Dluxe's World

Thursday, June 1

Coming to a theatre near you...

The last movie I saw in a theatre was the Chronicles of Narnia movie this past December. It was a fitting movie to see since ir seems I'm married to Lucy. Anyways, the 10th post I ever made on this blizzle was a 'review' of the flick for the internet's great benefit.

Mark Driscoll has a post on The Resurgence today where he discusses the growing trend of "intentionally making films for and marketing to Christians".
Of course, the motivation behind all of this is often more about the love of Mammon than the love of Jesus. With Christian books racking up big bucks such as the nutty Left Behind book series and their dreadful four films, Hollywood is waking up to see that there is big money to be made among the Christian faithful. And when Mel Gibson’s The Passion topped $370 million in revenue in North America alone, the potential of the Christian market was obvious.

A recent USA Today story had some interesting points regarding the marketing power of pastors of large churches: "Indeed, studios are finding that ministers who preach to flocks of 5,000 or more a week can be as powerful a marketing tool as a slick advertising campaign." The story goes on to say, "Industry executives are revising traditional advertising campaigns to recognize audiences of faith. Traditionally, studios market movies to the ‘four quadrants’: men, women, moviegoers younger than 25, and those 25 and older. The churchgoing community has become the ‘fifth quadrant.’ Just how big that demographic is, however, is anyone's guess. According to a Gallup survey in December, about 57 percent of Americans consider religion ‘very important’ in their everyday lives."

Over dinner last night, several of us were talking about churches and the balance between engaging culture with the Gospel vs. compromising (intentionally or not) on the message in order to be culturally 'plugged-in'. Though it's a bit of a tangent, I thought Driscoll's questions at the end of the article were thought provoking... So I wanna throw up some thoughts for discussion. Pastor Mark's questions are in bold italics.

Should a pastor/church endorse any form of entertainment, including a film, or is that wrongly using spiritual authority for marketing purposes?

I think the word 'endorse' comes awfully loaded for me... I think of athlete's praising some new, overpriced shoe while cashing gazillion $$ checks or strange, never-heard-of-em guitarists who have a promo deal with a never-heard-of-em guitar maker. "Mick Metalson totally shreds exclusively on Taizzor Guitars and Ernie Ball strings!"

I think that a pastor should not be in anyone's hip pocket... So being compensated for promoting something is completely wack. I remember reading stories of pastors who were getting cash/merchandise for urging their megachurch to take in the Narnia flick. That's just not cool. A pastor's motives should be higher than money. Even genuine, sincere praise is muddied by the exchange of currency.

I do think there's a need for pastors to be conversant in the culture around us*... And if a pastor finds a movie, book, or album particularly edifying, I don't have a problem with them saying so. But I would walk out of the church if I read that the topic of today's sermon was "Why You Should Go See X-Men 3 - Theology Unleashed". We've got more important things to cover, thanks.

Should Christians view the trend of filmmaking solely for their niche market as a good thing as they are gaining respect or a bad thing that Christians somehow can’t just enjoy a decent mainstream film like everyone else?

Well, let's first recognize what we are being 'respected' for: Our buying power. This isn't about the rise of morality or faith in our culture. It is about people trying to figure out how to make the most cash for their picture company. Let's not be naive.

The balance of the issue depends, to some degree, on the movies themselves. Everyone wins with more family-friendly, morally 'upright' movies like Narnia. I know a number of non-Christian fams who went to see the movie and loved it. In addition to being good films, such offerings from Hollywood spur natural curiosity re: faith which we should use to present the Gospel. We should be presenting the Gospel anyway, but if more people are asking we should praise God for the increased opportunity!

Of course, not every film with a Christian 'message' will be positive. Some will distort or fabricate facts, being sure to blur the line so you don't know which is which. This is especially dangerous now since I fear people are getting more of their theology from culture or feelings while less and less is coming from sound Bible teaching.

The bottom line is that we need to be discerning viewers. We mustn't look to the offerings at our local movieplex to validate our faith, to shape our faith, or to mark its cultural rise or fall. The world hated Christ, and we have a promise that it won't like us much either. Some movies marketed to 'us' will be good, others will be bad, and still others will be nothing but bald attempts to profiteer off of our naive urge to be validated by the world.

Should churches open their auditoriums to watch films or is that a violation of "sacred space"?

I'm not sure I can say what I feel one way or the other. Many churches are building sanctuaries that really function as multi-purpose rooms anyway.

For me to feel that such a thing is appropriate the movie's content would need to be 'super-appropriate' - including a Biblically sound, clearly presented theme. In addition, the movie should be prefaced with and followed by teaching and application by a qualified teacher within the church. I'd probably go further and say that the atmosphere of the show should be 'appropriately reverent', though I'm not sure I can really quantify that well.

How funny is it that just a few generations ago, Christians from more sectarian and separatistic, fundamentalist homes were told that watching movies was an evil to be avoided and now the same sort of people are a market for "Christian" film?

I'm not sure I agree with the premise. I think that the same seperatistic people are crying out for such things to be avoided. I just think that there's less of them now than there were then.

The question is whether or not that's a good thing? Have we made a move towards better engaging people in Christ's name or are we simple becoming apathetic to the evils of the world?

That's a topic for another time...

*I can hear the sarcastic argument now: "Well, pr0n is part of the culture... Lots of people are talking about that. Should a pastor be conversant in that just for the sake of being in touch with culture?" No. He shouldn't. Stop being ridiculous.

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