Dr. Ken Cukrowski, Dean of the College of Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University, kicked off LCU’s fourth year of “thinking critically” initiatives on Tuesday, Sept. 2. This year’s theme of Thinking Critically about Popular Culture follows previous themes of poverty, civic engagement, and vocation.
Cukrowski shared a movie clip with students at chapel, beginning the day’s conversation of thinking critically about film. He then followed with a lunch program for faculty and an afternoon lecture for students entitled “Reel Christians: What I learned while Watching 1,000 Movies.”
Cukrowski used his time with students to examine the four questions he asks himself while watching a film:
• What is the message?
• What does it mean to think theologically about this film?
• What makes this movie “great?”
• What have I benefitted from watching and discussing this with others?
When considering the message of a film, Cukrowski asks himself if the message is wholesome and if the message can be applied to his own life. Schindler’s List, for example, influenced him to be “light during dark times.” He said that it is easy for good and evil to be mixed together in a film and distinguishing them can be difficult.
“I like to try and find the line while watching them,” he said.
Cukrowski said he used to believe that a film needed to have theological subject matter to impact his own values, but he now thinks differently. He said every writer and director’s own values will surface in the telling of the story. The job of the viewer is to consider whether what is being conveyed is honest or dishonest in relation to their own values.
Cukrowski “great” movie factors include:
• Repeatability: Can I learn something different each time I watch it?
• Significance: Does the subject matter?
• Impact: Does the movie affect how I think or what I believe?
Watching movies with other Christians is one of Cukrowski’s favorite aspects about film. He said that he enjoys the new questions and ideas that can come out of these discussions. Accountability between fellow Christians also takes place, allowing group members to keep each other honest, look deeper into the content, and apply it in their own lives.
“I love the diversity of a group discussion because each person experiences the movie differently,” Curkowski said.
The initiative of Thinking Critically about Popular Culture will continue through the fall semester with events such as the Writing Carnival, a chapel series on popular culture and worship, and the effect of technology on relationships.