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Saturday, March 01, 2003
TOWARDS A CHRISTIAN AESTETHIC OF ENTERTAINMENT

This just in: The Popular Culture is Not Going Away.

If we, the People of God, are going to see any improvement in entertainment, we first have to know what actually is the goal in entertainment productions. What is the role of entertainment in human life, and what would healthy entertainment look like? We need to avoid pat answers to this question. Some of the pat answers I have heard from Christians in the last few months about entertainment include:

"Healthy entertainment is.....

....anything I can watch with my four year old. If it isn't appropriate for my four year old, then it isn't good for me."

(To be consistent, this credo must also be applied to alcoholic beverages, the operation of vehicles and the discussion of current polarization inthe Church.)

....something like The Sound of Music. "
(Whereby, the absence of yodeling and liederhosen in a movie is to be considered a dangerous cinematic sin of omission.)

....something in which there is no gratutitous sex, language or violence."
(Yesssssssssss...and when you say "gratuitous", you mean...?)

...I don't have to be subjected to a message when I sit down to watch a movie."
(Ah. So, meaninglessness is the goal? Why not just go to bed?)

We can do much better than this, as far as giving creative direction to the next generation of Christian artists. We absolutely must do better than this. Once we figure out what we want/need in entertainment, then we can teach our kids, and then we can get "on message" to the people in entertainment who are not in our house. Because our first mandate from Jesus is NOT to make movies, but to teach and minister.

I was approached recently, to help a Christian University craft "A Creative Guideline Covenant", assent to which, would then become part of the admission ritual for new students who will be applying to the film department. This is an innovation that is being bandied about in Christian - mainly Evangelical - film studies and communication departments all over the country.

I am a bit leery of this, especially when I hear some of my friends enthusiastically embracing the notion of bringing back the Motion Picture Production Code. That is not a good idea. In terms of story, we do not want to give artists a list of subjects they must not address. Much better to provide a list of values that they should be concerned to affirm in the stories they tell. In terms of story-telling method, not a list of words they can't say or body parts they can't show, but rather some fundamental theological and philosophical truths that would guide the way they go about telling their stories.

I am going to explore what some of these might be in this blog. I invite comments and emails to assist in bringing this Aestethic together. On October 23, Act One will sponsor a conference in Hollywood for Deans, Provosts and Professors of Communications, called "Mere Entertainment: Theory and Practice". We will present them what we've put together for their suggestions and hopefully, adoption.