Tomorrow the 100th episode of our show, the Reel World Theology podcast, goes live with a very special episode celebrating us reaching this very important milestone. It is not easy to put our one episode, much less 99 more. Reaching this point is a big deal and I wanted to make sure I got a special chance to highlight my favorite episodes.
I have had the pleasure of being both a contributor to the show, a critical listener as a member of the staff, but mostly an adoring fan. Since I found the show and listened to the Noah episode with my earbuds on for an hour while waiting for the windshield on my car to get fixed, I have been hooked. Since then, I’ve listened to the back catalog at least once, even if I hadn’t seen the movie, and I’ve kept up ever since.
While it is hard to narrow it down to just five episodes, below represents episodes I have returned to and listened to more than once and also contain some the best conversations about film and theology I have ever heard. Enjoy the list and if you haven’t,make sure to listen to the episodes!
When I first found the Reel World Theology podcast, I made sure to start at episode #001 and work my way forward until I was caught up. A week or two into listening I got to an episode on a movie I had never heard of. I dove right in having no idea what I was getting into and the conversation between Fizz and guests Laura and Elijah Lovejoy, staples of the early shows, was both insightful as well as paradigm shifting.
While Elijah wasn’t so sure he could recommend the movie to anyone, nor Laura, I listened to this episode and decided to watch the movie. The content is very graphic but the themes and story were ambitious, poignant, and surprisingly spiritual. Don Jon is a movie that most Christians will never see because of its content but is incredibly necessary because of that same content. It’s weird to say a movie should be shown at a men’s retreat, but probably can’t because it might cause others to legitimately stumble. It’s hard to recommend this movie, but at the very least I can recommend every Christian listen to this podcast. It will be well-worth your time.
One of my favorite recent episodes of the podcast, this is also one of my favorite movies of last year. The podcast was also the return of Alan Hawkins, Senior Pastor at Fizz and Laura’s church, Church of the Redeemer, to the show. It had been almost a year since Alan had been on the podcast. In the first year of the show, he had been a more frequent guest. I love Alan’s opinions and his depth of theological and pastoral insight, especially when dealing with an issue like the Catholic Church scandal in Boston and around the world. If you read this Alan, your presence on the show is valuable and I love it when you are on!
Alan was joined by Elijah Davidson, who I have had the pleasure of podcasting with on an episode of the show. The two of them dove into the nature of the church, the overall lack of trust of the church in the movie, and the movies slightly mournful and matter-of-fact tone in presenting the facts. While the episode is very sparse on jokes given the intense and emotional (at least for me) nature of the movie, I still like this episode a lot. In fact, at the every end, Alan has a great pastoral touch in a minor quibble with the movie and an impactful story about seeing the movie in a theater that you have to hear and ponder over. I loved it and it made me slightly emotional all over again thinking about that person and this movie.
An early favorite featured Father Thomas McKenzie and Elijah Lovejoy to talk about one of the most divisive films of the past couple years. Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 Noah took the diluvian narrative and gave it a whole new twist some hated and others loved. This episode got deep into many of the theological implications and also made a case for movies to be imaginative with biblical narratives. While Elijah and Father McKenzie were lukewarm to cold on the movie, Fizz loved it and once I got a chance to see it, so did I. Before I had joined Reel World, this episode made sense of looking at Bible stories with fresh eyes and how movies can take slices of biblical truth and expound them on-screen.
Probably my favorite part of this episode is it established the Fizz-patented “Noah Test”. Since I was the first one to join the staff from outside the Greensboro crowd, it became necessary to make sure I could see eye-to-eye with the rest of them. Whether I liked or disliked Noah became a “test” of how I thought about movies. Since I loved it, but probably not as much as Fizz, I was in. And the rest is history.
This is the only episode in my Top 5 that includes me as a guest, but I put it here because I basically made it a right as a staff member to review this movie on the show. It’s not every day you get to review a Star Wars movie after waiting ten years for a new one, but I got the rare opportunity and I seized it. Along with now fellow Rebels reviewer and fellow Star Wars uber-nerd, Blaine Grimes, as well as Josh Long joining Fizz at the Fizz Pad, we got to talk for a very long time about The Force Awakens and field listener questions and talk fan theories. I know I joked around on the podcast about not taking up the running time, but I honestly had to try so hard and intentionally back off from yammering on and on. While I can’t say I hold the same theories I did shortly after the movie came out, hearing my theories is still tons of fun. And c’mon guys, I got to talk Star Wars for almost three hours!
Far and away my most listened to and favorite episode of the show, it is one of the earliest episodes of the podcast. It’s no secret Fizz and I are both heavily influenced by James Harleman, founder of Cinemagogue and author of Cinemagogue: Reclaiming Entertainment and Navigating Narrative for the Myths and Mirrors they were Meant to Be. I remember spending years before Reel World Theology even existed listening to James talk about film and narrative when he was a part of Mars Hill Church and finding his platform unique and special. It was my first real exposure to thinking about a film from the framework of a Christian worldview, and I was hooked.
This episode is a 30,000-foot view of many principles covered in James’ book, but I liked the special looks into some of these ideas we have since made the pillars of Reel World Theology. In fact, if you are not aware, the use of “entertainment is not mindless” is a straight-up robbery of James’ use of the phrase. We’re not that ashamed about it and in the episode he sanctions the use of it for our podcast. Thanks, James!
Anyway, make sure you listen to this episode if you are new to our website or podcast. This will give you a great starting point to understanding where we come from when we watch a movie or TV series or really any piece of narrative art. The website, podcast, and following we have built is firmly built on the sturdy frame of James’ work which is built on the foundation of biblical theology and narrative interpretation.