Monday, August 3, 2015

Jesus Goes to the Movies - Worldviews

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!

Philosophy 101

Everyone is a philosopher. We all have our own beliefs about metaphysics (the nature of reality), epistemology (the nature of knowledge), ethics (the nature of morality), logic (the nature of reasoning), and aesthetics (the nature of beauty). Even if we would never use those big philosophy words, and even if we couldn’t articulate our beliefs aloud, we still act and operate on these convictions about the world around us.

Here’s an example of philosophy at work in the real world: If you are standing in line outside the movie theater waiting to buy your ticket, and someone cuts in line in front of you, you may get upset. Why? Because everyone should know (epistemology) that it’s wrong and disrespectful to cut in line (ethics). If everyone cut in movie lines, there would be a lack of order and no one could get in the theater on time (logic). You buy some popcorn at the concessions, because you have to eat popcorn at the movies (ethics) in order to make it a genuinely fun experience (aesthetics). Finally, you get into the theater and choose (logic) the center seat seven rows back and at least two seats away from everyone else, because everyone knows (epistemology) that this is the best seat (aesthetics). You see a sci-fi horror movie, but you know the scary aliens aren’t actually real (metaphysics), and that the good guys will ultimately save the day, because good always triumphs over evil (ethics and metaphysics).

As I said in chapter two, a worldview is the lens through which we see reality around us. Everyone has a worldview. Your worldview is formed through the information and experiences you absorb every day, and is further shaped by your own heart and mind as you interpret, analyze, and respond to that information. Even though you and I might encounter the same idea or experience, our interpretation and response to that idea might be completely different due to our worldview. It addresses both how the world is and how the world ought to be. A worldview is the proverbial water in the fishbowl we’re swimming in—we can’t really see it, because we see everything else through it.

How we view the world matters in our approach to watching movies because every movie is communicating a worldview. It’s not just the indie art films or heavy-handed documentaries that are trying to really say something. Every story is a vessel for a worldview; every narrative is a conduit for how to view reality.

Let’s think about some movies and the impact of worldviews. If a the primary passion in a romantic comedy focuses on two people who aren’t married—or they’re married, but not to each other—and concludes with a happy ending and a big kiss between the couple, what does that communicate about marital fidelity, the nature of love, and what makes us fully human? When a protagonist is driven by violence, bloodlust, and revenge against an enemy, such as in films like Oldboy, Kill Bill, Gladiator, or Braveheart, it says something about reality and morality, what is right and wrong and justifiable. What concerns me is that these latter two films are typically used in Christian circles as examples of what true Godly masculinity looks like—courage, honor, leadership, etc. Yet these films also promote an ethic of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a slit throat for a slit throat.” Justice is done when vengeance is enacted. For example: A leader disagrees with William Wallace’s plans and leadership, so Wallace rides a horse into the guy’s bedroom and smashes his skull with a mace. This is portrayed as justifiable, even heroic. Much of Wallace’s underlying motivations have little to do with freedom for his people—he is driven by vengeance for the murder of his wife. This is a model of Godly masculinity? When we start to ask questions about ethics, logic, aesthetics, and metaphysics, Wallace’s actions often don’t line up with a Christian worldview of masculinity, morality, and meaning. This doesn’t mean the entire film is a waste or deceitful; it simply means we need to be aware of the worldviews in the movies we watch.

I’ve shared that we must look at movies through a theological Jesus-colored lens. In philosophical language, I’m promoting watching movies through a biblical worldview and understanding the various other worldviews being presented. Guided by the Holy Spirit, when I have a clear frame and lens for my own worldview, I can better recognize, understand, and respond to worldviews other than my own. I can also discern truth and beauty in the movies even when the film or filmmaker has an opposing worldview.

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