The Spiderman Dilemma

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Spiderman 3 rocked the film world by grossing $148 million domestically and $225 million overseas on its first weekend, putting the week’s total haul at a record-breaking $375 million!

Many Christian filmgoers wondered if the series would continue to feature Christian values as the earlier Spiderman films had.

After all, Richard Corliss of TIME magazine wrote a story titled: “The Gospel According to Spiderman” about Spiderman 2, in which he pointed out that in movies like Spiderman film and faith are “not only meeting; they’re also sitting down a and breaking bread together.”

For those looking for Christian virtues in films Spiderman 3 will not disappoint.

Subtitled “The Battle Within,” Spiderman 3 explores the battle between good and evil going on in each of us.

Tempted by the dark side, Spiderman’s alter ego Peter Parker could easily repeat the Apostle Paul’s mantra¢â‚¬¦”I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.”

Director Sam Raimi says of the story’s resolution, “Peter has to put aside his prideful self. He must put aside his desire for vengeance. He has to learn that we are all sinners. He has to learn forgiveness.”

This week on Moody’s Open Line show host Chris Fabry reminded a caller that Spiderman’s ultimate battle with his inner demon takes place in a church. The symbolism is inescapable, especially given an earlier line in the film, “if you want to get forgiveness-get religion.”

This is a faith friendly film and will find itself referenced in sermons across the land¢â‚¬¦

The thoughtful creative sees an opportunity in films like Spiderman, to build a bridge to God from the classic Christian themes in Spiderman 3.

But the thoughtful creative is also aware of the potential downside in Hollywood’s occasional friendliness with faith.

Richard Corliss makes two significant observations:
1) “The clergy may see all this as a revival; Hollywood sees it as a customer bonanza.”
2) Hollywood doesn’t necessarily want to make Christian movies. It wants to make movies Christians think are Christian.

After the box office success of “Passion of the Christ” Hollywood woke up to the Christian market big time. Producers recognize if they can retain their “secular” audience, while appealing to religious audiences through morally satisfying themes, they can have their cake and eat it too!

The problem is this: if religious and irreligious come to see religion as simply a set of moral values, both will miss the radical transformative nature of what Jesus came to teach and do.

As CS Lewis said, Jesus did not come to make us good or better people, Jesus came to make us NEW people.”

Our radical need requires a radical solution and a poster with Jesus on the cross carries a caption that says it all, “If I’m OK and You’re OK. What am I doing up here?”

Moralizing in film is better than de-moralizing, but telling the story of true deep transformation would be even better. There is a need for films that adequately plumb the depths of what Tolkien and Lewis called the one true myth.

But before we can make these films, we need to raise up a generation of thoughtful, creative filmmakers for whom God is of central importance and who know the deeper story and know how to tell that story imaginatively in a craftsman-like way.

If we can build bridges to faith from a film like Spiderman that treads in the shallows of the Christian storyline, imagine the bridges that could be built from a more substantial film!

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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