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Finding God in Popular Culture: A Review of Eyes Wide Open by William Romanowski

Updated on May 24, 2010

Exploring Films from a Christian Perspective

As a cinema and media arts professor at a Christian university, I find it important to help students apply their Christian worldview as they interact with secular films and television. I have found William Romanowski’s book Eyes Wide Open to be an excellent resource for the exploration of this very issue.

Romanowski talks about trying to look at films from more than a viewpoint of counting swear words or acts of violence. He sees film and television as our culture’s attempt at examining the sometimes difficult and absurd mysteries of life. Using this viewpoint one can start seeing what the filmmaker is trying to say. Very often it is a cry for love, or redemption, or for any number of things that we as Christians already know can be found in Jesus Christ. Romanowski suggests looking at films from moral, ideological theological and artistic viewpoints. Not all films fit into each of these categories, so once you attempt to understand where the filmmaker is coming from, then you can better discuss the viewpoint that is being put forth. Simply condemning a film because the subject matter is distasteful, stops the conversation. And as Christians what we need to be doing is entering into the conversation. We need to get the world to talk to us about where they are hurting, what they find unjust. Talking about popular movies can be a springboard to creating a relationship that can perhaps lead someone to the Lord.

I am not suggesting that everyone needs to run out and watch hideous films. I am suggesting that we need to be judicious in how we criticize the films that are out there. There are many films that I don’t want to watch. I don’t like horror for example. But a lot of 20 somethings do like this genre. Christian 20 somethings. It’s actually not so surprising. Horror usually very clearly delineates good and evil. So if I want to enter into a conversation with someone in that demographic I may need to watch a film that they like. Certainly I shouldn’t condemn it unless I have seen it. Otherwise I can say it’s not my kind of movie, but I really don’t have an opinion about it.

What we as Christians can do, is ask ourselves why are people drawn to films about violence or sex? Yes, we live in a fallen world. But perhaps there is another reason. Perhaps the lost are trying to figure out what is right, or wrong. How to deal with the grey areas of life. Perhaps they want to see larger than life people overcome huge obstacles and win – the girl, the vacation, the money. People in Hollywood and people everywhere want answers. I think we as Christians have those answers but we may have to listen first. Movies can give us that opportunity. And if we see a movie from a very different perspective than ours that disturbs us, we need to talk about it with fellow Christians. We should learn how to apply our Christian worldview to what we have seen and then when we discuss a movie we can do so intelligently. We can compare our view with the filmmakers. We can ask questions about what our unchurched friend is thinking, what touched them, why? We can have a real conversation about the drama of life, which is the beginning of a real relationship.

Romanowski’s book gives a great deal of advice about how to look at and judge popular films. If you are movie buff, this book is an excellent resource. Armed with a new way of looking at popular culture, the next time you go to a movie you might get more out of it than just a pair of 3 D glasses.


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    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you James... my students have really liked the book and it has helped them to understand the world views of movies they are watching and rather than just judge a film based on swear words they can look at what a film is saying and how it is saying it!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

      This article is terrific. I love it! I am a huge film buff and I agree with the concept you have presented here. Christians must learn to listen: Amen! That is immensely important and often overlooked. Your writing is excellent. Thank you for a thought provoking Hub.

    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      I agree that there are probably many films that should never be allowed into anyone's consciousness! One of the burdens that we carry as Christian's however, is learning how and when to respond to pop culture in a way that is helpful and instructive.. Our popular culture presents a lot of pain, questions, falleness. A tricky world for teens to navigate in. And at some point they will be exposed. Better to have real conversations about real issues within a loving family context when they are the appropriate age than to try to sheild them from the world. Very difficult to be a parent these days. I know I made plenty of misstakes with my kids as they were growing up and now I have a PERFECT grandaughter ! :) The world and the culture has only gotten worse.... I want to protect her from everything.. But I know I can't. That is where God comes in.. Thank you for you kind comments!!

    • pigfish profile image

      pigfish 7 years ago from Southwest Ohio

      Well said, peggypat...lots to think about. How to be in the world but not of the world. We have teenage children and we do have some restrictions on what they can see at the movies, but not much really. However, we talk about everything (they both like to talk) and we often talk about what they saw at the movies and frame it with our Christian perspective. Our teens often come to the conclusion on thier own that if only the characters, the actors, the directors, etc. knew Jesus...just imagine the movies they would make, the lives they would lead, the stories they would tell.

      Movies sometimes help prepare my teens (and us) to have faith discussions with their friends. But there are some movies that should just never be allowed into your consciousness. Be careful little mind what you think.

      I will check out Romanski's book.

    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you for your comment Ken. As Christians we can have a lot more influence in popular culture if we will quit condemning, listen to the cries for help that are so prevalent in films and music and then enter into the conversation!

    • Ken R. Abell profile image

      Ken R. Abell 7 years ago from ON THE ROAD

      Thank you for this. I think it is essential for Christians to track popular culture & look for those God moments. I have argued for a long time that the poets, artists & movie makers of popular culture are asking all the right questions. Romanowski's book looks interesting.