What the church can learn from the Oscars


Cinema and the church are in chaos.

Or at least that’s what some people want you to think.

Supposedly, piracy is killing the movie industry. Proposed America Bills like SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its Senate counterpart PIPA (Protect IP Act) have been making headlines across the world. These have been set up to stop piracy (although they will end up doing a lot more than that if they are ever passed). Things in the UK are not much better. Governments and certain film bodies would have you believe that cinema is in the midst of an epic battle. Illegal downloads, the growth of on demand streaming sites, smart phones are all supposedly killing cinema as we know it.

In the same way we are told that the church is facing extinction. Recent articles by Krish Kandiah in Youthwork magazine and Christianity magazine (and online) highlight this issue. Young people are not sticking with institutional forms of church. They are leaving in their droves and not coming back.

As I am sure you are all aware, a little black and white silent film (the artist) scooped most of the major prizes at the oscars on sunday night. Why was that?

Now it’s not that the film isn’t good. It is. I enjoyed it. But is it really the film of the year? No. Not even close. So why did it win? Why did the Academy (who are mostly made of white, middle-class and very old men) choose this film as their film of the year? Maybe it’s the fact that the film harks back to a time when things were better. When there was no internet piracy. When cinema ruled the masses. That could be a factor but let’s look a little more of the plot of the film.

Karina Longworth wrote in LA weekly recently:

The Artist dramatizes the flexing of that muscle in a way that ultimately and cheerfully endorses the subservient relationship of the talent to the producer/studio. When the Goodman character fires Valentin, the star defiantly pledges to strike out on his own. “I’ll make a great movie,” he says. “And it’s not like I need you for that.” The rest of the narrative essentially proves him wrong: If Valentin wants to make a movie that anyone cares about, he needs to do it with a studio. That we’re supposed to accept his film-closing rebirth as an Astaire-esque dancing movie star — contracted by the same mogul who all but left him for dead — as a happy ending and not a humiliation, is a baffling turn of events, if we’re also supposed to sympathize with his plight as an independent artist. The Artist, then, is a film in which an iconoclast hits rock bottom by staying true to himself, and learns via near-death experience to embrace conformity.

Everything is fine. Don’t change anything. The studios have everything under control. It will all be okay. No wonder the film won Best Picture. But things are changing. People do not want to only see films in the cinema. They want to watch how them they want. Whether thats on a mobile, online or on their TV. And Hollywood needs to wake up and realize that. Hollywood fought against the introduction of sound, they fought against the introduction of TV, the fought against the introduction of video. And they lost. Every time.

The church is in a similar position. Things need to change. For some the church no longer works the way they need it to. Some people don’t want to go to a sunday morning service at 11am and sit and be passive for an hour plus.  We can choose to be like the Oscars and pretend that everything is ok; choose to focus on the past and how great things used to be. Or we change; adapt; dream.

Piracy is not killing the film industry. At least not in the way we are being told. What is killing the film industry is studios trying to force us to see things ‘their way or no way’. Church is the same. A radical shift is needed. A deep changed is needed from the ground up. A superficial makeover will not do.

Evolve or die. I think the church can learn a lot from this. What new models of church do we need?


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