The latest amazing presumption about my life, my faith

Does this sound presumptuous to you?

The reality is [Mark, Peter, and Jeffrey] are guys who spend all day immersed in the culture of Hollywood, ostensibly “screening” movies while others work real full time jobs to support them.*

That claim, and another extensive attack on CT film critics, was posted by a Christian talk-show host today.

What follows is a response to the accusation, not an “attack” on his character. He smote us with that accusation. Allow me to hold up the facts, and you can decide for yourself whether his accusation sticks. (And I have provided you the link to his blog, so you can read his words in context, even though he continues to claim that I am quoting him “out of context.”)

But wait, there was more. The same paragraph continued:

I suppose if you expose yourself to one culture long enough – in this case the culture of Hollywood – you have to adapt to survive. These guys do not have one foot in the mainstream culture and another in the evangelical culture. They are totally immersed in this world’s way of viewing things, and it comes through in the way they disdainfully dismiss the honest work of honest Christians …

This all appeared under this headline:
“CHRISTIANITY TODAY MOVIE REVIEWERS LAUNCH CHARACTER ATTACK AGAINST MICHAEL LANDON, JR. AND [name of show-host respectfully deleted].”

Nope. It’s the other way around. We are not launching an attack. We are responding to specific accusations that he initiated before we’d ever heard of him. It started with their claim that I and my colleagues at CT are not acting with evangelical conviction. I responded to that yesterday. You can read that post here.

But since this paragraph introduces a whole new wave of claims, let me address those claims. Not to attack a person … but to reveal a claim that is a lie (or at least a severe misapprehension).

Am I spending all of my time immersed in Hollywood culture, away from evangelical culture?

Do I spend all my time at screenings and in Hollywood, while someone else supports me?

How do I spend my time, anyway? What is my full-time job? With whom do I keep company? (I can’t believe someone who lives halfway across the country, and who has never met me, is making public claims about how I spend my time, or that I have to answer those claims. The many who know me will see the truth plainly, but the rest may need me to clarify so… here we go.)

As I freely confess on my site, in my book, at the CT site, and beyond, I work full-time at Seattle Pacific University.

I’m proud of my full-time job. I love my full-time job. I don’t try to hide that. Nine hours a day, in fact, working as a contriuting editor for Seattle Pacific’s Response magazine, and managing public relations projects for the school. Most of my time is spent seeking to fulfill the mission of the University. This month, I am researching and writing an article about the problem of Biblical illiteracy in America and in the church … an interesting subject for a writer that this show-host claims is out of touch with scriptural truth. That has little or nothing to do with moviegoing (although I occasionally write an article about film for their magazine).

That would be a strange job indeed for for someone without evangelical conviction.

Do you think SPU would have given me that position, and that their professors would routinely invite me to speak to their classes about issues of art and faith, if I was not driven by evangelical conviction?

I’m a long way from spending my days immersed in the culture of Hollywood. I live in a city on the north side of Seattle … a long way from Hollywood. And I write about film in my spare time.

And how much time do I spend attending screenings? (The show-host put the word “screenings” in quotation marks. When publicists host a sneak preview for critics, they call it a “Screening.” I’m just using the industry term.) I spend about two hours, oh, maybe twice or three times a month, at the movies. I’ve been to a theater twice in the last month. My last rental from Netflix has been sitting on the TV for three weeks, untouched.

My guess is that many of you are more “immersed” in Hollywood culture than that.

And what about Mark Moring and Peter Chattaway? Are they hip-deep in Hollywood culture?

Mark works full-time for Christianity Today as an editor of their movies and music page. Nine out of ten times I call him in Carol Stream, Illinois, he’s at his desk. How can he be there, at the headquarters for Christianity Today International, and spend all of his time “immersed in Hollywood culture”? Heck, Mark isn’t even one of the regular movie reviewers at CT. He does not spend much time at critics’ screenings. (Although he did get to go to Italy to write articles about the making of The Nativity Story, lucky dog!) So the accusations fall far short there.

And Peter, well… the guy is the new father of twins. In Canada. He’s not spending all of his time up there in Vancouver B.C. “immersed in the culture of Hollywood,” I promise you that. The guy spends so much time writing for Christianity Today, CandadianChristianity.com, and other publications that the show-host’s claims fall very short indeed.

And for the record, I’ve been to Hollywood about four, maybe five, times in my life … for an overnight stay … and then come back to the Pacific Northwest, where I spend time “immersed” in community at Seattle Pacific University and GreenLake Presbyterian Church. Not Hollywood culture. I go to the Oregon Coast more often than I go to Hollywood.

But you know that. You read my work.

Eventually I’m going to just give up on trying to contend with the show-host’s claims, because, well, folks can just go on inventing things about you all day.

He calls my responses an “attack” on his character. I’m sorry, but you can’t go around spreading false accusations against me and my evangelical colleagues and expect us to thank you for it. This is a defense of my work, and the work of my Christian colleagues (whether they are Presbyterian, Catholic, or Orthodox).

If I have made a false claim about this show-host, point it out to me in an email at joverstreet [at] gmail [dot] com, and I will think that over. But as I scroll back through these posts, I don’t see one.

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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.

  • Amy Welborn

    Jeffrey:

    What can I say that hasn’t been said before? Two things, anyway.

    1) If you (or interested readers) haven’t ever read O’Connor’s collected letters in The Habit of Being, do – this was her constant battle, both in terms of her politely clueless relations and neighbors, as well as in the context of the pietistic pudding known as “Catholic fiction” in the ’50′s that she had to very painfully review for the Atlanta diocesan newspaper.

    2) Copy this out and tape it on your computer. It’s from Jacques Maritain – I am not sure what, because I returned the biography I found it in to the library. He wrote (and remember the context there – his friendship with and support of so many of the avant-garde of the early 20th century artistic scene):
    …”[the critic] has no idea of the spiritual war that is being waged beneath the external signs of artistic agitation. There are some Catholics laboring on frontiers that do not appear on his geographical maps; they only ask their brothers not to shoot them in the back.”

  • Stephen

    I like Mike Nyman’s post! It’s almost a hopeless task, but kudos to you for trying. I think the heart of the problem is that many Christian brothers and sisters have a low tolerance for mystery and paradox. They usually don’t make good film critics and/or just “don’t get” cinema. Anyway, to paraphrase John Wesley…in essentials unity, in non-essentials freedom, in all things charity.

  • Julio

    I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said, but I just had to add to the chorus of encouraging voices.

    Your post is an excellent breakdown of the argument, by the way!

    Julio

  • jasdye

    i just think that it’s nice of you to take time off the awards season (getting your tux set for the Oscars and all) and all the sets to visit and the Entertainment Tonight show and hanging out with Julia and Matt Damon and Brangelina to respond to Edwards’ claims.

  • Anonymous

    In the immortal words of that Veggie Tale about a dream (Archibald as Don Quiote) – “I think he’s been eating too much spicy salsa!”

    ditto – you should just ignore this one – not worth the effort….

    As always enjoying your work!
    =) Melissa

  • Drew Johnson

    jeffrey
    Don’t go on the defensive too much. Even if all you did for a living was screen movies and critique them there is no shame in it nor anything un-Christian about it. Edwards is working out of a very myopic understanding of what the Christian call to vocation is. And it leads to a false dichotomy.
    Plus working at SPU is not that cool. just kidding, I’m just a proud Calvin College grad.

  • Tim

    I’d advise ignoring him, too, Jeffrey. I had to look up his “about me” section on his blog to find out who Edwards is. I knew he was a talk show host… somewhere. Turns out he’s a local host. In Detroit. On a dinky 50,000 watt station. That’s hardly a large enough forum to be worried about.

  • nancy

    Consistently enjoy lurking around your blog. First time to respond, just to say: imho you simply don’t need to defend yourself or owe anyone any explanations. You write good stuff. You have a loyal following. Enjoy, carry on, and let … ummm.. what’s his name again??… mutter away in his own blogosphere corner.

  • Wasp Jerky

    Hollywood culture? What does that even mean? Has this guy ever even been to Hollywood, or does he just prefer to deal in preconceived notions?

  • Sheila West

    Jeffrey, I made a post at A&F where I urged you and Peter and Mark to stop posting about any of this at all, anywhere on the web, and get a Christian mediator involved in it. I stand by that suggestion.

  • Mark

    mike,
    You know there’s more truth to that than you may think…
    Part of the reason why mainstream Hollywood doesn’t make Christian films is because they’re sick of dealing with the weirdoes. And you know what? I don’t blame them.
    I have a feeling that C.S. Lewis would be crucified if he were around today. NOT LITERAL ENOUGH!
    Unfortunately, it seems the only way to have a legitimate Christian “hit” is when the main star comes under such scrutiny that people feel it’s their obligation to attend.

  • Rich

    My brother in Christ, Jeffrey -
    I think this means, as they say in the business, you’ve arrived. Heck, we all knew THAT a long time ago.

    Blessings!

  • Sheila West

    I’d say that was one lawsuit-worthy blog-posting Mr. Edwards made about you guys. Maybe even class action-worthy.

    Of COURSE he took it down!

    There are two conservative commentators I’d like to compare him to: O’Reilly and Limbaugh. O’Reilly is smart enough to watch what he says (most of the time). Limbaugh (lately) shoots himself in the foot at almost every turn. Somewhere on this sliding scale between O’Reilly and Limbaugh is Mr. Edwards. In my estimation, he falls closer to Limbaugh. Either way, he is (like both of those other two gentlemen) needlessly inflamatory and possibly just seeking a quick avenue to as many national headlines as possible.

  • Mike Nyman

    You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a fundamentalist when culture is on the line.

    Please keep up the great work. You are doing a great service.

  • Martin

    Anyone who wants to read the full text of Edwards’ withdrawn post may find it here.

  • Thom

    “As I freely confess on my site, in my book, at the CT site, and beyond, I work FULL TIME at Seattle Pacific University.”

    Working against the Evangelical community from within, eh? ;)


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