Having just had my wisdom teeth extracted a few days ago, I have to admit right away to being ever so slightly doped. Making this blog just a touch more vulnerable than my usual fare. That being said, I've been thinking about writing on this subject for a good long while. So the liberating feeling of intense pain reliever has sponsored my throwing caution to the wind in talking about a subject I try to be really careful about. Faith...
I'm a God n' Jesus kinda gal. I'll keep it at that, and maybe add that I'm not really "religious" though I do regularly attend a non-denominational church.
A lot of people think that being a mega-geek runs contrary to a Christ-centric faith. There's a very, "everything is the devil" stereotype that seems especially prominent in the Mid-West and I find that people are often surprised/offended that Jake and I can proudly sport Star Wars tattoos and still regularly attend church. To some it seems a contradiction. (Something I've written about before for The Burnside Writers Collective, specifically in regards to movies. Though I wrote that a couple of years ago and it's a bit more disrespectful in tone that I try to write now.)
I believe that God has the ability to communicate to everyone in their own particular emotional language, and I grew up highly invested in film and television. My family regularly sheds happy tears over a great movie, often leaving the theater talking about how whatever we just watched lends itself to larger world matters. There are a lot of movies that speak to me on a truly spiritual level that may seem...odd in such a role. I'm not talking about the obvious choices, though those are fine too. To each her own. There's a place for, "The Preacher's Wife" (An excellent holiday gospel soundtrack.) and "The Passion of the Christ", "The Prince of Egypt" and even the George Burns classic "Oh God". Many even enjoy the Christ-like allegory to be found in, "Superman" and most superhero movies in general.
But I find myself having a strange kind of automatic internal reaction to some movies, or scenes in movies, that you may not expect to evoke such moments of spiritual stirring. Moments or movies that simply hit home.
So I thought it might be fun to make a short list of some of those movies that make me feel just a touch closer to God. Though in all honesty, as a creative type and an aspiring screenwriter, most movies get to me in a way that a good concerto might get to a music lover or a fine painting may touch the soul of an art aficionado. So here they are, in no particular order. The movies that remind me that having faith in God doesn't always mean playing the role of the cruel and bitter right-wing villain.
2. Joe Vs. the Volcano - There's a moment in this underrated little gem packed full of symbolism where Joe is sure he's going to die. Adrift on a life raft, of sorts, he feels a great swell of gratitude for his life, and I can tell you that I've had the very same feeling wash over me several times. This is a moment that takes a break from religious cynicism, from religion entirely, to just show the way the scope of our lives can sometimes wash over us. Especially in times of trouble.
3. Muppet's Christmas Carol - The story of Scrooge never gets old. Ever. It's just the kind of transformation that I think really speaks to a genuine encounter with God. We tend to think of all the bad examples of "conversion", the creepy cultural kind that makes somone suddenly a zombie who can't listen to secular music anymore and has to deny their personality and judge others. But I believe that true conversion is so much simpler than that, and it's exactly what Scrooge goes through, transforming him from a miser to a generous and kind soul concerned for his fellow man and full of joy. That seems a lot closer to the truth to me than any show put on by a tv preacher. THIS hits close to home for me regarding real faith and the love of Jesus...
4. Return to Me - This is a sweet little romantic comedy with a cast full of lovable Catholics. Their faith is genuine and the film is all about a series of fate-bred coincidences that bring redemption to a seemingly unreedemable situation. This movie, to me, fits a better description of "Christian movie" than something like, "Left Behind". I'm sorry to always speak so negatively of "Christian movies", but they just don't play for me. I know they have their place in the world and make a lot of people happy, they just don't jive with me. This movie, as improbable as the plot seems, follows a pattern that seems closer to the reality of the way that miracles really do unfold in people's lives.
6. Ben Hur - This movie, along with The Ten Commandments always manages to pull me in completely. Ben Hur, however, isn't about Jesus. Not really. It simply takes place during the time that Jesus was around. Though Ben Hur does meet Jesus once, and it's a sweet scene of kindness and power.
7. Hook - I know, this is a weird one. It doesn't really fit the criteria for the rest of this list. But there's something so sweet about the concept of the Lost Boys. I can't ever get through the food fight scene or the part where the littlest Lost Boy is checking Peter's face to see if he's really the Pan without bursting into tears. Admittedly, these boys also remind me of some of the homeless kids I knew in Romania, making it extra difficult for me not to cry when I watch it. So much of the Bible, so much of what Jesus says, has to do with taking care of widows, orphans, and all those in need. This scene seems to address the idea, to ask the question, who are we really? Where is our true self buried under all of our defenses? I guess I can't really explain why this movie hits me in the heart, but it really does.
10. The Seventh Seal - This movie changed my life. It's a famous art-house movie that all film students are basically required to watch and I was resistant to it initially. But I immediately warmed to the film as it unfolded. It follows a family of traveling entertainers, a husband and wife and their new baby, during the time of the Black Plague. The husband sees visions of Mary with the baby Jesus often and though they are often condemned as doing the devils's work in the entertainment business, they are happy and secure despite the medical afflictions of the age and the scary group of ultra-religious people that have popped up insisting that the plague is a mass punishment from God. The film is eerily relevant today. Eerily, I say..
Again, I know this is a goofy list. I do. But I just get so tired of seeing christians always portrayed as book-burning jerks or violent rebel-rousers. That, to me, is not real faith, not real christianity. Those were just a few of the occasional moments in movies that lift my spirits, that make me think, "I bet God is like that." I know it sounds naive and kind of dopey, but it's how I really feel.
What about you? Is there a moment in any movie, maybe something strange or unusual, that just touches your heart and seems to ring true to you about who God really might be? Feel free to share in the comments section.