The year I turned six, my parents took me to see my first film in a movie theater. Our conservative church disapproved of the cinema, but my father thought this exceptional film was qualitatively different and was worth seeing. He was right. The film was director Irving Pichel's Martin Luther (1953). It garnered two Oscar nominations. And 50 years later, it still had enough life in it for Vision Video to bring back a special DVD.

Some people in our congregation criticized us for seeing Martin Luther. Listening to my parents discuss their decision gave me my first lesson in Christian freedom—one of Luther's favorite themes. It also taught me to exercise judgment rather than simply to live by other people's rules.

Fifty years later, many members of the conservative churches that would once have frowned on any cinema attendance are now frequent attenders.

CT has long tried to help readers use good judgment in their movie choices, and since 1999 we have published an online feature called Film Forum. Each Thursday, Christian critic Jeffrey Overstreet (who publishes his own reviews on a website called Looking Closer) summarizes the varied reactions of Christian film reviewers to the current crop of new releases.

The consistent popularity of that feature was one reason we decided to create a new web channel, The channel will be updated every Friday (the day people plan their weekend entertainment) and Monday (the day people play the critic at coffee break).

Mark Moring, who will edit this channel, confesses that his first movie was The Deadly Mantis. Mark calls that 1957 movie "a lame horror flick." But the nightmares it gave him taught him the power of the silver screen.

Mark is a family man: his wife, Nina, teaches learning-disabled children at a Christian school and his two sons, Peter and Paul, are "huge The Lord of the Rings buffs." He recently told me that his family saw The Return of the King for the third time.

I asked Mark about his goals for First, he said, he is telling his reviewers not to write for their college profs, but to write for their friends who go to movies. "We want to help believers be discerning," he said. "They need to know what to make of this whole Hollywood thing." Second, Mark hopes his readers will "use film as a bridge to communicate with non-Christian friends." He cites last year's Bruce Almighty as an ideal bridge film: "It presents the truths of the Trinity and God's patience with us." officially launches on Friday, February 20. And like this issue of Christianity Today, its first postings will focus on a movie a lot of Christian leaders have been giving "two thumbs up": Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Related Elsewhere:

Also posted today:

The Passion of Mel Gibson | Why evangelicals are cheering a movie with profoundly Catholic sensibilities.
Mel, Mary and Mothers | The mother of Jesus was still a mom

More on The Passion can be found on the CTMovies channel.

The official site also has information.

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