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In his Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2012 workshop, “From the Prince of Egypt to Batman:  Can Film Illuminate Scripture,” Vic Thiessen used film clips, brief case studies, and scripture passages to show that film can allow us to see biblical stories and themes in new ways. Vic is Mennonite Church Canada’s Executive Minister, Church Engagement and Chief Administrative Officer.

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July 17, 2012
-Rachel Bergen

Vancouver, B.C. — Film has become the most important entertainment medium of this time and can shed light on scripture, said Vic Thiessen, Mennonite Church Canada’s Executive Minister, Church Engagement and Chief Administrative Officer.

Thiessen has been a film buff for decades, has an extensive personal collection of films, and blogs about film and faith.

In his workshop, From The Prince of Egypt to Batman: Can Film Illuminate Scripture, Thiessen used film clips, brief case studies, and scripture passages to show that film can help us to see biblical stories and themes in new ways.

With clips from The Prince of Egypt and The Last Temptation of Christ, Thiessen illustrated how film helps viewers understand stories, like those of Moses and Jesus, in an entirely new way.

“There are about 20 films made about Jesus in the past 100 years. Some portray the divinity of Jesus or the humanity of Jesus. I have seen an American Jesus, a Jewish Jesus, a Marxist Jesus, a New Age Jesus, a rebel Jesus, a Jesus as a pacifist social critic, etc. All help me to think of Jesus in new ways,” he said.

“I watch one Jesus film a year to get me thinking about Jesus in a new way,” Thiessen said.

Thiessen offered two popular cultural themes in film that relate to scripture including the myth of redemptive violence and superheroes.

In a clip from Joyeux Noel, Thiessen showed participants that the church is often complicit in dehumanizing enemies and perpetuating redemptive violence.

According to Thiessen, the idea of a superhero is very appealing to most people because the moral landscape is black and white and provides a quick and easy solution to the problems at hand.

Thiessen used Spiderman 2 to ask if we could all be superheroes with the right inspiration and motivation.

Jesus was once that inspiration. “Jesus can inspire us to be real life, non-violent, compassionate heroes as we work to fill the world with God’s shalom,” Thiessen said.

Finally, Thiessen shared clips from the movie, American Beauty, to show how films often portray the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes.

American Beauty shows the emptiness of the American dream and attempting to gain absolute control in one’s life. Watching the film helps us understand the themes of films from Batman to the Prince of Egypt.

See complete coverage of Assembly 2012