How Christian Was That Movie?

Tom Kuster (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Dr. Tom Kuster, after pastoral positions in Madison, Wisconsin and Muskegon, Michigan, spent his career teaching Communication courses in college, for 20 years at Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, and 20 more at Bethany Lutheran Seminary and College, Mankato, Minnesota, where he helped develop a strong Communication major, helped design Bethany's first media production studio, and in 2009 founded the Christ in Media Institute. He and wife Judy have nine children and are co-hosts of this Online Conference.

It started in 1903 with a 44-minute French silent film, Vie et Passion du Christ (Life and Passion of the Christ). Whether made for commercial reasons (people would buy tickets) or spiritual ones (to spread the good news about Jesus), I don't know. But since then, there have been lots of "Christian movies."

[ Note: For more information about each of the movies mentioned, see the links at the end of this presentation. ]

As a teenager in the 1950s I enjoyed the big Hollywood "biblical epics," some still worth seeing, especially those that were uplifting — Deborah Kerr in Quo Vadis (1951) (Peter Ustinov as Nero is classic), Charlton Heston in Ben Hur (1959). The black and white Martin Luther film, much viewed back then in our classrooms and churches every October, came out in 1953. Others were mostly spectacle — Charlton Heston again as Moses in Ten Commandments (1956) and still others salacious — David and Bathsheba (1951) with Gregory Peck, Salome (1953) with Rita Hayworth. For commercial purposes, Hollywood was bringing biblical themes to the big screen.

Perhaps the biggest contribution in the following decades was the Jesus Film in 1979, dramatizing Luke's Gospel. A production of Campus Crusade and dubbed in more than 1400 languages, it is still being viewed around the world.

The industry website IMDb lists "Top 10 Christian Movies." Number one is Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004). In second place is the oldest film on the list, The Hiding Place (1975) starring Julie Harris, an excellent film still available on YouTube. The 2003 Luther starring Joseph Fiennes is listed at number four. That list, however, has not been updated since early 2013.

Decent production doesn't require Hollywood any more, so recently there has been a flood of "Christian/spiritual" movies. Your local video rental store (they still exist) features a section of them, as does Walmart. Wikipedia lists 61 "Christian Films" produced since 2010. And YouTube lists 47 "free full-length Christian movies."

2016 continues the trend with films like Risen, The Young Messiah, God's Not Dead 2 (sequel to God's Not Dead of 2014), and I'm Not Ashamed: the Rachel Joy Scott Columbine Story. If you've seen some of these, what did you think? And how SHOULD we think about these films? Should we see them? Sure, why not. Should we recommend them? That might depend on our answer to this question: How Christian Are These Movies? What is necessary to make a movie Christian? What is enough to make it Christian?

[ If you have a philosophical bent, explore the differences between "necessary" and "sufficient" conditions. ]

Here's what I think. See if you agree (or not!).

First, the movie has to be good, well-made. A movie aiming to carry a Christian message that isn't well made is counterproductive; it invites ridicule to the message. A well-made movie involves a lot, but chiefly three things: script, acting, and production value.

  • Script is key. The story must be well told. Read about my disappointment in God's Not Dead 2 at the end of this presentation. We simply must do better than that.

  • Good acting is essential. Christian films tend to be low-budget, so often they get one professional to star and the other roles are played by amateurs. The difference shows up immediately, and consigns the film to the "Christian film ghetto." These won't make it into the festivals or the theatres, and for good reason.

  • Professional production values are essential, but might be the easy part. We have students at Bethany right now learning to turn out work with a thoroughly professional look. Our big production challenges lie in the script and acting.

While being a "good movie" in these ways is a necessary condition, it is not sufficient. What more, then, is necessary to make it Christian?

I used to have an absolute litmus test: Does the name of Jesus appear? I thought this obvious; how could a movie be Christian without mentioning Christ? "Heartwarming" and "wholesome" are nice but if that's all there is, it doesn't count as "Christian."

Better still, I thought, to be "Christian" the movie should actually tell us what Jesus did for us. Does it present the Gospel? Does it explain the reason and purpose of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection? That is, does it teach atonement, the forgiveness of sins for Jesus' sake? If it does, then we know it is Christian.

And (speaking of quality scripts) it's best if the Christian message is integrated artfully into the story, and not stuck in with an irrelevant "oh by the way Jesus loves you" scene near the end. The Sherwood Pictures movie Fireproof (2008) provides a good example of an integrated story line. There the protagonist is a firefighter who knows from experience what it means to rescue people in deep danger, and is brought to recognize his own need for rescue, and the Savior who provides it.

This is the essential distinction, then, that should appear in the message of the movie. Christianity is about what God has done for us: how by his grace he saved us through the work of His Son Jesus Christ. If the movie focuses instead on what we must do to please God, it is a failure and counter-productive. The latter is what happens in movies like The Grace Card (2010), Flywheel (2003), and Facing the Giants (2006), where the message conveyed is that if we behave well, God will reward us. That's not the message of Christianity; in fact, it detracts from the Gospel by drawing attention to ourselves, to what we do, and away from what Jesus did for us.

Of course we should appreciate the efforts of those Christians who are actually making wholesome and inspirational movies. They contrast sharply with so much of the trash that is out there. But I wish they would proclaim Christianity, rather than moralism, and I wish they wouldn't spoil the beauty of the Gospel by always making it conditional on something we do — "accepting" it.

However, lately I've backed off the strict "gotta mention Jesus" litmus test, in favor of a broader consideration: does the movie advance the viewer toward an open reception of the Gospel, perhaps some day? There are two reasons for my change.

First, if we make Christian movies, we want to get them past the "Christian ghetto" racks in Walmart, and in front of the vast audiences at major festivals, in theatres, and on cable channels. At Christ in Media Institute's first conference, "Creativity and Lutheran Theology in Media" in 2009, people I respect argued that in today's industry, making films that are wholesome and inspirational, only indirectly suggesting Christian themes, is as far as we can go. Anything proclaiming what Christ has done for us, or even mentioning His name, would not be permitted into these venues. [ Look at Jas Lonnquist's perceptive review, in the 2016 spring GOWM conference, of the challenges facing Christian screenwriters. ]

Secondly, many viewers we want to reach are not ready to hear much about Jesus right away, and simply turn off if he is mentioned. The ground needs to be prepared before they will listen to the Gospel. Perhaps a movie today can fulfill the function of John the Baptizer, making the crooked straight and the rough places plain to prepare the way for the Lord to enter someone's heart.

How can we judge whether a movie does this?

Here are three tools — I call them "critical tools" because they can guide us to do some "critical thinking" about movies.

1. The Effect Criteria

We can evaluate a film's usefulness in preparing viewers to hear the Gospel by putting it on one of three levels:

  • Effect level 3: This highest level includes films in which the viewer hears the Gospel, God's Word, sin and grace, what Jesus has done for us. The Holy Spirit works through the Word in this film. This may be best, if artfully done. Example: Martin Luther (1953).
  • Effect level 2: Here are films in which the Gospel is not presented or explained, but viewers can see its impact on peoples' lives, which might lead them after the film ends to inquire about the reasons for that impact. This is a useful effect, but incomplete. The Lord must then guide such a viewer into contact with a Christian willing to continue the discussion, leading finally to the Gospel presentation that produces faith. Example: The Good Lie (2014).
  • Effect level 1: Films that in some way stimulate curiosity about Christianity, and could prompt discussion with a Christian, thereby leading to an encounter with the Gospel outside of the film.
  • How do the films you have seen fit into one of these three levels?

    2. The Harstad Scale

    Professor Harstad's remarkable testimony found linked at the bottom of this conference's front page ("The Message") can provide a tool for evaluating how Christian a film is. His eloquent wording is worth careful reading, but here is a summary.

    1. About the Bible: God has provided a reliable revelation.

    2. About sin: We are hopelessly lost in sin.

    3. About Jesus: Jesus Christ the Son of God came and saved us.

    4. About Word and Sacrament: God gives us the Means of Grace.

    5. About grace: Our salvation is entirely God's work.

    6. About life now: The Christian life is a joyful struggle.

    7. About life forever: Our hope is the resurrection.

    We can ask about any film: does it in some way carry even only one of these Scriptural themes? If so, it can be understood as advancing the viewers toward an open reception of the Gospel, and can fairly be described as a Christian film.

    3. The Kuster Taxonomy

    I too boldly named this after myself because I overcomplicate things, and I don't want anyone else to be blamed for that.

    A "taxonomy" of course is a system for classifying things, usually ranking them in value. Here is a way of putting films into groups according to a variety of ways they can be considered "Christian" (or not). Consider this chart, the descriptions of each level, and the sample films that illustrate them. What do you think? Is a "taxonomy" useful, and if so, are these the right "levels"? Then consider movies you have seen, and place them on the chart.

    A Taxonomy of Christian Spirituality in Films

    Level +7 Explicit Gospel presentation integrated into the story, showing the viewer through words and visuals how Christ accomplished the redemption of the world, restoring the believer to God's favor, and how faith (alone) in Christ rescues the believer from sin and all its effects. Luther, Passion of the Christ, Fireproof
    Level +6 Christians (believers, clergy) as main characters are portrayed realistically, sinners who know their Savior, facing temptations and sometimes falling, but their faith in Jesus shapes who they are and what they choose to do in the face of the challenges in the story. The Hiding Place, Courageous
    Level +5 Christian allegory. Gandolf's fall in LOTR, Chronicles of Narnia
    Level +4 Portrayal of Christian morality — good deeds and decisions are motivated by a love of God prompted by gratitude for our redemption in Christ.
    Level +3 Positive portrayal of Christians — they are intelligent, moral, charitable, "normal" people who like everyone else encounter joys and sadness in their lives. Sometimes signs that characters are Christian is obvious, other times the signs are subtle, spotted only by those who look for them. Seventh Heaven, Pollyanna, Monk
    Level +2 Portraying the wickedness of sin, making clear we need rescue because of an ultimate accountability to a higher power. Ghost
    Level +1 Portraying morality — hard work pays off, etc., but with no reference to spiritual motivation. Pursuit of Happyness, Invincible and various similar sports films
    Middle Type 1 Neutral spirituality — good stories with no significant reference to a higher power, MOST MOVIES Star Trek, Pride and Prejudice
    Middle Type 2 Fantasy spirituality — good stories in which spirituality of a non-Christian sort plays a significant part in a way simply to entertain. It is clear that this spirituality is not to be viewed as reality. Star Wars (the Force), Harry Potter, Jason and the Argonauts
    Level -1 False teaching of Universalism is promoted: "Everyone is going to heaven."
    Level -2 False teaching of Moralism is promoted: "We can please God by being good, God's main interest in us is our behavior, not our rescue." Touched by an Angel, Ghost, Flywheel, Facing the Giants
    Level -3 Christian believers/clergy portrayed negatively, as fools, hypocrites, mentally ill, etc. See Jas Lonnquist's presentation in GOWM 2016
    Level -4 The spirituality promoted is of a false god. Avatar
    Level -5 Immorality presented as entertainment to titillate.
    Level -6 Immorality recommended and glorified: sin presented as heroic, and immoral people as role models. Bonnie and Clyde
    Level -7 Instruction in immorality: how to sin, and encouragement to join in the sin portrayed in the film.

    So let's talk Christian movies! To start us off, here are some I've seen recently. Agree or disagree?

    God's Not Dead 2 (2016)
    Contrived plot built on stereotypes of "enemies" of Christianity with gratuitous cameos by current heroes of the political "Christian right." The story's purpose is to showcase a couple of apologists for the historicity of Christ. The "proof" that "God's not dead" is that God can sway a jury to win a case. Mentions "Jesus" frequently, as one who gives strength and help in trouble. One prayer asks for "forgiveness" and there is one mention that "he died for us" but no other sense of redemption or atonement. It's up to us to ask him to come into our hearts, and pledge to give our lives to him. The plot manipulation in this film is so transparent that it dishonors Christ and is counterproductive as a presentation to unbelievers, since it invites their scorn. Christians are not afraid of the world's scorn, but we should try not to deserve it. We have to do better screenwriting than this! Though I haven't seen I'm Not Ashamed: the Rachel Joy Scott Columbine Story (2016), many commenters have said the same about this movie.

    Courageous (2011)
    I liked this movie. The Gospel, atonement through the death of Jesus for us, is clearly stated. They spoil it by one line that says it doesn't count unless you accept it. The main point about the duties of fathers is dramatically made, and leaves every father walking out of the theatre feeling totally inadequate. In this regard, Courageous might illustrate the misleading emphasis by many mainline churches on Jesus-as-Example. That could be good Law preaching, since it impresses on us how far short we fall of God’s ideal for us. We can never measure up to “WWJD.” But Jesus did not come primarily to be our example; he came to be our Savior. That is Gospel — not what we do for him, but entirely and only what he did for us. Our challenge is to portray this emphatically and clearly in a movie story. But the production values in Courageous are good, the acting is professional, and the story holds attention. Some might think the kids' responses to their fathers' responsibility-taking are not realistic, even creepy. But the movie presents flawed Christians who face very hard situations, and everything doesn't always turn out all right. The third and fourth Sherwood films (this one and "Fireproof") do it well. Much better than the first two ("Flywheel" and "Facing the Giants"), though still relatively light on what Jesus did for us, and heavy on what we should do for Jesus.

    Risen (2016)
    This is a rather slow-moving but interesting exploration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the perspective of an "outsider," a skeptical Roman centurion, who is assigned to find the "stolen body" which of course he can't do. Filmed in Spain and Malta, the sets and scenery are spectacular; they, along with the reactions of the various characters, especially the disciples, give the viewer some feeling of what it would have been like to have lived through those first post-Easter days. While the purpose of the crucifixion, atonement for our sins, is not clearly expressed, it may not have been clearly understood even by the disciples during those days before Pentecost. The movie's final message is "…and so Christians love,” thereby missing the real meaning and importance of the resurrection: Jesus’ work of saving us is now complete and certified by God. However, the fact of the resurrection, the central event of history and the center of the Christian faith, is firmly asserted, and might prompt even unbelieving viewers to contemplate, and perhaps to search out, its meaning.

    The Young Messiah (2016)
    A somewhat dark portrayal of what Jesus might have been like at age 11. Like many recent movies set in Jesus' day, the cruelty and oppression of Roman domination are dramatically portrayed — probably with considerable accuracy. The story is fictionalized, of course, much like a movie drawn from apocryphal books. Crucifixion is strongly foreshadowed, but the extent of "gospel" goes little farther than that this child is destined for something great. I like the portrayals of Mary and especially Joseph as caring and effective parents.

    What Christian movies have you seen?

    Here is more information about many of the movies mentioned in this presentation (on the YouTube links you can skip the commercials):

    Vie et Passion du Christ (1903) — full movie on YouTube [ fun to watch, especially early special effects ] — information at wikipedia
    Quo Vadis (1951) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Ben Hur (1959) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Martin Luther (1953) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Ten Commandments (1956) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    David and Bathsheba (1951) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Salome (1953) — scene on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    The Jesus Film (1979) — entire film, as well as 61 clipsinformation at IMDb
    The Passion of the Christ (2004) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    The Hiding Place (1975) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDbcomplete film on YouTube
    Luther (2003) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Risen (2016) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    The Young Messiah (2016) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    God's Not Dead (2014) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    God's Not Dead 2 (2016) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    I'm Not Ashamed: the Rachel Joy Scott Columbine Story (2016) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Fireproof (2008) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Flywheel (2003) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Facing the Giants (2006) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    The Grace Card (2010) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    Courageous (2011) — trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb
    The Good Lie (2014) [ I recommend this movie highly! ]trailer on YouTubeinformation at IMDb

    [ Listen to a 7-minute interview with Dr. Kuster about his presentation, conducted by Andy Bates on KFUO-AM radio on his "Faith 'n' Family" program, September 28, 2016. Audio courtesy of Worldwide KFUO. ]

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    Ericha (Fox Valley Lutheran) 2016-10-10 3:13:32pm
    I have not seen most of the movies that you have referenced other then "God's Not Dead". Are there any well known modern movies that religion is sneaked into without the viewer knowing? For example (unfortunately a non-Christian example), in all the Xmen movies, the theory of evolution is sneaked into the movie with out making it the main theme.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-10 11:19:45pm
    Ericha, what did you think about "God's Not Dead"? Everyone has seen their own set of movies, and I'm hoping to hear about some I've not seen or discussed in the presentation above. You are perceptive in noticing how some movies sneak in a religious (or anti-religious) view as a presupposition to the story, expecting that viewers will accept it, or not even notice it. Xmen movies do that. Anybody notice others?
    Ericha and other highschoolers (Fox Valley Lutheran) 2016-10-17 3:38:13pm
    From what I remember from "God's Not Dead" (It has been at least over a year since I have seen it) is that the main character proved God was real by finding out why the professor hates God.
    One of my classmates said it was over dramatized it and taken to the extreme. When I go to college next year, will I actually have a professor that is going to make me give a presentation on if God is real? Also, there a tons of unbelievers that just don't believe. In those situations, you cannot win the battle the same way that the main character did in the movie.
    PetrK. (Czech Ev. Luth. Church) 2016-10-18 4:28:54pm
    I was also disillusioned having watched GsND. Compared to the sophisticated debates you can watch on YTB these days (just type 'God debate') the arguments presented in the movie were very shallow. On the intellectual level, I have benefited greately from presentations by Christians like John Lennox or Ravi Zacharias. All the same I know that you can't make a person believe by argumentation, however persuasive it may be - a personal Spirit-wrought revelation is necessary. Sorry for the off-topic ... this should belong to a film-review site.
    Paul Grubbs (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-11 9:30:23am
    Your thoughtful taxonomy provides an awesome tool for assessing the value of a film through a Christian lens. It also could be a productive way to frame a discussion about whether a specific movie is appropriate for Christians to view – your final three levels on the negative side of the spectrum encompass a significant number of contemporary films and might be challenging to justify as worthy stewardship of a Christian’s time.

    Responding to your request to add movies to the pool for conversation, the 2002 thriller "Signs" generated high-spirited debate among my college classmates when it was released. The story focuses on a former Episcopalian priest, played be Mel Gibson, whose faith is shaken mightily by personal tragedy – oh, and he’s also busy protecting his two children from a potential alien invasion :) . Dr. James Dobson’s “Plugged In” website offers the following description: “Imagine an X-Files episode crafted by a seminary student hooked on Camus and Nietzsche.” While "Signs" certainly falls well short of explicit Gospel presentation, it is a riveting tale and has potential to generate fruitful conversations about how the Bible responds to the provocative spiritual questions raised by the storyline.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-12 1:11:21am
    What you say about the movie Signs is a good example of how a movie, even one that doesn't claim to be "Christian,"can prompt discussion about spiritual matters. We hope that Christians look on such movies as opportunities, with their friends and acquaintances who don't know their Savior, to lead those discussions in the direction of a Gospel presentation. It's worth talking about how to do that.
    Katy Jahns (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-11 12:15:08pm
    I enjoyed your reviews of the movies above and understood your points about the main emphasis behind Christian movies. I agree that the script and good acting are essential to movie success, Christian or not. However, I believe this is the case even more so with a conflicted audience that chooses to watch Christian films. I had not seen most of the movies listed above but I have seen God's Not Dead and Facing the Giants, which is a story about a Christian football coach facing a lot of pressure and infertility struggles with his wife. The themes of asking God for help and his grace are evident in both films.

    I think for a Christian movie to be effective are in the level 2-3 range. Christ must be mentioned and Christian behaviors should be evident in an artful and well thought out way. I agree wholeheartedly that if a Christian movie is made the main themes of grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ should be easily identifiable. It is interesting to ponder whether or not we can consider a film of the Christian genre if those themes are missing or hidden throughout the scenes. I look forward to watching some of those movies you listed above to see where they personally fall on the effectiveness levels and Harstad scale.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-12 1:37:30am
    Good points, Katy. It's interesting sometimes to talk about how movies we've seen could be changed, and improved, maybe to make them more effective carriers of a Christian message. Katy, you mention Facing the Giants, which I enjoyed watching, as I think you did, but while themes of grace and of asking God for help did appear, the main message I got was moralism - that is, IF we pledge our lives to God, THEN he will reward us with his grace and help. What would happen in that movie if (spoiler alert! - although the ending was quite predictable) - what if the football team, after dedicating its season to God, would have LOST the championship game? What if the coach, after pledging to serve God, would NOT have gotten his baby and his pickup truck? Everything doesn't always turn out for Christians the way they want (see Prof. Harstad's point VI in "The Message"). Must a "Christian movie" have a "happy ending"?
    Petr K. (Czech Ev. Luth. Church) 2016-10-12 6:29:45am
    What about the movies developing the theme of present-day encounters with Jesus? Could they be helpful in portraing the loving and caring nature of Jesus?
    I have watched 'The Encounter', which I consider very good in showing Jesus' emotions and His involvement in each individual's life.
    Very powerful for me was 'A Day with a Perfect Stranger', where the character of Jesus exemplifies "how to do outreach" with lots of listening, involvement and compassion, without being pushy and judgmental.
    The same producers made a TV series, 'The Stranger' (2007), with 7 episodes, again portraying how Jesus touches and reaches out to both sceptics and Christians. Watching these short films you may both appreciate anew the loving character of our Savior, and also learn a lot about reaching out to the lost by starting with them where they are, rather than from where you are...
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-12 11:08:12am
    I was favorably impressed by the "Stranger" series too, for the reasons you describe, Petr.
    Judy Kuster 2016-10-14 12:53:46pm
    This isn't about "movies" but it brings to mind the 9 season TV series, "Touched by an Angel" which aired in primetime on CBS from 1994-2003. It was a positive series with a spiritual emphasis but would not meet your criteria of being truly Christian since Jesus was never mentioned and God was referred to simply as "Father" but I enjoyed it. Episodes are still available online on Amazon.

    I grew up in a different TV era and on my TV watching schedule was always two half-hour episodes. The first series would meet your criteria of Christian. There second series also featured Jewish clergy in some episodes and then could not always be considered "Christian".

    This is the Life - half hour shows produced by the LCMS from 1952-1988 - featured the Fisher family and Pastor Martin from 1952-1956 and then Pastor Martin and a variety of parishioners from 1956-1988 in "dramatizations of contemporary problems and how they were resolved using a Christian solution." I found 2 full episodes available on Youtube - "The Devils Freckle" and "Side by Side Robert." There were other Christian TV series by Catholics (Insight, 1960-1983), Southern Baptists (This is the Answer, 1958-1961), and Methodists (The Pastor, 1955).

    Crossroads was a TV series that ran for three seasons in the 1950's. I never missed an episode and was sad when the series ended. It is described as an anthology series which dramatized the lives of clergymen of all faiths and the problems they faced in both their professional and personal lives. 10 of the episodes are on YouTube (key words used - Crossroads TV series 1950's). There are two "reviews" both with positive comments:

    "Stories were set in a wide range of locales and walks of life. Most of the stories were of Clergymen of the various Faiths, but they were not necessarily exclusive to those of cloth. A lot of the half hours were devoted to positive Religious experiences of Laymen as well."

    "I was only seven or eight years old when I watched this show on television, but it so influenced me at a young age that, later in life, I entered the seminary. Now at age 60 some of the scenes are still fresh in my memory. I clearly remember the beginning of each episode with the man walking down a path that was shaped like a cross."

    Is there anything like these family-oriented TV programs currently on TV and if we produced such a series could it ever be aired in "primetime"?
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-17 2:48:39pm
    I hope others will respond to the questions in your last paragraph. But I want to agree that I too enjoyed the "This is the Life" TV series when I was young - it always ended with Jesus' words in John 10.10 "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
    Today we have a more easily accessible medium, the internet. Although we should not give up the goal of getting our message onto big theatre screens and main cable channels, an internet 'webisode" series would be a way of reaching large audiences with Christian stories requiring fewer resources. I believe we have access to production facilities that could do this well. What we lack is writers. We tried a few years ago to stimulate the kind of creative thinking that could be fruitful in this regard with our "Christian Crowdwriting Adventure," in which we imagined what a "Christian science fiction" webisode series might be like. See
    Where are our screenwriters? Which of our schools is teaching writing for the screen (arguably the premiere communication medium today and tomorrow)?
    Caroline Kuether (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 3:38:02pm
    Along with the Christian shows you listed, there is also 7th Heaven, which was also mentioned in the article. It was a show that followed a pastor family. You saw the family go through hard times. The show also had the "preacher kids" struggle with the everyday temptations that come along with peer pressure. I thought this was a good show to grow up with. Although I don't remember it too well, I'm not sure if it mentions Jesus and the Gospel too much. I would have to watch a few episodes after reading this article. Unfortunately, I can't think of any Christian shows right now. Too many of the popular shows right now try to stay away from Christianity. I would love to find Christian tv shows that I could check out though!
    Alyssa Voit (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-17 10:45:40am
    As someone who has not seen many of these movies, I find the critical review behind them to be necessary. Christian movies need to be constructed very delicately and precisely in order to portray Christianity the way it is supposed to be. Giving yourself the title of a "Christian movie" means you have to really put thought into spreading the good Word of God. Movies are a great way to spread the Word, but that also means it has to be done well. I really like the Effect Criteria as it broke down the idea of Christian movie-making into an easy to read chart. Overall, I think that your article really holds Christian movies to a high standard which is effective in order to truly make movies for God. Also Ericha, interesting to think about how secular movies bring in Christian ideas. I think this is a hard question to answer as even this article suggests it is difficult knowing what a "true Christian movie" is. I think there are some ideas of movies showing some Christian ideas when promoting an idea of a higher power in a secular setting. Interesting point!
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-19 1:03:41am
    Right, Alyssa. I like the Effect Criteria for the same reason you do - it makes room for well-made movies that arouse curiosity about the Christian faith, and that in turn creates openings for Christians to talk with their friends and witness to them about their Savior.
    Abigail (FVLHS) 2016-10-17 3:38:24pm
    It seems that the actual truth of Gods Word is forsaken for a better movie plot.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-19 12:56:15am
    Yes, Abigail, it's easy for that to happen. Well grounded Christian writers will know how to avoid that.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-19 1:06:17am
    Sorry to reply to my own reply, but here's my chance to say this:
    WOULDN'T IT BE FUN to create an online group of interested and talented writers who want to encourage each other and work together to create some really good screenplays that convey a Gospel message in an effective way?
    Leah Whitson (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-18 3:01:31pm
    I found your review of God's Not Dead 2 to be refreshing. When the God's Not Dead movies came out I received many texts saying so (The sending of these texts are promoted at the end of the movies.) , but I did not find the movies to be that great for me personally. Decision theology is alluded to throughout the movie, and amazing things do happen, but the movie seems to present a message that if good things happen it is proof that God isn't Dead, which is obviously incorrect. I heard a lot of positive reviews of this movie from friends, probably because they didn't dig deeply into the plot.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-19 12:54:21am
    I agree. The movie seems designed to "rouse the base" of people who already are believers of a certain kind. When presented to unbelievers, the movie is not persuasive and invites ridicule for the movie which unfortunately for many viewers also transfers to the message.
    Margot Wagner (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-21 3:10:51pm
    Hey Leah, I only saw God's Not Dead and never got around to seeing the second one but, I would agree about the decision theology. The movie promotes making fast decisions on whether or not you want to have faith or believe in Jesus but, it does not mention much about scripture or who Jesus really is or what he did for us. Sure, we hear about last minutes decisions to accept Christ before death but, even those individuals had faith at one point of another and just lost their way.
    Margot Wagner (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-21 3:07:16pm
    Though I have not seen many of the films mentioned in this discussion, I have seen a few mentioned in the ending list such as Ten Commandments and God's Not Dead. For myself personally, it is hard to "believe in" any Christian film that is made especially depicting Jesus's life and death on the cross because I know it is a recreation made on a movie set for a movie. Sure, actors do a great job of acting because that is what they do but, no movie can can show or help the audience experience what was really life during those times let alone the death on the cross. I am not saying Christian films are bad and I am not saying directors do a bad job; I just think it is important to remember the truth of the Bible, the gospel, and what Jesus did for us, by dying on the cross and taking on all the sins of the world just so we would be saved.
    Thinking about Christian films, I am reminded of a sermon I once heard while visiting my home church over winter beak. My pastor was talking about the Passion of the Christ, I have never seen this film but, he was talking about the directors role in the film and something he said really stood out to me. The director of the film is Mel Gibson and when casting for the film, he left himself out which is common except he wanted to be the one to nail Jesus's hands to the cross. When asked later on why he only casted himself that that particular part, Mel said it was because he was the one that sent Jesus to the cross; him, himself as a sinner living in this world but, forgiven because of what Jesus did on that cross. The idea is that Jesus took all the sins of the world as he died on that cross, he died to forgive you and me; so Mel felt that he was the one that nailed Jesus's hands to the cross. Something about these few statements during my pastors sermon really stood out to me and the truth that is behind it. Jesus did die for the sins of the world and it is because of his death and resurrection that we are saved.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-23 12:24:56am
    Yes, Margot, the movie did seem to get that point across. As we left the theatre after seeing "Passion" the young person selling popcorn commented to us, "He did that for me!"

    I have mixed feelings about the "Passion" movie. I was intrigued by their use of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. However, the graphic violence is almost overwhelming - but I guess that is the point. Having seen it once, I don't want to see it again.
    Carissa and Morgan (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 1:54:20pm
    "However, lately I've backed off the strict 'gotta mention Jesus' litmus test, in favor of a broader consideration: does the movie advance the viewer toward an open reception of the Gospel, perhaps some day?" We agreed with this because a Christian movie doesn't have to solely be about Jesus life and death to be considered Christian. In our opinion, a movie should be "God-pleasing" to be an effective Christian movie.
    "Is a 'taxonomy' useful, and if so, are these the right 'levels'?" In regards to this taxonomy process, we were wondering what the target audience was? Is it more for a teacher preparing to show a movie to his/her class? In what situation would this process be most beneficial?
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran Colleg) 2016-10-27 12:25:27am
    I remember going to movies with friends when in college, and if the movie was a good one, we'd talk about it a lot on the way back to the dorm, and even sit around discussing it further (often at the expense of preparing for class the next day). That would be my favorite way of using the taxonomy - there are lots of things to discuss about a good movie, but in many cases one of them might be to puzzle about where it fits on the taxonomy levels. Certainly teachers, who might talk about movies in class, might find the taxonomy useful too.
    Michael Starr Brittany Jensen (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 2:06:10pm
    The charts that you gave in this article were very helpful. They gave ideas and showed movies that a typical person would not rate on a spiritual scale. It serves as a good reminder that we should look at the message a movie gives, and what they show.
    You give a lot of examples of "Christian" movies, but how should we respond to them? Should we promote a movie like "God's Not Dead 2"? Or should we dismiss it because it has faults in it? Are Christian movies something we should try to spread the Gospel with, or correct a misleading thought addressed in the movie? How would you rate a movie like "The Blind Side"? This movie seems to show Christian morals, but links in everyday sins as something that is "ok" to appeal to the general public.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 12:54:04am
    We probably won't agree with everything in any movie unless we make it ourselves - and maybe not even then (see Prof. Brug's presentation in this conference). "The Blind Side" was helpful because it portrayed what Christians do at their best, that is, help others who are in need. Still, it was realistic in showing flaws, and Christians too are flawed people until perfected in Heaven. I don't think this movie mentioned Jesus, but the people in it were apparently motivated by their faith, and that's good to show. The movie could perhaps be considered "Christian" in a very gentle way.
    Elrik and Noah (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 2:29:18pm
    I really like the message that if a movie is not well made, it is counterproductive. This really interested us because if the movie not interesting or good in any way, we have no reason to watch it. A movie that comes to mind that is lacking in the story department would be "God's Not Dead" because it is over-dramatized.

    I also like where you talk about the Effectiveness level of a Christian movie. You mentioned how if not all these levels are apparent in the movie, is it considered a christian movie then? A good non-christian example would be Zootopia, where it has the theme of segregation and racism in it, but it is told through animals. My question for you though is: would movies that implement everything you said be in a level 7 movie but told through the eyes what we are more use to be Christian movie? My example for this would probably be around someonw who maybe didn’t grow up (maybe in the ghetto or the slums) and found his way through Christ? Would it also still be considered Christian if it shows the reality of their upbringing(drugs, sex, murder)? How do you effectively balance the desire to be honest about sin with the desire to be "Christian" - some things about reality can't, or maybe shouldn't, be censored.

    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 1:12:59am
    A good Christian movie has to be honest about the way the world really is - if it isn't, viewers will see through the phoniness in an instant. That means portraying sin and sinners (including us) as they (we) are. That's another reason I like Prof. Harstad's point VI (see The Message in this conference); the Christian's life is a struggle, and God doesn't guarantee a victory IN THIS LIFE. But God's promise is always to be with us in our struggles, and to work them out for our good. Christian screenwriter's challenge: how do you portray that in a movie plot?
    Duke Backhaus and Ari Sanchez (Martin Luther College ) 2016-10-25 3:24:02pm
    This point in your article stuck out to us, "First, the movie has to be good, well-made. A movie aiming to carry a Christian message that isn't well made is counterproductive; it invites ridicule to the message. A well-made movie involves a lot, but chiefly three things: script, acting, and production value." This was something that we thought many "Christian" movies fall short of. Whether it is stale acting or low-budget, sometimes this can turn people off to the gospel, when we are trying to invite them to hear the gospel. Most Christian movies may be strong in one of these categories, but fall short in the other two categories. You need all three to make an effective "Christian" movie.

    Another portion of the article that stood out to us was this, "[Doing things to please God] is not the message of Christianity; in fact, it detracts from the Gospel by drawing attention to ourselves, to what we do, and away from what Jesus did for us." This is a great point that we have thought about for a long time. Our question for you to contemplate is, What is the best way to counter-act this feeling of what we can do for Jesus, and point people towards the true saving message of everything Jesus has done for us?
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 1:22:33am
    Yes, and that is the question pondered by every pastor, teacher, and Christian talking to a friend about Jesus. The inclination of everyone's sinful flesh is to take credit for our own salvation, which of course discredits Jesus. It's the position of every other major religion - salvation through works - something that has even sneaked into many sectors of Christianity. Challenge for Christian screenwriter: what kind of movie plot can bring home the fact that nobody can do anything to save himself, and salvation can be found only in Jesus?
    Alli and Moriah (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 3:31:25pm
    A sentence that really caught our attention was "The plot manipulation in [God's Not Dead 2] is so transparent that it dishonors Christ and is counterproductive as a presentation to unbelievers, since it invites their scorn". This reminds us how important quality is in addition to a Christian message. Christian movies should come across as realistic if we want them to be effective.
    Later on in the article you mention getting these movies "past the "Christian ghetto racks at Walmart". Even as Christians, we can admit that sometimes pass off those movies as too predictable or corny. We understand that quality and credibility play a role in this, but how do we interest unbelievers in watching a thoroughly Christian movie? How do we find the balance between the Christian main point and the extra frills that attract attention?

    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 1:45:17am
    The "balance" question is a great one, and I wish I had some of the answers. Notice I say "answers" plural, because I believe there must be many ways to make effective movies that carry a Christian message.

    Movies, as you astutely observe, are going to have "extra frills that attract attention." Movies are after all entertainment, and that's why people go to them. But the best movies do more than only entertain; as they entertain, they also carry a message. That has power to change viewers. Probably all of us can remember seeing a movie that changed our view or opinion about something. It's that power I'm suggesting we should try to harness for the sake of the Gospel.

    Maybe we should put 50 of our bright young writers into a room, ask them each to produce a movie plot, and see if a third or half of them will successfully come up with some of those "balances" you are asking about.
    Haley & PJ (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 3:33:09pm
    We really enjoyed the chart "A Taxonomy of Christian Spirituality in Films." We never would have thought to characterize movies into such detail and it really opened our eyes on how many movies can fit into these different categories. It also gave us the idea that we ourselves could classify different movies into the chart if we were interested in showing a non-believer a movie that fits the Christian standards but isn't too overwhelming. We could start at a lower level and work our way up.
    In the first paragraph you mention the Ben Hur movie made in 1959. My question relates to the new Ben Hur movie made in 2016. We haven't seen it ourselves. If you have seen it where would you place it on the taxonomy scale?
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 1:35:11am
    I'm glad the taxonomy worked for you in a way that I hoped it would.

    I haven't seen the new Ben Hur yet. Has anyone who is reading this and would care to comment? I think that comparing the two films could reveal some interesting information about how society (and film-making) has changed in the years between.
    Ari Sanchez and Duke Backhaus (Martin Luther College) 2016-10-25 3:34:31pm
    One point that was made in this article that stood out in our minds is: "However, lately I've backed off the strict "gotta mention Jesus" litmus test, in favor of a broader consideration: does the movie advance the viewer toward an open reception of the Gospel, perhaps some day? There are two reasons for my change." We agree that mentioning Jesus may scare people off when watching "Christian" movies because they may not be ready to hear about Jesus and the wonderful gospel message that comes with His name.

    A question we had while reading this article came up when we read about the Harstad Scale. "We can ask about any film: does it in some way carry even only one of these Scriptural themes? If so, it can be understood as advancing the viewers toward an open reception of the Gospel, and can fairly be described as a Christian film." We would like to know if you feel it would be most effective to only incorporate one of these aspects into a film, rather than overly complicating the Gospel by attempting to incorporate all of these aspects?
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 1:31:33am
    You're right - it's pretty hard to imagine a film story line that would incorporate ALL of the Harstad points. It's hard enough to create a plot that embodies even one or two. But that, I think, is the challenge that a Christian screenwriter faces. I'd love to see a lot of us try.
    Heriberto Diaz (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 1:58:15pm
    I have not seen most of these movies. Your reviews and key points to the about the movies above were easy to understand. A way that a christian movie can be successful is first you must mention Christ and secondly tell his story in with proper details. Everyone has different points and views about Christ that's why I believe that many Christian movies are told in a different sequence.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-27 11:48:09pm
    That's right, Heriberto. We have to remember that movies about the Bible are not the Bible. Christians have to stay alert, and hold up any message from a movie to a high standard - does it reflect what the Bible says, or does it contradict what the Bible says. Scripture is our guide in evaluating movies, as it is our guide in all things.
    Anna Naumann (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-29 8:05:51pm
    Seeing some of the movies that you mentioned, I can agree with what you said about acting, script, and values being very important in a movie. I have seen God's Not Dead and Facing the Giants. I remember seeing Luther but many years ago. As I watch the movies more while I am older I notice little things about being Christian movies that I did not notice before. I believe that what makes a movie Christian is not just God being mentioned. There has to be a messaged portrayed. For example in Facing the Giants, the high school football coach prays to God to help him answer his questions and provide him with his needs. He does not worry too much because he knows that God is in control.
    If we considered all movies that mentioned God at some point Christian than a lot of movies that are not Christian would be.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 11:59:56pm
    You're right. Expecting only a mention of God is not enough. We don't even know what god they are referring to. A mention of Jesus Christ is better, but even that may not be enough, as explained in the presentation above.
    Rachel Heyn (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-29 11:10:28pm
    I really enjoyed reading this article and getting to learn a little more about your perspective on Christian films, because I know that opinion regarding this topic among Christians varies a great deal. I definitely see both side of the argument too. You want the movie to clearly articulate the Gospel to the audience, because it is through the Word that the Holy Spirit brings individuals to faith, after all. On the other hand, I think that the blatant Christianity in some films might come across as pushy to unbelievers, and in this case, then a little more subtle message might be effective. I really like you comparing such films to John the Baptist “making the crooked straight and the rough places plain to prepare the way for the Lord to enter someone's heart.” Sometimes we simply need to start small and go from there. It can be a fine line when it comes to deciding which route to go with what to include in a movie, and I think the storyline is often the factor that helps to determine in what capacity the Gospel message will be conveyed in the film. It seems that movies that are based on true stories are especially useful in terms of evangelism. I really like the movie “Soul Surfer.” Not only is it such an amazing, inspiring story on its own, but I appreciate the Christian message within it as well. I was really glad that they did incorporate it into the movie, especially since Bethany Hamilton’s faith is so important to her and so much a part of her story in real life!
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:06:27am
    Portraying the lives of Christians honestly as they face the challenges of life depending on the promises of Jesus is a good way to stimulate interest in Christianity. Viewers might be prompted to inquire into what lies behind those inspiring lives.
    Katy Brodesser (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 10:34:11am
    I am big into entertainment and movies, it is something I live for. However, I have not seen many Christian films, I have only seen four of the movies on the list above, so reading the reviews above makes me want to sit down and watch the rest of them! One of my favorite movies that has a Christian message is "Soul Surfer". I feel like I can relate to that story. I went through some hardships, not a bad as getting my arm bitten off by a shark, but something where I was questioning my faith. Watching "Soul Surfer" showed me that even if bad things happen, God has a plan for all of us and bad things usually happen before everything can be good again.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:08:06am
    I hear good words about "Soul Surfer" from lots of people.
    Jared Bruemmer (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 12:39:35pm
    Although I have not seen many of the films you listed I have seen some and I like the ways you have given to rate the different movies as Christian. I think the effect criteria and the Harstad scale are the easiest to remember and use by the general population. While the Kuster taxonomy would be a great tool for those looking to go into greater depth on how much a Christian movie is Christian. I like how all three tools are used to say how Christian a movie is not just whether or not it is Christian. There are grey areas to saying whether or not a movie is Christian and that is portrayed very well in this presentation.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:13:10am
    That's the idea of these tools - to prompt viewers to think and talk about the movies (and other media) that they see.
    Caroline Kuether (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 2:16:13pm
    I enjoyed this article, mostly because I have always loved Christian movies. I have seen a lot of the movies listed because of movie days in my religion classes. I also remember going to see The Nativity, God's Not Dead, and The Chronicles of Narnia in the theaters. It's always been a nice way to get out with my family to see a clean movie. I never really thought about how christian the movie was. Maybe it was because I already knew the Gospel and I thought it was a nice reminder on how to live. Now I want to watch all the movies I love and look closely and the message. My favorite Christian movies have been Luther and Fireproof. It was nice to see that they both had Christian messages. What is your opinion on the newest Luther movie. Is it historically correct. Do you think it is accurate. If Luther would have watched it, would he be pleased. I really like how you gave us a list of Christian movies, I am looking forward to checking them out.
    Caroline Kuether (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 3:40:09pm
    I would like to add to my paragraph with a question that I just thought of. What is your opinion on Veggie Tales? Is it truly a Christian program or does it just have that perception?
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:19:51am
    I've enjoyed all the Luther movies I've seen, and they all seem to make a statement of the clear Gospel. It would be pretty hard to do an honest Luther movie without doing that, since the Gospel is what he was all about. I haven't watched enough veggie tales to make my own judgment, but some of my grandchildren watch them, and I personally love "the pirates that don't do anything." They are at least wholesome, if not Christian. And I'm glad you mentioned Narnia - good Christian allegory.
    Raquel Glinos (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2016-10-30 3:39:45pm
    I found your article to be rather interesting on Christian films, especially some of the questions you asked about what we should think of these movies and if they are really Christian. I am a Christian and I found both God's Not Dead and God's Not 2 to be very powerful and they may not be able to convince several non-Christians but I know they can convince at least one and I have no doubt about that. I personally believe there is no right or wrong way to think about these movies because there are different forms of Christianity and everyone thinks the same. To tell someone how they should think about a movie Christian not to me it just isn't right. We all have a right to our own opinions. I personally believe that the actors have a big role in spreading that Christian message to the audience that sees the movie. I do acting here and there because I want to tell a story for people and I want them to make it mean something to them.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:25:06am
    You are right, Raquel. The audiences for these movies are vast, and who can predict how it might impact this or that person out there. But still I think if we were making movies we should try to make them as effective to as broad an audience as possible.
    Eden Ehlers (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 6:08:18pm
    I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis of the Harstad scale. I have never heard of this specific scale but I feel that it does a great job of covering all of the essential points needed to be considered a true Christian film. As a child, whenever we watched biblically based movies, I often heard my parents commenting on various parts that were not synonymous with the Bible's teachings. This makes it hard to fully appreciate the message of the film because you are so focused on what is not being portrayed accurately.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:28:09am
    I'm afraid I'm like your parents because when I watch a movie that sets itself out as Christian, I can't help watching carefully to see how it does or does not reflect what the Bible teaches. But I can still enjoy watching a movie, even if it falls short in one or another way. I hope you can too.
    Yussef Sahraoui (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-30 11:22:43pm
    I really enjoyed this article as it really sprung my interest. Christian movie or not? How many times have we heard that one? I think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion when it comes to the type of movies they like but also I believe that the plot of the movie should be one with a good purpose. What does a good purpose mean? When I say good purpose, I mean a movie that promotes good deeds in the end, no matter how shocking some of the events within the movie can be. Like some of the war movies or action movies may possess some disturbing scenes in them but in the end if they want to send a message about justice or patriotism or something of that genre, than I believe it can be called a Christian movie. At the end we all have different views but we can all distinguish a good movie to a not so good one.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:33:41am
    I agree with your value of those movies that uplift the viewer - that "promote good deeds" as you put it. But many movies do that without being Christian. The essence of Christianity is not our deeds at all, but what God has done for us. It's easier to make a movie about how people can do good deeds than to make one showing how we have to depend on God's deeds for us, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
    Benjamin Gorr 2016-10-31 11:56:28am
    Interestingly enough as I started reading, I thought about how the "Passion of the Christ" was a great Christian movie before even getting to that section in the reading. I believe if Christians want to make an impact through movies, they need to appeal to the world and what the world wants. Not sacrificing their morals and values but not making a low-budget, horrible acting, movie. The "Passion of the Christ" did this. It had pain and suffering, blood, great acting (as you mentioned), it presented a really good plot and climatic events. As you said, if a Christian movie isn't well made, it is counter-productive. I will say, you are right, I have watched a number of Christian movies that I had to shut off because they were so bad.
    Deb Uecker (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 12:19:00pm
    'Passion of the Christ' was a truly remarkable film that I will never forget. I have seen many of the films on the list...and films like Passion of the Christ, Risen, The Messiah (based on a book by Anne Rice called 'Christ the Lord') all make me feel in a visceral way my sin and shame and the power of what Jesus did for us. The film 'The Nativity' about Jesus birth often showed around Christmas, highlights the weak 'vessels' of human beings he sent his Son through. Reminders are always good.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:45:51am
    No question that anyone who has seen this movie will not forget it. I liked especially the Christian Gospel tone it set right at the beginning by opening with a Gospel Bible passage on the screen.
    Nikilette Cottini (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 1:59:16pm
    The only movie that I have watched out of the list you had mentioned is "God's Not Dead", I really enjoyed watching it. I have seen "God's Not Dead" three times now once with my softball team our coaches cancelled practice and took us to see it, once in my Business Ethics class, and once with the kids that I watch on occasion. I do not come from a vary religious back ground so it was tough at first for me to attend Wisconsin Lutheran College because everything and any evidence had to be through a Christian perspective. I appreciated the movie more I think not coming from a religious background than if I did have a better religious background.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:36:13am
    I'm glad this movie touched you in the way to describe, and pray that God will bless you as you continue on your Christian walk.
    Javion Morgan (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 2:10:01pm
    I believe that the most effective way to use movies to reach people with Christ is to almost have it sneaked in. I have only seen a few of the movies you have listed which have a strong presence of God. Tyler Perry has made quite a few movies that have a positive Christ message but is centered around real life problems that people can relate to. Also the movie "Repentance" was a great movie as well. Its more relevant and appeals to most people today. These are examples that I can relate to that were effective to me with movies.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:42:21am
    Thanks for suggesting these movies, which I will have to seek out and watch.
    Sarah Beischel (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 3:09:43pm
    I agree that holding Christian movies to a high standard for quality and message is very important. People judge movies by how well they are made, and are not intrigued to watch ones that do not have the best quality. I have seen “God Is Not Dead” and I thought it was a very well made movie, though I’m not sure how much I liked the plot line. It kind of seemed unrealistic and a little over dramatized. I think people can be turned off by Christians movies if the movies are completely overwhelmed with Christian ideas. I think focusing on a one or two aspects of God’s Word is essential when make these movies.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:44:16am
    Yes, Sarah, there are so many different factors involved in making a movie. That's what makes them so fascinating to watch, and to think and talk about - and to MAKE!
    Kenya Green (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2016-10-31 11:22:40pm
    I usually go to see these movies because of my faith and what I believe in, so often times I find these movies quite appealing. When I go and start to watch the movie I get lost and the action and I don't take the time to analyze the message of the movie. I just assume that it is a genuine christian movie because it talks about Jesus or references one of the stories from the bible. Most of the christian films I see are level three or level two just because of the characters and the story plot. I have not seen many of the movies that are talked about in this paper, but I do look forward to watching them.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:50:41am
    Do watch them, and enjoy them as you do, and then think and talk about how well they reflect what the Bible teaches about Jesus and what he has done for us - and not so much about what we are supposed to do for him, because that's not Gospel.
    Ryan Michael (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-10-31 11:53:46pm
    I love this topic. Growing up, and certainly now, I have always enjoyed entertainment by way of movies but also movies that are Christian-based. I have seen five of the above movies in addition to shows such as Veggie Tales and the like. I love the messages that are presented as well as the way in which they are presented. It was always a different way for me to comprehend gospel messages in a way that was not sitting in a desk and reading about it (not that that is a dull way of learning about the gospel because it certainly is not). I throughly enjoyed reading this article.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:52:47am
    Story telling (which movies are good at) can be a very effective way of touching people in profound ways. I think you have experienced that.
    Kelsey Sitz (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 12:25:22am
    I really like your steps you take to tell if a movie is in fact Christian. I have seen the movie Fireproof and I completely agree with you on the fact that throughout the whole movie, it is focused on how his life is falling apart and when he finally realizes what God has done for him, things start to come together again. It is so important to realize that it is not what we do, but what God has done for us. We did nothing to earn our salvation and we definitely didn't do anything to deserve it. I also liked your breakdown of the Effect Criteria. I agree with your different levels of how it effects people when they watch the movies and how they will be able to talk about God and learn more.
    Tom Kuster (Bethany Lutheran College) 2016-11-01 1:02:50am
    Yes, I too think that Fireproof "got it" - that is, the Gospel is really there, and from a movie-making perspective, it was worked seamlessly into the plot. The man who needed the Gospel was a firefighter, who know from his profession what it was to rescue somebody, and finally was brought to realize that he himself needed rescuing, and was directed to the cross. It's not easy to think of story plots that can incorporate and illustrate the Gospel so smoothly.