I still remember the first faith-based film I ever saw. Sort of. It wasn’t a particularly good movie, mind you, but it was all about Christianity. It also did little to speak to me in any meaningful way. No budget, preachy tone, and very little in the way of good storytelling. It was a “movie” in name only.
Today’s faith-based movies are much better, thankfully. The production values are light years better than that first movie and they actually try to make sure there’s a story to tell.
However, some are apparently concerned that Christians may abandon faith-based films.
This is important to keep in mind, since the same rule applies to Christian movies. When producer Mark Joseph told Fox News it was time to abandon the term “faith-based film”, his comments were met with no small amount of shock. He later went on to explain,
“‘The term faith-based in an odd term to describe movies— or anything else,” he said. “For most Americans, faith is a normal part of our lives, so it’s only normal that faith is weaved into movies as it’s weaved into most of our lives.”
“The term scares away both the marginally religious and the irreligious, and it’s a signal to them that the story is going to be preachy and overbearing,”
Joseph’s comments aren’t without merit. Modern films with strong Christian backgrounds, such as Hacksaw Ridge and Queen of Katwe, have found critical and commercial success without resorting to the “faith-based” label. Still, its unlikely producers or marketers will retire the term anytime soon, for the same reason The Fast and the Furious franchise will continue to make movies: They’re giving viewers what they want.
It’s already been noted that most faith-based films are made exclusively by and for Christians. God’s Not Dead 2 had a successful box office run upon release, but only because the audience was made up entirely of Christians. The same holds true for other faith-based movies such as Do You Believe?, I’m Not Ashamed, and Miracles from Heaven. While Joseph was right to say movies don’t need the faith label to portray a Christian testimony, what he failed to understand is that Christians want them to have it. “Faith-based” is no longer a term, it’s a brand.
And this is a valid point.
However, Joseph has a valid point too. Hacksaw Ridge enjoyed wide critical and commercial acclaim, meaning that people who weren’t Christians went to see it. Director Mel Gibson wasn’t “preaching to the choir” with his film. He actually presented Christianity in a positive way to non-Christians, the very people we are commanded to try and reach.
While faith-based films are just fine for the faithful, they turn off the non-believers. I’m from Albany, Georgia, home of Sherwood Baptist Church and the associated Sherwood Films. However, prior to me finding my own faith, the only one of their movies I watched was Facing the Giants, and that was only for two reasons: It was a football movie and it was filmed in the same halls I walked when I was in high school.
Movies are a glorious opportunity to witness to those who may never be open to hearing God’s word otherwise. Facing the Giants was a powerful story, but it took something else to get me to sit down and watch it.
While filmmakers are free to make whatever movies they like, I humbly submit that if you want to really made a difference with your movies, branding them as faith-based isn’t likely to have the impact you’d like.