Specials: Linford Detweiler! Radiohead! Balthazar!

Today’s specials:

  • Ron Reed raves about Au Hasard Balthazar: Okay, now both Ron and I have told you about the greatness of this film. Now it’s out on DVD. You have no excuse.
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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.

  • jason

    It does seem to be the case that Christian black films are much more likely to receive a hearing then Christian white films.

    The logic seems to be based on the Secular Humanist view (derived from the likes of Nietzsche, Marx, and Foucault) that there is no such thing as objective truth; instead, truth is an illusion created by those with power to subjugate those without it. In this case, the ‘haves’ are whites and the ‘have nots’ are blacks. Consequently, we should favor the claims of the latter.

    A test could be as follows: is the media willing to listen to the claims of blacks who accept the traditional views of white Christians, like Clarence Thomas or Cardinal Arinze? The answer seems to be no. This suggests that Secular Humanists are not interested in the truth so much as whether it is the view of a have or have-not.

  • jasdye

    t.d. jakes does not deny the Trinity. having said that, he would do well to watch who he keeps company with.

    there is an interview in Christianity Today that he was in. actually, a defense. it’s on the website, i’m sure, still.

    but i think jakes’ main problem is that he’s a self-made type of man and doesn’t have a heart for church history. big mistake.

  • Matt

    T.D. Jakes is not an evangelical. He denies the Trinity.

    But yes, in a lot of ways, the Christian religion is viewed, at least by the media, as a cultural thing for black people. And lots of black folks view it that way, too. So do white folks, but the minority status of black folks exacerbates the problem more often.

    Case in point: It’s cool for John Kerry to spend every Sunday on the campaign trail at black churches, but to spend too much time at, say, primarily white evangelical churches would be bad. I don’t think that’s a race thing so much as it is an issue of theology and doctrine.

  • jasdye

    i’m gonna go with martin on this one. although i would say that one important difference is that “black” churches are and have been in the forefront of social issues. and in ways that have negated from and supplemented the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    because – let’s be honest – you can’t have spiritual truth w/o bodily truth. Christ is not divided.

    i didn’t understand the part about the overstated stereotype, Dan. and specifically the part about all Christians believing in the Trinity. are you suggesting that it’s okay for a believer not to fully understand the nuances of the Trinity (who does?) or to not accept the central doctrine of the Trinity.

    i understand that young believers may not understand the concepts of the Trinity, but the Godhead cannot be divorced from the faith in the Christ: man / God.

  • Martin

    Pshaw.

    There are evangelical/charismatic black churches (T. D. Jakes) and liberal black churches (Jesse Jackson). Stereotyping all black churches one way or the other is not accurate at all.

  • Dan

    I think that “that ol’ time religion” is associated with stereotypical “black” churches, but that commercialized, right-wing, evangelical nonsense is associated with stereotypical white churchs.

    To be honest, I don’t have a problem with that – the stereotype’s fairly accurate to reality. I mean, you could just as easily say that it’s a stereotype that Christians believe in the trinity – that’s very accurate even if it is an overstated stereotype.

  • Martin

    You linked to an entire thread, not to a specific post, and I don’t have time to go scouring through that thread to see if you might have any “gotcha!” quotes in mind.

    Guess you’ll just have to take my word for it, then. ;)

    Essentially, you argued that the Pevensie children would be at least nominally Christian enough to recognize Aslan as Christ, and I argued that they wouldn’t be.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    You’re absolutely right–Steve Taylor’s film “The Second Chance” will be an enormous contribution to this dialogue. It’s not just about a “mega-church” in conflict with a small inner-city church… it’s about a wealthy white church in conflict with a bare-bones-budget multi-ethnic church. And it’s an impressive debut for Taylor as a director. While it still feels like a “Christian movie,” it avoids many of the pitfalls of most “Christian movies.”

  • Anonymous

    I had a chance to see the new Steve Taylor movie this afternoon at a Special screening in Pittsburgh. ( Steve Taylor was in attendance. ) I am anxious to see how both the Christian press and the mainstream press review this film. It seems to go against some of the notions posted on this thread. I believe it is a very good movie, but it doesn’t have the typical stereotypical images that some of you mention. I believe the success will depend a lot on how Christians respond.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    The black Christian community is hardly immune to pomposity or hypocrisy or deceit — especially where its fusion of church and politics is concerned. Remember how Jesse Jackson knocked up his mistress (or one of his mistresses) while serving as Bill Clinton’s “spiritual advisor”, and gave tens of thousands of his non-profit organization’s dollars to her for “moving expenses”?

  • Shar

    Interesting comments on the black/white thing. You started quite a discussion, Jeffrey. I totally agree with Anonymous about the black community being a liberal community. Their christianity seems to be both cultural and sincere because of the American history behind it and the suffering they endured and still do. White christianity has had and continues to show so much hypocrisy and deceit, especially the white television evangelists (Mr. Billy Graham excluded). It’s no wonder that they’re portrayed as messed up people. I don’t personally think that the media finds them threatening, I just think it’s difficult for the mainstream to take most evangelicals seriously, because of their pompous attitudes that their religion is the only way. I don’t get that impression from the black christian community at all.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Funny — you argued the opposite here. Have we switched sides now?

    You linked to an entire thread, not to a specific post, and I don’t have time to go scouring through that thread to see if you might have any “gotcha!” quotes in mind.

    I do recall arguing that Christ was in the Narnia stories, because, in one of the other stories, Aslan all but says that he is Christ (and Lewis basically confirmed this in a letter to one of his readers). But, as one who just re-read LWW a week or two ago, I don’t recall any references to Christians in that book.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    Up until now many of the “Christian” movies have ben exceptionially lousy? Ever seen any of the films on the Pax network? They are worse than most made for TV films. And what about Left Behind? The acting was stilted, the special effects cheesy, and the writing non-existent. And, as Martin Pointed out, most Christian Characters are portrayed as evil and corrupt. The only times in recent memory have I seen that not be the case is 3rd Miracle brilliantly starring Ed Harris and Big Kahuna starring Kevin SPacey and Danny Devito which honestly asks a lot of questions on faith.

  • Martin

    Narnia? Huh? I was not aware that there were any Christians of any stripe in that story.

    Funny — you argued the opposite here. Have we switched sides now?

  • Rae Whitlock

    Found this post via my friend Geof.

    Anyway, you pretty much hit the nail on the head, Jeffrey. For the most part, the American public perceives “black Christianity” as a sort of feel-good, inspirational, touched-by-an-angel religion, while associating “white Christianity” (ie: evangelicalism) with fanaticism, pushiness, and hate. It’s a silly false dichotomy that neither side has really done much to discredit. Churchgoing is simply seen as the cultural norm for blacks, and if all it involves are some good singing by a mass choir and a loud, preacher saying “everything’s gonna be alright” and “God’s gonna bless ya” . . . then it’s palatable for public consumption. Even if a black preacher says something about sin or (Lord forbid) hell, most of the public would likely keep their mouths shut, for fear of being seen as “culturally insensitive”. Put a white preacher in the same spot, talking about sin and hell, though, and watch the sparks fly.

    As a black Christian whose faith identifies much more closely with conservative evangelicalism than the cultural black (mainline) church, I’ve kind of found myself “between two worlds”. I long for the black church to emerge from the cultural safety that she’s afforded herself and to fulfill her call (along with all other Christians) be the salt in this world’s wounds and the light in its darkness.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Good points, BTW, about the black = liberal and white = conservative stereotype. I’ve interviewed Exorcism of Emily Rose co-writer/director Scott Derrickson a couple times, and he identifies himself as a member of the “Christian Left” and he does not believe that “intelligent design” should be taught in science classes, so it rather irks him that so many reporters have suggested that his film is a right-wing ID tract. (FWIW, I alluded to this political element in an article for a Christian publication, but this was one of the things that got snipped.)

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Ack, sorry, just realized my ArtsAndFaith link isn’t right. I meant this.

  • Anonymous

    The black community is also a liberal community. Their Christianity is not Republican or Right Wing. That’s why the liberal media doesn’t find their faith threatening. It’s also an American faith rooted in historical suffering and supression, which also makes it very different that white Christianity — at least to those looking at it from the outside.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Yeah, basically, black culture is ghetto-ized, and Christianity is ghetto-ized, so nobody worries about black Christianity; however, when white Christianity threatens to come out of the ghetto, then it becomes a problem.

    BTW, as I just noted at ArtsAndFaith, I noticed this tendency at least as far back as the original Survivor, when there was much hubbub in the press — secular and Christian — about the faith of Dirk Been (the white guy), but nobody said anything about the faith of Ramona Gray (the black girl), even though she was pretty open about her faith (on the CBS website, in her journal for Entertainment Weekly, etc.).

    And before that, of course, I had also noted this trend in movies about the Civil War and the civil rights movement — see the first two paragraphs (and footnote) of my article on Amistad (1997).

  • Joel

    The ‘cultural’ idea has merit, I think. This is a discussion that has come up a lot in music, too — Black gospel is more accepted than “white gospel,” or CCM, by many critics. Some have suggested it’s due to a sort of patronizing, racist way of looking at Black culture and treating Black Christianity as sort of a quaint, folk-ish thing rather than a legit spiritual pursuit.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Narnia? Huh? I was not aware that there were any Christians of any stripe in that story.

  • Anonymous

    You forgot the evil corrupt Catholics in films

  • Martin

    With a few exceptions, there are only three types of Christians in Hollywood films: 1) normal white Catholics; 2) normal black Protestants; 3) idiotic, buffoonish, dangerous, or deranged white Protestants.

    Films like Narnia may begin to change this state of affairs. It’s about time.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Thanks! Yes, Linford is always generous and gracious in his interviews. I always come away from those conversations with a lot to think about.

  • jasdye

    oh, and thanks for that great interview. Linford and Karin must be the coolest people in the world to interview. right up there with charlie peacock. real thoughtful stuff.

    thank you, thank you.

  • jasdye

    what a waste of synergy. at least it’ll be after Fear Factor and not during.

    “Stay tuned for the next five minutes to see the one and 1/2 minute trailer of the new King Kong movie and the teaser for the next rerun episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”


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