It is said that harmony was illegal. That’s the essence of the iconic, Gregorian chant.
Pope Gregory the first was compiling music in a time that had some presumptions about harmony and tri-tones and how all those sound waves related to God. Apparently, certain collisions of forced air produced either goodness …or evil. Who knew?
Some people in those days would’ve never approved of the harmony I was raised singing, in church. Finding the third and the fifth and singing along would be tantamount to sorcery or witchcraft in that world.
Centuries later, I sat in a Sunday School class and listened to someone tell me about the evils of rock-and-roll drums and guitars (two things I still love, by the way). Someone actually taught a class (I was forced to sit through, in high school) on something called “the masturbation beat.” If you’re rolling your eyes right now, so was I.
I hate to break it to everyone, but when you’re in high school …any beat is the masturbation beat. But I digress …
Every generation of the faithful has new pieces of artistic expression they consider to be “heresy.” And it makes me wonder why art and faith always seem to be so at odds.
Christian movie making is a relatively new phenomenon. And it’s trying to find its way. And like every other art form before it, it’s getting the once-over from the spiritual score keepers.
I’ve been reading posts about “why you should NOT go see The Shack” and I’ve been thinking to myself, “are we still doing this? Really???”
I honestly thought we were beyond all this nonsense. But apparently not.
I suppose there are some who feel the need to censor for everyone else, in the name of holiness. Only this time, instead of harmony or a backbeat, we’re censoring allegory and metaphor. Those things are a little trickier and nuanced than a four-on-the-floor kick pattern or a Marshal stack turned up to eleven. But they are in the current crosshairs.
A friend and I sat in Brad Cummings’ home about three years ago, while he was in the throes of making The Shack. He regaled us with stories about how hard it had been to get the film made, how many directors, producers and writers it had gone through and how many stars had signed on then backed out …then signed on again. He was pulling his hair out at the process. And he just wanted to tell the story as purely as he possibly could. But he knew, even then, he was going to ruffle feathers somewhere, no matter how it was done.
Film is such a collaborative thing. It’s amazing to me any film ever gets made in the first place. And films that are trying to represent faith on the screen usually end up being one dimensional, artless and predicable. Because, among people of faith, there is often so much fear in portraying wonder. Orthodoxy is always standing there like a beat cop, scolding, “you can’t say it or show it that way. Here are three scriptures that will tell you why.”
Well, orthodoxy told some people 1500 years ago they couldn’t sing harmony. It told ME I shouldn’t listen to the Rolling Stones or Prince. No thanks, orthodoxy. Jesus turned water into wine …not wine into purified, reverse osmosis water.
I’ve never read The Shack and I don’t intend on seeing it. But not because I’m trying to guard my precious, fragile faith. It’s just not on my list of things to read or see. But I do know this …
The Shack got made for the same reason 50 Shades of Gray got made. Because the book sold millions and millions of copies. And NOBODY in Hollywood is going to overlook that. Those are guaranteed eye balls. That’s money in the bank.
But what happens to films like The Shack without the popularity? Actually …I kinda know.
The film based on my book has been making the rounds for its 6th year, now. And I can tell you without hesitation that if my story included a scene where the Regie and Yolanda characters joined hands in prayer and rededicated themselves to Christ in a broken down little-old country church somewhere, THEN went on to become one of America’s foremost praise and worship leader couples, at one of America’s largest churches …there are 43 millionaires in Texas who would’ve funded it already. And it would be considered “a great testimony.”
If there were a prominent gay character in my film, who challenged the orthodoxy of American faith, there are 43 millionaires in Hollywood who would’ve funded it already. And it would be a 17 part mini-series on ABC …re-aired on Bravo in an unprecedented deal.
If it were some sort of conservative manifesto, there are 43 millionaires (who would remain anonymous) who would’ve funded it in secret.
If it were an indictment of the American healthcare system PRE Obamacare, and basically allowed HIM to be the hero of the film …thus torpedoing the current, pending legislation …Harvey Weinstein would’ve personally life-flighted my family to Mount Olympus to strike a deal.
The problem is none of that is true. It’s just a redemptive love story that is essentially a miracle. And it takes place in some epic places and through some epic events. And God is in it …if you’re looking for him. But there is no ulterior motive other than telling a great story. And these days …that’s not enough.
I say, if you want to go see The Shack …go see it. I know some of the people who made it and they’re just human beings. That’s all. And if you do see it, take from it what you want and leave the rest. Or take nothing from it at all.
But know that it is still okay for the film to exist.
As I age, I am less and less interested in the hard, cold facts about God. I am more and more interested in the wonder of life and love.
I say sing harmony. Play loud guitars. Listen to sick beats. Watch movies that challenge your beliefs.
I bet you’ll be okay.