Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Vibrant, Evangelical Counterculture

An interesting article recently appeared in U.S.A. Today. How rare that a newspaper that usually doesn't present Christian-friendly articles, suddenly allows conservative Michael Medved to have his say. I thank my friend Rocky for sending me an email copy of the article, otherwise, I would have missed it!

Rocky mentioned that perhaps it is a sign that "they are starting to take notice and wonder what it is we've got going for us!"


Power, maturity steer Christian movement

The so-called religious right's muted reaction to 'Brokeback Mountain' reflects a self-assured shift among the faithful - as opposed to the false, but popular, stereotype of intolerant fanatics.

By Michael Medved

The publicity blitz surrounding Oscar front-runner Brokeback Mountain not only challenged stereotypes about gay relationships, it simultaneously cleared away persistent misunderstandings about the nation's Christian conservatives. Instead of reacting with outraged calls for censorship or condemnation, the much-reviled minions of the so-called religious right have mostly ignored the movie, allowing it to collect every sort of honor with shockingly scant controversy. While derided by prominent liberals as "the Taliban wing of the Republican Party," conservative Christian leaders have displayed a new sense of security and confidence, in dramatic contrast to the paranoid Muslim mobs that riot across the globe over a dozen disrespectful Danish cartoons.

This doesn't mean that cultural traditionalists in the USA have abandoned their principles and suddenly embraced the much-discussed "gay cowboy movie": People who revere biblical strictures against same-sex relationships can scarcely commend a film that provides a lyrical celebration of a homosexual affair that wrecks two marriages.

Nevertheless, the publicists and activists involved in promoting Brokeback Mountain seem almost disappointed that religious conservatives have expressed so little indignation. No major organizations called for a boycott of the film, or threatened its producers, or made any serious attempt to interfere with those who might enjoy this artfully-crafted motion picture (it has become a modest commercial success). In the heartland of Evangelical America, Brokeback has generated more ho-hums than howls of protest (or hosannas).

The muted reaction to the film from religious communities strongly disapproving of its themes gives the lie to the common characterization of cultural conservatives as intolerant, incurably homophobic and implacably determined to impose their values on society. It's actually the film's adoring advocates who push for universal acceptance for their point of view regarding homosexuality, with newspaper ad layouts featuring the tag lines "Love is a Force of Nature" and "One Movie Has Connected with the Heart of America."

Though most conservatives continue to resist the radical redefinition of traditional male-female marriage, that doesn't mean they seek to punish every sort of same-sex relationship. The marriage debate centers on questions of public policy and governmental endorsement; Brokeback depicts a private, even secret, connection between two ranch hands. Conservatives might not offer Jack and Ennis (the two thwarted lovers in the movie) a Main Street parade and a legally sanctioned wedding ceremony in front of City Hall. Even so, that hardly means they'd send a posse up the slopes of Brokeback Mountain to arrest the two guys in the privacy of their pup tent.

This live-and-let-live attitude, plus an uncompromising commitment to personal principle, reflects an increasing sense of power and maturity on the part of religious conservative activists. They enjoy unprecedented influence in government at all levels (not just in the Bush administration), a fresh, dazzling array of educational alternatives (with the nationwide growth in Christian education and soaring enrollment and prestige for evangelical colleges), and startling success in the world of entertainment (with huge sales for religious music, novels, radio programming and even motion pictures such as The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).

Rather than worrying over industry-insider awards for Brokeback, conservative Christians flocked to see the recent movie End of the Spear, an audacious adventure that tells the true story of five heroic missionaries in Ecuador. Despite the fact that the leading actor in the film (Chad Allen) had publicly identified himself as a homosexual and even posed as a cover boy for The Advocate, a magazine dedicated to gay and lesbian issues, the great majority of churches and religious organizations remained supportive of the film.

Instead of railing helplessly about the degradation of secular culture and its decadent entertainment offerings, religious believers can increasingly immerse themselves in a vibrant counterculture and thriving church communities.

Eighteen years ago, Christian conservatives felt unsure enough about their position in society to react with horror and pain to The Last Temptation of Christ; 25,000 protesters rallied at Universal Studios to plead against the film's release - a response in no way echoed by religious organizations preparing for the arrival of The Da Vinci Code. Though Ron Howard's high-profile new project tells a story that contradicts Christian teaching about Jesus at least as thoroughly as The Last Temptation, even the Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei, portrayed by name in the film as a violent cult, pointedly plans to take "a less confrontational approach," according to The New York Times. Similarly, the recent NBC series The Book of Daniel, featuring a hippy-surfer Jesus as confidante to its drug-addicted Episcopal priest hero, collapsed after a few weeks because of low ratings - without significant assistance from major boycotts, petitions or demonstrations from the faithful.

This new confidence on the part of conservative Christians highlights the vast gulf between this nation's religious conservatives and the vulnerability and hysteria of Islamist militants in the rest of the world. Widespread rhetorical and real-world violence in response to rude caricatures in an obscure Danish newspaper doesn't express religious strength or zeal but reflects, rather, an underlying sense of powerlessness and desperation. With the spread of democracy even in unlikely Middle Eastern locales, Muslim fanatics sense they are losing the struggle; on the other hand, religious conservatives in the USA who take a cleareyed look at their own position of influence see themselves as part of the nation's most dynamic social and cultural force.

The refusal to launch a battle royal against the pro-gay messages of Brokeback Mountain doesn't show the weakness or defeatism of religious conservatives. Instead, it displays their strength and optimism as a maturing mass movement currently more interested in creating than complaining.


But not all evangelicals are willing to sit back and just say, "ho hum" over the controversial movie.

According to a recent WorldNetDaily article, there is a Christian clothing company that created a T-shirt which presents an entirely different message using the title of the movie Brokeback Mountain and presenting a biblical message about it in a unique way:

A Christian clothing company is riding into the controversy over "Brokeback Mountain," the film about "gay" cowboys in love, by selling a T-shirt featuring Moses, the Ten Commandments, and homosexuals joining ancient Israelites dancing around a Golden Calf idol.

The T-shirt carries the bold slogan, "The Original 10 Commandments, BrokeBack on the Mountain."

It has a Bible reference to Exodus 32:19, which states "... he saw the calf and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount."

"In his anger, Moses BROKE the two tablets of stone that the Ten Commandments were written on while walking BACK down the MOUNTAIN," noted the official release of the Florida-based Second Coming Clothing Co.

"The message is the same now as it was at the time of Moses," said CEO Rick Wade, "that God's covenant is broken with His people, God's heart is broken for His people, and that judgment is coming prior to the return of the Lord, which is soon."

"Our faith in Jesus Christ needs to be taken out of our hearts and worn on the sleeves of our daily walk in life as we witness to others and take an affirmative stand in controversial issues before it is too late," said Wade.

The company says 100 percent of its net profit will go toward humanitarian aid worldwide.

Lastly, I received an email invitation from the Christian Film and Television Commission (tm) to a conference being sponsored by Vision America in Washington DC. It is an event that I certainly would love to attend.

The letter said:

Dear Friend,

Jesus said, “All men will hate you because of me...” (Mark 13:13), so it should come as no surprise when His followers face resentment and persecution. The war against biblical Christianity in America rages on, and no group flaunts its disdain for Evangelicals more conspicuously than the Hollywood left.

As the nation’s largest identifiable voting bloc, Evangelical values are major obstacles to the political agenda of many in Hollywood, and movies such as BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and SYRIANA are part of its backlash against America’s recent conservative voting record.
Fortunately, Christians can impact the culture wars in small ways. Regarding Hollywood movies, we’ve done just that, by voicing our concerns with our wallets.

Despite the latest popular trend of leftist movies, Hollywood will be marketing to families more than a dozen computer animated-movies in 2006, a record amount that doubles the output of any past year. Furthermore, many other movies with pro-Christian content will be released this year, including THE SECOND CHANCE, SOPHIE SCHOLL, MERRY CHRISTMAS, and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN.

For years, MOVIEGUIDE® has proved the case that family-friendly movies with strong, positive pro-Christian content earn the most money at the box office, on average, and many Hollywood moviemakers seem to be hearing our message.

The lesson here is that Evangelicals can make a huge difference despite the left’s growing contempt for biblical values when we stand together and stay informed. One great way to do this is to attend Vision America’s conference: The War on Christians and the Value Voter 2006, March 27-28 in Washington, D.C.

I will be speaking on the topic “Hollywood: Christians Through a Distorted Lens,” and will be joined on the panel by Rebecca Hagelin of the Heritage Foundation, Don Feder of Vision America, and Tristan Emmanuel of Equipping Christians for the Public Square Center. Other speakers at the conference will include Rick Scarborough, Alan Keyes and Congressmen Tom DeLay and Todd Akin. Please stand with us and stay informed by joining us at this conference.

Yours In Christ,

Ted Baehr MOVIEGUIDE®, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

For more information and registration, visit Vision America.


Susan Smith said...

Hi Christine:

I did not take the time to read this post, but wanted to thank you for the kind words you wrote about my testimony broadcast by STR last Thursday. I enjoyed the trip to CT.

Much love from the capital city of Columbia, SC to the West Coast. (ss)

Christinewjc said...

Hi Susan,

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed your visit to CT. If you get a chance, send me an email and tell me all about it!

Yes! Your testimony was just so awesome. The Lord is so good to have rescued you by His love. He IS LOVE...the ultimate kind of love that never leaves nor forsakes us!

I have been listening to Michael W. Smith's latest CD Healing Rain and the lyrics to one song come to mind. (I tried to find a free clip of the song but wasn't able to locate one. You can download the song for a small fee of $.88 at Walmart downloads)

I Am Love

I am not passers by
I am not a white lie
I am not left to die
I am love, I am love

I am not feeling sad
I am not the new fad
I am not quickly mad
I am love, I am love

(Chorus Part 1)
You can try to hide
You can try to run
But you'll never run far enough
This is my flesh, this is my blood
And I am love

(Chorus Part 2)
You can fly up high
You can dig down deep
You can flee to the west
You can flee to the east
But you can't escape what I've done
'Cause I am love

I am not standing by
I am not letting go
I am not leaving you
I am love, I am love

(Repeat entire chorus once, Repeat Pt 1 after repeat)

I am love
My blood fell like rain
I did not bleed in vain
But from my veins
I am love

Christinewjc said...

That link didn't work very well...

Go to the site and type in Michael W. Smith. Then, click on the Healing Rain cd link. Scroll down to the song "I Am Love."

If anyone comes along and knows how/where to find a free clip of the song on the internet, please share it here!

Christinewjc said...

My favorite song on that CD is "Here I Am". I also love "Healing Rain," "We Can't Wait Any Longer," "Fly To The Moon," and the re-make of "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

In fact, the entire CD is great!

Christinewjc said...

Found brief audio clips of all the songs! Yay!

Healing Rain audio clips