In this week's issue of Time, Richard Corliss writes about how Christians are increasingly employing popular movies as tools of teaching, preaching and evangelism. In "The Gospel According to Spider-Man," he writes:

The unearthly success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ helped movie execs recognize that fervent Christians, who spend hundreds of millions of dollars on religious books and music, are worth courting. Publicists hired by studios feed sermon ideas based on new movies to ministers. Meanwhile, Christians are increasingly borrowing from movies to drive home theological lessons. Clergy of all denominations have commandeered pulpits, publishing houses and especially websites to spread the gospel of cinevangelism.

(There's a sidebar to the article that offers excerpts from Christian press film reviews.)

While Corliss has highlighted an interesting trend, he chose to focus only on Christians' evangelistic and didactic summarizations of popular films. It is true that many ministers are using movies in order to distill simple moral lessons, often reducing each cinematic story to a didactic paraphrase.

But the truth is that many Christians are going much farther than that, achieving no less than an awakening to the power and purpose of art. Great art is not reducible to paraphrase. Nor is it useful only as a backdrop for a sermon. Jesus offered parables to his listeners and avoided interpreting them with direct applications; he said, "Those who have ears to hear, let them hear," and then usually let the listeners work out for themselves what it all meant.

This approach not only allowed listeners to have personal, complex, and intense explorations of good storytelling, but it emphasized that truth reveals itself when ...

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