Show - don't tell (The Wind and the Lion)

Christians in art say that they make films as they do in order to communicate the Gospel message. So they usually have a strongly "Christian" perspective in terms of characters, setting, even story. And because it has been regarded as a sine qua non of Christian film that there should be an absence of the real, dirty, sinful world (violence, language, sex, drugs, smoking, dancing ...) this has made sure that many Christian films are sanitised bubbles.

Watching The Wind and the Lion last night brought home an alternative view.

Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli (played by Sean Connery) is a Muslim thug. He leads a gang like him and commands respect from his new men by killing their friends as an example of what he has saved them from. In such prose there is little to recommend him. And that is the point of the whole film. The woman who is kidnapped by him (along with her children) sees all of this and draws the conclusion that he is evil personified. And by the end of the film, when he has used his violence to save her and her children, even though they had run away from him, it is she who saves his life. She found in him something she didn't understand, something she couldn't take back to America, but something she could respect.

This slow-burning exposition of a character - not dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" - makes us intrigued as to what makes this man tick. We think we have him pegged as one thing and then he does another. We think he is a barbarous murderer, but then he recoils at the idea of killing those he has taken hostage. What appear to be inconsistencies to us are very consistent to him because he is different. He thinks differently and he acts according to his thinking.

Christian film is too concerned what other people will think. There are no active Christian heroes because we have this strange idea that Christianity ought to look moral to people who aren't Christians. So we iron out the passion of the Raisuli, the loyalty to a cause which acts from a higher motive, and risks being misunderstood. This passion can be more deeply attractive than a superficial niceness.

What if a Christian film could make an audience discover the difference it makes being a Christian rather than celebrate some watery common humanity? What if a Christian character could be brazenly offensive to an audience and yet command respect?

We have bought into the humanists' idea that Christians must be nice, non-offensive social workers. And we have brought along our own idiocy that Christian film cannot contain anything "nasty". How do we show the difference if we do not set stories in real life? How do we show a Christian character if we cannot bring ourselves to offend people who hate Christ?

We need to show - not tell. We need to paint a picture of vibrant Christianity - not have characters sit and talk about what God means to them.