Barrett Owen, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Waynesboro
I like to define faith as “awe in the face of mystery.” Faith leads us to the precipice of life and has us look out into the Great Unknown with a sense of ‘awe’ and ‘wonder’at what is to come. But believing that which is emerging is both good and from God, instead of bad and from Evil, is not easily done.
Most people’s default is to fear what they do not know or be scared of what could potentially emerge. It takes spiritual practices to stand on this precipice believing that which comes to us is both good and from God. Spiritual practices (worship, prayer, gift giving, journaling, tithing, hiking, mindfulness exercises, scripture reading) give us the wherewithal to stand with ‘awe’ and ‘wonder.’
Film, with the right lens and appreciation, can be another spiritual practice. It boundaries us into a fictional worldview while isolating our spirit to focus on a particular conversation.
For instance, Star Wars boundaries us in Outer Space and focuses our spirit on Good vs. Evil. Space Jam boundaries us in Looney Toons and focuses our spirit on teamwork, courage, and overcoming oppression. The Legend of Bagger Vance boundaries us on a golf course and focuses our spirit on finding our true selves from within. Saving Private Ryan boundaries us in Germany in WWII and focuses our spirit on endurance and brotherly love.
Film has the potential to lead us into God’s mystery and help us experience ‘awe.’ It narrows our focus. It opens our spirit. It helps us make claims like,“Yes, if we could just share love like this!” or “Exactly! The world needs this kind of peace.” Film boundaries us by isolating our spirit to focus on particulars that cause our faith to grow.
Of course, you must have the right lens and appreciation to make film a spiritual practice. Just watching movies for their enjoyment is not enough. You have to carry with you the expectation that this movie will lead you to the precipice, and you have to open your spirit to welcome it’s message.
It is for this reason we are in our third year of sponsoring the Wayne Theatre’s Faith-n-Film series, and it is why we take seriously the panel discussion following. If you do not know, we sponsor six spiritual encounters (i.e. films) each year at the Wayne Theatre exploring their religious questions in order to see them as a resource for Christian growth. Over the last three years, we’ve shown the following films:
- Selma (February)
- Chocolat ( April)
- Brave (June)
- Moana (August)
- O Brother Where Art Thou (October)
- The Nativity Story (December)
- The Birth of a Nation (March)
- 42 (April)
- Wonder Woman (June)
- The Truman Show (August)
- Philomena (October)
- Les Miserable (December)
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (February)
- Jesus Christ, Superstar (April)
- Wonder (June)
- Black Panther (August)
- Coco (October)
- The Greatest Showman (December)
None of these films were intended to be overtly Christian in production, but all of them boundary us in a uniquely Christian way isolating our spirit to focus on important Christian themes.
The attendance for these events range from 100-200 community members. The movie is Pay-What-You-Will and the concessions are open. First Baptist Waynesboro pays the Wayne Theatre $2,500/year for the rights to show the movies as well as choose and host the panel discussion as well as have exclusive advertisement rights.
Every time we gather as a community to watch these movies and discuss faith found in the film, we re-experience both awe and mystery.