Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Christian Media That Doesn't Suck


I have beef with God and his followers but one of the more benign is "Christian" movies are kind of shit. And heathen though I may be I feel there is no excuse for it, faith, the nature of God, and all of that is ripe for interesting storytelling opportunities. And it seems like all Christian media these days want to do is rant against the atheists.

So here is my list of actually good Christian movies and shows... that don't suck. With a few caveats

Books (Fiction)
For a lot of reasons I want this movie to primarlly focus on movies but there were a few books that I love so much that I had to mention them.

Tales of the Otori
It's basically a fantasy version of Japan's Warring States period but with a messianic protagonist who is a Hidden Christian named after the apostle Thomas well Tomasu but you get it. Huge chunks of the books are about him balancing his Christian beliefs, upbringing, and loyalty to brothers of the faith with the fact that the world will literally not allow for it in doctrine or morals. Turning the other cheek does not work in this series and will only serve to make your enemies hate you more... fatally more.  

He views Christianity as the faith of the underdog and wants to create a world that the meek can inherit rather than that of the samurai lords, but the world is the world and he has to live in it even as he changes it.


I haven't technically read it but everything I've heard about this version of Old Scratch is that he's interesting on a theological level and can't be dismissed as merely that bad guy. He's makes a decent point about why he and god can't just get along. Part of me wants to put the TV show on this list but it's a flawed adaptation.  It's not a philosphical rumination on the nature of free will which is what attracks me to the concept of the comic. 

There is a subplot in the book about close reading the story of Cain and Abel and I love it. Other than that the entire book is chock full of religious symbolism and is retelling Genisis as if it were set in California and oddly enough mostly succeeds.


The Ten Commandments

Alright let 's start this list off proper. Okay, so the real reason why I'm doing this whole thing is that back in the day the church I went to actually did show movies during Sunday school. And regardless of whether or not I've personally lost my faith I've seen enough good stories that almost rekindle it that it miffs me that any piece of media even tangentially related to Christianity is considered crap. The 10 Commandments is a lot of things crap ain't one of  'em 

Oh and while Job is my favorite Bible story there aren't a lot of Job movies but there are a billion Exodus movies so prepare for a lot of Moses parting the red sea.

It's not my favorite telling of the Exodus but if you want a big budget movie version of a Bible story this is one of the best.

The Prince of Egypt

Might as well get all the Moses stuff out of the way first. I personally like Prince of Egypt a bit more than The Ten Commandments and a lot of that happens to be simply,. I like the songs.  I feel the same way about Hunchback of Notre Dame but feel that's only really religious in the music not the story (which is odd considering the source material).  It's worth mentioning but otherwise isn't on this list. 


"Rugrats Passover Special"

Okay, I fully understand that the Exodus apart from resurrection is probably the BIG DAMN STORY of the Bible chock full of themes, symbols, and meaning that resonate across 3 different religions.

But sometimes you just need to have some fun with it. And if you want a "funny" version of the Exodus you can do no better than the "Rugrats Passover Special".


The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

We all know that Aslan is Jesus right. The books, (specifically the Magician's Nephew which is the book of Genesis in a talking animal world) make it clear Aslan is the god of Abraham given flesh in the form of a lion because Narnia is a talking animal world.

Moreover explaining the redemptive power of Jesus Christ while not boring kids with a sermon is more or less the entire point of the story. Edmond betrays his family for candy, (because kid's story) and then his soul is condemned for it by our resident satan figure, the white witch until Aslan dies for his sins breaking the physical manifestation of the old laws and it's covenant.... and being resurrected from the dead.

MAGICAL JESUS LION!

Oh and then there's all that "sons of Adam and daughters of Eve" business.

The resurrection scene is the core of the story all of the versions I've seen do it well. The best version I can think of is probably the 1979 cartoon. The Disney Movie was trying to be Lord of the Rings and Narnia isn't Middle Earth. I haven't sat through the '88  BBC version in a long time but it, while I think I would get a kick out of it, looks very much like the made for TV version it is.


Pillars of the Earth


Don't let the trailer fool you it's mostly about the political and financial wrangling as well technical knowledge required to build medieval cathedrals. This isn't Victor Hugo but it's about as close as I can reasonably expect to a modern Hunchback movie that's actually about Notre Dame. A man wants to use his God given talents towards the glory of God by building a monument in his service.

Oh and it has Ian Mcshane as a currupt Bishop. (I love Ian Mcshane)

Rome

I mostly like Rome because it's probably the most historically acurate television show I've ever seen. In the second season they have an arc about what was going on in Judea just prior to the birth of Christ. It was canceled before they get the gospels proper. But it sets the stage for why most of the major factions act the way they do.  


Forest Gump

It's subtle but losing his legs caused Luitenant Dan to have a crisis of faith before ultimately returning to it and it's one of the least annoying versions of that story I've ever seen so it's on here.

Mostly what get's me is the story frames this aspect of his character neutrally and doesn't pass judgment, not to say that he wasn't a prick in other ways. But in regard to the God thing, the story doesn't dismiss how he's feeling.  What happened to him sucks. He is not wrong to be pissed about that and he's not wrong to be pissed at God about that. And that he eventually can make peace after it all is kind of inspiring.

Kings

Up until now, I've been trying to accommodating to the folks who can't stand any deviation from what they've been told but from here on out the list will be challenging. Not necessarily heretical but stuff a decon might give you the side eye for. On the lighter side of that is Kings a fairly straight retelling of first and second Samuel ... if it were set in modern day.

It treats the story as a political thriller as Saul is working to eliminate a rival for his throne and it's an interesting way to tell the story.

Furthermore, it has Ian Mcshane and I will watch that guy in anything. If you need someone to play a charismatic villain and Saul is a charismatic villain he's your man. Accept no substitutes.


Dogma
The plot of Dogma is that existence is jeopardized because of the inflexibility of ... catholic dogma. That makes it sound deeper than it. is. the movie is mostly trying to have some fun at the expense of the church but it also has big giant point to make about the consequences taking religion too seriously.



The Witch

Enough with the shallow end. Let's go deep nearly blasphemous.  On a metaphysical level, The Witch is a meditation on original sin, (in this context) humanity's natural proclivity towards sin and depravity and our attempts to make ourselves truly worthy of the glory of God knowing it's an impossible goal. It does not speak well of the pursuit.



Jesus Christ Superstar

It's basically The Gospel of Judas Iscariot, ... music and dance numbers. And I know the very idea of that is enough to turn people off but it has a point to make.  By the way there are lots of rock operas about Jesus this just the only one I really saw so eghh.



From Dusk Till Dawn

Who knew a movie filled with vampire strippers could inspire faith in Christ.  Seriously though one of my beefs with let's call it propaganda is that it doesn't acknowledge that it's perfectly reasonable and natural for someone to wrestle with their faith and offer. Just admitting that can offer solace. It is okay to be pissed at the Father. And I have soft spot for movies that do. From Dusk Till Dawn is one of dems.


Angels in America

Angels in America... Angels in America. The word that comes to mind is epic. The play/miniseries has a lot to say about government, love, loss, sexuality, and yes religion. And while the story ends with a big damn rant against god from the protagonist that is seemingly the point, his isn't the only voice of the piece. Several of the characters wrestling with how to integrate their religious beliefs into their daily lives and there is more than one view within in the story on how to do that. Not all of them are good and the story says as such but if you're looking for a guide on how to live as a good Christian in a modern society here you go.

Moreover, it challenges the notion of the comforting God. Good doesn't necessarily mean nice.



The Grapes of Wrath

You know, it's not exactly fair that a lot of the religion has to take the heat for nutty evangelical fundamentalists who are complicit in all the horrible shit Donald Trump does. Like there are lots of different ways faith can be expressed and it doesn't have to be and most of the time isn't that. Casy is the my ideal of the good shepherd offering solace to his friends in the name of the father during times of trouble even if he is unsure if it does any good. That is all.






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