Well, it finally happened today. The superhero of superhero movies opened. Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice opened nationwide. My wife and oldest son saw it. They said it was a great movie. To be transparent, I am not interested in two superheroes facing off against one another. I grew up in a simpler time. A time when we knew the good guys from the bad.
What does this have to do with thinking Christianly? Here is the point. We can learn a great deal about our culture through the cinema. Many people think that Hollywood shapes our culture. That is wrong. Hollywood doesn’t shape our culture. It reflects it.
I have been thinking about this concept for some time. I am a history buff and enjoy watching westerns and war pictures. A few weeks ago I came across an old western called There Was a Crooked Man. Produced in 1970, this movie reflected the prevalent beliefs of the Vietnam era. All men are bad. Even good men are bad. Those in authority are bad. Those under oppression are bad. Keeping the rules is bad. Breaking the rules is bad. Having rules are bad. The bad guy gets it in the end. And, spoiler alert, in this movie, at the end, the good guy proves, you guessed it, to be bad! But, the point is, the movie didn’t influence the culture to be bad. No, it reflected the skepticism prevalent in the culture at that time.
Now, that brings us back to the Batman vs. Superman epic. I have not seen it yet. But, when I do, I am going to watch it as a cultural evangelist. What does this movie say about good vs. evil? What does it say about the sovereignty of God? What does it say about the sinless character of Christ? These are some of the questions that I hope to answer. Until then, I think I will watch the real Batman. The one who hit people so hard that colorful words filled the television screen. The one that existed when good was still good. God was still God. And Evil was still evil. And Batman always escapes the villain’s clutches in the end.
So, how should Christians think about motion pictures reflecting culture? There are four things that come to mind.
Watch with an Eye Toward the Doctrine of Creation
What does this movie say about human beings? Does it depict people as being image bearers? Does it see them as sophisticated but evolved animals? Investigate how the characters express their humanity. This will tell you much about how the culture feels about people.
Watch with an Eye Toward the Implicit Ethical Code
How does the movie portray right and wrong? How does this portrayal compare to God’s word? What does the movie’s ethical code say about the culture’s view of morality? These questions will help you understand the culture’s beliefs about justice.
Watch with an Eye Toward Redemption
The typical movie plot revolves around the resolution of a conflict. As Christians, we understand this conflict resolution as redemption. In the movie, who does the redeeming? Where does the character’s power of redemption originate? An analysis of the movie’s redemptive motifs teaches you about the culture’s messianic hopes.
Watch with an Eye Toward Common Grace
We need to ask ourselves, “What, if anything, about this is good?” There may be something worth keeping. As my father used to say, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then.” See if you can find any acorns in the art. If you do, use it to engage the culture for Christ.
I hope that, as a result of this article, you will never watch movies the same way again. That is enough for now. I think I see the Bat signal flashing over Gotham. It’s time to go!