As part of his Doctor of Ministry (DMin) in Ministry to Emerging Generations (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Tom’s written a number of book responses and given several short presentations (personal and group). In this series he not only “shares the wealth,” but also looks forward to your feedback as he refines his project: An argument for vocational discernment for graduate studies in the context of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (Stay tuned to learn more!). Earlier posts on the program: Ministry to Emerging Generations and The Big Picture of Ministry to Emerging Generations.
Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment
Honestly I picked up Brian Godawa’s Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002) with reluctance. After skimming Hollywood Worldviews over a decade ago, it sat on my bookshelf largely unread*. What does another “Movie Appreciation 101” (20) have to offer? But I received hope as Godawa opened his Preface, “I am a screenwriter. . . . If you don’t have a good story, you won’t have a good movie, no matter who is acting in it or lighting it or directing it or producing it. If the story doesn’t work, the movie doesn’t work” (9). Yes, the writer creates and “the story is king” (10).
Not surprisingly, Godawa takes his first step “to help the viewer discern those ideas that drive the story to its destination and how they influence us to live our lives—to understand the story behind the story” (11) by exploring the importance of worldview in personal and popular level interaction with film. Although I concur that “movies are the new myths of American culture,” over the past several years their volume has reduced their overall framing of culture. Interestingly, at the same time they have continued to paint “what it means to be American” through their growing global market. The more popular ones are becoming a bridge to cross-cultural conversation, as to whether they are mythology on the level of Joseph Campbell is to be seen.
“Part 2: Worldview in the Movies” digs into existentialism, postmodernism, and other worldviews. Even if this is an internal conversation among Christ followers, I find few youth (or adults for that matter) stimulated by such focused philosophical conversation. On the more academic end, I tend to find those in philosophy frustrated by such simple explanations. I believe that this is where the worldview conversation has to some degree broken down and it is important to focus on the story that is being told. Godawa’s short “Director’s Cuts,” woven throughout the book and the offering of questions to challenge personal growth at the end of each chapter, kept me engaged through Part 2. “Part 3: Spirituality in the Movies,” with the engaging conclusion (“Watching Movies with Eyes Wide Open”), pulled together the book beautifully.
On the practical level, “Appendix: Sex, Violence & Profanity in the Bible” is in my stock of material to draw from for a future Sunday school class, campus movie discussion series, and/or Emerging Scholars Network blog series. With some reframing of material and well-chosen film clips, I imagine walking through much of the book with adults at our local congregation. I would place the emphasis on cultural engagement, with some of the conversation focused upon parenting and engaging youth through various societal structures (e.g., education, local congregation, neighborhood, workplace). Maybe the youth minister would be willing to have me share some with the youth group. I’ll place that in my queue for future conversation. . . .
To God be the glory!
*AND I confess that I arrived to class to see that my classmates had a Revised and Expanded Edition. Time to order . . .
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!
Katherine K McCready says
Thanks for this helpful book review. I think it would be “largely unread” on my shelves too, if I owned it. I am now more interested in reading it and even more interested in joining your Sunday School class! Being the parent of a teen, I will pass this review on to our youth pastor as an idea to host a movie discussion in Youth Group. What a great way to help them develop critical thinking skills.
Tom Grosh IV says
You’re welcome Kathy! Thank-you for sharing the encouraging word and the post 🙂
Bonus: A short online resource by Brian Godawa is What to Look For When Watching Movies, http://godawa.com/wp/wp-content/themes/brian-godawa/articles/HW-MoviesWhattolookfor.pdf. I posted this piece and God Against the gods: 1. What C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien Understood About Myth (Brian Godawa. 6 min, 36 sec, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OWYklG0iXo) on the Emerging Scholars Network’s Facebook Wall, https://www.facebook.com/emergingscholars/).
In addition, under ESN’s movies tag (https://blog.emergingscholars.org/tag/movies), I recommend you explore and share Mark Eckel’s series When the Lights Go Down: Movie Review as Christian Practice, https://blog.emergingscholars.org/tag/when-the-lights-go-down/. Thank-you Mark!