Films and Faith.

Hello, enthusiastic readers. The kettle is on and I’m about to make a rather mediocre cup of coffee, as I’m not really a coffee enthusiast. However, I hope to make the enjoyment of writing my first blog entry less mediocre by pouring it into my Dalek coffee cup. “Caffeinate!” Perhaps only Doctor Who fans will understand that reference.

I’m not too sure what normal people use as the basis for their blogs nowadays. However, with an inkling of the trend for blogs, I understand them to be quite tedious for readers. I read entries by people that I know, and even by famous people, and I always get the sense that people write these things to make their lives sound much more exciting. Friends, I’ll be open and honest. Writing about your love life, your passion for baking, or how you’re getting progressively balder like James McAvoy as Charles Xavier in the X-Men prequel movies does not look or sound interesting when you’re reading it off a website. If you want to sugarcoat those episodes of life, make a movie starring Adam Sandler, Jack Black or Jim Carrey as yourself. They make simple tasks like pouring a bowl of cereal, drying you hair look respectfully ridiculous.

I understand that not everyone reading this is going to know me that well, so I think a short introduction would be appropriate, just so that everyone’s on the same level. I’m Peter, a student from Belfast working towards a BA in Theology and History. I’m an amateur filmmaker and progressing photographer with a passion for the sci-fi and fantasy genre. The latter half of that sentence for a lot of people probably denotes that I’m a bit of a geek. If that’s what you’re thinking, then you’re not entirely wrong. You’re half wrong. I’m a huge geek, no shame there. If you know me personally, then you probably have a good idea of the kind of stuff that I’m interested in. You can probably tell me what I’m thinking right now too, without telepathy. Yes, I’d love to be in San-Diego for Comic-Con right now. Stupid Belfast.

It’s no secret that I’m a massive Whovian, Trekkie, Jedi, and I love my superheroes and comic books too. If you’ve just had a mental image of Sheldon Cooper, then please, dispense with that image. I’m nothing like Sheldon Cooper. Yes, I’m clever, and I dress like him, but I’m also nice. I’ve been the same five-year-old boy with a vivid, playful and adventurous imagination to this day as a twenty year old. So, in that respect, I’ve never really grown up. And, I’ve probably never looked at the world in the way that I should. Most people just call me odd and eccentric. Am I odd and eccentric?

I’m also unashamedly a Christian, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ when I was sixteen years old. That part of my story is obviously quite instrumental in the whole idea of taking three years out of my life after I finished an A-Levels in Film and Art to study Theology in a bible college. However, I don’t want to go into my life story here. The real reason why I started this blog is to journal the thoughts that I’ve been having for the past year and a half, and impart them to you. You’ve probably guessed that this where the entry gets quite deep and philosophical. If you still want geeky humour, there’s a really funny video on YouTube of Darth Vader riding a hover board around the house and failing miserably. Just envisage that in your mind’s eye. Hilarious. Otherwise, read on.

When I started Bible College in my first year, I went through this really difficult phase of not really knowing why God had sent me there. One of the obvious things that Christians sometimes automatically convince themselves of before starting, and in their early days at bible college is that they’re going to go straight from two or three years of theological study into some form of pastoral ministry. When I told even my non-Christian friends at school, my friends at Church, and my family that I felt led to Bible College, most of them immediately assumed that I was intending to go into the ministry. I’m going to be one hundred per cent honest: despite noting that as a possibility, I really didn’t feel led to that particular calling. My future wasn’t really clear at the time. I was too busy living in the moment, making every second of my time in school count towards getting into university.

As a big child at heart, throughout even my later years at school I was always very creative. I can remember being very young with dreams of being an actor when I left school. Mostly British actors inspired me; like David Tennant, but also big actors on bigger productions like Harrison Ford, Leonard Nimoy, and the incredibly talented Mark Hamill. Those dreams throughout my later years at school developed into the desire not just to act, but also to script, shoot, direct, edit and design costumes, locations and sets. Basically, I wanted to be a one-man production crew. I know that’s impossible. But it was my dream.

The past year and a half for me at university and Bible College has been full of even more confusion and anxiety concerning my future. For a while, I really didn’t know where God was leading me after my graduation, how he wanted me to serve Him, how I could use my gifts to influence people for Christ, to preach the Gospel. I thought that starting college would help me get a better idea. But, it often seemed much more difficult. At the time I really struggled with the on-going misrepresentations from others as some sort of potential minister, youth pastor, or even schoolteacher. In those early days, I felt like a portrait on a canvas being reworked by a disapproving artist.

I was often inflicted by the opinions of those who didn’t seem to like my unveiling authenticity and desire to make my own path. “Just conform and don’t make your own path, or leave your own trail”, that’s what I felt some people were saying. But, I’ve always believed that in order to be truly infectious and inspirational, you have to truly be yourself, and you have to do the things that no one has ever done. Carbon copies are often difficult to aspire to. To paraphrase Muhammad Ali, the man who has no authenticity “has no wings.” Fortunately, I had found a small group of friends in college on their way to graduation who I could confide in. I could laugh with them, cry with them, be ridiculous with them, and share my vision with them. Reflecting on that experience, it’s really revealed to me that even in our darkest and most difficult times, God puts the right people in your life as further encouragement that you’re still on the right track.

Despite the fact that I’m still on this difficult yet educational journey of discovery, going into my third year of college in October, I have a better idea of the way in which God wants me to serve him with my gifts. In short, I believe that God has gifted me with the eye for filmmaking. This past while I’ve been thinking of the ways in which the sci-fi, fantasy and superhero movie genres on our screens long for and echo the gospel truth. Screenwriters like J.J. Abrams and George Lucas are not so deliberate in these analogies, but if you really put you’re mind to it when watching films like Star Wars, the unintentional analogies become clear. As an aspiring Christian filmmaker however, I want to make the analogies much more deliberate. We can understand old hymns and songs as reflections on the Gospel as oppose to quoting scripture word for word, and song writing is in one sense creative. So, why can’t we do that with the art of filmmaking and at least some of the different creative genres like sci-fi, fantasy, and even romantic comedies? So, part of my journey now is learning how the narratives in pop culture can reveal the larger story of God at work in the human heart. And, as I continue, I want to keep blogging, largely because it’s a nice keepsake to look back on and see how far I’ve come. But, I also hope that these thoughts will encourage you in some way, whether you know me or not. Excelsior, enthusiastic readers.