For Michael Elliott, who writes "Movie Parables" on, the multiplex can be a training ground for spiritual growth. "If we can train our minds to think of God's Word while watching films," he says, then viewers can "continue with that discipline outside of the theater, applying His Word in every situation of life." Elliott uses movies to help make the Scriptures more alive to readers, "just as Jesus Christ taught God's Word by using images and events taken from the culture of his day" in his parables.Elliott says he's unlike most Christian critics he has read, who "will give their estimation of whether the film is appropriate for viewing or not." He is more concerned with how audiences view a movie. "My main objective," he says," is to find an element or theme within the film which illustrates a biblical principle. I call my 'reviews' parables because I use the movie (either in full or in part) as an analogy for a deeper spiritual principle." Whether the film is appropriate for Christians, he believes, will depend on the individual. "What may be a stumbling block in my walk for God may not be one to someone else," he says. R-rated movies "may contain elements that are offensive, but oftentimes those can be easily discounted or ignored as the more beneficial elements of the story take center stage."He uses the current hit Erin Brockovich as an example. "Yes, the title character dressed like a tramp and spoke like a longshoreman. But she also displayed great courage, perseverance, compassion, discipline, and dedication—all of which are exemplary qualities that are shared by many biblical men and women." In his review of the film, Elliott specifically compares her with the apostle Paul, referencing 1 Corinthians 10:33: "Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved." Erin, similarly, gave "completely of herself" in her efforts to help her clients. "Her motivation was not feigned or born of self-interest and the residents of Hinkley perceived and responded to that." Elliott hopes that observations like these will help "stimulate thought [and] encourage further study in the scriptures."Elliott actually came to movie reviewing through the reverse process. He says that "after I was born again and began studying the Bible … I began to see the practical application of the Scriptures first in my life, then reflected in the life around me, finally in the movies which must borrow from life to tell their stories." That realization, coupled with his background as an actor and a theater arts major, gave him the tools to start writing film reviews that address both the artistic elements and spiritual analogies in movies. He began by simply posting reviews on his personal Web site, and within a year asked to carry his reviews, bringing him a higher level of exposure. Eventually, he says, he'd like to turn his film reviewing into a full-time job.Elliott's unusual approach to movies has its share of supporters and critics. "I've gotten letters of condemnation because I try and insert spiritual insight into a secular art form. I've received letters of commendation citing the same reason." Even so, he's not likely to change his method of reviewing. "Ignoring the culture of which we are a part is not the answer," he says. "I choose to participate in the culture, proving all things and holding fast to that which is good." For him, the movie theater is a valid place of ministry. "I love how movies can be used to reach people at levels that other media fail to reach. It is why I have chosen film as the arena by which I hold forth biblical truth. … My intended audience is anyone who has a desire to live according to the admonition and exhortation of the Bible."

Steve Lansingh is editor of, a weekly Internet magazine devoted to Christianity and the cinema.