The Case for Christ: An Interview with Screenwriter and Co-Producer Brian Bird
How many times have you said this as you’ve sat down to see a Christian film?
I’m sure your inbox gets as full as mine with invitations and endorsements about the latest attempt to dignify our faith on the silver screen.
Every once in a while there is a good one that steps forward from all the really, really awful ones. Let’s be honest, though – there have been a lot of really, really awful ones.
Is anyone else other than me tired of seeing a “Christian movie” comprised of nothing more than a few bumper sticker thoughts someone built a story around?
So in light of all of that, what is one to make of the latest offering called The Case for Christ?
I’d love to give you the short answer along with the long answer. The work you’re doing with students is too important to mince words.
The Case for Christ has integrity, hope, and patience that allows space for doubt and ingredients for assurance. It’s a well-produced film about a real story that’s about an even more real Story.
I had the honor of interviewing the screenwriter and co-producer Brian Bird. He’s no stranger to the industry, and yet feels this is the most meaningful move he’s ever been involved in.
TM: You’re obviously involved in many different faith-based movies and television shows, from When Calls the Heart to Touched By An Angel. There’s definitely been a growing genre of Christian entertainment – some of which has been quite weak. You’ve somehow masterfully avoided that. Tell me about your values as you go into a movie like The Case for Christ.
BB: That’s very kind of you to say. I have a theology about work and the creative process I enter into, and it’s this… we are made in the image of the Author of the universe… we’re supposed to attempt to be the Michaelangelos of what we do, because it’s not about us but it’s not about our Maker… I just think that as believers we should be pursuing that, and it’s a crime against heaven when we don’t. It sells ourselves short, sells the world short and sells God short. It’s about sharing our best version of the gift He’s given us to point humanity to Him.
TM: That’s obviously a big risk for any of us to take. We may put something together that other people don’t find to be quality work.
BB: That is the rub. The church should be patronizing these types of things. The church in the Renaissance patronized all the great art in history… it helped get that art out of the church. What happened to us? We don’t in the same way support great efforts like that or our young people so that they might pursue excellence on behalf of the Creator.
I’m not saying every film that comes along deserves a big audience. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s more of a work in progress that not quite up to what it could be. Maybe those artisans are still finding their way. But if we feel anything that’s of God from a movie, song, concert, stage play or a novel, we need to be patrons of those things as believers – especially if it excels artistically. We need to return back to the kind of patronage of the Renaissance… because why would the risk-takers ever do it again if we don’t reward them for it?
I really believe that. And yet we sort of all are inclined to sit back and take pot shots. Or we don’t go and say, “I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD.” You know what? The risk-takers do put a lot of resources on the line and risk it all in terms of something they believe in. If indeed that work is a good work, we need to show up in droves and support that to say, “Congratulations. We love what you’ve done here. We want you to do more. Here’s our ten dollars to support you in that.” To me, that’s almost a theological premise.
TM: Love that! So in terms of The Case For Christ, what is in it for students or youth workers who might want to share it with them?
BB: I love that question! Youth workers know all the evidence is in about how our young people are walking away from our faith. A huge percentage of young people are leaving the church. There are probably a multitude of reasons for it… I’ve seen it happen in our own experience with friends and neighbors. Young people are not being given the discipleship tools for some reason. They’re not being equipped to step into college where they are challenged at higher levels of learning. They’re not prepared for the onslaught that they’re going to get.
It’s almost like this next generation is missing a catechism from within the evangelical community where kids can hold onto the characteristics of who God is… that He’s wise, loving and good, right? That He’s sovereign and holy. Some of these pillars of our faith are missing and they don’t know how to articulate it. Most of us are incapable are sharing our faith with anyone, be it because we haven’t worked on it or studied enough.
The Case for Christ movie for people of faith is an incredible booster shot for how to talk about your faith and explain what you believe. This movie is a tool to not only train ourselves up but literally bring a student or friend to and say, “This is what I believe. This is what I’ve been trying to tell you as imperfectly as I’ve been trying to say it in the past. I want you to see this with me so we can then have a conversation about it.”
TM: That really takes it from “Bring your youth so they get saved in the theater” to more “Use this to add to the relationships you already have with students to create a better defining moment with them one-on-one.”
BB: This movie stirs up cravings among people of all ages. It also stirs up conversations. Rick Warren once told me, “Brian, if all you do is draw people to the door of my tent I’ll do the rest. I’ll take them the rest of the way.” So bringing them to the door is huge because of all the cultural noise and massive barriers against that.
What I really believe about movies is that we can stir up conversations among real people to then share the most important tool in the universe together. We really do have the cure for everything. We have the cure for cancer. We have the cure for AIDS. It’s called the Cross… salvation through Jesus… sacrifice, and the grace that comes from it. Yet we sit on it instead of sharing that cure. This movie is the best tool in a long time in communicating those principles so young people can share it with their friends… for youth workers to share it with young people and parents… for a church to share it with the world.
The Case for Christ plays beautifully for young people. Because it’s urgent. It’s a movie about adults, but the way it’s told will be entertaining for young people as well. It’s rated PG so parents don’t have to worry about bombs being dropped on their kids. This is not the only movie you can do it with, but this one happens to be coming at a really important time in our culture.
I think you get the picture. I’ve seen this film and plan to see it again. This is a win, so let’s get behind it.
The Case for Christ is one of the most meaningful movies to date about and for our faith, and it should be seen in a theater. Even if you only get your adult leaders or parents out to it, you have the opportunity to grow a solid confidence in them that can be handed down to your students for years to come.
That begins with what you will do with it in this moment.
Do get your hopes up.
Tony Myles is the Lead Pastor of CONNECTION CHURCH, an authentic movement of God in Medina, Ohio. As a self-described “messy Christ-follower with a passion for the church’s future,” he’s spent over 25 years helping people of all ages take their next steps with Jesus. Tony is an author, conference speaker, volunteer youth worker and ministry veteran who is still learning what it means to follow Jesus. You can follow him on Twitter via @TONYMYLES
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.