The Power of Cinema (Joel 1:3)

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Submitted by Andy McIlvain.

Joel 1:3

We live in a unique time in the history of the world. Our “being” in the world at this time and place is not only providential but sovereignly ordained. God Made you and I to be at this place at this time to help fulfill his will for humanity. One of our many joys in this life is to help other people live and flourish.

One of the blessings of the age in which we live is the technology of Film. Good movies, with morals, values, even biographical depictions are eschatological in their ability to traverse time—to “defeat death” by controlling circumstances. Movies present viewers with visceral brushes with eternity as the darkness of movie theaters suspends time—they become “thin places” that evoke a latent joy that reminds us of our longing and yearning for God.

Cinema has a haunting power to arrest death – images of flesh and blood; people preserved as youthful, vital, energetic and alive. When we watch an old film and see a long-dead star in the prime of their life, it’s a momentary defeat of death (or so it seems).

Movies give us a longing for the morally counterfactual – what could have been or what we wish would have been. Movies require us to use our imaginations and suspend disbelief which is much like reading literature. Story telling is innate to our being as they echo truths of the fall, restoration, and redemption. Movies have the power as do smells and music to invoke in us a yearning, a lamenting, for the lost and unrealized aspects of our lives, deep and heartfelt longings.

You and I are story-shaped beings as we are born into stories, raised in stories, and live and die in stories. God created the idea of story and us as story-shaped creatures and has chosen stories as the primary way to present himself to his creation.

The Bible does more than contain stories; it demonstrates God’s choice of the form of story as the primary way to tell us about himself and how to be in right relationship with him. Story is also the form God has chosen to preserve knowledge and wisdom over many generations.

Good stories, in whatever form, take us out of our moment-by-moment existence by inviting us to reside in an alternate existence where order reigns. Characters are motivated by clear goals and triumphs. The beauty and miraculous nature of our existence is more easily seen. Bad things happen to the characters (as they do to us), but they overcome them, often at great cost.

We need good stories, good movies about struggling to learn what it means to be in God’s world. We need time out of ordinary, felt time to reorient our hope in Christ. Such stories revive us; they remind us of the mercies of God and his common grace.

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