by Aaron Earls
As a producer for blockbuster films in both the X-Men and Star Trek franchises, Ralph Winter is no stranger to the world of movies. As a devout Christian who once considered going to seminary and becoming a pastor, Winter also knows about teaching theology. It’s no wonder he has combined both.
During Oscar season, Winter often teaches a class at his church on some of the nominated films. “When I am in town, I love doing my class on the best picture nominees and how they match up with what we believe,” he says. “Much like a Bible study, you are simply asking what does it say, what does it mean, and what does it mean to me.”
In 2012 he told Christianity Today, his class—at his home church in Montrose, California—is always packed because people want to connect their daily lives and what they like with what they learn on Sunday.
Using the same questions he asks as a producer to decide if a story needs to be told, he develops discussions that will help those in the class better understand and examine the meaning of the movie.
“Don’t get me wrong, the audience is very smart,” he told CT. “They know intuitively if a movie is good or not; they just aren’t able to always articulate why. So the class is first about understanding and learning how to ‘read’ a movie. Then we can thoughtfully analyze each one.”
With the Oscars approaching, Winter gives three suggestions for the pastor or church leader who would like to better understand movies and equip their churches to do the same.
- Learn how to read movies, understand what is being said, and how movies can push our “buttons.”
- Dig a little deeper to see what the cultural significance might be with the story or similar stories being told.
- Develop discerning consumers in our church community, to see what movies connect us to the surrounding community, what challenges there might be to our faith beliefs, and ways to engage in dialogue and action in the community as a result—showing the world who we are.
While most Americans want more films with Christian values, the movies discussed in a class or an informal time don’t have to be biblical epics. For Winter, the best movies, like many of those nominated for Academy Awards, will provide avenues for relevant theological discussions.
“I believe great movies are about great questions,” he says, “and as long as the art form of movies presents those questions through a character’s journey of life, there will always be an intersection with Christianity.”
Additional resources for understanding entertainment through a biblical lens:
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.