When the Apostle Paul preached in Athens, he quoted Greek poets. (Acts 17:16-34). Paul was trying to connect with the Athenians by demonstrating he understood their worldview and using that point of connection as a segue to the Gospel.
In the United States movies, not poetry, are the prevailing cultural medium. That’s one of the reasons the wife and I are avid movie-goers. We want to understand the worldview of the prevailing culture so we can be more effective in sharing the Gospel.
With that, here are five movies one could use to teach a Sunday school or small group about worldview and modern culture.
1. Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989). In this movie, writer and director Woody Allen asks the questions, “If on earth evil is not punished and virtue is not rewarded, is there really a God and how should we then live?” It’s a common question, for which Christians should have an answer. This movie was nominated for 3 Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen), Best Director (Woody Allen) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Martin Landau).
2. Unforgiven (1992). Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this anti-western western, which is a rebuttal to westerns where it was always clear who was the good guy and who was the bad guy. In it Eastwood asks, “What is the true nature of man?” Again, it’s a legitimate question. Do you agree with Eastwood’s answer or does Christianity provide a better one? This movie won an Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Gene Hackman) and Best Film Editing.
3. Up In The Air (2009). George Clooney stars in this movie, which pits man’s quest for career success against his need for true community. I reviewed the movie here in a previous post. This movie was nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Jason Reitman) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Jason Reitman/Sheldon Turner) and Best Actor in a Leading Role (George Clooney).
4. Match Point (2005). This is a Woody Allen movie that explores the question of whether our lives are determined by chance. Allen is one of my favorite filmmakers because he asks all the right questions and mixes in enough humor to make the discussion entertaining and profound at the same time. Unfortunately, Allen has all the wrong answers. This movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen).
5. Burn After Reading (2008). This movie is from Joel and Ethan Coen, who like Woody Allen, ask the right questions, make you laugh, then suggest the wrong answers. Don’t let the humor in their movies mislead you though because they ask serious questions. Burn After Reading suggests our lives are guided by chance and if there is a God who sees all, he is just a spectator.
By suggesting these are good movies for Sunday school or a small group, I’m not suggesting they are rated G. If they were we wouldn’t be talking about using them to understand the prevailing non-Christian culture. You will have to decide how much to show and appropriately warn those who choose to watch them. They are instructive, and those Christians who are prepared to respond to the serious questions they posit will be better equipped to expand the kingdom of God in their sphere of influence. GS