A few weeks ago at college, we were asked to create a ‘mystery box’ for one of our lectures. The idea came from JJ Abrams inspiring talk from ted.com.
The objective was to create a learning experience that carried a sense of mystery. Our mystery centred around the questions Where is God? Where can he be found? See some of the pictures here under mystery box 3. Our ‘box’ was broken down into a series of stations.
The one that most intrigued me was on the use of films within christian youth work. We youth workers love a good bitesize film clip that we can show to our young people from a popular film or TV show that addresses the issue we are going to raise with them. And I’ll admit right now that I do it all the time as well and, as a resource, I have no issues with it. Films and TV shows cover a wife variety of issues that we can link in. And they keep young people’s attention. Probably a lot more than the talk we are about to give.
What I do want to address briefly though is our thinking behind the kind of clips we use. For example I’ll use the film ‘the matrix’. Thankfully we seem to have moved away from using clips from this film but for a time every youth worker I know (and probably hundreds I don’t) used the ‘blue pill/red pill’ clip to explore Christianity with their young people. Admit it. You’ve used it…or you’ve at least thought of using it.
Many of you may be thinking right now, “so what? What’s wrong with using that clip?”
And there is nothing wrong with using it. But let me ask you a question. Would you use the rest of the film in a talk? What about the orgy dance scene in ‘The Matrix Reloaded”? Would you use that? My point is that although there is some theology in the film we would agree with there is a lot we wouldn’t. ‘The Matrix’ is full of ideas from Buddhism, New Age religions etc as well as Christianity. What we seem to have become really good at is being very selective with our clips. Just like we are with the Bible. We use the bits of a film we agree with and ignore the rest.
I read an article recently by Christianity Explored’s Youth Evangelist Nathan Morgan Locke that explored the idea of ‘sin’ within the film (and graphic novel) ‘Watchmen’ and how we can communicate it with young people by using the film. I would be interested to know if Locke would use the film to explore the number of other thoughts and ideologies the film addresses? Or would it only be the ones he agrees with?
Please here me right. The point is not that we stop using clips. That would be shooting ourselves in the foot. But I do think we need to consider how we use the films we show clips from. Also, we need to think about why we don’t use other films. Is it because we don’t agree with the theology or issues in it? I believe that there is something of God in every film and we should be open to use every film. If we are happy to use films like ‘the matrix’ then why do we not consider films like ‘The Exorcist or ‘Fight Club’ for example? Because they are scary, violent? Maybe we need to rethink our ideology.
To stir things up further I want to ask you another question.
If we are happy to use films like ‘the matrix’ that have been inspired by other religions, is it wrong to use passages from other religious books with our young people? We are happy to use stories about Jesus from the Gospels but would we ever consider using stories about Jesus from the Koran?
Why not? Because they contain theology we don’t agree with? So does ‘the matrix’ but we don’t think twice about using that.
As I have already said, I don’t think we should stop using clips from different films but we have to be clear why we are using them. Rather than using selective clips, maybe we should show our young people the entire film and allow discussion to come from that.
It might be a lot more interesting than what we had originally planned.