Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Exorcist, Getting the Hell Scared Out of You - Part 1

Can mainstream Hollywood movies made by nonbelievers have the ability to change your life and lead you toward God? Can they communicate truth? Do they have the power to challenge the decisions we make and the life we pursue? Absolutely. I am a living example. Yes, it can do all of the above and more.

In the early 1970s as a teenager, I saw The Exorcist with a few of my friends. At the time, The Exorcist was a big hit. It was provocative and cutting edge. It was the rage, a must-see film. The movie deals with God, demons and exorcism. Before watching The Exorcist, I wasn’t sure that to think about God. In fact, I had only been to church once in my entire life. I knew nothing about the Bible. And I wasn’t sure if God even existed. In other words, I was a nonbeliever. I did not have the opportunity or the good fortune to grow up in a Christian home. Call me a heathen.

But after seeing The Exorcist, something changed. Yes, it was the scariest movie I had ever seen in my entire life. But it was more than that. Its seemed so real. Perhaps, for the first time, I had the sense of what evil looked like, and it wasn’t a pretty picture. I could actually feel its presence. It shook the very foundations of how I viewed everything in life. If the devil was real, there had to be a God, right? And if the devil had that much power, shouldn’t that be something I should be concerned about? And if there was a war between God and the devil, which side did I want to be on?

That was a lot for a teenager to think about. In one sense, I felt like hell had been scared out of me. I’m not sure that’s what the filmmakers intended or the message they were sending. But it was clear to me that there was a spiritual world after all. No. I didn’t immediately give my life to God or convert to Christianity or, for that matter, start going to church. But it did start me on a pathway to seek the truth. And that, my friends, is the power of film. It would be another four years before I would become a Christian and a believer. But I have no doubt that it all started very innocently on a Saturday night at the age of 16 watching The Exorcist at the old Showcase Cinemas in Erlanger, Ky. It was a life-changing moment in my life.

Returning to the original question, can mainstream movies have the ability to lead us to God? Here are just a few other examples of films that convey truth and have the potential to lead viewers toward a relationship with God.

1999’s Fight Club spoke to an entire generation of post-modern youth. It is a search for meaning. The film follows the life of Jack, an upward, mobile executive, who wanders through a variety of twelve-step programs, until he meets Tyler Durden, a mysterious stranger. Both embark into a world of underground fight clubs where members enter into brutal and nonstop violence. Fight Club’s rallying call is “I Bleed. Therefore, I am.” This film speaks volumes about youth’s hidden pain. They want to feel something, even if it hurts. Jack cries out “Our fathers were our models for God. If our fathers fail, what does that tell you about God? In all probability, he hates you. We’re God’s unwanted children. So be it.” Fight Club is a call for help. It is a desperate appeal for love and God’s intervention. I doubt that many people could look past the violence and bad language to see the true meaning of this film.

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