Echo Middle School just wrapped up its cinema series, where we explore theological themes in movies from the previous year. Jesus was the master storyteller, using parables with unexpected twists and surprise endings to help his audience imagine and feel the impact of God’s Kingdom. Jesus framed these stories with material common to the lives of his audience: struggling first century peasants from Palestine. His stories had such impact partly because he observed and listened to the world around him, truly understanding where people were coming from before he set out to take them somewhere new. When he awoke their imaginations about the possibilities and realities of God’s Kingdom, it was like pulling back the curtain of another world. He was always careful to describe this higher reality in terms and symbols that were accessible to the people of this world. Jesus told stories that were familiar parts of the fabric of everyday life: fathers and sons, farming, lost sheep, and the plight of the poor.
We value the ways of Jesus above everything at Echo, so one of the skills we try to coach our students in is the ability to look at their culture with critical and redemptive eyes. We want them to discover what their culture is saying, dreaming, and feeling – then we want them to discern how what they discover would be re-framed, redeemed, or rejected by the Kingdom of God. We often show music videos, play popular songs, and examine movie clips or other media to coach our teens how to rightly interact with the voices of their culture.
During this series, we looked at several films as cultural parables of spiritual truth. These would all be great movies to pick up and watch together as a family. Your Echo student should have some good thoughts about discerning God’s truth in these films if they came to our cinema series.
We Bought a Zoo – This movie is heartwarming and innocent, but it also addresses some deep themes about loss, family tension, and courage.
Hugo – This is one of the best movies I have seen in years. It is a story masterfully told about an orphan boy discovering his purpose, and helping others rediscover their own in the process. This one is a “must see.”
Real Steel – This is a popcorn flick, but behind the rock-em-sock-em robots is a powerful story about endurance and getting back up when we are knocked down. We compared this story to the story of Paul’s journey to Rome in the book of Acts.
The Adjustment Bureau – This is a science fiction love story, but it is laced with philosophical questions about destiny and free will. We had a conversation about divine providence, fate, and choice with scenes from this film as the backdrop.