The Rev. Kara Eidson, minister, Wesley KU, 946 Vt.:
I could spend several years writing an article every week about my favorite movies with religious themes. However, because I have to narrow it down to just one, I choose Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 “Contact,” based on Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel by the same name.
(For those not familiar with the film, check out the full synopsis at imdb.to/3cxprn.)
The film follows Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), who spends her life searching for extraterrestrial life, gleaning from her father, “If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”
But Ellie is searching for far more than aliens; Ellie is searching for meaning and purpose. When Ellie discovers a radio signal that proves the existence of extraterrestrials, the entire world responds.
After Ellie travels through space and meets the alien beings, she returns to Earth to find that her entire journey has taken only seconds of Earth time; thus, many politicians and non-scientific individuals doubt Ellie traveled anywhere.
The majority of people believe she simply dreamed her encounter with the aliens. She responds at a hearing: “I had an experience. … I can’t prove it, I can’t explain it, but everything that I know as a human, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever. A vision that tells us how rare and precious we all are … that none of us are alone! I wish I could share that awe and humility, and hope.”
I have often felt that this science-fiction film sums up my faith beautifully in this one scene — that the vision I find in the Gospel tells me we are not alone; that within my faith I find awesome humility, but also awesome hope for humankind.
— Send email to Kara Eidson at email@example.com.
Deacon Godsey, pastor of vision implementation at Vintage Church, Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, 1400 Mass.:
For a movie lover and pastor, this is a hard question. I love movies and respect the art of filmmaking; that being said, I don’t typically enjoy “religious” movies for reasons too numerous to mention.
I guess I could say movies such as “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben Hur,” etc. And while those are well-made films, I can’t call them my “favorites.”
If a movie is to reach that level, it has to stick with me. It has to stir my heart, make me laugh, challenge me to think and make me want to come back to it again and again. With that in mind, my favorites include:
In the “stirs my heart” category: “The Miracle Maker.” With voice talents like Ralph Fiennes and William Hurt, and the incomparable story of the life of Jesus, this film stirs my heart with gratitude and inspires awe at His humanity, compassion and power.
In the “makes me laugh” category: “Nacho Libre.” I know that might sound like an odd choice, but the religious themes are prevalent throughout, and when Jack Black appears on screen I start laughing.
In the “challenges me to think” category: “Doubt.” Based on a play by the same name, its content is not without controversy, but the performances and dialogue do an incredible job of causing you to think deeply and to ask hard questions.
Finally, in the “again and again” category: “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy. These movies succeed on almost every conceivable level, with spiritual parallels that capture my heart, stir my imagination and a story that inspires me to live the life I’m called and designed to live.
— Send email to Deacon Godsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.