Monday, December 27, 2010

Putting the "Christ" Back in . . . The Movies

It's the end of the year, which means it's time for the big blockbuster serial kiddie fantasies that have become Hollywood's mainstay since the dawn of the Star Wars era. I saw the first part of the seventh part of Harry Potter with my son and daughter, and I'll probably go see the latest Narnia installment with them as well; I might even check out the Tron remake (sequel?) for kicks.

But I'll tell you, I'm starting to get a bit annoyed by the way in which the studios, influenced by the likes of Walden Media, are inserting subliminal Christian messages into all these kids' films.

With Harry Potter--not a bad film, by the way, though it could have used a couple fewer scenes of Harry and gang looking scruffy and confused out in the British countryside--there's the whole Savior/Satan thing, with Harry being "The Chosen One" and Voldemort being, well, a snake. With the Narnia films, there's the C. S. Lewis Christian allegory (which was the main reason J. R. R. Tolkien, as stauch a Christian as his friend Lewis but a far better fantasist, hated the books). A while back, there was Bridge to Terabithia, with its really unsettling discussion of whether one of the main characters was going to hell or not because she didn't attend church regular; earlier this year there was the final Toy Story installment, with its title characters very nearly being consumed in a junkyard incinerator that was as vivid an image of hell as can be. So we're getting a good number of veiled Christian stories in our children's films, and I for one find this troubling.

Mind you, I'm not knocking Christianity. Nor am I arguing that there shouldn't be films with Christian themes. Christianity is a powerful and pervasive cultural force, and movies need to deal with it. What I object to is the use of children's fantasy films as a "wedge" to introduce Christianity into secular culture, much as Intelligent Design has been used as a wedge to insert creationism into the science curriculum and the Institute for Historical Review has used historical revisionism to insert Holocaust denial into the scholarly community. I don't have a problem with The Passion of the Christ (though personally, I couldn't watch it till the end; its depiction of torture was just too gruesome). I do have a problem with The Passion of Harry Potter.

If Christians want to disseminate their message, they are free to do so. I even encourage them to do so--if their message is to love one's neighbor, to do good, to forgive others their trespasses, to judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin. But Christianity doesn't, or shouldn't, need to proselytize on the sly, through seduction or misrepresentation; if it's really as good as it claims to be, it should present itself openly, with no disguises, and let its audience judge for themselves. That was Christ's method, after all: he told it as he saw it, with no concessions and no prettying-up of the sacrifices entailed, and he let people choose for themselves.

A sermon should be a sermon. It shouldn't be a toy, wrapped like a Christmas present to tempt the young and unwary.

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