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Christian Reality TV

By December 5, 2008One Comment

Christian reality t.v. is here.

(I know you’re breathing a huge sigh of relief. Finally!)

I discovered this last night when Dateline did a story about it. And I don’t really know why I was surprised. Christian music and media has consistently lagged behind mainstream culture by about 10 to 20 years, so I should have been expecting this. It was about time.

This new trend has come about in response to the trash that we find on most reality shows today. The folks at the Gospel Music Channel decided to provide a better, more edifying alternative, and they now air two shows aimed at that end. One is called “The Uprising” and it’s about a handful of Christian skateboarders who use their influence for the Gospel. The second show is entitled “Revolve: Rockin the Road,” and it follows a touring event for teen girls that features speakers and Christian artists .

(Fun fact: one of the main characters of the second show is Jenna Lucado, daughter of Max Lucado)

To give you a taste of what this new genre is like, here’s a preview for the season finale of Revolve:

Now contrary to what you might expect, I’m not gonna be a hater. Yes, it frustrates me that Christian culture is always behind the mainstream by such a tremendous extent, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon these mediums. They can still be valuable tools for evangelism. In particular, the skateboarders have a platform that not all Christians can access. I want to affirm that.

However, the Dateline feature indirectly highlighted an important point about this trend–it’s just another example of Christians mimicking cultural innovations, and at a horribly delayed timing. We take popular cultural phenomena, and we Christianize them. Which ironically seems to make them worse.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with Christianizing music, art, or even television. However this does remind us of one unsettling reality: Christians are consistently downstream of culture.

We should be uncomfortable with this fact, because downstream is not our place. We shouldn’t be following the culture’s lead–the culture should be following ours.

As one professor at Fuller Seminary explained, “We should not be imitating the culture, but leading it. If we’re connected with the Creator God of the Universe, then we should be the MOST innovative and the MOST creative individuals in our culture.” We should be harnessing God’s infinite creativity in a way that causes people to stop, take notice, and be inspired.

But this doesn’t happen, does it? In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Rather than earn respect, Christians have earned mockery, not because we’re taking a stand for the Gospel, but because we offer a sub-par Christian version of everything the culture dreamed up long before. Our engagement of the culture might be great for Christians, but not at all compelling for non-Christians.

But why is that? Two mains reasons:

1. Christians don’t see their jobs and their talents as a calling. A lot of Christians believe that if you’re not a minister, then you don’t have the same kind of divine call on your life. This is a lie. If you’re an investment banker, an interior designer, a publicist, or a secretary, you all have the same call on your life–work for the glory of God.

And this doesn’t simply mean that you should be an ethical person who works hard and sets a good example. It also means that you need to dream up new ways to glorify God with your talents. Take your job to the next level and call on God for the kind of imaginative ideas that would set you apart in your field, for His glory.

2. Christians don’t think. This statement is not universal, but in all belief systems there is a temptation to simply do what you’re told. That is the nature of religion. You listen to what your minister, rabbi, or imam tells you so that you can be a good little religious person.

But such blind obedience does not stimulate creativity. It stifles it. We should not expect to contribute great thinking and ideas to our world if we never ask questions or challenge ourselves in the most important area of our lives. That kind of “bigger picture” mentality begins with your faith, but it should carry over into your work as a result. Don’t just do what your boss tells you–do more, and dream more. This too glorifies God.

Let’s be the trend-setters. Let’s resolve to position ourselves upstream instead of down. Our credibility in this culture is at stake. But don’t hear me as saying that we should judge ourselves according to the world’s wisdom instead of God’s. I’m saying just the opposite. Our problem is that we’re doing the exact same thing as the culture, only worse.

The solution is not to keep up with the culture, but to create categories of innovation that the culture has not even dreamed up yet.

If we ever hope to offer anything more than a Christianized regurgitation of cultural trends and ideas, then we need to rise up in our individual realms of influence and start taking the lead. That begins with you.

One Comment

  • j a n says:

    Wow. Great post! I think you’re right… we’re great followers (copiers?). Think of YouTube & GodTube.

    But I was thinking about this, and was wondering what Hollywood & the Silicone Valley have that Christians don’t. Mostly: unlimited $$. I wonder if mature Christians are willing to invest in the genius computer geek in the junior high ministry at church. Or financially back a young film director (music writer, whatever). It seems like that would be a huge help in getting out in front with innovation.

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