SHOULD CHRISTIANS STOP USING THE LABEL ‘FAITH-BASED MOVIE’?


Does describing a film “faith-based” the best way to promote films where Christian themes predominate? If a film is only promoted as “faith-based,” then I believe it’s a mistake. In the ultimate sense, however, all films are “faith-based.” All films tell a story based on some underlying religious commitment. A film where God is never mentioned or considered is still “faith-based.” That faith commitment may be exclusively in man, some ethereal impersonal cosmic force, occult influences, or nihilism.

Star Wars is very religious. There would be no Star Wars without “The Force.” The E.T.parallels with Christianity are unmistakable. Al Millar, Christopher Newport College in Virginia (now deceased), in his “E.T.”—You’re More Than a Movie Star, lists thirty-three parallels between E.T. and Jesus Christ.1 When Universal City Studios got wind of the booklet, they immediately called on Millar to retract it and cease and desist from any further publication and distribution.2 What were they afraid of? Certainly not a loss in revenue. Millar sold about 25 copies for $1.00 each. Spielberg did not want his movie to be viewed as having a religious theme storyline.

The rejection of one religion and savior means the adoption of another religion and savior no matter how much it’s denied. The underlying premise of movies like E.T. is that there are aliens in our universe who can perform “miracles” in the same way that Jesus did. The purpose of this idea is to minimize the uniqueness of Jesus. Atheists like Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, downplay the religious overtones in works of science fiction, but they can’t escape them. “If certain parallels exist between E.T. and the Christ story, they are not unlike similar religious parallels contained in the many science fiction works (film or literature) that have been created before.”3 There is no need for God, even though these aliens display god-like attributes. If we can just contact our distant alien brothers, we will learn the age-old mysteries of the universe and attain eternal life. While the Humanists declared, “we will save ourselves, the new spiritual humanists believe that “Alien supermedicine” will save us all.4

Spielberg and studio lawyers were so upset about the publication of Millar’s four-page typewritten booklet that they sent the big legal guns after the professor. The following is from a 1982 Associated Press article:

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — A movie studio has warned a college professor against continuing to distribute a pamphlet in which he compares the movie E.T.-The Extra-Terrestrial with the life of Jesus Christ. An attorney for Universal City Studios Inc. notified Albert E. Millar Jr., chairperson of the English department at Christopher Newport College, by telegram last week that the sales of the booklet “without our consent, permission or authorization … infringe upon the proprietary rights which we own.” “It’s like using an atomic bomb to kill a flea,” said Millar of the studio’s telegram.

The telegram alleged the four-page pamphlet produced by Millar infringed on the studio’s copyright and trademark rights and constituted “unfair competition.” Millar, who teaches a course on the Bible as literature, listed 33 items he noticed in the movie he believes closely parallel the life of Jesus. “I think the thing that struck me most was the idea of the capacity to heal, and then when E.T. died and was resurrected,” Millar said . . . Millar published the booklet — titled “E.T.-You’re More Than A Movie Star” — in July at his own expense. . .

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