If you’re a Christian, even nominally, or if you live in the Deep South, you probably know what I’m referring to. But for those unfamiliar, the religious have a subculture all their own. It is equipped with its own books, music, movies, and everything else to give believers an alternative from secular media.
Fortunately, there is a little bit of this media that’s good. That includes “Veggie Tales (at least the earlier seasons),” some Christian bands (including Skillet), many great books, and a few movies (primarily “To Save a Life”). Unfortunately, the rest of this media runs the gamut of being generic, unimaginative, or just awful.
It’s incomprehensible. How could a faith that has inspired revolutions in music, architecture, art, and culture among other things now be producing the most uninspired stuff?
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Other Christians have complained about the same thing for years. So, the question is: Why is this happening?
From my observations, I think the answer comes down to three things. One, Christian media companies think that by resembling secular media they will attract a larger audience. Two, Christian media companies are as sinful as everyone else, so by making slop that is inoffensive enough for the religious and conservative to consume, they make money without having to make the effort to make anything good. Three, the religious are too nice to tell someone they need to improve.
To the Christian subculture followers of my audience, the answer sounds harsh, but it’s true. Isn’t it?
I’ve read from other sources that back up my claim, but the best summary I can give of the problem is from a blogger named Phil Cooke who wrote about this issue briefly on his blog.
Cooke says, “I was reading David Eagleman’s New York Times review of Jonathan Gottschall’s new book ‘The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human’ and came across a brilliant statement:
‘The dominant themes of story aren’t what we might assume them to be. Consider the plotlines found in children’s playtime, daydreams and novels. The narratives can’t be explained away as escapism to a more blissful reality. If that were their purpose, they would contain more pleasure. Instead, they’re horrorscapes. They bubble with conflict and struggle. The plots are missing all the real-life boring bits, and what remains is an unrealistically dense collection of trouble. Trouble, Gottschall argues, is the universal grammar of stories.’
Eagleman nails what many of us have tried to express, and certainly what millions of Christians want to avoid when it comes to movies, TV, books, and other media: It shouldn’t be about being ‘clean.’ Some Christian radio and TV stations even advertise that they’re ‘safe.’ But the great stories aren’t safe – even the best children’s stories. They’re filled with conflict, struggle, and yes, even horror. They don’t shy away from real life. (Oddly enough, that’s something they have in common with much of the Old Testament.) Christians may not be able to create impactful media or entertainment as long as its played ‘safe.’”
Folks should keep in mind that no art has ever been revolutionary for being safe.