Tuesday 17 May 2011

The Invisibility of Christian themes in Blockbuster Movies

Regular readers of this blog know that I have written several times on the relationship between biblical narrative and literature HERE.  I have also called on Christians to consider turning their creative energies to the writing of literature for broader audiences.  Who will be the next C.S. Lewis or J.R. Tolkien? But perhaps there is a greater challenge facing Christians with film. David Dale in the Sydney Morning Herald has rather amusingly made the observation that it seems like every imaginable religious worldview is being represented in recent popular movies except Christianity.  He asks wryly "What has the Judeo-Christian system done for us lately?" He writes:
Transmigration of the soul, a belief of Hindus, Buddhists, and followers of the Jewish Kabbalah, is the trendy trope for screenwriters. A film called 'Source Code', which sold a  healthy 130,000 tickets during its first week in Australian cinemas, assumes a person's mind can be placed into the body of another person for the last eight minutes of person B's life (thus permitting person A to learn who murdered B). It's not so much reincarnation as preincarnation. Don't ask how the technology works. Just have faith.

'Inception' uses a similar principle, except that the soul-jumping happens when both parties are asleep. And in 'Avatar', human souls are transferred into bio-engineered alien bodies (on a planet whose inhabitants engage in Gaia worship, just to offer another option).

It's an amusing read but is there a significant message for Christians? How can we ensure that the Bible's central narrative themes are represented in literature and film? While there are plenty of films and books with Christian themes evident, he is commenting on recent blockbusters and the seeming dominance of other faith traditions at the moment. Of course, the trend begs the question is this evidence of people buying into other faith positions, or simply being willing to suspend their beliefs and reason to enjoy a good story? I'll let you judge that one, here's the trailer.


Timaahy said...


With regards to the original article by David Dale:

David has completely ignored the film makers' intentions. The makers of Inception or Avatar may very well be horrified to learn that people are interpreting their films as advertisements for a particular religious faith.

Regardless, Inception and Avatar have nothing to do with "transmigration of the soul".

He seems to have forgotten about The Blind Side, the Narnia movies, Hereafter, etc. It's ludicrous for him to claim that Christian-themed movies are being swamped by movies about other faiths.

As to your final question:

"Of course, the trend begs the question is this evidence of people buying into other faith positions, or simply being willing to suspend their beliefs and reason to enjoy a good story?"

I think the answer is obviously the latter.


Peter said...


with respect,

re: point 1

Regardless of the intentions of David Cameron when creating Avatar critics from across the world, (including the Catholic Church) have commented on the religious themes in Avatar.

from Wikipedia ..

The New York Times opined that the film is "Cameron's long apologia for pantheism ... Hollywood's religion of choice for a generation now"

Saritha Prabhu of The Tennessean called the film a misportrayal of pantheism and Eastern spirituality in general,

Maxim Osipov of The Hindustan Times commended the film's message for its overall consistency with the teachings of Hinduism in the Bhagavad Gita.

re: point 3,

I took a quick survey of the blockbusters at the movies this week :

Harry Potter (witchcraft)
Pirates of the Caribean (Supernatural)
Thor (Greek Mythology)
Hangover (?)
X-Men (Athiest evolution)

not a lot of Christian themes or worldview amongst that lot ...