Whether we like it or not, movies are shaping the worldview and values of our children, grandchildren and young Christians. We can either shake heads and throw up our hands in frustration, or use film to teach. A dozen times in my ministry, I’ve gathered young men together for pizza and a movie, and used films to teach.
While there are a growing number of quality Christian films being produced, most younger people are wary of them. And most of them are just painfully bad. So, I don’t use most “Christian” films. I’d prefer first quality, made in Hollywood films, or those few Christian films with great actors.
Jesus taught using parables. In fact, Matthew 13:34 says this, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” So, while movies today are a lot edgier than Jesus’ stories, the basic principle is the same. Let the story teach and the memory of the story, reinforce that teaching.
When I watch these films for teaching purposes, I will often have a brief discussion ahead of time with my group, so they’ll be watching for certain themes (See my blog last week for some general themes that run through many films). So, here are a couple of my favorite movies for teaching, and why I like them and a brief outline of these themes for each. Le Mis’erables, (I prefer the version staring Liam Nielsen.) The author Victor Hugo was a Frenchman and a committed Christian. Upton Sinclair considered it one of the ten best novels of all time. Hugo himself wrote of the books overarching structure;
“My book from the beginning to end is a study of what man naturally is, but through God, can become. Evil changed to good, unjust to just, false to true, from animal-like appetites to conscience and duty, from nothingness to God.”
Here are some great questions to ask after viewing the film, to start the discussion;
What got Jean Valjean in trouble to begin with?
We know “who” kept him in prison, what force kept him there?
What force or act changed his life? (And why did that act, have the power to transform?)
What did he do differently with his life as a result?
Even when Jean Valjean did the right thing, he was pursued and persecuted. How is that very much like life?
Who do you admire most in the film and why?
If this story is a metaphor for life, what have you learned from it?
Note: Go to Wikipedia to get the Cliff Notes of the story.
To End All Wars The lead actor in this film is Keifer Sutherland, of 24 fame, so the film will have instant credibility with young men in particular. The film is based on a true story about prisoners of war, held by the Japanese. Although the movie has some violent scenes and foul language, the story is really about sacrificial love, and personal transformation in the face of evil. (Be sure you watch it to the very end, where it tells what became of the real life people.)
Here are some great discussion questions to ask;
What is there in mankind that causes us to completely disregard the needs of others?
Do you believe you are capable of the kind of brutality seen in the film? (Remind them that many “good Christian” Germans, acted the same way, so “why?” What happened to their values and consciences?
What power or character traits allowed some of the prisoners to act with compassion and self-sacrifice?
We’d all like to think that we would act as nobely as the prisoner who was ultimately crucified, but how do you think he “trained himself” morally and spiritually for that day?
If this film is a metaphor for our life, is there someone who is, or has made your life miserable, and how have you acted toward them? Is there something you need to do today to change that? What would Jesus do right now?
I strongly recommend you watch both films before you show them to anyone. Answer all my questions yourself. Then, write down some questions of your own. And finally pray that the Holy Spirit would use these “parables” to teach your young men life and character lessons that will stick with them forever.
Question: What films have you found useful for teaching, you can recommend to us?
How following Jesus works in real life.
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