The Ball of Cheese That Is Christian Film, Or Happily Ever After

Look, I understand why it is that way. I know that Christian films have difficulty coming up with the cash needed to put on a semi-decent production, and that the people willing to invest the cash have agendas and certain criteria they want met.

But still….

Every Christian movie I watch (which makes it sound like many, its quite minimal) all go the same way. You can read the description on the back of the DVD and guess the ending without flaw.

There is a conflict, a faith in jeopardy, livelihoods on the line, drama all over the place, moody piano, a return to Jesus and therefore everything falling perfectly into place, better than the character could have ever dreamed. Heart warming stuff.

Not true to life, at all, but heart warming stuff nonetheless.

No wonder so many people find the Christian life unsatisfying. When people are sales pitching Christianity, they’re as liberal as computer salesmen who say it’ll do whatever you want it to. And ultimately many of those films are simply extended sales pitches.

Maybe this is why some people think of Christianity as a fairy tale.

So, well, life doesn’t play out like the movies.  So…. then what?

I’ve heard many times that the view of the afterlife (this week’s unofficial theme) evolved over time in Jewish thought, and was even still forming when Jesus walked on earth (I’m expecting correction here). How Abraham viewed it is far different from the people of Jesus’ day. And one of the understandable questions people had was: “if God is just, why can such terrible things happen to the religious? How can persecution happen?” Such questions led to the progressing thoughts about life after death. They were fair questions demanding resolution.

An answer that arose was naturally “well the real reward is not this life, but the after.”

And that’s all well and good. But maybe not good enough.

I think God is molding us into less selfish people. He’s got his work cut out for him. And if we are doing things simply for the mansion in heaven, or just heaven for that matter, well then we still have motives. And quite possibly not love.

We are continuing the work of building God’s kingdom. Such work, ask any apostle, doesn’t lead to roses and fairy tale endings. Not everyone gets the girl, or the house, or the dream ____. And we don’t do it for our own spot in heaven (not that God grants such things for hard work). We do it in good faith that we are in fact slowly shoving one more block into place.

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7 Responses to The Ball of Cheese That Is Christian Film, Or Happily Ever After

  1. David says:

    Wasn’t Star Wars a low budget film? Let’s face it, Americans in particular; like happy endings. If they didn’t, Pretty Woman would have been called the Crack Whore and ET would have been dissected at Area 51.

    I believe that the expectation of Christian films is to have a God “blessed” ending, because everyone knows that blessing is “things turning out your way.” 😉 I do find that even during disaster folks get saved: 9/11, the Sago Mine Disaster (see Monday’s F&G post), Pearl Harbor – there are some amazing testimonies from those events.

    Romans 8:28 is the comfort of the believer. It is God using ALL things for good – our sin, our mistakes, tragedy, ALL of it for his glory.

    I don’t think that God is trying to get us to be less selfish. He is trying to kill us, so that He can live though us. Jesus did not die to make bad people good. He died so that dead people could live.

    And you’re correct, this isn’t the only rodeo, there is an infinite one to come. And again, you are correct, there are many rewards there. The rewards in Heaven are NOT for doing good, or even being good or socially responsible. They are for advancing the Kingdom of God by being obedient to Him.

    And finally, God is just because he dispenses judgment and mercy, not because he conforms to mankind’s fallen ideals. Part of that justice is punishing sin (or offering atonement through faith in Jesus). Kingdom justice is that same for all men regardless.

    1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

    • “because everyone knows that blessing is “things turning out your way.” Haha the American version of blessing!

      I’d say one of the amazing things about the gospel is how it transforms disasters into something that can be used by God, like you pointed out. Nothing else, in my opinion, can claim that kind of power.

      David I definitely appreciated what you clarified, as I agree its much more about raising the living dead than simply helping people be better off emotionally. It’s not that my statement that God wants us help us be less selfish is wrong, its that raising the dead is much more encompassing – for in bringing us to life inevitably we become less selfish. Maybe I should make you my blog editor!

  2. JamesBrett says:

    “Not true to life, at all, but heart warming stuff nonetheless.”

    ironically, i think the movie, ‘facing the giants’ was actually a true story put to film.

  3. Chris says:

    Hi Charlie,

    you said: “I think God is molding us into less selfish people. He’s got his work cut out for him. And if we are doing things simply for the mansion in heaven, or just heaven for that matter, well then we still have motives. And quite possibly not love.”

    I really hope you are right. We really need to be less selfish and more loving.
    Would Christians still do the right things even if there were no eternal reward? Would they do it just for the sake of it being the right thing? Would Christian men not beat their wives if there were no fear of eternal punishment? If God said do this thing, but don’t expect anything in return would we still do it? Interesting questions, really hard answer.
    Let me try to weigh in here a bit.
    These very accusations are the ones I often hear levied against Christians. You only accept Jesus or do what you do because you just want to get your butt into heaven before the pearly gates are slammed shut.
    But let me suggest something revolutionary.

    It is not wrong to want heaven.

    Some people make it seem like it is, but it is not wrong to want heaven and it is not wrong to want God. The desire to have eternal union and communion with our maker is as natural as hair on an ape. It is the pilgrims longing, not the nomads.
    If I could paraphrase Lewis: “If I find in myself a longing which no worldly power can satisfy, the most reasonable answer is that I was made for another world.”
    There is also a pithy verse (can’t remember where) that states: “He has set eternity in their hearts.”
    I have met people that say they don’t really have this longing. I can’t really account for this. I can only say that I do and in my bones I don’t feel it is wrong. Like anything else I think it’s something that can be abused and distorted, but I see it as there and I don’t try to deny it. Especially if it moves me forward in Christlikeness, or as they say in Christian parlance, if it progresses me in sanctification.

    • great point in saying it is not wrong to desire heaven, but the way we’ve presented the gospel in tracts the majority of people could care less about communion with God, they’re simply trying to avoid eternal damnation. And maybe I could drop some of my cynicism and at least acknowledge that’s an okay place to start, hoping that people move onward from there.

  4. Chris says:

    “the majority of people could care less about communion with God”

    If we have clearly, and lovingly, and patiently, and winsomely presented the gospel to someone so that they may be moved to come into relationship with Christ and follow Him then I think we have been faithful. But there is an offense inherent to the gospel isn’t there? Adding offense by being obnoxious or repugnant is to be avoided at all costs, but I think it’s probably unavoidable that some people will be offended because that’s just the inherent offense of the gospel. Granted, cheesy PR campaigns and goofy billboards are often painful to see and may even do more harm than good, but I don’t think we should fool ourselves into believing that we can ever get the majority of people to care.

    I think you put your finger on a lot of places where the church has gone wrong. But I also see changes for the better. Don’t be so focused on the negative. Too much negativity does induce cynicism as you’ve noted. I want to be aware but not cynical. I see cynicism as a kind of spirit. A spirit that is akin to not forgiving, and what does Jesus want us to know about forgiving and being forgiven.

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