It has taken me time to slowly digest the writings of Craig Detweiler's text, "Into the Dark." There is so much wisdom and years of life experiences that emanate from these pages that I can only address concepts that engage my own personal experiences. Like Detweiler, my personal film experiences as a youngster were about escapism and entertainment. I loved going to the movies. I remember being dropped off at the movie theater by my dad and seeing a triple James Bond feature with Doug Smith, my 7th grade friend, and still wanting more after the movie ended. I used my imagination and a world of make believe as a form of escapism. I can recall spending hours in the bathroom and my bedroom fantasizing that I was Bruce Lee beating up the bad guys with my Kung Fu moves.
I found Paul Schrader's description of the formation of a canon as a story very fascinating: "To understand the canon is to understand its narrative. Art is a narrative. Life is a narrative. The universe is a narrative. To understand the universe is to understand its history. Each and every thing is part of a story -- beginning, middle, and end." The thing that resonates in my heart as an artist is how to lead the viewer to the divine story, as referred by Jurgen Moltmann. How can I ask the right questions so the viewer is prompted to reflect and somehow have a general revelation from God? Moltmann said, "Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum acknowledged the power and importance of a film canon as an educational tool. It should start arguments about the art of cinema, causing us to reflect on what matters and why." As an educator and pastor, I am always seeking ways to have my students dig deeper and ask important and meaningful questions. Everything I use in the classroom, on set, or in the ministry can be defined as an educational tool that equips. This creates a series of experiments that have a built-in safety net and provides growth.
I agree with Detweiler about practicing what Jurgen Moltmann has advocated. This leads to an intimate relationship with the Lord and a divine connection with the Holy Spirit. "It is possible to experience God in, with and beneath each everyday experience of the world, if God is in all things, and if all things are in God, so that God himself experiences all things in his own way." To answer this question, "How can God communicate through such unlikely means as movies?" I found the term "general revelation" to be an interesting concept. Detweiler states, "The theological term to describe this phenomenon is general revelation. It suggests that God can speak through anyone or anything at any time." Detweiler continues, "Christ remains our only saving grace, but movies can provide moments of grace as well. They dispense comfort and hope. Only God knows which debased art forms can still prove helpful to the mysterious ways of the Spirit." God can use anyone at anytime for His will. The Wachowski Brothers weren't believers, yet they incorporated Christian-Judeo allegories in the box office hit "The Matrix."
Jurgen Moltmann said, "The theology of revelation is church theology, a theology for pastors and priests. The theology of experience is pre-eminently lay theology." The films I made before I was a follower of Christ engaged and challenged audiences. There were even some biblical themes that were addressed unintentionally. God used me as an artist before I was a follower and spoke through my films. The reverse hermeneutics of the Spirit guiding us from art (beauty) to ethics (goodness) to theology (truth) tends to be the process I work from when creating films and works of art. I agree that art making emerges from divine action. It is my passion to tell stories that reflect where I am spiritually, physically, and emotionally in life. I share the same sentiment that Detweiler does, wanting the viewer to connect with the story and to experience the grace of God. "Into the Dark" continues to challenge me to look, listen and receive where God is leaving an imprint in movies.