Why do pagans make the best Christian films?
Faith should be sublime
Why DO “heathens” or “pagans” seem to make the best Christian films?
First of all, by pagan, I mean people who worship other gods, many gods, and that’s what most people in Hollywood are. That is, they worship money, prestige, power, botox, Spielberg, you name it.
Why is it that non-believers have actually made the best Christian films in the last few years? Because they value beauty and excellence. That’s why even when they pick up a story accidentally that has some good value at its heart, they end up making a better project than we do when we start with Christian message stuff, because we don’t value the craft as the gateway to beauty. We are all about using a movie to deliver a message. The best movies in the last few decades have been made by pagans who are serving the project as a beautiful thing in itself. Some examples are Amadeus, In America, Ghandi, Chariots of Fire, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, In the Bedroom, Spiderman 2, A Beautiful Mind, Hotel Rwanda.
That’s ironic, isn’t it, when you consider much beauty in art, music, and architecture Christianity has inspired over two thousand years?
Yeah. Just imagine some horrible, untalented Renaissance artist going around Rome painting angels all over the place. They would’ve considered it just bad graffiti. Now-a-days, we would let the guy paint on our cathedrals and drone a communal Gather Us In to celebrate the desecration! When I visited the new Cathedral here in Los Angeles, I was struck by the lack of aesthetic quality evident in the sculpture of the Blessed Virgin that looms over the entrance. The artist apparently wanted it to reflect “all people” so it has the racial characteristics of several races, plus a man’s arms on a woman’s body. I pointed out to the tour guide who explained all this, “Yes, but it is really very ugly.” She sniffed at me in disdain, “We aren’t about that kind of thing in the Church any more.” Oh really. Somebody, quick call the Vatican to lock up the Pieta. We have lost the value and understanding of aesthetics in the Church….
I went to the five o’clock guitar Mass at my parish this week. The music was so abominably bad that I kept thinking I was watching a Saturday Night Live spoof of church people. But no! We are doing it to ourselves. I sat there cringing while they sang unsingable song after unsingable song…
This is what Catholic liturgy in terms of beauty has come to. I wish it was the exception and not the rule in Catholic parishes, but my experience is that in most places I go, the arts are not the Church’s priority at all. We are missing out on such a huge way of engaging people and helping them to feel the realities they’re experiencing. It’s so stupid. If Hollywood uses music in movies, it’s because it works.
We have to accept that the heart of drama is found in sin: betrayal, jealousy, greed, anger, fear, pride—that’s entertainment!—and the reason for the redemption, by the way. Drama finds its suspense in stories of human beings trying and failing because of their inner demons and, then, finally succeeding by winning out over those demons. You can’t take the demons out without creating stories that are sickly sentimental and absolutely useless to an audience searching for courage and inspiration on the screen. The great masters like Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Graham Greene, managed to talk about very real human darkness without wallowing in it.
There is so much good sense here. Go on, give it a read. It’s quite encouraging.