The summer movie blockbuster season is over. The movies released in the fall and winter tend to have less razzle-dazzle and a little more introspection.
In fact, several recent movies have an intentionally spiritual theme. Courageous, now showing in the area, is about four Georgia police officers who face the consequences of both good and absentee fatherhood. The Way, which has not opened here yet, is an Emilio Estevez movie about a father (Martin Sheen, Estevez's real-life father) who decides to finish a pilgrimage through the Pyrenees his son (Estevez) was undertaking when he died. The title of the film refers to the Camino de Santiago, a centuries-old pathway to the supposed burial place of St. James the apostle in northwestern Spain.
Life lessons can be found in less obvious movies, too.
The Herald-Leader asked the faith bloggers: What favorite movie offers the best life lessons? What is the lesson? How do you think movies portray spiritual life?
Joseph N. Greenfield, Help Me to Live Again Ministries Inc., Wilmore: My favorite movie of all time is Field of Dreams. This movie is loaded with theological illustrations from beginning to end. The main point, "If you build it they will come," applies to many verses of Scripture. One of my favorites is, "For where two or three come together in my name there I am with them." (Matthew 18:20)
In other words, when we come together in agreement, when we come together to "build" as he suggests, he promises to be in our midst.
When the God of all creation is in our very midst, there is nothing you and your spouse, co-workers, in-laws, neighbors, communities cannot accomplish for his glory. This promise is mind-boggling, just like the building of a baseball field in the middle of a corn field where the game's stars of the past come to play.
Kory Wilcoxson, Crestwood Christian Church, Lexington: Movies are fertile soil for spiritual lessons, even if the movie isn't meant to be overtly religious. We can choose to abstain from cultural offerings like movies as a way to keeping ourselves "unstained" by the world, or we can choose to engage them as a way of transforming our understanding — and hopefully, our culture. I believe if we look hard enough, we can see God everywhere, even in the movie theater.
I've had great faith- related conversations about movies like Contact, The Matrix and the Harry Potter series. My personal favorite movie to use for discussion is Seven Pounds, starring Will Smith. The movie deals with the concepts of forgiveness, redemption and atonement in very powerful ways.
Mary Seeger Weese, Midway Presbyterian Church: The Mission has one of the best visual depictions of forgiveness I have ever seen. In 18th-century South America, Rodrigo the slave hunter must face the natives he once hunted. As penance, he carries all of his heavy Spanish armor through the jungle and up steep cliffs to their village. When he reaches the natives, they recognize him immediately and one charges at him with a knife. But instead of killing the exhausted Rodrigo, the native cuts the rope that ties him to his armor and frees him from his burden.
Gandalf's speech in The Return of the King about what's on the other side of death makes me cry, and Planet of the Apes (1968) is one of the best morality tales around.
Rachael Brooks, New Hope Church, Lexington: The best movies, the movies that really haunt us, are often not those with overt Christian themes or messages, but instead are movies that confront us with ideas that make us uncomfortable and challenge us to take a deeper look at ourselves. The very best do not give us answers but leave us with questions to ponder.
One of my favorite movies is John Frankenheimer's 1966 movie, Seconds. While more accurately classified as science fiction, Seconds provides a great deal of fodder for those who wish to think about man's defiance of God, our common dissatisfaction with the role we have been given in life, personal and corporate ethics, and even genetic engineering and the paths of medical research. It is subtle, frightening and confronts the fallen condition of man with a compelling story and an ending worthy of Rod Serling.
Bob Evely, Grace Evangel Fellowship, Wilmore: While my favorite movies tend to be mindless comedies that provide an escape from the tensions of life (for example, Ernest movies), if I had to name a single favorite it would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. My favorite part is near the end when Gollum takes the ring and falls into the fires of Mount Doom, finally destroying the ring. Frodo, representing good, could not bring himself to destroy it. It took Gollum (representing evil) to destroy the ring, even if that was not his intention. What a powerful illustration of how God uses evil to bring about ultimate good.
Lord of the Rings illustrates that despite the wickedness in the world, and the wicked plans of man, nothing can thwart God's plans.
Debra Glenn Monck, Lexington: This question prompted me to re-watch the ending of Places in the Heart. The movie ends in a powerful scene of reconciliation. It's the way things should have been. Forgiveness and restoration have taken the place of revenge and racism.
The story's characters are in church, partaking of communion, the ultimate symbolic act of Christ's restoring us to God. All the ugliness in the movie seems to erase as the parishioners whisper "Peace of God" to each other while passing the elements.
Places in the Heart exemplifies that it is possible to forgive others of the worst imaginable and allow yourself to be renewed.
Anthony Everett, Nia Community of Faith, Lexington: My favorite movie is the one that has not yet been written. This movie would be called The Movement of God.
The actors are the 99 percent of the world who are not wealthy, with special cameo appearances from those who are impoverished, imprisoned, blind or oppressed. The movie has several intertwined plots focusing on the mass incarceration of black males, the Wall Street bailout, health care elimination, discrimination against anyone and political corruption in America.
Many of the spiritual movies today lack spiritual depth. They are usually set with a highly inaccurate and conservative view of Christianity. I am looking for the movie that restores God's glory through justice on earth. It is sure to be a box office hit.
Therese Warrick, Sisters Road to Freedom, Lexington: My favorite movies are Imitation of Life and To Sir, With Love, from my childhood and youth, and now Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
These movies offer the best life lessons (love for family, love for God, forgiveness, believing that one can do all things).
However, the best life lesson is revealed in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. This movie portrayed a Christian marriage that fell apart due to greed and adultery, but most importantly, it showed the power of forgiveness.
Other life lessons in this movie are love for family and portrayal of intimate partner abuse (emotional, physical, financial). The lesson we get is that no matter what we have done to someone or what someone has done to us, we must forgive, just as Christ has forgiven us.
Movies portray spiritual life not only by exposing the wrongs and the strife and struggles that families encounter, but by showing how to deal with the strife and the struggles. Movies now have pastors, choirs and spiritual counselors getting significant parts. We see people expressing their love for God, praying and testifying about deliverance by God, and people showing forgiveness and love despite what has happened to them.
If you are a faith leader interested in joining the Question of Faith panel, contact Lu-Ann Farrar at (859) 231-3335 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3335, or firstname.lastname@example.org.