I know, I know. Outrage. But before you grab your pitchfork, hear me out. Blanket statements aside, I think we can admit that many of the Christian movies released in the last ten years have failed the test of good media, and not just because their budgets were so small.
I think the reason for this lies in the way we think about worldview, and the communication of a worldview. Worldview, as I’ve said before, consists of four interlocking components: catechesis, narrative, liturgy, and lifestyle. Catechesis is our propositional instruction, the content of our beliefs. Those beliefs are codified in our catechesis, but imagined, imaged in our narratives. If catechesis is the brain of a worldview, then narrative is its soul. The stories that we tell about ourselves, our origins, our heroes– these influence us in profound ways, possibly more than we realize.
We must realize that catechesis and narrative, though they overlap, though they communicate the same realities, are different modes of expressing those realities. They communicate the same truths in different ways, as they are intended to do. Catechesis can utilize narrative, but it needs to be propositional. Imagine if all we had were stories, with no statements about the meaning or morality of those stories. Discerning the truth would nearly be an impossibility. Likewise, narratives can be (and should be) catechetical, but they cannot capture our hearts and imaginations with the same degree of potency if they are primarily so. Stories make us yearn for realities which our catechesis tells us we should yearn for. Stories make us hate the things we ought to hate, and love the things we ought to love. It does this better than instruction, because it was designed to do this better than instruction.
Many Christian movies, I find, are doctrinal statements (and poor ones at that) with a thin veneer of story overtop. They cannot make me love the things I ought to love, because the story is so anemic. I admire the desire of these filmmakers to have a Christian presence in the industry, and I admire their commitment to Christian truth. But their product cannot do what they want it to do (that is, capture the hearts of their audience) because they aren’t telling stories; they’re giving expensive multi-media devotionals. To adapt Lewis, “The world does not need more Christian movies. What it needs is more Christians making good movies.”