Some of you may not realize that I own a web site dedicated to Christian movies. I majored in film criticism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, back in the 1970s. Before the days of Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Hollywood was starting to look very much like an industry on its last leg; so I switched to art – a far, far more stable profession. 🙂 Then the motion picture industry made its incredible comeback, thanks to independents like Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. I don’t regret my decision to switch professions; yet, film has remained one of my passions, and I have looked forward to the day when Christian films would be able to stand alongside non-Christian films and hold their own. With movies like Blindside and Soul Surfer, I think that day has come.
There wasn’t always a need to distinguish Christian films from non-Christian, because most films before 1968 were Christian, in worldview if not in theme, thanks to the Hays Code. There was a genre called “Biblical Epics,” which, technically speaking, is what we today would call Christian films. But there was as much Christianity in movies like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, and It’s A Wonderful Life as in any Biblical Epic. It seems unfortunate that this division between what is Christian and what is not exists today. It was The Passion Of The Christ and its $400 million gross sales that convinced us that this may not be a bad thing.
Three well-respected writers take issue with this dichotomous thinking:
C.S. Lewis: “What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.”
Oscar Wilde: “[Christians] have always, and in every age, been badly brought up. They are continually asking Art to be [“Christian”], to please their want of taste, to flatter their absurd vanity, to tell them what they have been told before, to show them what they ought to be tired of seeing, to amuse them when they feel heavy after eating too much, and to distract their thoughts when they are wearied of their own stupidity.”
T.S. Eliot: “[T]he last thing I would wish for would be the existence of two literatures, one for Christian consumption and the other for the pagan world. What I believe to be incumbent upon all Christians is the duty of maintaining consciously certain standards and criteria of criticism over and above those applied by the rest of the world; and that by these criteria and standards everything that we read must be tested.”
The division between what is “Christian” and what is not is not going away. But modern Christian filmmakers have a great legacy to build on, left to them by Hollywood filmmakers that shared their worldview. And that is what this web site is about: to spotlight those films that are building on that legacy. I hope you enjoy these wonderful films.
Waitsel Smith, March 30, 2012
Text © 2012 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.