Last week, we learned of the practical advantages to evaluating and critically thinking about the media and entertainment with which we come in contact. One of the primary reasons that television shows and films have the influence that they do is because most consumers think of them as simply “entertainment.” A typical viewer of the newest Hollywood “must-see” has all but forgotten 90% of what they have just experienced by the time they are three blocks away from the theater. I use the word “experience” quite intentionally here. Hollywood understands better than most that movies do not influence nearly so well in what is explicitly stated in a film, as they do in what is left unstated, i.e. the experiential under-story that gives the main plot its believability. This is where the notion of movies and TV as mere entertainment becomes both dangerous and extremely influential.
Not so coincidentally, this is exactly how the “real world” works. Very seldom is temptation or evil packaged in a black wrapper with skulls and crossbones. Worldviews are primarily “stories” that help to explain the “facts” of everyday life. As Christians, we are privy to the Creator’s story about how the world works and what has transpired before us. Atheists, Marxists, Buddhists, Jainists, Muslims, and every other “ist” out there also have a back-story that informs their present existence. History is primarily important because of its explanatory nature for the present and the future. If you truly believe that life is an accident of nature—as Jack Kevorkian did—then it is really no surprise to find out that his answer to the question of what happens when we die is: “we rot.” For Kevorkian, as any true materialist, human beings are nothing more than a collection of atoms with electricity running through them. In fact, we are not even beings at all, just human. In order to be a “being,” one must have a metaphysical (non-physical) concept of what it is to “be,” but metaphysical “things” can’t exist in a matter-only worldview, so they are ignored. Kevorkian’s choice of occupation as a “death doctor” is actually quite consistent with his stated worldview.
Many examples could be multiplied here, but the point is that Christians must train themselves to look beyond the surface and get to the real “heart issues” when dealing with unbelievers (and fellow believers for that matter). This is the core of presuppositional apologetics. This is also why movies are good practice for training in this method. In a well-made film, we are often given an explanation for the motivations behind the actions of a particular character. This is often used to “develop” the character and movies that fall flat and don’t connect with the audience are most likely lacking in this area. The audience is given no reason to like or dislike the character. This was one of the major problems with The Golden Compass. Many Christians got upset because of the surface content of the film and proposed a boycott to show their disapproval. While it is debatable whether or not this was effective, the film itself failed to connect with its audience. Unlike the Harry Potter films, where we are given a glimpse into Harry’s “back-story” and family life, The Golden Compass provided no real reason to feel empathy for its main character, Lyra.
Christians have become notorious for judging surface-level activities. As I pointed out last week, we have become known more for what we are against than what we are for. A case in point has surfaced this week as the Georgia legislature re-considers its historical ban on Sunday alcohol sales. Who else but the pastors from the state come riding out with guns blazing in opposition to the possibility of the law being overturned. Has this law really been such a blessing from God that Georgia has far less drunks than any other state? Are Sunday sales of alcohol really the problem? Christians need to get beyond the surface-level and get to the heart. People live the way they do because of what they believe and what they believe is where we need to be operating. Once again, it all comes back to the statement behind the question. If these pastors would spend their time training their flocks to disciple their neighbors and to think beyond the beer bottles and the cigarettes, maybe we would see Saturday sales of alcohol increase. Wouldn’t it be a blessing from God to see Saturday afternoon sales of red wine for communion tables around the state of Georgia match the fervor of Georgian Christians being trained to “make disciples of all nations?” Apparently not; a pad-locked beer cooler and darkened liquor stores one day a week is viewed as a victory, while millions of non-Christians are allowed to drown in the assumptions of their unbelieving worldviews. We have to do better than this. We have to train ourselves to look deeper, to ask questions, and to really get to the heart of the issue with any unbelievers that God sees fit to put in our paths. Practice at home with the “fake” people of movies to prepare yourself for the real people of “out there.” Who knows, maybe you’ll even find yourself having a Sunday feast of bread and wine with them.