My Thoughts on Christian Films
Updated: Aug 24
I hold the word of God in very high regard. When I read, my imagination depicts how the Israelites handled situations and how they lived before they were written into History. If a motion picture adaptation of a Bible character goes wrong, I tend to take it personally.
About The Chosen...
When this show went viral, Christians bragged on how good it was and told me I just had to watch it. I confess, I'm no good at following trends or hopping on bandwagons, and I'm not a fan of portrayals of Christ. So, I decided to wait until the show's popularity wore off before making any commitments. Five years later, I've yet to see more than an episode trailer.
I recently listened as the show's director, Dallas Jenkins, responded to outcries against filming in a Mormon studio and using Catholic actors. Jenkins, who professes to be an Evangelical Christian, defended his views and declared the Mormons he knew loved the same Jesus. The co-founder of Angel Studios, where The Chosen is filmed, identifies as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Below is a blasphemous quote from ChurchofJesusChrist.org:
While we do not believe the Bible to be inerrant, complete, or the final word of God, we accept the essential details of the Gospels and more particularly the divine witness of those men who walked and talked with Him or were mentored by His chosen apostles. We believe Jesus is the Son of God the Father and as such inherited powers of godhood and divinity from His Father...He possessed the powers of a God and ministered as one having authority...We believe that while human works are necessary— including exercising faith in Christ, repenting of our sins...they are not sufficient for salvation.
The Christian Post recently interviewed two songwriters for the show's soundtrack. One composer, Matthew Nelson, who apparently practices Zen (Buddhist inspired meditation), has written scores for artists such as Natalie Grant, Newsboys, Matthew West, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp, and Kirk Franklin. The other composer, Dan Haseltine, is the lead singer for Jars of Clay and is, reportedly, a supporter of gay marriage. While working with Jenkins on a film project in the past, Haseltine admitted to "pushing [Jenkins] away from the Christian music space" in favor of a more "authentic" and cultured sound.
Haseltine also said, "I think the stories we tell about Jesus are not very compelling. I think when they see this version of Jesus portrayed...it matters that He's merciful, that He's extending grace...He has His own flaws in a human way. He's very relatable..." Nelson, who referred to God as "the source of Judaism," said, "The show is injecting imagination into all of these [Bible] stories...watching The Chosen is like I've never heard this story before. The way the characters are portrayed...Matthew being portrayed as on the [autism] spectrum in some way. There's just all this beautiful creativity...it doesn't matter whether it's factually accurate, whether or not Matthew was on the spectrum. It's plausible. "
Does biblical accuracy matter on screen?
An honest portrayal of everyday people upholding biblical values is better entertainment than animated misinterpretations of Scripture. I understand the concept of introducing certain themes and showcasing relatable Bible characters. I also get that artists can't submit their entire production to literal interpretations of Christian doctrine since this wouldn't be financially rewarding. Still, every aspect of the project should be conformed to the absolute truth found in Genesis to Revelation. Whether it's Christ, the Disciples, King David, Samson, Apostle Paul, etc., these should all be carefully depicted as they're written.
Scripture is deserving of the greatest attention to detail; the Bible is not just a book, it's the Book. Thus, I disagree with using the Word as a source for secular artistic expressions, even if the production is technically faith-based. Those who don't follow Christ, or who practice a world religion, are not led by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they have no conviction and are under less moral obligation to use restraint during creative processes. I refuse to watch films like Noah or Exodus: Gods and Kings for no other reason than their reputation of gross inaccuracies and alleged ridicule of Judeo-Christian orthodoxy.
You might ask, "If the inaccuracies are small and undetectable, if Zen meditations inspire musical scores that touch people's hearts, if someone who's never read the Bible feels closer to Jesus after watching a film, then, what's the big deal?" I'll put the answer the way someone put it to me in my "baby Christian" days: Let's say I baked a pan of brownies and offered them to you. As you're biting into that wonderful, gooey, crispy edge piece, what if I told you, "There's dog poop in the brownies, but not an amount you can taste. I read somewhere that dog poop is actually a good source of fiber for humans, so I decided to try the recipe." Would you, in your right mind, keep eating the brownie?
An industry gone mad
Who can deny America's entertainment industry is full of corruption, perversion, and propaganda? Increased interest in Bible-based films is likely due to a world gone crazy and parents seeking a more wholesome distraction or educational tool for children. The positive messages in Christian movies are desperately needed to disrupt the cultural status quo and steer the collective conscience of the nation back to God. I support those who invest time and talents into clean movies with no guarantee the final result will make an impact on the public or the church. However, I avoid giving large sums of money and free advertising to films that don't align with Scripture, including some well produced Bible projects.
As I said, I'm not a fan of portrayals of Jesus Christ, or any Bible character. I gave The Bible series a try several years ago and I was disappointed. I watched an episode of A.D. The Bible Continues and I was not impressed. Son of God was good, but Christ definitely lacked zeal during key scenes (i.e. cleansing the Temple). The last time I saw The Passion of the Christ, I picked up on weird themes that weren't obvious to me in the past, so it'll be a while before I watch it again. Ultimately, my point is this: if you're going to produce a series or full-length film based solely on the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God, do it right or don't do it at all.