Christians in the Entertainment Industry

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How often do we go online to check which movies are playing in theaters and find that the options are either excessively violent horror films or ones targeted at very young children? It is during such moments that we often yearn for more movies with stronger moral values. Alternatively, we might attend a theater performance only to be taken aback by the abundance of profanity. Although the media we desire to consume does not necessarily have to be explicitly Christian, having a higher presence of Christians in the industry would certainly be beneficial. Who is to say that they would not thrive in a career within the entertainment sector?

I suggest that adhering to Christian standards does not necessarily have a negative impact on a career in media. On the contrary, maintaining such morals can actually improve an actor’s performances. Christian morals can impede a career in media by completely obstructing its commencement. Despite the presence of Christian media, the entertainment industry is predominantly seen as a secular business. Christians may be inclined to avoid pursuing a career in media due to the abundance of scandalous stories associated with it.

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Despite the fact that she is going through her fifth divorce, he is in rehabilitation for drug use, and another person is pregnant with a baby whose father may or may not be her current boyfriend, the question of whether pursuing a career in the entertainment industry is desirable arises. In such an environment, it becomes challenging for Christians to maintain an untarnished reputation. Thus, the moral acceptability of Christians seeking a media career comes into question. However, it must be acknowledged that acting itself is not inherently immoral. I argue that everyone assumes some type of acting role to varying degrees, although not necessarily professionally.

When a parent asks about their child’s day at school, the child may excitedly share a story where they are the main character. Their enthusiastic storytelling highlights their role as an actor. If everyone has acted at some point in their lives, it suggests that acting is not inherently wrong and can be a valid career choice for those interested. The association of acting with secular pursuits is mainly due to its commercialization.

If Christians are actors, they can portray their faith through their actions. This is especially true when they attend church, where they perform their beliefs like a child telling their parents about their day. Both the theatre and the church have a central text. The church has Scripture, while the theatre has a script. To stay true to their Christian beliefs, Christians should interpret Scripture the same way they interpret any text, such as a script for a performance.

This practice in addition to understanding the relationship between worship and performance can assist Christian actors in maintaining a good reputation. In terms of comparison, the Christian understanding of Scripture predominantly takes place within a community of believers, and similarly, theatrical interpretation is also a collective effort. Every member in a theater group has a distinct role and responsibility, yet all contribute to the communal process of interpretation. This mirrors Christian communal interpretation, which involves individuals in different roles such as pastors, elders, deacons, and teachers.

According to Shannon Craigo-Snell, in her article titled “Command Performance,” it is essential for interpretation within a community to remain open to the outside world. The failure of a theater company or a Christian community to address broader societal issues will lead to their downfall (478, 479). Both churches and theaters must find a balance between their internal community and their connection to the external world.

By truly understanding this concept, individuals in the congregation can effectively apply it to all areas of their lives, including actors incorporating it into their work. Craigo-Snell emphasizes that all Christians are performers and that the entirety of the Christian life is a performance where they strive to bring the events described in the script/Scripture to life (480). Thus, Christians can be said to perform Scripture. However, it is important to note that this statement should not be interpreted literally; instead, we must delve deeper into this analogy. There are multiple ways in which we perform Scripture.

When we read or sing Psalms together, or when we enact scenes from Jesus’ life such as breaking bread and washing feet, we perform them. When we obey a direct commandment, we are, in some sense, performing that commandment. Christians enter each scene and engage in each dialogue as characters. The words of Scripture shape our words, and our thoughts and lives as well. To apply this to acting, if Christian actors can see and interpret a text in the same way that they do Scripture, they may find it easier to personally relate to it and internalize it. Types of theatre are mentioned throughout Scripture.

As previously mentioned, simple storytelling is a form of theatre. For instance, Jesus employed parables as a way to convey truth. Todd Farley argues in the article “God’s Self-Performance” that Paul utilized the conventions and characters of theatre when boasting about being a “fool”, a character commonly found in theatre during his time. In addition, Paul’s illustrations were directly inspired by theatre, similar to modern-day pastors who incorporate film clips in their sermons. These performances of the word succeeded in engaging people and facilitating encounters with the transformative power of God’s Word.

Most of our traditions recognize a spoken word inspired by the Holy Spirit as being recorded in scripture and a form of ministry. (33) Media is not a new concept, as various forms have existed before Christ. However, technological advancements have increased the circulation of both negative and positive stories about actors, leading to the general scandalous reputation associated with media. A potential reason for more Christians to pursue acting is the scarcity of quality Christian entertainment.

Some individuals believe their only job options are in movies that may not align with their Christian values. The movie rating often influences our decision to watch a film, but can we rely on these ratings? Additionally, if we encounter a movie or performance with excessive language or unnecessary violence, what does it say about the actor’s character for accepting such a role? It is vital to remember that entertainment can impact our spiritual well-being.

Seeing it as merely a means of enjoyment, contemporary society’s understanding of entertainment is solely centered on providing amusement and diverting attention from reality. To ensure a meaningful impact on themselves and their offspring, many Christians should seriously reconsider the content they expose themselves to. The message conveyed in 2 Peter effectively underscores this argument: “For that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2. 8 NIV). Why don’t Christians today experience similar “torment” when witnessing the content portrayed on television?

There are many self-proclaimed Christians who are endorsing and taking part in activities that God considers unacceptable. It is even possible for college professors to require students to engage in these activities in today’s society. In her book Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey refers to a report from The Boston Globe that discusses a concept called “porn studies.” According to Pearcey, many colleges now offer courses where students study explicit pornography and are even expected to make their own explicit films as homework for class presentations (143). While some people may have a straightforward reaction to this situation, others may not.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1. 27). Another important verse to remember is from Psalms: “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it” (Psalm 101. 3). To remain faultless, Christians must commit to distancing themselves from the vile aspects of the world while also considering the significance of terminology.

When a person walks out of a theater praising a movie as “really good,” they may fail to consider that the movie contained elements such as war, cursing, and sexually explicit scenes. The question then arises: are any of these aspects really good? The answer lies in how these elements are depicted. Often, they are portrayed in an inappropriate manner, yet these movies are still labeled as good. Nancy Pearcey also touches upon this issue, recounting her experience with an English professor who analyzed classic literary works by tallying the occurrences of foul language and illicit sexual activities.

The author argues that he overlooked the literary quality of the books he read and questions if this is going too far. In Ezekiel, it is emphasized to differentiate between what is holy versus common, and to recognize the distinction between unclean and clean. Society may have become desensitized to negative aspects of life, no longer perceiving them as inherently good or bad but rather as part of life. However, a verse in Isaiah warns against labeling evil as good and vice versa, urging us to accurately identify what we consider “good”. One issue arises when watching movies: we easily suspend our moral judgment, echoing Paul Ricoeur’s viewpoint. The pleasure derived from following character stories indicates our tendency to also suspend true moral judgment and action.

In the realm of fiction, we constantly seek new ways to assess actions and characters. The thought experiments we conduct in this imaginative laboratory are also investigations into the concepts of good and evil. Moral judgment is not eliminated; instead, it becomes subject to the creative variations unique to fictional works (164). It is important for us to acknowledge that as we consistently suspend our moral judgment, it may become a habit. Christians must be vigilant in guarding our thoughts, lest we become desensitized to the presence of evil in the world.

We must be cautious in upholding our moral standards to avoid bringing shame to Christianity. Christians who understand this should also adhere to the commandment given in Jude, which states, “Save others by snatching them from the fire; show mercy to others, mixed with fear – even hating the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 23). We must help our fellow believers comprehend the negative aspects of our entertainment and collaborate on ways to separate ourselves from it. One option is the potential censorship of certain forms of media, such as television shows, through the use of warnings and other strategies.

According to Marina Krcmar and Steve Sohn in their article “The Role of Bleeps and Warnings in Viewer’s Perceptions of On-Air Cursing,” attempts to censor cursing often have the opposite effect, drawing more attention to it (570). Therefore, it is better to avoid cursing entirely rather than selectively showing it to certain audiences. In his article “Keeping Company in Hollywood: Ethical Issues in Nonfiction Film,” David H. Richter discusses several ethical issues: ethics of rhetorical purpose, ethics of the told, ethics of the telling, ethics of film, and ethics of representation (141). Richter treats each of these issues differently, suggesting that each has its own ethical standards. However, I maintain the belief that Christian standards should always remain constant. Although some Christians may believe it is wrong to be involved in media with a sordid reputation, such as public media, it is important to remember that certain theatre troupes or other media groups can possess just as much or even more integrity than some Christian groups. Thus, actors do not have to associate themselves with groups that have negative reputations.

The entertainment industry requires a serious change from a Christian perspective, and there are numerous options available if one searches thoroughly. To initiate this necessary change, a good approach is to start from within. By being an actor who stands out and garners admiration, we can effectively accelerate this transformation. Our duty is not to demonstrate superiority over others, but to connect with them by highlighting our similarities. Invisible theatre is often perceived differently compared to other forms of media, and there are valid reasons for this distinction.

Invisible theatre involves actors creating and performing a realistic scene in public, then spontaneously adjusting their performance based on audience reactions. The goal is to deceive the audience into thinking the events are authentic. This form of theatre serves various purposes and possesses numerous qualities. Primarily, it aims to raise awareness about escalating social problems. It serves as a means of educating the public and engaging individuals who would typically ignore lectures or fail to research social predicaments.

Some individuals claim that invisible theatre is unethical due to the actors engaging in a complex form of deception. In her piece titled “Invisible Theatre, Ethics and the Adult Educator,” Bonnie Burstow defends invisible theatre by stating, “Learners are not truly being deceived as the actors are conveying a form of truth” (280). Others argue that the disruption caused by invisible theatre is unnecessary. They argue that life already presents enough unexpected disturbances, and there is no need to accentuate or increase them. It can also disturb individuals with a less stable mental state.

According to Burstow (277), one issue that arises in invisible theatre is the potential for retraumatization of victims of gay-bashing who witness homophobic threats being screamed by young men in these performances. While maintaining a Christian faith may impede a career solely focused on invisible theatre, it is up to each person to evaluate this for themselves. Nowadays, the average movie-goer can easily find numerous well-made films that endorse violence and achieve commercial success.

Despite the usual public condemnation, there are plenty of high-quality and successful Christian films available for those who know where to find them, proving that success is attainable in this industry. Regrettably, most clean movies are targeted at younger audiences and fail to captivate older kids. Many young people rely on their friends’ recommendations when deciding which movies to watch or music to listen to. It is not enough to just offer clean entertainment options to the youth; the existing clean entertainment should be improved in quality to make it more appealing.

There are alternative options for youth to modern entertainment that are clean, but they require improved advertising. It is commonly acknowledged that children become more aggressive when exposed to violent media. Ellen Wartella supports this belief in her article, “The Influence of Media Violence on Youth,” highlighting that an increase in media violence has resulted in a higher number of juvenile incarcerations (100). Consequently, there is an even greater need for the widespread circulation of clean and high-quality entertainment. While some individuals, particularly producers, may argue that Christian entertainment could never thrive due to insufficient popular demand.

There are multiple instances to disprove this assumption. The success of Veggie Tales, a children’s show, demonstrates that not every endeavor in Christian entertainment is destined to be insignificant or fail completely. Moreover, Sherwood Baptist Church has created four increasingly popular movies that have gained popularity throughout the country. Based on these examples alone, it appears that there is, in fact, a demand for Christian media. The only issue is that nothing of significant magnitude had been produced before to attract attention. Additionally, there is a target audience interested in educational media.

The publication of non-Christian media places a weight on Christian educators, who share equal responsibility with parents and pastors for the spiritual well-being of their students. This is supported by James 1:27, which states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: … to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Fellow Christians are tasked with the duty of preventing such pollution according to Jude 23, which says, “Save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” If teachers, parents, and even youth pastors are aware that children are allowing their minds to be tainted by the media, they are obligated to seek methods to counteract these negative effects. The media can assist in this endeavor by providing clean material for counseling young individuals. Any form of media can be utilized as long as it emphasizes solid morals and portrays repulsive content in its true nature. It is crucial to assess the values conveyed in any art form prior to internalizing it, and utilize this evaluation to determine the next course of action.

Thus, adhering to Christian ethics does not necessarily hinder pursuing an acting profession. Numerous opportunities exist for Christians who wish to showcase their God-given dramatic abilities.

Works Cited

Burstow, Bonnie. “Invisible Theatre, Ethics, and the Adult Educator.” International Journal of Lifelong Education 27.3 (2008): 273-288. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.
Craigo-Snell, Shannon. “Command Performance: Rethinking Performance Interpretation in the Context of Divine Discourse.” Modern Theology 16.4 (2000): 475. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.
Ellen Wartella, et al. “The Influence of Media Violence on Youth.” Psychological Science in the Public Interest (Wiley-Blackwell) 4.3 (2003): 81-110. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
Farley, Todd. “Theater In Liturgy As Actio Divina – God’s Self-Performance.” Liturgy 24.1 (2009): 33-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
The Holy Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan-International Bible Society, 1984. Print. New International Version.
Krcmar, Marina, and Steve Sohn. “The Role of Bleeps and Warnings in Viewers’ Perceptions of On-Air Cursing.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 48.4 (2004): 570-583. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008. Print.
Richter, David H., “Keeping Company in Hollywood: Ethical Issues in Nonfiction Film.” Narrative 15.2 (2007): 140-166. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
Ricoeur, Paul. “Time and Narrative.” (1984) 162-170. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

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