Monday, May 09, 2005

The Cross in film

I went to see Kingdom of Heaven last Friday. As you might guess from the title and the topic, it deals (however shallow) with the issue of Christianity. Strangely enough, the last two movies I saw before this one also take time to portray Christianity.

Sin City - I was the minority voice of those I attended this movie who thought the movie was awful. The visuals are cool, but that wears off after about ten minutes into the movie. Dialogue that one can accept in a comic book just sounds silly when real actors are speaking. The movie is overly violent (in fact, the violence is supposed be an art form itself), there' s plenty of skin (mainly boobs), and there is no character worth rooting for (with the possible exception of Hartigan). But to my point: the only religious (Christian, of course) characters in the movie are not only bad, but sadistic and evil. By the time our hero kills and maims his way through solving the mystery of his lover's murder, we find that a Cardinal was responsible for allowing and encouraging one of his own to murder hookers, eat them, and mount their heads on a wall like deer. Christianity is portrayed not better, nor equal to other characters/ideas/themes, but far worse.

Amityville Horror - Now I went to see this on one of those nights where you just want to see something in the theater. I didn't expect much and I wasn't disappointed. Turns out, the reason the house is so bad is because its haunted by the spirit of a 17th century Puritan preacher who performed sadistic and evil experimentation and torture on native americans to punish or convert them; I'm not sure (I think they teach something similar to this in high school history curriculums to describe Columbus' discovery of America). So it turns out that all the sick, psychotic things that happen to this family are because of a Christian preacher. It gets better though. In one scene, after the wife goes to the local parish to enlist the hope of the church, the priest, scared to death runs out of the house, hops in his car and bails on the family. Neither the church nor God has any power over or comfort from evil. Nice.

Kingdom of Heaven - Christian faith in this film is portryaed primarily in the form of zealots, a cruel priest, and a cowardly and cynical church father. Any theology described is usually negative, except that which bucks church doctrine and offers instead a sort of mushy new age alternative that is scarcely recognizable as Christian. The Muslims don't get the same treatment, but rather, they are portrayed as more just and merciful (which is hard to avoid since Saladin really was an admirable advesary). The main character, Balian, struggles (of course) with his faith, but manages to get up at the end of the film and preach a sort of modern hollywood sermon about tolerance.

While my take on these movies is seen through the lens of my particular worldview (which happens to be Christian), I don't think its a stretch to say that Christians theology is held in low regard if not with outright hostility in our popular culture.

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