Heading for Cultural Irrelevance

Rating: 4.50

I’m kind of upset. A great movie was pulled from the shelves of a Christian bookstore chain. I’ll explain more, next on BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

Back in February, JC Penney named Ellen De Generes as one of its spokespersons. The move sparked some controversy which, frankly, struck me as ridiculous. De Generes is openly gay, but her appeal as a talk show host has little if anything to do with her sexual orientation.

I’m afraid the uproar over her selection made the protestors seem, well, petty; and it certainly reinforced the widely-held stereotype that Christians’ objections to “gay rights” are a matter of prejudice.

It probably also even emboldened the people at JC Penney to up the ante by running a Father’s Day ad featuring a same-sex couple.  The whole thing was pretty counterproductive.

Look, I’m as concerned about cultural messages as anyone. I’m a father.  But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this — and the wrong way definitely includes the permanent state of umbrage that many Christians seem to exhibit. They seem to have confused being salt and light with being curmudgeons.

Here’s a particularly egregious case in point: the recent campaign to remove a great movie, “The Blind Side”, from the shelves of LifeWay Christian Stores. Remember, “The Blind Side” was denounced as Christian propaganda by many liberal critics. It explicitly depicts an affluent white Christian family devoting itself to helping an impoverished black kid because it’s the Christian thing to do.

The film’s offense, according to a Florida pastor who started the campaign to have LifeWay stores pull the DVD, is that the movie contains “explicit profanity, God's name in vain, and racial slurs.” It doesn’t seem to matter that the objectionable language is used to depict the palpably unpleasant world from which the young black man, Michael, was rescued by his adoptive family.

What seems to matter to this pastor is that if we “tolerate” the presence of this movie in Christian bookstores, our children and grandchildren will “embrace” this kind of behavior. I’m not making this up – this is the exact reason given by the pastor. And frankly, I think it’s insane. I saw the movie myself. I even let my 12-year old daughter see it. That’s because it is a great film and I recommend it highly.

But sadly, LifeWay caved in and removed the “offensive” discs from their shelves.

For outsiders looking in, the moral of the story is that “there is no pleasing Christians. They always seem to be looking for something to be mad about.”

We complain about the calumnies and caricatures of Christians on the big screen; and then, when an Academy-Award winning film shows us at our very best, we complain that scenes depicting harsh, inner-city reality are too true to life!

We are, in effect, making our participation contingent on all our possible objections being met beforehand. Since there are many people who would be happy if we stayed within our cultural and religious ghettos, it’s difficult to imagine how we Christians can hope to be taken seriously in cultural discussions and debates with this kind of an approach.

Concerns about the language in the film also miss the larger point: what made the Tuohys—the family depicted in the film—such great Christian exemplars wasn’t their non-use of profanity; it was their willingness to reach out and embrace someone in need.

If we Christians can’t get this, then maybe we really should refrain from commenting on culture in the first place.

For more on this subject of Christians in the arts and culture, visit BreakPoint.org.

Further Reading and Information

The Blind Side, DVD

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game
Michael Lewis| W. W. Norton & Company

Don't Pretend it Didn't Happen (John Stonestreet's video commentary on Lifeway Christian and 'The Blind Side')
John Stonestreet | The Point | July 05, 2012


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Courage in the face of opposition
Eric...your commentary on Blind Side was quite salient. It takes courage on the part of LifeWay not to succumb to Christian "political correctness." If we are to be a "redeeming influence in a fallen culture," it requires relevance, judgement and wisdom. If we opt out of the dialog because of some real life depictions of course language and racism, we just simply miss the point. Those sorts of determinations need to be thoughtfully considered based on the overall merit of the material in whatever form. Your piece was excellent, practical, and salted with good sense. Well done.
Blind Sided
while focusing on not becoming irrelevant as the "liberals" have, SBC continues the march toward its own brand of irrelevance - Fundemental irrelevance. Thom, God forbid holding principle and doing what is right above your meeting.
Focus of our Efforts
Mr. Metaxas makes some excellent points but may have lost the forest for the trees.
First, his comments re. "The Blind Side" appear to be right-on. Our hyper-sensitivity to incidentals (bad language, brief, but appropriate, nudity, etc.) stigmatizes us as unthinking and intolerant bigots. Ergo, we lose credibility in the court of public opinion. Influence is lost due to our unthinking intolerance.
Second, (and this is critically important) we must be aware of the "normalization" of deviant behaviors, as in the case of J C Penney's advertisements. Besides the fact that they cater to homosexuals (and those who promote this lifestyle) they also subtly "normalize" this lifestyle.
Dealing with this threat to our society requires both wisdom and diplomacy, traits which many of us lack.
Our assignment is to identify this dysfunctional lifestyle for what it is while loving its victims. A formidable task.
May God give us wisdom.
from Thom Rainer
I understand fully your concerns. We removed the movie because of the likelihood that the issue would have been a major focus at our annual denominational meeting. We were finally electing our first African American president, and we simply did not want to distract from that historic moment.

Mr. Metaxis' article is very well written. I have nothing but respect for him.

Thank you for being a loyal LifeWay customer. I hope we don't lose you.

Thom S. Rainer
President and CEO
LifeWay Christian Resources
J.C. Penney's
I'm 100% in agreement with you, Eric, on the issue of The Blind Side; it's an excellent movie and it should NOT be removed from any Christian or non-Christian bookshelf. But I think you missed the mark when it comes to JC Penney's. They hired Ms. De Generes BECAUSE she is openly gay, and she refers to this often on her talk show. Penney's also had ads with two moms for Mother's Day. De Generes was most likely a case of Penney's planned step to embrace the radical homosexual agenda. I am a rep in our state of MN to help preserve traditional marriage--MN is THE battleground state and we are under attack. To date Penney's, Home Depot, Starbucks, Target and now General Mills have come out in support of same sex marriage. These corporations have turned their backs on large portions of their shareholders and customer and we NEED to make our voices heard on this issue if we are to impact our culture for Christ!
Blind Sided
Mr. Metaxas: While I agree with your disappointment about LifeWay removing the Blind Side DVDs, I don't agree about J.C.Penny & their support & promotion of the Gay lifestyle. I think that to a large extent our quiet acceptance of this immorality on it's many fronts has led to it being emboldened in even more places and ways. I don't think we are being petty to uphold God's standard - too shrill at times and some may appear to be unloving (Which admittedly is a thin line to walk), but homosexuality and abortion are sin (at least in my bible) and to legalize it, support it or agree with it is wrong. Our culture is slipping because we are not salt and light - as individuals, congregations, churches and also as citizens and consumers. I don't think these sins are greater than any others and I too am a sinner but I'm not demanding that my sin be accepted and legalized.
- Blessings on you and yours and our church and our country!
Swatting at gnats...
So sad..as the movie made a definite impact on many (at least per the conversations I heard).

My 13 year old son (adopted from foster care...possibly with a mom like the tragic birth mom portrayed in the movie) particularly enjoyed the movie!

And he learned from it. We did discuss the Charge of the Light Brigade essay...for instance...and the importance of supporting one's team (military unit...etc.)

I do evaluate movies and weigh the negative versus the positive. Thus, tho I think the old movie "Cabaret" an excellent way to show how Nazis could overtake the self-indulgent 1920s===early 1930s culture of post World War 1 Germany, I will not purchase "Cabaret" as its sexual excesses WAY cross the line. It nets out too destructive overall.

But the objectionable things in "Blind Side" are small versus the HUGE power of the true story!!!
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