“Why are Christian movies so painfully bad?” asks Vox.com writer, Brandon Ambrosio, and frankly it is a question many of us have pondered at one time or another. Ambrosio notes that “it isn’t problematic that Christians ‘borrow ideas’ from Hollywood and put their own spin on them. Every film genre does this. But given the Christian doctrine of creation, it is certainly surprising that so many Christian filmmakers—and artists in general—would choose to mimic someone else’s vision, rather than cultivate their own.”
The Vox article is written in response to a Christian film, Old Fashioned, that debuted on the same day and as an alternative to the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey. I have not seen either film. My desire to not support pornographic fantasy in our culture or in my own mind keeps me from seeing Fifty Shades. My cynical view towards Christian films keeps from seeing the other. The latter routinely performs poorly at the box office and many of them don’t even make it to theaters but go straight to Christian bookstore shelves.
The Vox article brings light to Christian film critic Alissa Wilkinson’s comments on the subject: “Christians, and evangelicals in particular, have been really, really prolific in making pop culture products that parallel what’s going on in mainstream cultural production.” For example, Godtube is the Christian replacement for Youtube. And did you know there is a Twitter-like platform for Christians called Gospelr? I had no idea. “These artistic replacements are intended to satisfy the Christian’s cravings for the secular, harmful version” Ambrosio supposes.
With great intentions many Christians have stepped up and tried to create the Christian genre of film, books, music and television as an alternative to an entertainment industry that seems to be growing more and more hostile towards the evangelical Christian worldview. Unfortunately the genre has become synonymous with mediocrity.
Shouldn’t anything with the Christian moniker on it be nothing short of excellent? Yes and no. As each believer sets their hand to the plow, they are called to “do their work as if unto the Lord.” This however has more to do with the attitude and effort than it does the final product. If I was hired to be a hairstylist to cut your hair today, I am confident you would not be happy with my work even though I would give you my very best effort. In a culture increasingly weary of Christian hypocrisy (some observed and some perceived) we are often under the microscope. Many are looking for anything to discredit the message and messengers of the Gospel.
At the Denison Forum we believe that through Christians, Christ is seeking to transform culture for his glory. It is a mistake to position ourselves against our culture across the board. Can we talk about why we think movies like Fifty Shades of Grey are damaging? You bet. And we should. There are times we need to challenge what the culture qualifies as good. We should also be creating excellent entertainment and doing it within our culture rather than creating our own separate sub-culture.
It’s easy to pick on this industry as it is in the spotlight, but let’s turn the white hot light of criticism back at ourselves for a moment. God desires our best efforts at what he has called each of us to. Do we always give it? The Holy Spirit is with us in every room we walk into. He wants each of us to ask him how we can impact our culture today. He will empower you for his glory. Will you ask?