Quest: Christianity and the Movies, Extras, Part I
To participate live in the next three parts of this Online Quest Course tune in Tuesday Sept 17th, 24th and October 1st at 7pm: click here.
Spiritual gifts in St Paul's Writings:
While speaking of Spritual gifts Paul often speaks of them using the body as an example.Romans 12:1-8 1 Corinthians 12 Ephesians 4:4-16 Often discernment is labelled as a spiritual gift. What is discernment? Simply put, discernment is the ability to judge well. There are a variety of ways of thinking about this, two ways that appear best are these: First Following something called The Channel Model many Christians believe that a Spiritual gift like discernment is ultimately located outside the Christian (Lutherans, would then see the source and location of a gift like this in the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament). Others build on this point of view by considering the Natural Talents Model where the Holy Spirit after applying the gifts of Christ to the Christian in Baptism and/or by His word makes Holy the God given intellect of the individual so that their discernment would "be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)
Discernment (the ability to judge well) is an important part of watching movies. One way to test what you watch is by measuring it against the Bible, another way is to measure it against the catechism, which is an excellent exposition of the Bible. In either case Scripture is the final authority when learning to judge well in your life. On the first evening we looked at the 10 Commandments and discussed Movies related to the commandments.
The catechism we'll be using is Luther's Small Catechism, if you're interested in purchasing this edition you can order one from Concordia Publishing House (Hard Cover and Kindle available) or you can find your closest Lutheran Church-Canada congregation and they will be happy to assist you in getting one.
1) You shall have no other gods.What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger.
Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Yann Martel (novel), David Magee (screenplay)
Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Adil Hussain
Life of Pi provides an example of pluralism in film. The Christian is called to have One God in Three Persons and is not called to have a multiplicity of gods taken from all religions. The central character of the film tells about his childhood interest in Religion; watch the clip below and think about the first commandment.
2) You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray. Praise, and give thanks.
An FBI agent takes on a plane full of deadly and poisonous snakes, deliberately released to kill a witness being flown from Honolulu to Los Angeles to testify against a mob boss.
Director: David R. Ellis
Writers: John Heffernan (screenplay), Sebastian Gutierrez (screenplay)
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips
Often people consider crude language as breaking the 2nd commandment, such language may in fact fit more under the 4th commandment, the real heart of the 2nd commandment is how people use God's Name. Below is an example of crude language cleaned up for television
In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.
Director: Joel Coen
Writers: Homer (epic poem "The Odyssey"), Ethan Coen,
Stars: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
Still thinking about the 2nd Commandment watch this clip. George Clooney's character (Everett McGill) is praying to the Lord. It becomes obvious that He is calling on the name of the Lord in trouble with his prayer, this is a positive example of the 2nd commandment in film.
3) Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it Holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
A chronicle of country music legend Johnny Cash's life, from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame with Sun Records in Memphis, where he recorded alongside Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Johnny Cash (book)
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon,
Often in movies, depictions of people in church are not portrayed in the best light. Here is a short scene from the Jonny Cash Bio-Pick 'Walk the Line' that shows Johnny Cash having a positive church going experience. Follow this link to see the video (it will open in a new window).
4) Honour your father and mother. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities, but honour them, serve and obey them, love and cherish them.
The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Stars: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
This is a film I would highly recommend. It's the kind of movie you'll watch and end up thinking about your own life while watching it. In this scene watch for the dynamics between the father and son; the whole movie is one of wrestling with personalities within a family.
5) You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbour in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.
An ex-tennis pro carries out a plot to murder his wife. When things go wrong, he improvises a brilliant plan B.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Frederick Knott (screenplay, adapted from his play)
Stars: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings
The theme of murder is popular in Hollywood films. But Hollywood didn't invent murder, it's been with us from the time of Cain and Able in Genesis 4 and Jesus even says that the Devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Here we see an older film dealing with the breaking of the 5th Commandment.
6) You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honour each other.
A Midwestern living in New York finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbour.
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann (screenplay), Craig Pearce (screenplay)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton
Gatsby wants to re-live the past by steeling away the wife of another man. He had had a relationship with the man's wife earlier in his life. This film is, in part, about the hardships connected with adultery. Again this is not a theme made up by Hollywood, not even a theme made up by the writer of the book it's based on (F. Scott Fitzgerald). There are notable examples of this in the Bible, for example King David and Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
7) You shall not steal. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbour’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.
Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Florida to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy's identity.
Director: Seth Gordon
Writers: Craig Mazin, Jerry Eeten
Stars: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, John Cho
Theft is not all that funny if it happens to you, however sometimes Hollywood makes comedy films about uncomfortable or difficult topics like theft. This is a film that sort of film, here is the movie trailer as seen on television.
8) You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way.
A Catholic school principal questions a priest's ambiguous relationship with a troubled 12-year-old student.
Director: John Patrick Shanley
Writers: John Patrick Shanley
Stars: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Here is the trailer for another film that I would recommend. Doubt details a case of giving false testimony, but who is the guilty party? The film is a mystery and only fully reveals it's answers in the end. It is filled with dramatic twists and turns and is well worth the watch.
9) You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not scheme to get our neighbour’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way that only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.
A loan officer who evicts an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi
Stars: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Ruth Livier
Not a film for everyone, this film centers on the consequences of coveting another person's house for personal gain. In this film a young woman working at a bank forecloses on a older woman's house in order to get a promotion at work, she does it all in a way that only appears right. After this the film takes an unusual turn with the older woman ends up being a gypsy with a curse. Here's the television trailer.
10) You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbour’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.
Set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster
Selfishness motivates almost every character. The focus is not on helping others to keep their property and possessions or helping them when they have physical needs. Greed drives the story telling and the rich and the poor are both at work coveting each others resources.
More Food For Thought
Here is the video about Plato's Cave analogy. This Simile is often related to Film and film watching by Film Theorists and Pop Culture Researchers. The term that accompanies this is phantasmagorical. The Phantasmagorical is defined as “a sequence of pictures made to vary in size rapidly while remaining in focus” - collinsdictionary.com
Plato (c. 427 – 347) The Republic Penguin Classics, The Simile of the Cave BK VII. Pg 240.
Watch how similer this sceen from the Matrix plays when compaired to Plato's Cave analogy.
This gets us to the final point when it comes to Discernment (the ability to judge well) and why Discernment is an important part of watching movies or any media. As Christians you are not shackled in a cave. If you want to stop watching a film or you want to avoid certain things you can. The way you do this is by applying what you've learned from reading Scripture and from studying the Catechism to what you're watching. There will be times when you've seen something and because you were paying attention as you watched you'll be able to have conversations with friends and family members that you would not have been able to have otherwise. These can be good opportunities to share the faith and teach things about Scripture and the Christian faith to others.
Quest is a programme presented by Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton Alberta: For more information, or for any other enquires including enrolment details, contact the office of the registrar at (780) 474-1468