Living in the Open

All My Children

I just spent the last two and a half days with my best friend. We watched a lot of movies, ate a lot of low-carb cheesecake (and lost a couple of pounds in the process), and talked a lot… about our culture, about our faith, and about the hardships Christians face when being involved in entertainment.

Recently, I found out an actor in a show I watch is a believer. He talks about Jesus on Twitter and in the videos he makes for his fans, and encourages everyone to be “unashamed” about their faith. He has a recurring role as a “guest character” in a television series. Originally, he tried out for one of the male leads, but didn’t get it – and you know what? I’m glad. Because over the course of several seasons, this nice young Christian actor would have had to act out scenes that directly contradict certain aspects of his faith – sexual purity. Did God withhold that part from him, that he might maintain his spiritual integrity?

Christians for decades have avoided anything to do with mainstream entertainment. It started in the 40’s when many churches encouraged their congregations to avoid the “filth” being shown in movie theaters. They had a point. Even with censorship in place, movies still weren’t clean and over the years, that hasn’t changed, except that now we get every foul word, act of depravity, and perversion in HD. For the most part, Christian bands don’t do “secular” music (as in, songs that are about anything other than God, or that get played on secular radio stations), and Christian authors don’t write fiction in the “secular market.”

But… is this the right thing for us to do?

Secular entertainment is a minefield of traps for any believer, ranging from the risk of the corrupting influence of fame to the fact that inevitably, any believer working and living in this environment is going to be pressured – to give up their faith, to give up their morals, to give up their convictions, and live just like everyone else. Even in books where self-professing believers have maintained certain standards, Hollywood can still take their idea and corrupt it further. For example, let’s talk about Catholic author Nicholas Sparks. His adult books have plenty of premarital sex in them… but he refuses to have teenagers engage in this behavior, or to involve his characters in adulterous relationships (or at least, he used to — I haven’t read one of his books in a long time). Yet, several recent movie adaptations of his books have deliberately altered that, and included adultery and teenage sex. That’s the risk an author runs when he enters a secular market.

But, if we never write secular books, if we never write television scripts, if we never get out there and live our faith, so that others can find out the typical clichés about believers are all wrong, we will never have any influence, we will never make an impact, and we will never actually accomplish any “change” within society. Instead, we remain stuck in our little world, in our locked box, frustrated that no Christians to be found anywhere in entertainment even remotely resemble the real thing — on screen or off. While we are called to be set apart, does that mean we avoid participation in anything secular? Or in cutting ourselves off, are we failing our ultimate one and only goal of evangelism? Can we trust that if this is where God wants us to be, he will protect us and guide our steps? Can we trust him to say, “You can’t have that, because it would ask you to compromise with me, but I will let you have this other success”?

While I am proud of this actor for being bold in his faith, I’m nervous for him too, because he has a million eyes watching him, and the greater his influence, the more the devil would love to see him fall… to compromise… to prove he’s no different from anyone else. But… at least he has the courage to step out in faith, and to try.

71 Replies to “Living in the Open”

  1. Why do you consider premarital sex immoral? What argument is there for that? I’ve tried to have thoughtful discussions about this subject with family, but I usually get shut down with “God forbids it. It’s in the Bible.” That, to me, is not a really logical argument. Is there something about the effects of those choices on participants that leads you to that opinion?

    1. If you want an argument against premarital sex based on “morality” but don’t want to involve God in the equation, you won’t have one — because without religious principles, there is no such thing as “morality.”

      If I never have premarital sex, I will never:
      – contract an STD.
      – get pregnant.
      – wind up a single mother.

      That’s good enough for me.

  2. The Christian actor you described reminds me of Neal McDonough. He is a devout Catholic and was on a TV series but refused to do sex scenes and was fired. Its always refreshing to hear of a Christian in Hollywood who won’t compromise.
    I like some Nicholas Sparks books, but he has had at least one that I know of that involves adultery. So that’s a little disappointing.

    1. Aww, I knew I loved Neal McDonough for good reason.
      I would put adultery in my books. I would even make the characters enjoy it. And then I would gradually show the self- and other-destruction that comes out of it. I wouldn’t make it the basis of the characters’ happy ending.

    2. That’s really awesome of him, although I have to say — shame on ABC! They had worked with him before (on “Desperate Housewives”) in which he refused to do sex scenes, so they shouldn’t have hired him and expected him to change his values three weeks into shooting. =P

      I’m sorry to hear that about Nicholas Sparks.

  3. Great post! I agree it is a fine line…as someone leaning towards acting it’s something I’ve considered often. I’m a bit of a recovered hyper-conservative, and so sometimes I struggle with what my past says I should “be seperate” from and my belief that we need to be a true light to people. For me, I agree – I would never consider a part with nudity/sex (although I’m not saying I would turn down roles where the character is not squeaky-clean…Nancy in Olver! is a prostitute and I would have no issue playing her). But I think that total seperation is not the answer. How can we be light to people if we stay away in our own comfortable “groups”? I deeply admire the Christian film industry, but I feel that some (not all) of them are creating their own “bubble”, which just strikes me as not quite right.

    Just my two cents! Thanks again for the great topic!

    1. I think Christian actors can have standards and hold to them – as long as you are honest about your values up front. Some controversy was raised about Neal McDonough, who got fired for refusing to do sex scenes for ABC – he won’t do that, but he does often play murderers. There IS a difference, in my opinion – pretending to kill someone is a lot different than acting out a sex scene, where there’s actual kissing/groping/undressing involved. If playing a “bad” character, or a “fallen” character didn’t wallow too much in their depravity, as a believer I wouldn’t see any harm in doing it. The actor I mentioned in my original post is a “villain” on the television show – and sometimes, Christians make the best movie villains, because we have a great understanding of true evil. The same would go for Nancy – who else would understand what it feels like to be unwanted, unloved, unredeemable, and have a chance for redemption, but someone aware of their incredible sin and grateful to God for His mercy?

      Good luck with your acting! Maybe someday I’ll be watching you every week! =)

  4. Awesome post! Especially in light of some recent discussions about the issues Christians struggle with when confronted with secular entertainment 🙂 !

    I can only imagine how tough things are for believers trying to break into mainstream Hollywood. Even “trendy” actresses with a “no nudity” clause are given a rough time, as are directors and writers with unusual tastes. So to be Christian when most onscreen characters are not simply “non” Christian but even anti-Christian–yeah–it’s gotta be tough.

    Of course there are “Christian film festivals”, and these produce good films and involve promising talent–but alas, most of the films never get wide distribution, and I’ve rarely heard of any stars being born from these productions. The Christian film industry not only seems to be plagued by many of the same issues as Christian publishing, but lags severely behind in terms of a successful market. Most likely because of the much larger budgets required to mount even a modest short film. Something that plagues independent filmmakers of all stripes.

    The sad thing, as we’ve discussed before, is that I look at a lot of popular shows, and even the somewhat better written and acted ones (speaking from a secular perspective) don’t have a single fairly “faithful” positive Christian character you can root for. I hadn’t honestly thought of it until the other day, but I found myself thinking carefully over many of the more popular films/shows of the past few years, and with the exception of something that might be “pro-Christian” (such as Christmas/family specials) or very minor characters (generic kindly priest or pastor in a funeral episode)–I couldn’t think of any.

    Not a single one.

    Granted I’d hardly call myself a cutting edge expert on pop culture, and I could be missing something, but I could easily think of over a dozen examples of “Christian” frauds and hypocrites in mainstream programming. Occasionally there are positive representations of certain aspects of Christianity, a Bible quote used to condemn or comfort, or the Buffy ploy of crosses to ward off vampires–but of avowed Christians living a Christian lifestyle–not so much.

    Yes, I know some will point out that there are characters we can “read” as Christian if we so choose, and whose actions usually fall within the parameters of Christian morality. Like Captain America in the Avengers, or many of the nobler characters in historic dramas. But even these are relatively rare. More and more the “anti-hero” (who’s so distinctly “anti” he’d probably give Bogart’s detectives or James Dean’s bad boys’ pause) seems to replaced the hero. I’m not opposed to exploring deeply flawed and conflicted protagonists or in following how far desperation can push a good man. But the morality of some series I’ve watched lately is so amoral, I honestly found myself wandering how the “villains” were really so much worse than the heroes. (And yes I’m talking about Hell on Wheels as per our discussion the other day, as well as some shows I wanted to give a try, like Dexter or Desperate Housewives)

    1. Thank you! It’s a very thought-provoking topic. It seems as if for the most part, Christians either reject secular society/entertainment completely or become so “used to it” that nothing offends them, and that’s when you have a REAL problem.

      Some actresses can get away with no-nudity clauses – Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett come to mind, but often they must compromise in other areas. =/

      You’re not wrong about the Christian film industry being like Christian publishing. The crew behind such movies as “Courageous” is starting to make some good stuff – and whenever they hit theaters, they do surprisingly well, yet we’re so far behind mainstream productions that it’ll be years before we catch up, both in terms of quality and acting skill. I’d really love to see some diversity in Christian movies – less preachy, more just good, clean entertainment. How about a romantic comedy once in awhile? Christians often operate under the belief that they have to do something MASSIVE for Christ – what about simply providing good, well-written, well-acted, quality entertainment?

      The last positive religious character I saw on television was Colin McGregor, in Snowy River — and that was back in the early 90’s. Since then, there haven’t been very pleasant or accurate representations of believers on television, or in movies. Instead, we get the Bible-thumping, fornicating hypocrites that we’re supposed to root against. And if there’s the slightest hint of it in a book, in the movie it will be even worse – I got jumped on today for being disappointed that “Beautiful Creatures” has a decidedly anti-Christian slant, depicting us all as book-burning, narrow-minded bigots. Granted, it’s a story about witches, but in reading the book I didn’t notice that was prevalent in the plot (then again, the book is so bloody long that I was skim-reading).

      Have you noticed the vampire trend has also demoted religious influences? Back in the day, vampires could be chased away with crosses and holy water. Now, it makes no difference to them, as it reflects our culture’s increasing disinterest and respect for faith.

      Desperate Housewives had a fairly decent (if somewhat satirical and mean) depiction of Christians at the beginning, through Bree. But as the series unwound, Bree became a completely different person – the earnest, church-going Christian became an adulterous tramp. I found it disappointing that they couldn’t at least keep her consistent to herself, and once again, it implied that Christians are no different from anyone else – except they’re a lot more judgmental than everyone else.

      1. This is reminding me of how I’ve always wanted to write a pro-Christian story about “witches” 😉 (Basically–in case you’re wondering–I dunno, a 17th century colonist feels the Christian thing to do would be to show mercy and busts a witch outta lockup 😛 ? Something along those lines! Just an idea though!)

        Yeah–I know what you mean about the “compromising in other areas” sometimes, a show will do a good job in one moral aspect (I really liked how the titular hero of Dexter was shown trying hard to be a father to his girlfriend’s kids from her ex, and knowing that if he married her, her kids would be part of the package, too often women with kids are portrayed as being a “bad catch” or having “baggage), but be completely appalling in others.

        I think–and I this probably goes for a lot of my friends, and heck, most of the others reading/commenting here–I feel sort of caught in limbo. I don’t shun all secular entertainment, but enough of it repeatedly violates my moral compass that I often find myself struggling, and giving up on once favorite series with a sigh.

        The alarming thing is that I’ve heard a producer of Desperate Housewives is a conservative. If Bree is meant to be a “sympathetic” depiction…???

        Christians often operate under the belief that they have to do something MASSIVE for Christ.

        Ha! OK, I see this crop up a lot, people are told they need to be doing something meaningful with their lives that really matters. Because obviously the planet is so totally overflowing already with loyal friends, generous neighbors, honest lawyers, selfless doctors and brave detectives that we clearly don’t need anymore, right 😀 ?

        In fact, one of these days, I would love to read a good Christian oriented novel about someone stuck in an “unimportant job” who makes a difference 😛 And besides, what about all the verses that said the hairs on your head were numbered, and the sparrows and lilies of the field? The “little” things do matter to God.

        And verging on the off-topic, but I read an article recently that said when many “marrying” age Christians (late teens to early thirties) were asked what they wanted in a spouse both young men and women stated a vital requirement was that their future beloved occupy an “important leadership” position–apparently forgetting that there are only so many churches, and so many leadership positions. If everyone’s leading prayer group–who’s doing the praying?

        Yes, I have noticed to some of what you mention about Christianity in the realm of vampire fiction. To some extent, it actually doesn’t bother me, in that I dislike the portrayal of Christian iconography being just one more “hat trick”, on par with pentagrams, garlic, or silver bullets. On the other hand, I am disturbed by the pointed anti-Christian jabs I’ve seen again and again, presuming that of course Christians would persecute someone who’s “different”. * sighs *

        Btw, although on a political rather than religious note, I came across this and thought it might be of interest to you : http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-12-06/lifestyle/35288230_1_pbs-american-pickers-auction-kings Conservatives and Liberals apparently watch very different shows. There appear to have been quite a few surveys on this subject in the past year! (see also : http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/entertainment/television/Conservatives-vs-liberals-Their-favorite-TV-shows.html or http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/tv/tv-zone-1.811968/study-determines-the-tv-shows-liberals-conservatives-watch-1.3934869 ) Looking over the results, I couldn’t help but wonder if a survey done based on moral and religious beliefs would yield more of a contrast–or less.

        1. I would SO read a book like that!!! People always accuse Christians of the witch burnings, and forget that here, at least, it was PASTORS who put a stop to the persecution! =P

          (Originally, my fantasy novel WAS about witches. I decided to change that, but there are certainly elements of magic involved… and a witch burning… that… doesn’t work… for… reasons.)

          I’ve never seen Dexter but suspect I would have a love-hate relationship with it. I do know what you mean, though. Richard Castle wants to be a great dad… shame he’s such a bad role model, eh?

          “Limbo” is a good way to put it, especially when your tastes run to certain genres. It’s no secret that I like fantasy/werewolves/vampires/magic, and with that comes violence, offbeat spiritual messages, and sometimes sensuality. Do I avoid all of it, or do I watch what I feel (mostly) comfortable with? Or do I write it? And if I write it, am I participating in the problem or offering a solution?

          Huh, well, if that producer is a conservative, he didn’t have much influence. But then again, Bree is based on the mother of Mark Cherry (?), which inspired the entire unsympathetic “can’t you get over being gay?” mother-son storyline in season one. (She found out he was gay and literally left him by the side of the road. What godly kindness.)

          I struggle a lot with being “not important,” and wanting to do something BIG. So much so that I often overlook what tasks God has set before me. We’re always in search of “more,” instead of being content with what we have.

          Christians are widely misunderstood. Because God has told us not to tolerate homosexuality, adultery, fornication, and other such things WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST, that automatically means we want to impose our values and ideals on everyone OUTSIDE THE CHURCH. This is not God’s intention, but alas, it is always how we are depicted. Imagine how the world would be different if we remembered that we are to correct and shun these things within the body WITH LOVING KINDNESS?

          Interesting surveys… you can see that the liberal shows are liberal politics, and the conservative shows are conservative-leaning cop shows. Plus, liberals watch more BBC programming (Masterpiece), although I have to wonder if that’s entirely fair. Most of the conservatives I know DO watch Masterpiece Theatre/Mystery, in spite of the BBC’s leftist bias.

          1. Yeah–it’s high on my “stories I must one day write” list, right up there with the 17th century couple who make a genuine effort to repent and salvage their marriage after mutual adultery, or the young man who attempts to remain a Christian despite being a vampire or uh..quite a few others actually.

            I remember how after reading an article about an authoress who was “still going strong” at 90, I asked a friend if she thought it would be publish all my plots if I lived to be as ancient!

            “No,” said my friend, “because by then you’ll have had ideas for even more stories.”

            Unfortunately (as you probably guessed), I can’t recommend Dexter because of content–though sexual rather than gruesome actually. Though I’ve totally had the love/hate relationship with other shows. Some of my friends have discussed with amusement how Castle likes to play the ladies’ man, yet moves into hyper protective mode whenever Alexis seems to be heading toward “boy trouble”! There’s also the fact that the woman he has the strongest feelings for (note I haven’t seen the latest seasons), Lt Beckett, is the one with whom he’s had the longest non-sexual relationship.

            In fact, that’s something that you still see happen in a lot of secular media, the one guy or gal, they don’t sleep with turns out to be “the one.” As though there’s still recognition that a primarily sexual connection is not the best basis for a relationship. This is both good and bad. Good, because it highlights the importance of an emotional and intellectual foundation for a relationship. Bad, because inevitably the lovers are “rewarded” with getting to consummate their relationship once the tensions becomes “unbearable”. It also plays a bit too much into the old (more worldly than Christian IMO) archetype of a “good woman”, curing and taming the “bad boy”. While not impossible, this scenario is unlikely, and still falls short of the Biblical vision of redemption for everyone regardless of just what their past sins were. (That’s another thing, lots of stories deal with heroes with a tarnished past, but usually only in terms of certain “safe” faults or occupation, like being a womanizer or a thief. Never a murderer—though the Bible has plenty of examples of murderers for whom God still had use)

            Do I avoid all of it, or do I watch what I feel (mostly) comfortable with? Or do I write it? And if I write it, am I participating in the problem or offering a solution?
            Ultimately–I think if you’re striving to make sure your writing’s ideals and themes fall within Christian morality, you’re doing nothing wrong. Because the alternative–is that eventually we will be completely cutting ourselves off from a secular media that has grown too filthy for us to stomach. Besides, if we don’t write these stories—who will? And when I say we I mean you, because you’re going to be the first to have her novel skyrocket to the top of the NYT Bestseller’s list, and then send all your friends limited edition autographed copies right? 😉 Thus paving the way for a new generation of realistic Christian writers!

            Hmm…I’ll admit to struggling a lot with what approach we should take to obviously sinning non-believers. For instance, a relative asks if they could crash at your place for a while, and you say yes, feeling you’ve done them a charitable kindness. But what if they subsequently want to bring home their gay or unmarried lover? What then? While I agree there’s little point in condemning a non-believer for what they won’t recognize as being wrong–we can hardly condone these things or give them our seal of approval either?

            I think part of the problem is that Christians are always hearing about “God’s plan” “mission in life” “the role God meant you to play”, and we start thinking along the lines of Mission Impossible: Bible Version 😛

            Yeah I’d take the surveys with a grain of salt, though you can detect patterns. I noticed that liberal shows involve harsher content and more “edgy” themes, while conservative favorites had more positive law enforcement/military, and to some extent, less stuff that would raise an obvious red flag in terms of offensive content/elements.

          2. “Ultimately–I think if you’re striving to make sure your writing’s ideals and themes fall within Christian morality, you’re doing nothing wrong. Because the alternative–is that eventually we will be completely cutting ourselves off from a secular media that has grown too filthy for us to stomach. Besides, if we don’t write these stories—who will?”

            I agree completely. As Christian writers we can write about filth without wallowing in it. I mean, we can have characters who do awful things without going into the gratuitous details of every sexual act they perform, or whatever. I mean, if you’re going to write about Joseph, you have to write about seduction, and if you’re going to write a story about a redeemed prostitute, you have to write about prostitution. But you don’t have to linger on the bedroom scenes and ogle the characters and their actions.
            I was at a critique group for Christian writers yesterday, and the leader, a published Christian author, said she can’t have a character who was even nominally a Christian getting drunk in the midst of tragedy and depression, because Christian publishers wouldn’t publish it. Even though the point of view of the episode would be on the woman’s utter destitution and self-destructiveness, not on how fun it is to get drunk and how funny it would be for a Christian character to lose all self-control (as it would be in a sitcom or something). If I were writing it, that scene would be a major turnaround for the character and lead to her healing, *because* of how low she’d gotten. It would be ultimately redemptive. It would show the truth about alcohol abuse and pain, not be a wallowing in the glories of drunkenness. But no, Christian publishers won’t have it. But we *need* to have these awful situations of real life in our books, and we *need* to show the redemption that is ultimately possible.

          3. Frankly, the limitations of Christian publishing frustrate me to no end. Some things are “okay,” some aren’t… but even that is inconsistent. I’ve read a few really racy Christian novels, which apparently are acceptable as long as it’s between a married couple and doesn’t include certain words and/or descriptions. Yet, you can’t say “damn” or “hell.” That they won’t publish anything where a character gets drunk is interesting – because some Christian books I’ve read have the characters drinking alcohol. And, let’s not even start talking about their limitations on fantasy fiction (I have a whole other post waiting in the wings about that).

            Christian publishers seem to want “light” stuff. I can understand that, but life sucks. It’s hard. Christians go through times of darkness, of despair, of depression – and if we can’t write about that, if we can’t show someone overcoming that, in a manner that isn’t forced, preachy, or otherwise contrived, how can anyone get help? We as a community seem obsessed with not dealing with stuff, with pretending it doesn’t exist – but it does. There are Christian women struggling with guilt over former abortions. There are Christians struggling with pornography, with loneliness, with depression, with hopelessness. Someone needs to write it – but even if we do, we can’t publish it in a Christian market, and that’s a tragedy.

          4. there are so many authors who are are changing this. Geoff Wood, Siri Mitchell, Ginger Garrett, Francine Rivers (the Atonement Child), read Lisa Samson: she speaks to a lot of the topics you mention above, Christa Parrish, Chris Fabry, Dale Cramer’s early work for Bethany (Sutter’s Cross, Bad Ground) . And fantasy fiction? I’ve got two brand -new gorgeously-covered fantasies on my novel right now. Christian fiction is changing —to the point where the line between ‘secular’ and ‘christian’ is blurring and readers are apt to pick up a Christian novel without realizing that they are infused with redemptive and spirit-filled threads. The time of Janette Oke and Gilbert Morris is long gone 🙂

          5. Is one of those fantasies Patrick Carr’s “Cast of Stones”? In that the protagonist’s struggle with alcoholism is a MAJOR plot point.

          6. Try finding a Christian agency that represents fantasy, though — I can’t seem to track down a single one. Not that they’d accept my fantasy work anyway, it’s too secular (and yet, possibly too religious for secular publishers… we’ll see).

          7. rachel kent at books and such and chip macgregor are BOTH open to fantasy— if it is indeed well-written. Patrick Carr ( whose recent book Cast of Stones is getting amazing reviews) had a long publication road; but eventually was published. I am unsure of the agents, but waterbrook always has a few fantasies ( sometimes YA fantasies) on their list. 🙂

          8. also, from agency blogs i’ve read in the christian field, even if they specify no fantasy, they are often open to being pitched fantasy if proposed in an interesting way. you can get away with being thematic nowadays, rather than bludgeoning people over the head with religion 🙂 i will say this —because it is an industry i am passionate about and which continually surprises me and i am far more liberal than most readers of this blog— it is stretching and changing to fit brave new voices. it really is 🙂

          9. Rachel, Macgregor Literary has at least one fairly well-known fantasy author on their roster…Jill Williamson.

          10. I believe they are pretty well-represented at conferences like ACFW. Worth keeping an eye on at any rate. 🙂

          11. charity: re: new clients— if you read chip’s blog you will see that he makes exceptions. most agents do. even if their rosters are full they want to find the next . big. thing. they also now (as christian agent) are not averse to helping their christian authors break ground in the secular market if it comes to that. i encourage you to try and follow chip macgregor. he’s not only one of the top agents in christian fiction, he is one of the top agents ever. books and such is always accepting new clients 🙂 i would try querying wendy lawton or rachel kent 🙂

          12. It was specifically a Christian character getting drunk that seemed to be the problem. ‘Cos Christians never do anything self-destructive. No. Never.

          13. John Murphy gets drunk in Vienna Prelude and Thoene even describes the pain of his hangover…. and this was a book published by Bethany H. in 1989. Just imagine what they allow in the 20 years since. I think, with the above, it must have to do with the publishing house; because those limitations and barriers have largely crashed down.

          14. Julie Lessman is one that instantly comes to mind with pushing the envelope as far as racy. If she can do it with romance, why can’t others do it with real, gritty issues? This bugs me. I understand the idea that young teens are reading these and we want “safe” books for them, but the question of putting a rating system on books was brought up in a Christian writing group I was a part of a few years ago and everyone was up in arms. I wish we would, honestly.

          15. Alexandra: Christa Parrish and Ginger Garrett are the authors for you. An interesting look at the sex slave trade in early 1900s New York called Band of Sisters by Cathy Gohlke, is a gripping narrative that delves into deeper issues. Try “Into the Free” by Julie Cantrell as well— just a lovely, gritty and real book. Lief Enger’s Peace Like a River and Dale Cramer’s “Sutter’s Cross” and “Bad Ground” also come to mind.

          16. I think this largely depends on the publisher. Christian novelists who may have been given a list of standards or rubrics at one publisher will find a different set at another. Howard Books, for example, WaterBrook, these are two of the publishers who seem to be allowing more and more edge to creep in

          17. True that. Off-hand I would say Love Inspired, Barbour, and Harvest House are probably the most conservative (when considering each house’s fiction output), while Waterbrook, Howard, and even Bethany and Revell push the boundaries of what was once considered acceptable in CBA fiction 15-20 years ago, in the Oke/Morris heyday.

          18. yah. Bethany continues to pleasantly surprise me 🙂 they are taking risks and producing literary voices. I just finished one by Christa Parrish (which I reviewed for Novel Crossing —it should be up soon ) and egads! it packed a punch, was edgy, and was an extremely literate voice.

          19. It’s true, you never run out of book ideas. =)

            The whole “good girl redeems bad boy, because he falls in love with her” angle is so tired. It doesn’t work in real life – only God can change someone’s behavior and heart. Plus, how are we supposed to be HAPPY about a beautiful heroine winding up with a guy who has slept with everyone he’s ever met? Castle is great at protecting his daughter, and forgetting all the women he sleeps with are some other man’s daughter, too. And yes, he and Beckett do eventually wind up in the sack.

            Having written stuff about murders’ redemptions… that’s a hard thing too, because on one hand, if you LIKE the character, you don’t want them to spend the rest of their life in prison – yet, shouldn’t they atone for their murderous behavior? I wrote one controversial book on that regard; he killed people, he became redeemed, and he didn’t go to prison for it. And I was torn about that.

            Herein is the rub of a Christian writing novels (or, for that matter, fan fiction!) – your morals may not always fit in with the morals of the characters you are writing. So, in writing something you disagree with, are you endorsing it? If there are consequences to their behavior, I would say no – yet, still Christian authors get an enormous amount of (justifiable, in some regards) flack about it. Frank Peretti raised up a scandal when in “The Oath,” he had two people sleep together outside of marriage. It wasn’t even graphic and it had devastating consequences (both got the “stain sin,” which caused a monster to chase after them) – but it shocked everyone. Then too, what about Nicholas Sparks? His faith isn’t in very many of his books, and he does have immoral relationships going on, often with no consequences. Is that… okay?

            I would like to be a published author, even a best-seller, but I guess we’ll see. If God thinks I can handle it and remain faithful to Him, maybe it will come true. Otherwise, it won’t.

            Whenever my sisters would visit with their boyfriends, they understood that certain things were and were not allowed in the house – and the boy would sleep on the couch. I think it’s fine to impose your standards on others who come to stay in YOUR HOUSE. They should know up front what your values are, and if they can’t respect that, then they can find somewhere else to crash.

          20. It’s interesting that we’re talking about this (and mentioning Christian fiction) because the novel cited as launching the entire Christian literary sphere, Christy by Catherine Marshall, deals with rape and repressed sexuality—sometimes as informed by spiritual fervour.

          21. Yes, and you’ll find many Christians who adamantly are against that book, and refuse to read it. I’ve had several arguments about that very fact, and how their primary objection revolves around the greatest character (for me) in the book — Miss Alice! =/

          22. really? i haven’t stumbled upon too many in my set (actually, none) but i like that that is the groundwork we have . and the groundwork that publishers have taken. 🙂 i can see how the ultra-conservative set might rail against it; but no one can deny its effect on the Christian publishing industry and the ability for Christian books to become best-sellers 🙂

          23. please please please read Ginger Garrett— one of the most literary voices in the current Christian market. Her book, Wolves Among Us, is set during the burning times in 1500s Germany.

          24. I’m having fun reading all these comments, but I have to agree with your last statement. I have several friends in church (my age through people in their 50s) who rush home for Downton Abbey, and I know many others enjoy other BBC productions.

          25. And look no further than the huge conservative (often homeschooler) group that loves Doctor Who! It’s my favorite show, but I would be the first to admit it has very leftist leanings.

      2. Yes, alas, I’ve found some of the exact same things in some of my favorite mystery dramas. In Law & Order, an American franchise of series, as well as in Midsomer Murders, a British series based on a mystery book series, there is no religious character unless he’s out of his mind, unpleasant, hypocritical, judgmental, self-obsessed, murderous, psychopathic, et al. .>.<

        1. I will have to stand up a little bit for Law & Order here — much of the time, you’re right — the Christians were responsible for deaths, but there were a few notable exceptions, such as the Christian couple who stood up in court and forgave the man who murdered their daughter (I think that was season… seven? a Jamie season). I think that ending was truly profound, since Jamie asked Jack, “Could you have done that? I couldn’t.”

  5. Really good post, Charity! You have made a great case for this subject, and it’s one my mother and I have discussed many times.

    I would just add that I am not sure how strong that actor’s faith is if he even tried out for the role. If he is a new Christian and is struggling to live a better life, then not getting that role is possibly one of the best things that could even happen to him. I use Jim Caviezel as an example also (though far as I know, he isn’t a Christian) who was criticized and shunned in Hollywood for playing Christ. Then there is Kirk Cameron who wouldn’t kiss an actress on screen for ‘Fireproof’ so his wife stood in for the single kiss at the end. Or someone like Tim Tebow whose faith has been adamantly professed but the recent headlines I’ve seen on the email home pages make me pause and wonder at that.

    I don’t WANT to think the worst of people in the public eye who are Christians. But it IS a hard thing to accomplish. Especially when there is the media twisting everything into something ugly. They say, actions speak louder than words. 🙂

    1. When an actor tries out for a part, they neither know where the character may wind up nor what will be asked of them throughout the course of a series’ run. So, I don’t know that it’s fair to judge one for trying out for a certain character that in later episodes, long after the pilot has been picked up and more episodes ordered, isn’t who the actor thought he might be at the beginning. That’s the risk you run, unfortunately… but the lives of Christian actors would be far more pleasant if there were Christian writers out there, producing scripts!

      I try not to learn too much about anyone — I’ll just pray for the ones I really do believe are earnest in their faith to remain strong and not get waylaid in their very public lives.

      1. You are right. I wasn’t sure about how many scripts an actor got and if a pilot has nothing compromising in it, then it isn’t fair to judge them by that. If he had gotten the role, I hope he would have stood up for his character and not engaged in some of the things writer’s wanted.

        We SHOULD wish for better morally good writer’s! Imagine what awesome things could come from that! 🙂

        And that policy is an excellent one. 🙂

        1. Usually, when an actor signs on he/she only reads the pilot — they film that, show it to the studio, and more episodes are ordered. Sometimes, actors get truly lucky and land a moral character, but once you’re under contract, the best you can hope for is to negotiate and talk with the head writer if you have a conflict with certain behaviors. On occasion, if you have a valid point, they will honor it and change it to reflect who you feel your character truly is — but more often than not, the actor has minimal say in what winds up on-screen.

          Of course, the studio/station you are working with also has a lot to do with it. Cable television pretty much ensures that you’ll be doing sexual material/nudity at some point, which is why some actresses contract not to do that at the start of the show (or, in the case of one Game of Thrones actress, from season two onward).

          Christians are called to support one another — to root for one another. Instead, sadly, it seems like most of the time we wait for others to stumble, so we can throw rocks at them. =P

      1. Charity: Thanks for that. It’s all very interesting to know how the world of TV works. 🙂

        Christy: Neat! Didn’t know that Christy. Thanks for sharing.

  6. You raise a valid argument (but you know what, you always do.) Christians bemoan how the media portrays us as bigoted extremists and yet, we aren’t out there choosing to change anything. Granted, we have been called not to conform to the world but rather be transformed….still, I don’t think we should shy away from everything per se. But definitely things that compromise our convictions!

    1. Paul asks us to be transformed, not to abandon society to the extent that we are no longer its “salt.” Modern Christians have absolutely no influence on society, and it shows — not only is there utter depravity and filth on television and at the movies, but politically we are in a mess, morally our country is standing on the brink of total collapse, and none of us seem even remotely interested in doing anything about it. =/

  7. I don’t really understand your point regarding the Christian actor who “would have had to act out scenes that directly contradict certain aspects of his faith – sexual purity,” and so it was better that he didn’t get that role. An actor is not hired to portray himself or add his own feelings or beliefs to a character, and it is highly egotistical to think that who he is and what he believes is more important than the job he has been hired to do – ACT. Actors portray rapists, murderers, terrorists, along with nuns, doctors, priests and rabbis. These are fictional, made up characters that have nothing to do with who the actor is as a person of what they believe.

    Perhaps, instead of seeing characters on the screen and on television and saying, “Why aren’t there more people like me, who believe the same things as me?” It is a lesson, that we are not all alike. That sometimes it is an effort to see our commonality through the differences, but it is in appreciating our differences that we learn who we are and grow stronger as a person, whether in the spiritual world or the secular one.

    1. So, you don’t think it would be counter-productive for a believer to participate in sexual scenes that might compromise his own sexual purity? I find it hard to believe a faith-driven person could walk away from that intact.

      1. I don’t believe it is counter productive – no. I don’t hear of many actors becoming suicidal, for instance, because they’ve portrayed an unstable person in a television show or movie. I don’t hear of actors committing murders, holding up banks or stealing cars because they’ve acted out those scenes, either.

        If two actors fall in love, it is not because of a love scene, it is because of the time they’ve spent together, getting to know one another and bonding with that person, then CHOSE to act on those feelings. For as many couples that form a romantic relationship from sharing a love scene, there are thousands more that don’t become emotionally or physically involved. There are countless actors that can separate their personal feelings from the character they portray. After all, the relationship is between the fictional characters, not the actors themselves.

        It comes down to taking responsibility for your choices and being held accountable for them, instead of “letting” something happen to you.

        1. Well, I do agree that everyone should be responsible for their own actions, and “own” their choices, but I think for a believer, there’s certainly a lot of temptation and/or shaky ground when considering working on sex scenes with a costar.

    2. If a Christian were required to act out a sex scene, the guilt he/she would suffer would be unimaginable. It doesn’t matter if the scene isn’t really sex. What matters is that that’s what the audience thinks, and so that Christian is not talking the talk and walking the walk.

      I’m glad that this actor wasn’t cast in that leading role. Maybe something better will come along, something where he didn’t have to compromise his faith. He has better things to do with his life than compromise God’s commandments.

      1. It also might trigger emotions and instincts in the actor/actress that, either as a single person or as a married one, could cause future problems — how many times do actors/actresses leave their significant other/spouse for someone they’ve worked with on-screen, after doing love scenes with those people? ACTING can sometimes become REALITY, particularly with emotionally-driven people, which make the best actors. You pretend to love someone, you spend a lot of time being physical with them… and it’s very easy to compromise yourself.

        1. Thank you! I’ve heard that with many actors, a part of them falls in love with the person they’re acting out those scenes with. And why not? We’re a very tactile race. You start kissing someone, touching them, looking into their eyes, pretending to be someone else for the role, and suddenly it doesn’t matter if you have a wife and three kids at home. That is NOT God’s calling for a Christian actor, no sirree!

          1. Yep… and I imagine it’s even worse (than looking, holding hands, flirting) when you’re rolling around in the sack, half naked, with someone. How did Brangelina happen? Mr. & Mrs. Smith. How did Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise hook up? On a movie set.

            Interestingly, this only proves a point — that love is a choice. You pursue it. And if the love goes out of your relationship, it’s because there’s no physical and emotional pursuit involved.

  8. I’ve always thought this. When I was in college, sometimes I felt the pressure was to be a missionary or a pastor or a teacher at a Christian school. But some people are called to be artists or singers or actors or businessmen or contractors or a million other things. And Christians need to be in the real world and give their opinions and influence people. A Christian lawyer is going to reach people that the missionary in China never will, and we’re encouraged to be a light no matter where we are. Yes, it can be hard, and when you put yourself out there in front of a secular audience, you’ll have different challenges to face, but if we hide away among our own, never venturing out in the world, how will the world see our light?

    1. There is a lot of emphasis in the modern church on “doing big things for Christ,” with the implication that you MUST be a missionary, or you MUST be a pastor. But in reality, the lives we lead are of importance no matter how “small” they may seem — God is concerned first and foremost with our relationship with Him, and all else is secondary. You can do just as much good one on one with people as you can preaching to the masses. We should all believe that the passions God gave to us are for a PURPOSE, and that we are to use them!

  9. A Russian saying says: “If a drinking party is inevitable, try to lead it” – and sometimes it’s a Christian way to behave to minimize the moral damage both for yourself and other people invloved…
    But you must first check the risks very carefully. In modern entertainment especially, you always risk more to get drowned together with others then succeed in helping them out.

    1. Both statements are very wise — you have to be strong in your faith to lead, AND to know when to stay away from certain situations in which you might compromise. That’s where having a strong, Christian support system comes into play, in order to hold you accountable for your behavior — without it, you’re certain to fall.

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