Scott Derrickson is a deeply dedicated Christian. He went to Biola University (a Christian university) where he double majored in Communications with an emphasis on theology, as well as Humanities with an emphasis on philosophy. He is a master story teller who weaves prominent spiritual elements into his work day in and day out. He even made a loose adaptation of CS Lewis’ famous ‘Screwtape Letters’. You may not have heard of it though, since it had an unusual name:
It turns out that Scott Derrickson is one of the leading directors in Hollywood when it comes to Horror movies. He was drawn to the cinematic nature of horror movies, and uses that setting to explore profoundly spiritual themes like suffering and evil. He cites Flannery O’Connor (a Christian essayist) as a prominent influence on his creative work: “To the deaf, you have to shout and to the blind, you have to draw big, startling circles”. So Derrickson draws startling circles to explore profound ideas.
I feel it is safe to say that there aren’t many in the church going world that would consider Horror movies a form of evangelism. In fact, I know some of us would say it’s among the least Christian genre of films. (I mean, after all, it’s no ‘God’s Not Dead’ or ‘Heaven is For Real’).
Derrickson is a member of a growing contingent of Christian ‘exiles’; Christians who are trying to glorify God and point people toward Christ in secular settings. These are men and women who work in careers that appear to have little, if anything, to do with spirituality or faith. Careers like sales, medicine, and film. And these exiles have a good precedent set for them in the Bible of all places.
In Daniel 1, we watch Daniel get carried off to Babylon, where he is put into formal training for the king. He’s going to study the language, culture, and even the religion of the Babylonians. When that formal training period is over, he’s going to work directly for the king. Daniel gets a lot of attention for refusing to eat the food from the king, and rightfully so. He abstains from eating the food because he doesn’t want to “defile himself” (said another way, he’s trying to honor God).
But you’ll notice that Daniel doesn’t refuse the training or education. Daniel doesn’t refuse to advise the king when asked. He doesn’t try to convert the king with every conversation. Apparently, Daniel can work in a secular culture without defiling himself.
Christians can struggle with trying to find a balance between sacred and secular. Too often, our lives outside of the church can feel distant or disconnected from our lives inside them. And this can result in many Christians who wall themselves off from the world around them. Sure, they work “in the world”. But they only watch Christian movies, listen to Christian music, and read Christian books. Their only friends are people they know from church (it helps them stay pure and holy).
That’s not the biblical model we’ve been shown though. Daniel remained holy while using his job to glorify God and save lives. Christ partied with drunkards and prostitutes, even inviting some of them to come with Him. And Scott Derrickson uses horror movies to tell people about evil and suffering, hoping to point them to a light.
The best way to help people see the light Christ offers us isn’t to force them to stare at it like a Mag Light to the face; it’s to put glimpses of it wherever we can, leading them back to the source of the light. And when we wall ourselves off from the world, we put a bowl over our lamp.
And I feel like Jesus has some specific things to say about that.
Let me know your thoughts down below.
Remember, I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.