Entertaining Hope: Media, Culture, and the Gospel

Would you believe that only 53% of adults with children under 18 years old eat dinner as a family six to seven nights a week? Fortunately, according to a 2013 survey released by Gallup this number is on the rise. The results of the study revealed that the whole tirade about family dinners being a thing of the past is perhaps becoming increasingly less true. But what really causes the often unspoken societal norms (such as family dinner protocol) to fluctuate from generation to generation? Amidst a myriad of other things, I believe one factor is entertainment.

It’s fair to say that much of what makes its way onto television today is nothing short of garbage. From a Christian perspective, there seems to be little of what one could call decent, quality messages coming into America’s living rooms. Nearly the entirety of television’s roster (barring Christian channels) promotes the message of a grossly secular worldview: a misunderstanding of government, promotion of immoral living, disrespect for religion in general, and the advertising of anything and everything other than a steady nuclear family are only a few of the culprits.

I was once listening to one of my favorite speakers and authors, Ravi Zacharias. As is usually the case when I listen to him speak, I was blown by his deep insight that he shared. During this particular podcast, Ravi mentioned that there are two fundamental ways by which people are influenced by a worldview. He likened an individual to a house; the front door is reason and it opens straight to the brain while the back door leads to the heart first before subconsciously traveling to the head. Unlike the front door, which is accessed by reason and logic, the back door is opened via the arts. Music, movies, stories, poetry, advertisements, and the like all fall under this category.

A healthy society ought to have Christian perspectives infiltrating from both the front and back doors. Unfortunately, many Christians seem to either be completely ignorant of the back door’s existence or be against its use if they are aware. You may be familiar with such people who say that followers of Christ have no business being involved with Hollywood, advertising, or even the music industry. While their zeal and dedication is often very admirable, the idea of avoiding the arts is misguided.

Christians are called to go into the entire world; and while I do believe Christ meant the literal ends of the physical earth when He gave this command, I can’t help but also see another layer of meaning that encourages us to go into the different professional and cultural worlds also. The enemy surely has no hesitation in leveraging these different industries to promote his evil message of rebellion and disdain against heaven. Being that we are warriors in a very real spiritual battle, perhaps being slightly more tactical in regards to the implementation of our faith in culture would be wise and effective.

In short, the world needs to have creative and unique displays of the Christian life and message put before it. By concealing the virtues and blessings of the Christian way of life under the unassuming screen of entertainment, society is pushed towards her Christian roots without being met by as much hostility.

One current show that seems to successfully be doing this sort of work is the CBS hit, Blue Bloods. The series is a modern day police drama that is set in New York City. By simply being a show about cops, it has an easy hook to gain interest by viewers. Once people tune in, however, they find themselves being faced with many healthy lessons and messages about virtue. One would be hard pressed to find an episode that does not have some ethical dilemma in which the character has to find the courage to act on what he or she knows is the right thing to do. Of course, the character always does what’s right and everything always works out because of it. What’s more, speckled throughout the entire show are intermission scenes in which all the main characters sit together as a family and talk over dinner. They are often seen beginning these dinner scenes with a prayer in Christ’s name.

Could shows with scenes like this be influencing the number of shared family meals to increase? I would highly suspect so. Could more be done to continue this Christian takeover of the culture? Absolutely. Now if you aren’t familiar with the show, don’t let my promotion of Blue Bloods paint a false picture; I would certainly never label the series as “Christian,” by any means. I certainly will, however, say that many of the themes and messages of the episodes stealthily display a Christian worldview and that more of such media is desperately needed in society.

Blue Bloods is just one glimpse of how virtuous principles of hope can be hidden under the unassuming cover of a TV show that is interesting in its own right and, I’m sure, there are other shows also doing this sort of thing well. Nonetheless, we need more of these types of devices and we need them from authentically Christian sources that will carry the message of Christ across all of the entertainment platforms. We once had the Chronicles of Narnia, Chariots of Fire, and Spirit in the Sky. But today is a new generation. We need new and innovative stories, songs, movies, and art to lead the way. If every Christian whom Christ called were to infuse the message of His gospel into his or her artistic passions, the culture would no doubt have a positive response. Only then will we see entertainment provide hope to our deeply hurting world.

 

Sources
Most U.S. Families Still Routinely Dine Together at Home
Lydia Saad | December 26, 2013

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