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Hollywood producer challenges Christians to tell the journey behind faith stories

RIVERSIDE (Feb. 28, 2013) - Hollywood producer Ralph Winter challenged audience members at California Baptist University to share stories of the Christian faith the same way great films do.

“You are responsible to tell those stories in fresh and relevant ways to your culture, in your context to your generation,” said Winter, who was the featured speaker during CBU’s Christ and Culture Lectures Feb. 27 and 28.

The producer spoke of how all the great films that are told and retold throughout the years consist of the main characters learning “the deep lessons of life.” In the same way, the stories of Christianity must be shared, he said. 

“The Bible is full of honest, authentic stories with flawed characters,” Winter said “That is why the Bible continues to be relevant in this generation.”

Hollywood leans toward focusing on how the story is told, not its content, while churches focus on the content and not how to tell it, Winter said.

“We must be students of the great stories of art, literature and movies,” Winter said. “We must be ambassadors of great stories. We must be interpreters of great stories of others.”

As a producer, Winter has worked on more than 25 feature films, including the first three X-Men films and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”  He said his job is to tell stories that will resonate with the audience.

 “Storytelling makes us human,” he said. “Everyone has a narrative. Making movies like I do is one more type of storytelling. Great movies ask great questions: How do I fit in? Should I fit in? We may know how the story ends, but the journey makes us care about what happens.”

Winter said Christians are bad storytellers when they omit the journey that leads to the transformation.

“That’s the job of a storyteller,” he said. “Only when we reveal something about our journey do we truly connect.”

In a faculty panel following the lectures, Dr. Anthony Chute, associate professor of church history, challenged future preachers to “preach to your people with narrative, but don’t forget [the message in the Book of] Romans.”

Dr. Jim Buchholz, professor of mathematics and physics, related Winter’s remarks about storytelling to his own field.

“Should storytelling be part of math and physics? My answer is yes.” He related the circumstances surrounding Pluto being downgraded from a planet, pointing out that knowing the story behind it reveals something about the scientific paradigm.

Dr. Mark Roberson, dean of the College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design, addressed Winter’s comments about Christians being bad storytellers.

“We skip over the parts that are unseemly and ugly and go straight to the end, because we’re afraid of the journey,” he said. Roberson said that as an architect he often works with clients to convince them his suggestions are the best way. He explained that storytelling comes in as he explains the motivation or the thought behind the work he has presented.

“The story aspect of what we do has no value until we convince someone that it does have value,” he said.

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