How God Speaks Through Film
One of the most popular films of all time is the science fiction classic The Matrix. The film is not overtly Christian, yet many people (believers and non-believers alike) have found buried in it illustrations that speak of God and His kingdom.
The film depicts a dark future-world where reality, as it is perceived by most humans, is a simulated world known as “the Matrix.” The Matrix is a cyber-world created by intelligent machines who subdue humans so they can convert their body heat to electrical energy to use them as a power source. Laurence Fishburne plays Morpheus, a prophet who is alerted to the advent of a savior whose destiny is to free the world from the bondage of the Matrix. Keanu Reeves plays Neo, a computer programmer who learns the truth about the Matrix and is drawn into a bizarre series of events which bring about the defeat of the film’s cyber-villains.
Morpheus and Neo are cast in roles so reminiscent of John the Baptist and Jesus that when I first saw the film, (before I was a Christian) I recognized the connection between them and their biblical counterparts. The portrayal of the battle between good and evil began to soften my naturalistic way of thinking. I wonder to this day how much influence it had on me on a subconscious level, as a little more than a year after seeing the film, I became a Christian.
The Matrix was well-received by critics, winning four Academy Awards, including awards for visual effects and cinematography. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Matrix was a success because it was well-executed. It did exactly what films are supposed to do. And it moved viewers to consider biblical realities because it had hidden spiritual themes they couldn’t help but notice. While The Matrix doesn’t have a message as tangibly spiritual as films like Heaven is for Real, or The Passion of the Christ, because of its broad appeal, it has the potential to impact more people than any Christian film ever made.
A couple of years ago I took a new paramedic job. Shortly after I was hired, I had a dream where I was given a pass by my employer that granted me free access to movie theaters. All I had to do was show the pass at the door and I’d be allowed into a theater without paying. The pass was a benefit of working for my new employer. In the dream, my coworkers and I were being taught how to use this benefit without abusing it.
Around the same time I had the dream, my EMT partner and I were having a slow shift and we were hanging out with another crew at a shopping mall. One of the EMTs got the bright idea to go into the theater and ask if we could watch a movie on duty. He returned and told us we could go in for free. American Sniper happened to be playing, so we went inside and took a seat.
Although American Sniper is filled with profanity, killing and other things which Christians might find objectionable, as I watched the film, God brought to mind one dream after another He had given me over the previous eight years. The dreams depicted military themes. Many of them I had never fully understood. Over the next month, the Holy Spirit connected scenes from the film to the dreams and I began seeing spiritual principles emerge. There are many parallels between the actions of Navy SEALS and the warfare believers wage against the kingdom of darkness. I wrote the book American Sniper based on what I’d learned from the film.
The Christian film industry has zealous men and women who are eager to spread the gospel, but who lack the kind of skill, budgets and imagination necessary to produce high-quality films. Instead, they often end up producing celluloid sermons that only appeal to Christians. The result is that the church ends up evangelizing itself. Before a film can teach the world anything about God, it must first be what films are meant to be: well-written and well-acted stories that enlighten, engage, reveal beauty, entertain, and capture our imaginations. When film-makers fail to do this, the result is Christian art that puts the world to sleep. But if they make films the way they’re intended to be made, society can be transformed by them.
How God Speaks Through Art
This is an excerpt from my book Hearing God’s Voice Made Simple. Click on the link or on the image below. to learn more.