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When I feel low, I often cheer myself up by watching US-made Christian movies. I’m not proud of this. Very few are well made or intellectually complex. I’m drawn to them for other, perhaps less respectable reasons, some of which I will share here today.

First, you should understand that the Christian movie industry is a very much booming trade. After the injection of pace with Mel Gibson’s (slightly dodgy) ‘Passion of the Christ’, even the most atheistic Hollywood producer has come to recognise the massive profit-potential in religious film-making. Most ordinary Americans are devoutly attached to their faith, and of these a great number feel alienated by the over-worldly content churned out by conventional L.A productions. It seems only logical then that faith-based productions enter the void left over.

And they have done. They really have. Christian films now reliably bring in millions of dollars, usually despite a paltry budget and so creating a gaping profit margin for the makers.

What are they like? As I perceive the matter, Christian films are usually small variations on the following plot structure: Good Christian girl/boy living a wholesome American life – falls into temptation (drugs, fame, sex, wealth etc…) – gets burnt by the sin they fall into – are saved by their old friends or family from their former wholesome life.

Sounds stupid? I suppose it is. But then there is something weirdly magnetic and comforting in the uncomplicated innocence these films advertise. If the idea of the movies is to tempt you into a different, more wholesome way of life, they are successful to the extent that they make that way of life seem joyful and safe. You come away from one of these films with a desire to avoid falling into life-traps, perhaps even to get out of life-traps you are already in. The feeling doesn’t last long enough for you to do anything about it, of course, but it certainly stays in your mind longer than the messages of Taken 3 or the latest sci-fi abomination.

Christian movies are also appealing to me because of their all-American feel. The characters at the beginning of each film (before the temptations and fall from grace) are living the American dream; a suburban house, a nice car, and a tight family with one beautiful cheer-leading daughter and one athletic and good-mannered son. I’ve always been drawn to idyllic caricatures like that. It matters nothing that this isn’t the reality for 90% of real American families. As shtick goes, it works for me – like a social watercolour painting.

A list of Christian cinema’s flaws would be as long as the list of its virtues. Christian movies are often anti-Semitic (the temptation villain trope character in a film usually looks Jewish). They are homophobic as a matter of course. And though the lead character in each production is usually female, she is also passive, secondary and naïve. These films are anything but politically correct, and this explains sufficiently why they will never break through into the mainstream.

By any religion’s standards I’m a sinner. I like anything that brings me pleasure and have indulged more than I should in uncountable vices. Perhaps it is for that reason that the morals of Christian cinema strike me as exotic and fascinating. They are foreign, but in a way I can’t easily belittle or reject.

D, LDN