Better Moral Discernment Requires the Cultivation of the Imagination

Christ and Pop Culture’s Nick Olson:

While I understand what Asay means, I think making this type of distinction is precisely where many Christian film critics misunderstand a crucial aspect of assessing film in the discerning way that they intend. Considering the moral tenor of a film has far more to do with how a film treats its content than with the specific content itself. (Which is not to say that the latter does not matter, merely that the former is significantly overlooked given its importance.) If the qualities that constitute effective storytelling are not done well, then the specific message of that story, however moral, will be compromised by virtue of these aesthetic failures.

Why have we come to make a rigid separation between content and context, between the what and the how, between the ethical and the aesthetic? Too many reasons to fit within the scope of this article, I’m afraid. Suffice to say, moral issues cannot be considered well when divorced from narrative context. This means that ethics are inextricably interwoven in good storytelling, or put differently, the Christian message is not something that can be properly depicted or considered apart from aesthetic considerations.