“Why,” asks the title of a recent movie review by Salon writer Andrew O’Hehir, “are Christian movies so awful?” He asks this after watching Soul Surfer, a film targeted at American evangelicals, about a one-armed surfer girl. It’s supposed to be a true story, insofar as anything can be true once it has been plucked from the web of human interdependence and stretched across a fifty-foot screen.

Apparently this is a bad movie, though the only question when such movies hit the screen is not whether they are bad, but whether they are better than Left Behind, or better than Facing the Giants, or better than whatever else has been served up to good Christian people who judge art by criteria like message and wholesomeness and theological purity.

I’m convinced that bad art derives, like bad literary theory, from bad theology. To know God falsely is to write and paint and sculpt and cook and dance Him falsely. Perhaps it’s not poor artistic skill that yields bad Christian art, in other words, but poor Christianity.

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