Breaking News: ‘Faith-Based’ Films Take On Hollywood

“The Redemption of Henry Myers,” due out this fall, is a Western about a wounded bank robber who is cared for by a widow and her children.

Where did you expect to see former senator Rick Santorum a year after his presidential campaign? How about as the head of a new faith-based film studio?

Yes, and one focused on making its own story with a stunning plot twist: They’ll offer actual quality movies, but faith-based.

The Religion News Service reported:

[Santorum said] faith-based films tend to be lousy, and Christians should quit trying to lock modern popular culture out of their lives. . . . “For a long time, Christians have decided that the best way to fight the popular culture is to keep it at bay, to lock it out of their home. … That’s a losing battle,” Santorum said in an interview . . .

Reading this brings me the same response as hearing, say, that “The Church is in Trouble,” or that “More Christian Men Must Man Up”: You don’t say?

Surely most Christians agree we must reject those “lock out pop culture” notions. But we seem confused about what’s next and especially why.

Instead, Santorum says, Christian conservatives should acknowledge that modern popular culture is here to stay, and use that platform to produce Christian-themed films that will also have quality and popular appeal. It’s a strategy he says he intends to pursue in his new role as CEO of a ground-breaking faith-based film studio.

[…] “Quality. Quality acting, quality directing, quality scriptwriting. That is going to be a watchword for me,” Santorum said at a news conference talking about the studio’s pending projects.

This makes one wonder:

  • What experience has Santorum with fiction? Isn’t this more like stunt casting?
  • Doesn’t this resemble a begrudging, pragmatic “use” of cultural things? We’d prefer to fight on other grounds, but people like this popular movie stuff, so let’s give that a try.

The Religion News Service article continues:

Santorum said one problem with Christian-themed films was that they’ve traditionally been aimed at just Christian audiences, rather than attempting to appeal to audiences that don’t necessarily share the movie’s messaging going in.

Perhaps my own Christian-movie cultural exposure is limited, having only seen Fireproof (2008) and Courageous (2011) in theaters, both from Sherwood Pictures. But based on those, Christian movies are meant “for Christians” mainly in these ways:

  1. Christians, more films should clearly preach the Gospel, John 3:16-style. So we’re on it.
  2. Christians, have you been backsliding? Here are positive characters to imitate.

Then there is this quote:

He said the goal was to produce movies “that rival any good Hollywood film.”

Judging from the studio’s current repertoire, Santorum must mean “any good Hollywood film limited to inspirational/contemporary/Western genres.” But what may EchoLight offer that isn’t already common to CBD catalogs and The Hallmark Channel?

And if its goal is described as aiming at non-Christian viewers, I suspect they will find only two plotlines: 1) replace natural Gospel light-echoes with moralism, 2) be even more overt with John 3:16 altar calls.

Appeals for quality will stay limited if Christians neglect the purpose of stories: not only to entertain, edify, or evangelize, but to explore all God’s beauties and truths.

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About E. Stephen Burnett

E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their Texas headquarters.


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