Engaging Culture

Is Christianity Making an Impact in Hollywood?

Most Christians think Hollywood is a lost cause. In spite of the growing presence of ministry outreaches to the industry, as well as more Christians than ever working in media and entertainment, it’s easy to see after viewing some movies and television programming, that we’re not making much progress. But before we react from emotions, let’s actually take a look at the role Christianity played in some major movies over the past years:

Hacksaw Ridge – Directed by Mel Gibson was one of the most direct and heroic portrayals of a committed Christian in memory. The movie clearly shows that the actions of Seventh Day Adventist Desmond Doss on the battlefield were generated from his Christian beliefs, and it was a powerful true story. I watched it again on a plane the other day, and the flight attendant stopped his work to tell me how much the movie impacted him.

Dr. Strange – Directed by Scott Derrickson was a massive blockbuster filled with intensely spiritual questions. In that respect it was not a typical superhero movie.

Silence – Revealing the conflict between the earliest Western Christian missionaries and Japanese culture, Martin Scorsese’s powerful film forces the audience to answer tough questions. Many Christians were critical of the film because it didn’t offer easy answers. But this is the kind of film that can open doors and start conversations in today’s culture.

Hidden Figures – My wife’s favorite film of the year wasn’t an overt Christian story, but it portrayed Christian faith and the community around church as important to the characters. In a culture where Christians have too often been portrayed as the crazy people or criminals, it’s nice to see a film where Christianity is taken seriously as the natural center point of people’s lives.

Fences – The church was a place of comfort for Viola Davis’ character. Once again, an encouraging (and perfectly normal) aspect of life.

Beauty and the Beast – While many Christians were critical of the character LaFlou, I wrote is this post about the role of the local pastor as one of Belle’s closest friends, the keeper of the books, and the one who was always in support of her dreams.

Jackie – Finally a Catholic priest that’s not portrayed as a pedophile. After Jackie’s loss of her husband, John Hurt’s role as an Irish priest gives her counsel and insight during an incredibly difficult time.

Yes – there are plenty of movies that portray Christians in a negative light, but I like to celebrate the small wins. In my opinion simply normalizing Christianity could be even more important than direct and overt messages. The more we can encourage Hollywood to realize that nearly a hundred million people in America (and more around the world) consider their Christian faith a vital part of their lives the more it will make a difference.

As Christians, the more we support the films with a positive depiction of who we are, the more Hollywood will get the message. And don’t forget the more explicit efforts at the box office like “The Shack” and “The Case for Christ.”

Share with us other moments in films and television where you saw a normal or positive portrayal of the Christian faith…

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  1. Phil,
    I look forward to reading your perspectives, I often agree, but even when I don’t, you present your thoughts clearly, thoughtfully and respectfully. I agree, we need to celebrate the small victories, like the ones you mentioned. Thank you for all you do for the cause of Jesus. Keep up the good work.

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