Tonight I went to see the premiere of John 333, a movie starring a former soft-ball teammate.
One of the sub-plots of the movie was choices...due to unforeseen circumstances I was about 5 minutes late so missed the opening of the movie, so the establishment of the premise was, sadly, missed.
Regardless, in one of the three paths the movie followed, John (Phil Stoddard) is a minister of some sort. In a second he is a drugged out stoner atheist and in another he is...something else.
Woven throughout the movie is a character...angel? devil? Both? neither? who "guides" him to see the potential outcomes of each path he considers.
Throughout the movie, the religious views of various people are alternatively held up as shining beacons of hope and light or roundly castigated as foolish and idiotic.
That is often a problem with portrayals of religion in movies. In Robin Hood (2010) we have two major religious figures...Tancred (Simon McBurney) and Friar Tuck.
Both are blatant and brutal caricatures. Tancred is the malicious, greedy, hypocritical religious figure and Tuck is the hard-drinking, sneaky, not particularly religious weasel-figure.
In John 3:33 there is a brief moment where John mocks the religious friend for his ways and the audience, by reaction, was highly sympathetic to the hard-drinking, drug-hazed, religion hating views of that version of John.
By contrast, when the religious leader-version pointed out the fortuitous timing of the disastrous explosion that was an underlying theme to the movie, there was nearly an audible yawn. No positive portrayal of anyone putting forth a positive side to following God could be allowed.
That is one of the problems I have with portrayals of religion in movies and/or pop culture. There are no nuanced, interesting portrayals that show both the strengths and weaknesses. Instead, it seems to be either complete mocking and holding up in negative light or else pure-as-the-driven-snow portrayals.
Where are the portrayals such as we see in Scripture...an evil man like Saul, the first King of Israel, who nevertheless had moments of Spiritual greatness, or David, the "man after God's own heart" who fell often and repeatedly...
These were real people struggling with how to best maintain a relationship with God, the benefits of their successes and the consequences of their failures.
I have spent my time around very religious people, and I can honestly say they far more closely resemble the people revealed in Scripture than they do the caricatures to be found in the movies, television, etc.
Ironically, one of the best representations of someone trying to accurately follow Scripture would be Ned Flanders from the Simpsons.
He is kind, loving, forgiving, patient, tries to follow the tenets of Scripture, turns the other cheek, puts others before himself...and from time to time they do an episode where he struggles with his faith.
Honestly, when I go to a movie, I generally go first and foremost for entertainment. I do not need references to God or religion, either pro or con, in the vast majority of movies and actually find it has little or no place.
Take Iron Man for example...it is set in a universe completely apart from the one we live in. I do not know about you, but for me it has been quite some time since I saw a 100 pound woman carrying a suitcase containing an iron suit capable of encasing a man from head to toe...
Frankly, references to religion would be out of place in that universe, just as they would be in the Shrek franchise.
So just save us all the time and discomfort...leave them out.
If you cannot take a realistic, nuanced view of religion, leave it alone.
Frankly, it is nowhere near as bad as many people portray it...nor as good as we would wish it. So just leave it alone when it has no business being part of what you are doing.
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