By Tom Quiner
My wife and I pursue a ministry called “evangelization through entertainment.”
Our most recent production is “The Wedding at Cana,” a mini musical which was performed as Catholic dinner theater.
The DVD is in production and will be released shortly.
I believe in the power of entertainment as a tool to evangelize an easily distracted world. A priest at one of our recent performances marveled at the size of the crowd for The Wedding at Cana. He said, “we’d never be able to pull 150 parishioners for a Bible study.”
And yet entertainment can, and does, teach. It can also distort our Christian faith, and that is where things get interesting.
An artist necessarily extrapolates. He fills in the blanks. He tries to convey Truth through his own artistic interpretation of scripture. Sometimes, it is innocent enough. For example, there is a scene in my musical, “The Wedding at Cana,” where the bride and groom dance together, to a waltz, no less.
Historically accurate? No. Entertaining? Yes.
Did our artistic license distort the meaning of the Bible narrative on the Wedding at Cana? Absolutely not.
On the other hand, in last year’s movie, Noah, writer/director, Darren Aronofsky, turned Noah into a sociopathic monster and made the thrust of the film all about the evil of man’s dominion over the earth. This anti-humanism framing of the Biblical account of Noah was a significant departure from sacred scripture.
Some Christian viewers were put-off by Mr. Aronofsky’s revisionism; some weren’t. But you can see the power of entertainment at work. It can pull us into scripture and bring it alive in fresh, new ways.
Audience members at Wedding at Cana performances felt like they were guests at the actual wedding feast in Cana two-thousand years ago. As Monsignor Frank Bognanno put it, they won’t be able to think of that scripture passage the same after attending this performance:
“It was as though we were having a group Ignatian meditation in which we were ourselves involved with Jesus and Mary at the wedding feast. It brings the gospel alive. In a way it was unforgettable since I could never again read that passage without thinking of the enactment of the passage in our hall, a great moment to evangelize ourselves as well as visitors.”
I love movies that evangelize through an honest reading of scripture. I just ran across one with which I am not familiar, called “The Miracle Maker.” It is an animated account of Jesus with an all-star cast of voices, including Ralph Fiennes, William Hurt, and Julie Christie. I’ve posted a clip above. It came out back in 1999.
Catholic film critic, Steven Greydanus, loves the film so much, that he reviewed it again, some 16 years after its initial release. Here is an excerpt:
“The deft dovetailing of stop-motion and hand-drawn animation, though done for practical reasons, is so well thought-out that it becomes a formal device full of interpretive significance. Take the raising of Lazarus and the encounter with the risen Christ on the Emmaus road, told in subjective hand-drawn flashback, emphasizing, respectively, the unbelieving response of the Jewish leaders to the raising of Lazarus and the disciples’ failure to recognize Jesus on the road.
But when Mary Magdalene, and later Simon Peter, meet the risen Christ at the tomb, and again when he appears to all the disciples in the upper room, including doubting Thomas, he’s really there in three-dimensional space. The film thus artistically presents the resurrection and the disciples’ encounters with the risen Christ as objective, historical events. No Jesus film has ever done better justice to the resurrection appearance stories than “The Miracle Maker.” In that respect, is the ideal Easter film.”
This blog’s traffic always spikes during Lent with new readers seeking good ideas for Lenten movies. I’m looking forward to checking out The Miracle Maker this weekend. Let me know if you’ve seen it and have reactions.
In the meantime, keep supporting entertainment that artistically and honestly evangelizes the power and beauty of our Christian faith.