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.