Is Christianity being forsaken by Mainstream media?

The media as of the past 30 years, has been attempting to create roles for a male Christian. Media in general has been trying to either fit roles of the male Christian into a plot in a movie, or it has attempted to create their interpretation of what a male Christian is. The view of media about male Christians, is that they are one dimensional, clueless, or even naive. Speaking from personal experience, I was also treated as clueless, or naive when I was younger and still learning scripture. My peers in high school often tried to refute my existence because of my faith. The media has eroded the public image of Christians, and more specifically males, over the past 30 or so years. This is in stark contrast of the fundamental beliefs of Christians, which mainstream media has eluded to.

Movies have attempted to tell stories since its inception in the 1890’s. Since the early 20th century, the Protestant Church has encouraged the production of films about Christianity. The industry ramped up the making of movies portraying Christians starting in the 1950’s and 60’s. These were films which any Christian should become familiar with. Examples would be the Ten Commandments, where Moses was played by Charlton Heston (published in 1956).[i] The Ten Commandments is just one good example of how a Christian male is portrayed in what is an accurate representation. Here is a couple of clips from the Ten Commandments:

Another movie that shows a male Christian, but as a coach this time is Facing the Giants.[ii] In the clip, you will see the coach Grant Taylor (played by Alex Kendrick), showing the meaning of not seeing and believing to his team:

 

 

This shows a good example of a male Christian leader, whether they are a coach, teacher, engineer, or something else.

Recent media exploits, however, have been making movies with “Christian males” in them, without giving accurate and truthful representation to the believers of Christianity. The thing to keep in mind, is that the actors may not be a Christian male at all. Take, for example, the movie “Easy A” [iii], staring Emma Stone (Olive), and Amanda Bynes (Marianne). The film has Amanda Bynes playing the role of a Christian girl leading a group of other Christians in a high school. The movie shows the male Christians that were in Marianne’s group to be submissive, and clueless to a point that they needed to be told what to do. Marianne is often belittling non-Christians in what she says, and how she acts. A good example is when in one scene, Marianne has her group protesting outside the school, and the male Christians are protesting with signs, along with a few female Christians, while Marianne is shouting derogatory remarks at by-passers, most prominently at Olive. The male Christians appear to have no motivation during the groups activity, except when Marianne tells them to do something. Take a look at this scene:

The best scripture I can think of to use as stark contrast to the portrayal of the Christians in the movies Easy A, comes from Matthew chapter 5, verse 1-12, and it says (taken from NIV Bible):

1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,

2 and he began to teach them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Note: Letters in red indicate where Jesus himself was speaking.)

 

Another example that shows a Christian male in a more subjective role, is the show 30 Rock, written and directed by Tina Fey of the original Saturday Night Live cast. She has written in the character Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer), who appears as an oddly cheerful Christian, who accepts any jobs doled out by his boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin). He also appears naive and a bit more clueless than most of the male Christians that I have seen in other television shows and movies. In my personal observations, I have not seen or witnessed a Christian behaving like Kenneth in 30 Rock, nor like any of the male Christian figures in the movie Easy A. An example clip is shown below:

 

Ned Flanders in the cartoon prime time television show the Simpsons, has a somewhat different appearance when it comes to how the public is viewing the role of the male Christian. The early versions of the Simpsons showed Ned as a very happy, respectable and Godly man. The thing that is wrong with this, is that the cartoon is portraying Ned as being a Christian, and does not show how Ned became a Christian, or his personal testimony/journey. Not that there is anything wrong with being happy, but most Christians go through a significant amount of suffering (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, social, economic, etc…) as this is what Jesus speaks about in Matthew chapter 5, verse 11 and 12. The word to key in on is persecuted/persecution/persecute.

Ned is always criticizing Homer about his sinful lifestyle choices, which brings conflict to their relationship (as they are neighbors in addition to friends). Even though Homer and Ned have conflicts of interest, there appears to be a love and respect between the two. This is not always apparent, and does not start showing until the series enters its later seasons. In an episode earlier in the franchise, Ned Flanders, in “Hurricane Neddy”, has his house completely destroyed by a tornado, and his is the only house in town to be hit. Watch the video clip:

 

 

To compare this scene earlier with the later scenes, the latest seasons show the true identity of what a male Christians might appear to be like, when Ned’s wife is suddenly killed after being knocked off the grandstand by a shirt cannon at the Springfield Speedway, by none other than his good friend Homer. His struggles with being a single father of 2 boys following the accident, is a common struggle which most Christian widowers go through. Ned at first curses God, as to why he is not answering his prayers, then starts losing his faith. This envelopes into an internal battle for his lost faith, and a rage which he takes out on others. Ned later in the episode, while walking back to the church, asks God to forgive him for his sin, and misguided attempts to deal with the loss of his wife. He starts to question his faith, and why God is punishing him toward the end of the scene, Homer attempts to console with Ned about the untimely death of Ned’s wife. Here is a clip from that show:

 

 

And here is another clip with some of the best Ned Flanders moments. This also includes some of the scenes from the episode where Ned’s wife dies:

 

The article titled, “It’s Funny Because It’s True? The Simpsons, Satire, and the Significance of Religious Humor in Popular Culture”, written by David Feltmate, is an attempt to unravel the meanings and reasons around the Simpsons. The author used the word “satire” throughout the text in his article. Satire by definition according to Merriam-Webster’s website definition, “a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. : humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/satire).[iv] This is a common theme from Hollywood producers and writers. Satire is a way of giving something meaning, “without all the truth about, or correct representation of a particular entity or person(s)”. This also extends into commercialism, in that a group of people (in this case Christians) are all lumped into one group, and are assumed to be the same. To add to that, recently a Catholic Priest lauded the attempts that the creators of the Simpson’s have done with the franchise, reflecting the behaviors of Christianity as a whole. [v] This is not the case. Even when it comes to the Reverend Lovejoy . (The beloved Reverend Lovejoy is the preacher at Homer Simpson’s and Ned Flanders’s church.) Reverend Lovejoy’s views reflect that of a Protestant belief, which is exactly what the church turns out to be.

Looking at the article titled “Why Is Hollywood Obsessed With Making Christian Movies?”, the author attempts to use rhetoric to analyze why Hollywood may be making so many big picture movies as of late.[vi] Movies like “Noah” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” are both good examples of how “creativity” can get in the way of, or subdue the messages in the Bible. These are clearly Hollywood based points of view, and do not at all reflect the actual events that are described in scripture. Some of these feature films might have some of the male actors, actually playing their roles accurately. Most do not have the roles play in such a way. A good example of a more recent movie that has male Christians played well in their roles, is the movie “Passion of the Christ”.

A biblically based male, in truth, is based on many factors. His relationship with Jesus Christ, his leadership of those who trust him, confide their safety, and well being in him, compassion, grace, LOVE (Jesus talks about this being the greatest of all commandments), and last but not least…humility! Without these, a man cannot expect to perform the tasks that Christ himself laid out, and what is written in the Epistles that Paul wrote about in Romans, Ephesians, Galatians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, Titus, and 1st and 2nd Timothy. Timothy and Peter also echo this in their letters to the churches, that they keep and maintain these artifacts as the prominent cornerstone of the Christian church. (Timothy is the disciple of Paul the Apostle, and Peter was one of the 12 disciples of Christ.)

The biggest story teller of the Christian faith isn’t just what is written in the New Testament of the bible, but also from the testimonies of those whom have encountered Jesus Christ, and his impact on their lives.

My first true encounter with Jesus was when I was about 7 years of age (give or take a year, as I cannot remember my exact age at the time). I was with my grandfather in his church (which I went with him every Sunday until I was 9 1/2 years old). I remember it being a somewhat cold and rainy day in the fall. It was the time after Sunday school, and the main sermon was being taught. I was sitting in the back of the church on a pew, listening (I tried to understand what was being spoken about, but I was 7). After the sermon had finished, the pastor asks if anyone would like to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior. I will never forget that feeling I had inside. It was as if, someone had taken my hand, and led me to the front of the church. I felt something at that moment, and have since that day. I know in my heart, after much prayer and internal debating, that it was indeed the Holy Spirit calling me that day. Once I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, I had a very energizing and comforting feeling. I felt the presence of Jesus, as he spoke to my heart. He assured me that my life is in his hands, and to trust him on everything. Even the things I could not see, nor could understand. I embarked on a journey, that will forever change the lives of people I encounter, and speak about my testimonies (yes, there are more than one. My first encounter, and acceptance of Jesus was only one of many to tell, for which I will not go into detail here).

I use my faith, and relationship with Jesus, to help me understand and judge what is truth and what is false indoctrination. The media views of Christian males is, they are one dimensional, clueless, or naive. The media has also eroded the public image of Christians, and more specifically males, over the past 30 or so years. They try and misinform their viewers, and lead them to the singular ideal, that Christianity must be like this. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

 

[i] The Ten Commandments. Dir. Cecil B. De Mille. By Dorothy Clarke Wilson, J. H. Ingraham, A. E. Southon, AEneas MacKenzie, Jesse Lasky, Jack Gariss, and Fredric M. Frank. Prod. Cecil B. De Mille and Henry Wilcoxon. Perf. Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter. Paramount Pictures, 1956. Film.

 

[ii] Facing the Giants. Dir. Alex Kendrick. By Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick. Prod. Alex Kendrick, Stephen Kendrick, Michael Catt, and Terry Hemmings. Perf. Alex Kendrick, Shannen Fields, Jason McLeod,. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2007. Blu-ray.

 

[iii] Easy A. Dir. WIll Gluck. By Bert V. Royal. Perf. Amanda Bynes, Emma Stone, Penn Badgley. Sony Pictures, 2010. Film.

 

[iv] Feltmate, David. “It’s Funny Because It’s True? The Simpsons, Satire, and the Significance of Religious Humor in Popular Culture.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (2013): lfs100.

 

[v] Saunders, Martin. “Entertainment.” A Farewell to Ned? The Simpsons’ Greatest Flanders Moments. Christian Today, 14 May 2015. Web. 29 July 2015. <http://www.christiantoday.com/article/a.farewell.to.ned.the.simpsons.greatest.flanders.moments/53940.htm&gt;

 

[vi] Koonse, Emma. ‘Why Is Hollywood Obsessed With Making Christian Movies?’. Christian Post. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 July 2015.

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This entry was posted in Summer 2015 by wallacemckenzie. Bookmark the permalink.

About wallacemckenzie

I am a Student at Portland State University, studying Electrical Engineering and Physics. I am also a professional technician in the semiconductor industry, in which I have worked for almost 15 years. I love to read scripture when ever I can, so my spirit can have the sustenance of Christ. I also am a parent of 3, and enjoy being a parent (even though I am tested very often). Studying and working are my 2 full time jobs outside of being a parent. The pursuit of truth and knowledge are my main goals in life.

2 thoughts on “Is Christianity being forsaken by Mainstream media?

  1. Wallace,

    I really appreciate your view points on this stereotype in the media. It’s something I as an agnostic have never really noticed or addressed in popular media. But I do recognize that christians in the media are portrayed as sometimes over the top nitwits or “bible thumpers”. I noticed this heavily in Easy A. Those Christians are “crazy, compulsive, and cultish”. The media sometimes makes out being a religious person somewhat cultish and shrew. How does this make you feel seeing that a trait you represent is being falsely portrayed?

    • It makes me feel driven. And at the same time, I feel hurt, angry and sad, because of this misnomer that the media continues to portray falsely. I want to make sure, if there are others that have questions about Christ, that I could address it not just with bible passages. Any Christian can do that. To have a passion for Jesus, a Christian must first understand what pain they must endure in his name. It says multiple times in the gospels, the book of Romans, and even the Apostle Paul experience a great amount of suffering because of his faith and relationship with Christ. This is the part that the media does not show. It also does not show, how some Christians volunteer many, many hours to give food, shelter, education, and other resources, not just because Christ is the prime example, but because we are taught to love everyone, no matter what their personality flaws, or ticks are. Everyone was born imperfect….it is with Christ that we find perfection through his leadership, his majesty, grace, love, and most of all, sacrifice. The stuff you see on television regarding the “bible thumpers” do not really understand the scriptures, nor do they follow the example of Christ. Did Jesus Christ hang around the rich and well to do? Or the Pharasies? No, he in stead had shown the world his real reason for being here…the less fortunate, poor, and indignant. He preached the word of the old testament, and started the new testament with his 12 disciples. That is where Christianity started, and what laid the foundation of Christianity. It is there, that a Christ must start their journey to truly have that relationship with Christ. Else, it is for naught because they are not trying to emulate Jesus and what his message was. I took this opportunity to truly give an expert opinion with this essay/blog, because I felt Jesus tugging at my heart to do this in his honor. I honor him with truth. I am not perfect by any means, and I always strive to improve. I see the world needs love and grace the same that Jesus Christ had given me. I would gladly give my life to save another, that is how much I love the world. I learned this through very painful trails and tribulations. I have learned a lot from he that sustains me. In this, I find the comfort and passion to continue on the path that has been laid out before me. And to address the other thing you spoke about….yes there are eccentric Christians and Extremist Christians. They use the title of “Christian”, but never actually understand or apply the teachings given throughout the New Testament. Thanks for your reply!!

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