Give Me That Prime-Time Religion

Teaching school with pigs squealing in the schoolyard isn't a skill you pick up at teacher's college. But for Christy Huddleston, it was part of the job description when she began teaching at a mission school in the Appalachian Mountains. Millions of people have read the story of Christy in the classic novel by the late Christian author, Catherine Marshall. Now you can tune in for the television version—Thursdays on CBS. The series was kicked off on Sunday with a film based on the novel. And tonight CBS begins a six-part series. Both the film and the series star Kellie Martin as Christy, a young woman at the turn of the century who heeds the call of a missionary to leave her sheltered city life and teach school in the Appalachian Mountains. A dozen barefoot mountain children, the sons and daughters of moon-shiners, become Christy's pupils. The plot is simple, but it attracted millions of viewers for the premiere last Sunday. "Christy" captured the fifth highest rating for the week, scooping up a hefty 29-percent share of the viewing audience. Even jaded critics waxed enthusiastic. The San Francisco Chronicle called the movie "bedrock family drama." USA Today described it as a story that "warm(s) the heart without turning the brain to mush." Family values, it seems, has taken prime time by storm. The fact that such an overtly Christian series is hitting the airwaves confirms what film critic Michael Medved describes as an industry-wide shift toward family entertainment. As Medved puts it, Hollywood has finally got the message: Americans want television that reflects their own traditional values—values that have more in common with "Christy" than with the likes of Beavis and Butthead or Bart Simpson. And traditional values are just what "Christy" specializes in. The young teacher engages the mountain people in serious discussions about sin and God's grace. She is shown praying for divine guidance. In one touching scene, after vandals have destroyed the schoolhouse, a ragged little boy reminds Christy that God tells us to love even "them who done this." This is what I call quality programming. If you and I appreciate quality entertainment, we need to make our voices heard. "Christy" producer Ken Wales says the series is a "test case" of the public's willingness to support prime-time Christianity. When the six-part series ends, CBS will decide whether "Christy" will be renewed in the fall—or cancelled. Christians ought to be lining up to make sure the series stays on the air. Many of us have participated in boycotts of the sponsors of offensive programming. But we ought to take this opportunity to exert a positive influence in Hollywood as well. Why not gather the whole family and settle down with some popcorn to watch "Christy" tonight. Then take a minute to call or write CBS and the series' sponsors. Tell them how much your family appreciates their support for this inspirational new series. Then kick back and watch Christy as she walks the green hillsides of the Appalachians, chases off squealing pigs—and learns to put her faith into action.


Chuck Colson


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