Christian Critics: The Struggle for Self-Definition Continues
Those of us who happen to be both avid moviegoers and avid Christians are well aware of the two very different lenses with which Christians approach the movie world. (I take the liberty here of summarizing those viewpoints in a very brief and general way, simply because I have written and linked to a great deal more on the subject right over there at the top of the sidebar.)
One group approaches things from the Flannery O’Connor perspective on art and faith: Movies only have value to the extent that they illuminate truth (any and all truth), and are responsible first and foremost to whatever constitutes excellence within film as an art form. The other group approaches things from the Cardinal Spellman perspective on art and morality: Movies cannot truly glorify God unless they are wholesome enough to pass muster with any childrens’ Sunday school class, and even the most artistically-excellent endeavour lacks value as such if it is prurient or obscene. On the first side their are organizations like “Christianity Today” and “Hollywood Jesus” and on the other the likes of “Movieguide” and Focus on the Family’s “Plugged In.”
For the most part, these two are content to avoid each other. Their audiences are just as different as they are (although their readers occasionally spill over and snipe at the other side’s writers). However, every so often, one crosses into the other’s path enough to provoke a brief flare-up of intense debate, which I always watch with great interest (and have a few times been caught up in, at least once against my will). One such exchange took place this last week between “Christ and Pop Culture” and Ted Baehr’s “Movieguide” when the former (rightly, in my opinion) expressed a critical outlook on the latter’s annual “Faith and Value Awards.” The result was a week-long series of posts, culminating in allowing someone from the “Movieguide” side to have the last word (for now). Check it out:
And stay tuned next week, when “Christ and Pop Culture” promises an e-mail interview with a “Movieguide” representative. In the meantime, I find the closing remarks by Tom Snyder to be of great interest:
We support a return to the Moral Code of Decency and the vetting of all scripts for movies going to public theater and DVD retail within 20 years, if not in 3-5 years. That would probably include the elimination of all R-rated and NC-17 content as well as most PG-13 content. We also look forward to Christian/biblical hegemony within the industry. If this ministry had much more support, our progress would be that much quicker.
This statement is not frightening because it represents an even remotely realistic goal (happily, it does not), but simply that a major Christian organization exists and is seriously and openly advocating that sort of lunacy. However, I also feel that such thinking has long since lost the majority share of thinking Christians who are dedicated to writing about film, at least on the internet.
In that vein, have a look at a new entry to the sidebar: Film – Think, a new blog by FFCC member Michael Leary. Have a look at two of his entries in particular: What On Earth is Christian Film Criticism? and How Should We Then Review?. Good stuff. Very good stuff.