I recently interviewed Richard Foltz, one of the two hosts of Popcorn Theology. Popcorn Theology is a funny, exciting, and thoughtful podcast which examines films from a Christian worldview.

Here’s our conversation.

So, first of all, introduce yourself and tell me a little about why you guys decided to start this podcast together.

Well, I’m Richard. I’ve been married to an awesome wife for ten years and we clock in at exactly 4 (!) children now. David and I met when he moved to the area and became a part of our church and the small group I was leading at the time. It turned out he lived just up the block, and it also turned out we shared a passion for film. In pretty quick fashion, we came up with the idea of doing a podcast together – although settling on film as the theme of the podcast took a bit of time.

We landed on doing a film podcast for a few reasons. One, we just loved talking about TV and Film together already and this would give us an excuse to do so weekly. Two, we really felt there was a deficiency in the podcast world for entertainment being spoken about from a biblical worldview. A big inspiration was James Harleman’s work on Cinemagogue, but his site was geared more toward text reviews with some audio reviews on the site as well. We wanted to push the subject matter into a weekly, subscription-based podcast model as well as make it more casual – instead of one reviewer talking about themes, two friends chatting casually about their favorite films and shows and engaging with them on a theological level. 

Cinema seems like one of those topics that, historically, has either been dismissed by the church as frivolous or, in some fundamentalist circles, preached against as being “worldly.” For decades, many preachers have warned people to avoid what comes out of Hollywood, yet your podcast literally pushes Christians to see and discuss certain films.

As believers, what redeeming qualities do you think film has?

First of all, film can be a powerful medium for art. God created, and He created us in His image. I think James Harleman has been right in the past when he has speculated that the image of God within us is what causes us to want to create, particularly to craft narratives – this is what God Himself seems to do. A good story can help you think through an issue from a new perspective, or provide a springboard that leads you to ponder something deeper than even the movie intended. You can watch Signs and think about God’s providential care, you can watch The VVitch and think about the dangers of being isolated from your community of faith… You see what I mean?

What genres tend to really resonate with you as believers, and why?

For me, fantasy, sci-fi, and superhero films are easy wins… they almost always feature some sort of savior character and are little pictures created by image bearers of God that point – either knowingly or unknowingly – to the God who created us and His salvation.

I’ve recently begun to see the merits of the horror genre as well, and that might be surprising. There is something terrifying about the supernatural, a sobering reality to it and its power… where a comedy (Ghostbusters, etc.) might play with the supernatural and make light of it, horror presents it as a true threat and something more powerful than ourselves. Some horror films will even go as far as to revealing faith as the solution to the problem – even the ones that don’t, presenting the seriousness of the supernatural as a sobering reality is a win in itself.  In such a case, as I said earlier, the springboard effect happens – the film gets you to begin thinking about the matter, and Christians can then take that starting point and press it further.

Is there a certain movie you think every Christian should take the time to watch?

Oh, man – many! What I’d tell a particular Christian would vary depending on the person I was speaking to – I’m convinced that many Christians ought to watch The Matrix because it is a good and obvious way to step into thinking about films theologically. I’d not recommend it to everyone of course… but for those that could handle it and find it enjoyable, watch it. And then think about what the movie is pointing toward that is compatible with Scripture, with the biblical worldview. And then think about ways it disagrees, as well – believe me, it does.

Most films aren’t all good – they aren’t expositions of Scripture out of the mouth of John MacArthur. They’re flawed, they’re mixed bags.

Part of being a Popcorn Theologian would be being able to see the good message in the film, or where the film almost gets it right – while acknowledging where it gets it very wrong. You may even find that you watch a film that gets very little or nothing right… This isn’t a loss either. The Popcorn Theologian can wonder: why did this film get made? What is the world finding in this narrative that they resonate with?

I’m a big fan of the podcast, and I have to say, my favorite episode was your review of the VVitch with Pastor Joe Thorn – one of your many amazing special guests. What other guests have you had on the show? Who did you most enjoy talking films with?

All of our guests have been amazing; you mentioned Pastor Joe Thorn, he is definitely a crowd pleaser and one of my favorites as well. I’ve been super psyched to get to collaborate with one of my own personal heroes, James Harleman. Talking Star Wars with Dr. Jason Lisle was also an amazing time. But man, every guest has been a great time. Greg and Nathan of These Go To 11 Podcast, RC Sproul Jr., Brian Godawa, Jamie Costa, and some awesome musicians like Zach Bolen of Citizens and Saints.

Obviously, people can find your podcast on iTunes, where else can people connect with you guys?

So the best way to connect is to be a part of our Facebook group. It is a closed group just called ‘Popcorn Theology’, and it is an awesome place to chat about entertainment with some like-minded believers. Where we might begin a conversation on the podcast episodes weekly, the group becomes a place where the conversation opens up in many directions – and many other conversations are had as well.

Want to hear what some other believers thought about that new show you haven’t seen yet? Wonder what sort of risqué content might be there? A lot of times folks give a great heads up for others. Want to chat about the intentions of the director of Doctor Strange – did he intend to present a view of the supernatural that somewhat aligns with the Bible, or was this more mysticism being exposited? It’s a great time.

Outside of that, you can, of course, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or any other podcast catcher – or just check out the episodes individually at www.popcorntheology.com!

Thanks for joining me, Richard. I really appreciate it and hope that many discover your podcast because of this.

Thanks for taking the time to connect with us! Engaging Culture is quickly becoming one of my regular check-in points. Keep up the good work man!

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