There is a difference between what is culturally Christian and what is Christian. One is concerned with policy; the other is concerned with people. One wants to create a separate world; the other seeks to inform the world we have. One is concerned with safety; the other is already safe. One is driven by fear; the other driven by hope. One is against the world; the other is for the world. One is not in, but of the world; the other is not of, but in the world. One majors on morality; the other majors on grace. One is big and getting smaller; the other is small and getting bigger. One champions differences; the other champions similarities. One judges; the other accepts. One blames; the other forgives. One separates; the other attaches.
Our guest tonight on BlogTalkRadio has a foot in both of these worlds and because she has a healthy appreciation for each, she has a little dance to do between them not unlike what we have to do every day. Her successful acting career is the result of the culturally Christian world where she got her opportunity to act in films that were funded and created by her church. These films were created as an alternative to Hollywood, but they unexpectedly took Hollywood by storm. Films like “Facing the Giants,” and “Fireproof” brought Christians into the theater in such large numbers that Hollywood is now trying to mimic them in order to reach that same market. (They are not doing this to be nice to us, by the way, but because Christians are bringing lots of money into the theaters to see the movies they want to see.) They are movies after the “Sherwood model” from Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, where Erin’s father is the pastor. These movies were filmed on shoestring budgets using volunteers from the church as actors and ended up making millions, in one case grossing 17 times cost.
But there is a dilemma here as well. When the world tries to portray faith (and sometimes when we do as well), it has mostly cultural Christianity to draw from — that part of faith that has somehow made it into the marketplace and recognizable as “Christian.” That’s why these Hollywood renderings have a tendency to be somewhat shallow, stilted and one-dimensional.
So on one hand, Erin is acting in movies made by Christians for Christians, movies made by Hollywood for what they think Christians are, and made in Hollywood not for
Christians, where faith is a part of her, not necessarily a part of the movie or the role she is playing. It would seem to me that the latter case actually has the possibility of conveying more of what faith really is than the other two where faith is trying to be part of the movie.
It’s a complicated environment, but not unlike what we as believers deal with every day. If we are Christians in the marketplace, there are expectations placed on us that may have nothing to do with truly following Jesus. They are culturally instilled by what has come to be “Christian” in this present culture which usually has more to do with morality than issues of the heart. I believe we stand to make the greatest impact in our world through the things not readily recognized by our culture as “Christian,” but are a part of true faith. It may be that real Christians don’t look and sound like Christians anymore, and that may just be a good thing.
Don’t miss our show tonight; it’s going to be a good one as we discuss many of these things.