A Triple Feature

This is rather an interesting piece (albeit a few years old now): Juxtaposed interviews on faith and film with Michael Medved, Jeffrey Overstreet, and Todd Rendleman (if you don’t know who they are, their credentials preface the interview). I especially liked this question:

Q: What do you think is at the root of the historical tension between people of faith and Hollywood? Why are some people of faith threatened by film?

MEDVED: It goes right to the fundamental difference between cinematic and religious communication. Movies are a visual medium; psychologists who have analyzed the way they reach audiences estimate that films rely on visual images for 70?75 percent of their impact. Judeo-Christian faith, on the other hand, relies on words. Whenever God has communicated to his people, he has used spoken or written words, not images. Neither Moses nor Jesus drew pictures or created visions for their followers. Movies that appeal to the eyes touch us on an emotional level, while faith messages that appeal to the ears reach for the mind and soul.

OVERSTREET: Christians are quite accustomed to preaching. Art seems threatening to us because it is more about exploration than exposition. We hastily look for “the message” of a movie, failing to understand that art is for reflection, contemplation, discussion and discovery. Further, in categorizing as “Christian” versus “secular,” we prescribe where and when God can be revealed. A beautiful photograph of a mountain becomes “Christian art” when a verse is printed on the sky above the peak. Then we think we know what it means, and we do not have to think for ourselves. This cultivates an environment of lazy and reactionary intellects, and we fail to train ourselves to discern evidence of God in the excellence and beauty of art outside the walls of the church.

RENDLEMAN: Historically, this debate has always been a question of sex. Movies have the potential to move and excite us ? emotionally, intellectually and sexually. Since the birth of film, a key factor in its appeal has been the promise of sexual excitement. For Christians, this is often at odds with Christ’s warning to not look lustfully at others. This has created a strange, conflicted relationship between many religious persons and the movies. Art needs to thoughtfully address all aspects of human life, and the issue of sexuality in film remains a sensitive one. I can’t think of an issue that merits greater discernment and reflection from people of faith.

Medved’s response is dumb dumb dumb. The more I think about it, the dumber it sounds. Of course, my opinion of Medved is not generally high, but there it is. He actually surprised me with a few of his responses, though. Seems he can actually be reasonable when he’s not pushing a . . . oh, what do they call those? . . . Oh, yes. An agenda. Rendleman’s response is both true and thought-provoking, but too limited, I think. There’s more than just that at work here, and I would have liked for him to keep going. Overstreet’s response, however, is what prompted me to post this interview. Awesome stuff.

~ by Jared on February 21, 2007.

6 Responses to “A Triple Feature”

  1. I suspect that the relationship between the church and Hollywood should be examined in light of the relationship between the church and the stage. Religious groups have a <em>very</em> long history of objecting to the morality of the theater.

    If we look at things that way … I think Medved’s contention falls apart entirely, but Rendleman’s remark actually seems like a better explanation than Overstreet’s, although both work fairly well. I would like a synthesis incorporating both.

    But yeah … unless the Puritans’ problems with Shakespeare have <em>nothing</em> to do with the Baptists’ objection to the R rating, I just don’t see how the verbal basis of the gospel could be an important problem.

    (Especially since I don’t think Medved is right about the nature of prophecy or the gospel. At all. The following sentence is totally inaccurate: “Whenever God has communicated to his people, he has used spoken or written words, not images. Neither Moses nor Jesus drew pictures or created visions for their followers.” Hello? Water from rocks? Fig trees? Pillars of fire? Wheels within wheels? Dry bones? Withered hands? Shekhinah? The Word become flesh? I wonder whether Medved even understands the point of the incarnation.)


  2. Just to clarify: I realize that with Medved in the conversation, we’re not talking about <em>just</em> the church or <em>just</em> the gospel. But I think I’ve shown that he’s wrong about Moses (and Ezekiel) as well as about Jesus.


  3. Heh, ok, I was gonna say what Wilson did about Medved…so nevermind. I personally think Overstreet has a good point. I being to wonder about the church. For so long they kept control by keeping information to themselves. It still happens in some countries, ie Mexico and the Catholic church in that region. I could go into some middle eastern religions….but I won’t. ;)

    So, do people still have that ingrained into them: someone in authority dictating what they should think? Or is it just a lazy and even somewhat fearful mentality that keeps people reliant on those in leadership positions? Why do people automatically assume that art is bad? Why do they run from harsh realities, why do they blindly trust someone who defames thought provoking pieces?

    Heh, Jared, you and I are probably never going to agree on this. ;) I do believe that art can be cut and dry, very blunt, with a very specific point. I do believe that there are some aspects of art that are always going to be up to reader response and should be thought upon and analyzed, but may never have a definite answer. I still fully believe that art is not able to get away with anything solely because it is art. That is an illogical argument with circular reasoning.

    *shrug* ;) All that to say that I agree with Overstreet. Always relying on another human being, always making snap judgements based on nothing does lead to laziness and reactionary intellects.

    Rendleman: I’m not sure it’s JUST a question of sex, I think that limits the scope of christian and secular differences too much. Although, I do agree with his last statement, that is surely true. Well, that was my stab at *trying* to interject my opinion with some sort of clarity or intellect. ;) I know…*sigh*. Quite sad. Good subject though Jared. :)


  4. You make a curious point about drama in general and church opposition. While you are of course correct…with both plays and opera being routinely spurned….it is quite interesting how travelling performance groups in the middle ages were quite OK. Of course your average Passion play merely incited anti-semitic rioting and witch hunts. Nothing really harmful to the spirit….like the Magic Flute or The Tempest might inspire.


  5. Well, I didn’t say the church has <em>never</em> embraced drama. Even today, the most straitlaced fundamentalists in America probably like Cecil B. DeMille. But I don’t think passion and miracle plays are the reason the Puritans closed the theaters in London in the 1640s, or why Jews in the first century loathed (if I recall correctly) the Hellenistic stage, or why Savonarola closed the theaters in 15th-century Florence.


  6. I think that raises a very interesting question, though. Does anyone know of a good history of religion’s relationship with art, particularly the dramatic arts? The ups, downs, whys and wherefores through the centuries would make for some interesting reading, methinks.


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