Throughout the world of popular media, Christian films don’t necessarily have a good reputation. Usually they’re thrown into the same category as Hallmark movies, with cheesy scripts, terrible acting, and a feel-good ending to wrap it all up in a neat little package of niceness. Ask any film buff for an unbiased opinion of the movies typically generated from the sector of Christian media and you’ll probably get a definitive answer: they suck.
Wait a second, that’s a huge generalization… right? Unfortunately, it’s pretty accurate. The majority of Christian films that manage to get made fall into the category of mediocre or worse. They range from predictable to absolutely terrible, and sometimes both. But strangely enough, the formula works. Christian movies continue to do well in the box office, even with scathing reviews. The problem here is that there is still an audience that is willing to pay for horrible movies, as long as there is some aspect of faith involved. Somehow the prospect of a movie about Christianity is compelling enough for a specific audience to blindly file into the theater in droves. But it shouldn’t be this way.
From my own experiences, movies with a blatant and forceful Christian message tend to turn people away more than they draw them in. The sugarcoated experience of a preachy film leaves a bitter aftertaste. David Vendrell wrote a thought provoking article on how the methods of Christian filmmaking should be changed to create a more powerful message, saying, “As Christians, we should hope that movies plant the seed. They should open an audience’s heart to consider a subject, an argument or a truth they have not considered. Then you — here comes the hard part — should engage in conversation.” Vendrell brings up an interesting point: rather than sit back and let the movies do all the talking, we should be the ones engaging in the conversation. Some of the best films in the industry are the ones that let their message be subtle and sought after, rather than just throwing it out in the open for everyone to see as is often the case with many Christian films.
I grew up in a conservative Christian home, and I definitely was exposed to a lot of Christian media that is oh-s0-popular among the people in my immediate circle. But I remember the point a few years ago when I realized that I wasn’t really a fan of a lot of the stuff that was coming out of the Christian media industry. Songs started to sound the same, movies lost their luster and the cheesiness came to the surface, and I wondered if I was a bad Christian for suddenly not finding enjoyment in these things that were obviously bringing glory to God. All I knew was that if I wasn’t a Christian already, I probably would not have been attracted to the idea of becoming one because of a redundant and repetitive song, or a stupid Hallmark-y movie that was painful to watch.
As Christians, I think that we have an important duty to be examples of God’s love and light to the rest of the world. Part of this relies on our ability to relate to those around us who don’t know Him, to offer them an opportunity for them to see Christ for who He truly is. It’s not our job to create sappy underdog stories and think that people will magically fall at the Lord’s feet in awe of our tacky drama. It would be more valuable for us to spend out time genuinely getting to know the audience we’re trying to reach outside of the immediate Christian bubble. If we took the time to create thought-provoking work that would allow our audience to think critically on their own accord, we would see a drastic difference in the reception of Christian films. Why shouldn’t we create amazing content and let the work speak for itself?