and more truth in the public square if those Christians who have removed themselves for fear of contamination would return and engage with culture the way Christ and the apostles modeled for us.

Feel free to respond if you like. I’ve got a busy day with the press screening for Margot at the Wedding and then writing a review of Into the Wild for Response magazine.

Well, I hardly know where to begin. The whole argument is lashon hara (evil tongue), to begin with; both on the part of Baehr and his supporters and his detractors. However, the whole question of “Christian” movie reviews is disingenious to say the least. Why on earth would anyone calling themselves followers of Yahshua (Jesus) admit to sitting through one of these filthy movies in order to “review” and rate it for other “Christians”? This is simply incredible to me.

I would not contaminate my mind by viewing this filth under any circumstance. It is not rocket science to discern that Hollywood is making nothing but smut, or at the very least promulgating lies, distortions and defamation of our Creator. Case in point: Evan Almighty. To think they would use a human being to represent “God” violates the first Commandment immediately, to say nothing of the rest of the trash that is no doubt in the movie, which probably has a few platitudes about goodness to lull the so-called Christians into a false sense of propriety.

I know these words seem harsh, but for Heaven’s sake, WAKE UP and read the Scriptures instead of wasting precious time (of which we have little remaining) on such garbage as this, then squabbling among ourselves about who is the worst. My God! What does Jesus think of such nonsense?

I could send him a copy of Through a Screen Darkly, which is basically a book-length response to this email about just how often, and in how many ways, God has drawn me closer to him through truth and beauty manifested on the big screen. But I’m not so sure this person would be willing to read it.

Of course, I do sometimes hear from people of the extreme-opposite perspective, who think that I must be some kind of puritanical judge of culture because I write about movies for a Christian publication.

Take this fellow, for example. I did write back to this guy, who sent me the following message on September 18. I asked him, very simply, if he would please point out some examples of how my reviews actually carry out the evils he’s describing here, and he never replied.

Mr. Overstreet,

It is very rare that I contact a writer in relation to how sincerely bad it is, but your movie reviews are beyond terrible; they are moral pomposity disguised as intelligent “cultural interaction.” If you were simply a Christian writing movie reviews I would expect extremely good insight into the moral questions, spiritual successes and insights, and general penetrativeness of modern film. Instead, you are a “Christian movie reviewer” which means you spend your time worshiping at the altar of family values and selling your critical insight at the cost of stars = the “should-ness” of conservative movie watching. I’m sure that you spend your time listening to, communicating with, and generally prostituting yourself out to the coporate conservative monster, and so consider this the voice of the silent majority who never read your claptrap because they have given up on partisan arts-reviewers when they realized that art is a universal medium, not a body of morally suspect material to be criticized by, basically, another Christian intellectual-whore. Christians have branched out a great deal; maybe its time for you to work outside the morally-antiseptic boundaries you have limited yourself to or by which have been limited. As it stands, you should just review movies with a “safe” or “non-safe” label. Everything else you write is useless.

Uncurteously,

[writer’s name deleted, just because I’m really not such a bad guy]
Methodist Theological School in Ohio
3081 Columbus Pike
Delaware OH, 43015

Perhaps I should not post such things for all the world to see.

I mean, I wouldn’t want to give anybody the worrying impression that Christians ever fail to treat each other with grace, or that we speak to each other with hatred and condemnation.

They’ll know we are Christians by our love… right?

Right?

[Update: In your comments, please respond with respect and grace, whatever perspective you have on the issue. If I receive comments that seem inflammatory or demeaning, I don’t care if you’re agreeing with me or not… I’ll delete them. Sorry to bother with notes like this, but unfortunately, due to a few disruptive comments, it’s become necessary. Feel free to argue, but follow the Comments Policy posted in the right-hand sidebar.]

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