The Worst Reason to See A Christian Movie

I get asked frequently to endorse movies made by Christians. I’m thrilled to be asked, because I think more Christian filmmakers should be out there telling their stories. And even when there are problems with the film, I’m willing to give it some grace if the writing, acting, and direction are top notch. But quite often I turn them down, for the biggest reason I believe we should never support films made by Christians:

When I’m told that because we’re Christians “we’re supposed to support it.”  The worst reason in the world to support or buy tickets to a movie is because we’re “supposed” to support it. And I get that request more than you’d think. “Yes, we know it isn’t very good, but as a Christian, you should endorse the movie.”

And that’s true even when the intention is good.  So when a church member, a friend, or a marketing person asks you to buy tickets to a Christian movie that you know isn’t any good, have courage. Don’t be afraid to say “No.” It’s a tough world out there, but if we want to compete, we have to do it on the same terms as the world.

We wouldn’t buy a house that’s falling apart just because Christians built it. We wouldn’t have brain surgery by a well-intentioned, but unqualified, Christian doctor. In the same way, we shouldn’t support bad Christian art of any kind.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Nathan Brown

    Yep… with you Phil. I was thinking starting up a Christian Restaurant for Christians with bland food, no alcohol of course! and served up by untrained staff that keep dropping stuff. NOT!!! Seriously, more power to those giving it a red hot go and benchmarking to ‘givens’ – but lets get fair dinkum please (get real)…if we expect to reach and engage with an audience beyond those who will put up with mediocrity then the usual expectations of what makes a good movie a good movie stand. Period. We just have to get this and stop perpetuating brand ‘irrelevant and out of touch’.

  • Simon Dillon

    I totally agree. If we take ambassadorship seriously, ie that we supposedly represent the King of Kings, we should not put our endorsement on any old thing, only top quality stuff (and yes, that includes material that isn’t necessarily “wholesome” or “family friendly” in the sense meant by so much of the American Christian right).

    I personally despise it when I receive messages from people wishing for me to put their material on the channel where I work “because God has told them it will be on”, or “because we should support their work, as Christians”. It is arrogant presumption disguised as a psuedo-spiritual guilt trip and I for one refuse to swallow it.

  • I go see a movie because I WANT to see a movie…not because someone told me I should for a specific reason. I am not a Star Wars fan. Have never seen one and just because people stare at me like I’m a two-headed monster is not motivation enough to get me to the theater. The closest I will get is working as a volunteer at our local theater during one or more of the showings. Movies, like books, should draw me in and not cater to a wanton crowd and produce second (or third) rate fare.

  • Barry

    I completely agree. There have been enough bad religious themed movies done by non-Christian people we don’t need to add to the mix. I applaud the efforts of the Christians making the movies but that doesn’t mean I would want to see it. I usually hear the thing about “voting with your dollars” in order to get Hollywood studios to change. If a movie is good and makes an impact that should take of itself.

  • MofPennsy

    Seems to me that any story by a Christian writer should come out with the values that writer has. A great story is hampered by preaching…BUT, the Company Town producers are certainly willing to leach out those elements. Imagine that part of a coming of Age or Buddy Movie has a character turn around through being born again. It’s a great and realistic event for a plot, but seems only a “Christian Filmmaker” would let it get through. Evil priests and evangelists are scary and surprising because we should trust them…but do they get past the cliche police these days? they do.

  • Jake

    I get this this but art is relative. Are we the final judge of what art is, especially if it’s an attempt to worship? If someone is a terrible singer, but wants to lead worship, should he or she be denied the opportunity to worship because of their lack of talent?

    • That’s a noble sounding sentiment Jake, and I appreciate your heart. But when God directed Solomon to build the temple in the Old Testament, they didn’t hire people with good intentions, they hired he best artists in the land. For instance, he hired Huram from Tyre: This man was half Israeli and half Gentile, and he was the best craftsman around. Solomon hired him to do all his work – that is, the fine artistic work of the palace and especially the temple. I’m sure there were many who desired to do the design work, but they simply weren’t qualified. An untalented person is loved by God just as much as a talented one. But that doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to do creative work.

      • Jake

        I look at that as apples and oranges. You’re talking about a structure that houses people, which obviously is art, but strictly art (film, music, writing, etc) is more relative. God continually called people who were not equipped to do His work in the Bible and we still see that today. Who are we to judge when He is and isn’t doing that? Also, we are viewing art by His standards or by the world’s (Hollywood)?

        • So you’re saying architecture and interior design are art, but that’s different from other art like writing or filmmaking? Sorry Jake, doesn’t work. Martin Luther said “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” I’ll vote with him. Find me a place in scripture where God celebrates bad art or work in general. And for the record, our artistic standards should be HIGHER than Hollywood or anyone else’s….

          • Jake

            I can agree with that last statement, I’m just curious where those standards are laid out. Also, how many times does the Bible state that artisans were called compared to the unqualified? The whole Bible is full of unqualified people who God used for His glory. Take mud for example. Most humans see mud as ugly and not creative, unqualified to be art. However, God created mud and Jesus used it to help the blind man see. Jesus used what the world considers “bad art” to achieve one of the most beautiful things ever, a miracle. So, what is good art, bad art? You have the world’s standards which are semi-clear and you have God’s standards which is not as clear but most of what I’ve been able to find relates to glorifying Him and not glorifying ourselves as is defined all too often by Hollywood’s standards.

          • I can see I can’t persuade you, but I can tell you that God STARTED with mud, he didn’t end there. He used the mud to create something beautiful and restore sight. He did the same at the creation of man. That’s exactly what great artists do with paint, words, film, or music. You’re struggling with two different questions – the question of quality and the question of who gets the glory. They aren’t the same so don’t confuse them. My final thought is toward sharing the gospel with the world. Which will most impact the people we’re trying to reach? Crappy movies, poorly produced music, and bad writing? Or powerfully compelling films, music, and books?
            I’ll leave that to you, and thanks for starting the conversation! Hope to see you back…

          • Roland Austinat

            I am not a fan of the “unqualified people” statement. The disciples were all businessmen – some they were fishers who had their own boats, one was a physician, another one in finance. They were definitely no beach combers and they all gave up their job to follow him.

    • Roland Austinat

      Jake, if someone wants to lead worship but lacks he ability to sing, it would be more of a parody to people in church while guests would be so distracted from the bad singing that they potentially could miss the really important thing: God meeting them in the service. Not even mentioning that they might think that Christians really don’t have their act together.

      Would you hand over your kids to a Sunday school teacher who had no clue how to interact with kids but volunteered for the job because he/she really wanted to lead the kids ministry?

  • miss me

    Absolutely true! I receive a periodic email with the tone of
    “let’s support this film.. and this film…and…” some not
    worth seeing them on TV in a few years. I prefer to spending money on
    films that I know I won;t walk out on or have to mark as a waste of time and
    money .

    How much sense does it make to have a school of thought “this film is
    awful but many supported it so let’s keep making films like these”.
    Hollywood is a cookie cutter, vehicle obsessed, machine and likes to dress up
    piglets and resell the same ol’ stuff. Creating bad film that gets caught
    in this cycle is not wise.

    To your point about God in favor of excellence, Himself filling workers of the
    tabernacle “will all wisdom and understanding and knowledge…in
    workmanship”. So “all” meaning, well, “all”,
    leaves no room for shoddiness or shortcuts. If you can’t paint, your idea
    of creating a masterpiece of the ocean at sunset will still be measured by your
    technique, materials, and actually having seen the ocean.

    That last comment directed at those skewing scriptural events to the point of
    confusion for those who know what’s supposed to happen instead of “filling
    in blanks” with a narrative that fits the overall story (think
    “Noah”).

    This lack of excellence in Christian film, reminds me of a flick few years back
    with an outside scene at night, which as the actors walked through a courtyard,
    obviously cut to an indoor set setup to look like an outdoor scene.
    Looked so weird and was so obviously imbalanced. Embarrassing and
    annoying at the same time.

    Let’s let flops, flop and lessons be learned so outstanding film can be the
    prevailing go and movie goers can have a great experience, maybe learn
    something about God, faith, the gospel, and we can lose the cloud of
    expectation of disappointment when a Christian film is released.

    Thanks for speaking out on this issue.

  • Roland Austinat

    “We wouldn’t buy a house that’s falling apart just because Christians
    built it. We wouldn’t have brain surgery by a well-intentioned, but
    unqualified, Christian doctor.”

    Very well said. I like the Luther quote as well. Curious, how does that leave us with Christian politicians? Personally, I’d vote for someone who is skilled and qualified – even if he/she is not a Christian.

    • I fell for voting for a Christian back when Jimmy Carter ran for President. Wonderful Christian man, but not such a good president. He’s actually probably been our best EX-president, but I learned my lesson about voting for the Christian versus the qualified. Of course, the best choice would be both… :-)

      • Roland Austinat

        True. He did however put solar panels on the White House. Panels that Reagan quickly dismantled if I recall correctly.

  • Maybe I’m misunderstanding you Phil but from where I sit, you seem to be contradicting yourself. For example, you recently encouraged all your subscribers to support NOAH, one the most despised films in recent history by the majority of the Christian Communty. I seem to recall you saying something like, “when filmmakers are willing to put their money into films like this, we should support them.” I really think you are making extreme comparisons between novice Christian Filmmakers and doctors or home builders. Plenty of well known doctors and builders screw up all the time.

    Besides how many Christian movies have you contributed to that do not properly represent the Word of God? You once mentioned how many movies depicted Golgatha in them and I asked you how many showed 4 crucified with Christ and you said none. Another example would be whether or not you support Roma Downey’s Bible Series works. Most of them are extremely inaccurate, much less than perfect, yet I support them.

    Babes in Christ need to be undershepherded, nursed along the way; we don’t wait for them to perfect their walk with Christ before helping, supporting, them along the Way.

    I think if I were you I would be supporting just about everyone that came along. We are all works in progress.

    • First – You got it wrong about Noah. That’s not why I recommended Christians see the movie.
      Second – I spend my life teaching and encouraging young filmmakers, but to see poorly done films just because they’re produced by Christians? How does that encourage excellence? That would undermine the very principles I’m trying to teach them. Plus, how does that increase our impact in the culture?
      Third – Yes, we’re all works in progress, but inspiring excellence is how we get to the next level.

      • Roland Austinat

        Fourth: Christians used to be at the forefront of arts and culture a few hundred years ago. Lousy art, be it movies, music or any other form just widens the gap.

  • Which movies can you recommend we support that reflect the values you are talking about so we can all get a better understanding of that which you wish to convey? What filmmakers have you worked with that have reached this Mark?

  • As far as inspiring excellence goes, I think that is in the example we seek to set. Has anyone but Jesus very really reached that?

    • Great point. So let’s all just do really crappy work and call it a day… :-)