Friday, December 23, 2005


Finding God Through Narnia?

Forget Communion hosts. Looks like churches would rather build concession stands in the vestibule. Why? Well, I read an article today that reports certain Christian churches have taken advantage of the release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and utilized the film to better reach their congregations. In addition to Sunday sermons, certain churches (in the Nazarene denomination) are offering classes with titles such as "The Promise of Christmas -- Hope in My Land of Narnia," and "Finding God Through Narnia." Is this a good thing? On the one hand, I can certainly understand the appeal of using a popular fantasy (that has long been recognized as a Christian allegory) to reach younger churchgoers, but is introducing a faith (which some already consider a fantasy anyway) by way of a recognized fantasy a good thing? Does the church need Narnia these days? Are the stories of the faith not enough to pack 'em in any more? Creation? Noah's Flood? The Ten Commandments? The Resurrection? Too passé? Not enough action? Allegories are great. But Narnia is certainly not the first tale to utilize Christian themes? They exist throughout Slaughterhouse Five and Catch 22 and most certainly in the Star Wars saga. Why didn't churches embrace those stories to reach the faithful? I can remember a time when Star Wars was denounced as drawing younger adults away from the church and, in a way, forming a new secular religion. The classic struggle of good and evil and messianic heroes is what Star Wars is all about -- if that isn’t Judeo/Christian, I don't know what is. So, why Narnia? Why now? Has the church lost touch with its people? Are popular movies a way to bring them back? And even it they do come back, like movie audiences, won’t they just want more and more? Mel Gibson single-handedly caused a seismic shift. Hollywood and the Christian Church have struck an interesting sort of alliance in a post-Passion world. Still, the question is: Can Hollywood and the Church keep upping the ante and packing 'em in?

Star Wars is obviously mythic; Lucas deliberately studied themes common to the myths of many cultures, including those of Christianity. Lucas did create a religion and he's got the wealth to prove it.

I think you've got to get into some pretty difficult contortions to find specifically Christian themes in Slaughterhouse V, but Billy is a Chaplain and his name is Pilgrim and his being unstuck in time does give him a kind of omniscience and understanding that could be forced into some kind of religios construct...

But Catch 22? That's a stretch.

If, however, churches want to start showing movies like Catch 22, who knows, maybe I'd attend.
Maybe churches are getting more in touch with their congregations and thus promoting films that can lead to some kind of spiritual discussion versus banning filmgoing altogether (it has not been too many years ago that the Nazarene church as a denomination opposed their members going to movies.)

As for the stories of the Bible being to passe'...The Chronicles were written in he 50s. So the need to find some exciting way of hearing spiritual themes did not begin with our generation. In fact, "Pilgrim's Progress" written by John Bunyan in 1675 was an alegory written to persuade individuals seek out spiritual (specifically Christian) truths.

I think people love stories in general. Well made films can tell great stories. I think there are many many films that contain spirituality. If the true mission of the Church is to help individuals find God then they should be using to resources/media of the day to help parishioners do just that.

By the way... there is a non-denominational church here in Ohio that meets on Sunday Morning in one of the large multi-plex theaters. They collect offering in popcorn buckets. My guess is that this has got to be good for the theater business too! Come for church stay for the feature film!
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