Category: The Median

Outtakes . . . Engaging Culture

Excerpts from the book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell D. Moore, American evangelical theologian, ethicist and preacher:
A Christianity that is without friction in the culture is a Christianity that dies. Such religion absorbs the ambient culture until it is indistinguishable from it, until, eventually, a culture asks what the point is of the whole thing.
A Christianity that is walled off from the culture around it is a Christianity that dies. The gospel we have received is a missionary gospel, one that must connect to those on the outside in order to have life.
Our call is to an engaged alienation, a Christianity that preserves the distinctiveness of our gospel while not retreating from our callings as neighbors, and friends, and citizens.
How do you engage with your culture? Let us know at feedback@mastermediaintl.org.

How Films Help Us Confront Our Core Beliefs

by Terry Botwick

People always act on what they truly believe, not what they say they believe.

The Bible is full of stories that are honest to the experiences of the people who lived them. Life can be messy, full of mystery and, if I am honest, leaves me with many more questions than answers. In that is the stuff of conflict, which is drama, which is story.

My fear is that what has now been defined as the “Christian market” may confuse a couple of important points.

The first is that all our energy should be about evangelism; film must be a tool for conversion. That leads to beginning the story with a superimposed agenda. It’s important to stir up questions that cause us, as humans, to wrestle with core beliefs. But, often, “Christian” films are answering questions nobody is asking.

The second is that the “culture war” is about morality, and it is easy to confuse wholesome with biblical. The Bible is “R” rated, and faith-related film is not at its core about wholesomeness. Stories must ring true. We should hold ourselves to standards of good taste, not be gratuitous or exploitive, but commit to the truth of our common experience, where we all wrestle with life and what it means to be human. Our morality reflects our values as a community and our values emanate from our core beliefs. Films help us face and confront our core beliefs.

I recently produced Captive with David Oyelowo and Kate Mara. It was based on a true story that took place in Atlanta in 2005, when Brian Nichols broke out of jail during his trial for a rape he claimed he did not do, killed four people, and took Ashley Smith hostage in her apartment for seven hours. Each was confronted with life and death, purpose and forgiveness. It was not squeaky-clean. It was authentic and rough, but in the end, quite powerful. It rang true to the struggle of a single mother fighting drug addiction and a killer who felt like life had victimized him. In that mutual brokenness, they found a connection, Ashley found redemption, and Brian decided to live.

My challenge and hope is that we all see movies and TV, laugh together, feel together, hope together, and wrestle with the questions of our common human experience.

Terry Botwick, CEO of 1019 Entertainment, is a producer and former television executive in leadership positions at networks like CBS and The Family Channel. Most recently, he produced “Captive,” starring Kate Mara and David Oyelowo, distribution by Paramount Pictures.

“A Conversation” Appearing at a Theatre Near You

by Dan Rupple

Imagine my surprise when, after offering my three grandchildren the option of watching Star Wars during a cousin sleepover at our house, they passed on “The Force” and suggested instead, “Let’s have a conversation!” When I asked, “What’s a conversation?” our 6-year-old replied, “It’s when a lot of people get together and talk and talk and talk and talk about a lot of random things.”

Over the past decade, we’ve all witnessed the explosion of interactive communication triggered by the pervasive onslaught of digital media. And seemingly overnight, the most overheard word in the English language—especially among media professionals—became conversation.

Conferences that used to feature a lecture, talk, or teaching are now forums or symposiums inviting us to “join a larger conversation” taking place—one that allows our #hashtag voices to shape the narrative.

But is this phenomenon, in fact, new?

In Acts 17, we see that when the Apostle Paul entered into Athens, he immediately sought out the center of the cultural conversation. Where was it taking place? He found his answer in the Athenian “Starbucks” of yesteryear . . . the marketplace. And who was leading that conversation? The non-theistic philosophers who were shaping and guiding the public discourse toward the ideological “soup of the day.”

In today’s post-modern world, who is leading the Athenian center of conversations and where do we find them? In Plato’s time he observed it was “the storytellers that rule society.” Today, a fair cinematic spin would be that “the moviemakers rule society.” How often is the movie you saw at the local theater on Saturday night the topic of conversation in the office coffee room on Monday?

The stories shown on our screens inspire us, thrill us, scare us, amuse us, spark our imaginations, and fuel our conversations. We connect with movies and share them to connect with others. Different films spark unique kinds of dialogue. And independent films (like those shown at the Sundance Film Festival) provoke quite a different conversation than the films you might see at your local cineplex. Many independent films are putting a spotlight on a sober, more complex side of humanity. Frequently challenging, enlightening, illuminating, and occasionally breaking our hearts over injustice . . . all fodder for deeper, more introspective discussion.

But that isn’t to say that big-budget Hollywood fare—in all of its exciting, lighthearted escapism—doesn’t generate meaningful conversation long after the credits roll. Star Wars, for example, is chock-full of after-viewing allegorical topics, such as good vs. evil, the loss of a father, and a power outside of ourselves.

Movies, and the conversations they ignite, matter! The stories we watch can often provide divine on-ramps to a dialogue about the truth and grace of the gospel—relatable, understandable truths so crucial to our culture. Just as Paul entered the marketplace to tell the Athenians about the “unknown God,” we need to see the world as groping for a truth to live by, yet unknown to them, until someone is bold enough to enter into a cordial discourse about a God who knows and loves them.

This is the heart of the mission of Mastermedia: to intentionally and prayerfully build relationships, one conversation at a time, with the influential media makers, filmmakers, and artists of our day. And to appropriately infuse these discussions with the  life-changing truth about the greatest story ever told—the love of Jesus!