What’s in the Box?

New Releases:

Smurfs
Going in Style
Your Name
Case for Christ

Top Five: None

Show Down: Alan Arkin vs Morgan Freeman vs Michael Caine

The Heart is the Lonely Hunter
Seven
The Dark Knight

Undisputed Classic: Little Miss Sunshine

1987 – The Secret of My Success, Three For the Road

Trailers:

All Eyez on Me
Chuck
3 Generations

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One Response to What’s in the Box?

  1. davetcourt says:

    First, I agree with most of your thoughts on The Case for Christ. Not a fan of Lee Strobel or the ideology he represents. Actually, I think “faith based films” in general (for lack of a better term… and I am looking at you God’s Not Dead) unfortunately choose message over character and story. Far too often they facilitate unfortunate stereotypes as well, using straw man arguments to facilitate a not so hidden evangelical purpose.

    Oh, and did I mention I am a person of faith myself? In my opinion, these films tend to undermine what faith actually is for many of us (in the Christian and multi-faith world). Perhaps worst of all, they are simply not good art.

    With that said, I might provide a caveat to the discussion that you have started on your podcast. A caveat about faith in general I suppose, but with a greater interest in how it pertains to our shared interest in art and film (and my relationship to your podcast and how I engage with it).

    And please hear me on this. This is not an attempt to convince you of anything or to go on some high and mighty diatribe about faith. Honestly, I wasn’t aware that you identify as an atheist/agnostic podcast, and it doesn’t matter to me. I share in your love of film, which is why I listen and why I am grateful to have your podcast as company every week on some rather long drives. I just thought this might be an opportunity to explore how I engage and experience your podcast as a person of faith.

    The caveat is simply this: is it possible that this approach to faith that you were critical of (in your review of The Case For Christ), an approach that, in your own words, looks to “prove” ones faith in order to believe in it (which you describe as somewhat silly), is an approach that has actually been encouraged by popular secular society?

    Here is what I mean (and bear with me, I promise I will bring this back to the discussion of film). Atheists (to chose an over simplified category), often suggest (as you did on this podcast) that a reason for not believing in God is because there is no proof of God. In other words, one needs proof before they will believe. This places the burden on faith to feel like it has to “prove” itself in order to be taken seriously. And let me push this further. It places the burden on the “Christian” to have to prove ourselves in order to be taken seriously. This is a part of the reason why films like The Case for Christ end up existing.

    This ends up feeling like a bit of a catch 22, since you have also now criticized faith for even feeling the need to speak to this burden of proof, describing it as less than genuine. It feels like faith, in this sense, has been put in a lose/lose situation.

    Now, if I may, allow me to say this. The downfall of this approach is that it creates an unnecessary divide. It certainly is true that faith is personal and subjective. However, this does not mean faith is not also objective. This would be akin to negating brilliant thinkers like Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Alister McGrath or N.T. Wright because of someone like Kirk Cameron. Not to degrade Cameron as a person, but I think his approach to faith doesn’t represent much of what is otherwise for many an honest, intellectual process that also happens to be experiential. There are many examples of this within the Christian community. Faith is not simply blind, nor is it absolute certainty. And thinking of faith in either of these ways I think makes for bad art.

    And here is where I think the divide can be bridged- with all of us entertaining humility, especially when it comes to viewing art.

    Let me give an example of this from your remarks on The Case For Christ. Most serious scholarship considers Jesus’ existence (that he didn’t exist is actually not a widely held theory on any side of the fence). And if Jesus did exist, I think we (all of us, if we are being fully honest with the history) are forced to wrestle with why the early community ended up responding the way that they did. It cannot simply be done away with by saying well if He did exist then they “must” have stolen the body or by saying that the story was simply made up. That thought process ignores rather than engages the reality of the information that we do have, but even more so it does little to recognize the way in which those in ancient world genuinely wrested with what they saw and what they experienced, much in the same way many of us of faith still do today.

    And I think this is important to note. Wrestling doesn’t mean choosing a side or standing in opposition. It doesn’t mean the absence of rational thought or the negate of experience and emotion. In the end we all make decisions based on placing our trust in a particular worldview, but I think, especially when it comes to making honest art, we also must be careful to approach life with humility. And if there is a criticism that can be lobbied at atheism, it would be that it has been notoriously bad at recognizing its own limitations. It can tear down, and can come up with some beautiful and coloured philosophical reasoning (I used to cover myself in it, believe me), but, in my experience, it cannot always offer something honest and tangible and meaningful to fill the gap left by the thing it has torn down, at least not without borrowing from outside of its own limitations.

    And if I may take a shot in the dark, I think this begins to get at the core of why so many faith driven films tend to fail. Instead of giving us characters that feel honest and that are willing to wrestle through the mess and the uncertainty, they tend to give us a message that is intended to answer the mess. And that is unfortunate. It misses an opportunity to be able to speak to the richness of the human journey from the perspective of a worldview of faith and some of its rich and lasting imagery and symbolism and history. It misses the honesty of pain and uncertainty that is sometimes marked by the unexpected and the surprises of the faith experience. But thankfully there are many “faithful” directors and actors (etc.) that are making honest films from all different perspectives, faith and otherwise, and I think for that we can all be grateful. They are giving us examples of how to tell the human story rightly and universally. As I often say, diversity makes us rich, and humility makes diversity richer. The Case for Christ isn’t the greatest example of this (although it does deserve credit for not demonizing or overly glorifying any of its characters… that is a plus), but thankfully I know I have many greater examples to pull from in the world of film, and a podcast to help me keep up to these films.

    If you did read this thanks for taking the time. And thanks for all the work you put into reviewing and podcasting. Always enjoy listening to you guys banter.

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