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The Gospel and Hollywood: Additional Resources

This past Sunday we welcomed one of our elders, Mark Bauer, to the pulpit to preach on "The Gospel and Hollywood." As we engage how the good news of Jesus intersects with issues in the public square, Mark showed us the parallels between the man-based program in the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, and the story of Hollywood's most influential film of all time, Citizen Kane. The point of the Babel story (which is echoed in the disenchantment of Kane's story) is the necessity of living life in a God-based reality (as opposed to the hollow pursuit of making a name for ourselves). 

If you missed the sermon or would like to review it, along with discussion questions, you can find it here.

In continuing the conversation about the gospel and entertainment, Mark asked me to share a few helpful links to additional resources. The first two explore the reason we're so drawn to stories and entertainment--an interview with Mike Cosper and an explanation by J.R.R. Tolkien. The third, by John Piper, helps us think about the way we consume entertainment as disciples of Christ. You can see an excerpt of each below; click the title to follow a link to the whole article.

We're Story Addicts: Mike Cosper on TV, Movies, and the Hearts that Love Them

The average American watches five hours of TV—every day.

We collectively spend about $30 billion on movies—every year.

The truth is inescapable: we are story-addicted creatures. No wonder Redbox and Netflix aren’t hurting for business. Like it or not, TV and films are ubiquitous in their reach and powerful in their ability to shape—and echo—our deepest desires. In his new book, The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth, Mike Cosper explores the connection between the stories we tell and the one great Story, helping us to better grasp the longings of the human heart and to thoughtfully engage with the films and shows that capture our imaginations. The book is published in Crossway’s Cultural Renewal series edited by Tim Keller and Collin Hansen.

I corresponded with Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, about how he became invested in this topic, holiness and legalism, which TV show comes closest to telling the “truth,” and more. [READ MORE]

"On Fairy Stories," J.R.R. Tolkien

Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite—I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function. The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive.” In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium [good news], giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the “turn” comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality. . . .

It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

But in God's kingdom the presence of the greatest does not depress the small. Redeemed Man is still man. Story, fantasy, still go on, and should go on. The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and as unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.

Does Netflix Make Christ More Precious to You?

Counting all things loss means I will deal with all the things in the world in a way that draws me nearer to Christ through them, or I won’t deal.

How are you doing with videos? Spending? “I regard everything as loss in comparison with Christ.” I wear my coat, drive my car, watch a video, deal with all this in a way that draws me more to Christ, not less to Christ. If the video undermines the pure, sweet fellowship with Jesus rather than enhancing it, stop watching them.

I am appalled at what Christians do for entertainment by taking it for granted that if it is in the theater it should be watched. I am appalled, not because I am a prude — I have my favorite movies — but because I am ruined by certain scenes. I won’t watch certain good movies because of that scene. I will not because Christ is dishonored in my soul and my mind is contaminated for months and he is more precious than the pleasure of the other 124 minutes.