Day 35 • The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge

ISS_Expedition_35_PatchFive days left.

I want to start day 35 of the 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge with something positive.

Over the past month I’ve been enjoying reading about the resurgence of Christian artists trying to create things of lasting beauty that engage people’s hearts and minds, rather than just creating media tracts to churn out the four spiritual laws.

In support of this idea, I was referred to this worthwhile article by a friend, and would commend it to my readers here.

Presentational Art vs. Representational Art by Joshua Gibbs

“…the difference between good art and sensual trash is principally seen in the responses any given piece calls forth from us. Sensual trash can only be discussed immediately afterwards, while good art can only be discussed at a much later point.”

On a less sunny note, I had a couple of Facebook posts come across my screen today that made me feel somewhat depressed as I near the end of my Christian media challenge.

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First, let me say that I like the guys at Christiancimema.com.  They were kind enough to offer me access to their library for the duration of my challenge (which I was unable to accept, because of being in China and all), and I think they provide a good and important service, alerting people to news in the world of Christian-made film.

But I was really irritated by this attempt to gain attention for a movie.

I really, really dislike when people use things like “support the troops” and “do you love Jesus?” to try and motivate people to like/buy/use products.  To me, it’s manipulative and takes something of immense worth and transforms it into trite salesmanship.  And it’s something that we Christians do all the time with our pearl of great price.  (See my last post regarding the branding of the faith).

And why does my support of the American military have to be displayed by my supporting a film that I haven’t seen yet?  How do I know that I will agree with this film?  How do I know that it will do anything to encourage the men and women serving in the armed forces?

And yet the post has been liked 570 times and shared 207 times.

Things like this make me understand why Jesus referred to us as sheep.

The second Facebook post I want to mention was this one, from the guys who made the award nominated Nicolas Cage Left Behind film.

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Let that sink in.  Christians who vote on this sort of thing voted Left Behind as the best action film of 2014.

Left Behind.  This Left Behind.

Left Behind as a better action film than Captain America: Winter Soldier, or Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1.

I’m thinking of a particular Forrest Gump quote right now that I just won’t quote, but you might be able to guess.

Finally, I’m considering doing something different, and want to get feedback from anyone who is still reading these updates.

I’m thinking of opening myself up these last five days, exposing myself to media that is not made explicitly for the evangelical American Christian audience, but media that has intrinsic Christian value, whether Christian-made or not.  The point of this would be to compare the media that I’ve been consuming, media that is made with an evangelical agenda with media that is made for the sake of exploring the human condition, that communicates the truth of the Gospel message in the process.

Thoughts?  Recommendations?

Day 20 • The 40 Days (and Nights) of Christian Media Challenge

Half-a-DonutI stand at the midway point of the challenge, with as much lying behind me as lies ahead.  The “donut of misery”, as they say.  And yet, I’ve settled into a comfortable routine, enjoying certain aspects of the process, and disliking others. 

The Pleasures

I’ve enjoyed finding some wonderful Christian-produced media, much that I probably wouldn’t have discovered without the challenge. 

Reel World Theology Podcast – Entertainment is not mindless

More Than One Lesson Podcast – Movie talk for the discerning Christian (which I actually discovered before the challenge, but I’ve been enjoying listening to the back episodes)

Say Goodnight Kevin – youtube channel (watch the reviews for Fireproof and Left Behind)

bored-again-christianThe Bored-Again Christian Podcast – Christian music for people who are tired of Christian music (update: I just realized that this podcast appears to be dead –  not updated for a couple of years, sadly.  Still, the back episodes are worthy of listening)

Skye Jethani’s daily devotions

Rocket Pack Jack – a fun short film for kids

Christiancinema.com – a great source of films

World Magazine – a news magazine I used to enjoy in print form, but have been glad to rediscover online.

Sufjan Stevens – an extremely innovative musician with a Jesus underpinning to his music.

And, as a person who really disliked God’s Not Dead, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find some Pure Flix movies that I’ve enjoyed.  Not to sound snarky, but this has been a big surprise to me, but again – a pleasant one.

Finally, I’m also excited about the growing list of things I want to read/listen to/watch when the challenge is complete.  It will be nice to have choice back again.

The Challenges

At the same time, I have not enjoyed some of the Christian-produced things I’ve encountered, although I have found a growing appreciation for the Christians who are creating media, regardless of what I think of the finished product.  Producing media is extremely difficult, and for a person to take an idea to the finish line is admirable in any situation.  

I just wish I could affect change on much of that finished product…

Speaking of choice, one thing I’ve really disliked is not having any real choices of credible news sources.  Typically, when not doing this challenge, I like my sources to be varied, because I think that is how I can come closest to getting the true story.  Limiting my news to only Christian media outlets has severely limited my ability to get an unbiased perspective on world events.

exodus-gods-and-kings-poster-final-405x600Exodus: Gods and Kings • Thimblerig’s Mini-review

Last night my family sat down to watch Exodus: Gods and Kings.  It seemed appropriate to watch a film about The Passover on Good Friday, and I was all prepared to not like it because of the way so many Christians responded negatively to the film.

But I really, really liked it.

People said the film was boring, but I was completely engaged from start to finish.  I often fall asleep watching movies at night (yeah, I’m that guy), but I stayed awake to the very end.

People didn’t like the film’s representation of God as an 11 year old boy.  I was intrigued by the filmmaker’s choice to do this, and it made me pay attention in a way I might not have if God had simply been a disembodied voice.  By the way, did people get upset that Val Kilmer, the voice of Moses in Prince of Egypt, also provided the disembodied voice of God?

People didn’t like the naturalistic portrayal of the plagues.  This criticism makes me want to pull my beard out.  The plagues, while natural in execution, were obviously supernatural in origin.  That was the whole point of the advisor to Ramses who tried to explain them away as natural, but who ultimately wound up swinging in the gallows, because there was no way they were natural!

Of course, if people have a genuine conviction to not watch a film like Exodus: Gods and Kings, then they should not watch the film.  I do, however, think that many of the critiques I read were simply incorrect.

Here are a couple of good reads about the Christian response to Exodus.

Movieguide – I was very impressed by the five suggestions that the Movieguide people made.  Make sure to read the comments below the article, by the way.

Karen Marya – I’ve linked this article before, but it’s so good I want to link it again.  Karen is a part of the Sacred Arts Revolution, by the way.

Chip Hardy (Ph.D., University of Chicago), Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Southeastern – a fantastic perspective from an expert in the subject matter.   Thanks to Wesley at the Sacred Arts Revolution for the heads up on this.

I’d like to conclude my 20 day wrap-up with this little nugget that occurred to me after watching Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Christian filmmaking apologists will often defend the low quality of Christian-made film by saying that God uses the weak things of the world to shame the wise, and that God can even use a poorly made Christian film to impact the world.  And then, in the same breath, they lambast non-Christian-made Bible films as being heretical and unbiblical, saying that Christians should not see such films.

Isn’t it interesting that these Christians defend the Christian-made material so strongly, but often don’t extend this same courtesy to non-Christian-made films like Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings?

Can’t God use non-Christian-made films to bring people to Himself, and shouldn’t we (as Christians) look for ways to be a part of that happening?

A little bonus cultural tidbit for your reading pleasure.

qing-ming2We’re celebrating the Qingming Festival in China this weekend.  It’s a lunar-based festival where people traditionally go to the tombs of their ancestors and pay respect to the dead.

Family members clear weeds from around the tomb and add fresh soil to show care for the dead.  They also bring the dead person’s favorite food and wine, and burn money (or paper resembling money) so that the dead will have plenty.

This year, it just so happens that the Qingming Festival falls on the same weekend as Easter, when the women went to the tomb to take care of the dead and found that the tomb was empty.

I think that’s pretty cool.