Portraying Sin

I very much enjoyed Rob’s post, “Why We Exist,” about a week ago. I think he did an absolutely amazing job outlining the root and vision of “Cinema Ex Verite”; so much so that I will remain silent on those particular premesis for now and will address them in some more specific fashions over the next few posts I write.

We talk a lot here about Christian filmmakers needing to make films that are “real,” films that “aren’t cheesy,” and films that are “true, not PG.” We both realize the inherent controversy arroused by lines such as that last one and while I believe we have pretty clear foundations on the matter, we’ve come to realize that those foundations and arguments may not have been presented clearly.

Just to make the issue absolutely certain here, I want to address, over the next few posts, the area of portrayal; more specifically, “the portrayal of sin by Christians in the arts.”

I can feel the hackles raising across the screen already. But I want it to be absolutely clear that, through this series, my aim is to be nothing but Biblical. There are too many problems that rise out of making Scripture say things it doesn’t say or not including things that it very clearly does say. And in this regard, I think many will be surprised by both the “conservative” and “liberal” stances we take on things. And, to that point (that of subjectivity in such matters), I realize the gap. Please don’t mistake me for either a pretentious, pompous elitist or a dumb, ignorant bubble-child. I’m neither of these things and neither is Rob. We’ve had many many long discussions and talks on this matter and it is, to put it lightly, a difficult one to penetrate. But that’s why we’re here, right?

We think it’s time the site takes some proactive steps to explain some of the values and criticisms we impose upon both Christian and Non-Christian films. So, consider this if you will, “The Philosophy and Values of Cinema Ex Verite,”

Chapter 1, “Social Sex and Intimacy; Where We stand on the portrayal and viewing of sexual and intimate relationships on screen.”

Curious Yet? ;)

Brennan

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6 thoughts on “Portraying Sin

  1. Hey there, I just want to say I’m glad I found this site. I’ve been looking for fellow brothers (in Christ) that I could talk with about films…both Christian/faith based and secular. I’m a writer-director who loves to tackle topics that need to be addressed and gasp I also write narratives that aren’t always “for the choir”, I for one think your upcoming series will do me good at least. I believe Christian films have a long way to go, I think our fellows need a solid foundation in cinema storytelling and Scripture. Shunning the secular model results in not understanding convention or structure (see Courageous). Does that make sense, its late…
    You can learn a lot about Filmmaking and storytelling if you can stop judging and start observing

    All in all…I just think if you are willing to learn that’s half the battle.

    Hope I made some kind of sense

  2. Thanks for the input, Anthony. And glad to see that there are people out there putting these ideas into practice. I think your comment about foundational storytelling and Scripture is particularly useful to aspiring filmmakers. Without one you won’t have a movie, and without the other you won’t have a reason for that movie to exist. It is our goal to focus in equal measure on these two things. I look forward to your future projects.

  3. This seemed as good a post as any other to make a request. Because of its popularity and controversy, I entreat you to review The Hunger Games. The film has brought about several conversations with well-meaning Believers that have left me feeling extremely disheartened. I saw the film last night. I’d love to read your guys’ take on it. Questions for discussion are as follows:

    “How can Christians go and watch a movie about two dozen children fighting to the death? Whatsoever things are lovely, pure, just, honest, etc., right?”

    “Is Katniss’s killing others justifiable? What moral dilemmas does the film address or leave unspoken?”

    I can’t think of a more opportune time and topic to address the portrayal of evil.

    • Hey Shelli,

      Always good talking with you and hearing your thoughts. I actually just saw the film today and while I enjoyed the film quite a bit, i understand the questions and such believers raise. But I want to address just a couple of things real quick before I would go into an all and all review of the film

      1. Phillipians 4:8 a very popular and very quoted verse (especially to me, can’t imagine why? :) that I believe is used very poorly as a defense against watching things that are “unlovely,” or etc… at least in terms of watching films and there’s a couple of reasons why.

      A. THe verse is not a command against thinking about other things that are opposite to these. In fact we are to call into remembrance our former lives God saved us from, Christ’s crucifixion, our sin in light of God’s holiness, the judgement of the world, and confrontation of sin and the injustices of the world. If we could not think about the things that are unlovely we would go on unappreciateing the lovely. This verse is an encouragement, some advice, as it were. “If there be any virtue or praise think about these things” and if you read the rest of the chapter he is telling them to think about God and their unity of belief in that God. This was a wakeup call to consider all the things that are lovely. This isn’t to say that he’s ENCOURAGING the opposite of what he’s saying, I’m simply stating that he’s pointing out that there is plenty to be thankful for and that if our minds are to be renewed we should be thinking on these things (not JUST negative things, even though this is still a very Biblical practice, otherwise we are simply promoting the “prosperity gospel.”

      and

      2. we have to remember where there is a distinction between commandment and contextual instruction nun contextual suggestion in Scripture. Paul edified marriage but would also speak about people who weren’t married being “all the more free (klensch paraphrase)” here there is obviously no commandment to marry (unless your lusts are becoming uncontrollable, in which case, the better way is to marry to keep them satisfied and at bay)

      Also, before I would answer the questions about the specific messages of a film i think Christians need to take a step back and say, “We are coming from two totally different paradigms (the filmmakers and I)” We cannot expect a non-Christian world to express and to promote Christian things. It’d be like if Christians made a Christian film with Christian themes and messages and the world coming up and saying, “There should’ve been more sex.” THey know different, and so do we so while I believe it’s healthy to ask questions about our world views when seeing these films, it should not dictate wether we think a film is good or not. Almost every film I love I disagree with completely.

      So, I gotta say, wether I would say yes or no to any of the questions is only for my profit to really sharpen my beliefs but truly doesn’t affect how I learned from the film as a filmmaker.

      So as a Christian, is the killing of others by Katniss justified? Well, this gets into the whole capital punishment/cold-blooded killing/self-defense issue. Am I going to kill someone who comes in my home and is threatening my wife? You can bet everything you have that I would be show extreme and visceral prejudice and violence to anyone who threatens her out of my love for her. katniss enters the competition out of a protective love for her sister, THe competition itself is required by the government and if you don’t go they kill your family (at least, that’s what i’ve gathered so far). So, in situations like these i like to put myself in their shoes. Do i believe in self-defense (to the point of lethality)? In most circumstances yes and i believe there are scriptures all over which support this idea. Would I go out looking to win this competition by killing everyone around me? No, not if I acted according to what I believed to be Biblically right. Would I enter to try and save my family? Probably. I would probably die trying to defend myself and if i was being attacked i would defend myself physically to the death but I wouldn’t be actively seeking the death of another. if i was t he last one I’d have to, I believe, sacrifice myself for the other. if it came to it (which i believe they handled well with the “last two standing” principle, at least as best they knew how) But again, we’re talking a Lord of the Flies situation here. i enter to defend my family, i fight to defend my district (and therefore the people 9inside) knowing this is a type of government sanctioned war, which I believe the bible gives those in positions of law and government the ability to fight and kill in a “war-like” circumstance. At this point in the competition you are a government sanctioned official. Now, again, though i believe at this point you can still operate on a very “defensive” mode, you must understand that the Bible also says, “those who live by the sword die by it.” my agreement to enter swears my blood to the sword if I choose to fight, no matter my motives

      • I couldn’t agree more. The hardest question, I believe, is the matter of the lawfulness of the killing. The disheartening conversations that I referred to revolved primarily around the portrayal of evil. Others were amputating the topic from the story, forgetting that the power of story exists in how such deeds are painted. Is it not just and lovely and true that murder be abhorred? That life be regarded as precious? If anything, I found that I came away from the movie with a sense of just distaste for the epicurean sport of the murders. I tried futilely to explain to someone that putting evil in movies is not necessarily wrong, that this is not a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil business. If we start evaluating movies purely by their topic, then I could point my fingers at “Christian films” and say, “Why would you go and watch a movie about a girl who was discarded by her mother in a failed abortion attempt (October Baby) or a marriage split apart by discord (Fireproof)? We shouldn’t allow our minds to dwell on such things.” The real issue is whether or not abortion and divorce are condoned and in this case, if the killing is. I think it safe to say that in all three cases (with three very different examples) evil is regarded as evil and virtue regarded as virtue.

        The Old Testament itself brims with cold-blooded murders, wars, immorality, and adultery; but the point of their inclusion is not to revel in rot, but to display that such things are corrupt.

        Anywho, I know that there can be a lot more to it, but those are my basic thoughts and frustrations on the matter. That concludes my rant. Thanks for creating at least one place where these things can be discussed and for taking the time to write out a detailed response.

      • exactly! to all of the above! and you’re right, I don’t think they were promoting murder at all, in fact, i think the point is to show the absolute depravity of man in general when they’ve halted to their most “refined” desires, they begin to realize they desire bloodshed and violence so I think the film did a great job, though being difficult to answer in some areas, by this very thing showing the evil of “the capitol.” and I think you’re October Baby parallel is fantastic

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