A Metaphor That Transforms

    A young husband leaves home one night to run an errand for his wife -- and is killed in a car accident. He awakens to find himself at a busy train station. "Sir, you don't want to miss that train," the ticket seller warns him. Once on board, the man shares a compartment with a homeless woman who has also just died. It is, of course, a metaphor for those facing judgment after death. As the train races onward, the man paces nervously about, wondering about his destination. The film titled "The Limited" has a surprise ending, and I won't spoil it by telling it to you. But it's intended to make viewers consider their own lives and the choices they make. It won "Best of Show" at the 2001 Damah Film Festival in Seattle, and its spiritual theme illustrates how the arts can glorify God. Damah is an ancient Hebrew word meaning "a metaphor that transforms." Festival competitors are judged on their ability to create short films that celebrate the spiritual dimension of life -- works that "capture raw, truthful moments of spiritual redemption," preferably with surprise endings. The festival is hosted by Christians, but those who submit films come from many different faith traditions. Sean Dimond, a founding board member and filmmaker, says Damah's goal is to promote dialogue about spiritual issues and to introduce aspiring Christian filmmakers to an audience they might not otherwise have. In another Damah Festival winner, a film called "Gabrielle," an unborn soul is allowed to preview segments of her future life. She sees moments of great joy -- but also moments of deep tragedy. Will she have the courage to embark on the great human journey? And while the film's metaphor doesn't reflect literal Christian truth about our souls, it asks us whether we're willing to accept life on God's terms. In a humorous film called "Kosher," a pair of six-year-olds named Charles and Rachel want to get married on the school playground. But there's a problem: She's Jewish, and he's Christian. One has to convert -- and ignite family wrath for doing so. Scripture treats the arts as a divine calling -- which means Christians ought to support other Christians working in the arts. In his book State of the Arts, Gene Edward Veith describes a great Old Testament artist named Bezalel. God chose Bezalel and "filled him with the Spirit of God," Scripture tells us, "with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts." Typically, when we think of people being chosen by God and filled with the Spirit, we think of people sent into the ministry. But this text makes it clear that art is a calling enabled by the Holy Spirit. Just as Bezalel was gifted "to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze," so too Christians today are gifted and called into areas of creativity and the arts. Christian filmmakers, rather than simply criticizing the movies, seek to renew and inspire our culture by presenting a Christian vision of the world -- and do it with excellence. Rather than simply condemn bad secular movies, let's produce better ones. The 2002 Damah Film Festival takes place next month in Seattle. If you're a filmmaker or aspire to be, I hope you'll consider participating. On the Damah website you can also screen all the award-winning films, find out what happened to the man riding on "The Limited," and explore metaphors that transform. For further information: The BreakPoint "Christians in the Arts" kit includes two books to equip artists, and those interested in the arts, with ideas and inspiration for influencing the culture: It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (Square Halo Books, 2000) by Ed Bustard (editor) and others, and Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts (InterVarsity, 2001) by Steve Turner. Learn more about the Damah Film Festival. (You can view "The Limited" and other films on the site.) BreakPoint has also put together information on different groups in various branches of the arts. Jim Tonkowich, "Wilberforce Forum Co-Sponsors Damah Film Festival Tour: Encouraging Cultural Salt and Light," BreakPoint Online, 26 July 2002. Gene Edward Veith, Jr., State of the Arts (Crossway, 1991). Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (HarperCollins, 1987).


Chuck Colson


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