I have a confession to make: I am a Christian, and I dislike Christian media.
To clarify, I don’t dislike all Christian media, just most Christian media. I will – on occasion – listen to a praise and worship playlist on Spotify; every now and then a Christian-made film will surprise me as an enjoyable film-viewing experience; there are a handful of Christian writers who capture me with everything they write. I don’t visit many Christian websites, and I don’t listen to many Christian podcasts. By and large, I am creatively and artistically unimpressed with much that comes out of the world of Christian media.
But it runs deeper than that. While I don’t have a problem with the individuals creating the media, I don’t like the various industries that have built up around the Christian faith. For example, on this blog I’ve argued against the creation of a Christian film industry. In the spirit of Keith Green and Rich Mullins, I’m vexed that writing praise and worship songs and devotional books is a big business. I’m most definitely not a fan of the idea of Christian celebrity, because celebrity runs counter to the humble life that Jesus lived, which is the point of the Christian faith.
And don’t get me started on people using Christianity to get ahead in politics.
I haven’t always felt this way. I think it started when I moved out of the Christian subculture in 1999, the year I moved to Kazakhstan. Also, as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more discerning with both my theology and my artistic tastes. Finally, I credit the internet, which opened the door to everyone and their mother creating media with their cell phones and laptops, which means that a LOT of the Christian (and not Christian) media being produced is just… for the lack of a better word… poopy.
A few days ago, Lifeway Research published a report that showed that the majority of Christian media is consumed by Christians. This means that I – as a middle-aged white Christian male – represent one of the key demographics for Christian media producers.
And I don’t like very much of what they’re producing.
This brings me to another confession: I am a middle-aged white Christian male who loves secular media.
To clarify: I don’t love all secular media. There’s quite a bit that I wouldn’t go anywhere near. But I listen to secular music; I love non-faith-based movies and television; reading good fiction by authors who don’t broadcast their religious beliefs is one of my favorite ways of passing the time, I constantly visit websites that have no overtly spiritual content, and I listen to hours of non-religious podcasts each week.
And I believe that God can speak to me through these materials that have not been created with the express goal of speaking to me about God.
But reading the Lifeway report made me wonder: am I doing something wrong as a Christian by not buying into what the makers of Christian media are selling? Does it somehow make me less faithful? Am I missing an opportunity for spiritual growth by avoiding materials made expressly to help me to grow spiritually?
And then the idea came: what if I only consumed Christian media? Saturated myself with the stuff? What would happen? Would it strengthen my Christian faith? Would it make me dislike Christian media even more? Would I discover producers of Christian media who consistently produce good quality work – thus opening my mind and choices a little bit?
There are precedents for an experiment like this. Over the past few years there have been several examples of writers setting time limits, forcing themselves out of their comfortable lifestyles, and documenting what happens. A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically, Ed Dobson’s The Year of Living Like Jesus, Rachel Held Evan’s A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Ryan Bell’s A Year Without God, to name just a few.
And so I decided to challenge myself. If those writers could change things for a year, certainly I could change things for forty days, right?
Still, it wasn’t an easy decision. I would miss the movies, the programs, the podcasts, the music. But, it was because it wasn’t an easy decision that I decided to do it. The day after I started thinking about this, I read an article where the writer said that if God is prompting you to give something up, and you aren’t willing to do it, then that thing may have become an idol.
As much as I enjoy secular media, I don’t want it to be an idol. So, for forty days, secular media will not be a part of my life.
The challenge: to live on a strict diet of nothing but Christian media for exactly forty days (and nights), and then in the end, examine the results.
The ground rules:
1) The Forty Day (and Night) Christian Media Challenge will begin on March 15, 2015 and will end at midnight on Saturday, April 25, 2015.
2) For the sake of this challenge, media includes films, radio, television, magazines, books, podcasts, websites, and newspapers. And I will only use media that you would find sold by a Christian retailer. So, while it can be argued that Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is a film rich with Christian themes and imagery, it’s not sold in Christian bookstores, so it wouldn’t qualify.
3) I will still visit and comment on social media websites (Facebook, Twitter), but I will not click any links, stories, or images that take me to any websites that are not promoted as being Christian.
4) I will use all media as needed for my employment (I’m a teacher) – but not recreationally.
5) I will do this every day except two. I’m flying from China to America and back in April, and I will watch in-flight movies during that trip. The trip will take at least 24 hours, and so I will watch in-flight movies as we travel. However, if Delta makes Christian-made or Christian themed movies available in flight, i will give them preference. So the challenge will actually run for forty-two days (and nights).
6) I will write about my experience existing off of a diet of Christian media here on the Thimblerig’s Ark blog on a daily basis over the course of the 40 days (and nights). I’ll write about the things I find that I like, and the things I’d liked to have not found. I’ll record things that I learn along the way, things with which I disagree, questions which are raised, answers that are found, and which Christian-made media has the most potential to reach those who can’t find the choir loft.
I would love to have recommendations from you – my readers. Which Christian-produced websites, blogs, news outlets, films, music, or television would you recommend? Please let me know, because I want to find the best sampling of Christian media to enjoy!
And finally, if you’d like to join me on this Forty Days (and nights) of Christian Media Challenge, please do! I’d love to have some company, and to hear what others are finding. Let me know!
Finally, I’d invite you to be a part of the Sacred Arts Revolution on Facebook, and join us as we regularly discuss Christian media.
I finished! If you want to read my concluding thoughts on this challenge, click here.
28 thoughts on “40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media • The Challenge”
I am looking forward to hearing more. I too tend to shy away from most Christian media–mediocrity and self-serving–though I grew up in a ministry that strongly promoted it.
Thanks for the comment! Glad to have you visit. I also grew up with Christian media, and really loved it as a kid – although it was a different animal back then. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll find things to love now that I’m an adult.
Have you come across our blog/channel? Might help you with the music side of things 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/user/TheGCMblog
Plus how do you define Christian films? Because Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life is filled with Christian elements and is extraordinary but it’s not produced by the Christian film industry.
I haven’t seen your blog/channel, but will definitely check it out. Thanks!
Regarding your second question (and it’s a good one), the media needs to be produced by a specifically Christian producer. So Tree of Life would be out.
Thanks for commenting!
Yeah check out the blog, we tend to feature stuff that gets a lot less attention on other websites and Christian radio. There’s so much incredible music out there, and we don’t limit it by genre either.
Fair, I’m a film maker myself and can’t stand the quality of Christian films so all the best with your challenge! Definitely check out Tree of Life after the challenge if you haven’t already seen it though. I’d definitely say it’s the best Christian film out there (even though it’s not!)
What media do you think you’ll struggle with most?
How do you feel about getting your news from solely Christian sources? Because I’ve found in the past and especially with things like when ISIS really started to become mainstream news that Christian news sources are quite bias and dishonest in their representation. For example the articles about ISIS torturing and beheading children weren’t that credible and exaggerated and specifically many articles used photos that were years old and had nothing to do with ISIS to illustrate their story yet pretended they current photos.
Can’t wait to see what your findings are! I’m especially interested if the movies you watch during those two days flying will be like when you indulge in a bunch of junk food after a long diet and then feel kind of disgusted afterward. Or, if that’s how you feel at the end of it when you transition back into secular media. Can’t wait to read more.
Do you consider Narnia and lotr Christian? That might be a good break to read those if it gets to be too much or stifling your creativity.
Also love the 40 days choice since 40 days is so important in the Bible.
Right? I might find that when I get on the plane, I’m just not interested. I will have my Kindle with me, loaded (hopefully) with books that qualify. I’m especially interested in Ted Dekker, because I’ve not read many of his books, and have heard good things.
Regarding Narnia and LOTR, I would have to avoid them, since they were published as secular books. There are lots of good secular books that I COULD read, since the authors were believers or they have strong Christian themes, but the point is to read only things published for the Christian market. So, I could read The Shack, for example – even though it was a crossover success.
Glad you picked up on the 40 days, too. It’s a good Noah reference, which is also good for Thimblerig’s Ark. 🙂
Thanks for the comment! I love visiting your Star Wars blog, and look forward to seeing what you think about the new eps when they drop!
Aw thanks. Interesting about the books being published as secular because you know most of the western world views Narnia as super doused in Jesus love. Can’t wait to read your updates.
This is a fast right? I can’t imagine the hunger pains you’ll have sticking to a manna diet of mediocre quality amateur entertainment. I applaud your willingness to do this… I see a documentary in the making.
A very interesting challenge! I hope you will give us lots of details about this journey.
God speaks to me through movies of all types, from Meet the Robinsons to Transformers (yes, I have kids, so most of what I watch is for a younger audience). God speaks to me through lots of media that is not Christian, but I suppose film is the strongest avenue.
As for media enjoyment during this journey, have you considered Anne Rice’s books about Jesus? There are two: Christ the Lord – Out of Egypt, and Christ the Lord – The Road to Cana. Also, have you considered any of Frank Perretti’s books, such as This Present Darkness, and Piercing the Darkness? Very good books in my opinion. Oh! If you can get hold of it, you MUST read Og Mandino’s The Christ Commission. His descriptions of the Holy Land and the history he brings in to the story are amazing. I think he (or his wife) said he spent 20 years getting the details correct, before he wrote the book.
If you’re looking for non-fiction, I recommend Francis Frangipane.
When it comes to music, most modern Christian music has to “fit the moment,” if you know what I mean, for it to be something I enjoy listening to. I like Big Daddy Weave, but not all of their songs. I’m very old school, and I like very old Petra music, and Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart (from back in the 80s). Have you considered any music by Randy Stonehill? You can still find some of his stuff on Youtube. For current stuff, I like some of Skillet’s songs. Then there’s Marty McCall and Fireworks (playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS3a6_KEvPU&list=PL889DD8D2882C2899). I worked lights for a couple of Marty’s concerts while I was in college.
Would Phil Vischer’s podcasts fit your requirement of “for Christians only”? I’m not sure. Phil talks about so many things. If they don’t, then you might consider listening to Dr. Michael Brown.
There is a song in another language, called “Yeshua.” It’s by someone called “Fernandino” I think. Even though it’s in another language, I love the song. One of the best worship songs I know of (for me, that is).
Of course, the old movies will fit your description (won’t they?) such as The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and The Robe, but you might also want to check out The Grace Card, or The Shunning. Then there’s The Perfect Stranger, Another Perfect Stranger, and a new one in that series, all by Kellys Filmworks.
Is that enough suggestions? I’m sure some of this stuff will make you groan because it just won’t fit your tastes, but hopefully some of it is far enough away from the “norm” that you might enjoy it.
We don’t have cable, so I can’t tell you about news sites, or TV shows, that would be Christian in origin. I could share some blogs with you, but they are written by women for women, and probably wouldn’t help you on this journey.
Thanks for sharing your journey with us! I can’t wait to “see you on the other side.” 🙂
A fictional book series that my family has enjoyed is called “The Binding of the Blade Series.” Another non-fiction book that I reccomend to people is called “The God Focused Life” by Argyl Dickson. It has a lot of cool analogies and some good solid teaching. I would be interested to know what your take on the book is if you get the chance 🙂
(After reading the comments above “The Binding of the Blade Series” might not be books that are Christian enough for this particular challenge.)
I do have a couple more suggestions, for movies the movie Joshua is interesting; it explores one person’s idea of “what if Jesus came back today? What might that look like?” To Save A Life is about a highschooler who becomes a Christian and then his life falls apart and how he copes.
A Christian fictional author is Chuck Black who writes the Kingdom of Arrethrae (the books that I’ve read of his are geared at a younger audience, think 4th and 5th graders). Here is his web sight http://perfect-praise.com. I’ve only read his Kingdom and Knight series.
Hopefully you get plenty of the right kind of suggestions for what you are looking for! God bless you on this journey.
Thanks so much for all the great suggestions! Hopefully, I’ll uncover some rare gems over the next 40 days.
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“Media” sold at a Christian retailer….hmmm…I guess a Bible qualifies? Maybe a version that differs from your regular? I know that sounds sarcastic, but really I’m serious. For 52 years, in addition to my secular stuff, I’ve been reading and rereading the Bible and I keep being surprised by it.
Currently in secular media their are all kinds of “life after death” stories and TV series and movies. IN THE BIBLE I just read again about where the disciples were told by the Sadducee to keep quiet about Jesus RESURRECTION because back then the Sadducee did not believe in the after life at all, SO when the disciples ran around saying Jesus was alive – it was a big sci-fi deal! I guess just like it would be today if people said someone was resurrected. Acts 4:1-
Just saying…if worse comes to worse.. your media “feeding” could include the Bible, and I’ll bet you’ll see some new stuff in there or old stuff in a new way. I always do:) God bless!
Good call, Ann. And spot on. I started this morning with a family devotional written by Skye Jethani, based on Luke 23:27-28.
Part of the interesting thing about this challenge for me is that I think probably many Christians do let supplementary material become more important than Scripture study, so that they don’t recognize when someone is teaching them something false (prosperity Gospel, anyone?). So, I want to examine that idea as well.
So my best hope for having growth over these forty days will be in the Word, I’m sure. Thanks for the reminder!
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I know you’ve already gotten a number of recommendations, but I would have to add anything by Stephen Lawhead, if you haven’t read any of his books already. His ability to mix faith, history and fantasy all into one story is incredible. 🙂
I’d forgotten about Lawhead! Good call, Stephanie. Thanks!
You’re welcome. 🙂
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I have not hit EVERY day (but plan to catch up) but one film that isn’t available yet but based on your ratings system and desire for the film to stand on its own without the preaching, I highly recommend looking at “Beyond the Farthest Star”. We have been promoting Christian films around Peoria IL for over 5 years (www.menofaim.org/movies) and this film will be criticized by many in the church (youth smoking, pastor drinking) but it is one of the most real and emotional films of a family struggling and instead of one target audience (say, youth) and everyone else just there as props, there are meaningful themes to men, women, youth, marriage, and parent/child relationships.
Website is http://www.beyondthefartheststar.com. Release plans should be coming out within the next few weeks. I just met the writer/director and producer in person for the first time yesterday, but have been in contact with them by phone/email for several years.
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