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Is Jesus-porn Blasphemy?

Yes.

Whew, that was easy.

Wait, are we talking about the phrase, or that storytelling crutch and addiction I talked about the other day?

I’ve received various emails, and followed Facebook conversations in the wake of my Courageous analysis (I’m talking about the movie, not my — oh, whatever).  Some loved what I was saying.  Some thought it was too screenwritery when all they wanted to know was if they should go see it.  A few took offense at the term “Jesus-porn” and called it blasphemy.

Big word, blasphemy.  A lot of baggage on that.  I’m no theologian, just a problem-solver, but I find it ironic, as many Christians know, the word “Christian” was once a derogatory nickname to a new sect of Judaism because its “believers” thought their messiah had come, died and was raised from the dead.

So blasphemy and Christianity have a special relationship.  It may also be of interest that I also didn’t invent the term “Jesus-porn.”  It exists, and I believe, not by any unsubstantiated irreverence for Christ and his kingdom, but by a particular problem among Christian films and film makers..

I was also told I’m “trying to be cool” by raising these points.  First, it is not “cool” to uphold the craft of screenwriting for the Christian market.  Anything, but.  It is a calling and a cross to bear most of the time.  You see, I’ve provided feedback on over 70 scripts in the last few years from Christians wanting to break into Hollywood, and many of them think that they can write on the level of the many poorly-written Christian films and succeed because Jesus called them.  They can’t, and they end up leaving town in defeat.  Then others have to pick up the pieces.

Worse, many think those films are what true Christians believe and need to shovel at the world.  I find that blasphemous to my Savior.  As a storyteller and educator I sometimes find it imperative to discomfort the comfortable in order for them to grow.  Jesus himself found this effective.

So I say the true blasphemy is the cheap grace and sentimentality that addicts Christians to mediocrity.  Other terms for it might be less offensive, but not as effective, as we now have the opportunity to address this very real problem that perhaps has festered for too long under weaker names.

Then finally, the best question came: so how do we make Christian art?

That is the cross we should bear.  I believe some are called to:

  1. Create Christian content for a Christian market. Their desire is a counter-Hollywood.  As it is “for the choir” it should be not be milk, but meat.  It should never lie about the world, human nature or the cost of following Christ.  In other words, it should be instructive, but never SAFE.
  2. Be a light in the industry, to love and nurture the people and business of Hollywood.  The relationships are more important than the projects.  Just don’t compromise your values to be get along.
  3. Evangelize.  This is a tough calling, as many find it impossible to create real “art” when evangelism is its primary focus.  Realize that the audience is savvy, ready to reject propaganda masquerading as entertainment.  Tread carefully because bad medicine inoculates the audience against the Gospel.
  4. Be artists, to express their experience in the world, and their worldview will show through.  They do not force their beliefs, nor run from them, but their first focus is the story.

I believe the last one will get the best Rotten Tomato scores, and will create the next Lars & the Real Girl, the next King’s Speech, the next Oscar contender that people talk about and wrestle with.

But I don’t think there’s room in any of the above for “Jesus-porn,” do you?

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