I, just like several other Nigerians my age, grew up watching Christian movies. Critical-thinking and inquiries that may come off as a rebellion towards traditions are not necessarily welcomed in African societies, and more specifically, Nigerian ones, especially the ones that are religious, so I kept many things to myself. I was a very repressed person until a few years ago when I engaged more actively in analyzing several things that have barely been questioned, although they reek of myopia. The rest they say is history. I am now more willing to address issues without a fear of rejection or rebuke, more free-thinking too, and I am grateful to God for that.
Yes, Christian movies are unprogressive. Before I express why I have stated so, let me say this: please note that this is not an attempt to bash any religion or rubbish anybody’s work in any way. I was a drama minister for a short time and I respect the good morals that Nigerian Christian movies teach. Respect for parents, reverence for God, kindness to others (especially when it is to result in “winning” their souls for Christ, humility, and the importance of obedience are taught, but these movies are not perfect, especially the ones that are evangelism and soul-winning driven. The narratives are often narrow-minded, inconsistent with the times, and unfair to people of a certain gender [there should be very little or no confusion as to which is which if you are familiar with these movies], but that is okay because many religions are laced, if not thoroughly soaked, with misogyny, all under the guise of doing “God’s will” and following His or Her or Their plan, as the case may be.
Religion is the opium of the masses after all. Religions give people reasons to live and guide them through how to, and in most cases, even offer the promise of a better world if one does well in this one, and that’s awesome. The not-very-awesome part of a religion is that it can make multitudes close-minded, stupid, unkind to certain people, discriminatory, and point-blank ignorant.
First of all, think of the way rape is portrayed in the scene that I’m about to narrate. I will not name any movies throughout this piece except I really have to. Then you can be thoroughly certain that I will list several. A young lady in secondary [or high] school, I’ll call her Lady X, sneaks out to a house party. Her mother is not in the city at the time and she does not know about the party. Lady X meets a few guys and she is drugged. She is carried into one of the rooms and is raped, terribly raped even, as we got to know later. It’s a Christian movie; of course, that part was left to the imagination. A few people visit Lady X and tell her that God can forgive her and restore her back to who she was, put pieces of her “shattered life” back together and heal her. That is very nice. Indeed.
“So, what happened to the rapists?”, you might ask, if you have not been too desensitized against this form of sexual violence. In a very brief scene, police officers arrive at the school to take some students who knew about the party as well as the rapists away. “At least they are going to get some punishment,” you would think. What is the problem here?
When are Christian filmmakers (or those who practice any religion at all, or those who are concerned about morality whatsoever) going to start addressing the fact that rape in and of itself is bad, since the mainstream ones are not doing it? Let’s take it that rape is not too much of a consequence for a person who has snuck out of their home, who has disobeyed their parent, for the purpose of the movie, since realistically, it could happen. Females are being raped by people in their own homes, by their own relatives [heck, by their own uncles and fathers] in Nigeria. These include less-than-ten-year-old girls, children, even babies, who grown-up men should not be attracted to at all, let alone heartless enough to rape or sexually assault in the slightest. Christian movies are not portraying that dressing is not the major factor, as far as rape is concerned- dressing, disobedience or anything else. It’s quite unfortunate that I even need another paragraph to explain this further.
“Dressing well” as a means of avoiding/escaping being raped is quite unfair. In Saudi Arabia, for example, where most of the women are so modest in their dressing, as much as it is pushed under the rug and inaccurately reported on, rape is very prevalent. Rape is entirely the fault of the rapist, entirely. Anything else is just a justification for the wicked act. The marital and statutory rape of females are not being addressed yet in these movies, let alone the sexual abuse of young boys and men, which are happening, as ugly as they are. These things are happening on a daily basis and a blind eye is being turned to them. For how long are we going to wait before Nigerian filmmakers at large properly address it?
So, when I say narrow-minded narratives are being published, and the same matters are being excessively re-addressed and recycled, so much so that most of these movies are flat-out boring, in all sincerity, don’t look at my article funny.
The one that is more or less the ‘cancer’ of things is the distrust that is created among people. Many times, when a woman befriends another woman, and the other one is not married, you can be sure that the non-married [single, previously-married, divorced or widowed] one would try to seduce her friend’s husband. It must be in the Christian-movie constitution. She starts by helping her friend with house-chores and whatnot, especially when the married friend is at her lowest or just very busy, and soon enough, as expected, she bewitches her friend’s husband. It’s a very frequent narrative that is not very healthy.
In addition, hardly do you see men in the kitchen in these movies, except they have done something wrong and they are doing housework as a means of apologizing or fostering reconciliation. “Let me help you with the dishes” as a line from the husband is not a very good line. If the housework have been assigned, and although it is the woman’s turn to sweep the floor, he decides to help, that is fine. If that is not the case, how is it “help”? These narratives are not very good, but they are convenient for a few, very convenient, and so there is little or no change. In most of the movies in which women are given strong roles/presence, they usually end up crying and asking God for forgiveness because they have deserted their families or done something wrong. Hardly do you see a Christian movie in which a female character is presented and maintained till the end. If her daughter does not die as a result of neglect, her husband will run mad. How unfair.
Then this one; a man beats his wife till she’s black and blue after coming home drunk. She reports to the pastor of her church or whatever. He tells her to continue to pray for him or change the way she dresses. Then she starts to cook more (or do something else very lame). One thing leads to the other and the man “gives his life to Christ” or something at the end. God “takes control”. He becomes “a new man”. Ha. The lingo is laughable. Is anyone going to address the fact that domestic violence is not right, in detail? If the mainstream ones will not do it, is anyone going to Biblically or “whatever-on-earth-cally” talk about that mess? No? It’s very pathetic. Wife-battery, rape and other assaults are just casually glossed over. The Christian movies are not standing out in any distinct way, as far as all of these are concerned.
I’m not going to make this an “everything that is wrong with Christian movies” article, although there are a lot of things that I will repress for now. There is one last thing that I want to mention, something that I greatly detest, something that hurts me to the very core, something that makes me wonder if a good number of people who are involved are sociopaths.
Little research is done about people and cultures, and a lot of disrespect becomes the result. False “Nollywood facts” are used in the depictions. A man lives in America and sends money to his mother in Nigeria for the Egungun festival. As the Egungun costume is being flogged by the followers in Nigeria, the son who sent the money feels all the pain in America. Ha! E beru Olorun, eyin filmmakers yii, now! I mean, how desperate can you be for soul-winning? Who has that ever happened to? How dirty are you willing to get to rubbish other people’s beliefs and paths? The Egungun festival may not be Christian, quite alright, but it is not evil in and of itself. False narratives have been pushed since the days of old, “old” being “colonization”, and certain sects have suffered a lot of direct and indirect misrepresentation for refusing to accept that Jesus is the lord of their lives. Se won bi sori meja ni? It is interesting how not being a Christian can make one appear like a lesser being in the eyes of one. I will leave it at that.
In another scene, a challenge-like scenario is created between a priest and a Christian, and you can be sure that the Christian “wins”. Such love! A Babalorisa is depicted as being smitten by God, and in that scene, you see that he is sick to the point of death until he receives Jesus as his lord and saviour. As soon as he does, he becomes whole. He is then made to emphasize the powerlessness of deities and the supremacy of Jesus. I’ve never really understood it, to be honest. I’ve never really understood such wickedness, such violence, such sick ego.
The media is a dangerous tool. The narratives that can be created with it can heal, stabilize or very completely destroy. When you give this tool to unreasonable crusaders who rise by wrongly depicting others, as if to make their propositions better, you give them the power to create death itself. All of it is just as laughable as it is sad.
One thing that I appreciate is the fact that child battery is not often depicted or encouraged, because if it was, it would have been quite unfortunate. If there is anything that I have observed, and I greatly love, it is the fact that children are not beaten black and blue the way they usually are, in reality, especially in working-class settings where there is a lot of survival-based tension and frustration. It would, however, be nice to see movies correcting that, encouraging individuals to teach their children in love, instead of fostering fear in them and growing a new generation of parents who do not know how to engage in a decent two-way communication with their children.
What am I saying in a nutshell is this: there is a lot going on asides the “evil” that non-Christians do. Christian filmmakers, pay attention and keep up with the things that are going on around you.
This is it, for now. I will make a video about this in the future, and I will go into more detail.