by Dan Rupple
Imagine my surprise when, after offering my three grandchildren the option of watching Star Wars during a cousin sleepover at our house, they passed on “The Force” and suggested instead, “Let’s have a conversation!” When I asked, “What’s a conversation?” our 6-year-old replied, “It’s when a lot of people get together and talk and talk and talk and talk about a lot of random things.”
Over the past decade, we’ve all witnessed the explosion of interactive communication triggered by the pervasive onslaught of digital media. And seemingly overnight, the most overheard word in the English language—especially among media professionals—became conversation.
Conferences that used to feature a lecture, talk, or teaching are now forums or symposiums inviting us to “join a larger conversation” taking place—one that allows our #hashtag voices to shape the narrative.
But is this phenomenon, in fact, new?
In Acts 17, we see that when the Apostle Paul entered into Athens, he immediately sought out the center of the cultural conversation. Where was it taking place? He found his answer in the Athenian “Starbucks” of yesteryear . . . the marketplace. And who was leading that conversation? The non-theistic philosophers who were shaping and guiding the public discourse toward the ideological “soup of the day.”
In today’s post-modern world, who is leading the Athenian center of conversations and where do we find them? In Plato’s time he observed it was “the storytellers that rule society.” Today, a fair cinematic spin would be that “the moviemakers rule society.” How often is the movie you saw at the local theater on Saturday night the topic of conversation in the office coffee room on Monday?
The stories shown on our screens inspire us, thrill us, scare us, amuse us, spark our imaginations, and fuel our conversations. We connect with movies and share them to connect with others. Different films spark unique kinds of dialogue. And independent films (like those shown at the Sundance Film Festival) provoke quite a different conversation than the films you might see at your local cineplex. Many independent films are putting a spotlight on a sober, more complex side of humanity. Frequently challenging, enlightening, illuminating, and occasionally breaking our hearts over injustice . . . all fodder for deeper, more introspective discussion.
But that isn’t to say that big-budget Hollywood fare—in all of its exciting, lighthearted escapism—doesn’t generate meaningful conversation long after the credits roll. Star Wars, for example, is chock-full of after-viewing allegorical topics, such as good vs. evil, the loss of a father, and a power outside of ourselves.
Movies, and the conversations they ignite, matter! The stories we watch can often provide divine on-ramps to a dialogue about the truth and grace of the gospel—relatable, understandable truths so crucial to our culture. Just as Paul entered the marketplace to tell the Athenians about the “unknown God,” we need to see the world as groping for a truth to live by, yet unknown to them, until someone is bold enough to enter into a cordial discourse about a God who knows and loves them.
This is the heart of the mission of Mastermedia: to intentionally and prayerfully build relationships, one conversation at a time, with the influential media makers, filmmakers, and artists of our day. And to appropriately infuse these discussions with the life-changing truth about the greatest story ever told—the love of Jesus!