Christianity and Mainstream Entertainment
Typically if one discusses the reflection of American culture in mainstream entertainment, there are very little positive things to be said—especially in Christian circles. But there is rarely a clear solution to the problem. Some discussions of the issues, in my experience, fail to reflect the gravity of the matter. I think it matters, more so than just casual condemnation in conversation. The entertainment center in America—Hollywood—matters because it is the global center of art and entertainment. Art is the way we humans respond to the cosmos. Every generation delivers something beautiful for future generations to brood over and take delight in. Storytelling is the way human beings learn. It is the way we define our values. It gives us heroes and noble dreams. Entertainment is the way we stretch beyond the limits of our day to day work to experience the depth of our human nature. Entertainment should lead us to laugh hard, to cry with empathy, and to feel exhilaration and wonder.
It is frightening to think that Christians are missing from this unbelievably influential and urgent landscape. Christians have something to offer that is direly missing from Hollywood. We bring hope, the mandate of concern for the world, and most importantly, the glory and creative energy of the Holy Spirit.
This is needed terribly in movies, television shows, videogames, and the Internet. We need not only to be donating to and praying for organizations such as ActOne, which has a Christian vision for entertainment, we need to encourage faith-filled artists and professionals to be writers, directors, actors, and so forth, in order to change the landscape and give our youth better idols to look up to. This is a moral imperative for all Christians.
We also need to realize that American culture has deeply shaded Christian religious practice for the worse. It is a current trend to “switch” between denominations to find what “feels good” and not what is the truth. There is an emphasis on finding a church that gathers everyone together in a false sense of unity—a church without dogma, without a clear moral framework of life, no political declarations, etc—that makes us all feel good. We want to be comfortable in our sins.
It seems to me that an authentic Christianity is going to make us uncomfortable, it is going to make us cringe as we follow our moral conscience to the point of receiving ridicule from others. That’s why I’m Catholic and why I chose it over every other religious tradition.
I find that even amongst Catholics, many wish we lived back in the 1830s when everyone was supposedly devout and attended a Tridentine Mass jovially. Not quite. The Church has faced challenges to life, to the family, and while modern challenges are not characteristic, at first glance to previous obstacles, for those of us who are catechized, we know there has always been dissent. The Gnostics, the Arians, the Nestorians, the Quietists, and the list goes on. There has always been those people unlearned in their faith, hypocrites, and people who use religion for personal gain. Tradition is not about maintaining the status quo, but is a “living” and unfolding Revelation. This is our time in the history of the Church and this moment is characterized by post-modern confusion, with 24 hour chattering news cycles, post-sexual revolution cynicism, vulgarity, morally-unbounded liberalism.
The Lord proclaimed, “Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that have never nursed.’” I think we’ll be better off when we face the fact that we live in a dark world which is locked in a struggle with very high stakes. We should not be surprised by the ravages of sin. Only fools are scandalized. And those who have not been enlightened by the Gospel are susceptible to relativism, to so-called sexual freedom, to contraception, to legal and recreational drugs, to senseless wanton violence and if we fight it, we have to do so through their mechanisms—the entertainment media.