I’ve been listening to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and the first verse of “God Only Knows” keeps running through my head:
I may not always love you
But long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
I’ll make you so sure about it
God only knows what I’d be without you
…because that’s kind of how I feel about Christian movies.
If you’re a church kid who grew up after the advent of home video, you might be able to relate! You might have been told that the cinema was the devil’s picture house. Maybe you just weren’t allowed to watch movies rated PG or above. But chances are, if you grew up Christian, you had some exposure to Christian movies.
They were the godly alternative to secular films. They were supposed to be at least safe, if not good. They were supposed to be edifying, if not entertaining. And for the most part, they filled that role.
But lately, there’s been a lot of hate for Christian movies. Every year or so, an article makes the rounds on social media asking why Christian movies are so bad. And not just asking, but straight-up hating on Christian movies. Here’s one from 2014, one from 2016, and one from 2019.
And hey, this is Say Goodnight Kevin. It’s not like we’re all lovey-dovey over Christian movies. When Kevin started doing movie reviews, his stated goal was to take “classic Christian media and hold it up to the same standard that other media is held to.” Sometimes that means criticizing Christian media.
But really, is it a bad thing that people want to make family-friendly movies with good messages?
As a church kid, I’ll admit I’m a little jaded when it comes to Christian media. But I can’t imagine my life without it. If I hadn’t had Christian movies, shows, and music growing up, my childhood would’ve been a lot different. Overall, Christian media has had a positive impact on my life.
There are certainly criticisms to be made of Christian films. Some of them have big issues. But should the genre be dismissed as a whole? Should we condemn them as a blight upon humanity?
Let’s not be so hasty to throw Christian movies under the bus. God only knows what we’d be without them.
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I grew up on “The Greatest Adventure” series, “Super book,” “Last Chance Detectives,” “McGee and Me,” and many others. I enjoyed them as a child, and wouldn’t even label them as bad for what they were trying to do: balance story and “a moral tale.”
As I got older, I watched a thousand and one movies that fall into what I call “evangelical fiction,” because they’re meant to “lead people to Christ;” travesties like “God’s Not Dead” fall into this category.
In my experience, it’s the Christian media that is more “evangelical” that tends to suck more, because it has something in common with secular media more interested in shoving social views on its audience than in telling a story. Both can’t decide whether or not they want to be a sermon or a story, and fail at both.
We kind of expect moral tales from children’s entertainment, but even then “McGee and Me” had more subtlety than “God’s Not Dead.” We also expect simpler characters and plot lines, but there again, “McGee” had more to offer.
Christian media doesn’t have to suck, and it shouldn’t, but it also doesn’t have to be a sermon. It could just be a good story with Christian themes, or–here’s an idea–maybe Christians could just make good media without having to make it blatantly Christian.
I’m not opposed to Christians sharing their faith through movies, and some do it well. I am opposed to Christians sharing their faith poorly through poorly made movies, and accepting poor quality because “it’s for the Lord.”
Sure, God probably smiles on crap-quality movies made with good intentions, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try harder to make quality work.
Exactly! This is what I talked about at a conference back in 2019. I took my speech and wrote it up in a quick read if you are interested. I should be making a promotion soon for it (let me know and I can put you on the list), or you can check it out now. https://saygoodnightkevin.com/cruciflix Thank you for writing on the blog!