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Why We Should Support Christian Projects from Hollywood

In spite of the raging success of The Bible series on The History Channel, there are still Christian critics of recent efforts by Hollywood to produce Christian themed movies and TV programming. I was in a meeting recently where we discussed the record breaking audience for “The Bible” series, and one well-meaning Christian in the group said, “But it’s SO inaccurate!” Every time a project like The Blind Side, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bible, The Book of Eli, and others come out, a group of Christians take an issue with the theology, doctrine, or portrayals in the film. In most cases, the complainers are well meaning, but in spite of inaccuracies or doctrinal issues, here’s why I think we need to support these projects:

1) Hollywood is finally getting the message that 91+ million evangelical Christians in the United States take their faith seriously, and it’s interested in reaching that audience.  This is a major breakthrough. For the last 30 years, in movies or prime time TV, most Christians were portrayed as pedophiles, serial killers, or child abusers. Now, the entertainment industry realized that this is a vast audience who should be treated seriously, and we’re seeing a sea-change in the way Christians are portrayed.

2) Hollywood is now spending hundreds of millions of dollars marketing these projects to the world.  When The History Channel is spending tens of millions of dollars advertising “The Bible” to the world, we need to get behind it. Add all the other major studio projects, and the exposure to Biblically themed projects is amazing. As a result of that series alone, millions of people are now watching Bible stories, buying the DVD, and reading the book. How can this be a bad thing?

3) The Bible is now water cooler conversation.  Christians who were once afraid to discuss their faith at the office, are now finding that talking about the Bible is actually cool! Because these movies and TV programs bring up the issue, Christians not only are more comfortable talking about it, but are there to answer questions their co-workers and friends have about the Bible.

4) As Hollywood talent agent Kim Dorr said about the Bible series recently:  “Granted they are telescoping the entire Bible into 10 hours of television. Granted there are places where they’ve had to jump through hundreds of years of world history. But the FACT that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey pitched a miniseries about THE BIBLE, SOLD IT, SHOT IT, and have it on a cable network where millions of people are watching it and discussing it – is extraordinary. In watching the episodes, there have been moments of such theological insight that my husband and I have stopped many times to discuss how the scene broadened or deepened something in our faith. To get that from something airing on TV is extraordinary.”

5) If the Christian community could act as one, we could make a powerful difference in the culture.  We wonder why we’re not impacting the world, and yet these films and TV programs are a great example of how we criticize each other, rather than support each other. Check out the website for As One to find out just how important it is for us to work together.

6)  Unity matters.  If we’re going to impact the world, we need to stand together. We can nit-pick each other’s projects until Jesus comes, but when He arrives, He won’t be happy with the result. The portrayal of King David might not be what you expect. The dialogue on the road to Damascus might not be exactly what’s in the Biblical text. Did Jesus carry the whole cross or just a beam?

The point is – these big budget projects are telling the story of the Bible to the world, and it’s our job to follow up with our friends, family, and co-workers and fill in the details. We have a role to play in this, and it’s not just to be critics.

 

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43 Comments

  1. I’ve yet to see The Bible, so cannot comment on it’s merits, but I completely agree with the above article. I for one cannot bear the self-appointed theology police Christians who can’t seem to understand that this isn’t Bible school or a sermon. This is entertainment. Christians should be very pleased with the success of this series, as it does provide a jumping off point for evangelism.

    Conversely, I would also argue that negative portrayals of Christianity and/or deliberately inaccurate Biblical portrayals can sometimes still generate debate, in spite of any malicious intentions by filmmakers. I’ve had some great conversations on the back of The Last Temptation of Christ, Life of Brian, The Da Vinci Code and many others that Christians have protested over.

  2. Incidentally, my response to any theology police (or “theopigs” as I call them) is to tell them, with a totally straight face, that I have profound doubts over a particular semi-colon in Zephaniah…

  3. What unites us matters more than what divides us. We all follow Jesus, right? Those opportunities to discuss Him are what we ought to celebrate and seize. Good for the producers. If they missed the mark in some detail, let’s talk about that, in-house, and learn from it. But the big story, the idea that it all points to Jesus…the series got that exactly right.

  4. While I haven’t seen The Bible series except for a small segment, I have to agree with you. We need to support projects that are sharing the gospel. It’s a way to get it into culture.

    One caveat though. I think the projects Christians support should be quality productions. They can’t be thrown together haphazardly and look like garbage.

    1. I agree, however, the biggest producer of Christian films- Sherwood Pictures- is still growing. I have heard estimates that within the next 2 movies they should be up to Hollywood quality in terms of acting and cinematography. I can’t wait till that happens.

  5. I enjoyed the Bible series. I thought that overall they did a great job. I read a blog post earlier this morning going through all the the things wrong with the series. The principle holds true, “Seek and you shall find.” Look for the bad and you will find it. The am sure the producers of series did not get anything wrong, but they did not put forth anything I would classify as heretical. – So let’s look for the good, and celebrate that.

  6. AMEN, AMEN, AND AMEN! I agree wholeheartedly with you — the faith community should rejoice — pointing people to the Lord and His Word on such a massive scale; doesn’t get much better than that. Disunity, bickering, nitpicking, critizing, — does not serve well the message of THE BIBLE and GOD’S LOVE that can and should impact the world!

  7. I just had to thought about your post about the Mormons advertising in front of the broadway theater. That`s what we should do + supporting christian movies. And some people are complainers. No matter how good and accurate a book was transformed into a movie they`ll always find something to pick on.

  8. Phil, thank you SO MUCH for challenging Christians to stop criticizing, but start supporting efforts to bring truth to the world through the media. We are living in a miraculous time where Christians should be praising God for the Biblical content found on television, in films and on the radio. Clearly God is working in Hollywood, despite us!

  9. Constructive criticism is essential to our testimony to society. If we mindlessly support everything without raising questions, then we will overlook answering questions and wind up in an echo chamber.

    1. This blog is all about raising questions. But unless the project is way off-base, supporting it is often the most constructive thing we can do – especially if we’re serious about sending a message to the culture.

  10. When folks who are really interested in finding out more about the Bible and Christians in particular, see us ragging on one another about the “small stuff”, they are turned off and a terrific opportunity like this wonderful production is wasted. The only one happy about this is the enemy. Celebrate this very, very well done production and use it for the Lord. Hollywood sees numbers – both in viewership and in dollars. Encourage them (us) with your support.

    1. If those folks are petty, then they never were “turned on.”

      If they are earnest seekers, they can smell a rat, too, and will appreciate the tough questions.

      I say this as a university professor who routinely defends cultural Christianity to faculty and other academicians who are looking for openings to respect critical thinking among Christians.

      1. True. However, most Christian critics aren’t asking tough questions. They’re upset because Goliath doesn’t look like what they think he should look like.. 🙂

  11. Jesus’ parables weren’t theologically correct either. In most there is no character of God and none are set in a church. They are stories of rebellious sons, widows, farmers and random acts of kindness. But they all had a God message – perhaps a good philosophy for us filmmakers today?

    1. I fully agree with you. Still, the people I meet are less concerned with theological nuance that accurate historical representation.

      …especially on a medium called “The History Channel.”

    2. Jesus parables weren’t Theologically correct? Huh? Jesus is God. These parables deal with heart of man that only God can discern. They weren’t cute stories with a nice moral message.

  12. Great post Phil! I have recently been out pitching a number of TV and Film projects, all in the Faith Friendly arena and while it has been great to see the positive reaction by studio and network executives and their understanding of the pure business advantages of programming to this huge segment, the issue of quality and proper financing is a major hurdle. Until we as a community are able to put forth top quality projects that cross the Faith and Secular void (as Blindside did) and until Christian’s with resources ($$) support those who are out there fighting the good fight, we will continue to see low interest and support from Hollywood. This is especially true in TV where the levels of approvals prevent anything from making it to the small screen; from low level development execs to upper level network execs, Ad Sales and marketing teams and finally advertisers. There is no greater medium to reach the masses and start the conversation but our internal battles, let alone our external ones are preventing us from achieving the success we envision.

  13. Well said! Yes, there are some inconsisties with Scripture in the Bible Series and other Christian projects. But these types of tv projects do more good than harm when it comes to reaching ppl for the Kingdom. The basic doctrine was not altered. How are we supposed to reach anyone for Christ and make an impact on this world as Christians, if we nitpick each other’s Christian projects?

    1. Not sure if “the basic doctrine” was not harmed. If we want to create a parable then that would be fine, but if we are going to document the bible then “the word of God” should never be altered in any way. Look at the church the Downy’s attend if you want to know why there were alterations. This church doesn’t have “basic” doctrine at all in their statement of beliefs, just new age spiritualism. God doesn’t need us to water down his message to reach lost souls, he just needs us to tell the truth.

  14. I agree with your comments Phil and appreciated your comments on Moody Radio. I think the entire conversation however continues to innoculate us against the real truth of the gospel message which is that it’s sole purpose was to transform lives not cultures. Yes transforming individuals by the truth and power of the gospel will, BY DEFINTION, change culture BUT the aim must be individual lives not mass culture. Phil since your calling is to use mass media doing your job for the glory of God requires that you try to measure the impact of your work on the ‘masses” BUT for those of us not called to mass media ministry- – the focus must be on a personal transformation. The idea that somehow mass media events will make the foolishness of the gospel more palatable in an ever darkening culture is wishful thinking. Christ lived in a decadent anti-God Roman culture and He never implied that believers should focus on influence culture – he wanted them to so dramatically live for God that temporal culture became meaningless in light of the eternal kingdom of God. I am fine with Christian support for mass media events that positively portray gospel truth – – -But it must not dilute us into thinking our job is or should be easier or that hearts will be changed or that culture will make it easier to live in our Christian comfort zone. Sin is absurdly indemic, evil, irrational and persistent – – .. we must not allow ourselves to believe that our small financial support of these endeavors has any real significance in light of our daily imperative to live out the ridiculous love that saved a wretch live me.

      1. You are completely missing the point Phil. The Holy Spirit draws the unbeliever to repentance, not a water downed plot line whose real motive is to sell tickets to a growing Christian audience.

        1. Not sure I see how I’m missing the point. Media isn’t the church. I don’t expect movies and TV programming to lead people to Christ (although plenty have). But they ARE powerful tools for changing the culture’s perception of the Church and Christianity in general. I’d love to see BOTH the Church and powerful messages through the media working together to impact this generation.

          1. I understand what you are getting at but trying to change the culture’s perception is impossible. The world will not accept the light unless the Holy Spirit draws them. It’s foolishness to the world’s spirit. This world will always be in conflict with us until it is recreated and the King of the world (Satan) is removed. If you are a born again, believer, and are acting in obedience to the direction of the Holy Spirit when you write and produce the movie , then Gods will is done. Hollywood does not have that as it’s agenda and nothing good can come from that.

          2. I would disagree on a couple of levels. First, it’s impossible for you to know “Hollywood’s agenda.” The truth is, there are many serious believers in remarkable places of influence out here. To dismiss God’s ability or desire to work through them would be a mistake. Second, you absolutely can change the culture’s perception. The gay community has done it very well. Look at the difference in the general perception of the culture toward gay people from just a decade ago.
            I’m simply saying it’s time we were as strategic about it as they are.

          3. Phil,
            I am going to end the back and forth as I don’t think either of us will change what we believe. “Hollywood” is the term for secular films regardless of who produces them or where they are produced. I have no problem with a secular film as long as the message glorifies God in some way and doesn’t represent itself as an accurate depiction of a biblical event. Yes they did represent it that way. Why are these inaccuracies in
            Noah Phil? Ask the Holy Spirit. Lets support Christian film makers who are motivated by the Holy Spirit over profit. Films that are intended to reach the world with the truth of the gospel without trying to make it palatable to sinners. Many of our mega churches believe they must act like the world in order to recruit members. Even as a non believer I didn’t buy any of that. As a believer I am saddened by it. For me the real Gospel was good enough. Peace to you brother.

  15. I agree and I really enjoyed it. As a Christian, I felt proud of the quality and intend to purchase the series in efforts to be supportive and have at home for my boys to view.

  16. The Bible series on History Channel challenged me in ways not expected. Yes, some scenes are not
    perfect in biblical detail. Certainly, compressing Genesis to Revelation into a few hours required choices of what to tell about God’s amazing love for
    us. But let us say “thank you” to the men and women responsible for creating The Bible series, demonstrating their love for the Lord and a huge commitment in telling His love story for each of us. They have us talking.
    Regarding being challenged in ways not expected, I think of The Bible scene where Moses and God’s people stood between the Red Sea in front and Egyptian army behind. What to do? I identify with Moses very human response where he seemed to not know what to do, but stepped out to be alone with God and wait for His direction. When Moses sensed what God wanted Him to do, he did it.
    Watching The Bible inspired me to reflect deeply on that tense, life changing moment when Moses waited on God. When I don’t know what to do in difficult situations, I am encouraged to wait on God.
    Another challenging scene was Jesus calling Peter. The Bible showed Jesus getting into the boat with
    Peter who had been fishing with no success. Jesus moved His hand in the water and Peter’s nets were filled. Peter was astounded. Peter was moved when Jesus said he would be a “fisher of men” and they would change the world. Now that’s not perfect in detail to the way I remember the biblical story, . . . but I’m challenged to reflect on what astounds me about God and moves me in His direction.
    What will my Lord stir in my life to make me want to join Him in changing the world through His power and His presence for His glory? The Bible has us talking.
    . . . . . Phil, I enjoy reading your Change Revolution emails. Excellent. Keep us talking.

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