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1.30.2008

Peachy Preaching

I recently watched the film Kinsey, not sure what to do with a movie with a tagline: Let's talk about sex. Not one to shy away from such topics, I decided to give it a "go".

Why am I posting about a biographical flick about a man obsessed with sexual research? Because Kinsey does something that Christian films rarely do, and I'm not talking about broaching the subject of sex.

In the most profound and powerful scene (in my opinion, of course), Kinsey sits down to talk with a homosexual man about his life/sex history. The man recounts the tail of when he was caught by his father in the barn with another boy. His father gathered the rest of the men on the farm together and beat the two boys, breaking bones and ultimately killing the other boy.

"How old were you?" Kinsey asks.

"Thirteen." There is a pause, and then the man continues: "It's not that I mind being queer... I just wish it didn't put others off so."

Whoa. This film just preached at the audience. It just told me that I should let homosexuals be homosexual, not get "hot and bothered", and I certainly shouldn't tell a homosexual man that it is wrong. And I bought it, hook, line and sinker.

Why?

Because this kind of preaching in movies works. It has for a long time. Thinking this was important, Christian filmmakers have stepped up and started preaching too. ...But something is wrong. See if you can spot it.

[The following is based off my memory from a scene in the movie Facing the Giants.]

Rebellious football player sits in bleachers talking with Coach. The boy has just made some comment about how is father's a rather pathetic man.

Coach turns to him and says, "You need to respect your father."

"I know, but he just doesn't deserve any respect. He's not there for me, and he treats me like crap."

"Yeah, that's tough, but if you start to respect him, he'll start to show you more respect too."

I'm sorry that I don't have the actual words from that scene (my rendition made it even worse), but the point remains. This film has just told me I need to step up and respect my parents, and that will help the situation at home.

I don't buy this for a second. Why? Because it doesn't ring true at all. The kids I've talked with who have trouble respecting their parents come from homes where respect is demanded from really lousy adults (who happen to be pretty terrible parents to boot). These people find it hard to get respect anywhere, and so try to stroke their egos at home where they can wield authority like a mace. The solution is not to show them more respect (though they still need to be respectful, but in a completely new way).

So what's the difference between these two scenes? How come non-Christians promoting all sorts of immoral things get away with preaching and Christians trying to make people into better humans fail?

Well, "Kinsey" never says a single word from the message I got from the sermon. "Facing the Giants" told me, verbatim, what I was supposed to believe. Christian filmmakers have got to learn that to make a message meaningful, we have to stop preaching to the choir.

The choir already believes this rubbish, no one else does. If you want someone to believe what you say, you tell them a story that is true and leave the conclusion up to them. A scene that would tell me that respecting my parents will lead to a better home life would look like this:

Older man: So how'd you end up with a good relationship with your father?

Young man: Well, he was a total jerk, always yelling at me and telling me how much of a disappointment I was to him. I had stopped responding years ago because it only led to more lectures on how I needed to respect him more and how I shouldn't talk back. One day I couldn't take it anymore more so I told him where he could put it and stormed out of the house.

A pause while the young man tries to regain his cool by taking a drink of water.

Young man: I went to Jane's house and yelled at her for an hour. She gave me a hug and told me that I needed to go back and talk with my father. I told her that wouldn't work. She said that I needed to present my thoughts calmly. That I needed to start the conversation by telling my dad that if he interrupted or started yelling that I would walk out again until he cooled down. It took me two days to get up the courage to do that. But it worked. For the first time in my life, he listened to me.

Older man: Did things get better?

Pause.

Young man: Eventually.

Maybe it's because people with "messages" feel like they need to tell others the truth. They forget, however, that stories hold the most power to sway minds and opinions. Tell people a story that rings true, and they will believe. That's how you get to preach in a movie.

But we already knew this: The best preachers tell the best stories from real life to communicate (not illustrate) their point.

Doesn't the Bible do that too?

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

2 comments :

Thomas said...

"How come non-Christians promoting all sorts of immoral things get away with preaching "

not hating people who are gay is an "immoral thing" now??

wake up man. this isn't the 80s.

Luke said...

Thomas,

Thanks for commenting and pointing out an area I must not have been very clear in. I'm sorry for that. I do my best to communicate well, but I'm still learning and there's always rooms for improvement.

I agree that we should not hate homosexuals. But there is a big difference between hating someone and believing what they do is immoral. I believe that homosexuality is wrong--like so many other things in life--but I totally do not believe that we should hate people for their vices. Hatred toward people is a vice and will not help rid the world of other vices.

This post is about how to make a point without "beating people over the head with it." Hence my discussion between the two scenes.

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I was promoting hatred of homosexuals as a moral ideal, but that was by no means my intent.

If I'm still not clear, please let me know. I want to communicate correctly, and if I am saying anything in a way that is not doing so, I appreciate your taking the time to let me know.

Thanks again!

~Luke