Watching High Noon: A Case Study in Christian Film Criticism

“Pay attention.”

       It is a fascinating expression. Like “give attention,” it visualizes attention as something that passes from a subject (a person) to an object: another person, a lecture, a picture, a flower, a film. But “pay” is more interesting than “give” because it implies more. If I am told to pay attention, it means that attention is going to costs me something: time, patience, and mental or even emotional energy. If I am told to pay attention, it means that attention is owed. When someone speaks to me, I am obligated to pay attention in the same way that, when a fruit vendor gives me an apple, I am obligated to pay money. If I do not pay attention, I have robbed someone of what is due. 

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"The Grace That I Talk About on All of My Records": How Andy Mineo Raps the Gospel

       In a previous essay, I made the case that Christian art should be defined, quite literally, as art about Christ. [1] Truly Christ-ian art, though it comes in various ways, shapes, and forms, is always ultimately about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3): that Christ the Son of God, the sovereign Lord over all things, became a man, died for our sins, rose again, and is someday returning to judge the world and to gather up the church that He died to save. [2] 

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Lost Tails and Bruised Reeds: The Grace of Divine Discipline and the Joy of True Repentance

       Three weeks ago, I wrote about how the protagonist of the film Fantastic Mr. Fox is an accurate representation of the unrepentant. [1] However, for all that the essay said about what repentance is not—making excuses, hating the consequences of sin but not sin itself, making confession without changing, and even having some understanding of the seriousness of sin—I failed to explain what repentance actually is. In particular, the essay lacked a biblical explanation of repentance. Without a biblical understanding of repentance, one could get the impression that all that Mr. Fox needed to do was to stop stealing from the farmers and pay restitution, however costly—and deadly—that price may be. While true, biblical repentance would require such actions, such actions in and of themselves would not be true, biblical repentance. True repentance, while it must manifest itself in repentant actions, must begin in the heart—and if it does not begin in the heart, the repentance is not true. 

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The Fantastic Un-Repentance of Mr. Fox

       There is a moment one-third into Wes Anderson’s 2009 animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox—based on the children’s book by Roald Dahl, adapted for the screen by Noah Baumbach and the director—when the moral and mortal stakes of the story become starkly apparent. Mr. Fox has returned to his old life of crime, stealing from and inciting the wrath of three farmers. Those farmers retaliate with extreme violence, and Mr. Fox and his family are driven into hiding underground when their home is destroyed. Mrs. Fox takes Mr. Fox aside and lets him know just how much damage he has caused, and will cause if this continues.

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Of Love and Lightbulbs: VeggieTales and the Power/Folly of the Gospel

       I’ve come to realize that much of one of my favorite examples of Christian culture-making growing up, Big Idea’s long-running animated series VeggieTales, was not all that distinctly Christian. What I mean, taking the word very literally, is that VeggieTales has little to it that is uniquely Christ-ian. Is VeggieTales theistic? Certainly. Does it teach biblical morality? Yes—but morality without Christ creates moralists, not Christians. Though theistic, biblically moral, and embedded in the fabric of the evangelical, American, cultural Christianity of the past twenty years, not much of VeggieTales is centered around a theology of Christ the cosmos-creating, cosmos-sustaining, incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended, someday-soon-returning, and eternity-reigning Lord.

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