Point of Contact

It was a typical warning to stay away from the movies. Hollywood perverts, the activist warned, have a hidden agenda to "paganize the nation." No, that’s not a quote from Donald Wildmon, the head of the American Family Association. These words were spoken nearly six decades ago by Joe Breen, a Catholic layman who was the head of Hollywood’s Production Code Office. Ironically, Breen’s warning came at a time when movie marquees lit up names like Jimmy Stewart and Shirley Temple. Imagine how surprised Breen would be to see what Hollywood is producing today. But he might be even more surprised to see how Christians are using Hollywood films as evangelistic tools. Christian film critic Denis Haack says films can be a point of contact to begin serious discussions about faith with non-Christian friends. In fact, Haack says, Christians ought to seek out films that raise the big questions of life—even if the answers given are wrong. A good recent example is the movie Contact, about an astronomer who makes contact with alien life forms. Now, anybody who’s seen Contact knows that the Christian characters are depicted as narrow-minded and intolerant. But the film also raises questions about the existence of God, the meaning of death, and the human need for transcendence. In fact, not since Woody Allen released a film called Crimes and Misdemeanors eight years ago has a Hollywood film seemed so tailor-made for discussions about faith. Of course, Contact reaches conclusions that are way off-base. But to stay away from a film simply because it answers the big questions incorrectly is short-sighted. We should consider films like Contact as an opportunity to understand what questions our unsaved friends are asking—and where they’re looking for answers. Then we can find the holes in the film and discuss the biblical answers. That’s what the apostle Paul did in Athens. When he witnessed to people about Christ, Paul sought a point of contact from Greek culture. For example, Paul pointed to a pagan altar marked "To an unknown God." He then began a discussion of who God is and how we can come to know Him. He used a pagan symbol as a starting point to discuss Christian truth. If the ancient Greeks had had movie theaters, I have no doubt that Paul would have been sitting in the front row, watching films to learn more about Greek culture. And then Paul would have used the films to broach a discussion about Christ. And that’s what you and I ought to do. As Denis Haack puts it, "It’s not an exaggeration to say that Generation Xers have gained most of their world view and values from movies and television and popular music." If our children are to be faithful witnesses, Haack adds, "they must be able to interact with popular culture." I think Haack is right. The next time you have the opportunity, why not rent a good movie—one that deals with the great questions of life. Call us and we’ll send you a list of suggestions. Then invite some unsaved friends over to watch it with you. Use the film as a lead-in to a discussion about faith. Who knows? Hollywood might be in the hands of pagans, as Joe Breen believed. But films that deal with Great Questions just might bring our unsaved friends a little closer to God’s eternal answers.


Chuck Colson


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