On Donald Miller and Christ outside the church

image: Amy Corron Power

Donald Miller recently wrote in his blog, “I don’t connect with God by singing to Him.” Well Don, I don’t either.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t sing to God. But I find that the only time I do is in church on Sunday for about 20 minutes. At times I find myself being drawn closer to God by music, including Christian music, but those songs somehow never make their way into the worship center.

Plus I don’t sing well. While I knew this all along, it became glaringly obvious to me when I attended a Reformed Presbyterian church in college. At RP services no hymns are sung, and there is no musical accompaniment. The congregants sing the Psalms a-capella, often breaking into multiple lush harmonies as the verses change. I just stood and listened. It was beautiful, but I was a spectator, not a participant.

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“Son of God”: For us, by us, but what for?

“S’cool dude! It’s all good!”

The movie “Son of God” opens today and I, for one, am not interested. This is not to diss the movie at all. I’m not here to judge it on it’s cinematic merits, cinematography or anything else really. I’m just wondering if a movie of this type really needed to be made.

A quick peek at Rotten Tomatoes gives “Son of God” an 18% rating, and even skimming over the positive reviews you’ll see that this is a good movie – for Christians. I’m not sure if the film was designed to be evangelical in nature, as in “invite your non-believer friends to the show with you”, but it doesn’t seem like it was designed to change anyone’s mind about anything. That said, I have to wonder if this film really needed to be made at all.

No doubt many Christians will view it favorably and find it affirming of their own beliefs. However it does not, at least on the surface, seem to make one think about Jesus, the nature of His ministry, or legacy in any new way. Reviewers note that it’s “incredibly safe” and “made by believers for believers”. However if a film, or even a novel or other piece of media, serves only to affirm one’s already held belief without enhancing or challenging it in some way, I have to wonder what the point of it is other than to provide a sense of familiar satisfaction.

“The Passion of the Christ”, for example, tells an extremely familiar story but was compelling in how direct and brutal it was, to the point where some Christians thought it was too violent. However this also made it one of the more historically accurate representations of what crucifixion was like. For me, as a Protestant, it really opened up the role and character of Mary in an unexpected way. Watching the film as a new dad, the image of Mary comforting a young Jesus after he fell juxtaposed against her inability to help him as he is tortured, broke my heart and was the prevalent image and lesson I took from it. It spurred a lot of discussion both within and without the faithful, which is a good thing.

But is this another case of Jesus being too safe for our own good? If this film changes some minds and gives the opportunity for others to talk about their faith in a positive way, then yay SoG. But what else could have been done with a $22 million film that is basically an edited-down version of the History Channel’s “The Bible” with deleted/extra scenes added in?

If this is a film for Christians by Christians, why couldn’t it challenge the faithful as well as the unwashed masses?