A chat with author Dr. Ted Baehr
Kevin Thompson here. We sit on the Florida front porch, rocking away “in all kinds of weather,” as the song We are the Boys of Old Florida states. And it’s true. We are the “pollen state” right now. Mow your yard, and you look like a bad impression of Pig Pen from Peanuts. Everything is yellow, and we haven’t had any significant rain in over a month. Without further delay, I want to introduce a gentleman who has been working to transform the minds and hearts of moviegoers with the message of God’s truth for years now. His work has opened doors for screenwriters and many others in the movie industry.
Welcome, Dr. Ted Baehr, to the Florida front porch! Dr. Baehr, grab a chair, a glass of tea (do they drink sweet tea in California?), and tell us about your book like we’re a reader in a bookstore who has just picked it up, and we know nothing about it.
Ted Baehr’s Reel to Real provides 45 inspirational devotions that exemplify principles from God’s Word, using powerful moments from over 150 great movies. Each devotion is insightful and uplifting, illustrating a meaningful theme.
I’m sold. I love that! I love seeing biblical principles and truths come alive in film. I’ve got to get a copy. So, what inspired you to write this book?
The inspiration for the book is the same for what, I hope, will be the inspiration for reading it: how to discover the abundant life that Jesus promised. We all want a vibrant life for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. We want to walk in faith and not fear. We want to have the strength that comes from joy. We want what George Bailey discovers at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. So, I decided to write the book that I wanted desperately to read.
Write what you like to read…seems I’ve heard that mentioned a time or two in writers’ conferences. As you know, any book, beyond being entertaining or informative, has to have an end game, a purpose. What is the primary focus of your book?
The focus for Reel to Real is found in John 10:10. Jesus said he has come to give us an abundant life. To discover what that means, we examined over 150 movies to reveal where they exemplify biblical principles of this abundant life. As Christians, we know the Bible. As moviegoers, we know movies. What’s unique about this book is to use one to examine the other. We end up with not only great insights into the Word of God, but also a more enriched movie going experience.
I like that, too. Usually, speakers/pastors use movie clips to show examples of biblical passages they are already teaching. But it sounds like you have reversed that process, using the movies to show how God’s Word infiltrates life, even when we aren’t really looking for it. Did anything surprise you during the research or writing of Reel to Real?
When I set out to write the book, I knew that in the thousands of movies I’ve reviewed, there was a common thread of living the abundant life. In my memory, I also knew there were many movies which connected directly with the Word of God. What surprised me was the absolute volume of movies which did this. In Reel to Real, I touch on over 150 movies. I knew movies could point us to the Word of God. I didn’t quite realize just how many could do that.
I see a series of books here…all hitting the major Christian truths…Just sayin’. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
There are two outcomes that I hope will come from someone reading Reel to Real. The first is that the daily devotional readings will draw them closer to the living God, and they will receive guidance for that day. Secondly, if the reader is a parent, I pray they will be able to use the insights from the book to watch the listed family movies to help instruct their children in how to walk in the abundant life. If a parent will do this, they will receive the by-product that is equally important – their children will discover how to be discerning and how to compare the message of a movie with the Word of God.
That is important. Movies and television are THE way most children “read” these days. Why read the book when I can wait for the movie to come out? I hear it all the time. Even from Christians. So, let’s switch gears here and discuss your writing career. What themes do you return to again and again in your writing?
What I love about Reel to Real is that I take one of the major themes of my writing and I get to bring it front and center, paired with the Word of God. The quest for the abundant life Jesus describes in John 10:10 permeates most of my writing. Even when calling out the forces in our society that are destroying our youth, it’s because I hold the promised abundant life as the ideal. And immorality and false religion only serve to pull us away from that abundant life. Of course, I don’t mean a prosperity gospel, I mean the life that Jesus gives us of joy, fulfillment, oneness with the Father, and purpose. That’s the abundant life. That’s what I want us all to experience.
Certainly, there are many things you could, can, and probably are doing within your chosen field, but why do you write books also?
All the many books I’ve written have in some way related to the task of communicating God’s Word to the reader. Typically, they have been how to help the reader evaluate the message of any given movie using a biblical framework to discern what a movie is saying. That’s one of the things God has clearly called me to – to help others become more discerning as they consume all the different forms of media.
What a great segue into this next question. What ministries are you involved in, and why?
My life’s work has been with Movieguide®, a ministry dedicated to taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, based by 2 Corinthians 10:5. We aim to inform readers to learn about a movie before they attend. Yes, to be aware of bad language or inappropriate scenes, but also to understand a movie’s message and meaning and whether it can stand up to the test of the Word of God. When we started in 1985, over 80% of movies were rated R. Now, only 34% carry that rating. Also, when we started, only 1% of movies had some form of Christian content. Last year, 60% of the movies had some Christian content, though often mixed with objectionable elements. We are grateful for what the Lord has done through us and we invite readers to get reviews at movieguide.org so they may be fully equipped.
We were talking about that not too long ago. How the movie industry, like most other human entities, lowered the “bar.” Many movies today that are PG-13 would have been rated R back in the day. Therefore, your movieguide.org site becomes an excellent way to help determine what’s best. Our readers like to get to know our authors on a more personal level. In that line of thinking, what do you read for pleasure?
I’m a voracious reader of all types of books. However, I mostly read nonfiction, especially history. By far, St. Augustine is my favorite author. Right now, I’m reading Calvin. I think it’s especially important to read old books. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, we can overcome whatever deficiency of thought from which our current age suffers by reading the thinkers of a previous time.
There is definitely nothing new under the sun, although it’s packaged and sold that way. Good advice. We should all spend more time reading the early church fathers. Do you have any hobbies, activities, or passions outside of writing you’d like to share with our audience?
You only need to glance at the Goodreads app on my phone to discover my hobby. I think books are invaluable to increasing our life experience, and I find that reading not only informs me and relaxes me, but it also inspires me, as well.
Goodreads, another harvest field. Before all this is “in the can,” tell us about your next project.
For us at Movieguide®, every Friday is a new project, as new movies hit the theaters. Each week we offer reviews of all the movies in theaters from a Christian perspective. It’s something that no parent should be without to help guide their children in discernment. I also have several books in process, including one on the miracles in the Entertainment Industry.
That sounds exciting. We’ll have to be on the lookout for that one, too! Dr. Baehr, I want to thank you for your time and being willing to join us here at the CAN blog. May God continue to bless your ministry and influence in the world of film.
Until next time, May God bless you, and may you bless God!