Currently, media qualifies to be considered Christian cinema if it involves Christianity as a substantial part of its plot. This makes Christian cinema one of the few genres where a film qualifies for the label just because of the subject matter featured. Unlike Horror, there is no quintessential focus on atmosphere. Unlike Comedy, there is no focus on comedic timing or use of foreground and background actions to help deliver particular jokes. A documentary is not a documentary simply because it used shaky-cam footage. If that was the case, then the backlash against the marketing campaign for “The Blair Witch Project” would never have happened! So, if our current definition is too shallow, what the Hell (pun intended) should we consider as actual Christian cinema? What makes media “Christian” in the first place?
Christ was shown in the Bible teaching his most important lessons not by stating things outright, but by explaining the lessons through stories known as Parables. Looking at the New Testament, we can see Christ using fiction to explain his point often. Take “The Parable of the Lost Coin” for example:
“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)
“DO YOU GET IT GUYS? SEE, THE PRODIGAL SON IS YOU ALL, WHILE THE OTHER SON IS LIKE THE PHARISEES. AM I NOT A CLEVER LAD? PRAISE BE TO ME FOR BEING SUCH A SMART PERSON,” - Jesus Christ, Never
Christian media, if it will be following Christ’s example, has to be parabolic. Christian media needs to raise questions. It needs to inspire discussion. Christian media needs to use imagery that calls upon what the audience already understands.
And most of all, we need to stop calling films like “God’s Not Dead” Christian cinema. I’ll get into how the film fails at fitting into my definition of the genre next week.