With the success of "Passion of the Christ," "Lord of the Rings," and "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" you can expect a slew of "spiritually themed" movies. Something many have prayed for. This is a good thing, right? Well remember the closing line in "Capote," "more tears have been shed for answered prayers than unanswered ones."
Today's cleverly timed release of "The Omen 666" is an example. It is a remake and a stinker as the LA Daily News critic says, "The original Omen spawned two sequels. This lifeless remake guarantees we'll be spared the run-up to Armageddon." (Even some Christian retailers are embracing the 666 tie-in Even some Christian retailers are embracing the 666 tie-in, according to the publishers, selling paperback versions of earlier Left Behind novels for .66. "Why not make the connection?" Jenkins asks in the book's press kit. "The funny thing is that the number never appears anywhere in our books. . . . People are naturally afraid of the number because of who it is associated with. It's just a number. It's the Antichrist who is evil.")
Meanwhile back to Hollywood. 666 is a Hollywood version of a "spiritually themed movie" as was "Stigmata," based on the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, "End of Days" based on the Book of Revelation AND "The Da Vinci Code," loosely based on the Gnostic "Mary of Magdalene."
Sometimes Hollywood productions are relatively harmless, teaching some sweet lessons as in "God Almighty" where the central character played by Jim Carey is saved by Grace a character played by Jennifer Aniston after an encounter with God played by Morgan Freeman. Other times it is not so benign, such as in Da Vinci.
Here are three quick lessons.
1) Hollywood productions tend to be spiritually delusional, practicing what I call "spiritual blenderism," stick a bunch of beliefs in a blender and push the button. The trend is towards spiritual seeking without seeking God, moral and intellectual relativism and anti-Christian.
2) Hollywood productions are spiritually influential. As Phyliss Tickle reminds us in "God Talk In America," More theology is conveyed in, and probably retained from one hour of popular television, than from all the sermons that are also delivered on any given weekend in America's synagogues, churches and mosques." It does make a difference,--a poll in the UK said people are twice as likely to believe Jesus is married after the Da Vinci code. In our country Christian Smith says even the typical Christian teen believes what he calls, "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."
3) Christian reactions tend to be unproductive: cocooning, combating and conforming won't do. We've been called to be a loving transforming presence in the world. There is a better way: One) we need to create a richer culture by producing art that tells the truth and does so in a craftsmanlike way. Don't get excited that "Christians are starting to make movies." Get excited when thoughtful, imaginative well made movies are porduced by people who are Christian; Two) We need to counterculture, resisting and fleeing when appropriate; Three) We need to communicate like ambassadors in culture, mastering the language of faith and culture and connecting the two.