The Stories That Stay with Us

In the rush of the Christmas season one thing is certain these days, and that is that people will spend time watching movies on VCR or DVD players. But which movies? Let me suggest a few that make solid worldview points. First, let me make it clear: I'm not suggesting that you always have to watch movies just to get a lesson out of them. That's not what movies, or stories in general, are about. A good movie is just that, but movies, at the same time, do shape our thinking. It's no accident that, for the most part, the movies and stories that stay with us are the ones that dramatize truths about the human condition -- like our fallen nature, our need for a Redeemer, our dependence on each other, good and evil. And the movies I suggest are like that. One of the most popular Christmas movies ever is Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, a film that's appropriate for all ages. The movie is about a businessman who spends his life giving up what he wants to help others. And then one day he finds himself in desperate need of help, and he's rescued by an angel. There's a reason people watch this movie again and again: Though it is a simple story, it reaffirms the value of faith, life, and friendship. Another classic, for older children and adults, is To Kill a Mockingbird. In Depression-era Alabama, a white lawyer defends an innocent black man on rape charges. The movie clearly shows the depravity of human nature and the tragedy of prejudice. And it also portrays an unforgettable story about the eternal impact a good father has on his children. There are more recent classics, like Saving Private Ryan. This is not a movie for children. But older teenagers and adults who can handle its graphic depiction of war will be deeply moved by the struggle of a group of soldiers assigned to rescue a single private. It's a timely reminder of both the horrifying realities of war and the words of Jesus: "Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." The ending is worth the cost of the rental. A very different wartime story is told in the Italian film Life Is Beautiful. In it a devoted father shelters his young son from the brutal realities of a World War II labor camp by turning the whole experience into a game. Is it possible to tell a comic story against such a horrific backdrop? Some people thought it was a sacrilege, trivializing the horrors of prison; I think it's a beautiful depiction of the biblical principle of bringing good out of evil. Finally, for those in your family who enjoy getting scared out of their wits, I recommend the film Signs, in which a former minister tries to defend his family against an invasion from space. Signs is not a typical alien flick. It has subtlety, humor, and nail-biting suspense -- and it gradually develops into a strong affirmation of faith. This list is only a starting point. You can get my complete list by calling us here at BreakPoint. And, of course, you and your family might benefit from Ted Baehr's very helpful family guide to the movies, What Can We Watch Tonight? With the right movie and the right attitude, a little family time around the TV can be a life-changing experience, a Christmas gift you'll long remember. For further reading: Call 1-877-322-5527 to request a complimentary copy of the "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson Recommended Films List." Visit BreakPoint's "At the Movies" page for more film reviews. Visit Christianity Today's "Film Forum" page for further commentary. includes film reviews and interviews with filmmakers. BreakPoint Commentary No. 031201, "Gifts That Keep Giving." Brian Godawa, Hollywood Worldviews (InterVarsity, 2002). Call 1-877-322-5527 to order. Robert K. Johnson, Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Baker Book House, 2000). Call 1-877-322-5527 to order. Ted Baehr, What Can We Watch Tonight?: A Family Guide to the Movies (Zondervan, 2003).


Chuck Colson



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