The Problem With Christian Entertainment

Why do we not impact people in the entertainment industry? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook, and whether it was sarcastic or not, I don’t know, about why Christians shouldn’t watch The Office. Now I have never seen an episode of the show. The most I know about it is I understand a lot of memes on Facebook are from it and I know about the Owlkitty video of it. That’s it.

This led me to thinking about something else. I know we all realize it, but for the most part, Christian entertainment sucks. It’s often just boring and preachy. There are some exceptions, but it’s nothing the world wants to see. I remember when Fifty Shades of Grey came out that the same day, a counterpart movie called Old-Fashioned came out. You might have never even heard of it. There’s no way it could compete with Fifty Shades.

If there is one clear exception to this, it is the Chronicles of Narnia. Yet do you see Christianity explicitly spelled out in that? No. There’s a lot of symbolism in the books of course that points to Christ and so there is also in the rest of Lewis’s fiction, but many atheists can even enjoy reading C.S. Lewis.

Christians don’t have anything in the way of entertainment. We think you have to spell it out explicitly. It’s not fun. If we make something for the purposes of entertaining, our aim should be that the product is actually entertaining. That doesn’t negate we do it for Jesus, but people won’t want to watch Christian entertainment or play Christian video games or read Christian books for fun if they are not, well, fun.

Back in the days of the NES, I remember getting the Bible games from Wisdom Tree. They were alright games, but the only reason I got them was that they were Bible games. That’s it. They honestly hardly even worked on the NES at times. Bible video games are often some of the worst games that they are.

Many of us who are Christians don’t like it when we see a series and the politics is out there in front and everyone knows it. We think we are being preached to, and in essence, we are probably right. I know a lot of people have complained about the newest Star Trek series thinking that it’s going on. They could be right. If we don’t like it, why think unbelievers will like it?

What would be good is if we had a series come out on TV that was actually entertaining or a movie at the theater that was actually entertaining or a book or a video game or whatever it is and people wanted to play it and then find out later on that it was a Christian series. I know some of you will disagree, but on my podcast I have had John Granger on to discuss the Harry Potter series as a Christian series from a Christian viewpoint. Even if you don’t agree with that, if it is true, that is something powerful. That is having it done right.

When we think things have to be explicit, we also assume our audience is stupid. We assume that they have to state it outright or else no one will get it. That insults our audience. No one wants to be assumed to be an idiot.

I don’t know if you should watch the Office or not, but I know the reason we debate this is because we don’t have our own entertainment that’s good. You may enjoy watching Pureflix, but how many people do you know who are non-Christians who are buying it? This is not to knock them at all, but if we are wanting to reach people, it doesn’t help that goal if people aren’t interested in our method of outreach.

God gives us all things richly for our enjoyment as is said in 1 Tim. 6:17. Shouldn’t we do something for the enjoyment of our fellow neighbor? If we want to show Christianity to them in a way that is something they will want, shouldn’t we show them something they would want to have and something they can actually enjoy? This isn’t to say fun is the main goal of the Christian life, but fun is the goal of entertainment. If you sit down to watch the Office, you likely aren’t doing it to study theology or philosophy. Rightly or wrongly, you’re doing it to have fun.

We’re also meant to be creative people in the footsteps of the creator. Our creator created some very fun things for us here. I’ve seen our cat running around here playing some tonight. The animal kingdom is a testimony to the fun of the creator in many ways. Yes, nature is red in tooth and claw at times, but it’s also very fun in many other ways. Shouldn’t we be creative that way? Shouldn’t we make music and TV and movies and video games and books that unbelievers even will want to live?

Let’s do better.

Then maybe we won’t have to debate the Office because not only will we be watching our own great material, but so will everyone else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I Affirm The Virgin Birth.)

And Then They Came For My Fun

Do we have our priorities out of whack? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Over the weekend there was a church shooting in Tennessee. You might not have heard about this. The media gave it some lip service and then it went to the big story. What’s the big story? Football players kneeling during the National Anthem.

It’s not to say that this isn’t worthy of discussion. For what it’s worth, I find it deplorable that so many players are doing this, but at the same time, I don’t really care. My attitude towards most sports has always been that I don’t care. When the Super Bowl comes on here, Allie watches the game. I put down my book and watch during the commercials. If the NFL dies over this, it won’t affect me one bit.

Yet I do notice something. Americans don’t tend to get excited about a topic unless it affects their entertainment. You might say that Christians are not like that. Oh no. Sadly, Christians in America are just like that. Go after everything else in the world and that’s fine, but focus in on their fun and it’s time for war.

A few years ago, there was a major controversy when Duck Dynasty was pulled from the air. Why? Because one of the main characters had said something against homosexual practice. A&E pulled the show and before too long, there was a Facebook page set up with a million members and protests as people had their cable disconnected. Cracker Barrel in an amazing suicide stunt decided to join in and received the same attention. Eventually, A&E and Cracker Barrel relented.

So there you have it. Christians across this nation won a great victory because they stood up and spoke. They got their TV show back and after this great victory, they did what is the next obvious step.

That’s right. Absolutely nothing.

What about Chick-Fil-A? Now this is something that I can have some interest in as I do like their waffle fries, but other than that, I’m not a chicken fan. So then we have the media go after Chick-Fil-A and then we go after that by having Chick-Fil-A Day. It’s a rousing success. Chick-Fil-A shatters business records that day. People waited in long lines just to have something at Chick-Fil-A. After this great success, Christians again who saw what a difference their voice can make when they speak did the obvious thing with a great victory.

That’s right. Absolutely nothing.

So what do I gather from this?

We in America, and Christians are not an exception, care about an issue when it interferes with our fun. Other than that, it doesn’t affect us supposedly so leave it alone. Sure, the homosexual left has been going after marriage for awhile, but who cares about defending that? Just don’t let them go after Chick-Fil-A! That’s when we stand up and say we will not accept this!

There are many issues we can talk about in our country, but obviously what needs to be fixed first is the NFL issue. Again, it’s not saying we absolutely avoid talking about it, but we ask based on how much time we spend discussing things what our priorities are. If we are willing to stand up for Chick-Fil-A, and not saying we shouldn’t, but we aren’t standing up for marriage, then what are we to say? Do Christians value Chick-Fil-A more than marriage? Sadly, I think we do.

The solution to this I think is to raise greater awareness. Why should we defend marriage? Should we care about things greater than our entertainment? This won’t be an easy task because too many of us think “Unless it affects my life, I just don’t care.” If you don’t care enough about a problem to do something about it though, you have to ask if you really care about it at all.

So what do we care about?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Nintendo, Sega, and the Gospel

What do the console wars of the 80’s and 90’s have to tell us about Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend recently gave me a Kindle gift of the book Console Wars and I have started reading it. It’s all about the war between Nintendo and Sega in the 80’s and 90’s. Now I had always been a Nintendo guy. What made me get into Playstation also was just one thing. Final Fantasy. Reading through this book, I think back to my own growing up time and all the events going on behind the scenes that I had no idea of and the connections Nintendo and Sega had with other events that I was unaware of.

I also am thinking about the Gospel. Sega did take on a giant in Nintendo. Ultimately, we know that they eventually lost to the point that now they make games for Nintendo. Still, there is something we can learn here. If we’re in apologetics, how do we take on the giant of unbelief today? If your objection is that Sega lost the war still, then I remind you that there is no silver bullet in evangelism. Perhaps we can learn from where they succeeded and from where they failed both.

The usual reply I get to something like this is that using some sort of marketing technique will mean watering down the Gospel. Not at all. We do not need to change one thing about the Gospel. We need to say sin is sin and Jesus is Lord and everything else still. What we can do is change our presentation to better reach the people.

Part of this is finding out what drives the desires of the people. For instance, we can consider that we think a series that has a great actor or actress in it could sell well, but this doesn’t follow. The Crazy Ones had Robin Williams in it and yet it only lasted one season. The Big Bang Theory did not have an all-star cast at the start and yet it is just now finishing its tenth season. What did the latter have that the former didn’t?

We’re seeing a lot of superhero movies coming out nowadays. Why? What is it about superheroes that drives us so much? This also includes retro heroes. I went to see the Power Rangers movie as soon as it came out as an example. That is a series that has been going on for over twenty years despite the basic theme never changing. What is it about all of these that is the draw?

Music. This is one area I do lack a lot in. My taste in music is pretty much restricted to Weird Al Yankovic (the greatest musical genius of all time) and video game music. If I had to choose a decade, I would go back to the 50’s and 60’s. I consider too much of modern Christian music to just be light and fluffy. Still, why do people like the songs that they like?

As we come to understand people and what they like, we can come to learn how to approach them. If you go to an honor-shame culture and you give the Gospel in a Western way, you will not reach a lot of people with it. Describing God as a judge to them means He’s someone who can be bought off easily with a bribe. Talk about sin and they’re confused. Talk about broken relationship and dishonoring God and they will understand. In the same way, we have to work with our culture.

We often go on to the truth question immediately, but that might not be where they’re at. If it was truth that was the driving force, everyone would be going to the library regularly trying to study and learn. Perhaps we need to find out what drives the culture and how we can use that.

C.S. Lewis did this with the Chronicles of Narnia. Few little children would really go to a library and get a book about Jesus and study it, but in learning about Aslan, they found they learned about Jesus. Lewis managed to sneak past the watchful dragons of his day. If we present just an argument and have no reason for people to really care about the argument, then the fact is they will not care about the argument.

If you think I’m changing the Gospel, again, I am not. Christians have adapted themselves to the internet, social media, and any other new forum that has come along. My own ministry partner makes apologetics-themed cartoons on YouTube. The material he presents does come from scholarly sources. Again, few people will go out and read those scholarly sources, but having it in an entertaining format brings it to the people. The entertainment factor also makes a point of it. Several years ago Boss Tweed’s biggest problem was a cartoonist named Thomas Nast. Why? Because he knew people would not read articles against him, but they will read cartoons.

As we go into these other areas, we need to make sure we’re producing high quality material. If we make Christian movies and only Christians see them, we really haven’t done much. The Case For Christ movie recently has been a great exception to this. Even Richard Carrier said that it’s a good movie. There was no scene in it that you had the Gospel rammed down your throat. Too often in Christian films, we have thought we had to spell everything out because otherwise, the audience is just too stupid to catch on. It’s worth pointing out that Lee Strobel’s original book The Case for Christ caught on so well because he made it not just a book of facts, but a story with real discussions going on. We could argue that the Da Vinci Code did the same thing. Sure, the information was bogus, but the concept was the same. People started thinking about the claims of the book more and if we wanted academic discussions, that was a gateway to those discussions.

At this point, I’m still pondering how all of this will work out. The main point I have is to find the people where they’re at and start with what matters to them, why it does, and see how the Gospel meets that need. For instance, we can talk about the truth question all we want, but it’s not likely to faze a guy who is not becoming a Christian because he wants to keep having sex with his girlfriend. If you think that scenario doesn’t exist out there, you’re incredibly naive. What we can point out is that the Gospel has an extremely high view of sex (I find it amazing that so many non-Christians treat it as if just a biological function and physical activity alone and we’re the ones saying it’s so much more) and that if we go the path of Christianity and its rules on sex and marry with those, we can have a far better sex life than we would without. We are not opposed to his desire for sex as there’s nothing wrong with that, but we think that the Gospel has a much better way to appreciate it. Note that in all of this, I did not say that sex outside of marriage is okay. It isn’t. It’s just going to be convincing someone that they can hold off on something now so that they can appreciate it in a greater way later on if they marry.

Like I said, I’m still pondering. I’m only about a fourth of the way through the book and I’m sure there’s a lot more to learn. I’m taking Kindle notes regularly to try to see what steps were done that I think correct and what steps were incorrect. How did Nintendo successfully share their product? How did Sega not?

I appreciate any suggestions anyone else has on this. Consider this blog some thinking out loud as you will. This is not the final word on a conversation, but I hope it will not be the only one either. I prefer it to be the first of many here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters