Christian Filmmaker Befuddled Over The Relationship Between Media & Religion
In an episode of Generations Radio titled “Filmmaker Chastises Christians For Watching Ungodly Films: Film Has Usurped Church”, Christian filmmaker Rich Christiano provided a summary of an upcoming project as well as reflections upon Christianity and the media.
In the synopsis, he name drops that the upcoming film features Harry Anderson.
The cinematographer reminds that Anderson, before his descent into obscurity, starred as the judge on the sitcom “Night Court”.
So if the truly sanctified believer is to refrain from these kinds of wordly entertainments, how is anyone in the listening audience even supposed to know what “Night Court” is?
Admittedly, I saw a few episodes of Night Court in my youth.
From what I remember, the comedy was heavy on innuendo,
I will confess I enjoy doubled-meaninged word play a little too enthusiastically at times.
However, I don't host a podcast insinuating that your daughter is going to end up being a lesbian if she's too infatuated from a literary or dramatic standpoint with the world of “Little House On The Prairie” as Generations Radio suggested some years back.
Are we to take away that it is acceptable to watch “Night Court” but we need to repent if we find “Hunger Games” to be an intriguing dystopian projection of the world to come in a few decades?
For this very same director that bragged about casting a former celebrity from “Night Court” insisted that it is not enough for a movie to be family friendly, wholesome, or make valid moral observations.
Rather, to be acceptable, a movie must deliberately push Christianity onto the viewer.
Christiano went on to lament how Christians don't get excited over Christian movies.
Sorry, but I don't plop down $10 for any movie where the characters do little more than sit around crying about their everyday feelings and common disappointments.
To be theater worthy in my opinion, considerable spectacle is needed such as some kind of mass battle, talking animals, robots, superheroes, space aliens, clashing wizards or spies.
Christiano further observed that someone couldn't remember what their pastor preached about a month ago but could recall details about “The Wizard of Oz” despite having not seen it in years.
Before heaping hellfire and damnation upon those that might respond similarly, a number of things need to be taken into consideration.
Firstly, how old are they now compared to when they first saw “The Wizard of Oz”?
So isn't that more of God's responsibility for how He allows the brain to decay overtime where it is often easier to recall things that happened to minutest detail 30 or 40 years ago but you can't for the life of you remember what you had for dinner last night?
Secondly, perhaps the blame should be placed more upon the pastor for lack of showmanship and presentation rather than upon the average Christian for failing to retain the intricate details.
For I am sure the next time that there are flying monkeys and dancing midgets in church that you are going to remember it.
Which brings the discussion to another very important point.
One goes to the movies precisely to see an out of the ordinary spectacle.
That is not the the case necessarily in regards to a church worship service.
Upon further consideration, what is retained from a sermon might not be all that different from what is retained from a film.
For example, unless one sees especially at a young age a particular film over and over again, does anyone really retain much beyond a memory of the basic plot usually?
As I approach middle age, sometimes I find I can't recall what happened the previous week on some of the dramas that I follow quite closely.
Thus, instead of condemning a congregation or group of random Christians if they can't elaborate the specifics of a single sermon, shouldn't the professional clergy be more pleased and concerned that those under their care recall the main points of the comprehensive Christian saga rather than the obtuse actions of a single Old Testament character with a name that defies pronunciation?
Along the lines of this criticism about the moviegoer longing for innovation and spectacle, Christiano lamented how movies never satisfy and people always want to see the next big blockbuster.
Let's apply that presupposition to other aspects of life one would otherwise consider wholesome, admirable, and desirable.
For example, according to this logic, shouldn't it be enough to go to church once and never have to go again to quench one's spiritual thirst?
If one's marriage is truly based upon love and not upon the titillation of fleshly desires, by Christiano's thinking, would a couple need to enjoy carnal relations more than once throughout the course of their entire marital union?
Media spectacle will never replace sermonic exposition as the primary didactic methodology through which concise doctrinal content is transmitted to the believer.
However, it often seems that certain Evangelical factions aren't that interested in making much use of these supplementary media formats to augment the learning experience.
In regards to the upcoming “AD” miniseries, the hosts of one program after remarking just moments before about the tendency of a number of Christians to stay in their own bubble, didn't really give much of a reason to avoid the production other than that its producer Roma Downey is a Roman Catholic with mystical New Age tendencies.
Wouldn't it have been better to wait and see if there are any factual errors in Downey's narrative rather than condemn the production on the basis of whatever errant peculiarities she might gravitate towards in the personal aspects of her devotional life?
After all, most conservative Evangelicals allow the King James Bible to stand on its own merits without the homosexual and Romanist proclivities of the monarch for which this translation of divine revelation is named allowed to detract from its literary, historical, or theological merits.
Like it or not, believers find themselves in a culture surrounded by media.
It is therefore imperative not only to figure out how the media can be used to disseminate the Christian worldview but to also understand where the methodologies of entertainment and the church can diverge from one another without there having to be a spirit of hostility between the distinct purposes of each of these modes of communication.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.