Editor: Change “Metro Voice News” in the fifth paragraph to the name
of your newspaper.
He’s a Hollywood producer who teaches Sunday School
In Hollywood, Ralph Winter is known as a producer of such well-known
hits as X-Men, X-Men 2 and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
But in his home congregation – Montrose Church in Montrose, Calif. -
- he is known as the Sunday School teacher who leads a class each
January and February examining movies from a biblical perspective.
Not surprisingly, it’s often standing-room only. That’s partially
because Winter has 44 movies, TV shows or documentaries to his
credit as a producer, including four X-Men movies, four in the Star
Trek series, and two Fantastic Four films. He’s also been a producer
on several projects with explicit Christian content, including The
Promise, Captive and Thou Shalt Laugh.
Winter said he wants to help Christians think more critically
about what they watch.
“The class looks at the Academy Award Best Picture nominees, so for
you to come to my Sunday School class, you need to see the Best
Picture nominees, bring your Bible and then we talk about it,”
Winter told the Good News. “What’s the movie about and how does that
match up with what we believe as Christians? And it’s always a
lively discussion: What’s the intent? What’s the story about? What’s
the journey about? The class loves it. People want to engage.
They’re watching these movies and they want to understand why they
do or don’t like what they’re seeing.”
Too often, Winter said, people are led astray by movies. As an
example, he points to the 1999 box-office sensation The Matrix,
which has Christian elements but at its heart “is not about
Christianity,” Winter said.
“That movie is about salvation coming from within,” Winter said.
“That’s not what we believe as Christians. We need a Savior. We need
salvation from outside of ourselves. … [The class] is about how do
we become better consumers, how do we build our skillset in
understanding what movies are about? Otherwise, we can be distracted
by the shiny things.”
Winter knows that many Christians are skeptical about movies. Still,
he thinks Christians should strive to understand and critique movies
because of their role in society.
“The best story wins in our culture,” he said. “That’s what cuts
through. And a lot of times, the agenda-driven propositional truth
that we try to promote – as, this is what you ought to do to become
a Christian – just doesn’t ring through for a lot of people. And
yet, telling stories does.”
By better understanding the themes behind a popular movie such as
Les Miserables, he said, “you can engage with people about a
spiritual dimension of that.”
“There’s plenty of stuff in the culture that we just need to be
cognizant of and see what gets attention and why it’s important and
why people are responding.”
Winter also teaches a class at Fuller Seminary about theology and
film. Recently, the class examined the movies Up and Adjustment
“We talked about free will and destiny, digging into what those
are,” he said. “We put those in play with a book like Ecclesiastes.
How does that work out? It’s really fun and interesting.”