Josh Larsen is the co-host of the radio show and podcast Filmspotting, author of Movies Are Prayers, and editor and film critic at Think Christian, a website exploring faith and pop culture. He’s been writing and speaking about movies professionally for more than two decades.
Josh’s career began in the newspaper business, where he started out as a beat reporter for a weekly community newspaper and went on to become the film critic for the Chicago-based Sun-Times Media for more than 10 years. In 2011, he joined the Christian media landscape as editor of Think Christian, and in 2012 he joined the long-running weekly podcast Filmspotting, aired on WBEZ in Chicago.
You can find Josh on:
Or check out his work at larsenonfilm.com.
Movies are Prayers by Josh Larsen
Chapter 1 - How to Watch Movies Like a Christian
In his book, Movies are Prayers, Josh Larsen takes a look at the value of movies for understanding who we are as human beings. These stories on the screen give a voice to our deepest longings and desires. We watch movies like Citizen Kane as a man on his deathbed says, ‘Rosebud’, and are instantly reminded of the desire we all have for the safety and security we used to have when we were kids, when the chaos, filth, and sin of our adult lives leaves us feeling unfulfilled and meaningless. Or we watch movies like Inside Out and find ourselves appreciating the complexity and wide range of emotions we feel but sometimes struggle to understand. As disciples of Christ and people called to make disciples of all nations, understanding those deepest longings and desires can be a valuable tool for spiritual growth and helping others grow as well. And movies can help us understand them in ways we never have before.
Chapter 2 - How Do Movies Become Prayers?
If movies are prayers, as the title of Josh Larsen’s book suggests, then it’s important for us to understand the role movies play in our lives and in the larger culture. If you think about what makes your favorite movie resonate with you so much, it’s probably because the prayer of that movie resonates with you. Your soul has identified with it and you've now latched on to it as an expression of the unspoken desire of your heart. And if this is true, then movies have the potential to affect our lives in some profound ways. And that’s why we wanted to go a little deeper with Josh in this chapter, and discover just how movies become prayers.
Chapter 3 - How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings
If you’ve read the Psalms, you’ve probably noticed the wide range of topics and emotions that spill out from these Hebrew poems and verses. David writes Psalm 51 and pours out his confession of sin to God. He writes Psalm 8 and describes God’s glory and majesty. And he also writes Psalm 35, where he calls on God to destroy his enemies. These Psalms are really prayers that give voice to what the writer was experiencing at the time. In the same way, movies give voice to what the screenwriters and directors are experiencing, what they find to be true in life. When they paint a grim picture of the future of humanity, they give voice to a feeling of hopelessness about the human condition. When they tell stories of humanity rising out of the ashes to enter a better future, they give voice to the desire we have as human beings to make a better world in which we can conquer evil and live in peace. In this chapter, Josh talks with us about a few of the categories he’s found in the prayers, the longings and desires, we see in front of us on the screen. And interestingly enough, these prayers are often quite similar to the prayers prayed by David and the other psalmists.
Chapter 4 - Can Movies Help Us Grow Daily?
Movies and TV shows play a central role in our culture today. Where this sort of entertainment was once demonized for being a waste of time, we now celebrate the time we spend “bingeing” Netflix. How many of us successfully watched all of Season 3 of Stranger Things in one day? Our lives and culture are consumed with media. So we wanted to talk with Josh Larsen about how movies fit into our spiritual lives. Are there limits to how we should use media, and should pastors use movies in their Sunday sermons?
Chapter 5 - Teaching Your Kids How to Watch Movies
Every good parent wants to protect their kids from harm, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional harm. And our lives are so complex, it’s often hard to fully understand why kids respond in certain ways to certain events. So when we consider what our kids can watch or should watch, it’s tough to work through all the variables and decide should I let my kids watch this or not? In this chapter, Josh unpacks his approach to helping parents make this decision. It’s not always straightforward, but there are a few guidelines we can use to help us keep our kids safe.