Under the Radar

Last week, I was pretty rough on the makers of "End of the Spear," for casting a gay activist for a lead role in the new movie documenting the life of Jim Elliot and his partners in ministry. Although I stand by my original post, there is something about this movie that is praiseworthy, and I want to make sure to point that out as well.

When was the last time the Christian community put out a high quality, high caliber movie, with high quality actors that wasn't overtly Christian? I can't think of one since Chariots of Fire, which means it's high time for one.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with overtly Christian movies. I loved the Passion of the Christ, despite its mystic Catholic underpinnings. But the Christian community doesn't always have to be blatant in portraying its message. In fact, being less overt with an agenda is often more effective than making the agenda readily apparent.

Let me give you some examples:

One of my favorite sitcoms, Seinfeld, contains an episode in which one of the characters is attempting to decide, with the help of her friends, whether or not her current boyfriend is worthy of her birth-control method of choice. She only has a few, and they're expensive, so she doesn't want to waste it on the wrong guy. The subtle agenda? Casual sex is normal to the point that it's not even a topic of conversation. The issue for "normal" people is not whether or not to have sex outside of marriage, but whether or not a current sexual partner is worthy of the "good" birth control.

Another popular sitcom that is extremely funny is Will and Grace. The show is funny, and two of its main characters (Will and Jack) are likeable and funny. They're also both gay. Jack is the stereotypical gay man, if you will, while Will is an average, good looking guy that would pass under the "gaydar" of most heterosexuals. The subtle agenda? Homosexuality is completely normal behavior practiced by many "regular" people.

Will and Grace would never be successful in accomplishing its goal of normalizing homosexuality if it was completely overt, over the top, and in-your-face. But by going under the radar, it has won the viewership of many people I know who would vehemently oppose its view on homosexuality, but love the humor and characters of the show. Meanwhile, week after week, the characters seem more real, and their behavior more acceptable.

While I'm at it, I should mention my friend Stowe Campbell. He's a student with me at DTS, but has spent years collecting and archiving episodes of various MTV television shows. His ministry, Know Consequences, talks to teenagers about the underlying messages of MTV's programs. Accompanied by video clips, the messages are pretty scary.

Even the Mormon community has caught on to the idea. Napolean Dynamite was an instant cult-classic that arose out of a dare. A secular man told a Mormon that it was impossible to make a high quality movie without foul language and sexual inuendo. The Mormon took the challenge, and produced Napolean Dynamite. Suddenly, the secular world takes notice. Mormons are just regular guys with great sense of humor like us. How scary is that?

Why can't the Christian community fight fire with fire? What's wrong with producing a high quality television show that highlights a good Christian family who are "normal?" What's wrong with producing a movie that presents good moral values accompanied by an interesting story line, good cinematography, and good acting? We don't always have to be on the attack with our message. Maybe we could invest some time and money into priming the pump so that people are able to see normal Christian people who are not so disconnected from the rest of humanity that we're seen as walking freak shows.

This is not to say that we should ever be scared, intimidated, ashamed, or afraid of boldly proclaiming the Gospel. May it never be! But if the Christian community is always involved in a full frontal assault against secular culture, we run the risk of being seen as antagonists instead of those who offer the message of reconcilliation to God. Meanwhile, the secular community isn't involved in a visible battle with anyone. They don't have to be. By going covert, they're slowly winning the war without firing a shot.