Three Lessons from Learning to See Faith in Films

I love watching movies. The experience goes beyond enjoying the story unfold before your eyes. I love the discussion that comes after the movie. Asking your friends or family what they thought can uncover what they discovered about themselves or the world from the way the movie presented its themes. I’ve spent hours in a donut diner dissecting many movies I’ve watched with friends. We usually talk about how what we saw in these movies was mind-blowing, emotional, just okay, or funny. So when my husband told me about the Faith and Film club at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, I knew I wanted to participate. Here are three things I learned while participating in this program.

Faith in Films and Culture

Once you learn how to look for connections to our faith in movies, you’ll see those connections in every film. The movies we watch often mimic (intentionally or not) biblical themes or narratives. And that’s not just in Christian movies. Soon after learning more about this connection to movies and the Bible, I watched Finding Nemo. I was shocked to see that it reminded me of the parables of the prodigal son and the lost sheep. Each parable shows the great lengths the Father goes to bring back His children. That theme is everywhere in movies. Learning how to spot these connections allows us to have conversations with others about our faith. Those conversations bring up new thoughts and feelings about our Christian faith.

Using our intellect and the symbolic thinking skills we learned in high school (think the green light in The Great Gatsby, which symbolizes the American dream) allows us to engage with our faith in ways that provoke different schools of thought. This way of thinking helps us learn to engage critically with our faith without solely focusing on things we don’t understand. And when we discuss it, we can see how our theology has shaped how we interact with the world.

Think on These Things

We don’t live in a world where our secular media is separate from our Jesus-led lives. We live in a world where our media choices often lead us away from our Savior. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Thinking about these words from the Book of Philippians can help us determine whether the media we watch is helping strengthen our faith in Jesus and leading us closer to Him. When we think about Christ as we watch movies, we choose to use Him as the lens through which we view the world. It can help us make our media viewing healthier!

Finding a New Viewing Lens 

Using evangelism is a benefit of using biblical truth as our lens while watching movies, but it is not the main promise of this practice. This will help you learn to let your faith guide how you view media (and the world). Using evangelism to see biblical narratives and concepts in movies does not mean you have to get your non-Christian community members to watch a movie that inspires them to look to Jesus (e.g., The Case for Christ, The Chosen, Unconditional, etc.). It can be a natural part of your relationships. When you watch a movie with non-Christian family members, friends, or community members, you can point out how a character’s pose looks like a crucifixion (which is surprisingly common in movies) or how rebirth was shown. This can help start conversations about faith. Having a collective experience and then dissecting what you saw while you point to the religious themes can show others how faith in Christ interacts with your everyday life. By exploring the film’s topics through conversation, you can bond and understand the perspectives of others.

As a self-appointed movie aficionado, learning to watch movies with a critical lens searching for Christ has increased my enjoyment and allowed me to think deeply about faith. I encourage you to learn where and how filmmakers use religious imagery, scriptural narratives, and biblical themes in their storytelling. It makes for a rich experience and can encourage your faith talks with others. So as we watch movies together, let’s engage with our faith.

Scripture: ESV®.

Learn how to use films to have conversations about Christianity by looking at seven different films in Christ, Culture, and Cinema.

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Written by

Adele Werner

Adele Werner is a pastor’s wife, a mother, a third-generation Yooper, and a former content marketing specialist for Concordia Publishing House. Devoted to Jesus, she has a passion for serving others and sharing the Gospel. She is an alumna of the University of Michigan, where she majored in media and communication studies, minored in writing, and served in multiple ministries. As an avid consumer and creator of all content, she can often be found watching movies categorized as “Oscar-bait,” listening to podcasts, or reading a good book.

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