Because of the influx of Christian movies being made in Hollywood lately, many are asking whether the Bible films and TV shows could help Christianity not just make a comeback and regain its lost prominence in American culture, but take the gospel message to other cultures around the globe.
Recently, it’s seemed as though the world’s largest faith has been on the rocks. Overall worship attendance is plateaued with many congregations closing their doors altogether—though the Pentecostal/charismatic movement is growing rapidly in Hispanic cultures. The percentage of the “nones,” the religiously unaffiliated, has soared from 8 percent in 1990 to 20 percent. Meanwhile, the “New Atheists” are declaring the pending death of Christianity, many believe the “Great Falling Away” is underway, and most agree morality is in decline.
Amid these disturbing trends, something completely unexpected has occurred—Hollywood has inexplicably stepped up and is releasing a flurry of faith films and TV shows.
“In 2015, Christianity may be making a comeback,” says Phil Cooke, a filmmaker, media consultant and an internationally-known writer. “Hollywood apparently saw it coming.”
Is Jesus Making a Comeback?
Kate Linder, a longtime actress on The Young and the Restless who starred in the recent film Miss Meadows, says it seems Hollywood is trying to figure out how it can “get back on track.”
“I think what’s happening is the world has just gotten a little crazy and people are searching for things to hang onto,” Linder told Charisma while attending Movieguide’s 23rd Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala in Universal City, California. “For me, it’s always important to go back to the basics and remember where we have come from.”
Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s A.D. television series is just one of several Bible-based TV shows and films coming out over the next few years. Arriving just behind last year’s record-breaking box office hits ‘Son of God’, ‘God’s Not Dead’ and ‘Heaven is for Real’, Hollywood is producing an tidal wave of faith entertainment. In fact, these films and TV shows were so plentiful—and profitable—that commentators referred to 2014 “The Year of the Christian Film.”
Largely driven by the precedent setting success of Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ ($630 million) a decade ago, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ series ($1.6 billion) and last year Burnett and Downey’s ‘The Bible’ series, which has been seen by more than 100 million people, numerous faith films and TV shows are now on their way to theaters and people’s living rooms.
This includes a new film from the producers of ‘God’s Not Dead’ entitled ‘Do You Believe?’ (March), Pastor John Hagee’s ‘Four Blood Moons’ (March), ‘Hillsong: Let Hope Rise’ (April), ‘David and Goliath’ (April), ‘Mary’ with Ben Kingsley and Julia Ormond (April), Alex and Stephen Kendrick’s ‘War Room’ (August), ‘Captive’ (September), ‘90 Minutes in Heaven’ (October), Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Jesus’ (2015), ‘Polycarp’ (2015), Anne Rice’s ‘Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt’ (March 2016) and ‘Ben-Hur’ (2016).
Meanwhile, Brad Pitt has mulled playing Pontius Pilate, director Ridley Scott is considering a ‘King David’ film and there are plans for a remake of ‘The Ten Commandments.’
“I think God is definitely working in this,” says Korie Robertson, a star on the A&E show Duck Dynasty who accepted The Epiphany Prize at the Movieguide gala. “I’ve been talking to people in the industry who are telling us how their attitudes have changed toward Christianity over the last few years. It’s just unbelievable. It’s definitely God at work.”
Robertson says Christians “better take” advantage of this opportunity to spread the gospel via the world’s most influential medium.
“Don’t let it pass us by,” Robertson says. “I think it’s time for us to jump in there with both feet and do what we are called to do—spread His Word.”
Will Jesus ‘Change the World’ via Hollywood?
In an especially inspirational scene in the ‘Son of God’ film produced by Burnett and Downey, Jesus (played by actor Diogo Morgado) tells Peter (Darwin Shaw) to drop his nets again even though there are “no fish out there.”
After pulling in a net bursting with fish, Peter asks Jesus, “How did this happen?”
Jesus tells him, “Come with me.” “What are we going to do?” Peter asks. “Change the world,” Jesus says.
Since Christ walked the earth 2,000 years ago, He and his followers have certainly done that. Now, many are asking whether Hollywood could be the vehicle through which Jesus radically changes the world once again.
“I think the younger generation is a little bit lost sometimes with no sense of direction and so I’m saying there is definitely a new wave of opportunities (with faith-based films and TV shows) that can inspire and touch people—and that’s tremendous,” Morgado says.
Shaw, who accompanied Morgado on the red carpet, says the doors of Hollywood are open for “re-examining these amazing stories which have shaped the foundations of Western society for the last 2,000 years.”
“I think a lot of people have sort of forgotten these stories and they have been sort of lost to the younger generation,” says Shaw, who played Adam in the remake of the 1979 Jesus film that has been seen by billions of people and resulted in more than 200 million decisions to follow Jesus. “So anything that actually helps people … in this complicated world that we are living in is a wonderful thing.”