Sneak Preview of Christianity

Movie-goers are in for a treat when they buy tickets to Shadowlands, the new film about C. S. Lewis. Lewis is the author of the Narnia tales and several books on apologetics. His books have helped bring thousands of people into the kingdom of God. In fact, Mere Christianity was instrumental in my own conversion 20 years ago. Today thousands of people are lining up at ticket counters to see Lewis's life on the screen. And Shadowlands is a heart-wringer; Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins does a masterful job portraying Lewis in all his charm and complexity. As sheer entertainment, Shadowlands is hard to beat. But as genuine biography, the movie falls painfully short. It gives a colorful portrayal of Lewis's marriage to Joy Gresham, a former Communist. But it hardly breathes a hint of Joy's rich Christian faith. The movie shows the pathos of Joy's bout with cancer. But it omits the moving story of the healing service held at her bedside, and the startling remission that followed in her cancer. When Joy finally dies, the movie shows Lewis's heart-wrenching grief. But it ends on an ambiguous note that fails to do justice to the shining affirmation of Christian faith that came to Lewis in real life. But even if Shadowlands does not include the spiritual dimension as clearly as Christians might wish for, still we ought to applaud moviemakers for giving us a sympathetic portrayal of a significant Christian figure. Think how many times you've walked into a movie theater and seen Christian characters portrayed as tight-lipped hypocrites or crazed killers. Think how many times you've flipped on the TV to see a priest or minister portrayed as a buffoon, or worse. But this trend is beginning to turn. According to Ted Baehr, president of the Christian Film and Television Commission, the number of movies giving a positive portrayal of Christians went up dramatically in the past two years. Warner Brothers, one of the largest Hollywood studios, has even begun consulting with groups like Ted Baehr's to get a better reading on what audiences want. Up until now, that kind of consulting was done only with minority groups like feminists, gays, and Native Americans, who demanded the right to review movies and veto offensive stereotypes. I guess Christians have finally been identified as another interest group movie-makers don't want to offend. Well, Shadowlands certainly doesn't offend anyone, though it may leave Christians with the feeling that it doesn't tell the whole story. But the good news is that filmgoers are making their way to the bookstores to get the whole story for themselves. A check of Washington-area bookshops found a huge surge of interest in Lewis's work. Shop owners say they can't keep his books on the shelves. Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, ?they're all selling out. Thanks to Shadowlands, thousands of people who may never have heard of C. S. Lewis are reading his books . . . and hearing the Christian message. So why not invite your non-Christian friends to see the movie with you. Afterward, dry your eyes and loan them copies of his books. The movie just might be a sneak preview to real faith.


Chuck Colson


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