Tag: culture

“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!

Positive Cultural Change . . . through Media

familytvinfluenceHow the West Really Lost God, by leading cultural critic Mary Eberstadt, presents a powerful new theory about why religion has declined in the Western world.

Prevailing wisdom has suggested that the decline of religion brought about the demise of the family. But Ms. Eberstadt turns this logic around with her impressive body of research that shows the reverse has also been true: the decline of the family has further undermined Christianity itself. And most believers have no idea how to stop it from happening.

If Ms. Eberstadt’s theory is true, faith and family go together, and the decline of both may be having an adverse effect on society. It makes sense, as well, to note that our media saturated culture plays a part in this . . . exposing us every day to media content, both good and bad.

Never before in human history has such a wide and diverse number of men and women wielded such awesome and continuing influence over the global populace as do the leaders of electronic media and social media.

The Church’s responsibility is to pray for these leaders. Theirs is to decide whether or not to allow Him to work in and through them for great, pure, and noble purposes.

Some companies are beginning to take this connection of faith, families, and media seriously    . . . like Variety magazine, whose popular event, PURPOSE: The Family Entertainment & Faith-Based Summit, is dedicated to stimulating family entertainment and faith-based programming.

Nourished by Story

Excerpts from “The Nourishment Business,” by children’s author John R. Erickson


blue-bloods-w-caption

My mother, Anna Beth Erickson, was an excellent cook . . . . She regarded cooking as more than drudgery and more than a process of blending ingredients and spices into palatable concoctions. In her view, there was no job more important than monitoring the source of her family’s food supply and tending to its preparation.

She also recognized that there was a spiritual dimension to eating. We took our evening meals together as a family. For that one hour, we became more than individuals racing off to meetings and school events. We were the Erickson family. We said grace together, ate in a mannerly fashion, and talked.

Mother was a nutritionist, a student of the science of wellness and wellbeing—the chemistry of Life. She understood that what we eat, and how we eat, contributes substantially to who we are, both physically and spiritually.

I often compare what I do with what my mother did. There is a spiritual dimension to storytelling that equates to the chemistry of food preparation. A good story satisfies the appetite for entertainment, but it can also reveal truth, structure, justice, humor, and beauty, and when that occurs, a writer has the opportunity to make readers better than they were before.

People need good stories just as they need wholesome food and clean water. Stories that enumerate chaos and absurdity leave us weaker and diminished. Those that reveal beauty and meaning in human experience nourish the soul.

We who were given the talent to write (or compose music or make movies) should use our gifts to strengthen the people who use our products. Like humble cooks, we’re in the nourishment business, and that changes the focus of art from Me to Us.

“Us” is who we are as a people, the human family. In this country we share a core of traditions and beliefs that we call “civilization.” For at least 3,000 years, philosophers, prophets, and preachers have told us we should preserve it, protect it, and pass it down to the next generation.

The Founders of our nation accepted this as common sense. So did Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Luther, Bach, and C. S. Lewis. It used to be taught in great universities, and I hope it still is.

Are we making our readers stronger or weaker, better or worse? That’s a question that anyone in the nourishment business should be asking every day.

*Posted July 23, 2016 at https://world.wng.org/2016/07/the_nourishment_business