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