Feature films have never been taken very seriously by mainline Protestants and Catholics as resources for spiritual growth. There still remains the stigma that Hollywood has no other goal than to provide escapist entertainment for the masses. For years we have recommended through our reviews and our Values and Visions Guides to films that religious groups use the best of these dramas to deepen their faith and expand their sense of God's healing work in the world.
We're happy to recommend this paperback book by Edward McNulty, a colleague and Presbyterian minister who like us has been carrying on a media ministry for decades. Here he has gathered together 31 scenes of grace from movies by artists who "invite us to explore the pain and the joy of being human, to look deeply into ethical issues and dilemmas, and at times to enter into worlds far different from our everyday experience."
Taking a cue from Malcolm Boyd's Are You Running with Me, Jesus? where he made a practice of praying the movies, McNulty has come up with a set of devotional meditations on these grace scenes. He surrounds each one with a passage from scripture, questions for further reflection, a suggested hymn, and a brief prayer. These can be used in a group context or by individuals at home maybe even in conjunction with the viewing of the movie whose scene is pondered and prayed.
Some of our favorite grace moments in contemporary films are covered: the cutting of the burdens of the soldier of fortune in The Mission; the meal of renewal in Babette's Feast; the reflection on the meaning of baptism in Tender Mercies; a father sharing his vision of love with a son in The War; the compassion of Sister Prejean in Dead Man Walking; and many others. McNulty opens up our appreciation for the many dimensions of grace that God uses to reach and teach and transform us. Praying the Movies is an invitation to utilize films as vibrant and edifying tools to equip the saints one of the most important ministries of Christian congregations.