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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Christians in the Culture

Here’s a little quiz for you. Who do you think might have said this:

Any guesses?

Maybe Michael Landon said it, speaking of his warm and fuzzy, family-friendly TV shows.

Maybe Tim Tebow said it, wanting to explain why he Tebows on TV.

What’s your guess? Which TV show that speaks to young people would get your vote as being the one that takes seriously its responsibility to make the world a better place?

Jonathan Chait tells us, in an article in the New Yorker, that  the person who is taking seriously his responsibility to teach young people is Doug Herzog, president of MTV.

Here’s the paragraph that contains the material I quoted above:
The history of Hollywood is a long tug-of-war between artistic conscience and the bottom line. Louis Mayer, fearing the backlash from William Randolph Hearst, offered $850,000 to the producer of Citizen Kane to suppress the film and burn the negative. The show Thirtysomething endured a series of advertising boycotts. One scene, with two gay male characters in bed together, cost ABC $1 million in advertising; another, of them kissing, cost an additional half million. Network president Roger Iger cited his “social and creative responsibilities,” and the executive producer noted, “I am grateful that ABC was willing to air the program at a loss.” Even some of the cheesiest and most commercial ventures feel the pull of social conscience. “We’re talking to young people every day, and a lot of responsibility comes with that,” said Doug Herzog, president of MTV. “We believe that through the medium of television we try to make the world a slightly better place.”
I have some respect for a man who believes in his message so strongly, that he’s willing to lose a million dollars in order to get it out. And it worked. He, and others like him, have done a great job of convincing the world that the homosexual lifestyle is normal.

What about Christians?

Are we willing to spend money promoting our message? Sure we are. The Christians I know are the most loving and generous people around. They believe they have a message that saves lives and they are willing to spend on missions.

Then why doesn’t the world think Christians are great the way it thinks the homosexuals are great?  

For one thing, our message is, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and that’s not what the world wants to hear. Repenting doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. It brings to mind, struggle and pain and a need to put sinful desires to death.

We can’t do much about that problem. The message is what it is.

Another problem might be that we’ve treated this country as a rebellious Christian nation, instead of as a foreign nation needing to be evangelized.

The Moral Majority sounded more like Old Testament prophets calling down fire from heaven upon the prophets of Baal, and less like Paul who became all things to all people so that by all means he might save some. And as it turns out some members of Moral Majority weren’t all that moral and they’re no longer the majority. Oops.

Chait wonders why the Conservative Right gave up the fight to make Hollywood clean upbut I’m not sure the conservative right should have ever fought to clean up Hollywood to begin with.

What if conservatives moved into Hollywood to live? Maybe Christian readers and movie-goers could look at Christian writers the way they look at missionaries. What if we allowed Christian writers to follow in Hudson Taylor’s footsteps and dress their novels and scripts to look like Hollywood movies? 

I believe Hudson Taylor was criticized in his day for dressing like a Chinese man, but now, most missionaries do what they can to adapt to the native culture. How can Christian writers adapt to the culture without compromising their faith and witness?

Taking a jab at impotent conservatives, Chait says, "What passes for a right-wing movie these days is Dark Knight Rises, which submits the rather modest premise that, irritating though the rich may be, actually killing them and taking all their stuff might be excessive." Very funny line. What about the Christian message, though? Secretariat had a modest Christian message: God created horses. Can we do more?

What is the Christian version of two gay men in bed?

Any ideas?

Hat tip to Justin Taylor via Rebecca LuElla Miller, for links to Chait's article.
 is the editor of the Best Books for Young Readers newsletter. Subscribe for a chance to win a Kindle Fire or a Google Nexus. Winner's choice, and it will arrive in time for Christmas. 


  1. We could start with Christian characters in TV shows as minor characters who actually NOT the villains. As soon as a Christian character shows up in a crime drama, you know he's going to be the villain of the piece.

  2. I agree, Sherry. So if we put Christian sidekicks into our books, would Christian readers allow us to get away with that? Would Christian publishers be allowed (by readers) to publish books with unbelieving main characters and Christian sidekicks who don't convert the rest of the cast, or who don't even preach the gospel to their friends? Maybe we have some CBA books like that already. Has anyone read any like that? Or maybe we need to write such books for the general market. Can anything think of some General Market titles with Christians in the supporting cast?

  3. I'm writing a General Market novel with a Christian minor character - the protagonist's mother. She is quite heroic. She does not preach the gospel or try to convert. I didn't set out to create a Christian character for the novel. It just turned out that way. Whether people like her or not just because she is a Christian really doesn't matter to me. The thing is, with Hollywood, you will rarely see a Christian depicted as anything other than stupid, evil, and legalistic. That's because the biggest mouths out there who profess to be Christians are stupid, evil and legalistic. You rarely see a humble, gentle, peaceful, Christlike person getting into the news. It doesn't sell.

  4. Excellent article! Yes, we need to go into our culture, not just expect it to change and come to us. Your thoughts can also be applied to church ministry as well.

    1. Especially to church ministry ... lol.

  5. Sally, boy have you got my creative wheels spinning! Great post. I have no answers right now, but I'm encouraged that there are people of like mind out there. This is the best line (IMO) from your post:

    Another problem might be that we’ve treated this country as a rebellious Christian nation, instead of as a foreign nation needing to be evangelized.

    This is SO important! We need, sorry for the cliche, a paradigm shift here.

  6. @Suzan, that's exactly the kind of book that we need, I think. Get that book published, would you?

    @Morgan, thanks. I think most of us want to help our neighbors. We'd love to have them read our books. I guess what I'm wondering is who is going to publish books with strong, good Christian characters who don't compromise, but who don't preach much either. I think some of the CBA publishers are doing Christian worldview fantasies that don't have Christian characters, but I wonder if we could have some books with Christian minor characters in a hostile world. Is anyone doing that? And if such books are being/will be published by Christian publishers, do/will people in the world see them? Maybe self-publishing and small press would have more freedom. Or could Christian publishers start general market imprints?

    @Michael, thanks. I hope to hear where those spinning wheels take you.

  7. I feel, at this point at least, that the smaller presses may provide good, caring homes for these books that might otherwise be euthanized. They don't seem to have to worry about the most easily offended Christian readers, and they don't seem to mind pushing the envelope.

    It's time we acknowledged there's a continuum amongst Christian readers, and allow ourselves to serve readers who don't care for CBA fic necessarily.

    1. I agree that the small presses have much more freedom. The bigger you are the harder you fall. The more customers you have the more you are loathe to lose them. Small presses seem to be able to go after the niche markets very well. I just wonder, though, if we wouldn't do better if we'd all support one another the way the Mormons and the homosexual seem to do.

    2. I would love to see that kind of support (and try to as much as I can). Unfortunately, I see a lot more bickering and complaining than I do support :(

  8. Wow--great conversation starter, Sally. We definitely have to make a change in order to make a difference. I do believe change has been coming in some CBA circles. Looking forward to seeing the outcome.


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