Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hollywood and "Christianity"

It's good for the marketplace, and good for the Christian community.

Producer Ralph Winter on Fox Faith.

Chariots of Fire was released in 1981, a film about Olympic runner/missionary Eric Liddell. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture(among others), notably beating out Raiders of the Lost Ark. Chariots is nothing if not a Christian film. Heck, Raiders itself is all about the Ark of the Covenant, and the third Indiana Jones flick(as I recently blogged on) is an inspired exposition of faith. Of course while these may have much to say to the Christian viewer, they win Oscars and audience approval, because they are still very much secular films. Consider classics like Ben-Hur or Becket, and also recent films like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy or The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or even Mel Gibson's infamous The Passion of the Christ. I'd even say The Exorcism of Emily Rose. These are some beloved--and just good--films; arguably, they are good for the marketplace and good for the Christian community.

Now let's take a look at Fox Faith.
Here are some numbers from the same CT article as the above quote that should go under the "good for the marketplace" category, though I'm not sure good is appropriate.
Their first release, Love's Abiding Joy, earned a paltry $253,000 in October 2006. Four months later, The Last Sin Eater made just $388,000. In between, Thr3e barely earned $1 million. (Their biggest theatrical hits have been One Night With the King [$13 million] and The Ultimate Gift [$3.4 million].)

They do claim to have strong rental and video sales, but there aren't any numbers for the two.

OK, now that we've dismissed "good for the market" pretty well, how about "good for the Christian community"?

the subculture
You may hear the phrase "Christian subculture" tossed around quite a bit, but in relation to American Evangelicalism, I(having grown up in a small, conservative, fundamentalism, SBC church) don't really think we can mention this too much. This topic came up in a recent post of mine, and, alas, here it is again.
American Evangelicals cringe at the words "a wall of separation betwen church and state", but that seems to be the only wall they don't want up. A wall between the faithful and any music not sold be Lifeway would be nice. If we could get a wall between all of our children, content with their Veggie Tales, and Harry Potter, that'd be great. Oh, and let's make sure we get Thomas Kinkade in before we finish building that wall between the church and artwork, ok?
I could go on, as much as this burns me. We're constantly cutting ourselves off, retreating to what we can call, without a doubt, "Christian", and throwing everything else into one "Bad" category. Dick Staub speaks alot about this concerning Christians and culture. N. T. Wright consistently attacks it as an aspect of our worldview. The fact of the matter is "in the world but not of the world" still means in the world; "Thy Kingdom come... on Earth" really means here, on Earth. Yet some Christians seem really opposed to these words of scripture--not acknowledgedly of course, but practically.

And this is what Fox Faith is a symbol of to me. This represents not only Christians running from the culture around us, but the executives noticing this and deciding to make a buck off of it. There are good movies out there, with good messages. They're thought-provoking or exciting, and you may even have to do a little digging before you can see what God's Truth is in it, but it's there, and it's Good. However, it seems we are just too taken with all the New Testament's marathon metaphors; we've taken off, and we're not looking back.

This summer when a few youth girls at the church where I worked as an intern wanted to start a reading club, they consulted me about some books to read. I gave them some off-the-cuff suggestions: The Hobbit, some of the Narnian Chronicles, Father Brown, and Pride and Prejudice(along with a corresponding Bible study by an author I respect), among others. All of these books are avaiable from All of these books, save Lewis, were immediately discounted by the youth minister; in their places went the likes of Ted Dekker and Tim LaHaye. J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, and Jane Austen were cut, to be replaced by current popular Christian writers(whose books will never touch these classics). That's just how frightened we are.

I find these two situations analogous(obviously).

The "Christian community" is slowly sinking into this pit of rejecting what is good--compare that to 1 Thessalonians 5:21--in favor of what they view as safe... and just compare that one to Lewis's(or should I say Mr. Beaver's) famous description of Aslan: 'course he isn't safe, but he's good.
Christianity isn't about running from the world or about safety, about hiding God's light under a basket for fear that the darkness will... hell, what are we afraid the darkness will do to light? No, it's about Life, Truth, and Righteousness. We are to glow with God's Life, Truth, and Righteousness in the darkness that's out there. And once--if--we start wading out into the darkness to see God's Kingdom come there, we'll start to see the little divine sparks that are in so many things, things that we in our hurry to hide within our man-made bulwarks of "Christian entertainment" or "Christian product" usually miss. But they're right there, ready to speak to our souls, ready to be the LORD's vessels, Good, and ignored--even feared--by, of all people, the people of God.


Josh said...

Good work, Nance. Keep developing these thoughts. I'd like to hear how you think Christians ought to go about creating culture (in lieu of ghettoizing themselves in a subculture).

Nance said...

ha and I'd like to develop a coherent thought on that!
It would seem that we are merely to be human and make culture as anyone does, and on account of our restoration to a proper state of being/relation to our Creator our-made-culture should be more... accurate than anyone else's (I think of Tolkien here). That is all only if we follow the Spirit in all things, of course. But that's just an off-the-cuff idea; there's most probably much more to consider on the topic.