Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Marketing the Gospel II

This weekend, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian made $55 Million and came in first at the box office. Were you one of those who caught the movie this weekend? According to projected numbers, you weren’t. In fact, by some accounts the movie took in $20 Million less than anticipated. Obviously, you weren’t doing your Christian duty. What? You didn’t know that besides going to church on Sunday you were supposed to go see this movie? At least that’s the expectation of Hollywood execs, who believe that Christians are supposed to buy lockstep into anything resembling “Christian media.” And what better example than the movies based on the popular book series by C.S. Lewis. Maybe not enough Christians went to see the movie because the Christian message in the movie was diluted. According to a review in the San Francisco Chronicle, “The Christian allegory, unmistakable in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," is nowhere to be found in "Prince Caspian…" Alas, Lewis without Christianity just isn't Lewis… [W]hat the movie needed throughout [was] a feeling of the consequences of living in a world without the presence of benevolent creation. Those are the true stakes of the battle.”

When I was a kid, I loved these books. But not because I’m a Christian. They were well written, imaginative, and of course the cartoon was really cool. I remember when a friend of mine was telling me the story of Aslan was representative of Christ. When re-watching the cartoon, and rereading the book, I didn’t see it. I guess the Spirit hadn’t yet blessed me with enough depth of theological insight to pick up on it, and I was embarrassed years later when I learned that my friend was right. I guess at that age, I was still immune to the efforts to market Christianity. (see my last post for my opinion of Stryper)

But who is it that is marketing the Gospel this time around? The movie was made by Walden Media, but it needed the muscle of Disney to distribute it. That’s right Disney, once one of the hottest targets for the Religious Right for promoting the “homosexual agenda.” But that’s old news. This is the second Narnia movie and there will be more and Disney hasn’t been in the crosshairs for a while. But it shows how difficult it is to be consistent across the board in supporting Christian media or even Christian businesses. They say politics makes strange bedfellows, but marketing makes the strangest of all.

A case in point is a recent article in Newsweek on Penthouse expanding into more mainstream markets. I guess print media’s share in the multi-billion dollar porn industry has dwindled considerably due to this new-fangled intra-web thingy. But what’s most funny is that one of Penthouse’s “honest” endeavors is a Christian-dating site. Goes to show that when money is going out of your wallet, you never know who you can trust.

Oh wait, yes you do. You know you can trust in God. Don’t put your faith in Christian media: Christian music, Christian websites, or Christian television. Put your faith in God above and in Jesus his son. The Gospel doesn’t need to be marketed to be powerful and effective. "As it is written: 'See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'" (Rom 9:33)

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