My friend, Mike, challenged me to blog about Christian media. Like me, he is a creative type who takes his faith seriously. And, like me, he is often frustrated by the Christian media options on the radio, at the bookstore, or in the theaters.
So, in honor of the mega-blockbuster, Left Behind, which is sure to put Nick Cage back on the Oscar platform, let’s start this conversation. Get your two cents ready.
First of all, this topic is highly subjective. We are all critics, and our criticism is often steeped in our own backgrounds, influences, personalities and subcultures. Everybody has their own opinions of musicians, directors and authors, and each person is convinced that their opinions are the standard of quality and good taste.
But can any one person tell any other person what they should or shouldn’t like?
What makes something good? Who gets to decide? You? Me? Album sales? Academy Awards? Professional critics? (answer: Tim Cavendesh from Pittsburgh)
So what about Christian media? Can we make general statements about quality? Hold on, let me text Tim real quick . . .
Moment of honesty here: If someone tells me that a book, movie or band is Christian, I automatically assume I’m going to hate it. And I usually do.
When I was working at Village Christian, I wanted to make a speech in boxers and a T-shirt. No shoes or socks. Monotone. I wanted to tell everyone that it’s all about Christ, then just turn and walk off the stage.
Hopefully they would get the point: The presentation is just as important as the message. A poor presentation can undermine the most powerful message, and a poor message can undermine the most powerful presentation.
What if Atlas Shrugged was full of spelling errors? Or if Tom Cruise had a lisp? Or if Spielberg chose Kirk Cameron to play Oskar Schindler?
When my core values are undermined by what I consider to be poor quality art, I am embarrassed by my own subculture. If it’s not competitive, please don’t put it out there in its boxer shorts.
However, when quality art corresponds with my core values, I am moved. I have been deeply affected by Christian music, movies and books, both fiction and non-fiction. I could list my favorites here, and start in on why they are my favorites, but that would be a subjective exercise.
I have also been deeply affected by secular media which artfully scrutinizes the human condition. I resonate with Dan Haseltine, lead singer of Jars of Clay, who wrote these words about his recent secular album, “Inland.”
“These songs are honest expressions of what life around us looks like. The descriptions of love and pain, loneliness and hope are real to us. It is what frustrates me about the general church audience. If artistic expressions do not have an evangelical agenda, or they don’t explicitly cheer for Jesus, they tend to fail commercially. In my experience, the music with those kinds of agendas is shallow and somehow not ultimately believable to me.”
But sometimes I like my media to geek out on Jesus. Sometimes I want somebody like Keith Green in my speakers, or George Muller on my bookshelf, urging me to turn my back on sin and embrace Christ for all I’m worth. I love my subculture. And sometimes overtly Christian media really speaks to me.
The truth is, I want both. And I want both to be good. Whatever that means.
Hold on. Getting a text from Tim . . .