Sometimes I worry that too many Christians have lost their sense of humor. They seem to approach themselves, God, and especially those they disapprove of, with a deadly seriousness. Sadly, such folk remind me more of the hard-nosed Pharisees of the Gospels than Jesus. Jesus knew how to laugh. Jesus knew how to smile.
For example, whenever an overtly religious story makes the news, reporters always seem to drum up some cranky Christian to pronounce judgment and damnation. My local paper carried a recent story about the current blockbuster, “Bruce Almighty.” One very bothered reverend weighed in with the comment: “It’s a movie that mocks God and makes a mockery of religion. … But the Lord God is one that could use something that’s meant for evil and turn it around for good.”
Was the movie really “meant for evil”? I don’t think so. No, it’s not suitable for young children. That’s what the PG-13 rating means. Frankly, there are parts of the Bible that are PG-13. Have you read the Song of Solomon lately? Or what about Jephthah’s sacrifice of his first-born daughter (Judges 11)? Such passages of Scripture require careful interpretation and explanation. So too with provocative movies, plays, literature and other art forms.
Yes, there are language and bedroom scenes in the movie that are objectionable. But this is not a movie about a perfect man. This is a movie about a man who is a wreck, in part because he has shut God—and God’s grace—out of his life. Remember Paul before he met Jesus? He was head of the Gestapo for the religious establishment, harassing and persecuting Christians. He wasn’t a pretty picture either before the Risen One turned his life around.
“Bruce Almighty” is not a world class film. For that, rent “Antwone Fisher,” now on video. But the movie does provide Christians with a wonderful opportunity to share their faith. Since a lot of folks are going to see this film, and there is quite the buzz about it, why not seize the evangelistic opening it provides?
Take a page out of Paul’s playbook. While visiting Athens, he used a line from a contemporary poet as a springboard for talking about Jesus (Acts 17:28, 23). So too, “Bruce Almighty” is a chance to say: “You know the God of grace Bruce finally discovers? That’s not a Hollywood fiction. That’s for real. I believe in that God because I believe in Jesus.”
Recently, I read that today’s college students have seen 95 movies for every book they’ve read. If that is true, then we Christians had better come up with a better plan than just condemning movies. Maybe we ought to use them.
Bob Setzer Jr. is pastor of First Baptist Church in Macon, Ga.
Read our review of “Bruce Almighty.”