Looking for God on the Big Screen

From Star Wars to The Prince of Egypt, movies send all sorts of messages about God. So what are they really saying?
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With the new Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace, opening in just a few weeks, we're about to see The Force in action yet again.

The Force. You know, the cosmic power that helped Luke Skywalker whip Darth Vader in the famous film trilogy. The source of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi's magical abilities.

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power," Obi-Wan tells Luke in the original Star Wars movie. "It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

Does this statement send any questions whizzing around in your head? Maybe one side of your brain says, Hold on there just a second, Obi-Wan. The Force binds the galaxy together? Isn't that God's job?

Meanwhile, the other half of your brain is saying, But it's only a movie. It's not even trying to talk about God. What's the big deal?

Actually, it is a big deal.

Pieces of God
Let's be realistic. Movies have messages, and movies do influence what people think. That includes what people think about God.

When it comes to the movies, God might be portrayed as a mysterious power (like The Force), the vague object of someone's prayers, or the guy who's blamed for taking someone's life. It's enough to confuse anybody—and more than enough to confuse people who don't know much about God to begin with, like your non-Christian friends.

To sort out these disjointed ideas about God, you'll need your brain and your Bible. First, you've got to really think about the messages buried in the movies you watch. Second, you've got to compare those messages with the truths in the Bible. It's the only way you'll keep twisted ideas out of your head, and it could be a way you can help your friends see the ultimate Truth that's so much bigger than anything on the big screen.

Every once in a while, a movie hits pretty close to the mark on who God is. The Prince of Egypt, last winter's fresh telling of the Exodus, is one of these rare flicks, and it might help you and your friends expand your idea of how God works in the world. The movie puts you in the sandals of the Israelites, enslaved for generations and praying for deliverance. Then God finally reveals his tool of liberation: Moses, the coward (Exodus 2:14, 3:11), the man raised by royalty who'd never worked a day under the whip (Exodus 2:11).

Besides illustrating God's power through breathtaking scenes of his miracles, this movie has a lot to say about God's wisdom and authority. To the ancient Jews, the choice of Moses as Israel's leader must have seemed unfair and foolish—why not a tried-and-true commander or a smooth talker? The reason is that God's wisdom transcends human judgment: "‘My thoughts are not your thoughts,' declares the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8). God, who is able to see the outcome of human events, is worthy of trust even when we don't see his purpose.

So, in The Prince of Egypt, the part of God is more or less played by God himself. And the movie's message is biblically sound. But that's not always the case.

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