Being “salt and light” in the world of entertainment

Aside from working with the “What’s in the Bible” team, I also administrate a online Christian movie site, promoting Christian films, filmmakers, writers and all things media related.  On site we have some great (sometimes even heated) discussions, too!  I’ve had numerous conversations with fans of Christian films, and much of what I hear is sort of reactionary in terms of our culture and the negative impact that Hollywood is having on that culture, as a whole.

This weekend I took my mom to see the newly released film Hereafter. Its previews made it sound like it was going to answer the big question, “What happens when we die?”  Granted, I wasn’t expecting an overtly Biblical viewpoint about the afterlife, but I was interested in seeing their take on what most of us refer to as “Heaven”.

Bluntly, the story was weak.  But besides that, it was written using a post-modern worldview. While the film started to address the idea that there may be more than just a black void which will be experienced after death; without taking a Biblical truth and expanding on it–well, Biblically– the audience was left confused, and had many really important unanswered questions.

Sadly, the story couldn’t answer the tough questions:  What, where, and why?. Those who don’t share our worldview can’t go beyond what is physically tangible. Where there is no faith, there is no “hope for things unseen…”

The beauty of having a Biblical worldview is that we can answer these tough questions;  not based on our complete understanding, but based on faith in God’s Word and His promises, fulfilled in Jesus! When our children ask us what happens when we die, we can direct them to scripture. We can truthfully tell them that, while we don’t know exactly what Heaven looks like, it DOES exist. We can explain that through the Resurrection of Jesus, we have an ultimate hope in an eternal life with God.

There’s that need for that “Bible literacy” thing again!

Here are two questions that many Christian filmmakers and fans of Christian films do a lot of talking about on my site, “Should we make films for only Christians? –OR should we make films for the rest of the world, with a needed message of redemption?

We needn’t look any further than the Biblical stories of Daniel and Joseph to see how God used these two simple, yet godly men to work amongst powerful idol worshippers to reach His greater purpose! Bringing about a transformation within their very societies, which ultimately helped God’s people!

Jesus instructs us to be “salt and light of the world”, (Matthew 5:13-16) and to do the work that God has sent us to do.

In John 17:18, Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.”  Jesus never asked God to take believers out of the world, but to instead USE THEM in it.  Because Jesus is the one who sends us into the world, we should not try to escape from it, and avoid all relationships with non-Christians.  Rather to impact the world with His light.

This makes me think that we must ask ourselves if we are truly helping to unify the body of Christ–AND how we are bringing His truth to those who don’t yet know Him. Both things are equally important.

Personally, I pray that I become less reactionary in my response to the world. I pray that God shows me how to help transform and impact culture–somehow, and that I can teach my children to do the same.  It shouldn’t surprise me that those who are OF THE WORLD can only share a distorted message of questionable values, based on inner enlightenment and a belief structure based on a self fulfilled destiny.  They don’t know any better. They lack His Word…the Truth…or perhaps a literacy of that Word.

Part of that truth is we are made in the image of a loving, relational God, who desires to be in a loving relationship WITH us.  What a great starting point in any story, song, play, or movie.  What a great beginning in transforming our society!

As a mom, I can see how vital it is for my kids to really know their Bible.  Not just the sweet Sunday school stories, but the history–the time lines–the cultures– the story behind the story. That’s probably why I love the What’s In the Bible? series so much!  It’s chalked full of so much more than what I was taught as a kid!  I’m blessed to be able to give my kids that advantage.  They are both creatives…so maybe one day they’ll feel inspired to make a movie or write a book that will make an impact on their generation for Jesus!

What is your opinion about the films of today?  Do we Christians need to make a bigger impact on society through secular films / media projects?  Or should we stay within the Christian film / Christian media genre, only? Would you support work by Christians who write, act, and produce films for an inclusive or cross-over audience? Do you let your kids watch secular films? What if your child wants to be an actor, director or filmmaker?

We all value your insights and comments!!

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7 comments
Naomi Pleasant
Naomi Pleasant

I do believe that you can have christian film, but it most be holy spirit lead and direct to impact cultures, both christian and non christian. Because i see christian film with such strong message that i know that can impact both culture, like Pamela pray,there is other i can't remember their name now,that i enjoy and know that can impact life for Christ. Once Christ be lift up soul will be draw to him. John 12:32.

Steph
Steph

Good points, but I think there's more to the question of being "salt and light" in filmmaking than this. I'm a college student, and started school at an excellent Christian college convinced I wanted to go into filmmaking "for God"; to "be salt and light", "make an impact", "attempt great things for God", etc. After subsequent soul-searching-- including a realization like Phil Vischer's that instead of following God and seeking to abide in His will, I was essentially telling Him, "I want to do this for You. Now bless me in it!"-- I concluded that I couldn't pursue a career in film anymore. Nonetheless, my interest led me to observe and learn a lot about the realities of being a Christian in the cimenatic/dramatic arts. Some of what I gleaned: Most aspiring Christian filmmakers are incredibly naive. They think good intentions and high ideals are enough to carry them, when they lack both the practical skills and the maturity of faith necessary to accomplish what they dream of. This is why we see so many low-quality Christian films on the market-- the filmmakers behind them are unwilling to invest in learning their craft or paying their dues to the industry, and their inexperience shows. This itself is a misrepresentation of Christ, if only because it demonstrates a lack of wisdom and humility. Also, independent filmmakers or those who try to start studios are made vulnerable by their lack of financial and business savvy, as the Big Idea story demonstrates. The introduction from Marvin Olasky's (editor, World Magazine) book "Telling the Truth", while approaching the problem from the Christian news media standpoint rather than the entertainment media standpoint, addresses this rather embarrassing lack of practical wisdom more thoroughly: http://www.worldmag.com/world/olasky/intro.html But an equal, perhaps greater, naivete lies with the Christians who enter the secular film industry believing they're strong enough to stay true to their convictions, wise enough to not be affected by the grossly and implicitly Godless culture around them, and capable of garnering enough influence to actually "make a difference" through their work. Secular Hollywood is an unreached people group where souls go to die. Even if you're a strong Christian going in, you're sacrificing the health of your faith by entering, unless you have a strong body of believers committed to praying for you and coming alongside you throughout. A professor of mine, coming from a background in secular theater, understands the hard reality that going there alone as a believer is spiritual suicide, and integrated into her dramatic arts program the idea of entertainment industry-bound students as missionary-professionals to an unreached culture, with an emphasis on accountability to mature Christians, developing a strong prayer support base, and a focus on witness to co-workers (the people God's put in your life, whom you have a greater chance of impacting for Christ than you do your audience anyway) earning respect through excellence in your craft. I'm not condemning Christian films or any of my brothers and sisters in the secular establishment. The former are improving in quality, some are truly (even deeply) edifying, and if nothing else may grow into an industry where young Christian fimmakers can gain experience without having to work on projects that compromise their beliefs; the latter, meanwhile, delight me with their work (including Disney's Tangled, Pixar movies, and Walden Media productions like Bridge to Terebithia), and I heartily encourage them to continue doing what they do best. I only mean to offer perspective, and to point out that it takes more than "Christian films" to really give God a voice through cinema-- it takes filmmakers truly, deeply, profoundly devoted to Him, filled with His Spirit and committed to submit all things to His leading. Pray for God to call men and women of cinema into such a relationship with Him, and we may begin to see the likes of Lewis and Tolkein emerge-- people whose work is inexhaustably edifying and unabatingly excellent.

Katie @ Imperfect People
Katie @ Imperfect People

The world is so "entertainment driven" Thankful for your salt andl light in the dark world!

Valerie W
Valerie W

So many questions, so little time! There are wonderful movies and weak movies today; i don't watch many - see above comment about time! We've always let our kids watch secular films, supervising them as we deemed necessary. And our oldest is about to graduate from a state university with a degree in telecommunications, planning to produce and direct TV and movies. We look at it as his ministry. Salt and light. Yeah, man.

Lisa S.
Lisa S.

Josh, interesting perspective. One of the discussions that I raised on site, was that if we take Tolkien or C.S. Lewis and pretend they are contemporary authors--would we Christians still embrace their work or would we question their faith, based on their use of allegory and fantasy? I'm a HUGE C.S. Lewis fan, in fact I keep a copy of his short stories on my nightstand, always. Please feel free to join my Christian Movie Fan FB group at: http://www.facebook.com/ChristianMovieFans?ref=ts

Josh
Josh

What's the URL of the website you administer? I believe God can use all kinds of media intended to glorify His name; there's a place for poorly made Christian movies too. But whenever I think of the ideal Christian filmmaker I think of some of the directors at Pixar. A lot of them profess to be Christians (Andrew Stanton, Pete Doctor) and they direct award winning films the whole world gushes about. There are numerous Christian themes in Pixar films but God is never mentioned. And I think that's OK, because the world doesn't need more Christian films, it needs more filmmakers who are Christians (C. S. Lewis quote, I think). Pixar films are pure, fun, entertaining, uplifting, and most of all, they are excellently made (Phil 4:8). And I think God is pleased with the efforts of Pixar directors to provide a clean worldview in today's culture.

Kathy
Kathy

Daniel and Joseph both did have to work in a secular/pagan environment and yet they never made a personal compromise. Salt...just a pinch...flavors......Salt when it loses it's flavor....is useless. Story line....integrity....no personal compromise (I don't mean compromise as in to collaborate together because we must be able to do that)I just mean to know your line in the sand and be willing to suffer persecution or in business, loss of funding. I think if Daniel and Joseph were making film/video/DVD/media projects...they would have a line in the sand...and God found favor and blessed their work...and I think they would like Jelly Telly! (this comment sponsored by bad grammar, run on sentences, and illegal use of ..............) KL