Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jesus Goes to the Movies - The Religion of Movies

My upcoming book, Jesus Goes to the Movies: The Youth Ministry Film Guide, releases on August 11. You can purchase it through Amazon or The Youth Cartel. I'll be posting excerpts in the days leading up to the book. Be sure to buy your copy today!

The Religion of Movies

In many ways, going to the movies is synonymous with a religious practice or worship service. We gather a community of similar-minded disciples and arrive at the temple, also known as the movie theater. We pay our offering at the box office. We purchase the ritual food—soda and popcorn—then enter into the temple’s inner courts by way of the teenager checking our tickets. We find our place in the particular sanctum and wait with a quiet reverence as the lights are dimmed and our attention is drawn upwards towards the light. We behold the images before us with fascination and wonder. We are swept up in the sounds and music, and find ourselves strongly identifying with the hero while condemning the villain. We laugh and cry, we are inspired and challenged. When the credits role, we follow the ritual—we get out of our seats, walk through the doors, and express our thoughts and emotions with our fellow disciples. Films become religious icons, the images that reveal and inform our desires and devotion. The religious fervor and emotional catharsis found in these movie-watching practices compete with any church worship service. Betsy Brown writes about this worshipful connection to movies:
The architecture of the church and the cinema may vary from place to place, but whether ornate or not, the structure of the buildings promise something lovely to come. We enter doors into a large, dimly-lit room. It is a hushed, open space. We sit side-by-side. We hear music. We hear carefully-chosen words. We see a place that has been set with care, a place meant to be beautiful.
One of the biggest mistakes we make as moviegoers and churchgoers is thinking that we attend in order to be entertained. Entertainment is a passive process: We sit and wait for moments of amusement. I would argue that both film and church, although they often are pleasurable and entertaining, serve a higher purpose. They have the power to transform—to drive us to action. And, of course, with this transformation can come a far more lasting joy than mere entertainment can give.

What if movie-watching, like following Jesus, moved us into transformative and redemptive action? How might movies play a role in our spiritual formation?

Get your copy of Jesus Goes to the Movies here!

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