Recently, thousands of young people swarmed movie theaters in New York, Miami, Cleveland, Nashville and Dallas to attend a sneak preview of the soon-to-be released film The Fault in Our Stars. Based on a New York Times best-selling young adult novel, it is a simultaneously hopeful yet tragic tale of teenage cancer patients who fall in love.
And you need to know about this movie!
What is The Fault in our Stars?
A movie coming out on June 6th. Based on a book by author John Green, published in 2012. The book has been wildly popular among teenagers, especially high school age. (There is adult content, and the movie will be rated PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual content.)
What does this have to do with church and/or Christianity?
First of all, if you minister to high school students, there is a strong chance that they are talking about this book and this movie already. Furthermore, within this story, there are many spiritual and religious themes woven throughout. They may be just under the surface, and we have a chance to draw them out for our youth.
It is also important to note that the author of the book, John Green, is a Christian – Episcopalian – who considered ordination at one point in his life. His experience working as a chaplain in a children’s hospital was part of the inspiration for The Fault in Our Stars.
Readers and viewers will notice that the characters Hazel and Gus meet at a cancer support group, and the setting is the basement of an Episcopal Church. This was an intentional choice by the author.
While The Fault in Our Stars is not (and does not claim to be) a “Christian” movie, it represents an opportunity to find Christian themes, questions, and longings within a piece of popular culture.
Green himself is involved in wider conversations and movements, specifically with his concepts of the “nerdfighter” and the “decrease of WorldSuck.” It is a narrative of positive and life-giving attitudes – welcome news for teens today!
So how do we use this book and movie to connect young people with the deeper themes that it touches?
If you decide to take your group to see the movie, or even if you simply use the story as a conversation starter, here are some questions and quotes to guide you:
Is it ultimately a story of love or despair? How do we as Christians see our life story?
Although the participants mock the support group where they met, they continue to attend. Why? What support does it give them? Can we find this support in our faith communities and relationships?
How is faith represented in the story, especially amidst the reality that the characters face.
Quotes from the book (that may or may not appear in the film)
“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”
“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”
“We are literally in the heart of Jesus,” he said. “I thought we were in a church basement, but we are literally in the heart of Jesus.”
“Someone should tell Jesus,” I said. “I mean, it’s gotta be dangerous, storing children with cancer in your heart.”
“I thought being an adult meant knowing what you believe, but that has not been my experience.”
“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”
Whether you focus on the movie or the book, consider taking this opportunity to engage your own youth and encourage them to bring friends. Help them understand that while the characters are fictitious, the love, relationships, and support that the characters find are a true representation of who we are as Christians. Okay? Okay.
At the time of filming, Lisa Brown was the Director of Children’s Ministry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, PA, a primary filming location for the movie. She insists the cheesy Jesus rug wasn’t theirs. Lisa is currently the Director of Digital Ministry with Membership Vision. Building on her work in Children’s Ministry and Communications at St. Paul’s Episcopal, she helps churches connect to people and to God in the digital space.
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